Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
Job 7:1-21. Job Excuses His Desire for Death.
1. appointed time—better, "a warfare," hard conflict with evil (so in Isa 40:2; Da 10:1). Translate it "appointed time" (Job 14:14). Job reverts to the sad picture of man, however great, which he had drawn (Job 3:14), and details in this chapter the miseries which his friends will see, if, according to his request (Job 6:28), they will look on him. Even the Christian soldier, "warring a good warfare," rejoices when it is completed (1Ti 1:18; 2Ti 2:3; 4:7, 8).
As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:
2. earnestly desireth—Hebrew, "pants for the [evening] shadow." Easterners measure time by the length of their shadow. If the servant longs for the evening when his wages are paid, why may not Job long for the close of his hard service, when he shall enter on his "reward?" This proves that Job did not, as many maintain, regard the grave as a mere sleep.
So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
3.—Months of comfortless misfortune.
I am made to possess—literally, "to be heir to." Irony. "To be heir to," is usually a matter of joy; but here it is the entail of an involuntary and dismal inheritance.
Months—for days, to express its long duration.
Appointed—literally, "they have numbered to me"; marking well the unavoidable doom assigned to him.
When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.
4. Literally, "When shall be the flight of the night?" [Gesenius]. Umbreit, not so well, "The night is long extended"; literally, "measured out" (so Margin).
My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.
5. In elephantiasis maggots are bred in the sores (Ac 12:23; Isa 14:11).
clods of dust—rather, a crust of dried filth and accumulated corruption (Job 2:7, 8).
my skin is broken and … loathsome—rather, comes together so as to heal up, and again breaks out with running matter [Gesenius]. More simply the Hebrew is, "My skin rests (for a time) and (again) melts away" (Ps 58:7).
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope.
6. (Isa 38:12). Every day like the weaver's shuttle leaves a thread behind; and each shall wear, as he weaves. But Job's thought is that his days must swiftly be cut off as a web;
without hope—namely, of a recovery and renewal of life (Job 14:19; 1Ch 29:15).
O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good.
7. Address to God.
Wind—a picture of evanescence (Ps 78:39).
shall no more see—rather, "shall no more return to see good." This change from the different wish in Job 3:17, &c., is most true to nature. He is now in a softer mood; a beam from former days of prosperity falling upon memory and the thought of the unseen world, where one is seen no more (Job 7:8), drew from him an expression of regret at leaving this world of light (Ec 11:7); so Hezekiah (Isa 38:11). Grace rises above nature (2Co 5:8).
The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon me, and I am not.
8. The eye of him who beholds me (present, not past), that is, in the very act of beholding me, seeth me no more.
Thine eyes are upon me, and I am not—He disappears, even while God is looking upon him. Job cannot survive the gaze of Jehovah (Ps 104:32; Re 20:11). Not, "Thine eyes seek me and I am not to be found"; for God's eye penetrates even to the unseen world (Ps 139:8). Umbreit unnaturally takes "thine" to refer to one of the three friends.
As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
9. (2Sa 12:23).
the grave—the Sheol, or place of departed spirits, not disproving Job's belief in the resurrection. It merely means, "He shall come up no more" in the present order of things.
He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.
10. (Ps 103:16). The Oriental keenly loves his dwelling. In Arabian elegies the desertion of abodes by their occupants is often a theme of sorrow. Grace overcomes this also (Lu 18:29; Ac 4:34).
Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
11. Therefore, as such is my hard lot, I will at least have the melancholy satisfaction of venting my sorrow in words. The Hebrew opening words, "Therefore I, at all events," express self-elevation [Umbreit].
Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?
12. Why dost thou deny me the comfort of care-assuaging sleep? Why scarest thou me with frightful dreams?
Am I a sea—regarded in Old Testament poetry as a violent rebel against God, the Lord of nature, who therefore curbs his violence (Jer 5:22).
or a whale—or some other sea monster (Isa 27:1), that Thou needest thus to watch and curb me? The Egyptians watched the crocodile most carefully to prevent its doing mischief.
When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaint;
Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions:
14. The frightful dreams resulting from elephantiasis he attributes to God; the common belief assigned all night visions to God.
So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
15. Umbreit translates, "So that I could wish to strangle myself—dead by my own hands." He softens this idea of Job's harboring the thought of suicide, by representing it as entertained only in agonizing dreams, and immediately repudiated with horror in Job 7:16, "Yet that (self-strangling) I loathe." This is forcible and graphic. Perhaps the meaning is simply, "My soul chooses (even) strangling (or any violent death) rather than my life," literally, "my bones" (Ps 35:10); that is, rather than the wasted and diseased skeleton, left to him. In this view, "I loathe it" (Job 7:16) refers to his life.
I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity.
16. Let me alone—that is, cease to afflict me for the few and vain days still left to me.
What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
17. (Ps 8:4; 144:3). Job means, "What is man that thou shouldst make him [of so much importance], and that thou shouldst expend such attention [or, heart-thought] upon him" as to make him the subject of so severe trials? Job ought rather to have reasoned from God's condescending so far to notice man as to try him, that there must be a wise and loving purpose in trial. David uses the same words, in their right application, to express wonder that God should do so much as He does for insignificant man. Christians who know God manifest in the man Christ Jesus may use them still more.
And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
18. With each new day (Ps 73:14). It is rather God's mercies, not our trials, that are new every morning (La 3:23). The idea is that of a shepherd taking count of his flock every morning, to see if all are there [Cocceius].
How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
19. How long (like a jealous keeper) wilt thou never take thine eyes off (so the Hebrew for "depart from") me? Nor let me alone for a brief respite (literally, "so long as I take to swallow my spittle"), an Arabic proverb, like our, "till I draw my breath."
I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
20. I have sinned—Yet what sin can I do against ("to," Job 35:6) thee (of such a nature that thou shouldst jealously watch and deprive me of all strength, as if thou didst fear me)? Yet thou art one who hast men ever in view, ever watchest them—O thou Watcher (Job 7:12; Da 9:14) of men. Job had borne with patience his trials, as sent by God (Job 1:21; 2:10); only his reason cannot reconcile the ceaseless continuance of his mental and bodily pains with his ideas of the divine nature.
set me as a mark—Wherefore dost thou make me thy point of attack? that is, ever assail me with new pains? [Umbreit] (La 3:12).
And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
21. for now—very soon.
in the morning—not the resurrection; for then Job will be found. It is a figure, from one seeking a sick man in the morning, and finding he has died in the night. So Job implies that, if God does not help him at once, it will be too late, for he will be gone. The reason why God does not give an immediate sense of pardon to awakened sinners is that they think they have a claim on God for it.