Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
But Job answered and said,VI.
(1) But Job answered and said.—Job replies to Eliphaz with the despair of a man who has been baulked of sympathy when he hoped to find it. We cannot trace, nor must we expect to find, the formal reply of a logical argument, fliphaz, he feels, has so misjudged his case that he is neither worthy of a direct reply nor susceptible of one. It is enough for him to reiterate his complaint, and long for one who can enter into it.
For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up.(3) Swallowed up.—That is. words are useless and powerless to express it. (See the margin.)
For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.(4) The poison whereof drinketh up my spirit.—Rather, the poison whereof my spirit imbibeth, the rendering of the Authorised Version being ambiguous.
Do set themselves in array against me.—Like hosts marshalling themselves for battle. “If the ox or the ass will not low or bray so long as he is satisfied, so neither should I complain if I had no valid cause. My groaning is the evidence of a great burden, and consequently the disdainful way in which you treat it is insipid and distasteful to me—my soul refuseth to touch your proffered remedies; they are as loathsome meat to me.” According to some, the words rendered “the white of an egg” mean the juice of purslain.
Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!(8) Oh that I might have my request.—Baffled in the direction of his fellow-creatures, he turns, like many others, to God as his only hope, although it is rather from God than in God that his hope lies. However exceptional Job’s trials, yet his language is the common language of all sufferers who think that relief, if it comes, must come through change of circumstances rather than in themselves in relation to circumstances. Thus Job looks forward to death as his only hope; whereas with God and in God there were many years of life and prosperity in store for him. So strong is this feeling in him, that he calls death the thing that he longs for, his hope or expectation. (Comp. Job 17, where even the hope that he had in death seems to have passed away and to have issued in blank hopelessness.)
Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!(9) Even that it would please God . . .—The sequence of thought in these verses is obscure and uncertain. The speaker may mean that, notwithstanding all that might befall him, his consolation would still be that he had never denied the words of the Holy One. The words “I would harden myself in sorrow” are the most doubtful, not occurring elsewhere in Scripture. Some render the two clauses, “I would exult, or rejoice, in pain that spareth not;” but “Let him not spare,” or “Though he spare not,” seems preferable. Others render, “Though I burn in sorrow.”
Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.(10) Concealed—i.e., denied. The same was the confidence of the Psalmist (Psalm 40:9-10). (Comp. Acts 20:20.)
What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?(11) Prolong my life.—This is the literal rendering; but some understand be patient, as in our phrase, long-suffering.
Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?(13) Is not my help in me?—It is in passages such as these that the actual meaning of Job is so obscure and his words so difficult. The sense may be, “Is it not that I have no help in me, and wisdom is driven quite from me?” or yet again, “Is it because there is no help in me that therefore wisdom is driven far from me?” as is the case by your reproaches and insinuations. (See especially Job 5:2; Job 5:27.)
To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.(14) But he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.—It is difficult to determine the precise relation of dependent clauses in an archaic language like the Hebrew; but the Authorised Version is, at all events, not correct here, the sense rather being, “Even to one that forsaketh the fear of the Almighty;” or, perhaps, better still, “lest he should forsake;” or, “he may even forsake,” &c.
My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away;(15) Have dealt deceitfully as a brook.—This is one of the most celebrated poetical similes in the book, and carries us to life in the desert, where the wadys, so mighty and torrent-like in the winter, are insignificant streams or fail altogether in summer. So when the writer saw the Gnadalquiver (or mighty wady) at Cordova, in August, it was a third-rate stream, running in many divided currents in its stony bed.
The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish.(18) They go to nothing.—It is doubtful whether this applies to the streams or to the caravans. Thus, “The paths of their way are turned aside and come to nought;” or, “The caravans that travel by the way of them turn aside, and go into the waste and perish.” The nineteenth verse seems to suggest the latter as the more probable.
The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them.(19) The troops of Tema.—Fürst says of Tema that it was a tract in the north of the Arabian Desert, on the borders of the Syrian one, where traffic was carried on from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean by caravans (Isaiah 21:14; Jeremiah 25:23; Job 6:19). Sheba, as understood here, was probably a district on the Arabian Gulf (see Job 1:15), where merchants trafficked with the distant cities of the East, as well as enriched themselves with the plunder of their neighbours, as in Job 1:15.
They were confounded because they had hoped; they came thither, and were ashamed.(20) They were confounded.—Comp. Jeremiah’s description of the famine (Jeremiah 14:3). (See margin.)
For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down, and are afraid.(21) For now ye are nothing.—“Surely now ye are become like it” i.e., that wady; or, according to another reading followed in the text of the Authorised Version, “Ye have become nothing: ye have seen an object of terror, and are terrified: ye have seen my broken-down condition, and are dismayed at it.”
Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give a reward for me of your substance?(22) Did I say, Bring unto me?—“It is not as though I had abused your former kindness. I never laid myself under obligations to you; I never asked for your help before. Had I done so, I might have wearied out your patience, and brought upon myself your present conduct justly; but you cannot convict me of this.”
How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove?(25) How forcible are right words !—“How forcible are words of uprightness! But what doth your reproof reprove? Open rebuke is better than secret love; better to be honestly and openly rebuked by you than be subject to the secret insinuations which are intended to pass for friendship.”
Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind?(26) Do ye imagine to reprove words . . .?—“It cannot be your intent to reprove mere words, as mine confessedly are (Job 6:3), and as you seem to count them (Job 6:13). If so, they are hardly worthy the trouble bestowed upon them, but might be left to answer themselves.”
Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend.(27) Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless.—Rather, probably, Ye would cast lots upon the fatherless, and make merchandise of your friend. This is more
in accordance with the language, and preserves the parallelism.
Now therefore be content, look upon me; for it is evident unto you if I lie.(28) Now therefore be content to look upon me; for it will be evident unto you if I lie; or, for surely I shall not lie to your face.
Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it.(29) Return, I pray you.—“Do not regard the case as settled, but come again and examine it; try once more before you decide there is no unrighteousness in my case;” or, as some understand it, in my tongue, which is expressed immediately afterwards, and is here anticipated in the pronoun her. This rendering is certainly confirmed by Job 6:30.
Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things?(30) Is there iniquity?—Or, injustice in my tongue? Is my taste so perverted that it cannot perceive what is perverse? “Ye appear to think that I am wholly incapable of judging my own cause because it is my own; but if ye will only condescend to return in due course, ye shall find that I know what is right as well as you, and that there is no more vicious reasoning in me than there is with you, and probably less.” It is difficult to draw out the argument of Job in the logical form of our Western thought, and to trace the line of connection running through it. If we look at it in detail—as we must in order to explain it—then we are apt to look at it piecemeal, and miss the thread; but in point of fact it is just this very thread which it is so difficult to detect and retain from one chapter to another.