|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
8:8-19 Bildad discourses well of hypocrites and evil-doers, and the fatal end of all their hopes and joys. He proves this truth of the destruction of the hopes and joys of hypocrites, by an appeal to former times. Bildad refers to the testimony of the ancients. Those teach best that utter words out of their heart, that speak from an experience of spiritual and divine things. A rush growing in fenny ground, looking very green, but withering in dry weather, represents the hypocrite's profession, which is maintained only in times of prosperity. The spider's web, spun with great skill, but easily swept away, represents a man's pretensions to religion when without the grace of God in his heart. A formal professor flatters himself in his own eyes, doubts not of his salvation, is secure, and cheats the world with his vain confidences. The flourishing of the tree, planted in the garden, striking root to the rock, yet after a time cut down and thrown aside, represents wicked men, when most firmly established, suddenly thrown down and forgotten. This doctrine of the vanity of a hypocrite's confidence, or the prosperity of a wicked man, is sound; but it was not applicable to the case of Job, if confined to the present world.
Verse 11 - Can the rush grow up without mire? The word translated "rush" (גמא) is that which occurs also in Exodus if. 3: Isaiah 18:2 and Isaiah 35:7, as designating a plant common in Egypt, and which is only found in these four places. It is generally admitted that the "papyrus" is meant "a plant of the Cyperaceae or sedge family, which was formerly common in Egypt" (Hooker, in Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 3. p. 1019). The chief peculiarity of the papyrus is its triangular stem, which rises to the height of six or seven, sometimes even of thirteen or fourteen, feet, and terminates in a bunch of thread-like flowering branchlets. The pith of these stems was the material of which the ancient Egyptians made their paper. The papyrus is a water-plant, and needs an abundant supply, but would often spring up out of any small pool which the Nile left as it retired, and, when the water failed from the peel, would rapidly wither away. A fine papyrus plant was on view, with other water-plants, in the circular greenhouse in Kew Gardens, towards the end of the season of 1890. Can the flag grow without water "The flag" (אחוּ) seems to be the ordinary sedge, or marah-plant. Like the papyrus, it would often spring up in all its greenness from a pool or pond left by the retiring river, and then in a few days, when the water was dried up, would wither away. Both images represent the prosperity of the wicked, and were probably proverbial.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Can the rush grow up without mire?.... No, at least not long, or so as to lift up his head on high, as the word signifies (a); the rush or bulrush, which seems to be meant, delights in watery places, and has its name in Hebrew from its absorbing or drinking up water; it grows in moist and watery clay, or in marshy places, which Jarchi says is the sense of the word here used; the Septuagint understands it of the "paper reed", which, as Pliny (b) observes, grows in the marshy places of Egypt, and by the still waters of the river Nile:
can the flag grow without water? or "the sedge" (c); which usually grows in moist places, and on the banks of rivers; this unless in such places, or if without water, cannot grow long, or make any very large increase, or come to maturity; so some (d) render it, "if the rush should grow up without", &c. then it would be with it as follows.
(a) "an attollit se", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius; "an superbiet", so some; Beza, Schultens. (b) Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 11. (c) "carectum", V. L. "ulva", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt, Michaelis, Schultens. (d) Sic Bar Tzemach & Belgae.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
11. rush—rather, "paper-reed": The papyrus of Egypt, which was used to make garments, shoes, baskets, boats, and paper (a word derived from it). It and the flag, or bulrush, grow only in marshy places (such as are along the Nile). So the godless thrives only in external prosperity; there is in the hypocrite no inward stability; his prosperity is like the rapid growth of water plants.
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