Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Then Job answered and said,
Job 9:1-35. Reply of Job to Bildad.
I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?
2. I know it is so of a truth—that God does not "pervert justice" (Job 8:3). But (even though I be sure of being in the right) how can a mere man assert his right—(be just) with God. The Gospel answers (Ro 3:26).
If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.
3. If he—God
will contend with him—literally, "deign to enter into judgment."
he cannot answer, &c.—He (man) would not dare, even if he had a thousand answers in readiness to one question of God's, to utter one of them, from awe of His Majesty.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?
4. wise in heart—in understanding!—and mighty in power! God confounds the ablest arguer by His wisdom, and the mightiest by His power.
hardened himself—or his neck (Pr 29:1); that is, defied God. To prosper, one must fall in with God's arrangements of providence and grace.
Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.
5. and they know not—Hebrew for "suddenly, unexpectedly, before they are aware of it" (Ps 35:8); "at unawares"; Hebrew, which "he knoweth not of" (Joe 2:14; Pr 5:6).
Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.
6. The earth is regarded, poetically, as resting on pillars, which tremble in an earthquake (Ps 75:3; Isa 24:20). The literal truth as to the earth is given (Job 26:7).
Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.
7. The sun, at His command, does not rise; namely, in an eclipse, or the darkness that accompanies earthquakes (Job 9:6).
sealeth up the stars—that is, totally covers as one would seal up a room, that its contents may not be seen.
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
8. spreadeth out—(Isa 40:22; Ps 104:2). But throughout it is not so much God's creating, as His governing, power over nature that is set forth. A storm seems a struggle between Nature and her Lord! Better, therefore, "Who boweth the heavens alone," without help of any other. God descends from the bowed-down heaven to the earth (Ps 18:9). The storm, wherein the clouds descend, suggests this image. In the descent of the vault of heaven, God has come down from His high throne and walks majestically over the mountain waves (Hebrew, "heights"), as a conqueror taming their violence. So "tread upon" (De 33:29; Am 4:13; Mt 14:26). The Egyptian hieroglyphic for impossibility is a man walking on waves.
Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
9. maketh—rather, from the Arabic, "covereth up." This accords better with the context, which describes His boundless power as controller rather than as creator [Umbreit].
Arcturus—the great bear, which always revolves about the pole, and never sets. The Chaldeans and Arabs, early named the stars and grouped them in constellations; often travelling and tending flocks by night, they would naturally do so, especially as the rise and setting of some stars mark the distinction of seasons. Brinkley, presuming the stars here mentioned to be those of Taurus and Scorpio, and that these were the cardinal constellations of spring and autumn in Job's time, calculates, by the precession of equinoxes, the time of Job to be eight hundred eighteen years after the deluge, and one hundred eighty-four before Abraham.
Orion—Hebrew, "the fool"; in Job 38:31 he appears fettered with "bands." The old legend represented this star as a hero, who presumptuously rebelled against God, and was therefore a fool, and was chained in the sky as a punishment; for its rising is at the stormy period of the year. He is Nimrod (the exceedingly impious rebel) among the Assyrians; Orion among the Greeks. Sabaism (worship of the heavenly hosts) and hero-worship were blended in his person. He first subverted the patriarchal order of society by substituting a chieftainship based on conquest (Ge 10:9, 10).
Pleiades—literally, "the heap of stars"; Arabic, "knot of stars." The various names of this constellation in the East express the close union of the stars in it (Am 5:8).
chambers of the south—the unseen regions of the southern hemisphere, with its own set of stars, as distinguished from those just mentioned of the northern. The true structure of the earth is here implied.
Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.
10. Repeated from Eliphaz (Job 5:9).
Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.
11. I see him not: he passeth on—The image is that of a howling wind (Isa 21:1). Like it when it bursts invisibly upon man, so God is felt in the awful effects of His wrath, but is not seen (Joh 3:8). Therefore, reasons Job, it is impossible to contend with Him.
Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?
12. If "He taketh away," as in my case all that was dear to me, still a mortal cannot call Him to account. He only takes His own. He is an absolute King (Ec 8:4; Da 4:35).
If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.
13. If God—rather, "God will not withdraw His anger," that is, so long as a mortal obstinately resists [Umbreit].
the proud helpers—The arrogant, who would help one contending with the Almighty, are of no avail against Him.
How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?
14. How much less shall I? &c.—who am weak, seeing that the mighty have to stoop before Him. Choose words (use a well-chosen speech, in order to reason) with Him.
Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.
15. (Job 10:15). Though I were conscious of no sin, yet I would not dare to say so, but leave it to His judgment and mercy to justify me (1Co 4:4).
If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.
16, 17. would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice—who breaketh me (as a tree stripped of its leaves) with a tempest.
For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.
He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.
If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?
19. Umbreit takes these as the words of God, translating, "What availeth the might of the strong?" "Here (saith he) behold! what availeth justice? Who will appoint me a time to plead?" (So Jer 49:19). The last words certainly apply better to God than to Job. The sense is substantially the same if we make "me" apply to Job. The "lo!" expresses God's swift readiness for battle when challenged.
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
20. it—(Job 15:6; Lu 19:22); or "He," God.
Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.
21. Literally, here (and in Job 9:20), "I perfect! I should not know my soul! I would despise," [that is], "disown my life"; that is, Though conscious of innocence, I should be compelled, in contending with the infinite God, to ignore my own soul and despise my past life as if it were guilty [Rosenmuller].
This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
22. one thing—"It is all one; whether perfect or wicked—He destroyeth." This was the point Job maintained against his friends, that the righteous and wicked alike are afflicted, and that great sufferings here do not prove great guilt (Lu 13:1-5; Ec 9:2).
If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
23. If—Rather, "While (His) scourge slays suddenly (the wicked, Job 9:22), He laughs at (disregards; not derides) the pining away of the innocent." The only difference, says Job, between the innocent and guilty is, the latter are slain by a sudden stroke, the former pine away gradually. The translation, "trial," does not express the antithesis to "slay suddenly," as "pining away" does [Umbreit].
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?
24. Referring to righteous "judges," in antithesis to "the wicked" in the parallel first clause, whereas the wicked oppressor often has the earth given into his hand, the righteous judges are led to execution—culprits had their faces covered preparatory to execution (Es 7:8). Thus the contrast of the wicked and righteous here answers to that in Job 9:23.
if not, where and who?—If God be not the cause of these anomalies, where is the cause to be found, and who is he?
Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good.
25. a post—a courier. In the wide Persian empire such couriers, on dromedaries or on foot, were employed to carry the royal commands to the distant provinces (Es 3:13, 15; 8:14). "My days" are not like the slow caravan, but the fleet post. The "days" are themselves poetically said to "see no good," instead of Job in them (1Pe 3:10).
They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
26. swift ships—rather, canoes of reeds or papyrus skiffs, used on the Nile, swift from their lightness (Isa 18:2).
If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself:
I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.
28. The apodosis to Job 9:27—"If I say, &c." "I still am afraid of all my sorrows (returning), for I know that thou wilt (dost) (by removing my sufferings) not hold or declare me innocent. How then can I leave off my heaviness?"
If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?
29. The "if" is better omitted; I (am treated by God as) wicked; why then labor I in vain (to disprove His charge)? Job submits, not so much because he is convinced that God is right, as because God is powerful and he weak [Barnes].
If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
30. snow water—thought to be more cleansing than common water, owing to the whiteness of snow (Ps 51:7; Isa 1:18).
never so clean—Better, to answer to the parallelism of the first clause which expresses the cleansing material, "lye:" the Arabs used alkali mixed with oil, as soap (Ps 73:13; Jer 2:22).
Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
32. (Ec 6:10; Isa 45:9).
Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
33. daysman—"mediator," or "umpire"; the imposition of whose hand expresses power to adjudicate between the persons. There might be one on a level with Job, the one party; but Job knew of none on a level with the Almighty, the other party (1Sa 2:25). We Christians know of such a Mediator (not, however, in the sense of umpire) on a level with both—the God-man, Christ Jesus (1Ti 2:5).
Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:
34. rod—not here the symbol of punishment, but of power. Job cannot meet God on fair terms so long as God deals with him on the footing of His almighty power.
Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.
35. it is not so with me—As it now is, God not taking His rod away, I am not on such a footing of equality as to be able to vindicate myself.