Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it.
What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.XIII.
(2) I am not inferior unto you.—I fall not short of you. But it is this very sense of the inscrutableness of God’s dealings that makes him long to come face to face with God, and to reason with Him on the first principles of His action. As it is manifestly the traditionally orthodox position that his friends assume, it is refreshing to find that there may be some truth spoken for God by what is not so reckoned, and that more ultimate truth may exist in honest doubt than is sometimes found in the profession of a loosely-held creed. So the Laureate:
“There lives more truth in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.”
But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.(4) Ye are forgers of lies.—He now retorts upon his friends in terms not more deferential than their own, and calls them scrapers together, or patchers up, of falsehood, and physicians who are powerless to heal, or even to understand the case. He feels that they have failed miserably and utterly to understand him.
O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.(5) O that ye would altogether hold your peace! is singularly like the sentiment of Proverbs 17:28. Their wisdom will consist in listening to his wisdom rather than displaying their own folly.
Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him?(7) Will ye speak wickedly for God?—And now, in these verses, he gives utterance to a sublime truth, which shows how truly he had risen to the true conception of God, for he declares that He, who is no respecter of persons, desires to have no favour shown to Himself, and that in seeking to show favour they will greatly damage their own cause, for He is a God of truth, and by Him words as well as actions are weighed, and therefore nothing that is not true can stand any one in stead with Him.
Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?(9) As one man mocketh another.—As one man, with mingled flattery and deception, seeks to impose upon another.
Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.(12) Remembrances—i.e. “Wise and memorable saws of garnered wisdom are proverbs of ashes, worthless as the dust, and fit for bodies of clay like your bodies.” Or, as some understand it, “Your high fabrics, or defences, are fabrics of clay,” as an independent parallelism.
Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will.(13) Hold your peace.—He now prepares to make a declaration like the memorable one in Job 19. He resolves at all hazards to face God in judgment.
Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand?(14) Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth.—This is probably the meaning of this verse, which, however, should not be read interrogatively: “At all risks, come what come may, I will take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand.”
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.(15) Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.—This rendering is almost proverbial; but, to say the least, its accuracy is very doubtful, for the better reading does not warrant it, but runs thus: Behold He will slay me. I have no hope; yet will I maintain my ways before Him. It is true we thus lose a very beautiful and familiar resolve; but the expression of living trust is not less vivid. For though there is, as there can be, no gleam of hope for victory in this conflict, yet, notwithstanding, Job will not forego his conviction of integrity; for the voice of conscience is the voice of God, and if he knows himself to be innocent, he would belie and dishonour God as well as himself in renouncing his innocence.
He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.(16) He also shall be my salvation.—Comp. Psalm 27:1, &c. It is characteristic of Job that, living, as he probably did, outside the pale of Israel, he nevertheless shared the faith and knowledge of God’s chosen people; and this cannot be said of any other nation, nor docs any literature give evidence of it. Indeed, it is this which most markedly distinguishes Job from his friends, in that he can and does trust God unreservedly, in spite of all adverse circumstances, overwhelming as they were; while his friends are ignorant of the great central fact that He is Himself the sinner’s hope, and are content to rest only upon vague and bald generalities. It is because, therefore, he has said, and can say, “He is and will be my salvation,” that he can also say, “I know that I shall be justified, that I am righteous, because I trust in Him” (Genesis 15:6). We do not, in thus speaking, import the Gospel into Job, but exhibit that in Job which had already been manifest in Abraham, and probably recorded of him.
Who is he that will plead with me? for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.(19) If I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.—A marvellous confession, equivalent to, “If I give up my faith in Him who is my salvation, and my personal innocence, which goes hand-in-hand therewith, I shall perish. To give up my innocence is to give up Him in whom I hold my innocence, and in whom I live.”
Only do not two things unto me: then will I not hide myself from thee.(20) Will I not hide myself from thee—i.e., “I shall not be hidden”—quite a different word from that in Genesis 3:10, though the comparison of the two places is not without interest.
Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid.(21) Withdraw thine hand far from me.—That is, “Cease to torture me bodily, and to terrify me mentally; let me at least have freedom from physical pain and the undue apprehension of Thy terrors.”
How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin.(23) How many are mine iniquities?—We must be careful to note that alongside with Job’s claim to be righteous there is ever as deep a confession of personal sin, thus showing that the only way in which we can understand his declarations is in the light of His teaching who convicts of sin before He convinces of righteousness.
Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?(25) Wilt thou break a leaf.—His confession of sin here approaches even to what the Psalmist describes as the condition of the ungodly (Psalm 1:4).
For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.(26) For thou writest bitter things against me.—Exquisitely plaintive and affecting is this confession.
Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet.(27) Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks.—This is illustrated by the language of the Psalms (Psalm 88:8; Psalm 142:7, &c.). There is a difficulty in these two verses, arising from the pronouns. Some understand the subject to be the fetter: “Thou puttest my feet in the fetter that watcheth over all my paths, and imprinteth itself upon the roots of my feet, and it (the foot) consumeth like a rotten thing, and like a garment that is moth-eaten.” Others refer the “he” to Job himself; and others to man, the subject of the following chapter. In the Hebrew future tense the third person feminine and the second person masculine are alike, and the word for fetter, which is only found here and at Job 33:11, where Elihu quotes these words, may possibly be feminine in this place, though it is clear that Elihu understood Job to be speaking of God. Probably by the “he” introduced so abruptly is meant the object of all this watching and persecution.