Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then Job answered and said,
Job 16:1-22. Job's Reply.
I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.
2. (Job 13:4).
Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest?
3. "Words of wind," Hebrew. He retorts upon Eliphaz his reproach (Job 15:2).
emboldeneth—literally, "What wearies you so that ye contradict?" that is, What have I said to provoke you? &c. [Schuttens]. Or, as better accords with the first clause, "Wherefore do ye weary yourselves contradicting?" [Umbreit].
I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.
4. heap up—rather, "marshal together (an army of) words against you."
shake … head—in mockery; it means nodding, rather than shaking; nodding is not with us, as in the East, a gesture of scorn (Isa 37:22; Jer 18:16; Mt 27:39).
But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.
5. strengthen … with … mouth—bitter irony. In allusion to Eliphaz' boasted "consolations" (Job 15:11). Opposed to strengthening with the heart, that is, with real consolation. Translate, "I also (like you) could strengthen with the mouth," that is, with heartless talk: "And the moving of my lips (mere lip comfort) could console (in the same fashion as you do)" [Umbreit]. "Hearty counsel" (Pr 27:9) is the opposite.
Though I speak, my grief is not asswaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased?
6. eased—literally, "What (portion of my sufferings) goes from me?"
But now he hath made me weary: thou hast made desolate all my company.
7. But now—rather, "ah!"
company—rather, "band of witnesses," namely, those who could attest his innocence (his children, servants, &c.). So the same Hebrew is translated in Job 16:8. Umbreit makes his "band of witnesses," himself, for, alas! he had no other witness for him. But this is too recondite.
And thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me: and my leanness rising up in me beareth witness to my face.
8. filled … with wrinkles—Rather (as also the same Hebrew word in Job 22:16; English Version, "cut down"), "thou hast fettered me, thy witness" (besides cutting off my "band of witnesses," Job 16:7), that is, hast disabled me by pains from properly attesting my innocence. But another "witness" arises against him, namely, his "leanness" or wretched state of body, construed by his friends into a proof of his guilt. The radical meaning of the Hebrew is "to draw together," whence flow the double meaning "to bind" or "fetter," and in Syriac, "to wrinkle."
leanness—meaning also "lie"; implying it was a "false witness."
He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me: he gnasheth upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me.
9. Image from a wild beast. So God is represented (Job 10:16).
who hateth me—rather, "and pursues me hard." Job would not ascribe "hatred" to God (Ps 50:22).
mine enemy—rather, "he sharpens, &c., as an enemy" (Ps 7:12). Darts wrathful glances at me, like a foe (Job 13:24).
They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me.
10. gaped—not in order to devour, but to mock him. To fill his cup of misery, the mockery of his friends (Job 16:10) is added to the hostile treatment from God (Job 16:9).
smitten … cheek—figurative for contemptuous abuse (La 3:30; Mt 5:39).
gathered themselves—"conspired unanimously" [Schuttens].
God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.
11. the ungodly—namely, his professed friends, who persecuted him with unkind speeches.
turned me over—literally, "cast me headlong into the hands of the wicked."
I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark.
12. I was at ease—in past times (Job 1:1-3).
by my neck—as an animal does its prey (so Job 10:16).
shaken—violently; in contrast to his former "ease" (Ps 102:10). Set me up (again).
mark—(Job 7:20; La 3:12). God lets me always recover strength, so as to torment me ceaselessly.
His archers compass me round about, he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall upon the ground.
13. his archers—The image of Job 16:12 is continued. God, in making me His "mark," is accompanied by the three friends, whose words wound like sharp arrows.
gall—put for a vital part; so the liver (La 2:11).
He breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant.
14. The image is from storming a fortress by making breaches in the walls (2Ki 14:13).
a giant—a mighty warrior.
I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin, and defiled my horn in the dust.
15. sewed—denoting the tight fit of the mourning garment; it was a sack with armholes closely sewed to the body.
horn—image from horned cattle, which when excited tear the earth with their horns. The horn was the emblem of power (1Ki 22:11). Here, it is
in the dust—which as applied to Job denotes his humiliation from former greatness. To throw one's self in the dust was a sign of mourning; this idea is here joined with that of excited despair, depicted by the fury of a horned beast. The Druses of Lebanon still wear horns as an ornament.
My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death;
16. foul—rather, "is red," that is, flushed and heated [Umbreit and Noyes].
shadow of death—that is, darkening through many tears (La 5:17). Job here refers to Zophar's implied charge (Job 11:14). Nearly the same words occur as to Jesus Christ (Isa 53:9). So Job 16:10 above answers to the description of Jesus Christ (Ps 22:13; Isa 50:6, and Job 16:4 to Ps 22:7). He alone realized what Job aspired after, namely, outward righteousness of acts and inward purity of devotion. Jesus Christ as the representative man is typified in some degree in every servant of God in the Old Testament.
Not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure.
O earth, cover not thou my blood, and let my cry have no place.
18. my blood—that is, my undeserved suffering. He compares himself to one murdered, whose blood the earth refuses to drink up until he is avenged (Ge 4:10, 11; Eze 24:1, 8; Isa 26:21). The Arabs say that the dew of heaven will not descend on a spot watered with innocent blood (compare 2Sa 1:21).
no place—no resting-place. "May my cry never stop!" May it go abroad! "Earth" in this verse in antithesis to "heaven" (Job 16:19). May my innocence be as well-known to man as it is even now to God!
Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.
19. Also now—Even now, when I am so greatly misunderstood on earth, God in heaven is sensible of my innocence.
record—Hebrew, "in the high places"; Hebrew, "my witness." Amidst all his impatience, Job still trusts in God.
My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God.
20. Hebrew, "are my scorners"; more forcibly, "my mockers—my friends!" A heart-cutting paradox [Umbreit]. God alone remains to whom he can look for attestation of his innocence; plaintively with tearful eye, he supplicates for this.
O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!
21. one—rather, "He" (God). "Oh, that He would plead for a man (namely, me) against God." Job quaintly says, "God must support me against God; for He makes me to suffer, and He alone knows me to be innocent" [Umbreit]. So God helped Jacob in wrestling against Himself (compare Job 23:6; Ge 32:25). God in Jesus Christ does plead with God for man (Ro 8:26, 27).
as a man—literally, "the Son of man." A prefiguring of the advocacy of Jesus Christ—a boon longed for by Job (Job 9:33), though the spiritual pregnancy of his own words, designed for all ages, was but little understood by him (Ps 80:17).
for his neighbour—Hebrew, "friend." Job himself (Job 42:8) pleaded as intercessor for his "friends," though "his scorners" (Job 16:20); so Jesus Christ the Son of man (Lu 23:34); "for friends" (Joh 15:13-15).
When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.
22. few—literally, "years of number," that is, few, opposed to numberless (Ge 34:30).