Job 14:20
Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away.
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Job 14:20. Thou prevailest for ever against him — When once thou takest away this life, it is gone for ever; for he speaks not here of man’s future and eternal life in another world. And he passeth — That is, he dieth: man’s death is often called a passage or a going, to intimate that it is not an annihilation, but only a translation of him into another place and state. Thou changest his countenance — That is, his visage, which, by death and its harbingers, is quite altered, both in colour and shape. When a man has been a few days sick, how apparent is the change in his countenance! and much more when he has been a few minutes dead! The countenance that was majestic and awful, becomes mean and despicable; that which was lovely and amiable, becomes ghastly and frightful! Where then is the admired beauty? Nay, the approach of death will frequently, through discomposing the mind, make the strongest and stoutest to change countenance: it will make the most cheerful and smiling countenance to look grave and serious, and the most bold and daring to look pale and timorous. By changing his countenance, may also be meant changing the face and state of his affairs, as to worldly riches, pleasures, and honours; all which he leaves behind him. Thou sendest him away — To his long home, by death.

14:16-22 Job's faith and hope spake, and grace appeared to revive; but depravity again prevailed. He represents God as carrying matters to extremity against him. The Lord must prevail against all who contend with him. God may send disease and pain, we may lose all comfort in those near and dear to us, every hope of earthly happiness may be destroyed, but God will receive the believer into realms of eternal happiness. But what a change awaits the prosperous unbeliever! How will he answer when God shall call him to his tribunal? The Lord is yet upon a mercy-seat, ready to be gracious. Oh that sinners would be wise, that they would consider their latter end! While man's flesh is upon him, that is, the body he is so loth to lay down, it shall have pain; and while his soul is within him, that is, the spirit he is so loth to resign, it shall mourn. Dying work is hard work; dying pangs often are sore pangs. It is folly for men to defer repentance to a death-bed, and to have that to do which is the one thing needful, when unfit to do anything.Thou prevailest forever against him - Thou dost always show that thou art stronger than he is. He never shows that he is able to contend with God.

And he passeth - He cannot stand before thee, but is vanquished, and passes off the stage of being.

Thou changest his countenance - Possibly the allusion is to the change produced by death. The countenance that glowed with health and was flushed with beauty and hope - blooming as the rose - is made pale as the lily under the hand of God. What an affecting exhibition of the power of God!

And sendest him away - This language seems to be that of expectation that man would still live though he was sent away; but all his hopes on earth were blasted, and he went away from his friends and possessions to return no more.

20. prevailest—dost overpower by superior strength.


changest countenance—the change in the visage at death. Differently (Da 5:9).

When once thou takest away this life, it is gone for ever; for he speaks not here of man’s future and eternal life in another world.

He passeth, i.e. he dieth, or is about to die. Man’s death is oft called a passage, or a going, to intimate that it is not an annihilation, but only a translation of him into another place and state. His countenance; either,

1. His visage, which by death and its harbingers is quite transformed in colour and shape, as we see by daily experience. Or,

2. The face and state of his affairs, as to worldly riches, and pleasures, and honours, all which he leaves behind him.

Sendest him away to his long home by death.

Thou prevailest for ever against him,.... God is a more than a match for man, in anything, in everything; there is no contending with him, or standing against him, he is stronger than he, and always prevails; there is no withstanding any disease, and the force of it, when he sends it; it is a messenger and servant of his, it goes at his command, and does what he bids it do; and all the art and power of man cannot resist it, or hinder what God would have done by it; and so death itself is irresistible; what is stronger than death? it is a king that reigns with a despotic power; it reigns irresistibly, victoriously, and triumphantly; it prevails over all men, in all ages, and will do to the end of the world; no man has power over his spirit to retain it one moment, when death comes to separate it from the body: and this prevalence of God by death over men will be for ever; the grave is man's long home, to which he is brought by death, and he will never return from it more, to come again into this world, and be about the business of it as now;

and he passeth; out of the world, and is seen no more in it; death is a going the way of all flesh, a departure out of this life, and to it man never usually returns more; he goes to Hades, to the invisible place, and makes his appearance no more here; see Psalm 37:35;

thou changest his countenance; at death; the forerunners of death will change a man's countenance, pains, and diseases of body; by these God makes man's beauty to consume like the moth; the fear of death will change a man's countenance, as the handwriting on the wall did Belshazzar's, Daniel 5:9; even such who have out-braved death, and pretended to have made a covenant and agreement with it, yet when the king of terrors is presented to them, they are seized with a panic, their hearts ache, and their countenances turn pale; but oh! what a change is made by death itself, which for this reason is represented as riding on a pale horse; Revelation 6:8; when the rosy florid looks of man are gone, his comeliness turned into corruption, his countenance pale and meagre, his eyes hollow and sunk, his nose sharp pointed, his ears contracted, and jaws fallen, and his complexion altered, and still more when laid in the grave, and he is turned to rottenness, dust, and worms:

and sendeth him away; giveth him a dismission from this world; sendeth him out of it, from his house, his family, friends, and acquaintance: his birth is expressed often by his coming into the world, and his death by going out of it; for here he has no continuance, no abiding, no rest; and yet there is no departure till God gives him dismission by death, then he sends him away from hence; some in wrath, whom he sends to take up their abode with devils and damned spirits; others in love, to prevent their being involved in evils coming upon the earth, and to be in better company, with God and Christ, with angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect: Maimonides interprets this of Adam (r), who, when he changed the object of his countenance, and looked on the forbidden fruit, was sent out of paradise.

(r) Moreh Nevochim, par. 1. c. 2. p. 5.

Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away.
20. thou changest his countenance] A graphic and pathetic description of death. The word “prevailest against,” i. e. overpowerest him, refers to the last conflict and the final stroke, cf. ch. Job 15:24.

Verse 20. - Thou prevailset for ever against him, and he passsth; rather, thou puttest forth thy power against him perpetually; i.e. thou art continually oppressing him, and crushing him by afflictions; and the consequence is that "he passes;" i.e. "he passes away, disappears, ceases to be." Thou changest his countenance. "Alterest," i.e, "its expression from cheerfulness to sadness, and its complexion from the hue of health to the sickly pallor of disease; settest the stamp of death upon it, and further dis-figurest it in the dreadful process of decay." And sendest him away. That is to say, "Thou removest him from the earth, dismissest him to Sheol, where thenceforth he remains?' Job 14:2020 Thou siezest him for ever, then he passeth away;

Thou changest his countenance and castest him forth.

21 If his sons come to honour, he knoweth it not;

Or to want, he observeth them not.

22 Only on his own account his flesh suffereth pain,

And on his own account is his soul conscious of grief.

The old expositors thought that תּתקפהוּ must be explained by תתקף נמנו (Thou provest thyself stronger than he, according to Ges. 121, 4), because תּקף is intrans.; but it is also transitive in the sense of seizing forcibly and grasping, Job 15:24; Ecclesiastes 4:12, as Talm. תּקף (otherwise commonly אתקף as החזיק), Arab. taqifa, comprehendere. The many sufferings which God inflicts on him in the course of his life are not meant; לנצח does not signify here: continually, without intermission, as most expositors explain, but as Job 4:20; Job 20:7, and throughout the book: for ever (Rosenm., Hahn, Welte). God gives him the death-stroke which puts an end to his life for ever, he passes away βαίνει, οἴχεται (comp. Job 10:21); disfiguring his countenance, i.e., in the struggle of death and in death by the gradual working of decay, distorting and making him unlike himself, He thrusts him out of this life (שׁלּח like Genesis 3:23). The waw consec. is used here as e.g., Psalm 118:27.

When he is descended into Hades he knows nothing more of the fortune of his children, for as Ecclesiastes 9:6 says: the dead have absolutely no portion in anything that happens under the sun. In Job 14:21 Job does not think of his own children that have died, nor his grandchildren (Ewald); he speaks of mankind in general. כּבד and צער are not here placed in contrast in the sense of much and little, but, as in Jeremiah 30:19, in the wider sense of an important or a destitute position; כּבד, to be honoured, to attain to honour, as Isaiah 66:5. בּין (to observe anything) is joined with ל of the object, as in Psalm 73:17 (on the other hand, להּ, Job 13:1, was taken as dat. ethicus). He neither knows nor cares anything about the welfare of those who survive him: "Nothing but pain and sadness is the existence of the dead; and the pain of his own flesh, the sadness of his own soul, alone engage him. He has therefore no room for rejoicing, nor does the joyous or sorrowful estate of others, though his nearest ones, affect him" (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. 495). This is certainly, as Ewald and Psychol. S. 444, the meaning of Job 14:22; but עליו is hardly to be translated with Hofmann "in him," so that it gives the intensive force of ἴδιος to the suff. For it is improbable that in this connection, - where the indifference of the deceased respecting others, and the absolute reference to himself of the existence of pain on his own account, are contrasted, - עליו, Job 14:22, is to be understood according to Job 30:16 (Psychol. S. 152), but rather objectively (over him). On the other hand, Job 14:22 is not to be translated: over himself only does his flesh feel pain (Schlottm., Hirz., and others); for the flesh as inanimate may indeed be poetically, so to speak zeugmatically, represented as conscious of pain, but not as referring its pain to another, and consequently as self-conscious. On this account, עליו, Job 14:22, is to be taken in the signification, over him equals upon him, or as Job 14:22 (beyond him), which is doubtful; or it signifies, as we have sought to render it in our translation in both cases, propter eum. Only on his own account does his flesh suffer, i.e., only applying to himself, only on his own account does his soul mourn, i.e., only over his own condition. He has no knowledge and interest that extends beyond himself; only he himself is the object of that which takes place with his flesh in the grave, and of that on which his soul reflects below in the depths of Hades. According to this interpretation אך belongs to עליו, after the hyperbaton described at Job 2:10, comp. Job 13:15, Isaiah 34:15. And he עליו, Job 14:22, implies the idea (which is clearly expressed in Isaiah 66:24, and especially in Judith 16:17: δοῦναι πῦρ καὶ σκώληκας εἰς σάρκας αὐτῶν καὶ κλαύσονται ἐν αἰσθήσει ἕως αἰῶνος) that the process of the decomposition of the body is a source of pain and sorrow to the departed spirit, - a conception which proceeds from the supposition, right in itself, that a connection between body and soul is still continued beyond the grave, - a connection which is assumed by the resurrection, but which, as Job viewed it, only made the future still more sorrowful.

This speech of Job (Job 12-14), which closes here, falls into three parts, which correspond to the divisions into chapters. In the impassioned speech of Zophar, who treats Job as an empty and conceited babbler, the one-sided dogmatical standpoint of the friends was maintained with such arrogance and assumption, that Job is obliged to put forth all his power in self-defence. The first part of the speech (Job 12) triumphantly puts down this arrogance and assumption. Job replies that the wisdom, of which they profess to be the only possessors, is nothing remarkable, and the contempt with which they treat him is the common lot of the innocent, while the prosperity of the ungodly remains undisturbed. In order, however, to prove to them that what they say of the majesty of God, before which he should humble himself, can neither overawe nor help him, he refers them to creation, which in its varied works testifies to this majesty, this creative power of God, and the absolute dependence of every living thin on Him, and proves that he is not wanting in an appreciation of the truth contained in the sayings of the ancients by a description of the absolute majesty of God as it is manifested in the works of nature, and especially in the history of man, which excels everything that the three had said. This description is, however, throughout a gloomy picture of disasters which God brings about in the world, corresponding to the gloomy condition of mind in which Job is, and the disaster which is come upon himself.

As the friends have failed to solace him by their descriptions of God, so his own description is also utterly devoid of comfort. For the wisdom of God, of which he speaks, is not the wisdom that orders the world in which one can confide, and in which one has the surety of seeing every mystery of life sooner or later gloriously solved; but this wisdom is something purely negative, and repulsive rather than attractive, it is abstract exaltation over all created wisdom, whence it follows that he puts to shame the wisdom of the wise. Of the justice of God he does not speak at all, for in the narrow idea of the friends he cannot recognise its control; and of the love of God he speaks as little as the friends, for as the sight of the divine love is removed from them by the one-sidedness of their dogma, so is it from him by the feeling of the wrath of God which at present has possession of his whole being. Hegel has called the religion of the Old Testament the religion of sublimity (die Religion der Erhabenheit); and it is true that, so long as that manifestation of love, the incarnation of the Godhead, was not yet realized, God must have relatively transcended the religious consciousness. From the book of Job, however, this view can be brought back to its right limits; for, according to the tendency of the book, neither the idea of God presented by the friends nor by Job is the pure undimmed notion of God that belongs to the Old Testament. The friends conceive of God as the absolute One, who acts only according to justice; Job conceives of Him as the absolute One, who acts according to the arbitrariness of His absolute power. According to the idea of the book, the former is dogmatic one-sidedness, the latter the conception of one passing through temptation. The God of the Old Testament consequently rules neither according to justice alone, nor according to a "sublime whim."

After having proved his superiority over the friends in perception of the majesty of God, Job tells them his decision, that he shall turn away from them. The sermon they address to him is to no purpose, and in fact produces an effect the reverse of that intended by them. And while it does Job no good, it injures them, because their very defence of the honour of God incriminates themselves in the eyes of God. Their aim is missed by them, for the thought of the absolute majesty of God has no power to impart comfort to any kind of sufferer; nor can the thought of His absolute justice give any solace to a sufferer who is conscious that he suffers innocently. By their confidence that Job's affliction is a decree of the justice of God, they certainly seem to defend the honour of God; but this defence is reversed as soon as it is manifest that there exists no such just ground for inflicting punishment on him. Job's self-consciousness, however, which cannot be shaken, gives no testimony to its justice; their advocacy of God is therefore an injustice to Job, and a miserable attempt at doing God service, which cannot escape the undisguised punishment of God. It is to be carefully noted that in Job 13:6-12 Job seriously warns the friends that God will punish them for their partiality, i.e., that they have endeavoured to defend Him at the expense of truth.

We see from this how sound Job's idea of God is, so far as it is not affected by the change which seems, according to the light which his temptation casts upon his affliction, to have taken place in his personal relationship to God. While above, ch. 9, he did not acknowledge an objective right, and the rather evaded the thought, of God's dealing unjustly towards him, by the desperate assertion that what God does is in every case right because God does it, he here recognises an objective truth, which cannot be denied, even in favour of God, and the denial of which, even though it were a pientissima fraus, is strictly punished by God. God is the God of truth, and will therefore be neither defended nor honoured by any perverting of the truth. By such pious lies the friends involve themselves in guilt, since in opposition to their better knowledge they regard Job as unrighteous, and blind themselves to the incongruities of daily experience and the justice of God. Job will therefore have nothing more to do with them; and to whom does he now turn? Repelled by men, he feels all the more strongly drawn to God. He desires to carry his cause before God. He certainly considers God to be his enemy, but, like David, he thinks it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man (2 Samuel 24:14). He will plead his cause with God, and prove to Him his innocence: he will do it, even though he be obliged to expiate his boldness with his life; for he knows that morally he will not be overcome in the contest. He requires compliance with but two conditions: that God would grant a temporary alleviation of his pain, and that He would not overawe him with the display of His majesty. Job's disputing with God is as terrible as it is pitiable. It is terrible, because he uplifts himself, Titan-like, against God; and pitiable, because the God against which he fights is not the God he has known, but a God that he is unable to recognise, - the phantom which the temptation has presented before his dim vision instead of the true God. This phantom is still the real God to him, but in other respects in no way differing from the inexorable ruling fate of the Greek tragedy. As in this the hero of the drama seeks to maintain his personal freedom against the mysterious power that is crushing him with an iron arm, so Job, even at the risk of sudden destruction, maintains the stedfast conviction of his innocence, in opposition to a God who has devoted him, as an evil-doer, to slow but certain destruction. The battle of freedom against necessity is the same as in the Greek tragedy. Accordingly one is obliged to regard it as an error, arising from simple ignorance, when it has been recently maintained that the boundless oriental imagination is not equal to such a truly exalted task as that of representing in art and poetry the power of the human spirit, and the maintenance of its dignity in the conflict with hostile powers, because a task that can only be accomplished by an imagination formed with a perception of the importance of recognising ascertained phenomena.

(Note: Vid., Arnold Ruge, Die Academie, i. S. 29.)

In treating this subject, the book of Job not only attains to, but rises far above, the height attained by the Greek tragedy: for, on the one hand, it brings this conflict before us in all the fearful earnestness of a death-struggle; on the other, however, it does not leave us to the cheerless delusion that an absolute caprice moulds human destiny. This tragic conflict with the divine necessity is but the middle, not the beginning nor the end, of the book; for this god of fate is not the real God, but a delusion of Job's temptation. Human freedom does not succumb, but it comes forth from the battle, which is a refining fire to it, as conqueror. The dualism, which the Greek tragedy leaves unexplained, is here cleared up. The book certainly presents much which, from its tragic character, suggests this idea of destiny, but it is not its final aim - it goes far beyond: it does not end in the destruction of its hero by fate; but the end is the destruction of the idea of this fate itself.


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