Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Lo, mine eye hath seen all this - I have seen illustrations of all that I have said, or that you have said about the methods of divine providence.
What ye know ... - See the note at Job 12:3.
Surely I would speak to the Almighty - I would desire to carry my cause directly up to God, and spread out my reasons before him. This Job often professed to desire; see Job 9:34-35. He felt that God would appreciate the arguments which he would urge, and would do justice to them. His friends he felt were censorious and severe. They neither did justice to his feelings, nor to his motives. They perverted his words and arguments; and instead of consoling him, they only aggravated his trials, and caused him to sink into deeper sorrows. But he felt if he could carry his cause to God, he would do ample justice to him and his cause. The views which he entertained of his friends he proceeds to state at considerable length, and without much reserve, in the following verses.
But ye are forgers of lies - The word lies here seems to be used in a large sense, to denote sophisms, false accusations, errors. They maintained false positions; they did not see the exact truth in respect to the divine dealings, and to the character of Job. They maintained strenuously that Job was a hypocrite, and that God was punishing him for his sins. They maintained that God deals with people in exact accordance with their charactor in this world, all of which Job regarded as false doctrine, and asserted that they defended it with sophistical arguments invented for the purpose, and thus they could be spoken of as "forgers of lies."
Physicians of no value - The meaning is, that they had come to give him consolation, but nothing that they had said had imparted comfort. They were like physicians sent for to visit the sick, who could do nothing when they came; compare Job 16:2.
Oh that ye would altogether hold your peace! - You would show your wisdom by silence. Since you can say nothing that is adapted to give comfort, or to explain the true state of the case, it would be wise to say nothing; compare Pro 17:28 : "Even a fool when he holdeth his peace is counted wise."
Will ye speak wickedly for God? - That is, will you maintain unjust principles with a view to honor or to vindicate God? Job refers doubtless to the positions which they had defended in regard to the divine administration - principles which he regarded as unjust, though they had employed them professedly in vindicating God. The sense is, that unjust principles ought not to be advanced to vindicate God. The great cause of truth and justice should always be maintained, and even in attempting to vindicate the divine administration, we ought to make use of no arguments which are not based on that which is right and true. Job means to reproach his friends with having, in their professed vindication of God, advanced sentiments which were at war with truth and justice, and which were full of fallacy and sophistry. And is this never done now? Are sophistical arguments never employed in attempting to vindicate the divine government? Do we never state principles in regard to him which we should esteem to be unjust and dishonorable if applied to man? Do not good people sometimes feel that that government must be defended at all events; and when they can see no reason for the divine dealings, do they not make attempts at vindicating them, which are merely designed to throw dust in the eyes of an opponent, and which are known to be sophistical in their nature? It is wrong to employ a sophistical argument on any subject; and in reasoning on the divine character and dealings, when we come, as we often do, to points which we cannot understand, it is best to confess it. God asks no weak or sophistical argument in his defense; still less can he be pleased with an argument, though in defense of his government, which is based on unjust principles.
And talk deceitfully for him - Use fallacies and sophisms in attempting to vindicate him. Everything in speaking of God, should be true, pure, and sound. Every argument should be free from any appearance of sophism, and should be such as will bear the test of the most thorough examination. No honor is done to God by sophistical arguments, nor can he be pleased when such arguments are employed even to vindicate and honor his character.
Will ye accept his person? - That is, will you be partial to him? The language is such as is used in relation to courts of justice, where a judge shows favor to one of the parties on account of birth, rank, wealth, or personal friendship. The idea here is, "will you, from partiality to God, maintain unjust principles, and defend positions which are really untenable?" There was a controversy between Job and God. Job maintained that he was punished too severely; that the divine dealings were unequal and disproportioned to his offences. His friends, he alleges, have not done justice to the arguments which he had urged, but had taken sides with God against him, no matter what he urged or what he said. So little disposed were they to do justice to him and to listen to his vindication, that no matter what he said, they set it all down to impatience, rebellion, and insubmission.
They assumed that he was wrong, and that God was wholly right in all flyings. Of this position that God was right, no one could reasonably complain, and in his sober reflections Job himself would not be disposed to object to it; but his complaint is, that though the considerations which he urged were of the greatest weight, they would not allow their force, simply because they were determined to vindicate God. Their position was, that God dealt with people strictly according to their character; and that no matter what they suffered, their sufferings were the exact measure of their ill desert. Against this position, they would hear nothing that Job could say; and they maintained it by every kind of argument which was at their command - whether sound or unsound, sophistical or solid. Job says that this was showing partiality for God, and he felt that he had a right to complain. We need never show "partiality" even for God. He can be vindicated by just and equal arguments; and we need never injure others while we vindicate him. Our arguments for him should indeed be reverent, and we should desire to vindicate his character and government; but the considerations which we urge need not be those of mere partiality and favor.
Will ye contend for God? - Language taken from a court of justice, and referring to an argument in favor of a party or cause. Job asks whether they would undertake to maintain the cause of God, and he may mean to intimate that they were wholly disqualified for such an undertaking. He not only reproves them for a lack of candor and impartiality, as in the previous expressions, but he means to say that they were unfitted in all respects to be the advocates of God. They did not understand the principles of his administration. Their views were narrow, their information limited, and their arguments either common-place or unsound. According to this interpretation, the emphasis will be on the word "ye" - "will YE contend for God?" The whole verse may mean, "God is not to be defended by mere partiality, or favor. Solid arguments only should be employed in his cause. Such you have not used, and you have shown yourselves to be entirely unfitted for this great argument."
The practical inference which we should draw from this is, that our arguments in defense of the divine administration, should be solid and sound. They should not be mere declamation, or mere assertion. They should be such as will become the great theme, and such as will stand the test of any proper trial that can be applied to reasoning. There are arguments which will "vindicate all God's ways to men;" and to search them out should be one of the great employments of our lives. If ministers of the gospel would always abide by these principles, they would often do much more than they do now to commend religion to the sober views of mankind. No people are under greater temptations to use weak or unsound arguments than they are. They feel it to be their duty at all hazards to defend the divine administration. They are in circumstances where their arguments will not be subjected to the searching process which an argument at the bar will be, where a keen and interested opponent is on the alert, and will certainly sift every argument which is urged.
Either by inability to explain the difficulties of the divine government, or by indolence in searching out arguments, or by presuming on the ignorance and dullness of their hearers, or by a pride which will not allow them to confess their ignorance on any subject, they are in danger of attempting to hide a difficulty which they cannot explain, or of using arguments and resorting to reasoning, which would be regarded as unsound or worthless any where else. A minister should always remember that sound reasoning is as necessary in religion as in other things, and that there are always some people who can detect a fallacy or see through sophistry. With what diligent study then should the ministers of the gospel prepare for their work! How careful should they be, as the advocates of God and his cause in a world opposed to him, to find out solid arguments, to meet with candor every objection, and to convince people by sound reasoning, that God is right! Their work is to convince, not to denounce; and if there is any office of unspeakable responsibility on earth, it is that of undertaking to be the advocates of God.
Is it good that he should search you out? - Would it be well for you if he should go into an investigation of your character, and of the arguments which you adduce? The idea is, that if God should make such an investigation, the result would be highly unfavorable to them. Perhaps Job means to intimate that, if they were subjected to the kind of trial that he had been, it would be seen that they could not bear it. "Or as one man mocketh another." The idea here is, "it is possible to delude or deceive man, but God cannot be deceived. You may conceal your thoughts and motives from man, but you cannot from God. You may use arguments that may impose upon man - you may employ fallacies and sophisms which he cannot detect, but every such effort is vain with God;" compare Gal 6:7.
He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons - If you show partiality, you will incur his disapprobation. This seems to have much era proverbial cast, and to mean that under no possible circumstances was it right to show partiality. No matter for whom it may be done, it will be displeasing to God. Even if it be in favor of the righteous, the widow, the fatherless, or of himself, if there is not a disposition to judge according to truth and evidence, God will frown upon you. No matter who the parties might be; no matter what their rank; no matter what friendship there might be for one or the other of them, it was never to be assumed that one was right and the other wrong without evidence. The exact truth was to be sought after, and the judgement made up accordingly. Even when God was one of the parties, the same course was to be pursued. His character was capable of being successfully vindicated, and he would not be pleased to have his cause defended or decided by partiality, or by mere favor. Hence, he encourages people to bring forth their strong reasons, and to adduce all that can be said against his government and laws. See the notes at Isa. 41:1-21.
Shall not his excellency - His exaltation שׂאת śe'êth from נשׂא nâśâ' to exalt, to lift up), or his majesty, Gen 49:3.
Make you afraid - Fill you with awe and reverence. Shall it not restrain you from fallacy, from sophisms, and from all presumptuous and unfounded reasoning? The sense here is, that a sense of the greatness and majesty of God should fill the mind with solemnity and reverence, and make us serious and sincere; should repress all declamation and mere assertion, and should lead us to adduce only those considerations which will bear the test of the final trial. The general proposition, however, is not less clear, that a sense of the majesty and glory of God should at all times fill the mind with solemn awe, and produce the deepest veneration. See Jer 5:22; Jer 10:7-10; Gen 28:17.
And his dread - The fear of him. You should so stand in awe of him as not to advance any sentiments which he will not approve, or which will not bear the test of examination. Rosenmuller, however, and after him Noyes, supposes that this is not so much a declaration of what ought to be, implying that the fear of God ought to produce veneration, as a declaration of what actually occurred - implying that they were actually influenced by this slavish fear in what they said. According to this it means that they were actuated only by a dread of what God would do to them that led them to condemn. Job without proof, and not by a regard to truth. But the common interpretation seems to me most in accordance with the meaning of the passage.
Your remembrances are like unto ashes - There has been a considerable variety in the interpretation of this verse. The meaning in our common version is certainly not very clear. The Vulgate renders it, Memoria vestra comparabitur cineri. The Septuagint, Ἀποβήσεται δὲ ὑμῶν τὸ γαυρίαμα Ἶσα σποδᾷ Apobēsetai de humōn to gauriama isa spodō - "your boasting shall pass away like ashes." Dr. Good renders it, "Dust are your stored-up sayings." Noyes, "Your maxims are words of dust." The word rendered "remembrances" זכרון zı̂krôn means properly "remembrance, memory," Jos 4:7; Eze 12:14; then a "memento," or "record;" then a "memorable saying, a maxim." This is probably the meaning here; and the reference is to the apothegms or proverbs which they had so profusely uttered, and which they regarded as so profound and worthy of attention, but which Job was disposed to regard as most common-place, and to treat with contempt.
Are like unto ashes - That is, they are valueless. See the notes at Isa 44:20. Their maxims had about the same relation to true wisdom which ashes have to substantial and nutritious food. The Hebrew here (אפר משׁלי mâshaly 'êpher) is rather, "are parables of ashes;" - the word משׁל mâshâl meaning similitude, parable, proverb. This interpretation gives more force and beauty to the passage.
Your bodies - - גביכם gabēykem Vulgate, "cervices." Septuagint, τὸ δὲ σῶμα πήλινον to de sōma pēlinon - but the body is clay. The Hebrew word גב gab, means something gibbous (from where the word "gibbous" is derived), convex, arched; hence, the "back" of animals or human beings, Eze 10:12; the boss of a shield or buckler - the "gibbous," or exterior convex part - Job 15:26; and then, according to Gesenius, an entrenchment, a fortress, a strong-hold. According to this interpretation, the passage here means, that the arguments behind which they entrenched themselves were like clay. They could not resist an attack made upon them, but would be easily thrown down, like mud walls. Grotius renders it, "Your towers (of defense) are tumult of clay." Rosenmuller remarks on the verse that the ancients were accustomed to inscribe sentences of valuable historical facts on pillars. If these were engraved on stone, they would be permanent; if on pillars covered with clay, they would soon be obliterated. On a pillar or column at Aleandria, the architect cut his own name at the base deep in the stone. On the plaster or stucco with which the column was covered, he inscribed the name of the person to whose honor it was reared. The consequence was, that that name became soon obliterated; his own then appeared, and was permanent. But the meaning here is rather, that the apothegms and maxims behind which they entrenched themselves were like mud walls, and could not withstand an attack.
Hold your peace - Margin, Be silent from me; see Job 13:5. It is possible that Job may have perceived in them some disposition to interrupt him in a rude manner in reply to the severe remarks which he had made, and he asked the privilege, therefore, of being permitted to go on, and to say what he intended, let come what would.
And let come on me what will - Anything, whether reproaches from you, or additional sufferings from the hand of God. Allow me to express my sentiments, whatever may be the consequences to myself. One cannot but be forcibly reminded by this verse of the remark of the Greek philosopher, "Strike, but hear me."
Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth - The meaning of the proverbial expressions in this verse is not very clear. They indicate a state of great danger; but the exact sense of the proverbs it has been difficult to ascertain. Some have supposed that the phrase "to take the flesh in the teeth," is significant of a state of famine, where a man dying from this cause would cease upon his own flesh and devour it; others, that it refers to the contentions of voracious animals, struggling for a piece of flesh; others, that it refers to the fact that what is borne in the teeth is liable to be dropped, and that Job regarded his life as in such a perilous condition. Schultens regards it as denoting that bold courage in which a man exposes his life to imminent peril. He supposes that it is to be taken in connection with the previous verse, as intimating that he would go forward and speak at any rate, whatever might be the result.
He translates it, "Whatever may be the event, I will take my flesh in my teeth, and my life in my hand." In this interpretation Rosenmuller concurs. Noyes renders it, "I will count it nothing to bear my flesh in my teeth." Good, "Let what may - I will carry my flesh in my teeth; ' and supposes that the phrase is equivalent to saying, that he would incur any risk or danger. The proverb he supposes is taken from the contest which so frequently takes place between dogs and other carnivorous quadrupeds, when one of them is carrying a bone or piece of flesh in his mouth, which becomes a source of dispute and a prize to be fought for. The Vulgate renders it, "Quare lacero carnes meus dentibus meis." The Septuagint, "Taking my flesh in my teeth, I will put my life in my hand." It seems to me, that the language is to be taken in connection with the previous verse, and is not to be regarded as an interrogatory, but as a declaration. "Let come upon me anything - whatever it may be - מה mâh - Job 13:13 on account of that, or in reference to that - על־מה ‛al-mâh - Job 13:14, I will take my life in my hand, braving any and every danger."
It is a firm and determined purpose that he would express his sentiments, no matter what might occur - even if it involved the peril of his life. The word "flesh" I take to be synonymous with life, or with his best interests; and the figure is probably taken from the fact that animals thus carry their prey or spoil in their teeth. Of course, this would be a poor protection. It would be liable to be seized by others. It might even tempt and provoke others to seize it: and would lead to conflict and perils. So Job felt that the course he was pursuing would lead him into danger, but he was determined to pursue it, let come what might.
And put my life in mine hand - This is a proverbial expression, meaning the same as, I will expose myself to danger. Anything of value taken in the hand is liable to be rudely snatched away. It is like taking a casket of jewels, or a purse of gold, in the hand, which may at any moment be seized by robbers. The phrase is not uncommon in the Scriptures to denote exposure to great peril; compare Psa 119:109, "My soul is continually in my hand;" Sa1 19:5, "For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine;" Jdg 12:3, "I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon." A similar expression occurs in the Greek Classics denoting exposure to imminent danger - ἐν τῇ χειρὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἔχει en tē cheiri tēn psuchēn echei - "he has his life in his hand;" see Rosenmuller on Psa 119:109. The Arabs have a somewhat similar proverb, as quoted by Schultens, "His flesh is upon a butcher's block."
Though he slay me - "God may so multiply my sorrows and pains that I cannot survive them. I see that I may be exposed to increased calamities, yet I am willing to meet them. If in maintaining my own cause, and showing that I am not a hypocrite Job 13:16, it should so happen that my sufferings should be so increased that I should die, yet I will do it." The word "slay," or "kill," here refers to temporal death. It has no reference to punishment in the future world, or to the death of the soul. It means merely that Job was determined to maintain his cause and defend his character, though his sufferings should be so increased that life would be the forfeit. Such was the extent of his sufferings, that he had reason to suppose that they would terminate in death; and yet notwithstanding this, it was his fixed purpose to confide in God; compare the notes at Job 19:25-27. This was spoken in Job's better moments, and was his deliberate and prevailing intention. This deliberate purpose expresses what was really the character of the man, though occasionally, when he became impatient, he gave utterance to different sentiments and feelings. We are to look to the prevailing and habitual tenor of a man's feelings and declared principles, in order to determine what his character is, and not to expressions made under the influence of temptation, or under the severity of pain. On the sentiment here expressed, compare Psa 23:4; Pro 14:32.
Yet will I trust in him - The word used here (יחל yâchal) means properly to wait, stay, delay; and it usually conveys the idea of waiting on one with an expectation of aid or help. Hence, it means to hope. The sense here is, that his expectation or hope was in God; and if the sense expressed in our common version be correct, it implies that even in death, or after death, he would confide in God. He would adhere to him, and would still feel that beyond death he would bless him.
In him - In God. But there is here an important variation in the reading. The present Hebrew is לא lo' - "not." The Qeriy or marginal reading, is with a ו (v) - "in him." Jerome renders it as if it were לו lô - "in ipso," that is, in him. The Septuagint followed some reading which does not now appear in any copies of the Hebrew text, or which was the result of mere imagination: "Though the Almighty, as he hath begun, may subdue me - χειρώσεται cheirōsetai - yet will I speak, and maintain my cause before him." The Chaldee renders it, אצלי קדמוי - I will pray before him; evidently reading it as if it were לו lô, "in him." So the Syriac, in him. I have no doubt, therefore, that this was the ancient reading, and that the true sense is retained in our common version though Rosenmuller, Good, Noyes, and others, have adopted the other reading, and suppose that it is to be taken as a negative.
Noyes renders it," Lo! he slayeth me, and I have no hope!" Good, much worse, "Should he even slay me, I would not delay." It may be added, that there are frequent instances where לא lo' and לו lô are interchanged, and where the copyist seems to have been determined by the sound rather than by a careful inspection of the letters. According to the Masoretes, there are fifteen places where לא lo', "not," is written for לו lô, "to him." Exo 21:8; Lev 11:21; Lev 25:30; Sa1 2:3; Sa2 16:18; Psa 100:4; Psa 139:16; Job 13:15; Job 41:4; Ezr 4:2; Pro 19:7; Pro 26:2; Isa 9:2; Isa 63:9. On the other hand, לו lô is put for לא lo' in Sa1 2:16; Sa1 20:2; Job 6:21. A mistake of this kind may have easily occurred here. The sentiment here expressed is one of the noblest that could fall from the lips of man. It indicates unwavering confidence in God, even in death.
It is the determination of a mind to adhere to him, though he should strip away comfort after comfort, and though there should be no respite to his sorrows until he should sink down in death. This is the highest expression of piety, and thus it is the privilege of the friends of God to experience. When professed earthly friends become cold toward us, our love for them also is chilled. Should they leave and forsake us in the midst of suffering and want, and especially should they leave us on a bed of death, we should cease to confide in them. But not so in respect to God. Such is the nature of our confidence in him, that though he takes away comfort after comfort, though our health is destroyed and our friends are removed, and though we are led down into the valley and the shadow of death, yet still we never lose our confidence in him. We feel that all will yet be well. We look forward to another state, and anticipate the blessedness of another and a better world.
Reader, can you in sincerity lift the eye toward God, and say to him, "Though Thou dost slay me, though comfort after comfort is taken away, though the waves of trouble roll over me, and though I go down into the valley of the shadow of death, yet i will trust in thee; - Thine I will be even then, and when all is dark I will believe that God is right, and just, and true, and good, and will never doubt that he is worthy of my eternal affection and praise?" Such is religion. Where else is it found but in the views of God and of his government which the Bible reveals. The infidel may have apathy in his sufferings, the blasphemer may be stupid, the moralist or the formalist may be unconcerned; but that is not to have confidence in God. That results from religion alone.
But I will maintain mine own ways before him - Margin, "prove," or "argue." The sense is, I will "vindicate" my ways, or myself. That is, I will maintain that I am his friend, and that I am not a hypocrite. His friends charged him with insincerity. They were not able, Job supposed, to appreciate his arguments and to do justice to him. He had, therefore, expressed the wish to carry his cause directly before God Job 13:3; and he was assured that he would do justice to his arguments. Even should he slay him, he would still stand up as his friend, and would still maintain that his calamities had not come upon him, as his friends supposed, because he was a hypocrite and a secret enemy of his Maker.
He also shalt be my salvation - See the notes at Isa 12:2. Literally, "He is unto me for salvation," that is, "I put my trust in him, and he will save me. The opportunity of appearing before God, and of maintaining my cause in his presence, will result in my deliverance from the charges which are alleged against me. I shall be able there to show that I am not a hypocrite, and God will become my defender."
For an hypocrite shall not come before him - This seems to be a proverb, or a statement of a general and indisputable principle. Job admitted this to be true. Yet he expected to be able to vindicate himself before God, and this gould prove that he was not an hypocrite - on the general principle that a man who was permitted to stand before God and to obtain his favor, could not be an unrighteous man. To God he looked with confidence; and God, he had no doubt, would be his defender. This fact would prove that he could not be an hypocrite, as his friends maintained.
Hear diligently my speech - That which I have made; that is, the declaration which I have made of my innocence. He refers to his solemn declaration, Job 13:15-16 that he had unwavering confidence in God, and that even should God slay him he would put confidence in him. This solemn appeal he wished them to attend to as one of the utmost importance.
I have ordered my cause - literally. "judgment?" - משׁפט mı̂shpâṭ. The Septuagint renders it, "I am near (ἐγγύς εἰμί engus eimi) to my judgment," or my trial. The meaning may be, that he had gone through the pleading, and had said what he wished in self-vindication, and he was willing to leave the cause with God, and did not doubt the issue. Or more probably, I think, the word ערכתי ‛âraketı̂y should be taken, as the word ידעתי yāda‛tı̂y is, in the present tense, meaning "I now set in order my cause; I enter on the pleading; I am confident that I shall so present it as to be declared righteous."
I know that I shall be justified - I have no doubt as to the issue. I shall be declared to be an holy man, and not a hypocrite. The word rendered "I shall be justified" (אצדק 'etsâdaq) is used here in the proper and literal sense of the word justify. It is a term of law; and means, "I shall be declared to be righteous. I shall be shown not to be guilty in the form charged on me, and shall be acquitted or vindicated." This sense is different from that which so often occurs in the Scriptures when applied to the doctrine of the justification of a sinner. Then it means, to treat one AS IF he were righteous, though he is personally guilty and undeserving.
Who is he that will plead with me? - That is, "who is there now that will take up the cause, and enter into an argument against me? I have set my cause before God. I appeal now to all to take up the argument against me, and have no fear if they do as to the result. I am confident of a sucessful issue, and await calmly the divine adjudication."
For now, if I hold my tongue I shall give up the ghost - This translation, in my view, by no means expresses the sense of the original, if indeed it is not exactly the reverse. According to this version, the meaning is, that if he did not go into a vindication of himself he would die. The Hebrew, however is, "for now I will be silent, and die." That is, "I have maintained my cause, I will say no more. If there is anyone who can successfully contend with me, and can prove that my course cannot be vindicated, then I have no more to say. I will be silent, and die. I will submit to my fate without further argument, and without a complaint. I have said all that needs to be said, and nothing would remain but to submit and die."
Only do not two - things "unto me." The two things which are specified in the following verse. This is an address to God as Job argues his cause before him, and the request is, that he would remove every obstacle to his presenting his cause in the most favorable manner, and so that he may be on equal terms with him. See the notes at Job 9:34-35. He was ready to present his cause, and to plead before God, as Job 13:18 he had the utmost confidence that he would be able so to present it as to vindicate himself; and he asks of God that he would withdraw his hand for a time Job 13:21 and not terrify him Job 13:21, so that he could present his case with the full vigor of his mind and body, and so that he need not be overawed by the sense of the majesty and glory of the Most High. He wished to be free to present his cause without the impediments arising from a deeply distressing and painful malady. He wished to have his full intellectual and bodily vigor restored for a time to him, and then he was confident that he could successfully defend himself. He felt that, he was now enfeebled by disease, and incapacitated from making the effort for self-vindication and for maintaining his cause, which he would have been enabled to make in his palmy days.
Then will I not hide myself from thee - From God. I will stand forth boldly and maintain my cause. I will not attempt to conceal myself, or shun the trial and the argument. See Job 9:34-35.
Withdraw thine hand far from me - Notes Job 9:34. The hand of God here is used to denote the calamity or affliction which Job was suffering. The meaning is, "Remove my affliction; restore me to health, and I will then enter on the argument in vindication of my cause. I am now oppressed, and broken down, and enfeebled by disease, and I cannot present it with the vigor which I might evince if I were in health."
And let not thy dread make me afraid - "Do not so overpower me by thy severe majesty, that I cannot present my cause in a calm and composed manner." See the notes at Job 9:34. Job felt that God had power to overawe him, and he asked, therefore, that he might have a calm and composed mind, and then he would be able to do justice to his own cause.
Then call thou, and I will answer - Call me to trial; summon me to make my defense. This is language taken from courts of justice, and the idea is, that if God would remove his calamity, and not overawe him, and would then call on him to make a defense, he would be ready to respond to his call. The language means, "be thou plaintiff in the case, and I will enter on my defense." He speaks now to God not as to a judge but as a party, and is disposed to go to trial. See the notes at Job 9:33-35.
Or let me speak, and answer thou me - "Let me be the plaintiff, and commence the cause. In any way, let the cause come to an issue. Let me open the cause, adduce my arguments, and defend my view of the subject; and then do thou respond." The idea is, that Job desired a fair trial. He was willing that God should select his position, and should either open the cause, or respond to it when he had himself opened it. To our view, there is something that is quite irreverent in this language, and I know not that it can be entirely vindicated. But perhaps, when the idea of a trial was once suggested, all the rest may be regarded as the mere filling up, or as language fitted to carry out that single idea, and to preserve the concinnity of the poem. Still, to address God in this manner is a wide license even for poetry. There is the language of complaint here; there is an evident feeling that God was not right; there is an undue reliance of Job on his own powers; there is a disposition to blame God which we can by no means approve, and which we are not required to approve. But let us not too harshly blame the patriarch. Let him who has suffered much and long, who feels that he is forsaken by God and by man, who has lost property and friends, and who is suffering under a painful bodily malady, if he has never had any of those feelings, cast the first stone. Let not those blame him who live in affluence and prosperity, and who have yet to endure the first severe trial of life. One of the objects, I suppose, of this poem is, to show human nature as it is; to show how good people often feel under severe trial; and it would not be true to nature if the representation had been that Job was always calm, and that he never cherished an improper feeling or gave vent to an improper thought.
How many are mine iniquities and sins? - Job takes the place of the plaintiff or accuser. He opens the cause. He appeals to God to state the catalogue of his crimes, or to bring forward his charges of guilt against him. The meaning, according to Schultens, is, "That catalogue ought to be great which has called down so many and so great calamities upon my head from heaven, when I am conscious to myself of being guilty of no offence." God sorely afflicted him. Job appeals to him to show why it was done, and to make a statement of the number and the magnitude of his offences.
Make me to know - I would know on what account and why I am thus held to be guilty, and; why I am thus punished.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face - To hide the face, or to turn it away, is expressive of disapprobation. We turn away the face when we are offended with anyone. See the notes at Isa 1:15.
And holdest me for thine enemy - Regardest and treatest me as an enemy.
Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? - Job here means to say that the treatment of God in regard to him was like treading down a leaf that was driven about by the wind - an insigni ficant, unsettled, and worthless thing. "Wouldst thou show thy power against such an object?" - The sense is, that it was not worthy of God thus to pursue one so unimportant, and so incapable of offering any resistance.
And wilt thou pursue the dry stubble? - Is it worthy of God thus to contend with the driven straw and stubble of the field? To such a leaf, and to such stubble, he compares himself; and he asks whether God could be employed in a work such as that would be, of pursuing such a flying leaf or driven stubble with a desire to overtake it, and wreak his vengeance on it.
For thou writest bitter things against me - Charges or accusations of severity. We use the word "bitter" now in a somewhat similar sense. We speak of bitter sorrow, bitter cold, etc. The language here is all taken from courts of justice, and Job is carrying cut the train of thought on which he had entered in regard to a trial before God. He says that the accusations which God had brought against him were of a bitter and severe character; charging him with aggravated offences, and recalling the sins of his youth, and holding him responsible for them. Rosenmuller remarks that the word "write" here is a judicial term, referring to the custom of writing the sentence of a person condemned (as in Psa 149:9; Jer 22:30); that is, decreeing the punishment. So the Greeks used the expression γράφεσθαι δίκην graphesthai dikēn, meaning to declare a judicial sentence. So the Arabs use the word "kitab," writing, to denote a judicial sentence.
And makest me to possess - Hebrew Causest me to inherit - ותורישׁני vetôrı̂yshēnı̂y. He was heir to them; or they were now his as a possession or an inheritance. The Vulgate renders it, consumere me vis, etc. "thou wishest to consume me with the sins of my youth." The Septuagint, "and thou dost charge against me" - περιέφηκας perithēkas.
The iniquities of my youth - The offences which I committed when young. He complains now that God recalled all those offences; that he went into days that were past, and raked up what Job had forgotten; that, not satisfied with charging on him what he had done as a man, he went back and collected all that could be found in the days when he was under the influence of youthful passions, and when, like other young men, he might have gone astray. But why should he not do it? What impropriety could there be in God in thus recalling the memory of long-forgotten sins, and causing the results to meet him now that he was a man? We may remark here,
(1) That this is often done. The sins and follies of youth seem often to be passed over or to be unnoticed by God. Long intervals of time or long tracts of land or ocean may intervene between the time when sin was committed in youth, and when it shall be punished in age. The man may himself have forgotten it, and after a youth of dissipation and folly he may perhaps have a life of prosperity for many years. But those sins are not forgotten by God. Far on in life the results of early dissipation, licentiousness, folly, will meet the offender, and overwhelm him in disgrace or calamity.
(2) God has power to recall all the offences of early life. He has access to the soul. He knows all its secret springs. With infinite ease he can reach the memory of a long-forgotten deed of guilt; and he can overwhelm the mind with the recollection of crimes that have not been thought of for years. He can fix the attention with painful intensity on some slight deed of past criminality; or he can recall forgotten sins in groups; or he can make the remembrance of one sin suggest a host of others. No man who has passed a guilty youth can be certain that his mind will not be overwhelmed with painful recollections, and however calm and secure he may now be, he may in a moment be harassed with the consciousness of deep criminality, and with most gloomy apprehensions of the wrath to come.
(3) A young man should be pure. He has otherwise no security of respectability in future life, or of pleasant recollections of the past, should he reach old age. He who spends his early days in dissipation must expect to reap the fruits of it in future years. Those sins will meet him in his way, and most probably at an unexpected moment, and in an unexpected place. If he ever becomes a good man, he will have many an hour of bitter and painful regret at the follies of his early life; if he does not, he will meet the accumulated results of his sin on the bed of death and in hell. Somewhere, and somehow, every instance of folly is to be remembered hereafter, and will be remembered with sighs and tears.
(4) God rules among people, There is a moral government on the earth. Of this there is no more certain proof than in this fact. The power of summoning up past sins to the recollection; of recalling those that have been forgotten by the offender himself, and of placing them in black array before the guilty man; and of causing them to seize with a giant's grasp upon the soul, is a power such as God alone can wield, and shows at once that there is a God, and that he rules in the hearts of people. And
(5) If God holds this power now, he will hold it in the world to come. The forgotten sins of youth, and the sins of age, will be remembered then. The sinner walks over a volcano. It may be now calm and still. Its base may be crowned with verdure, its sides with orchards and vineyards; and far up its heights the tall tree may wave, and on its summit the snow may lie undisturbed. But at any moment that mountain may heave, and the burning torrent spread desolation every where. So with the sinner. He knows not how soon the day of vengeance may come; how soon he may be made to inherit the sins of his youth.
Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks - The word rendered "stocks" (סד sad), denotes the wooden frame or block in which the feet of a person were confined for punishment. The whole passage here is designed to describe the feet; as so confined in a clog or clogs, as to preclude the power of motion. Stocks or clogs were used often in ancient times as a mode of punishment. Pro 7:22. Jeremiah was punished by being confined in the stocks. Jer 20:2; Jer 29:2, Jer 29:6. Paul and Silas were in like manner confined in the prison in stocks; Act 16:24. Stocks appear to have been of two kinds. They were either clogs attached to one foot or to both feet, so as to embarrass, but not entirely to prevent walking, or they were fixed frames to which the feet were attached so as entirely to preclude motion. The former were often used with runaway slaves to prevent their escaping again when taken, or were affixed to prisoners to prevent their escape. The fixed kinds - which are probably referred to here - were of different sorts. They consisted of a frame, with holes for the feet only; or for the feet and the hands; or for the feet, the hands, and the neck. At Pompeii, stocks have been found so contrived that ten prisoners might be chained by the leg, each leg separately by the sliding of a bar. "Pict. Bible." The instrument is still used in India, and is such as to confine the limbs in a very distressing position, though the head is allowed to move freely.
And lookest narrowly unto all my paths - This idea occurs also in Job 33:11, though expressed somewhat differently, "He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths." Probably the allusion is to the paths by which he might escape. God watched or observed every way - as a sentinel or guard would a prisoner who was hampered or clogged, and who would make an attempt to escape.
Thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet - Margin, "roots." Such also is the Hebrew - רגלי שׁרשׁי shereshy regely. Vulgate, "vestigia." Septuagint, "Upon the roots - εἰς δὲ ῥίζας eis de rizas - of my feet thou comest." The word שׁרשׁ shârash means properly "root;" then the "bottom," or the lower part of a thing; and hence, the soles of the feet. The word rendered" settest a print," from חקה châqâh, means to cut in, to hew, to hack; then to engrave, carve, delineate, portray; then to dig. Various interpretations have been given of the passage here. Gesenius supposes it to mean, "Around the roots of my feet thou hast digged," that is, hast made a trench so that I can get no further. But though this suits the connection, yet it is an improbable interpretation. It is not the way in which one would endeavor to secure a prisoner, to make a ditch over which he could not leap.
Others render it, "Around the soles of my feet thou hast drawn lines," that is, thou hast made marks how far I may go. Dr. Good supposes that the whole description refers to some method of clogging a wild animal for the purpose of taming him, and that the expression here refers to a mark on the hoof of the animal by which the owner could designate him. Noyes accords with Gesenius. The editor of the Pictorial Bible supposes that it may refer to the manner in which the stocks were made, and that it means that a seal was affixed to the parts of the plank of which they were constructed, when they were joined together. He adds that the Chinese have a portable pillory of this kind, and that offenders are obliged to wear it around their necks for a given period, and that over the place where it is joined together a piece of paper is pasted, that it may not be opened without detection. Rosenmuller supposes that it means, that Job was confined within certain prescribed limits, beyond which he was not allowed to go. This restraint he supposes was effected by binding his feet by a cord to the stocks, so that he was not allowed to go beyond a certain distance. The general sense is clear, that Job was confined within certain limits, and was observed with very marked vigilance. But I doubt whether either of the explanations suggested is the true one. Probably some custom is alluded to of which we have no knowledge now - some mark that was affixed to the feet to prevent a prisoner from escaping without being detected. What that was, I think, we do not know. Perhaps Oriental researches will yet disclose some custom that will explain it.
And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth - Noyes renders this, "And I, like an abandoned thing, shall waste away." Dr. Good translates it, "Well may he dissolve as corrupttion." Rosenmuller supposes that Job refers to himself by the word הוּא hû' - he, and that having spoken of himself in the previous verses, he now changes the mode of speech, and speaks in the third person. In illustration of this, he refers to a passage in Euripides, "Alcestes," verse 690. The Vulgate renders it in the first person, "Qui quasi putredo consumendus sum." The design seems to be, to represent himself as an object not worthy such consent surveillance on the part of God. God set his mark upon him; watched him with a close vigilance and a steady eye - and yet he was watching one who was turning fast to corruption, and who would soon be gone. He regarded it as unworthy of God, to be so attentive in watching over so worthless an object. This is closely connected with the following chapter, and there should have been no interruption here. The allusion to himself as feeble and decaying, leads him into the beautiful description in the following chapter of the state of man in general. The connection is something like this: - "I am afflicted and tried in various ways. My feet are in the stocks; my way is hedged up. I am weak, frail, and dying. But so it is with man universally. My condition is like that of the man at large, for
"Man, the offspring of a woman,
Is short-lived, and is full of trouble."
As a rotten thing, - כרקב kerâqâb. The word רקב râqab means rottenness, or caries of bones; Pro 12:4; Pro 14:30; Hos 5:12. Here it means anything that is going to decay, and the comparison is that of man to anything that is thus constantly decaying, and that will soon be wholly gone.
Consumeth. - Or rather "decays," יבלה yı̂bâlâh. The word בלה bâlâh is applied to that which falls away or decays, which is worn out and waxes old - as a garment; Deu 8:4; Isa 50:9; Isa 51:6.
As a garment that is moth-eaten - "As a garment the moth consumes it." Hebrew On the word moth, and the sentiment here expressed, see the notes at Job 4:19.