Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
1 Has not a man warfare upon earth,
And his days are like the days of a hireling?
2 Like a servant who longs for the shade,
And like a hireling who waits for his wages,
3 So am I made to possess months of disappointment,
And nights of weariness are appointed to me.
The conclusion is intended to be: thus I wait for death as refreshing and rest after hard labour. He goes, however, beyond this next point of comparison, or rather he remains on this side of it. צבא is not service of a labourer in the field, but active military service, then fatigue, toil in general (Isa 40:20; Dan 10:1). Job 7:2 Ewald and others translate incorrectly: as a slave longs, etc. כּ can never introduce a comparative clause, except an infinitive, as e.g., Isa 5:24, which can then under the regimen of this כּ be continued by a verb. fin.; but it never stands directly for כּאשׁר, as כּמו does in rare instances. In Isa 5:3, שׁוא retains its primary signification, nothingness, error, disappointment (Job 15:31): months that one after another disappoint the hope of the sick. By this it seems we ought to imagine the friends as not having come at the very commencement of his disease. Elephantiasis is a disease which often lasts for years, and slowly but inevitably destroys the body. On מנּוּ, adnumeraverunt = adnumeratae sunt, vid., Ges. 137, 3*.
4 If I lie down, I think:
When shall I arise and the evening break away?
And I become weary with tossing to and fro unto the morning dawn.
5 My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of earth;
My skin heals up to fester again.
6 My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle,
And vanish without hope.
Most modern commentators take מדּד as Piel from מדד: the night is extended (Renan: la nuit se prolonge), which is possible; comp. Ges. 52, 2. But the metre suggests another rendering: מדּד constr. of מדּד from נדד, to flee away: and when fleeing away of the evening. The night is described by its commencement, the late evening, to make the long interval of the sleeplessness and restlessness of the invalid prominent. In נדדים and מדד there is a play of words (Ebrard). רמּה, worms, in reference to the putrifying ulcers; and גּוּשׁ (with זעירא )ג, clod of earth, from the cracked, scaly, earth-coloured skin of one suffering with elephantiasis. The praett. are used of that which is past and still always present, the futt. consec. of that which follows in and with the other. The skin heals, רגע (which we render with Ges., Ew., contrahere se); the result is that it becomes moist again. ימּאס, according to Ges. 67, rem. 4 = ימּס, Psa 58:8. His days pass swiftly away; the result is that they come to an end without any hope whatever. ארג is like κερκίς, radius, a weaver's shuttle, by means of which the weft is shot between the threads of the warp as they are drawn up and down. His days pass as swiftly by as the little shuttle passes backwards and forwards in the warp.
Next follows a prayer to God for the termination of his pain, since there is no second life after the present, and consequently also the possibility of requital ceases with death.
7 Remember that my life is a breath,
That my eye will never again look on prosperity.
8 The eye that looketh upon me seeth me no more;
Thine eyes look for me, - I am no more!
9 The clouds are vanished and passed away,
So he that goeth down to Shel cometh not up.
10 He returneth no more to his house,
And his place knoweth him no more.
11 Therefore I will not curb my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
We see good, i.e., prosperity and joy, only in the present life. It ends with death. שׁוּב with ל infin. is a synonym of הוסיף, Job 20:9. No eye (עין femin.) which now sees me (prop. eye of my seer, as Gen 16:13, comp. Job 20:7; Psa 31:12, for ראני, Isa 29:15, or ראני, Isa 47:10; according to another reading, ראי: no eye of seeing, i.e., no eye with the power of seeing, from ראי, vision) sees me again, even if thy eyes should be directed towards me to help me; my life is gone, so that I can no more be the subject of help. For from Shel there is no return, no resurrection (comp. Psa 103:16 for the expression); therefore will I at least give free course to my thoughts and feelings (comp. Psa 77:4; Isa 38:15, for the expression). The גּם, Job 7:11, is the so-called גם talionis; the parallels cited by Michalis are to the point, Eze 16:43; Mal 2:9; Psa 52:7. Here we first meet with the name of the lower world; and in the book of Job we learn the ancient Israelitish conception of it more exactly than anywhere else. We have here only to do with the name in connection with the grammatical exposition. שׁאול (usually gen. fem.) is now almost universally derived from שׁאל = שׁעל, to be hollow, to be deepened; and aptly so, for they imagined the Sheôl as under ground, as Num 16:30, Num 16:33 alone shows, on which account even here, as from Gen 37:35 onwards, שׁאולה ירד is everywhere used. It is, however, open to question whether this derivation is correct: at least passages like Isa 5:14; Hab 2:5; Pro 30:15., show that in the later usage of the language, שׁאל, to demand, was thought of in connection with it; derived from which Sheôl signifies (1) the appointed inevitable and inexorable demanding of everything earthly (an infinitive noun like אלוהּ, פּקוד); (2) conceived of as space, the place of shadowy duration whither everything on earth is demanded; (3) conceived of according to its nature, the divinely appointed fury which gathers in and engulfs everything on the earth. Job knows nothing of a demanding back, a redemption from Sheôl.
12 Am I a sea or a sea-monster,
That thou settest a watch over me?
13 For I said, My bed shall comfort me;
My couch shall help me to bear my complaint.
14 Then thou scaredst me with dreams,
And thou didst wake me up in terror from visions,
15 So that my soul chose suffocation,
Death rather than this skeleton.
16 I loathe it, I would not live alway;
Let me alone, for my days are breath.
Since a watch on the sea can only be designed to effect the necessary precautions at its coming forth from the shores, it is probable that the poet had the Nile in mind when he used ים, and consequently the crocodile by תּנּין. The Nile is also called ים in Isa 19:5, and in Homer ὠκεανός, Egyptian oham (= ὠκεανός), and is even now called (at least by the Bedouins) bahhr (Arab. bahr). The illustrations of the book, says von Gerlach correctly, are chiefly Egyptian. On the contrary, Hahn thinks the illustration is unsuitable of the Nile, because it is not watched on account of its danger, but its utility; and Schlottman thinks it even small and contemptible without assigning a reason. The figure is, however, appropriate. As watches are set to keep the Nile in channels as soon as it breaks forth, and as men are set to watch that they may seize the crocodile immediately he moves here or there; so Job says all his movements are checked at the very commencement, and as soon as he desires to be more cheerful he feels the pang of some fresh pain. In Job 7:13, ב after נשׂא is partitive, as Num 11:17; Mercier correctly: non nihil querelam meam levabit. If he hopes for such repose, it forthwith comes to nought, since he starts up affrighted from his slumber. Hideous dreams often disturb the sleep of those suffering with elephantiasis, says Avicenna (in Stickel, S. 170). Then he desires death; he wishes that his difficulty of breathing would increase to suffocation, the usual end of elephantiasis. מחנק is absolute (without being obliged to point it מחנק with Schlottm.), as e.g., מרמס, Isa 10:6 (Ewald, 160, c). He prefers death to these his bones, i.e., this miserable skeleton or framework of bone to which he is wasted away. He despises, i.e., his life, Job 9:21. Amid such suffering he would not live for ever. הבל, like רוּח, Job 7:7.
17 What is man that Thou magnifiest him,
And that Thou turnest Thy heart toward him,
18 And visitest him every morning,
Triest him every moment?
19 How long dost Thou not look away from me,
Nor lettest me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
The questions in Job 7:17. are in some degree a parody on Psa 8:5, comp. Psa 144:3, Lam 3:23. There it is said that God exalts puny man to a kingly and divine position among His creatures, and distinguishes him continually with new tokens of His favour; here, that instead of ignoring him, He makes too much of him, by selecting him, perishable as he is, as the object of ever new and ceaseless sufferings. כּמּה, quamdiu, Job 7:19, is construed with the praet. instead of the fut.: how long will it continue that Thou turnest not away Thy look of anger from me? as the synonymous עד־מתי, quousque, is sometimes construed with the praet. instead of the fut., e.g., Psa 80:5. "Until I swallow my spittle" is a proverbial expression for the minimum of time.
20 Have I sinned - what could I do to Thee?!
O Observer of men,
Why dost Thou make me a mark to Thee,
And am I become a burden to Thee?
21 And why dost Thou not forgive my transgression,
And put away my iniquity?
For now I will lay myself in the dust,
And Thou seekest for me, and I am no more.
"I have sinned" is hypothetical (Ges. 155, 4, a): granted that I have sinned. According to Ewald and Olsh., אפעל־לך מה defines it more particularly: I have sinned by what I have done to Thee, in my behaviour towards Thee; but how tame and meaningless such an addition would be! It is an inferential question: what could I do to Thee? i.e., what harm, or also, since the fut. may be regulated by the praet.: what injury have I thereby done to Thee? The thought that human sin, however, can detract nothing from the blessedness and glory of God, underlies this. With a measure of sinful bitterness, Job calls God האדם נצר, the strict and constant observer of men, per convicium fere, as Gesenius not untruly observes, nevertheless without a breach of decorum divinum (Renan: O Espion de l'homme), since the appellation, in itself worthy of God (Isa 27:3), is used here only somewhat unbecomingly. מפגּע is not the target for shooting at, which is rather מטּרה (Job 16:12; Lam 3:12), but the object on which one rushes with hostile violence (בּ פּגע). Why, says Job, hast Thou made me the mark of hostile attack, and why am I become a burden to Thee? It is not so in our text; but according to Jewish tradition, עלי, which we now have, is only a סופרים תקון, correctio scribarum,
(Note: Vid., the Commentary on Habakkuk, S. 206-208; comp. Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, S. 308ff.)
for אליך, which was removed as bordering on blasphemy: why am I become a burden to Thee, so that Thou shouldest seek to get rid of me? This reading I should not consider as the original, in spite of the tradition, if it were not confirmed by the lxx, εἰμὶ δὲ ἐπὶ σοὶ φορτίον.
It is not to be objected, that he who is fully conscious of sin cannot consider the strictest divine punishment even of the smallest sin unjust. The suffering of one whose habitual state is pleasing to God, and who is conscious of the divine favour, can never be explained from, and measured according to, his infirmities: the infirmities of one who trusts in God, or the believer, and the severity of the divine justice in the punishment of sin, have no connection with one another. Consequently, when Eliphaz bids Job regard his affliction as chastisement, Job is certainly in the wrong to dispute with God concerning the magnitude of it: he would rather patiently yield, if his faith could apprehend the salutary design of God in his affliction; but after his affliction once seems to him to spring from wrath and enmity, and not from the divine purpose of mercy, after the phantom of a hostile God is come between him and the brightness of the divine countenance, he cannot avoid falling into complaint of unmercifulness. For this the speech of Eliphaz is in itself not to blame: he had most feelingly described to him God's merciful purpose in this chastisement, but he is to blame for not having taken the right tone.
The speech of Job is directed against the unsympathetic and reproving tone which the friends, after their long silence, have assumed immediately upon his first manifestation of anguish. He justifies to them his complaint (ch. 3) as the natural and just outburst of his intense suffering, desires speedy death as the highest joy with which God could reward his piety, complains of his disappointment in his friends, from whom he had expected affectionate solace, but by whom he sees he is now forsaken, and earnestly exhorts them to acknowledge the justice of his complaint (ch. 6). But can they? Yes, they might and should. For Job thinks he is no longer an object of divine favour: an inward conflict, which is still more terrible than hell, is added to his outward suffering. For the damned must give glory to God, because they recognise their suffering as just punishment: Job, however, in his suffering sees the wrath of God, and still is at the same time conscious of his innocence. The faith which, in the midst of his exhaustion of body and soul, still knows and feels God to be merciful, and can call him "my God," like Asaph in Ps 73, - this faith is well-nigh overwhelmed in Job by the thought that God is his enemy, his pains the arrows of God. The assumption is false, but on this assumption Job's complaints (ch. 3) are relatively just, including, what he himself says, that they are mistaken, thoughtless words of one in despair. But that despair is sin, and therefore also those curses and despairing inquiries!
Is not Eliphaz, therefore, in the right? His whole treatment is wrong. Instead of distinguishing between the complaint of his suffering and the complaint of God in Job's outburst of anguish, he puts them together, without recognising the complaint of his suffering to be the natural and unblamable result of its extraordinary magnitude, and as a sympathizing friend falling in with it. But with regard to the complaints of God, Eliphaz, acting as though careful for his spiritual welfare, ought not to have met them with his reproofs, especially as the words of one heavily afflicted deserve indulgence and delicate treatment; but he should have combated their false assumption. First, he should have said to Job, "Thy complaints of thy suffering are just, for thy suffering is incomparably great." In the next place, "Thy cursing thy birth, and thy complaint of God who has given thee thy life, might seem just if it were true that God has rejected thee; but that is not true: even in suffering He designs thy good; the greater the suffering, the greater the glory." By this means Eliphaz should have calmed Job's despondency, so as to destroy his false assumption; but he begins wrongly, and consequently what he says at last so truly and beautifully respecting the glorious issue of a patient endurance of chastisement, makes no impression on Job. He has not fanned the faintly burning wick, but his speech is a cold and violent breath which is calculated entirely to extinguish it.
After Job has defended the justice of his complaints against the insensibility of the friends, he gives way anew to lamentation. Starting from the wearisomeness of human life in general, he describes the greatness of his own suffering, which has received no such recognition on the part of the friends: it is a restless, torturing death without hope (Job 7:1-6). Then he turns to God: O remember that there is no second life after death, and that I am soon gone for ever; therefore I will utter my woe without restraint (Job 7:7-11). Thus far (from Job 6:1 onwards) I find in Job's speech no trace of blasphemous or sinful despair. When he says (Job 6:8-12), How I would rejoice if God, whose word I have never disowned, would grant me my request, and end my life, for I can no longer bear my suffering, - I cannot with Ewald see in its despair rising to madness, which (Job 7:10) even increases to frantic joy. For Job's disease was indeed really in the eyes of men as hopeless as he describes it. In an incurable disease, however, imploring God to hasten death, and rejoicing at the thought of approaching dissolution, is not a sin, and is not to be called despair, inasmuch as one does not call giving up all hope of recovery despair.
Moreover, it must not be forgotten that the book of Job is an oriental book, and therefore some allowance must be made of the intensity and strength of conception of the oriental nature: then that it is a poetical book, and that frenzy and madness may not be also understood by the intensified expression in which poetry, which idealizes the real, clothes pain and joy: finally, that it is an Old Testament book, and that in the Old Testament the fundamental nature of man is indeed sanctified, but not yet subdued; the spirit shines forth as a light in a dark place, but the day, the ever constant consciousness of favour and life, has not yet dawned. The desire of a speedy termination of life (Job 6:8-12) is in Job 7:7-11 softened down even to a request for an alleviation of suffering, founded on this, that death terminates life for ever. In the Talmud (b. Bathra, 16, a) it is observed, on this passage, that Job denies the resurrection of the dead (המתים בתחיים איוב שׁכפר מכאן); but Job knows nothing of a resurrection of the dead, and what one knows not, one cannot deny. He knows only that after death, the end of the present life, there is no second life in this world, only a being in Sheôl, which is only an apparent existence = no existence, in which all praise of God is silent, because He no longer reveals himself there as to the living in this world (Psa 6:6; Psa 30:10; Psa 88:11-13; Psa 115:17). From this chaotic conception of the other side of the grave, against which even the psalmists still struggle, the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead had not been set forth at the time of Job, and of the author of the book of Job. The restoration of Israel buried in exile (Ezek 37) first gave the impulse to it; and the resurrection of the Prince of Life, who was laid in the grave, set the seal upon it. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was first of all the actual overthrow of Hades.
Mortis seu inferni, observes Brentius, in accordance with Scriptures, ea conditio est, ut natura sua quoscunque comprehenderit tantisper teneat nec dimittat, dum Christus, filius Dei, morte ad infernum descenderit, h.e. perierit; per hunc enim devicta morte et inferno liberantur quotquot fide renovati sunt. This great change in the destiny of the dead was incomplete, and the better hope which became brighter and brighter as the advent of death's Conqueror drew near was not yet in existence. For if after death, or what is the same thing, after the descent into Shel, there was only a non-existence for Job, it is evident that on the one hand he can imagine a life after death only as a return to the present world (such a return does, however, not take place), on the other hand that no divine revelation said anything to him of a future life which should infinitely compensate for a return to the present world. And since he knows nothing of a future existence, it can consequently not be said that he denies it: he knows nothing of it, and even his dogmatizing friends have nothing to tell him about it. We shall see by and by, how the more his friends torment him, the more he is urged on in his longing for a future life; but the word of revelation, which could alone change desire into hope, is wanting. The more tragic and heart-rending Job's desire to be freed by death from his unbearable suffering is, the more touching and importunate is his prayer that God may consider that now soon he can no longer be an object of His mercy. Just the same request is found frequently in the Psalms, e.g., Psa 89:48, comp. Psa 103:14-16 : it involves nothing that is opposed to the Old Testament fear of God. Thus far we can trace nothing of frenzy and madness, and of despair only in so far as Job has given up the hope (נואשׁ) of his restoration, - not however of real despair, in which a man impatiently and forcibly snaps asunder the bond of trust which unites him to God. If the poet had anywhere made Job to go to such a length in despair, he would have made Satan to triumph over him.
Now, however, the last two strophes follow in which Job is hurried forward to the use of sinful language, Job 7:12-16 : Am I a sea or a sea-monster, etc.; and Job 7:17-21 : What is man, that thou accountest him so great, etc. We should nevertheless be mistaken if we thought there were sin here in the expressions by which Job describes God's hostility against himself. We may compare e.g., Lam 3:9, Lam 3:10 : "He hath enclosed my ways with hewn stone, He hath made any paths crooked; He is to me as a bear lying in wait, a lion in the thicket." It is, moreover, not Job's peculiar sin that he thinks God has changed to an enemy against him; that is the view which comes from his vision being beclouded by the conflict through which he is passing, as is frequently the case in the Psalms. His sin does not even consist in the inquiries, How long? and Wherefore? The Psalms in that case would abound in sin. But the sin is that he dwells upon these doubting questions, and thus attributes apparent mercilessness and injustice to God. And the friends constantly urge him on still deeper in this sin, the more persistently they attribute his suffering to his own unrighteousness. Jeremiah (in Lamentations 3), after similar complaints, adds: Then I repeated this to my heart, and took courage from it: the mercies of Jehovah, they have no end; His compassions do not cease, etc. Many of the Psalms that begin sorrowfully, end in the same way; faith at length breaks through the clouds of doubt. But it should be remembered that the change of spiritual condition which, e.g., in Psa 6:1-10, is condensed to the narrow limits of a lyric composition of eleven verses, is here in Job worked out with dramatical detail as a passage of his life's history: his faith, once so heroic, only smoulders under ashes; the friends, instead of fanning it to a flame, bury it still deeper, until at last it is set free from its bondage by Jehovah himself, who appears in the whirlwind.