Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?V.
(1) Call now.—The speaker now becomes more personal and direct in his tone and bearing. He insinuates that Job is “unwise” and “silly,” and promises swift destruction for all such.
I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation.(3) I cursed.—The word means, “I was able to declare distinctly, and I did declare without hesitation, that his lot would be as follows.” All these general results of experience have the sting of insinuation in them that they contain the key to Job’s unfortunate condition. There is secret unsoundness there which is the cause of the manifest and open misery. It is impossible that a man so stricken should be otherwise than, for some unknown reason, the guilty victim of the righteous wrath of a just judge.
His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.(4) They are crushed.—Rather, perhaps, they crush one another. Their internal rivalries and dissensions bring them to ruin. They exemplify the house divided against itself.
Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.(5) Whose harvest the hungry eateth up.—The meaning becomes more pointed if we understand the wicked man himself as the subject whose harvest he shall eat famishing and have to take from among the thorns—there shall be so little, and that little choked with thorns. The word “robber” is perhaps a trap, or snare. Some of the old versions use other vowels, and read, “the thirsty swallow up,” making the parallelism complete.
Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;(6, 7) Although affliction. . . .—These two verses are confessedly very difficult. It is hard to see also the connection between sparks flying upwards and man’s being born to trouble. It seems to give better sense if we understand Eliphaz comparing man’s lot as prepared for him by God with his own pride and presumptuous ambition. Man is born to labour, but, like sparks of fire, he makes high his flight. Trouble and toil is no accidental growth, but a lot appointed by God, which would be beneficial if man did not thwart it by his own pride. They lift themselves up and soar on high like sparks of fire with daring and presumptuous conduct, and so bring on themselves condign punishment. The same word means trouble and toil, and it may be understood in the two consecutive verses in these cognate, but slightly different, senses. It would be no consolation to Job to tell him that man was born to trouble; besides, it is a sentiment more likely to proceed from the patient himself than from the spectator.
To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.(11) To set up on high those that be low.—Thus his doctrine is that man’s exaltation must come from God, and not from his own vain strivings. (Comp. Psalm 75:4-10, and the prayer of Hannah, 1Samuel 2:6-8; also Psalm 113:7, &c.)
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.(12) So that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.—Or, so that their hands can do-nothing that is sound or of worth, can accomplish nothing effectual.
He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.(13) He taketh the wise.—St. Paul quotes the former half of this verse in his warning to the Corinthians (1Corinthians 3:19): “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” The word rendered “froward” means crooked, perverse, or tortuous. The name Naphtali is derived from the same root (Genesis 30:8).
They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.(14) Darkness in the daytime.—This is possibly an allusion to the Egyptian plague of darkness “that may be felt” (Exodus 10:21), as the words used are similar. This may be a note of probable date. (Compare Isaiah 59:10, where the thoughts correspond, but the words differ.) This is one of the many passages of Job in which there seems to be an indication of some acquaintance with the events related in the Pentateuch, though the points of contact are too slight for us to be quite sure of it.
But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.(15) From the sword, from their mouth.—It is merely a matter of grammatical nicety whether we regard the sword as coming forth from their mouth, or as identical with what comes forth from it, or as the first of three things from which the poor are delivered. It is worthy of special note that the Lord is thus conceived of and represented, as the Saviour, and the Saviour of them who have no saviour. Is not this an idea confined to the circle of the sacred writings? At all events, it so abounds and predominates in them as to be pre-eminently, if not exclusively, characteristic of them.
So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth.(16) Iniquity stoppeth her mouth.—See Psalm 107:42, where the same phrase occurs.
Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:(17) This is probably the original of Proverbs 3:12, which is itself quoted by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Job 12:5), while the spirit of it is expressed by St. James and St. John in the Revelation. (See the margin.) This is the only place in Job in which the word here used for happy—which is the very first word of the Psalms, and is used five-and-twenty times in them alone—is found.
For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.(18) He maketh sore, and bindeth up.—The sentiment here expressed is one of those obvious ones which lose all their force from familiarity with them, but which come home sometimes in sorrow with a power that is boundless, because Divine.
He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.(19) In six troubles.—The special form of speech here used is characteristic mainly of the Proverbs (see Job 6:16; Job 30:15; Job 30:18; Job 30:21). Since evil was emphatically touching Job, the actual irony of these words must have been bitter indeed.
In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword.(20) He shall redeem thee.—It is rather, he hath redeemed thee, as though the speaker could appeal to Job’s own experience in the matter which itself became a ground of confident hope for the future.
Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue: neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.(21) Shalt thou be afraid.—Comp. the expression in Job 5:15.
At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.(22) Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.—Literally, and of the beasts of the earth be not thou afraid.
For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.(23) For thou shalt be in league.—Literally, for with the stones of the field shall thy covenant be, and the beasts of the field shall be made to be at peace with thee.
And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.(24) Sin.—The word rendered “sin” literally means also to miss the mark, as in Judges 20:16, and that is probably its meaning here: Thou shalt visit thy dwelling-place, and miss nothing, since one does not see very clearly why the promise of not sinning is connected with visiting the habitation or fold.
Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.(25) Great.—The word means also numerous, which seems to suit the parallelism better here. The whole description is a very beautiful and poetical one of the perfect security of faith, though it is to a certain extent vitiated by its want of strict correspondence with facts, of which the very case of Job was a crucial instance. This was the special problem with which his friends had to deal, and which proved too hard for them. May we not learn that the problem is one that can only be solved in practice and not in theory?
Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.(26) Thou shalt come to thy grave.—There is not improbably a contrast implied here between going into the grave and going up (see the margin) to the barn. The grave in such a case is not the melancholy end of life, but rather the passage to a higher life for which one is already ripe. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness,” &c. (2Timothy 4:8).
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.(27) So it is.—It is the boastful confidence of Eliphaz which is so hard to bear. He speaks as though Job’s experience were as nothing to his. “This is mine: take it to thyself, and make it thine.”