Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 30. The contrasted picture of Job’s present abject condition
The chapter forms a contrast to ch. 29; and as in that picture of Job’s past felicity the brightest part was the high respect he enjoyed among men, sitting a prince in the midst of them, so in this the darkest part is the contumely and indignity he now suffers from the basest and most abject of mankind. Ch. 29 ended with a reference to his former high place among men, and the present chapter starts with the antithesis to this, the contempt in which the base-born races now hold him. The subjects touched upon in the chapter are the same as those in ch. 29, though they are pursued in the reverse order.
First, Job 30:1-8, a picture of the base and miserable race of men who now hold him in contempt.
Second, Job 30:9-15, description of the indignities to which he is subjected at their hands.
Third, Job 30:16-23, account of the condition to which he is reduced; his despondency of mind, his gnawing pains, and the terrible severity of God under which he suffers.
Fourth, Job 30:24-31, a final contrast between his present unpitied, joyless condition and former days, when he himself was full of compassion for them in trouble and when his life was filled with music and gladness.
But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.1. younger than I] Comp. what was said of the demeanour of the youths in former days, ch. Job 30:8.
would have disdained to have set] Or, I disdained to set.
Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished?2. The verse refers to the fathers (Job 30:1), and gives the reason why Job did not employ them, or consider them worthy of a treatment equal to that of his dogs—they were enfeebled and fallen into premature decay. Yet the children of these miserable people now have him in derision. In the East the “dogs of the flock” have only one use, viz. to guard the flock and the encampment from attacks by night.
For want and famine they were solitary; fleeing into the wilderness in former time desolate and waste.3. The verse reads,
With want and hunger they are gaunt,
They gnaw the desert, in former time desolate and waste.
The first clause refers to the “shriveled” appearance of these outcasts from want; the second to their devouring the roots which they can gather in the steppe (Job 30:4), which has for long been desolate and unproductive. The word rendered “they gnaw” occurs again of Job’s gnawing pains, Job 30:17. For “in former time,” i. e. for long, others translate darkness: the darkness of desolation and waste—a description of the desert.
3–8. Description of this wretched class of outcasts. The tenses should all be put in the present. The race of people referred to appears to be the same as that in ch. 24.
Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.4. by the bushes] i. e. beside or among the bushes. The “mallows” or “salt-wort” which they pluck as food is found among the bushes, which cover it from the heat and drought, and under the shadow of which it thrives.
juniper roots] Or, roots of the broom.
They were driven forth from among men, (they cried after them as after a thief;)5–6. Such creatures when they approach civilized dwellings are driven forth and pursued with cries as men do a thief.
They are driven forth from among men,
They cry after them as after a thief,
And they must dwell in the clefts of the valleys, &c.
The word “cliffs” in the ordinary texts here is either a misprint for “clifts” or clefts, or is used in that sense.
To dwell in the clifts of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks.
Among the bushes they brayed; under the nettles they were gathered together.7. they brayed] Rather, they bray.
were gathered] Better, are gathered, or perhaps rather, stretch themselves, i. e. fling themselves down. Their cries are like those of the wild ass seeking for food (ch. Job 6:5), and they throw themselves down like wild beasts under the bushes in the desert.
They were children of fools, yea, children of base men: they were viler than the earth.8. The verse reads in close connexion with Job 30:7,
Children of fools, yea children of base men,
They are scourged out of the land.
Children of “base men,” lit. of no name, i. e. base born, they are beaten or “crushed” out of the land.
And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword.9–10. Job’s treatment now at the hands of these outcasts.
With “spit in my face” comp. ch. Job 17:6. In ch. 24. Job referred to this miserable race With compassion; they had often no doubt excited his pity, and he saw in their lot and in the injustice and cruelties which they suffered at the hands of more prosperous men a strange mystery of providence. Now he speaks of their conduct to himself with resentment; for it was no requital of any injury he had ever done them. Yet though they might mistake Job’s individual feeling to them, he was one of the class that had robbed them and that continued the robbery and oppression, and they avenged their wrongs on him with a malicious delight in the calamities that had overtaken him.
They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face.
Because he hath loosed my cord, and afflicted me, they have also let loose the bridle before me.11. Job 30:11 is very variously understood; it may mean,
For they have loosed their rein and humbled me,
They have cast off the bridle before me.
So taken, the two clauses have much the same meaning, each being a figurative manner of saying that the low rabble have cast off all restraint, and subject the sufferer to painful humiliations. The verb in the first clause is sing., but may distribute to each the conduct of the whole. Others, however, make the subject to be God, rendering: Because he has loosed his rein and humbled me, they also have cast off the bridle before me (A. V.). There is nothing, however, to indicate such an antithesis between two different subjects in the two clauses. Another reading gives my rein or cord (A. V.), but no help comes from adopting this.
11–14. Further description of the outrageous insults of these base outcasts.
Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction.12. This verse reads,
Upon the right hand riseth up a (low) brood,
They push away my feet,
And they cast up against me their ways of destruction.
By “pushing away” his feet, appears to be meant thrusting him away from place to place. The last clause refers to the practice of besiegers casting up a “mount” or raised way on which to approach the beleaguered town and carry destruction to it; such “mounts” are here called “their ways of destruction.”
They mar my path, they set forward my calamity, they have no helper.13. They mar my path] Or, they break up my path. The reference can hardly be to the path or way leading to the besieged place (Job 30:12), so that the approach of succour is cut off; if the figure be continued the path must rather be the way of escape. Perhaps the figure is departed from in this clause, and the words may be taken more generally as meaning the path of his life, which they make it impossible to go in.
set forward my calamity] i. e. help on my downfall—aggravate my afflictions and advance the issue of them.
they have no helper] Or, they who have no helper. The phrase “to have no helper” means to be one shunned and despised of all. Yet Such persons now persecute him with injurious insult. The words are an involuntary exclamation. The phrase might mean: against whom there is no helper; i. e. none to rescue Job from them, or to interfere in his behalf against them.
They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters: in the desolation they rolled themselves upon me.14. The verse reads,
They come in as through a wide breach,
Amidst the crash they roll themselves upon me.
The figure is that of a stormed fastness. The “crash” is that of the falling walls.
Terrors are turned upon me: they pursue my soul as the wind: and my welfare passeth away as a cloud.15. Terrors are turned against me,
They chase away my honour like the wind;
And my welfare is passed away as a cloud.
He is assailed by terrors. The words “like the wind” mean, like as the wind chases away (the chaff, &c.). On the figure of the dissolving cloud comp. Job 7:9. The expression “terrors” indicates that, though Job is here speaking of his injurious treatment at the hands of this rabble, it is not merely the external ignominy that fills his mind; it is the deeper moral problem which such abasement raises. Such expressions, however, have suggested to several writers that what Job describes in Job 30:11-15 is not the outrageous insults of the base-born outcasts referred to in Job 30:1-10, but his afflictions, under the figure of an assailing army sent against him from God, comp. ch. Job 16:12-14, Job 19:12. The passage is difficult, but upon the whole this view is less natural.
And now my soul is poured out upon me; the days of affliction have taken hold upon me.16. The condition of despondency to which Job was reduced.
My bones are pierced in me in the night season: and my sinews take no rest.17. His tormenting pains.
In the night season my bones are pierced (and fall) off from me,
And my gnawing pains take no rest.
The first clause refers to his tormenting pains, severest in the night, under which his bones seem pierced and his limbs to be wrenched from him. “My gnawing pains” is lit. my gnawers.
By the great force of my disease is my garment changed: it bindeth me about as the collar of my coat.18. The verse is obscure.
the great force of my disease] Or, by his great power; i. e. God’s power, put forth in Job’s afflictions.
my garment changed] lit. disguised or disfigured.
it bindeth me] The meaning may be: it clingeth to me like the neck of my inner garment. The reference is supposed to be to his emaciated condition; his outer garment hangs on him disfigured, clinging to him like the neck or opening of the close-fitting inner tunic. The connexion and the phrase “by His great power,” i. e. the power that causes intolerable agonies, might suggest that the reference in the verse is to Job’s writhing under his pains till the clothes are twisted tightly about him.
He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes.19. The verse probably refers to the appearance which Job’s body presented in its leprous condition; this was due to God, who is represented as causing it by plunging Job as it were into the mire.
19–23. God’s great severity.
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not.20. This verse reads,
I cry unto thee and thou dost not hear me,
I stand up, and thou lookest at me.
The second clause describes Job’s importunity in his appeal, but the only reply is that God “looketh” at him, i. e. with silent indifference, or in stern severity.
Thou art become cruel to me: with thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me.
Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou causest me to ride upon it, and dissolvest my substance.22. dissolvest my substance] Rather, dissolvest me in the tempest; lit. in the roar of the storm. He is carried away and dissolved or dissipated, that is, destroyed in the whirlwind.
For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.23. This verse explains Job 30:22 and supports it. Job knows that his afflictions can end in nothing but his death.
house appointed for] Or, house of meeting for all living, i. e. the, grave, or Sheol, the place of the dead.
Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave, though they cry in his destruction.24. This obscure verse may mean,
Yet doth not one stretch out the hand in his fall?
When he is destroyed doth he not because of this utter a cry?
The word fall is lit. heap, i. e. ruin. The verse, so interpreted means, Does not one stretch out his hand for help in his downfall? does he not when being destroyed, or, in his misfortune, utter a cry? Job explains how in his misery he cries unto God, it is the instinct of mankind. The following verse, referring to Job’s compassion when he saw others in trouble, suggests that he naturally looked for the same compassion to himself. The word cry (second clause), if referred to a different root, might mean riches (so ch. Job 36:19), and the verse would mean, surely one stretches not out his hand against a heap (of ruins), or, hath he riches from another’s (lit. his, or its) destruction? Job characterizes himself as a heap of ruins, and, appealing to the Almighty, argues that against such a thing one does not stretch out a hostile hand; neither does one derive advantage to himself from another’s calamity. This sense fits into Job 30:25 very well—Job, so far from increasing misfortune which he saw, commiserated and helped it.
Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?25. The compassion which Job seeks in his affliction it was his practice and nature to bestow.
When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.26. This being his feeling towards those in trouble he looked that his own prosperity would continue; his afflictions were unexpected.
My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me.27. My bowels boiled] Rather, boil.
prevented me] i. e. are come before me, have overtaken me. The bowels are the seat of feeling; and the words “my bowels boil” describe the tumult of feelings, griefs, regrets and pains, that worked within him.
27–30. Further details of his sufferings in his time of affliction. The tenses should be put in the present.
I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation.28. I went mourning] Better perhaps, I go blackened, not by the sun. The reference is to his appearance from his disease: he is black, but his blackness is not due to the sun, comp. Song of Solomon 1:6.
I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.29. The verse expands the words “I cry” in Job 30:28,
I am a brother to the jackals,
And a companion to the ostriches.
The mournful howl of the jackals is elsewhere referred to, Micah 1:8; the ostrich also sends forth a weird, melancholy cry, particularly by night; hence in ch. Job 39:13 the female ostrich receives the name of “wailer.”
My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.30. is black upon me] Or, is black and falls from me. The “heat” in his bones refers to his burning pains.
My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.31. The joyous music of his former life is turned into wailing. The “organ” is the pipe, ch. Job 21:12; comp. Lamentations 5:15.