Job 13:14
Why do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth.—This is probably the meaning of this verse, which, however, should not be read interrogatively: “At all risks, come what come may, I will take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand.”

Job 13:14. Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, &c. — The sense, according to some commentators, is, Why do I torment myself? Why do I grieve so immoderately, like those persons who, in their afflictions, rend their garments, and are ready to tear their very flesh? But Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase seems to accord better with the context, namely, “I am so conscious to myself of my innocence, that I must still wonder why I suffer such enraging miseries, and am exposed to so many dangers.” Henry speaks to nearly the same purpose: “Why do I suffer such agonies? I cannot but wonder that God should lay so much upon me, when he knows I am not a wicked man. He was ready, not only to rend his clothes, but even to tear his flesh, through the greatness of his affliction; and saw himself at the brink of death, and his life in his hand; yet his friends could not charge him with any enormous crime, nor could he himself discover any; no marvel then he was in such confusion.” The phrase of having his life in his hand, denotes a condition extremely dangerous. Thus Jephthah tells the Ephraimites, I put my life in my hands and passed over against the children of Ammon, Jdg 12:3. That is, I exposed my life to the greatest danger. Thus Jonathan speaks of David: He put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine, 1 Samuel 19:5. The words, says Poole, may imply “a reason of his ardent desire of liberty of speech, because he could hold his tongue no longer, but must needs tear himself to pieces, if he had not some vent for his grief.” In which sense the LXX. seem to have understood him. 13:13-22 Job resolved to cleave to the testimony his own conscience gave of his uprightness. He depended upon God for justification and salvation, the two great things we hope for through Christ. Temporal salvation he little expected, but of his eternal salvation he was very confident; that God would not only be his Saviour to make him happy, but his salvation, in the sight and enjoyment of whom he should be happy. He knew himself not to be a hypocrite, and concluded that he should not be rejected. We should be well pleased with God as a Friend, even when he seems against us as an enemy. We must believe that all shall work for good to us, even when all seems to make against us. We must cleave to God, yea, though we cannot for the present find comfort in him. In a dying hour, we must derive from him living comforts; and this is to trust in him, though he slay us.Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth - The meaning of the proverbial expressions in this verse is not very clear. They indicate a state of great danger; but the exact sense of the proverbs it has been difficult to ascertain. Some have supposed that the phrase "to take the flesh in the teeth," is significant of a state of famine, where a man dying from this cause would cease upon his own flesh and devour it; others, that it refers to the contentions of voracious animals, struggling for a piece of flesh; others, that it refers to the fact that what is borne in the teeth is liable to be dropped, and that Job regarded his life as in such a perilous condition. Schultens regards it as denoting that bold courage in which a man exposes his life to imminent peril. He supposes that it is to be taken in connection with the previous verse, as intimating that he would go forward and speak at any rate, whatever might be the result.

He translates it, "Whatever may be the event, I will take my flesh in my teeth, and my life in my hand." In this interpretation Rosenmuller concurs. Noyes renders it, "I will count it nothing to bear my flesh in my teeth." Good, "Let what may - I will carry my flesh in my teeth; ' and supposes that the phrase is equivalent to saying, that he would incur any risk or danger. The proverb he supposes is taken from the contest which so frequently takes place between dogs and other carnivorous quadrupeds, when one of them is carrying a bone or piece of flesh in his mouth, which becomes a source of dispute and a prize to be fought for. The Vulgate renders it, "Quare lacero carnes meus dentibus meis." The Septuagint, "Taking my flesh in my teeth, I will put my life in my hand." It seems to me, that the language is to be taken in connection with the previous verse, and is not to be regarded as an interrogatory, but as a declaration. "Let come upon me anything - whatever it may be - מה mâh - Job 13:13 on account of that, or in reference to that - על־מה ‛al-mâh - Job 13:14, I will take my life in my hand, braving any and every danger."

It is a firm and determined purpose that he would express his sentiments, no matter what might occur - even if it involved the peril of his life. The word "flesh" I take to be synonymous with life, or with his best interests; and the figure is probably taken from the fact that animals thus carry their prey or spoil in their teeth. Of course, this would be a poor protection. It would be liable to be seized by others. It might even tempt and provoke others to seize it: and would lead to conflict and perils. So Job felt that the course he was pursuing would lead him into danger, but he was determined to pursue it, let come what might.

And put my life in mine hand - This is a proverbial expression, meaning the same as, I will expose myself to danger. Anything of value taken in the hand is liable to be rudely snatched away. It is like taking a casket of jewels, or a purse of gold, in the hand, which may at any moment be seized by robbers. The phrase is not uncommon in the Scriptures to denote exposure to great peril; compare Psalm 119:109, "My soul is continually in my hand;" 1 Samuel 19:5, "For he did put his life in his hand, and slew the Philistine;" Judges 12:3, "I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon." A similar expression occurs in the Greek Classics denoting exposure to imminent danger - ἐν τῇ χειρὶ τὴν ψυχὴν ἔχει en tē cheiri tēn psuchēn echei - "he has his life in his hand;" see Rosenmuller on Psalm 119:109. The Arabs have a somewhat similar proverb, as quoted by Schultens, "His flesh is upon a butcher's block."

14. A proverb for, "Why should I anxiously desire to save my life?" [Eichorn]. The image in the first clause is that of a wild beast, which in order to preserve his prey, carries it in his teeth. That in the second refers to men who hold in the hand what they want to keep secure. According to this translation the sense seems to be this, If you speak truth, and God punisheth none but wicked men, why doth he bring me (whom he knows to be no hypocrite, as you slander me) to that extremity of pain and misery, that I am almost constrained to tear and eat my own flesh, (which is mentioned as the character of men in great anguish, Isaiah 9:20 49:26) and am ready to lay violent hands upon myself? Is it so great a crime to complain in this case, or at least to inquire into the cause of this unwonted severity? But this sense seems not well to suit either with the foregoing or following verses, but to come in abruptly. Others therefore render the words thus,

Why should I take my flesh in my teeth, & c.? And so this may be either,

1. A reason of his ardent desire of liberty of speech, because he could hold his tongue no longer, but must needs tear himself to pieces, if he had not some vent for his grief. So this agrees well both with Job 13:13, where he desired this freedom; and with Job 13:19, where the same sense is expressed in plainer words. Or,

2. An antidote against despair. I perceive, O my friends, by your discourses, that you intend to drive me to utter despair, if I do not turn to God in another manner than yet I have done; which if it were true, I should certainly tear my flesh, and violently take away my own life; but I see no reason why I should give way to any such despair or desperate actions? And this also hath a good dependence upon the foregoing words, let come on me what will; (q.d. But I have no reason to fear such consequences as you suggest, nor to despair of a merciful audience and relief from God;) and a good connexion with those which follow, Job 13:15, where he declares his hope and confidence in God. The phrase of having one’s life in his hand notes a condition extremely dangerous, and almost desperate, as Judges 12:3 1 Samuel 19:5 28:21 Psalm 119:109. Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth,.... Or bite my lips, to keep in my words, and refrain from speaking? I will not do it:

and put my life in my hand? or, expose it to danger by a forced silence; when I am ready to burst, and must if I do not speak; I will not thus endanger my life; it is unreasonable I should, I will speak my mind freely and fully, that I may be refreshed; so Sephorno interprets it of Job's putting his hand to his mouth, that he might be silent; and of putting a forcible restraint upon himself, that he might not declare what was upon his mind; see Job 13:19; but others, as Bar Tzemach, take the sense to be, what is the sin I have committed, that such sore afflictions are laid upon me; that through the pain and distress I am in, I am ready to tear off my flesh with my teeth, and my life is in the utmost danger? and some think he was under a temptation to tear his own flesh, and destroy himself; and therefore argues why he should be thus hardly dealt with, as to be exposed to such a temptation, and thrown in such despair, which yet he laboured against; but rather the meaning is, in connection with the preceding verse, let whatsoever will come upon me, "at all events, I will take my flesh in my teeth, and I will put my life in my hand" (l); I will expose myself to the greatest dangers which is the sense of the last phrase in Judges 12:3; come life, come death, I will not fear; I am determined to speak out my mind let what will be the consequence; and with this bold and heroic spirit agrees what follows.

(l) "Super quocunque eventu", Schultens.

Wherefore do I {e} take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand?

(e) Is not this a revealed sign of my affliction and that I do not complain without cause, seeing that I am thus tormented as though I should tear my own flesh, and put my life in danger?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. Wherefore do I take] Or, should I take. This and the following verse are surrounded with difficulties. The meaning of the second clause of Job 13:14 is well ascertained from usage, it is: to expose one’s life to jeopardy, Jdg 12:3, 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21, Psalm 119:109. The meaning of the first clause is doubtful, as the expression does not occur again. It is held by many that the figure is borrowed from the action of a wild beast, which seizes its prey in its teeth and carries it off to a place of security; in which case the meaning would be, Why should I seek anxiously to preserve my life? If this be assumed to be the meaning the interrogation must end with the first clause, Why should I take my flesh in my teeth? nay, I will put my life in mine hand. This is not quite satisfactory. Hence an endeavour is made by many to extract a sense from the second clause different from that sanctioned by usage, a sense indeed to appearance the opposite of it, and corresponding to the first clause. It is assumed that the phrase properly means to commit one’s life to his hand to carry it through, to fight one’s way through; in other words, to make strenuous efforts to save one’s life. This is rather a hazardous mode of dealing with language the meaning of which is established by usage. The obscurity of the first clause makes it impossible to be certain of the construction of the verse.Verses 14-28. - The appeal is now to God; but Job prefaces it by excusing his boldness (vers. 14-19). Verse 14. - Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth! An obscure phrase, to be explained by the parallel in the second member of the verse. The general meaning is, "Why do I jeopardize everything - my body, taking it as it were between my teeth; and my soul, taking it as it were in my hand?" Neither idea will bear minute analysis; but the latter, at any rate, was known to the Greeks (Athen., 'Deipnosoph.,' p. 569), and is common in English. And put my life in my hand (comp. Judges 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21; Psalm 119:109). 7 Will ye speak what is wrong for God,

And speak what is deceitful for Him?

8 Will ye be partial for Him,

Or will ye play the part of God's advocates?

9 Would it be pleasant if He should search you out,

Or can ye jest with Him, as one jesteth with men?

10 He will surely expose you

If ye secretly act with partiality.

11 Will not His majesty confound you,

And His fear fall upon you?

Their advocacy of God - this is the thought of this strophe - is an injustice to Job, and an evil service rendered to God, which cannot escape undisguised punishment from Him. They set themselves up as God's advocates (לאל ריב, like לבּעל ריב, Judges 6:31), and at the same time accept His person, accipiunt (as in acceptus equals gratus), or lift it up, i.e., favour, or give preference to, His person, viz., at the expense of the truth: they are partial in His favour, as they are twice reminded and given to understand by the fut. energicum תּשּׂאוּן. The addition of בּסּתר (Job 13:10) implies that they conceal their better knowledge by the assumption of an earnest tone and bearing, expressive of the strongest conviction that they are in the right. They know that Job is not a flagrant sinner; nevertheless they deceive themselves with the idea that he is, and by reason of this delusion they take up the cause of God against him. Such perversion of the truth in majorem Dei gloriam is an abomination to God. When He searches them, His advocates, out (חקר, as Prov.Job 28:11), they will become conscious of it; or will God be mocked, as one mocketh mortal men? Comp. Galatians 6:7 for a similar thought. חתל is inf. absol. after the form תּללּ, and תּהתלּוּ is also to be derived from תּללּ, and is fut. Hiph., the preformative not being syncopated, for תּתלּוּ (Ges. 53, rem. 7); not Piel, from התל (as 1 Kings 18:27), with the doubling of the middle radical resolved (Olsh. in his Lehrb. S. 577). God is not pleased with λατρεία (John 16:2) which gives the honour to Him, but not to truth, such ζῆλος Θεοῦ ἀλλ ̓ ου ̓ κατ ̓ ἐπίγνωσιν (Romans 10:2), such advocacy contrary to one's better knowledge and conscience, in which the end is thought to sanctify the means. Such advocacy must be put to shame and confounded when He who needs no concealment of the truth for His justification is manifest in His שׂאת, i.e., not: in the kindling of His wrath (after Judges 20:38; Isaiah 30:27), but: in His exaltation (correctly by Ralbag: התנשׂאותו ורוממותו), and by His direct influence brings all untruth to light. It is the boldest thought imaginable, that one dare not have respect even to the person of God when one is obliged to lie to one's self. And still it is also self-evident. For God and truth can never be antagonistic.

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