Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
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.XXX.
(1) Whose fathers I would have disdained.—Rather, whose fathers I disdained to set. The complaint is that the children of those who were so inferior to him should treat him thus.
Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished?(2) Whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, is the description of the fathers; Job 30:3 seqq. describes their children. The people here spoken of seem to have been somewhat similar to those known to the ancients as Troglodytes (Herod. iv. 183, &c.), the inhabitants of caves, who lived an outcast life and had manners and customs of their own. They are desolate with want and famine. They flee into the wilderness on the eve of wasteness and desolation, or when all is dark (yester night), waste, and desolate. It is evident that Job must have been familiar with a people of this kind, an alien and proscribed race living in the way he mentions.
Among the bushes they brayed; under the nettles they were gathered together.(7) Among the bushes they brayed.—Herodotus says their language was like the screeching of bats, others say it was like the whistling of birds. This whole description is of the mockers of Job, and therefore should be in the present tense in Job 30:5; Job 30:7-8, as it may be in the Authorised Version of Job 30:4.
They were children of fools, yea, children of base men: they were viler than the earth.(8) They were viler than the earth.—Rather, They are scourged out of the land, or are outcasts from the land.
And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword.(9) And now am I their song.—See the references in the margin, which show that it is quite appropriate to give to the complaints of Job a Messianic interpretation.
Because he hath loosed my cord, and afflicted me, they have also let loose the bridle before me.(11) Because he hath loosed my cord.—Better, his: i.e., “God hath loosed the cord of his bow and they have cast off all restraint before me.”
Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction.(12) The youth—i.e., the young brood, rabble.
They mar my path, they set forward my calamity, they have no helper.(13) They have no helper—i.e., probably without deriving therefrom any help or advantage themselves.
They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters: in the desolation they rolled themselves upon me.(14) As a wide breaking in of waters.—Or, as through a wide breach they come. “In the midst of the crash they roll themselves upon me;” or, “instead of a tempest” (i.e., like a tempest) “they roll themselves upon me.”
Terrors are turned upon me: they pursue my soul as the wind: and my welfare passeth away as a cloud.(15) They pursue—i.e., “the terrors chase or pursue
my honour:” i.e., my soul; or it may be, “Thou (i.e., God) chasest.”
By the great force of my disease is my garment changed: it bindeth me about as the collar of my coat.(18) My garment changed.—Some render “By His (i.e., God’s) great power the garment (of my skin) is disfigured;” and others, “With great effort must my garment be changed because of the sores to which it clings? It bindeth me about as closely as the collar of my coat.”
He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes.(19) He hath cast me into the mire.—He now turns more directly to God, having in Job 30:16 turned from man to his own condition—dust and ashes. This latter phrase is used but three times in Scripture: twice by Job (here and Job 42:6), and once by Abraham (Genesis 18:27).
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not.(20) Thou regardest me not.—The Authorised Version understands that the negative of the first clause must be supplied in the second, as is the case in Psalm 9:18 : “The needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.” Others understand it, “I stand up (i.e., to pray) in the attitude of prayer, and Thou lookest at me,” i.e., and doest no more with mute indifference.
Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou causest me to ride upon it, and dissolvest my substance.(22) Thou liftest me up to the wind.—Some render this verse, “Thou liftest me up to the wind, and causest me to ride upon it; Thou dissolvest me in thy blast;” others understand him to express the contrast between his former prosperous state and his present low condition: “Thou usedst to raise me and make me ride upon the wind, and now Thou dissolvest my substance, my very being.” (Comp. Psalm 102:10 : “Thou hast lifted me up and cast me down.”)
Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave, though they cry in his destruction.(24) Though they cry in his destruction.—This is a very obscure verse. Some render it, “Surely against a ruinous heap he will not put forth his hand; though it be in his destruction one may utter a cry because of these things.” Others, understanding the word rendered “ruinous heap” otherwise, render “Howbeit, God will not put forth His hand to bring man to death and the grave when there is earnest prayer for them, nor even when in calamity proceeding from Him there is a loud cry for them:” that is to say, “I know that Thou wilt dissolve and destroy me, and bring me to the grave, though Thou wilt not do so when I pray unto Thee to release me by death from my sufferings. Thou wilt surely do so, but not in my time or according to my will, but only in Thine own appointed time, and as Thou seest fit.” This is one of those passages that may be regarded as hopelessly uncertain. Each reader will make the best sense he can of it, according to his judgment. That Job should speak of himself as a ruinous heap seems very strange; neither is it at all clear what “these things” are because of which a cry is uttered. Certainly the significance given by the other rendering is much greater. “His destruction” must mean, at all events, the destruction that cometh from Him; and if this is so, the sense given is virtually that of the Authorised Version.
Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?(25) Did not I weep for him?—Job declares that he has not withheld that sympathy with sorrow and suffering for which he himself has asked in vain.
When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.(26) When I looked for good.—Before, in Job 3:25-26, he had spoken as one who did not wish to be the fool of prosperity, and so overtaken unawares by calamity, and who therefore looked at things on the darker side; now he speaks as one who hoped for the best, and yet, notwithstanding that hope, was disappointed and deceived.
My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me.(27) My bowels boiled.—The sense is better expressed by the present, “My bowels boil, and rest not. Days of affliction have overtaken me unawares.” (See last verse.)
I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation.(28) I went mourning without the sun.—Rather, I go mourning without the sun; or, according to some, “blackened, but not by the sun.” We give the preference to the other.
I stood up, and I cried in the congregation—i.e., not merely in secret, but in the face of all men.
I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.(29) Dragons and owls are, according to some moderns, jackals and ostriches.
My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.(31) My harp also is turned to mourning.—Or, Therefore is my harp turned to mourning, and my pipe into the voice of them that weep. The musical instruments here named, like those of Genesis 4:21, are respectively the stringed and wind instruments.