Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Then Job answered and said,XXIII.
(1) Then Job answered.—Job replies to the insinuations of Eliphaz with the earnest longing after God and the assertion of his own innocence; while in the twenty-fourth chapter he laments that his own case is but one of many, and that multitudes suffer from the oppression of man unavenged, as he suffers from the stroke of God.
Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.(2) Even to day.—Or, Still is my complaint bitter or accounted rebellion; yet is my stroke heavier than my groaning: my complaint is no just measure of my suffering.
Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!(3) Oh that I knew where I might find him.—The piteous complaint of a man who feels that God is with him for chastisement, but not for healing.
Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.(6) Plead against me.—Rather, Would he plead with me, or contend with me in the greatness of his power? Nay; but he would have regard unto me; he would consider my case. Eliphaz had bidden Job to acquaint himself with God, and return unto Him (Job 22:23); Job says there is nothing he longs for more than to come into His presence.
There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.(7) There the righteous might dispute.—He has learnt this marvellous truth, which the Gospel has so effectually brought to light, that it is God the Saviour who is Himself the refuge from God the Judge (John 12:47); and then, in the solemn conviction of His presence, he makes use of the most sublime language expressive of it, being assured, though He may hide Himself with the express purpose of not interfering in his cause, yet that all things work together for good to them that love Him (Romans 8:28), and that when his time of trial is over, he himself will come forth like gold. Job’s case teaches us that if an innocent man is falsely accused, God’s honour is vindicated and maintained by his holding fast his conviction of innocence rather than by his yielding to the pressure of adversity and owning to sins he has not committed, or relaxing his hold on innocence by yielding to irritability.
Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.(12) I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.—Comp. John 4:32-34. Or, I have treasured up the words, &c., according to the statute prescribed to me, or from my own law: i.e., “I made it a principle with myself to treasure up the words of His mouth.” The LXX. and the Vulg. have a differing reading, and render in my bosom.
But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.(13) He is one, or in one.—Job either declares His unique sovereignty or His unchangeable purpose. The context seems to support the latter, in which case the sense given by the Authorised Version is correct.
For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.(14) He performeth the thing that is appointed for me.—“He will accomplish my appointed lot; He will complete that which He has decreed for me; and like these things there are many (more) with Him” (Job 10:13). Job is disposed to take the full measure of the worst, like a pessimist, that being steeled against it, he may be prepared; and so steeled, he still trusts God. (Comp. Job 13:15, Authorised Version.)
Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.(15) Therefore am I troubled at his presence.—i.e., invisible though it be, and undiscoverable as He is on every hand (Job 23:8-9), Job is in a strait betwixt two (Philippians 1:23). The victim of an ever present paradox and dilemma; afraid of God, yet longing to see Him; conscious of His presence, yet unable to find Him; assured of His absolute justice, and yet convinced of his own suffering innocence. His history, in fact, to the Old World was what the Gospel is to the New: the exhibition of a perfectly righteous man, yet made perfect through suffering. It was therefore an effort, at the solution of the problem of the reconciliation of the inequality of life with the justice of God.
For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:(16) For God maketh my heart soft.—That is, “He has made it full of apprehension and fear, and the Almighty hath troubled me in these two respects: that He did not cut me off before the darkness, so that I had never been born, or that He did not hide darkness from mine eyes after giving me life.” (Comp. Job 3:11; Job 3:20, &c.) We may understand this of the physical suffering to which he was subjected, or of the mental distress and perplexity under which he laboured.