Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Who can bring a clean thing . . .—How can man be clean that is born of woman, who is unclean? This question is reiterated by Bildad (Job 25:4). We ought perhaps, however, rather to render “Oh, that the clean could come forth from the unclean! but none can.”Job 14:4. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? — I confess I am an unclean creature, and therefore liable to be abhorred by thy holiness, and condemned by thy justice, if thou wilt deal rigorously with me. But, remember, this is not my peculiar case, but the common lot of every man, who descended from sinful parents, and, being infected with original corruption, must unavoidably be unclean. Why, then, dost thou inflict such peculiar and extraordinary judgments upon me for that which is common to all men? And although my natural corruption do not excuse my actual sins, yet I hope it may procure some mitigation of my punishment, and move thy divine pity to deal less severely with me. Observe, reader, clean children can no more come from unclean parents, nor clean performances from an unclean principle, than pure streams can proceed from an impure spring, or grapes from thorns. Our habitual corruption is derived, with our nature, from our progenitors, and is therefore bred in the bone: and our blood is not only attainted by a legal conviction, but tainted with an hereditary disease. And hence flow all actual transgressions, which are the natural product of habitual corruption. This holy Job here laments, as all that are sanctified do, tracing the streams up to the fountain. The Chaldee paraphrase reads this verse, Who can make a man clean that is polluted with sin? Cannot one? that is, God: or, who but God, who is one, and will spare him? God can change the skin of the Ethiopian, and to him we ought to direct our prayer, saying, It is the prerogative of thy grace to bring a clean thing out of an unclean, and that grace I humbly implore.
The sentiment is as true as it is obvious - like will beget like all over the world. The nature of the lion, the tiger, the hyaena, the serpent is propagated, and so the same thing is true of man. It is a great law, that the offspring will resemble the parentage; and as the offspring of the lion is not a lamb but a young lion; of a wolf is not a kid but a young wolf, so the offspring of man is not an angel, but is a man with the same nature, the same moral character, the same proneness to evil with the parent. The Chaldee renders this: "Who will give one pure from a man polluted in sin, except God, who is one, and who forgiveth him?" But this is manifestly a departure from the sense of the passage. Jerome, however, has adopted nearly the same translation. As a historical record, this passage proves that the doctrine of original sin was early held in the world. Still it is true that the same great law prevails, that the off-spring of woman is a sinner - no matter where he may be born, or in what circumstances he may be placed. No art, no philosophy, no system of religion can prevent the operation of this great law under which we live, and by which we die; compare the notes at Romans 5:19.I am clean, as Zophar pretendeth, Job 11:4; but confess that I am a very unclean creature, and therefore liable to thy justice, if thou wilt deal rigorously with me; but remember that this is not my peculiar case, but the common lot of every man, who, coming from sinful parents, and being infected with original corruption, must unavoidably be unclean. Why then dost thou inflict such peculiar and extraordinary judgments upon me for that which is common to all men? And although my original corruption do not excuse my actual sins, yet I hope it may procure some mitigation to my punishments, and move thy Divine pity, which oft showeth itself upon such occasions. See Genesis 8:21.
Not one, i.e. no man can cleanse himself or any other from all sin. See 1 Kings 8:46 Psalm 14:3 Ecclesiastes 7:21. This is the prerogative of thy grace, which therefore I humbly implore of thee.
not one; and things being so, Job thought it hard that he should be singled out, and so severely chastised, when the sinfulness of nature was from and by his birth, and was natural and unavoidable, and when there was not a single person on earth free from it. There never was but one instance of one clean being brought out of an unclean person, and that was our Lord Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary; which was not in the ordinary way of generation, but by a supernatural and extraordinary production of his human nature, through the power of the Holy Ghost, whereby it escaped the original contagion and pollution of mankind: or else, in consequence of this, the sense is, who can bring forth or produce a good work from an impure person? or how can it be expected that a man that is defiled with sin should do a good work perfectly pure? for there is not even a just and good man that doth good and sinneth not; and much less is it to be looked for, that men in a mere state of nature, that are as they come into the world, sinful and impure, should ever be able to perform good works; it may as well be thought that grapes are to be gathered of thorns, or figs of thistles; men must be born again, created in Christ Jesus, have faith in him, and the Spirit of God in them, before they can do that which is truly good from right principles, and with right views; and man at most and best must be an imperfect creature, and deficient in his duty, and cannot bear to be strictly examined, and rigorously prosecuted: or the meaning is, "who can make" (g) an unclean man a clean one? "no, not one"; a man cannot make himself clean by anything he can do, by his repentance and humiliation, by his good works, duties, and services; none can do this but God; and to this sense some render the words, "who can--is there one" (h)? there is, that is, God, he can do it, and he only: though men are exhorted to cleanse themselves, this does not suppose a power in them to do it; this is only designed to convince them of the necessity of being cleansed, and to awaken a concern for it; and such as are made sensible thereof will apply to God to purge them, and make them clean, and create a clean heart within them: and this God has promised to do, and does do; he sprinkles the clean water of his grace, and purifies the heart by faith in the blood of Jesus, which cleanses from all sin, and is the fountain opened to wash in for sin and uncleanness; the Targum is,
"who can give a clean thing out of a man that is defiled with sins, except God who is one, and can forgive him?''
none can pardon sin but God, or justify a sinner besides him; and he can do both in a way of justice, upon the foot of the blood and righteousness of Christ.
(g) "quis potest facere?" V. L. "dabit", i.e. "faciet", Vatablus; "sistet aut efficiet", Michaelis; "quis efficiet?" Cocceius. (h) "nonne tu qui solus est?" V. L. "annon unus?" sc. Mediator, Cocceius.Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. The question of astonishment in Job 14:3 supported by reference to the universal sinfulness of man. The verse reads,
Oh that a clean might come out of an unclean!
There is not one.
The phrase who will give (as margin) is a mere optative expression. Job throws his idea of the universal uncleanness of man, and that there is not one without sin, into the form of a wish that it were otherwise. If the race of men were not universally infected with sin, which each individual inherits by belonging to the race, God’s stringent treatment of the individuals would not be so hard to understand. For similar ideas of the universality of the sinfulness of mankind cf. Genesis 6:5; Isaiah 6:5; Psalm 51:5, also the words of Eliphaz ch. Job 4:17 seq. Job urges the admitted fact as a plea for forbearance on the side of God.Verse 4. - Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one. It is scarcely true to say that "the fact of original sin is thus distinctly recognized" ('Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 61). Original uncleanness and infirmity are recognized; but the uncleanness is material, and removable by material expiation (Leviticus 12:2-8). It is rather man's weakness than his sinfulness that is here under discussion.
And causest me to possess the iniquities of my youth,
27 And puttest my feet in the stocks,
And observest all my ways.
Thou makest for thyself a circle round the soles of my feet,
28 Round one who moulders away as worm-eaten,
As a garment that the moth gnaweth.
He is conscious of having often prayed: "Remember not the sins of my youth, and my transgressions: according to Thy mercy remember Thou me," Psalm 25:7; and still he can only regard his affliction as the inheritance (i.e., entailed upon him by sins not repented of) of the sins of his youth, since he has no sins of his mature years that would incur wrath, to reproach himself with. He does not know how to reconcile with the justice of God the fact that He again records against him sins, the forgiveness of which he implores soon after their commission, and decrees (כּתב, as Psalm 149:9, and as used elsewhere in the book of Job with reference to the recording of judgment) for him on account of them such bitter punishment (מררות, amara, bitter calamities; comp. Deuteronomy 32:32, "bitter" grapes). And the two could not indeed be harmonized, if it really were thus. So long as a man remains an object of the divine mercy, his sins that have been once forgiven are no more the object of divine judgment. But Job can understand his affliction only as an additional punishment. The conflict of temptation through which he is passing has made God's loving-kindness obscure to him. He appears to himself to be like a prisoner whose feet are forced into the holes of a סד, i.e., the block or log of wood in which the feet of a criminal are fastened, and which he must shuffle about with him when he moves; perhaps connected with Arab. sadda, occludere, opplere (foramen), elsewhere מהפּכת (from the forcible twisting or fastening), Chald. סדיא, סדנא, Syr. sado, by which Acts 16:24, ξύλον equals ποδοκάκη, is rendered; Lat. cippus (which Ralbag compares), codex (in Plautus an instrument of punishment for slaves), or also nervus. The verb תּשׂם which belongs to it, and is found also in Job 33:11 in the same connection, is of the jussive form, but is neither jussive nor optative in meaning, as also the future with shortened vowel (e.g., Job 27:22; Job 40:19) or apocopated (Job 18:12; Job 23:9, Job 23:11) is used elsewhere from the preference of poetry for a short pregnant form. He seems to himself like a criminal whose steps are closely watched (שׁמר, as Job 10:14), in order that he may not have the undeserved enjoyment of freedom, and may not avoid the execution for which he is reserved by effecting an escape by flight. Instead of ארחתי, the reading adopted by Ben-Ascher, Ben-Naphtali writes ארחתי, with Cholem in the first syllable; both modes of punctuation change without any fixed law also in other respects in the inflexion of ארח, as of ארחה, a caravan, the construct is both ארחות, Job 6:19, and ארחות. It is scarcely necessary to remark that the verbs in Job 13:27 are addressed to God, and are not intended as the third pers. fem. in reference to the stocks (Ralbag). The roots of the feet are undoubtedly their undermost parts, therefore the soles. But what is the meaning of תּתחקּה? The Vulg., Syr., and Parchon explain: Thou fixest thine attention upon ... , but certainly according to mere conjecture; Ewald, by the help of the Arabic tahhakkaka ala: Thou securest thyself ... , but there is not the least necessity to depart from the ordinary use of the word, as those also do who explain: Thou makest a law or boundary (Aben-Ezra, Ges., Hahn, Schlottm.). The verb חקה is the usual word (certainly cognate and interchangeable with חקק) for carved-out work (intaglio), and perhaps with colour rubbed in, or filled up with metal (vid., Job 19:23, comp. Ezekiel 23:14); it signifies to hew into, to carve, to dig a trench. Stickel is in some measure true to this meaning when he explains: Thou scratchest, pressest (producing blood); by which rendering, however, the Hithpa. is not duly recognised. Raschi is better, tu t'affiches, according to which Mercerus: velut affixus vestigiis pedum meorum adhaeres, ne qu elabi possim aut effugere. But a closer connection with the ordinary use of the word is possible. Accordingly Rosenm., Umbreit, and others render: Thou markest a line round my feet (drawest a circle round); Hirz., however, in the strictest sense of the Hithpa.: Thou diggest thyself in (layest thyself as a circular line about my feet). But the Hithpa. does not necessarily mean se insculpere, but, as התפשׁט sibi exuere, התפתח sibi solvere, התחנן sibi propitium facere, it may also mean sibi insculpere, which does not give so strange a representation: Thou makest to thyself furrows (or also: lines) round the soles of my feet, so that they cannot move beyond the narrow boundaries marked out by thee. With והוּא, Job 13:28, a circumstantial clause begins: While he whom Thou thus fastenest in as a criminal, etc. Observe the fine rhythmical accentuation achālo ‛asch. Since God whom he calls upon does not appear, Job's defiance is changed to timidity. The elegiac tone, into which his bold tone has passed, is continued in Job 14.
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