Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 19. Job’s Reply to Bildad
Bildad wrote under the picture which he had drawn, these are the habitations of the wicked, and held it up before Job. It was meant for him, for all that is specific in it is borrowed from the circumstances of his case. The terrible distemper, the “firstborn of death,” that consumes the sinner’s limbs, is too plain an allusion to his leprosy to be misunderstood by him (Job 19:13). The brimstone that burns up the sinner’s habitation (Job 19:15), though there may lie in it a distant reference to the cities of the plain, is also the fire of God that fell on Job’s cattle and their keepers (ch. Job 1:16). The tree dried up at the roots and withered in the branches (Job 19:16) reminds Job easily enough of his own wasted state and of the sad calamities that had blighted his home. The horror and detestation of men (Job 19:20) is but a picture of what was passing before the eyes of the disputants, and is a touch of ruthless severity, which brings Job utterly to the dust; for while in his former speech (ch. 16–17) he is able in the strong sense of his innocence to resent the treatment of men he is here wholly broken by it (ch. Job 19:21). Every sentence of Bildad’s speech carries with it the charge, Thou art the man.
Against this application Job’s whole soul protests. Yet he realizes from Bildad’s words, more clearly than ever he had done before, his dreary isolation, God and men being alike estranged from him, which he laments in most pathetic words. But so profound and unalterable is his consciousness of his innocence, that at the moment when he has entered step after step into the thickest darkness he makes a sudden leap out into the light, and rises by an inspiration, whether from above or from the depths of the human spirit, to the assurance that his innocence shall yet be revealed, that God will yet publicly appear for him, and that he shall see God—and he melts away, overcome by the joyful anticipation.
The order of thought is well marked:—
First, Job 19:2-6, some preliminary words, as usual, of a personal kind, though these are here fewer, the speaker’s mind being filled with greater things. He gives brief expression to his impatience of his friends’ diatribes, and repudiates the inferences they drew from his calamities: his calamities were due to God, who had perverted his right.
Second, Job 19:7-27. This reference to God leads over to the theme of the whole chapter, which is nothing but God. The sufferer’s mind wrestles with his thought of God—the thought of Him as the author of his present terrible fate, from which he rises by a sudden revulsion to the thought of Him as One who must yet appear as his vindicator and joy. This part has three steps:—
Then Job answered and said,1. Job 19:7-12. A dark picture of the desertion of God and His terrible hostility to him.
How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?2. Job 19:13-22. Then even a more touching complaint of the alienation of men from him—which God has caused.
2. There is more than impatience expressed in the words vex (afflict) and “break in pieces”; the words suggest the crushing effect which the friends’ insinuations of wickedness had on Job’s spirit.
Job, forsaken of God and men, and without hope in this life, rises to the assurance that God will yet appear to vindicate him, and that his eyes shall see him on his side in joy
2–5. Job expresses his impatience of his friends’ words; and repudiates the inferences of his guilt which they draw from his calamities, declaring that his calamities are due to the unjust dealing of God.
These ten times have ye reproached me: ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me.3. Job 19:23-27. Hopeless in the present he turns his eye to the future. He desires that his protest of innocence might find indelible record in the rock, that the generations to come might read it. Yet how small a thing that would be to him, whose chief sorrow lay in the alienation of God from his spirit. He shall have more. He knows that God shall yet appear to vindicate him, and that he shall see Him with his eyes—in peace.
Third, Job 19:28-29. Finally he adds a brief threat to his friends.
3. Ten times is a round number for often, Genesis 31:7; Numbers 14:22.
make yourselves strange to me] An expression of uncertain meaning, as the word does not occur again, unless, as some suppose, it be found in Isaiah 3:9. The meaning may be, ye wrong me, the root having some resemblance to an Arabic verb rendered by Lane “to wrong,” also “to be persistent in contention.” Ew., ye are unfeeling towards me.
And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself.4. In this verse Job must mean to repudiate the offences insinuated against him. The precise force of the second clause, however, is obscure. It might mean, “my error is my own and no matter for your intermeddling”; or, “I alone am conscious of it and you can know nothing regarding it,”—in either case a mere passing rejection of the charges of his friends. Or, “had I indeed sinned my error would remain with myself, I should be conscious of it,” cf. ch. 9:36. Ewald’s idea that the “error” which Job alludes to is his mistaken hope of judgment and righteousness on God’s part is less suitable to the connexion.
If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me, and plead against me my reproach:5. If his friends mean in earnest to found inferences on his calamities then he will tell them that it is God who hath brought these on him unjustly (Job 19:6).
Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.6. Know now] Or, as we say, know then. The word God is emphatic.
overthrown me] More probably, perverted my right (Job 19:7); this, not his guilt, is the explanation of his afflictions. By his reference to the “net” of God Job repudiates the statements of Bildad, ch. Job 18:8 seq.; it was not his own feet that led him into the net, God had thrown it about him.
Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment.7. This drew from him in his helplessness cries of wrong, which were unheeded.
7–12. God’s hostility to him and destructive persecution of him.
In Job 19:6 the transition is already made to the account of God’s hostility. The picture is sufficiently graphic. First there was the general feeling of being entangled, as a creature snared.
He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.8. No outgo or escape was possible, for there rose a wall before him if he would move; neither was there any outlook, for thick darkness fell close about him. These images are common to express the extremest perplexity.
He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head.9. Then came the consciousness of the meaning of his calamities—they were evidence that he was a transgressor. God took thus his crown of righteousness from his head, and stripped the glory of godliness from him, cf. ch. Job 29:14.
He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree.10. He hath destroyed] Rather, he breaketh me down; the figure of a building. In the second clause the image is that of a great tree torn up by the roots, whose fall is pitiful. The words, and I am gone, refer to his inevitable death from his disease, which he regards as already virtually come, as is expressed in the next clause—his hope (of life or recovery) is removed like a tree.
He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies.11–12. Figures of hostile assault; God directs charge after charge of His army against Him. The reference is to his afflictions, cf. ch. Job 10:17.
His troops come together, and raise up their way against me, and encamp round about my tabernacle.12. raise up their way] i. e. cast up a way or high bank on which to advance againt the beleaguered fort or city.
He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me.13–14. First, his relations outside his own immediate circle and his acquaintances stood aloof from him.
13–19. The estrangement and abhorrence of men.
Job’s complaint now is even more touching than before: God not only afflicted him with trouble but removed far from him all human sympathy. And there is something more breaking to the heart in the turning away of men from us than in the severest sufferings. It crushes us quite. We steel ourselves against it for a time and rise to it in bitterness and resentment, but gradually it breaks us and we are crushed at last. And this seems the way whether men frown on us with justice or no. And there came on Job when he contemplated his complete casting off by men, by his friends and his household and even by the little children, a complete break-down, and he cries, Pity me, O ye my friends (Job 19:21). This alienation of men was universal:—
My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.
They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight.15–16. Then those unrelated to him within his house, the menials and slaves. Those who, as Oriental servants, used to be subservient and observant of the slightest sign from their master (Psalm 123:2)—these “ducking observants” now refuse to answer when he calls, and must be besought for their service. Very soon the reflection of one’s fall is thrown from the countenances of those higher in rank down upon the faces of the servants, where it shows itself without any delicacy or reserve. Job 19:16 reads, I call my servant and he giveth me no answer: I must entreat him with my mouth.
I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I intreated him with my mouth.
My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body.17. Once more, if possible an acuter misery—he is become intolerable to those most dear to him.
though I intreated] Perhaps, and I am loathsome to the children of—. The word as known in Heb. means to be gracious to, to pity (Job 19:21), in the simple form (here), and to seek favour to oneself, or beseech, in the reflexive (Job 19:16), but the simple form has nowhere the meaning of “beseech” or entreat. The Arab. has a root of the same spelling, which means to smell badly, to stink,—a sense parallel to the meaning of the first clause, where “strange” means offensive.
The last words of the verse “children of mine own body” are difficult; they mean literally, children of my womb. The word usually rendered womb is used occasionally of the father, Psalm 132:11; Micah 6:7. The Prologue narrates the death of Job’s children, and the same assumption is made in the Poem, ch. Job 8:4, Job 29:5, and it is not to be thought that another mode of representation appears here. In Job 19:15-16, however, Job has still maids and servants, though his servants are represented in the Prologue as having perished. As he has other servants he might have other children. These might be children of concubines, as Job lived in the patriarchal age, though no allusion is made to such connexions, and the references to his wife are of such a kind as to suggest that Job lived in a state of strict monogamy. Or the expression “children of my body” might be used somewhat loosely to mean grandchildren—children of his sons. The impression conveyed by the Prologue is that the seven sons were unmarried, though this is left uncertain. Others consider the phrase “children of my womb” to mean, children of my mother—children of the same womb with myself.
Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me.18. Another affecting touch—the little children mock his ineffectual attempts to rise from the ground.
children despised] Better, despise.
I arose, and they spake] Better, if I would arise they speak—they jeer at his painful efforts to rise.
All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me.19. my inward friends] A fine expression, lit. the men of my council. “Inward” means intimate:
“Who is most inward with the royal duke?” Rich. III.
The reference is to such as his three friends, men whose high converse and fellowship seemed to Job, as a thoughtful godly man, something almost better than relationship, Psalm 55:14. See Prelim. Remarks to ch. 3.
abhorred] Better, abhor.
My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.20. The desertion and loathing of mankind is universal, and to this is added his exhausted state from disease.
My bone cleaveth to my skin] The words describe his emaciated condition, cf. Lamentations 4:8; Psalm 102:5, My bones cleave to my skin (marg. flesh); Psalm 22:17, I may tell (count) all my bones.
escaped with the skin of my teeth] i. e. with nothing else. The “skin of my teeth” is usually held to mean the gums, which Job represents as still sound, otherwise he would be unable to speak; the last stage of his disease has not yet been reached. In Job 19:17 however he referred to his fetid breath, and in such distempers the mouth and throat are usually rapidly affected. Besides, such a sense is prosaic and flat. The phrase is probably proverbial; the meaning of Job being that he is wholly fallen a prey to his disease, cf. Amos 3:12.
Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.21, 22. Overcome by his sense of the terrible enmity of God, Job piteously cries out for the compassion of men. There is a strong antithesis between “ye my friends” and the “hand of God,” “God” (Job 19:22). The whole speech, even when the enmity of men is referred to (Job 19:13 seq.), is occupied with the thought of God, He is regarded as the cause of men’s abhorrence. Job for a moment seeks refuge with men from God’s severity.
Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?22. satisfied with my flesh] Why cannot ye be sated with devouring me? The figure is sufficiently plain. In Oriental phrase “to devour or eat the parts or pieces of one” is to calumniate him, to accuse him, Daniel 3:8, Dan. 6:34. Job asks why they will not cease to bring accusations against him?
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!23. in a book] The Heb. says in the book, using the Art. to indicate the kind of record, Exodus 17:14; Numbers 5:23; 1 Samuel 10:25. The phrase means merely to “commit to writing.” The “words” which Job desires written are not those in Job 19:25 seq., but his general and oft repeated protestations of his innocence.
23–27. Job turns to the future. He desires that his protestation of innocence could find indelible record in the rock, that it might stand a perpetual witness to all generations. But he shall have something greater: he knows that God will yet appear for his vindication, and that he shall see Him with joy.
The passage should probably be read something as follows:
23 Oh now that my words were written,
Oh that they were inscribed in a book;
24 That with a pen of iron and lead
They were graven in the rock for ever.
25 But I know that my redeemer liveth,
And in after time he shall stand upon the dust,
26 And after this my skin is destroyed
And without my flesh I shall see God:
27 Whom I shall see for myself,
And mine eyes shall behold and not another—
My reins consume within me!
In Job 19:21-22 Job in his terror of God appealed to his friends for pity, but probably he saw no signs of relenting there. They could not relent; their friend might be dear, but truth and religion were greater. Secure in their principles, their countenances shewed but austere reprobation of their wicked friend. They will be more austere because they are putting down humanity and sacrificing themselves in being austere. And turning from them the desire suddenly seizes Job to make his appeal to posterity, to record in writing his protestation of his innocence, or to grave it in the rock, that when he is gone men might read it to all time. Yet this thought satisfies him but for a moment. Even if the generations to come should pass a more gentle sentence upon him than his own time, being better able to estimate his circumstances and no more warped by the heats of controversy, and more inclined amidst the acknowledged mystery of his life to allow weight to the persistent testimony of his conscience, as that behind which it is impossible to go—even if they should not only mitigate but reverse the judgment of his contemporaries, how small a thing that would be to him. And his mind rebounds from this thought forward to a greater—he knows that his redeemer liveth and shall appear for his vindication and peace.
Additional Note on Ch. Job 19:23-27In these verses Job anticipates that God will appear and interpose in his behalf to vindicate him, and that he shall see God, and he faints before the joyful vision. The meaning is sufficiently clear except in Job 19:25-26, in regard to which some difference of opinion prevails. The point on which interpreters differ is chiefly the question, When, according to Job’s anticipation, shall this appearance of God on his behalf take place? Shall it be before or after his death?
The difference of view arises greatly from the ambiguity of the word umibbesârî, and from my flesh, Job 19:26 (see notes), though other points of construction are also involved. It is important to observe the connexion of ideas in the passage, and what the great thought is which fills Job’s mind. In Job 19:23-24 he desired that his protestations of rectitude were written in a book or rather graven with an iron pen in the rock for ever, that all generations of men to come might read them and know that he died in innocence. Suddenly a higher thought takes possession of his mind, namely the assurance that this innocence shall yet be vindicated by God appearing to uphold it, and that he himself shall see God to his joy. This seeing of God includes all within it, for now God hides His face; and this is the main thought of the passage, as the impassioned reiteration of it, Job 19:27, indicates. The connexion of Job 19:25-26 is: I know that my Goel liveth, and that he shall stand upon the dust, and … I shall see God. The bulk of Job 19:26 contributes nothing to the main idea of the passage, which is the assurance of seeing God; it merely describes the circumstances in, or rather, after which the vision shall take place. This makes it probable that the construction of Job 19:26 is light, and that its two clauses are parallel and not in antithesis to one another, in other words that the second clause begins with and, not with yet. The word after, too, is a prep. in the original, and this fact increases the improbability of the antithetical construction.
i. The words from my flesh might mean, (looking) from my flesh I shall see God, i. e. as A. V. in my flesh. Two interpretations are then possible, (1) that Job shall see God after his skin is destroyed and he is reduced to a mass of flesh; or (2) that endowed with flesh anew, in another (resurrection) body he shall see God. In the one case skin is opposed to flesh; in the other it is taken as denoting Job’s present body. Both of these interpretations require the second clause of Job 19:26 to be taken in antithesis to the first, and are liable to the objections urged above. But in truth the first sense is nothing short of grotesque. A distinction between skin and flesh might be made, if the second expressed more strongly the same meaning with the first, but in the circumstances to put them in antithesis seems ludicrous. Considering the nature of Job’s malady he could hardly express its worst ravages by saying that it would destroy his skin, leaving his flesh remaining. He had already said much stronger things than this of his actual condition, among others that he was become a skeleton of bones, ch. Job 7:15; that all his members were a shadow, ch. Job 17:7; that his leanness bore witness to his face, ch. Job 16:8, as he says later that his clothes clung to his shrunken frame like the opening of his shirt, ch. Job 30:18; and that he was escaped with the skin of his teeth, ch. Job 19:20. Besides, the word rendered destroyed is literally struck off, a meaning which suggests removal of the solid parts of the body. And that the word skin may be used in this general sense of the body appears from ch. Job 18:13. Where flesh is used along with skin the two words express the same general meaning, the accumulation of terms merely serving to intensify the expression, ch. Job 10:11, Job 19:20; Lamentations 3:4; comp. Psalm 102:5; Lamentations 4:8.
If therefore we understand the words “from my flesh” in the sense of in my flesh, we must suppose that Job anticipated being clothed in a new body after death; and this body is what he names his “flesh.” Something may be said for this view. Undoubtedly in ch. Job 14:13 seq. Job already conceived the idea of being delivered from Sheol and living again, and fervently prayed that such a thing might be. And what he there ventured to long for he might here speak of as a thing of which he was assured. No violence would be done to the line of thought in the Book by this supposition. Nevertheless several things are against it. The great idea of the passage, as has been said, is that God shall appear and that Job shall see Him. The rest of the words in Job 19:26 seem unemphatic, and descriptive of something naturally to be understood. But it is highly improbable that the great thought of the resurrection of the body could be referred to in a way so brief. Even if this idea had been current and a commonplace of belief, a reference to it by the words my flesh would be singular and unnatural. But on Old Testament ground, and in the situation of Job, such a matter-of-course kind of reference is almost inconceivable. We may be certain, had such an idea been alluded to, that it would have been expressed in a manner much more formal and detailed.
A somewhat different view has been taken by some scholars. Finding it difficult to accept the meaning without, or, away from for the Heb. prep. here, they retain the sense from (i. e. in), and consider the words skin and flesh to be each used somewhat generally in the sense of the “body.” Hence they translate: and after my skin (i. e. my body) has been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh (i. e. in this body of mine) I shall see God. Though not liable to the objections urged above, this view is rather unnatural. The words skin and flesh express a single general idea when coupled together by and, but that each of them should mean generally the body when separated by yet is little probable. Though this view agrees in rendering with i. above, it coincides in meaning with ii. (1) just to be mentioned, and is liable to the difficulties urged below.
ii. The words from my flesh, however, may mean away from, or, without my flesh. In this case the words “after this my skin has been destroyed are taken up and their meaning repeated in a more intense form in the phrase and without my flesh. This is the natural construction. It is to be observed, however, that the language does not state in what condition precisely Job shall see God, but rather after what events, viz. after his skin has been destroyed and his flesh has been removed. Here, however, again a division of opinion exists. (1) By some the words are taken in a comparative sense, meaning that Job shall see God when his skin and flesh have been (virtually) destroyed by his disease and he is reduced to a skeleton of bones—though still in life. (2) By others the language is taken in an absolute sense, meaning that Job’s vision of God shall be after his disease has wholly destroyed his body and brought him to death. The second view is the more natural, does most justice to the language, and is most in harmony with the elevated character of the passage. It is also supported by many considerations suggested by other parts of the Book.
Before these considerations are referred to another remark may be made. It is always to be remembered what is the main thought here in Job’s mind; it is that God shall appear to vindicate his innocence, and that he shall see God to his joy. The question whether this shall be in this life or beyond this life is of subsidiary importance, and not the main point. At present Job’s afflictions are proof to him of God’s estrangement. God holds him guilty and hides His face from him. And his friends, arguing on his calamities, impute grievous sins to him. His misery was very aggravated in every view. His good name among men was sullied by shameful imputations, intolerable to his lofty mind; for the easy theory of his friends, that one might be a religious man and at the same time a great sinner, he repudiated with abhorrence, so far as his own life was concerned. Then, as a religious man, his heart was crushed by the loss of God’s favour. And the inexplicableness of this loss, combined with his unbearable afflictions at God’s hand, threw up before his mind great moral riddles which utterly baffled him. In this thick darkness he has nothing but his own consciousness to fall back upon. But his consciousness of his innocence assures him that God knows it also. And this assurance becomes the basis of the other assurance that God from His nature must yet make manifest the relation in which His servant stands to Him, and that he shall see God. Job’s assurance is based on his own past experience, on his life with God, on his consciousness of being a God-fearing man, and on his ineradicable convictions in regard to the nature of God and His relations to men. Job’s circumstances cause his principle to appear in its barest form: the human spirit is conscious of fellowship with God, and this fellowship, from the nature of God, is a thing imperishable, and, in spite of obscurations, it must yet be fully manifested by God. This principle, grasped with convulsive earnestness in the prospect of death, became the Hebrew doctrine of Immortality. This doctrine was but the necessary corollary of religion. In this life on earth the true relations of men and God were felt to be realized; and the Hebrew faith of Immortality—never a belief in the mere existence of the soul after death, for the lowest popular superstition assumed this (see notes on ch. Job 14:13 seq.)—was a faith that the dark and mysterious event of death should not interrupt the life of the person with God enjoyed in this world. Job’s afflictions make his faith not so much an assurance of the continuation of his fellowship with God as of its renewal or manifestation, and, of course, this might take place in this life. The similarity of the passage, however, to many others in the Old Testament, uttered in the prospect of death, makes it probable that Job speaks with death in view. And the probability is heightened by many other considerations.
1. The whole of the chapters 16, 17 and 19 are spoken by Job under the feeling that he shall die with his innocence unrecognised. Hence in ch. Job 16:18 he appeals to the earth not to cover his innocent blood; and in ch. Job 19:24 he desires that his protestations of his innocence might be graven in the rock for ever, that when he is gone men to all generations might read them. There is not the slightest ground to think that in the verses that follow these expressions in ch. 16 and 19. Job retracts or corrects this anticipation that he shall die an unjust death. The verses that follow proceed on the same assumption, but they express the prayer (ch. 16–17) or the assurance (ch. 19) that, though he die with God’s face hidden from him and under the reproach of being a transgressor, this perverse and cruel fate shall not for ever prevail over him; God shall yet appear to vindicate his innocence and he shall see Him to his joy.
On this view every word in ch. Job 19:25 seq. becomes full of meaning. Job’s Goel is he who shall vindicate him against his wrongful death. The word liveth derives its meaning from the fact that Job shall have died. The term aḥaron, however we render it, whether “he who shall come after me” or with Ewald an after-man, i. e. vindicator, equally implies Job’s previous death. Similarly the word dust. On the supposition that Job’s vindication shall be in this life, every one of those words is robbed of its just significance, and no account at all can be given of the use of the term liveth.
2. Further, it is certain that Job does not anticipate restoration to health and prosperity in this life. Neither in the lofty passages above referred to nor anywhere does he express such an opinion, but always and consistently an opposite one. He calls such a hope when held out by his friends “mockery,” ch. Job 17:2; comp. ch. Job 6:11, Job 17:10 seq. So certain is he that he shall die under his malady that he does not even pray for recovery, only for a little easing of his pain before he departs, ch. Job 10:20. If life is to be his portion at all, it must be a new life after this one comes to its rapid close, ch. Job 14:13 seq. This is his tone after ch. 19 as well as before it. In ch. Job 23:14 he says that God “will perform the thing appointed for him,” i. e. bring him to death through his malady. And almost his last words are, “I know that thou wilt bring me unto death,” ch. Job 30:23. It seems clear therefore that God’s intervention to declare Job’s innocence, ch. Job 19:23 seq., take place in this life, will not be accompanied by Job’s restoration to health. His disease will in spite of it carry him to the grave. But could such a thought have occurred to Job? His disease was to him the seal of God’s estrangement from him. It was God’s witness to his guilt. It was this moral meaning which his death had that caused him so to wrestle against it (see notes ch. Job 16:18 seq.). It seems impossible that Job could have conceived God declaring to men and to himself his innocence while He continued to afflict him fatally with his disease. To “see God” and to be chastened to death by Him are two things which on Old Testament ground are contradictory of one another.
The theory that God’s intervention in Job’s behalf is looked for by him in this life is thought to derive support from the actual dénouement of Job’s history (ch. 42). But the argument proves too much by a half. The author allows Job to be restored to prosperity in this life in contradiction to Job’s uniform and contemptuous rejection of such a hope. And he may equally well have advanced Job’s vision of God into this life, though Job pushed it back beyond his death. In truth, as has been said, the two things are inseparable. It would be a strange demand to make of a dramatic writer that he should make his personages express only opinions that coincide with his own, and allow them to anticipate the issue of the plot. Certainly the author of Job imposes no such restrictions on himself. He never allows Job to come within sight of the true cause of his afflictions, and as little does he permit him to foresee their issue. It was his purpose to bring into a focus the thoughts of men on the question of suffering, the great problem of his day; and some of the views expressed, particularly by Job, are those to which men were driven by the pressure of the time, or to which they rose out of the distress of their own hearts.
3. If, however, we must conclude that Job looked for this appearance of God on his behalf, and this vision of Him to his joy, not previous to his death, we must not attempt to fill up the outline which he has drawn. We must take care not to complete his sketch out of events that transpired long after his day, or out of beliefs, reposing on these events, that are now current among ourselves. The English Version has done so at the expense of the original. The great thought which filled Job’s imagination was the thought that God would appear to manifest his innocence and that he should see Him in peace and reconciliation. This thought was so intense that it almost realized itself. Job’s assurance of seeing God was so vivid that it virtually became a vision of God and he faints in the ecstasy of his faith. In such a condition of mind the preliminaries and the circumstances that would occur to a mind in a calmer state, or which immediately occur to us, do not obtrude themselves, and if we are rightly to conceive Job’s state of mind we must entirely exclude them. We should be wrong to say that he contemplates a purely spiritual vision of God, and further wrong to say that he contemplates being invested with a new body when he shall see God. Neither thought is present to his mind, which is entirely absorbed in the idea of seeing God. The ideas of Old Test, saints regarding the condition of man after death were too obscure to permit of any such formal and precise conception as that which we call a spiritual sight of God. Besides, as the kind of half-ecstasy under which Job here speaks has fallen on him when a living man, it is probable that, like all persons in such conditions, he carries over with him his present circumstances into his vision after death, and seems to himself to be such a man as he is now when he sees God; comp. ch. Job 19:25-26; Job 19:28-29.
4. The above remarks suggest what elements of truth lay in the traditional interpretation of this passage, in spite of its hardy treatment of the text. The christology of the Book is indirect. There are no express references to the Messiah, though several passages may seem unconscious prophecies of Him, as those that express Job’s desire to meet and see God as a man, ch. Job 9:32, Job 23:3 seq. Job’s Goel or redeemer is God. A distinction of Person’s in the Godhead was not present to his thoughts when he used this term; though the conception of God in the passage and many things said in it may find verification in God’s manifestation of Himself in His Son. The strange distinction which Job draws between God and God, God who persecutes him and God who is his Witness and Redeemer, is, of course, not a christological distinction, nor one that corresponds to any distinction in the Godhead made known to us by subsequent revelation. To suppose so would be a gross perversion not only of this Book but of the whole of Scripture. The distinction was one which Job’s ideas almost compelled him to draw. He believed that every event that occurred came immediately from God’s hand; and he believed that every event that befell a man reflected the disposition of God’s mind toward him: calamity indicated the anger and prosperity the favour of God. This second superstition is the source of all his perplexities; and the distinction which he draws between God and God is his effort to overcome it. God whom he appeals against is the rule and course of this world, the outer providence of God, to which Job can give no name but “God.” God to whom he appeals is the inner mind of God towards His servants, the moral ideal of the human heart. This is God his Witness and Redeemer. Job succeeded in drawing this distinction; but the reconciliation which the distinction demanded he was only partially successful in effecting. He could not reach the idea that God, the heart of God, might be towards him, while God—the outer course of the world—afflicted him. These two things could not be at the same time. But they might succeed one another. Hence his reconciliation is temporal: God will bring him unto death, but after his body is destroyed God shall appear to vindicate him and he shall see God.
The doctrine of Immortality in the Book is the same as that of other parts of the Old Testament. Immortality is the corollary of Religion. If there be religion, that is, if God be, there is immortality, not of the soul but of the whole personal being of man (Psalm 16:9). This teaching of the whole Old Testament is expressed by our Lord with a surprising incisiveness in two sentences—“I am the God of Abraham. God is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!24. In Job 19:23 Job longed that his words were written. But ordinary writing is perishable. And now he desires that his words were hewn in indelible characters upon the rock. The “lead” was probably run into the traces cut in the stone. It need not be said that “the rock” like “the book” means merely rock, and not any particular rock.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:25. For I know] Rather, but I know. This is now something higher to which his mind rises. He desires no doubt to be vindicated before men, and would wish that all generations to come should know his claim to rectitude, when he no more lived himself to make it (Job 19:23-24); but what he desires above all things is that he might see God who now hides His face from him, and meet Him, for the meeting could not but be with joy (cf. ch. Job 23:6 seq.). Job’s problem is first of all a problem of religious life, and only in the second place a speculative one. And the speculative elements in it have no further meaning than as they aggravate the practical religious trouble. A solution of his problem, therefore, was possible in only one way, viz. by his seeing God (cf. ch. Job 42:5)—for to see God is to see Him in peace and reconciliation. And it is to grasp the assurance of this that Job’s heart now reaches forth its hand.
my Redeemer liveth] “Liveth” means more than is, exists. Job uses the word in opposition to himself—he dies but his redeemer lives after him. The term redeemer (Heb. gô’çl) is frequently used of God as the deliverer of His people out of captivity, e.g. very often in Isaiah 40 seq. (ch. Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 49:26, Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 54:8), and also as the deliverer of individuals from distress, Genesis 48:16; Psalm 19:14; Psalm 103:4. Among men the Goel was the nearest blood-relation, on whom it lay to perform certain offices in connexion with the deceased whose Goel he was, particularly to avenge his blood, if he had been unjustly slain (Ruth 2:20, &c.; Numbers 35:19). Job here names God his Goel. The passage stands in close relation with ch. Job 16:18-19, where he names God his “witness” and “sponsor” or representative. It is probable, therefore, that there is an allusion to the Goel among men—Job has in God a Goel who liveth. This Goel will vindicate his rights against the wrong both of men and God (Job 19:3; Job 19:7). At the same time this vindication is regarded less as an avenging of him, at least on others (though cf. Job 19:28-29), than as a manifestation of his innocence. This manifestation can only be made by God’s appearing and shewing the true relation in which Job stands to Him, and by Job’s seeing God. For his distress lay in God’s hiding His face from him, and his redemption must come through his again beholding God in peace. Thus the ideas of Goel and redeemer virtually coincide.
he shall stand at the latter day] To stand means to arise and appear, to come forward (as a witness, Deuteronomy 19:15; Psalm 37:12), or to interpose (as a judge, Psalm 12:5). The word day has no place here. The expression “the latter” means either last or later. It is used of God as the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12), but also otherwise in a comparative sense, later, to come, following (Psalm 48:13; Psalm 78:4; Ecclesiastes 4:16; Job 18:20). Here the word is an epithet of God and can hardly describe Him as the last, for Job certainly does not contemplate his vindication being put off till the end of all things. The expression is parallel to “my Goel” in the first clause, and literally rendered, means: and he who cometh after (me) shall stand; or, and as one who cometh after (me) he shall stand. The trans., in after time he shall stand, is nearly equivalent. Ewald and other high authorities render, an afterman, i. e. a vindicator.
upon the earth] Better, the dust. The word does not mean earth in opposition to heaven; such an antithesis did not need to be expressed; if God came forward or interposed in Job’s behalf He must do so upon the earth. The word “dust” carries rather an allusion to the earth as that wherein Job shall have been laid before God shall appear for him—the same allusion as is carried in the words “Goel” and “he who cometh after me;” cf. ch. Job 7:21, Job 17:16, Job 20:11, Job 21:26, &c.
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:26. and though after my skin worms destroy] See trans. above. The word destroy means to break off, strike down or off, as branches from a tree (Isaiah 10:34). The words literally run, and after my skin which they have destroyed even this (probably pointing to himself). The indeterminate construction which they have destroyed is equivalent to our passive, which has been destroyed. The Heb. construction must be given somewhat freely in English, as above. The words “worms” and “body” have nothing corresponding in the original.
yet in my flesh] Better, as above, and without my flesh. The margin, out of (or, from) my flesh, suggests the explanation how such opposite senses may be arrived at. The Heb. prep. from has the same ambiguity as from in English. When Regan in Lear 11. 1 says,
“Our father he hath writ, so hath our sister,
Of differences, which I best thought it fit
To answer from our home,”
her words most naturally perhaps suggest the meaning that she thought it best to answer at home, her home being the place from which the answer was sent. Her meaning, however, is that she thought it best to answer when she was away from home. Similarly when Job says, from (or, out of) my flesh shall I see God, the meaning may be, that (looking) from his flesh he shall see God, i. e. as A. V. in his flesh; or that he shall see God, (when) away from his flesh, i. e. without his flesh. The context and general scope of the passage decides for the latter sense. For a similar use of the Heb. prep. see ch. Job 11:15, away from (=without) spot; Job 21:9, margin; Job 28:4, they hang (far) away from men, they swing; cf. Genesis 27:39, away from (without) the fatness; Numbers 15:24, marg. The whole expression “after this my skin has been destroyed and without my flesh” means “when I have died under the ravages of my disease.” The words do not express in what condition precisely, but after what events Job shall see God.
shall I see God] The connexion is, But I know that my Redeemer liveth, and he who shall be after me shall stand upon the dust, and … I shall see God. The last words explain who Job’s Redeemer or Goel is, and who He is who remaineth or shall come after him, viz. God. After his skin is destroyed and without his flesh he shall see God. Before death he shall not see Him, for he shall die under His afflicting hand (cf. ch. Job 23:14), but he shall yet behold Him. To see God is to see Him reconciled and in peace, for this is implied in seeing Him at all, because now He hides. His face (ch. Job 23:3 seq., 8 seq., ch. Job 24:1 seq.).
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.27. Whom I shall see for myself] These words might mean merely, whom I myself shall see; or, for myself may mean, favourable to me, on my side and to my joy.
and not another] i. e. I and not another (shall see). Job heaps up phrases to express his assurance that he shall see God, “I shall see for myself,” “mine eyes shall behold,” “I and not another.” The whole of his misery might be expressed in saying that God hid Himself from him, and the whole of his redemption and joy will consist in seeing God. Others take the words “not another,” lit. not a stranger, to refer to God—whom I shall see not as a stranger, i. e. no more estranged or hostile. The position of the words, however, close beside the phrase “mine eyes,” is rather in favour of the other view.
though my reins be consumed] Rather, my reins consume within me, lit. in my bosom (marg.). The words are an exclamation, meaning I faint, cf. Psalm 73:26; Psalm 84:2; Psalm 119:81; Psalm 119:123. The reins are the seat of the deepest feelings and experiences, especially of those toward God. Job began with expressing his assurance that he should see God, but as he proceeds so vivid is his hope that it becomes almost reality, the intensity of his thought creates an ecstatic condition of mind in which the vision of God seems almost realized, and he faints in the presence of it. See Additional Note on ch. Job 19:23-27 at the end of the Volume.
But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?28, 29. Brief threat to his three friends. God’s appearance, which will bring joy to Job, will carry terror to those who persecute him and fasten false charges of guilt upon him. The language in these verses is in some parts obscure, and there may be faults in the text. Job 19:28 reads in connexion with Job 19:29,
If ye say, How we will pursue him!
And the root of the matter is found in me:
Be ye afraid of the sword, &c.
Job 19:28 forms the supposition and Job 19:29 states the consequence, the penalty of the conduct referred to on the part of Job’s friends. If they shall continue their unjust persecution of him, asserting that the “root of the matter,” i. e. the real cause of his afflictions, is found in himself, in his transgressions, then Job warns them that they will bring on themselves the “sword” of Divine vengeance.
Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment.29. for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword] This translation seems to assume that “wrath” here is that of men, such wrath as Job’s friends shewed towards him. But the word is too strong to be taken in this sense. The Divine “wrath” or fury is meant. The phrase “punishments of the sword” means most naturally, the punishments inflicted by the sword. The whole expression would thus mean, for wrath (i. e. in wrath, or, wrathful) are the punishments of the sword—the “sword” being as before God’s judicial sword. Others render, “transgressions of the sword,” i. e. such transgressions as bring down the Divine sword; but the phrase “transgressions of the sword are wrath,” i. e. have to bear wrath as their reward or chastisement, (Delitzsch) is exceedingly cumbrous.
that … there is a judgment] The reference is not to any final or general judgment, but to the fact that God does in truth judge and punish injustice, such as the friends were guilty of; cf. Job 13:10 seq. The translation assumes a form of the relative conjunction that which nowhere else occurs in the Book of Job, and there may be some fault in the text. Ewald and others by a slight change of spelling obtain the meaning, that ye may know the Almighty.