Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,
1. Job pauses for a reply. None being made, he proceeds to illustrate the mysteriousness of God's dealings, as set forth (Job 28:1-28) by his own case.
Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me;
2. preserved me—from calamity.
When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness;
3. candle—when His favor shone on me (see on Job 18:6 and Ps 18:28).
darkness—By His safeguard I passed secure through dangers. Perhaps alluding to the lights carried before caravans in nightly travels through deserts [Noyes].
As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle;
4. youth—literally, "autumn"; the time of the ripe fruits of my prosperity. Applied to youth, as the Orientalists began their year with autumn, the most temperate season in the East.
secret—when the intimate friendship of God rested on my tent (Pr 3:32; Ps 31:20; Ge 18:17; Joh 15:15). The Hebrew often means a divan for deliberation.
When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me;
When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;
6. butter—rather, "cream," literally, "thick milk." Wherever I turned my steps, the richest milk and oil flowed in to me abundantly. Image from pastoral life.
When I washed my steps—Literal washing of the feet in milk is not meant, as the second clause shows; Margin, "with me," that is, "near" my path, wherever I walked (De 32:13). Olives amidst rocks yield the best oil. Oil in the East is used for food, light, anointing, and medicine.
When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!
7-10. The great influence Job had over young and old, and noblemen.
through … street!—rather, When I went out of my house, in the country (see Job 1:1, prologue) to the gate (ascending), up to the city (which was on elevated ground), and when I prepared my (judicial) seat in the market place. The market place was the place of judgment, at the gate or propylæa of the city, such as is found in the remains of Nineveh and Persepolis (Isa 59:14; Ps 55:11; 127:5).
The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up.
8. hid—not literally; rather, "stepped backwards," reverentially. The aged, who were already seated, arose and remained standing (Hebrew) until Job seated himself. Oriental manners.
The princes refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth.
9. (Job 4:2; see on Job 21:5).
Refrained talking—stopped in the middle of their speech.
The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
10. Margin, "voice—hid," that is, "hushed" (Eze 3:26).
Tongue cleaved, &c.—that is, awed by my presence, the emirs or sheiks were silent.
When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me:
11. blessed—extolled my virtues (Pr 31:28). Omit "me" after "heard"; whoever heard of me (in general, not in the market place, Job 29:7-10) praised me.
gave witness—to my honorable character. Image from a court of justice (Lu 4:22).
the eye—that is, "face to face"; antithesis to
ear—that is, report of me.
Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.
12-17. The grounds on which Job was praised (Job 29:11), his helping the afflicted (Ps 72:12) who cried to him for help, as a judge, or as one possessed of means of charity. Translate: "The fatherless who had none to help him."
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy.
13. So far was I from sending "widows" away empty (Job 22:9).
ready to perish—(Pr 31:6).
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
14. (Isa 61:10; 1Ch 12:18).
diadem—tiara. Rather, "turban," "head-dress." It and the full flowing outer mantle or "robe," are the prominent characteristics of an Oriental grandee's or high priest's dress (Zec 3:5). So Job's righteousness especially characterized him.
I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame.
15. Literally, "the blind" (De 27:18); "lame" (2Sa 9:13); figuratively, also the spiritual support which the more enlightened gives to those less so (Job 4:3; Heb 12:13; Nu 10:31).
I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
16. So far was I from "breaking the arms of the fatherless," as Eliphaz asserts (Job 22:9), I was a "father" to such.
the cause which I knew not—rather, "of him whom I knew not," the stranger (Pr 29:7 [Umbreit]; contrast Lu 18:1, &c.). Applicable to almsgiving (Ps 41:1); but here primarily, judicial conscientiousness (Job 31:13).
And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.
17. Image from combating with wild beasts (Job 4:11; Ps 3:7). So compassionate was Job to the oppressed, so terrible to the oppressor!
jaws—Job broke his power, so that he could do no more hurt, and tore from him the spoil, which he had torn from others.
Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
18. I said—in my heart (Ps 30:6).
in—rather, "with my nest"; as the second clause refers to long life. Instead of my family dying before me, as now, I shall live so long as to die with them: proverbial for long life. Job did realize his hope (Job 42:16). However, in the bosom of my family, gives a good sense (Nu 24:21; Ob 4). Use "nest" for a secure dwelling.
sand—(Ge 22:17; Hab 1:9). But the Septuagint and Vulgate, and Jewish interpreters, favor the translation, "the ph�nix bird." "Nest" in the parallel clause supports the reference to a bird. "Sand" for multitude, applies to men, rather than to years. The myth was, that the ph�nix sprang from a nest of myrrh, made by his father before death, and that he then came from Arabia (Job's country) to Heliopolis (the city of the Sun) in Egypt, once in every five hundred years, and there burnt his father [Herodotus, 2:73]. Modern research has shown that this was the Egyptian mode of representing hieroglyphically a particular chronological era or cycle. The death and revival every five hundred years, and the reference to the sun, implies such a grand cycle commencing afresh from the same point in relation to the sun from which the previous one started. Job probably refers to this.
My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.
19. Literally, "opened to the waters." Opposed to Job 18:16. Vigorous health.
My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.
20. My renown, like my bodily health, was continually fresh.
bow—Metaphor from war, for, my strength, which gains me "renown," was ever renewed (Jer 49:35).
Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.
21. Job reverts with peculiar pleasure to his former dignity in assemblies (Job 29:7-10).
After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.
22. not again—did not contradict me.
dropped—affected their minds, as the genial rain does the soil on which it gently drops (Am 7:16; De 32:2; So 4:11).
And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.
23. Image of Job 29:22 continued. They waited for my salutary counsel, as the dry soil does for the refreshing rain.
opened … mouth—panted for; Oriental image (Ps 119:131). The "early rain" is in autumn and onwards, while the seed is being sown. The "latter rain" is in March, and brings forward the harvest, which ripens in May or June. Between the early and latter rains, some rain falls, but not in such quantities as those rains. Between March and October no rain falls (De 11:14; Jas 5:7).
If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down.
24. When I relaxed from my wonted gravity (a virtue much esteemed in the East) and smiled, they could hardly credit it; and yet, notwithstanding my condescension, they did not cast aside reverence for my gravity. But the parallelism is better in Umbreit's translation, "I smiled kindly on those who trusted not," that is, in times of danger I cheered those in despondency. And they could not cast down (by their despondency) my serenity of countenance (flowing from trust in God) (Pr 16:15; Ps 104:15). The opposite phrase (Ge 4:5, 6). "Gravity" cannot well be meant by "light of countenance."
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.
25. I chose out their way—that is, I willingly went up to their assembly (from my country residence, Job 29:7).
in the army—as a king supreme in the midst of his army.
comforteth the mourners—Here again Job unconsciously foreshadows Jesus Christ (Isa 61:2, 3). Job's afflictions, as those of Jesus Christ, were fitting him for the office hereafter (Isa 50:4; Heb 2:18).