Then Job answered and said,
I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?
I know it is so of a truth - Job here refers, undoubtedly, to something that had been said before; but whether it is to the general strain of remark, or to some particular expression, may be doubted. Rosenmuller supposes that he refers to what was said by Eliphaz in Job 4:17; but it seems more probable that it is to the general position which had been laid down and defended, that God was just and holy, and that his proceedings were marked with equity. Job admits this, and proceeds to show that it was a truth quite as familiar to him as it was to them. The object of his dwelling on it seems to be to show them that it was no new thing to him, and that he had some views on that important subject which were well worthy of attention.
But how should man be just with God? - Margin, "before." The meaning is, that he could not be regarded as perfectly holy in the sight of God; or that so holy and pure a being as God must see that man was a sinner, and regard him as such; see the sentiment explained in the notes at Job 4:17. The question here asked is, in itself, the most important ever propounded by man - "How shall sinful man be regarded and treated as righteous by his Maker?" This has been the great inquiry which has always been before the human mind. Man is conscious that he is a sinner. He feels that he must be regarded as such by God. Yet his happiness here and hereafter, his peace and all his hope, depend on his being treated as if he were righteous, or regarded as just before God. This inquiry has led to all forms of religion among people; to all the penances and sacrifices of different systems; to all the efforts which have been made to devise some system that shall make it proper for God to treat people as righteous.
The question has never been satisfactorily answered except in the Christian revelation, where a plan is disclosed by which God "may be just, and yet the justifier of him that believeth." Through the infinite merits of the Redeemer, man, though conscious that he is personally a sinner, may be treated as if he had never sinned; though feeling that he is guilty, he may consistently be forever treated as if he were just. The question asked by Job implies that such is the evidence and the extent of human guilt, that man can never justify himself. This is clear and indisputable. Man cannot justify himself by the deeds of the law. Justification, as a work of law, is this: A man is charged, for example, with the crime of murder. He sets up in defense that he did not kill, or that if he tools life it was in self-defense, and that he had a right to do it. Unless the fact of killing be proved, and it be shown that he had no right to do in the case as he has done, he cannot be condemned, and the law acquits him. It has no charge against him, and he is just or justified in the sight of the law. But in this sense man can never be just before God. He can neither show that the things charged on him by his Maker were not done, or that being done, he had a right to do them; and being unable to do this, he must be held to be guilty. He can never be justified therefore by the law, and it is only by that system which God has revealed in the gospel, where a conscious sinner may be treated as if he were righteous through the merits of another, that a man can ever be regarded as just before God; see Romans 1:17, note; Romans 3:24-25, note.
If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.
If he will contend with him - That is, if God enters into a controversy with man. If he chooses to charge crime on him, and to hold him responsible for his deeds. The language here is taken from courts of justice, and means that if a trial were instituted, where God should submit charges, and the matter were left to adjudication, man could not answer the charges against him; compare the notes at Isaiah 41:1.
He cannot answer him one of a thousand - For one of a thousand of the sins charged on him. The word "thousand" here is used to denote the largest number, or all. A man who could not answer for one charge brought against him out of a thousand, must be held to be guilty; and the expression here is equivalent to saying that he could not answer him at all. It may also be implied that God has many charges against man. His sins are to be reckoned by thousands. They are numerous as his years, his months, his weeks, his days, his hours, his moments; numerous as his privileges, his deeds, and his thoughts. For not one of those sins can he answer. He can give no satisfactory account before an impartial tribunal for any of them. If so, how deeply guilty is man before God! How glorious that plan of justification by which he can be freed from this long list of offences, and treated as though he had not sinned.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?
He is wise in heart - Herder renders this,
Even the wise and the powerful,
Who hath withstood him and prospered?
But the more common interpretation is to refer it to God. The meaning of Job appears to be, that God was a sagacious adversary; that he was able to manage his cause; that he could meet and refute all objections which could be urged; and that it would be in vain to engage in a litigation before him. He so well understood the whole ground of debate, and was so entirely skilled in the merits of the controversy, and could so successfully meet all that could be alleged, that it was useless to attempt to hold an argument with him.
And mighty in strength - He is able to execute all his designs, and to carry all his purposes into effect. Man is weak and feeble, and it is hopeless for him to attempt to contend with the Almighty.
Who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? - To harden oneself, here means to resist or withstand him. It refers to the firmness or resolution which one is obliged to adopt who opposes another. Here it means the opposition which man makes to the law and government of the Most High; and the affirmation is, that no one can make such opposition who will not be ultimately overcome. God is so great, so powerful, and so just, that a successful resistance cannot be made. The arrangements of God will take their course, and man must yield to his claims and his government, or be prostrated. None can successfully resist God; and the true policy of man, as well as his duty, is to yield to him, and be at peace with him.
And hath prospered - Or been successful. He has failed in his opposition, and been obliged to yield. Prosperity is not found in opposing God. It is only by falling in with his arrangements and following his designs. A prosperous voyage is made by falling in with winds and currents, and not in opposing them; prosperous agriculture is carried on by coinciding with the favorable seasons of the year, and taking advantage of the dews, and rains, and sunbeams that God sends, and not in opposing them; prosperity in regard to health is found in taking advantage of the means which God gives to secure it, and not in opposing them. And the sinner in his course has no more chance of success and prosperity, than a man would have who should make it a point or principle of life always to sail against tides, and currents, and head winds; or he who should set at defiance all the laws of husbandry, and plant on a rock, or in the dead of winter; or he who should feed himself on poison rather than on nutritious food, and cultivate the nightshade rather that wheat. The great principle is, that if a man desires prosperity, he must fall in with the arrangements of God in his providence and grace; and wisdom is seen in studying these arrangements, and in yielding to them.
Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.
Which removeth the mountains - In order to show how vain it was to contend with God, Job refers to some exhibitions of his power and greatness. The "removal of the mountains" here denotes the changes which occur in earthquakes and other violent convulsions of nature. This illustration of the power of God is often referred to in the Scriptures; compare Judges 5:5; 1 Kings 19:11; Psalm 65:6; Psalm 114:4; Psalm 144:5; Isaiah 40:12; Jeremiah 4:24.
And they know not - This is evidently a Hebraism, meaning suddenly, or unexpectedly. He does it, as it were, before they are aware of it. A similar expression occurs in the Koran, "God overturns them, and they do not know it;" that is, he does it without their suspecting any such thing; compare Psalm 35:8. "Let destruction come upon him at unawares," or, as it is in the Hebrew and in the margin, "which he knoweth not of." Tindal renders this, "He translatethe the mountaynes or ever they be aware."
Which overturneth them in his anger - As if he were enraged. There could scarcely be any more terrific exhibition of the wrath of God than the sudden and tremendous violence of an earthquake.
Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.
Which shaketh the earth out of her place - This evidently refers to violent convulsions of nature, as if the earth were to be taken away. Objects on the earth's surface become displaced, and convulsion seems to seize the world. The Septuagint renders this, "who shaketh that which is under the heavens from its foundations" - ἐκ Θεμελίων ek themeliōn. The change in the Hebrew would be very slight to authorize this rendering.
And the pillars thereof tremble - In this place the earth is represented as sustained like a building by pillars or columns. Whether this is a mere poetic representation, or whether it describes the actual belief of the speaker in regard to the structure of the earth, it is not easy to determine. I am inclined to think it is the former, because in another place where he is speaking of the earth, he presents his views in another form, and more in acoordance with the truth (see the notes at Job 26:7): and because here the illustration is evidently taken from the obvious and perceived effects of an earthquake. It would convulse and agitate the pillars of the most substantial edifice, and so it seemed to shake the earth, as if its very supports would fall.
Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.
Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades,
Or loose the bands of Orion?
Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season,
Or lead forth the Bear with her young?
Knowest thou the laws of the heavens,
Or hast thou appointed their dominion over the earth?
Job 9:7Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not - Schultens supposes that all this is a description of the deluge - when the mountains were removed, when the fountains of the deep were broken up, and when the sun was obscured and seemed not to rise. Others have supposed that it refers to the fact that the sun is darkened by clouds and tempests, and appears not to rise and shine upon the earth. Others suppose that the allusion is to an eclipse; and others, that it is to the power of God, and means that the rising of the sun depends on him, and that if he should choose to give the command, the heavenly bodies would rise and give light no more. It seems probable that the meaning is, that God has power to do this; that the rising of the sun depends on him; and that he could delay it, or prevent it, at his pleasure. His power over the sun was shown in the time of Joshua, when, at his command, it stood still; but it is not necessary to suppose that there is any reference to this fact here. The whole meaning of the language is met by the supposition that it refers to the power of God, and affirms what he could do, or if it refer to any fact that had been observed, that the allusion is to the darkening of the sun by an eclipse or a tempest. No argument can be derived, therefore, from the expression, in regard to the age of the book.
And sealeth up the stars - The word "seal" in the Scriptures (חתם châtham) is used with considerable latitude of signification. It is employed in the sense of shutting, closing, making fast - as when anything was sealed, it was shut up or made fast. The Hebrews often used a seal, where we would use a lock, and depended on the protection derived from the belief that one would not break open that which was sealed, where we are obliged to rely on the security of the lock against force. If there were honor and honesty among people everywhere, a seal would be as secure as a lock - as in a virtuous community a sealed letter is as secure as a merchant's iron "safe." To "seal up the stars," means so to shut them up in the heavens, as to prevent their shining; to hide them from the view. They are concealed, hidden, made close - as the contents of a letter, a package, or a room are by a seal, indicating that no one is to examine them, and concealing them from the view. So God hides from our view the stars by the interposition of clouds.
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens - As an expanse, or a curtain; see the notes at Isaiah 40:22.
And treadeth upon the waves of the sea - Margin, "Heights." So it is in the Hebrew. It means the "high waves;" that is, he walks upon the waves of the ocean when lifted up by a storm. This is spoken of here as a proof of the greatness of God; and the meaning of all is, that he is seen in the storm, in the heaving ocean, when the heavens are black with tempest, and when the earth is convulsed. It may be added here, that the Lord Jesus walked amidst the howling winds on the lake, and thus gave evidence that he was God; Matthew 14:25. "The Egyptian hieroglyphic for what was not possible to be done, was a man walking on the water." Burder. Dr. Good, and some others, render this, "on the mountains." But the more correct rendering is given in the common version. The Hebrew word rendered "waves" (במה bâmâh) indeed properly means a height, a lofty place, a mountain; but the comparison of waves with a mountain, is common in all languages. So we speak of waves "mountain-high," or as high as mountains. So Virgil, Aeneid i.105,
Insequitur cumulo praeruptus aquae mons.
Similar to this, is the expression occurring in Homer, κύματα ἶσα ὄρεσσιν kumata isa oressin; and so Apollonius, i. 521 - ἅλὸς ἄκρον chalos akron. The Septuagint renders it, "who walketh upon the sea as upon a pavement."
Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
Which maketh Arcturus - This verse, with others of the same description in the book of Job, is of special importance, as they furnish an illustration of the views which prevailed among the patriarchs on the subject of astronomy. There are frequent references to the sciences in this book (see the Introduction), and there is no source of illustration of the views which prevailed in the earliest times in regard to the state of the sciences, so copious as can be found in this poem. The thoughts of people were early turned to the science of astronomy. Not only were they led to this by the beauty of the heavens, and by the instinctive promptings of the human mind to know something about them, but the attention of the Chaldeans and of the other Oriental nations was early drawn to them by the fact that they were shepherds, and that they passed much of their time in the open air at night, watching their flocks.
Having nothing else to do, and being much awake, they would naturally contrive to relieve the tediousness of the night by watching the movements of the stars; and they early gave employment to their talents, by endeavoring to ascertain the influence which the stars exerted over the fates of people, and to their imagination, by dividing the heavens into portions, having a fancied resemblance to certain animals, and by giving them appropriate names. Hence, arose the arrangement of the stars into constellations, and the names which they still bear. The Hebrew word rendered Arcturus, is עשׁ ‛ayı̂sh. The Septuagint renders it, Πλειάδα Pleiada - the Pleiades. Jerome, Arcturum. The Hebrew word usually means a moth, Job 4:19; Job 13:28; Job 27:18. It also denotes the splendid constellation in the northern hemisphere, which we call Ursa Major, the Great Bear, Arcturus, or the Wain; compare Niebuhr, Des. of Arabia, p. 114.
The word עשׁ ‛ayı̂sh does not literally mean a bear, but is made by aphaeresis from the Arabic nas, by the excision of the initial n - as is common in Arabic; see Bochart, Hieroz. P. II. Lib. I. c. xvi. p. 113, 114. The word in Arabic means a bier, and is the name given to the constellation which we denominate Ursa Major, "because," says Bochart, "the four stars, which are a square, are regarded as a bier, on which a dead body is borne. The three following (the tail of the bear) are the daughters or sons which attend the funeral as mourners." This name is often given to this constellation in Arabic. The Arabic name is Elna'sch, the bier. "The expression," says Ideler, "denotes particularly the bier on which the dead are borne, and taken in this sense, each of the two biers in the Ursa Major and Ursa Minor is accompanied by three mourning-women. The biers and the mourning-women together, are called Benâtna'sch, literally, daughters of the bier; that is, those who pertain to the bier."
Untersuchungen uber den Ursprung und die Bedeutung der Sternnamen, S. 419; compare Job 38:32 : "Canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons?" Schultens regards the word עשׁ ‛ayı̂sh as synonymous with the Arabic asson, night-vigil, from assa to go about by night, and supposes this constellation to be so called, because it always revolves around the pole, and never sets. The situation and figure of this constellation are well known. It is seen at all times in the northern part of the heavens, perpetually revolving around the North Star, and two of its principal stars point to the North Star always. Its resemblance to a bear, is quite fanciful - as it might be imagined as well to resemble any other object. The design of this fancy was merely to assist the memory. The only thing which seems to have suggested it was its slight resemblance to an animal followed by its young. Thus, the stars, now known as the "tail," might have been supposed to resemble the cubs of a bear following their dam.
The comparison of the constellation to a bier, and the movement to a funeral procession, with the sons or daughters of the deceased following on in the mourning train, is much more poetical and beautiful. This constellation is so conspicuous, that it has been an object of interest in all ages, and has been one of the groups of stars most attentively observed by navigators, as a guide in sailing. The reason was, probably, that as it constantly revolved around the North Pole, it could always be seen in clear weather, and thus the direction in which they were sailing, could always be told. It has had a great variety of names. The name Ursa Major, or the Great Bear, is that which is commonly given to it. It is a remarkable fact, also, that while this name was given to it in the East a tribe of the American Indians - the Iroquois, also gave the same name of the Great Bear to it. This is remarkable, because, so far as known, they had no communication with each other, and because the name is perfectly arbitrary.
Is this an evidence that the natives of our country, North America, derived their origin from some of the nations of the East? In some parts of England the constellation is called "Charles' Wain," or Wagon, from its fancied resemblance to a waggon, drawn by three horses in a line. Others call it the Plow. The whole number of visible stars in this constellation is eighty seven, of which one is of the first, three of the second, seven of the third, and about twice as many of the fourth magnitude. The constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor were represented by the ancients, under the image of a waggon drawn by a team of horses. This is alluded to by the Greek poet, Aratus, in an address to the Athenians:
The one called Helix, soon as day retires.
Observed with ease lights up his radiant fires;
The other smaller and with feebler beams,
In a less circle drives his lazy teams:
But more adapted for the sailor's guide,
Whene'er by night he tempts the briny tide.
Among the Egyptians these two constellations are represented by the figures of bears, instead of waggons. Whence the Hebrew name is derived is not quite certain; but if it be from the Arabic, it probably means the same - a bier. There seems no reason to doubt, however, that the Ursa Major is intended; and that the idea here is, that the greatness of God is shown by his having made this beautiful constellation.
Orion - The Vulgate renders this Orion, the Septuagint, "Εσπερον Hesperon, Hesperus - that is, the evening star, Venus. The word כסיל kesı̂yl, is from כסל kâsal, to be fat or fleshy; to be strong, lusty, firm; and then to be dull, sluggish, stupid - as fat persons usually are. Hence, the word כסיל kesı̂yl means a fool, Psalm 49:11; Proverbs 1:32; Proverbs 10:1, It is used here, however, to denote a constellation, and by most interpreters it is supposed to denote the constellation Orion, which the Orientals call a giant. "They appear to have conceived of this constellation under the figure of an impious giant bound upon the sky." Gesenius. Hence the expression, Job 38:31; "Canst thou loose the bands of Orion?" According to the Eastern tradition, this giant was Nimrod, the founder of Babylon, afterward translated to the skies; see the notes at Isaiah 13:10, where it is rendered constellation. Virgil speaks of it as the Stormy Orion:
Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.
Which doeth great things - This is almost the sentiment which had been expressed by Eliphaz; see the notes, Job 5:9. It was evidently a proverb, and as such was used by both Eliphaz and Job.
Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.
Lo, he goeth by me - That is, he passes along - as in the silent movements of the heavenly bodies. "I see the evidence of his existence. I can see that God must be there - moving along by me in the orbs of night and in the march of the constellations, but I cannot see God himself. He passes by, or rather he passes over me (עלי ‛ālay), as in the majestic movement of the heavenly bodies over my head." This is, I think, the idea, and the image is exceedingly poetic and beautiful. The heavens are seen to move in silent grandeur. The northern constellation rolls around the pole. The others move on as a marshalled army. They go in silent and solemn order, and God must be there. But, says Job, I cannot see him. I can feel that he must be there, and I look out on the heavens to see him, but my eyes fail, and I cannot behold him. He passes on, and I see him not. Who has ever looked upon the heavens in the still night, and seen the silent grandeur of such movements of the heavenly host, without some such feeling - some emotion of inexpressible awe - as if he, if I may so express it, COULD ALMOST SEE GOD?
Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?
Behold, he taketh away - Property, friends, or life.
Who can hinder him? - Margin, turn him away. Or, rather, "who shall cause him to restore?" that is, who can bring back what he takes away? He is so mighty, that what he removes, it is impossible for us to recover.
Who will say unto him, What doest thou? - A similar expression occurs in Daniel 4:35. The meaning is plain. God has a right to remove any thing which we possess. Our friends, property, health, and lives, are his gift, and he has a right to them all. When he takes them away, he is but taking that which is his own, and which has been lent to us for a little time, and which he has a right to remove when it seems good to him. This truth Job fully admits, and in the calm contemplation of all his losses and his sorrows, he acknowledges that God had a right to do as he had done; see note, Job 1:21.
If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.
If God will not withdraw his anger - That is, if he perseveres in inflicting punishment. He will not turn aside his displeasure by any opposition or resistance made to him.
The proud helpers - Margin, Helpers of pride, or, strength. Jerome renders this, "under whom they who bear up the world bow down." The Septuagint, not less singularly, "by him the whales (or monsters - κήτος ketos) which are under heaven, are bowed down." Codurcus renders it, "aids of pride," and understands by it all the things on which proud men rely, as wealth, health, rank, talent. So Dr. Good renders it, "the supports of the proud." The meaning is, probably, that all those things which contribute to the support of pride, or all those persons who are allied together to maintain the dominion of pride on the earth, must sink under the wrath of God. Or it may refer to those who sustain the pride of state and empire - the men who stand around the thrones of monarchs, and who contribute, by their talent and power, to uphold the pomp and magnificence of courts. On the meaning of the word here rendered pride (רהב rahab), see the notes at Isaiah 30:7.
How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?
How much less shall I answer him? - I, who am so feeble, how can I contend with him? If the most mighty objects in the universe are under his control; if the constellations are directed by him; if the earth is shaken, and mountains moved from their places, by his power, and if the men of most exalted rank are prostrated by him, how can I presume to contend with God? This is the common view which is given of the passage, and is evidently that which our translators entertained. But I have given in the translation what appears to me to be a more literal version, and to express a better sense - though, I confess, the translation differs from all that I have seen. According to this, the sense is simply, that such was the veneration which Job had for the character of God, that should he attempt to answer him, he would select his words with the utmost care and attention.
Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.
Whom, though I were righteous - That is, if I felt the utmost confidence that I was righteous, yet, if God judged otherwise, and regarded me as a sinner, I would not reply to him, but would make supplication to him as a sinner. I would have so much confidence in him, and would feel that he was so much better qualified than I am to judge, and that I am so liable to be deceived, that I would come to him as a sinner, if he judged and declared me to be one, and would plead for pardon. The meaning is, that God is a much better judge of our character than we can possibly be, and that his regarding us as sinners is the highest proof that we are such, whatever may be our views to the contrary. This shows the extent of the confidence which Job had in God and is an indication of true piety. And it is founded in reason as well as in piety. Men often suppose that they are righteous, and yet they know that God adjudges otherwise, and regards them as sinners. He offers them pardon as sinners. He threatens to punish them as sinners. The question is, whether they shall act on their own feelings and judgment in the case, or on his? Shall they adhere obstinately to their views, and refuse to yield to God, or shall they act on the truth of his declarations? Now that Job was right in his views of the case, may appear from the following considerations.
(1) God knows the heart. He cannot be deceived; we may be. In nothing are we more liable to be deceived than in regard to our own character. We should, therefore, distrust our own judgment in this case, but we should never distrust God.
(2) God is infinitely benevolent, and will not judge unkindly. He has no wish to find us sinners; he will have no pleasure in making us out to be transgressors. A heart of infinite benevolence would prefer to find all people holy, and would look on every favorable circumstance in the case with all the kindness which it would deserve. No being would be so likely to make a favorable decision in our case as the infinitely benevolent God; none would so delight to find that we were free from the charge of guilt.
(3) God will act on his own views of our character, and not on ours; and it is prudent and wise, therefore, for us to act on his views now. He will judge us in the last day according to his estimate of our character, and not according to the estimate which we may form.
(4) At the same time, we cannot but accord with his views of our own character. Our reason and conscience tell us that we have violated his laws, and that we have no claim to his mercy. No man can persuade himself that he is wholly righteous; and being conscious of guilt, though in the slightest degree, he should make supplication to his Judge.
If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.
If I had called, and he had answered me - It is remarked by Schultens, that the expressions in these verses are all taken from courts of justice. If so, the meaning is, that even if Job should call the Almighty to a judicial action, and he should respond to him, and consent to submit the great question about his innocence, and about the justice of the divine dealings with him, to trial, yet that such was the distance between God and him, that he could not hope successfully to contend with him in the argument. He would, therefore, prostrate himself in a suppliant manner, and implore his mercy and compassion - submitting to him as having all power, and as being a just and righteous Sovereign.
Would I not believe - I cannot believe that he would enter into my complaint. He deals with me in a manner so severe; he acts toward me so much as a sovereign, that I have no reason to suppose that he would not continue to act toward me in the same way still.
For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.
For he breaketh me - He is overwhelming me with a tempest; that is, with the storms of wrath. He shows me no mercy. The idea seems to be, that God acted toward him not as a judge determining matters by rule of law, but as a sovereign - determining them by his own will. If it were a matter of law; if he could come before him as a judge, and maintain his cause there; if the case could be fairly adjudicated whether he deserved the calamities that came upon him, he would be willing to enter into such a trial. But where the matter was determined solely by will, and God acted as a sovereign, doing as he pleased, and giving no account of his matters to anyone, then it would be useless to argue the cause. He would not know what to expect, or understand the principles on which an adjudication would be made. It is true that God acts as a sovereign, but he does not act without reference to law. He dispenses his favors and his judgments as he pleases, but he violates none of the rules of right. The error of Job was the common error which people commit, that if God acts as a sovereign, he must of course act regardless of law, and that it is vain to plead with him or try to please him. But sovereignty is not necessarily inconsistent with respect for law; and He who presides with the most absolute power over the universe, is He who is most directed by the rule of right. In Him sovereignty and law coincide; and to come to Him as a sovereign, is to come with the assurance that supreme rectitude will be done.
And multiplieth my wounds without cause - That is, without sufficient reason. This is in accordance with the views which Job had repeatedly expressed. The main ground of his complaint was, that his sufferings were disproportionate to his faults.
He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.
He will not suffer me to take my breath; - see the notes at Job 7:19.
If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?
If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong - There has been a considerable variety in the interpretation of this passage. The meaning seems to be this. It refers to a judicial contest, and Job is speaking of the effect if he and God were to come to a trial, and the cause were to be settled before judges. He is urging reasons why he would have no hope of success in such a case. He says, therefore, "If the matter pertained only to strength, or if it were to be determined by strength, lo, he is more mighty than I am, and I could have no hope of success in such a controversy: and if the controversy was one of judgment, that is, of justice or right, I have no one to manage my cause - no one that could cope with him in the pleadings - no one who could equal him in setting forth my arguments, or presenting my side of the case. It would, therefore, be wholly an unequal contest, where I could have no hope of success; and I am unwilling to engage in such a controversy or trial with God. My interest, my duty, and the necessity of the case, require me to submit the case without argument, and I will not attempt to plead with my Maker." That there was a lack of right feeling in this, must be apparent to all.
There was evidently the secret belief that God had dealt with him severely; that he had gone beyond his deserts in indicting pain on him, and that he was under a necessity of submitting not so much to justice and right as to mere power and sovereignty. But who has not had something of this feeling when deeply afflicted? And yet who, when he has had it, has not felt that it was far from being what it should be? Our feeling should be, "we deserve all that we suffer, and more than we have yet endured. God is a sovereign; but He is right. Though he afflicts us much, and others little, yet it is not because he is unjust, but because he sees that there is some good reason why we should suffer. That reason may be seen yet by us, but if not, we should never doubt that it exists."
Who shall set me a time to plead? - Noyes renders this, "Who shall summon me to trial?" Dr. Good, "Who should become a witness for me?" The sense is, "Who would summon witnesses for me? If it was a mere trial of strength, God is too mighty for me; if it were a question of justice, who would compel witnesses to come on my side? Who could make them willing to appear against God, and to bear testimony for me in a controversy with the Almighty?"
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me - That is, referring still to the form of a judicial trial, if I should undertake to manage my own cause, I should lay myself open to condemnation even in my argument on the subject, and should show that I was far from the perfection which I had undertaken to maintain. By passionate expressions; by the language of complaint and murmuring; by a want of suitable reverence; by showing my ignorance of the principles of the divine government; by arguments unsound and based on false positions; or by contradictions and self-refutations, I should show that my position was untenable, and that God was right in charging me with guilt. In some or in all of these ways Job felt, probably, that in an argument before God he would be self-condemned, and that even an attempt to justify himself, or to prove that he was innocent, would prove that he was guilty. And is it not always so? Did a man ever yet undertake to repel the charges of guilt brought against him by his Maker, and to prove that he was innocent, in which he did not himself show the truth of what he was denying? Did not his false views of God and of his law; his passion, complaining, and irreverence; his unwillingness to admit the force of the palpable considerations urged to prove that he was guilty, demonstrate that he was at heart a sinner, and that he was insubmissive and rebellious? The very attempt to enter into such an argument against God, shows that the heart is not right; and the manner in which such an argument is commonly conducted demonstrates that he who does it is sinful.
If I say, I am perfect - Should I attempt to maintain such an argument, the very attempt would prove that my heart is perverse and evil. It would do this because God had adjudged the contrary, and because such an effort would show an insubmissive and a proud heart. This passage shows that Job did not regard himself as a man absolutely free from sin. He was indeed said Job 1:1 to be "perfect and upright;" but this verse proves that that testimony in regard to him was not inconsistent with his consciousness of guilt. See the notes at that verse. And is not the claim to absolute perfection in this world always a proof that the heart is perverse? Does not the very setting up of such a claim in fact indicate a pride of heart, a self-satisfaction, and an ignorance of the true state of the soul, which is full demonstration that the heart is far from being perfect? God adjudges man to be exceedingly sinful; and if I do not mistake the meaning of the Scriptures, this is his testimony of every human heart - totally until renewed - partially ever onward until death. If this be the account in the Scriptures, then the claim to absolute perfection is prima facie, if not full proof, that the heart is in some way perverse. It has come to a different conclusion from that of God. It sets up an argument against him - and there can be no more certain proof of a lack of perfection than such an attempt. There is in this verse an energy in the original which is very feebly conveyed by our translation. It is the language of strong and decided indignation at the very idea of asserting that he was perfect. תם אני tâm 'ănı̂y - "perfect I!" or, "I perfect! The thought is absurd! It can only prove that I am perverse to attempt to set up any such claim!" Stuhlman renders this,
"However good I may be, I must condemn myself;
However free from guilt, I must call myself evil:"
And explains it as meaning, "God can through the punishments which he inflicts constrain me to confess, against the clear consciousness of my innocence, that I am guilty."
Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.
Though I were perfect - The same mode of expression occurs here again. "I perfect! I would not know it, or recognize it. If this were my view, and God judged otherwise, I would seem to be ignorant of it. I would not mention it."
Yet would I not know my soul - Or, "I could not know my soul. If I should advance such a claim, it must be from my ignorance of myself." Is not this true of all the claims to perfection which have ever been set up by man? Do they not demonstrate that he is ignorant of his own nature and character? So clear does this seem to me, that I have no doubt that Job expressed more than three thousand years ago what will be found true to the end of time - that if a man advances the claim to absolute perfection, it is conclusive proof that he does not know his own heart. A superficial view of ourselves, mingled with pride and vanity, may lead us to think that we are wholly free from sin. But who can tell what he would be if placed in other circumstances? Who knows what latent depravity would be developed if he were thrown into temptations?
I would despise my life - Dr. Good, I think, has well expressed the sense of this. According to his interpretation, it means that the claim of perfection would be in fact disowning all the consciousness which he had of sinfulness; all the arguments and convictions pressed on him by his reason and conscience, that he was a guilty man. Schultens, however, has given an interpretation which slightly differs from this, and one which Rosenmuller prefers. "Although I should be wholly conscious of innocence, yet that clear consciousness could not sustain me against the infinite splendor of the divine glory and majesty; but I should be compelled to appear ignorant of my own soul, and to reprobate, condemn, and despise my life passed with integrity and virtue." This interpretation is in accordance with the connection, and may be sustained by the Hebrew.
This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
This is one thing, therefore I said it - This may mean, "it is all the same thing. It makes no difference whether a man be righteous or wicked. God treats them substantially alike; he has one and the same rule on the subject. Nothing can be argued certainly about the character of a man from the divine dealings with him here." This was the point in dispute, this the position that Job maintained - that God did not deal with people here in strict accordance with their character, but that the righteous and the wicked in this world were afflicted alike.
He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked - He makes no distinction among them. That Job was right in this his main position there can be no doubt; and the wonder is, that his friends did not all see it. But it required a long time in the course of events, and much observation and discussion, before this important point was made clear. With our full views of the state of retribution in the future world, we can have no doubt on the subject. Heavy and sudden judgments do not necessarily prove that they who are cut off are especially guilty, and long prosperity is no evidence that a man is holy. Calamity, by fire and flood, on a steamboat, or in the pestilence, does not demonstrate the unusual and eminent wickedness of those who suffer (compare Luke 13:1-5), nor should those who escape from such calamities infer that of necessity they are the objects of the divine favor.
If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
If the scourge slay suddenly - If calamity comes in a sudden and unexpected manner. Dr. Good, following Reiske, translates this," if he suddenly slay the oppressor," understanding the word scourge שׁוט shôṭ as meaning an oppressor, or one whom God employs as a scourge of nations. But this is contrary to all the ancient versions. The word שׁוט shôṭ means properly a whip, a scourge (compare the notes at Job 5:21), and then calamity or affliction sent by God upon men. Such is clearly the case here.
He will laugh at the trial of the innocent - That is, he seems to disregard or to be pleased with their trials. He does not interpose to rescue them. He seems to look calmly on, and suffers them to be overwhelmed with others. This is a poetic expression, and cannot mean that God derides the trials of the innocent, or mocks their sufferings. It means that he seems to be inattentive to them; he suffers the righteous and the wicked to be swept away together as if he were regardless of character.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked - This is evidently designed as an illustration of the sentiment that Job was maintaining - that there was not a distribution of rewards and punishments in this life according to character. In illustration of this, he says that the wicked are raised to places of trust and power. They exercise a wide dominion over the earth, and the world is under their control. Of the truth of this there can be no doubt. Rulers have been, in general, eminent for wickedness, and the affairs of nations have thus far been almost always under the control of those who are strangers to God. At the present time there is scarcely a pious man on any throne in the world, and the rulers of even Christian nations are in general eminent for anything rather than for personal religion.
He covereth the faces of the judges thereof - There has been considerable variety in the exposition of this expression. Some suppose that it refers to the wicked, meaning that they cover the faces of the judges under them so that they connive at and tolerate crime. Others, that it means that God blinds the eyes of wicked rulers, so that they connive at crime, and are partial and unjust in their decisions. Others, that it means that God covers the faces of the judges of the earth with shame and confusion, that though he admits them to prosperity and honor for a time, yet that he overwhelms them at length with calamities and sorrows. Dr. Good supposes it to mean that the earth is given over into the hands of injustice, and that this hoodwinks the faces of the judges. The phrase properly means, to hoodwink, to blind, to conceal the face. It seems to me that the true sense is not expressed by either of the views above. The parallelism requires us to understand it as meaning that while the wicked had dominion over the earth, the righteous were in obscurity, or were not advanced to honor and power. The word "judges," therefore, I think, is to be understood of the righteous judges, of those who are qualified to administer justice. Their face is covered. They are kept in concealment. The wicked have the sway, and they are doomed to shame, obscurity, and dishonor. This interpretation accords with the tenor of the argument, and may be sustained by the Hebrew, though I have not found it in any of the commentaries which I have consulted.
If not, where, and who is he - If this is not a just view, who is God? What are his dealings? Where is he to be seen, and how is he to be known? Or, it may mean, "if it is not God who does these strange things, who is it that does them?" Rosenmuller. But I prefer the former interpretation. "Tell me who and what God is, if this is not a fair and just account of him. These things in fact are done, and if the agency of God is not employed in them, who is God? And where is his agency seen?
Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good.
Now my days are swifter than a post - Than a courier, runner, or racer, רוּץ rûts. Vulgate, cursore; Septuagint, δρομέως dromeōs, a racer. The word is not unfrequently applied to the runners or couriers, that carried royal commands in ancient times. It is applied to the mounted couriers of the Persians who carried the royal edicts to the distant provinces, Esther 3:13, Esther 3:15; Esther 8:14, and to the body-guard and royal messengers of Saul and of David, 1 Samuel 22:17; 2 Kings 10:25. The common rate of traveling in the East is exceedingly slow. The caravans move little more than two miles an hour. Couriers are however, employed who go either on dromedaries, on horses, or on foot, and who travel with great rapidity. Lady Montague says that "after the defeat; at Peterwaradin, they (the couriers on dromedaries) far outran the fleetest horses, and brought the first news of the battle at Belgrade." The messengers in Barbary who carry despatches, it is said, will run one hundred and fifty miles in twenty-four hours (Harmer's Observa. ii. 200, ed. 1808), and it has been said that the messengers among the American savages would run an hundred and twenty miles in the twenty-four hours. In Egypt, it is a common thing for an Arab on foot to accompany a rider, and to keep up with the horse when at full gallop, and to do this for a long time without apparent fatigue. The meaning of Job here is, that his life was short, and that his days were passing swiftly away, not like the slow caravan, but like the most fleet messenger compare the note at Job 7:6.
They see no good - I am not permitted to enjoy happiness. My life is a life of misery.
They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
They are passed away as the swift ships - Margin, Ships of desire; or ships of Ebeh. Hebrew אבה אניה 'onı̂yâh 'êbeh. Vulgate, Naves poma portantes. Septuagint, "Is there any track left by ships in their passage?" The Chaldee renders it as the Vulgate, "Ships bearing good fruit;" that is, as such fruit was perishable, haste was required in order to reach the place of destination. Our translators were evidently perplexed by the word אבה 'êbeh, as appears by their placing two different phrases in the margin. "Ships of desire," denotes the value or desirableness of such ships; and the phrase, "Ships of Ebeh," denotes their confession of ignorance as to the meaning of the word. Gesenius explains the word to mean reed, bulrush, or papyrus - from an Arabic use of the word, and supposes that the reference is to the light vessels made of the papyrus, which were used on the Nile; see the note at Isaiah 18:2. Such vessels would be distinguished for the ease with which they might be rowed, and the rapidity of their motion. Chardin supposes that the reference is to vessels that were made to go on the Euphrates or the Tigris, and that were borne along with the rapid current. The supposition of an allusion to any boat or vessel under full sail, will be in accordance with the language here, though the probability is, that the reference is to the light vessels, made of reeds, that might be propelled with so much fleetness. Sails were frequently used, also, for such vessels.
As the eagle that hasteth to the prey - A striking emblem of rapidity. Few things can be more rapid than the motion of the eagle, as he darts upon his victim.
If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself:
If I say, I will forget my complaint - If I resolve that I will leave off complaining, and will be more cheerful, I find it all in vain. My fears and sorrows return, and all my efforts to be cheerful are ineffectual
I will leave off my heaviness - The word rendered "my heaviness" here (פני pânam) denotes literally "my face;" and the reference is to the sad and sorrowful countenance which he had. "If I should lay that aside, and endeavor to be cheerful."
And comfort myself - The word rendered comfort here (בלג bâlag) in Arabic means to be bright, to shine forth; and it would here be better rendered by "brighten up." We have the same expression still when we say to one who is sad and melancholy, "brighten up; be cheerful." The meaning is, that Job endeavored to appear pleasant and cheerful, but it was in vain. His sorrows pressed heavily on him, and weighed down his spirits in spite of himself, and made him sad.
I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.
I am afraid of all my sorrows - My fears return. I dread the continuance of my griefs, and cannot close my eye to them.
Thou wilt not hold me innocent - God will not remove my sorrows so as to furnish the evidence that I am innocent. My sufferings continue, and with them continue all the evidence on which my friends rely that I am a guilty man. In such a state of things, how can I be otherwise than sad? He was held to be guilty; he was suffering in such a way as to afford them the proof that he was so, and how could he be cheerful?
If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?
If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain? - The word "if," here introduced by our translators, greatly obscures the sense. The meaning evidently is, "I am held to be guilty, and cannot answer to that charge. God regards me as such, and if I should attempt to meet him on the charge, it would be a vain attempt; and I must admit its truth. It would be labor in vain to deny it against one so mighty as he is." This interpretation accords with the argument in the whole chapter. Job maintains that it would be in vain to contend with God, and he gives up the argument in despair. It is quite evident, however, that he does not do it so much because he is convinced himself, as because he knows that God is great, and that it would be useless to contend with him. There is evidently implied all along the feeling that if he was able to cope with God in the argument, the result would be different. As it is, he submits - not because he is convinced, but because he is weak; not because he sees that God is right, but because he sees that he is powerful. How much submission of this kind is there in the world - submision, not to right, but to power; submission to God, not because he is seen to be wise and good, but because he is seen to be almighty, and it is vain to attempt to oppose him! It is needless to say that such feelings evince no true submission.
If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
If I wash myself with snow water - If I should make myself as pure as possible, and should become, in my view, perfectly holy. Snow water, it seems, was regarded as especially pure. The whiteness of snow itself perhaps suggested the idea that the water of melted snow was better than other for purification. Washing the hands formerly was an emblem of cleansing from guilt. Hence Pilate, when he gave up the Savior to death, took water and washed his hands before the multitude, and said that he was innocent of his blood; Matthew 27:24. The expression used here by Job, also is imitated by the Psalmist, to denote his innocence:
I will wash mine hands in innocency:
So will I compass thine altar, O Lord. Psalm 26:6.
Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain,
And washed my hands in innocency.
Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch - God would treat me as if he should throw me into the gutter, and as if I were wholly defiled and polluted. The meaning is, God would not admit the proofs which I should adduce of my innocence, but would overwhelm me with the demonstrations of my guilt. I doubt not that Job urged this with some degree of impatience, and with some improper feelings. He felt, evidently, that God was so great and powerful, that it was vain to contend with him. But it is true in a higher and more important sense than he seems to have understood it. After all the efforts which we can make to justify, vindicate, or purify ourselves, it is in the power of God to overwhelm us with the consciousness of guilt. He has access to the heart. He can show us our past sins. He can recall what we have forgotten, and overwhelm us with the remembrance of our deep depravity. It is in vain, therefore, for any man to attempt to justify himself before God. After the most labored argument to prove his own innocence, after all the confidence which he can repose in his own morality and his own righteousness, still God can with infinite ease overwhelm him with the consciousness of guilt. How many people that were once relying on their own morality for their salvation, have been bowed down with a consciousness of guilt in a revival of religion! How many who halve been trusting to their own righteousness have been overwhelmed with deep and awful conviction, when they have been brought to lie on a bed of death! Let no man, therefore, rely on his own righteousness, when God accuses him with being a sinner. Let no one trust to his own morality for salvation - for soon it will all be seen to be insufficient, and the soul must appear covered over with the consciousness of guilt at the awful bar of God.
And mine own clothes shall abhor me - Margin, Make me to be abhorred. That is, they shall be filthy and offensive - like one who has been rolled in the mire. God has power to make me seem defiled and loathsome, notwithstanding all my efforts to cleanse myself.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
For he is not a man as I am - He is infinitely superior to me in majesty and power. The idea is, that the contest would be unequal, and that he might as well surrender without bringing the matter to an issue. It is evident that the disposition of Job to yield, was rather because he saw that God was superior in power than because he saw that he was right, and that he felt that if he had ability to manage the cause as well as God could, the matter would not be so much against him as it was then. That there was no little impropriety of feeling in this, no one can doubt; but have we never had feelings like this when we have been afflicted? Have we never submitted to God because we felt that he was Almighty, and that it was vain to contend with him, rather than because he was seen to be right? True submission is always accompanied with the belief that God is RIGHT - whether we can see him to be right or not.
And we should come together in judgment - For trial, to have the case adjudicated. That is, that we should meet face to face, and have the cause tried before a superior judge. Noyes.
Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
Neither is there any daysman - Margin, One that should argue, or, umpire. The word daysman in English means " "an umpire or arbiter, a mediator." Webster. Why such a man is called a daysman I do not know. The Hebrew word rendered "daysman" מוכיח môkı̂yach is from יכח yâkach, not used in the Qal, to be before, in front of; and then to appear, to be clear, or manifest; and in the Hiphil, to cause to be manifest, to argue, prove, convince; and then to argue down, to confute, reprove; see the word used in Job 6:25 : "What doth your arguing reprove?" It then means to make a cause clear, to judge, determine, decide, as an arbiter, umpire, judge, Isaiah 11:3; Genesis 31:37. Jerome renders it, "Non est qui utrumque valeat arguere." The Septuagint, "if there were, or, O that there were a mediator ὁ μεσίτης ho mesitēs, and a reprover (καί ἐλέγχων kai elengchōn), and one to hear us both" (καί διακούων ἀναμέτον ἀυφοτέρων kai diakouōn anameton amphoterōn).
The word as used by Job does not mean mediator, but arbiter, umpire, or judge; one before whom the cause might be tried, who could lay the hand of restraint on either party. who could confine the pleadings within proper bounds, who could preserve the parties within the limits of order and propriety, and who had power to determine the question at issue. Job complains that there could be no such tribunal. He feels that God was so great that the cause could be referred to no other, and that he had no prospect of success in the unequal contest. It does not appear, therefore, that he desired a mediator, in the sense in which we understand that word - one who shall come between us and God, and manage our cause before him, and be our advocate at his bar. He rather says that there was no one above God, or no umpire uninterested in the controversy, before whom the cause could be argued, and who would be competent to decide the matter in issue between him and his Maker. He had no hope, therefore, in a cause where one of the parties was to be the judge, and where that party was omnipotent; and he must give up the cause in despair.
It is not with strict propriety that this language is ever applied to the Lord Jesus, the great Mediator between God and man. He is not an umpire to settle a dispute, in the sense in which Job understood it; he is not an arbiter, to whom the cause in dispute between man and his Maker is to be referred; he is not a judge to listen to the arguments of the respective parties, and to decide the controversy. He is a mediator between us and God, to make it proper or possible that God should be reconciled to the guilty, and to propose to man the terms of reconciliation; to plead our cause before God, and to communicate to us the favors which he proposes to bestow on man.
That might lay his hand upon us both - It is not improbable that this may refer to some ancient ceremony in courts where, for some cause, the umpire or arbiter laid his hand on both the parties. Or, it may mean merely that the umpire had the power of control over both the parties; that it was his office to restrain them within proper limits, to check any improper expressions, and to see that the argument was fairly conducted on both sides. The meaning of the whole here is, that if there were such an umpire, Job would be willing to argue the cause. As it was, it was a hopeless thing, and he could do nothing more than to be silent. That there was irreverence in this language must be admitted; but it is language taken from courts of law, and the substance of it is, that Job could not hope to maintain his cause before one so great and powerful as God.
Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:
Let him take his rod away from me - Let him suspend my sufferings, and let us come together on equal terms. His terror now is upon me, and I can do nothing. I am oppressed, and broken down, and crushed under his hand, and I could not hope to maintain my cause with any degree of success. If my sufferings were lightened, and I could approach the question with the rigor of health and the power of reasoning unweakened by calamity, I could then do justice to the views which I entertain. Now there would be obvious disparity, while one of the parties has crushed and enervated the other by the mere exercise of power.
Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.
Then would I speak, and not fear him - I should then be able to maintain my cause on equal terms, and with equal advantages.
But it is not so with me - Margin, I am not so with myself. Noyes, "I am not so at heart." Good, "but not thus could I in my present state." Literally, "for not thus I with myself." The Syriac renders it, "for neither am I his adversary." Very various interpretations have been given of this phrase. The Jews, with Aben Ezra, suppose it means, "for I am not such as you suppose me to be. You take me to be a guilty man; but I am innocent, and if I had a fair opportunity for trial, I could show that I am." Others suppose it to mean, "I am held to be guilty by the Most High, and am treated accordingly. But I am not so. I am conscious to myself that I am innocent." It seems to me that Dr. Good has come nearer the true sense than any other interpreter, and certainly his exposition accords with the connection. According to this the meaning is, "I am not able thus to vindicate myself in my present circumstances. I am oppressed and crushed beneath a lead of calamities. But if these were removed, and if I had a fair opportunity of trial, then I could so state my cause as to make it appear to be just."
In this whole chapter, there is evidently much insubmission and improper feeling. Job submits to power, not to truth and right. He sees and admits that God is able to overwhelm him, but he does not seem disposed to admit that he is right in doing it. He supposes that if he had a fair and full opportunity of trial, he could make his cause good, and that it would be seen that he did not deserve his heavy calamities. There is much of this kind of submission to God even among good people. It is submission because they cannot help it, not because they see the divine dealings to be right. There is nothing cheerful or confiding about it. There is often a secret feeling in the heart that the sufferings are beyond the deserts, and that if the case could be fairly tried, the dealings of God would be found to be harsh and severe. Let us not blame Job for his impatience and irreverent language, until we have carefully examined our own hearts in the times of trial like those which he endured. Let us not infer that he was worse than other men, until we are placed in similar circumstances, and are able to manifest better feelings than he did.