Then Job answered and said,Job 23:1. Then Job answered — Job, being exceedingly grieved by the freedom which Eliphaz had taken with him in his last speech, charging him directly with the most enormous sins, (see the 15th and following verses,) turns and appeals to God, according to his custom, and earnestly begs he would hear the matter fully, and determine between him and his friends. The passage from this to the end of the 10th verse is peculiarly fine, and well worthy of the reader’s deep attention. In it Job fully answers the charge of Eliphaz concerning his denial or disbelief of the Divine Providence; and observes, that this was so far from being the case, that there was nothing he so much lamented as that he was excluded from God’s presence, and not permitted to draw near and make his defence before him; having the testimony of his own conscience respecting his integrity, and not doubting but he should make his cause good. He then shows, that his cause was far from being singular, for that many other dispensations of God’s providence were equally difficult to be accounted for, at least by human understanding; and that it was this which filled him with greater apprehensions. He expresses his desire that God, in the course of his providence, would make a more visible distinction between the righteous and the wicked in this world, that good men might not fall into such mistakes in censuring suffering innocence. He concludes with showing what, according to their principles, ought to be the general course of providence with regard to wicked men, which, however, it was notorious was not the case: and since it was not, it was plain that he had proved his point, and the falsity of their maxim was apparent: and their censuring him merely for his sufferings was a behaviour by no means justifiable. — Heath.
Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.Job 23:2. Even to-day is my complaint bitter — Even at this time notwithstanding all your promises and pretended consolations. For your discourses give me neither relief nor satisfaction. Hence in this and the following chapter Job seldom applies his discourse to his friends, but either addresses his speech to God, or bewails his misery. My stroke is heavier than my groaning — The hand or stroke of God upon me exceeds my complaints.
Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!Job 23:3-5. O that I knew where I might find him! — Namely, God, as his friends well knew. Thou advisest me to acquaint myself with him, I desire nothing so much as his acquaintance and presence; but, alas! he hides his face from me, that I cannot see or come near him. That I might come even to his seat — To his throne or judgment-seat, to plead my cause before him. I would order my cause — Declare in order the things which concern my cause, would set it in a true light, and show the justice of it, and that before him, who searches my heart. And fill my mouth with arguments — To prove my sincerity and innocence toward him, and consequently, that my friends accuse me falsely. I would know what he would say to me — If he should discover to me any secret sins, for which he contendeth with me, I would humble myself before him, and accept of the punishment of mine iniquity.
I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.Job 23:6. Will he plead against me — Hebrew, יריב עמדי, jarib gnimmadi, contend with me; with his great power — ברב כח, berob choach, in the greatness, or extent, of his strength. Will he use his sovereign and absolute power to oppress me, as men do those whom they cannot fairly answer? No, but he would put strength in me — He would not use his power against me, but for me; by enabling me to plead my cause, and giving sentence according to that clemency which he uses toward his children. The word strength, though not in the text, is rightly added by our translators to complete the sense.
There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.Job 23:7. There — At that throne of grace, where God lays aside his majesty and power, and judges according to his wonted grace and clemency; the righteous — Such as I trust I am in sincerity and truth; might dispute with him — Humbly and modestly propound the grounds of their confidence and the evidences of their righteousness. So — Upon such a fair and equal hearing; should I be delivered from my judge — From the severe censures of all corrupt and partial judges, such as my friends are, or rather, from the condemnatory sentence of God; for he is supposed to be pleading, not only before God, but with him. This and some such expressions of Job cannot be excused from irreverence toward God, and too great confidence in himself; for which, therefore, God afterward reproves him, and Job abhors himself.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:Job 23:8-9. I go forward — קדם, kedem, ad orientem, toward the east: אחור, achor, ad occidentem, toward the west; so the Vulgate, which is likewise the interpretation of the Jewish commentators, who by the left hand, and the right, in the next verse, understand the north and the south. They have a tradition that Adam was created with his face placed toward the east, that he might see the rising sun. From whence they say the east was to him kedem, the anterior part of the world. From that situation they named the other quarters. But Job in both these verses certainly intended nothing more than that, let him turn himself which way he pleased, in no place could he find God present, namely, as a judge to hear and determine his cause, of which he is speaking: for, otherwise, he knew God was essentially present in all places. On the left hand where he doth work — That is, in a special and peculiar manner, say some interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, the north being the more habitable and more populous part of the world. Ibi genres, says Cartwright, rebus gestis et bello omni ævo clarissimæ: ibi evangelium generalius et luculentius promulgatum. “There the nations have flourished, most famous in all ages for exploits and war; and there the gospel has been more generally and successfully promulgated.” All this may be true, yet as the whole world is God’s workmanship, and is continually preserved by him, and as his providential care reacheth equally to every part, no one place is here intended to be signalized more than another, with regard to the works of God. He hideth himself on the right hand — He moves and works invisibly in all quarters of the world, but yet I cannot behold him appear as my judge, nor discover him to plead my cause in his sight.
On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.Job 23:10. But he knoweth the way that I take — My comfort is, that, though I cannot see him, and know all his ways, and the reasons of his dispensations; yet he, being everywhere present, alway sees me, knows my heart and life, and observes the whole course of my conduct, my internal desires and designs, and the counsels of my heart, as well as my outward words and actions. It is a great comfort to those who are upright in their intentions, and mean honestly, that God understands their meaning though men do not, cannot, or will not. When he hath tried me — When he hath proved me by these afflictions, as gold is tried by the fire; I shall come forth as gold — Which comes forth from the furnace pure from all dross. The Hebrew is absolute, בחנני, bechanani, He hath tried me, I shall come forth, &c. They that keep the way of the Lord may comfort themselves when they are in affliction with these three things: 1st, That they are but tried; it is not intended for their hurt, but for their honour and benefit; it is the trial of their faith, 1 Peter 1:7. 2d, That when they are sufficiently tried, they shall come forth out of the furnace, and not be left to consume in it, as dross or reprobate silver. The trial will have an end; God will not contend for ever. 3d, That they shall come forth as gold, pure in itself, and precious to the refiner. They shall come forth as gold approved and improved; found to be good, and made to be better. Afflictions are to us, as we are; those that go gold into the furnace will come out no worse.
My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.Job 23:11-12. My foot hath held his steps — Either the steps or ways in which God himself walks; the paths of justice, mercy, and holiness, wherein Job had made it his care to walk with, or after God, as the phrase is, Genesis 5:24; or, which is the same thing, the steps or paths which God hath appointed men to walk in. These, Job says, his foot had held, that is, he had made a free and fixed choice of them; had taken fast hold of them; had been strongly and firmly resolved and settled to walk in them. Neither have I gone back — Turned aside to any crooked or sinful path, or course of life. I have esteemed the word of his mouth — Hebrew, צפנתי, tzaphanti; abscondi, reposui, I have hid, or laid it up, as men do their best treasures, or what they most love and value. The expression signifies a high esteem for it, a hearty affection to it, and a diligent care to preserve it. More than my necessary food — Or, my appointed, or daily portion; that food or provision which is necessary for the support of my life, (as the same word is used Genesis 47:22.; Proverbs 30:8; and Proverbs 31:15,) and which is more prized and desired than all the riches of the world. There is, however, nothing in the Hebrew for the word food, which our translators have supplied, the term חקי, chokki, meaning simply statutum, vel, præscriptum mihi, what is appointed or prescribed to me. Chappelow, therefore, renders the whole verse thus: “As to the commandment of his lips, I have made no digression: according to what is prescribed me, I have kept the words of his mouth.”
Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.Job 23:13. He is of one mind — The word mind is not in the Hebrew, which is only באהד, beehad, he is in one, namely, in one way, or purpose, or counsel. Notwithstanding all these evidences of my sincere piety, and all my prayers to him, he still continues in the same course of afflicting me. And who can turn him? — No man can change his counsels or course of acting. He is most absolute and free, to do what he pleaseth, and he deals with me accordingly, and not by those milder methods which he uses toward other men. What his soul desireth, even that he doth — He will not do what I please or desire, but only what he pleases.
For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.Job 23:14-15. He performeth, &c. — Hebrew, ישׁלום חקי, jashlim chukki, he will perfect, or finish, my appointed portion, that is, those calamities which he hath allotted to me for my portion. And many such things are with him. There are many such examples of God’s proceeding with men; and his counsels and providences, though always just, yet are often secret; and we cannot discern the reasonableness or equity of them. Therefore am I troubled at his presence, &c. — When I set this great and holy God before me, and reflect that I am in his presence, I am troubled at the consideration of his glorious majesty, and sovereign, irresistible power, by which he can do whatsoever pleaseth him, without giving any account of his matters. There is, indeed, that in God which, if we consider, we shall see cause to be afraid of him: his infinite justice and purity, compared with our sinfulness and vileness; but if, withal, we consider his grace in a Redeemer, and are conscious of our compliance with that grace, the fears will vanish, and we shall see cause to hope in him.
Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.
For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:Job 23:16-17. For God maketh my heart soft — Or, tender; he hath bruised and broken, or melted it, so that I have no spirit, or courage, or strength in me: so this, or the like phrase, frequently signifies. There is a gracious softness of heart, like that of Josiah, whose heart was tender, and trembled at the word of God: but this is meant of an afflictive and painful softness, which apprehends every thing that is present to be pressing, and every thing that is future to be threatening. Because I was not cut off before the darkness — Because God did not cut me off by death before these dark and dismal miseries came upon me. Or, as מפני חשׁךְ, mippenei choshech, may be properly rendered, before the face, or, by reason of the darkness; that is, God hath not yet cut me off by these calamities, but prolonged my days under them, to the great increase of my misery. Neither hath he covered the darkness from my face — That I might no longer see or feel my miseries, but might be taken out of them by my long-desired death. Thus Job seems to be disposed to quarrel with God, because he did not die before his troubles; and yet, it is probable, that if, in the height of his prosperity, he had received a summons to the grave, he would have thought it hard. It may help to reconcile us to death, whenever it comes, to consider that we do not know from what evil we may be taken away. But when trouble is actually come upon us, it is folly to wish we had not lived to see it; and it is much better to look to God for grace, that we may be enabled to make the best of it; and to remember, amidst the darkness, that frequently to the upright there ariseth a marvellous light in the darkness, and that there is reserved for them a much more marvellous light after it.
Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.