Job 15:19
Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.
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Job 15:19. Unto whom alone the earth was given — By the gracious gift of God: this he alleges to make their testimony more considerable, because these were no obscure men, but the most worthy and famous men in their ages; and to confute what Job had said, Job 9:24, that the earth was given into the hand of the wicked. By the earth he means the dominion and possession of it. No stranger passed among them — No person of a strange nation and disposition, or religion, passed through their land, so as to disturb or spoil them, as the Sabeans and Chaldeans did thee. God watched over those holy men so that no enemy could invade them; and so he would have done over thee, if thou hadst been such a one. It seems evident, that Noah and his sons, Melchizedeck, Abraham, and others of the patriarchs, who lived before Job, are here intended.

15:17-35 Eliphaz maintains that the wicked are certainly miserable: whence he would infer, that the miserable are certainly wicked, and therefore Job was so. But because many of God's people have prospered in this world, it does not therefore follow that those who are crossed and made poor, as Job, are not God's people. Eliphaz shows also that wicked people, particularly oppressors, are subject to continual terror, live very uncomfortably, and perish very miserably. Will the prosperity of presumptuous sinners end miserably as here described? Then let the mischiefs which befal others, be our warnings. Though no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby. No calamity, no trouble, however heavy, however severe, can rob a follower of the Lord of his favour. What shall separate him from the love of Christ?Unto whom alone the earth was given - The land; the land or country where they dwelt. He refers to the period before they became intermingled with other nations, and before they imbibed any sentiments or opinions from strangers. The meaning is, "I will give you the result of the observations of the golden age of the world when our fathers dwelt alone, and it could not be pretended that they had been corrupted by foreign philosophy; and when in morals and in sentiment they were pure." Probably all nations look back to such times of primeval simplicity, and freedom from corruption, when the sentiments on morals and religion were comparatively pure, and before the people became corrupt by the importation of foreign opinions. It is a pleasing delusion to look back to such times - to some innocent Arcadia, or to a golden age - but usually all such retrospections are the mere work of fancy. The world really grows wiser as it grows older; and in the progress of society it is a rare thing when the present is not more pure and happy than its early stages. The comforts, privileges, and intelligence of the patriarchal age were not to be compared with those which we enjoy - any more than the condition of the wandering Arab is to be preferred to the quiet, peace, intelligence, and order of a calm, Christian home.

No stranger passed among them - No foreigner came to corrupt their sentiments by an admixture of strange doctrines. "Eliphaz here speaks like a genuine Arab, whose pride is in his tongue, his sword, and his pure blood." Umbreit. It is possible, as Rosenmuller suggests, that Eliphaz means to insinuate that Job had been corrupted by the sentiments of the Chaldeans and Sabeans, and had departed from the pure doctrines of earlier times.

19. Eliphaz speaks like a genuine Arab when he boasts that his ancestors had ever possessed the land unmixed with foreigners [Umbreit]. His words are intended to oppose Job's (Job 9:24); "the earth" in their case was not "given into the hand of the wicked." He refers to the division of the earth by divine appointment (Ge 10:5; 25:32). Also he may insinuate that Job's sentiments had been corrupted from original purity by his vicinity to the Sabeans and Chaldeans [Rosenmuller]. Unto whom alone the earth was given; either,

1. By the special and gracious gift of God; whereas wicked men invaded their parts of the earth, and took them away by force. Or,

2. By the choice and consent of the people, who for their great and known wisdom and virtue conferred this power and trust upon them. This he allegeth, partly to make their testimony more considerable, because these were not obscure, and mean, and foolish men, whose words are commonly despised, but the most worthy and famous men in their places and ages; and partly to contradict and confute what Job had said, Job 9:24, that the earth was given into the hand of the wicked. By the earth he means either the dominion of the earth, to wit, of that part of the earth in or nigh which Job and his friends lived; or rather, the possession of the earth, i.e. of a great portion of worldly goods; or particularly, the land, or that land, (as the word properly signifies,) to wit, the land of Canaan, which was given by special gift unto Abraham, (from whom it seems most probable that both Job and his friends were descended,) and to Isaac, and to Jacob; who, though they met with some common and ordinary afflictions, yet enjoyed a great measure of comfort, and wealth, and honour, and power in the world, as the fruits of God’s blessing, and of his covenant made with good men, whilst wicked men were exposed to manifold distresses and grievous calamities; all which those holy patriarchs diligently observed, and industriously imparted to their children, to encourage them to continue and proceed in the ways of true piety. But how was the earth or land given to them alone, as is here said?

Answ. Either,

1. Because Noah and his sons (of whom some understand these words) had the sole possession and dominion of the earth. Or,

2. Because Canaan was given to Abraham and to his seed alone; and some of Abraham’s children had the dominion of, or an ample possession in, those parts where Job and his friends lived, who also seem to be in the number of them. Or,

3. Because they only had it either by God’s special and gracious providence, or by the choice and approbation of the people; whereas wicked men took it by rapine and violence, without asking leave either from God or men.

No stranger, i.e. the enemy; for such are called strangers, both in Scripture, as Proverbs 5:10 Isaiah 1:7 Ezekiel 11:9 28:10, and in other authors. No person of a strange nation and disposition or religion.

Among them, i.e. through their land, as this phrase is used, Numbers 20:18, to wit, so as to molest, or disturb, or spoil them, as the Sabeans and Chaldeans did thee. God watched over those wise and holy men so carefully, that no enemy should invade them; and so he would have done over thee, if thou hadst been such a one.

Unto whom alone the earth was given,.... Who were intrusted with the government of whole kingdoms and nations; and therefore not mean men, but persons of great consequence, and to be credited; being such as were appointed by God, and by him put into such an high office, for which they were qualified by him; and being observed to be such by men, were made choice of by them to take the government of them: this is not to be restrained to the land of Canaan, and to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom it was given, and to their posterity; and who it is very probable at this time did not yet enjoy it; but it respects more and larger tracts of land, and the rulers of them, and at a greater distance of time, and very likely Noah and his sons, to whom the whole earth was given, and by whom it was replenished, and among whom it was divided; this seems opposed to what Job had said, Job 9:24;

and no stranger passed among them; either there was no wicked man among them, a stranger to God and godliness; or an enemy that invaded them, passed through them, disturbed and dispossessed them of their power and substance; which shows how wise and good men are regarded by the Lord, and not distressed and afflicted as wicked men be; as well as serves to strengthen the credit of their character, and the report received and derived from them by tradition, and tacitly glances at Job's distress and disturbance by the Chaldeans and Sabeans; next follows the account of the things either seen by Eliphaz, or handed down from such credible persons now described.

Unto whom alone the earth was {l} given, and no stranger passed among them.

(l) Who by their wisdom so governed, that no stranger invaded them, and so the land seemed to be given to them alone.

19. And it is a tradition pure and uncorrupted by admixture of foreign elements, for it is the moral wisdom of races to whom alone the land has been given, who have dwelt always in the same seats, and never been displaced, and among whom foreign and inferior races have never penetrated.

Verse 19. - Unto whom alone the earth was given. The reference is clearly to a very remote time, when men were comparatively few, and lived in quiet possession of their own lands, undisturbed by invasions, wars, or struggles for territory. Professor Lee thinks that the times immediately after, and even those before, the Flood are glanced at; while Schultens regards Eliphaz as alluding to the first settlements of the Joktanidae in Arabia. In either case, the passage tells in favour or, and not against, the antiquity of the Book of Job, since it marks the composer as "living at a time when the memory of an age of patriarchal simplicity was yet fresh in men's minds" (Canon Cook). And no stranger passed among them. Races were not mixed up one with another, and so the purity of primitive doctrine remained undisturbed. Job 15:1917 I will inform thee, hear me!

And what I have myself seen that I will declare,

18 Things which wise men declare

Without concealment from their fathers -

19 To them alone was the land given over,

And no stranger had passed in their midst - :

Eliphaz, as in his first speech, introduces the dogma with which he confronts Job with a solemn preface: in the former case it had its rise in a revelation, here it is supported by his own experience and reliable tradition; for חזיתי is not intended as meaning ecstatic vision (Schlottm.). The poet uses חזה also of sensuous vision, Job 8:17; and of observation and knowledge by means of the senses, not only the more exalted, as Job 19:26., but of any kind (Job 23:9; Job 24:1; Job 27:12, comp. Job 36:25; Job 34:32), in the widest sense. זה is used as neuter, Genesis 6:15; Exodus 13:8; Exodus 30:13; Leviticus 11:4, and freq.

(Note: So also Psalm 56:10, where I now prefer to translate "This I know," זה neuter, like Proverbs 24:12, and referring forward as above, Job 15:17.)

(comp. the neuter הוּא, Job 13:16, and often), and זה־חזיתי is a relative clause (Ges. 122, 2): quod conspexi, as Job 19:19 quos amo, and Psalm 74:2 in quo habitas, comp. Psalm 104:8, Psalm 104:26; Proverbs 23:22, where the punctuation throughout proceeds from the correct knowledge of the syntax. The waw of ואספרה is the waw apodosis, which is customary (Ngelsbach, 111, 1, b) after relative clauses (e.g., Numbers 23:3), or what is the same thing, participles (e.g., Proverbs 23:24): et narrabo equals ea narrabo. In Job 15:18 ולא כחדו is, logically at least, subordinate to יגידו, as in Isaiah 3:9,

(Note: Heidenheim refers to Hosea 8:2 for the position of the words, but there Israel may also be an apposition: we know thee, we Israel.)

as the Targum of the Antwerp Polyglott well translates: "what wise men declare, without concealing (ולא מכדבין), from the tradition of their fathers;" whereas all the other old translations, including Luther's, have missed the right meaning. These fathers to whom this doctrine respecting the fate of evil-doers is referred, lived, as Eliphaz says in Job 15:19, in the land of their birth, and did not mingle themselves with strangers, consequently their manner of viewing things, and their opinions, have in their favour the advantage of independence, of being derived from their own experience, and also of a healthy development undisturbed by any foreign influences, and their teaching may be accounted pure and unalloyed.

Eliphaz thus indirectly says, that the present is not free from such influences, and Ewald is consequently of opinion that the individuality of the Israelitish poet peeps out here, and a state of things is indicated like that which came about after the fall of Samaria in the reign of Manasseh. Hirzel also infers from Eliphaz' words, that at the time when the book was written the poet's fatherland was desecrated by some foreign rule, and considers it an indication for determining the time at which the book was composed. But how groundless and deceptive this is! The way in which Eliphaz commends ancient traditional lore is so genuinely Arabian, that there is but the faintest semblance of a reason for supposing the poet to have thrown his own history and national peculiarity so vividly into the working up of the rôle of another. Purity of race was, from the earliest times, considered by "the sons of the East" as a sign of highest nobility, and hence Eliphaz traces back his teaching to a time when his race could boast of the greatest freedom from intermixture with any other. Schlottmann prefers to interpret Job 15:19 as referring to the "nobler primeval races of man" (without, however, referring to Job 8:8), but הארץ does not signify the earth here, but: country, as in Job 30:8; Job 22:8, and elsewhere, and Job 15:19 seems to refer to nations: זר equals barbarus (perhaps Semitic: בּרבּר, ὁ ἔξω). Nevertheless it is unnecessary to suppose that Eliphaz' time was one of foreign domination, as the Assyrian-Chaldean time was for Israel: it is sufficient to imagine it as a time when the tribes of the desert were becoming intermixed, from migration, commerce, and feud.

Now follows the doctrine of the wise men, which springs from a venerable primitive age, an age as yet undisturbed by any strange way of thinking (modern enlightenment and free thinking, as we should say), and is supported by Eliphaz' own experience.

(Note: Communication from Consul Wetzstein: If this verse affirms that the freer a people is from intermixture with other races, the purer is its tradition, it gives expression to a principle derived from experience, which needs no proof. Even European races, especially the Scandinavians, furnish proof of this in their customs, language, and traditions, although in this case certain elements of their indigenous character have vanished with the introduction of Christianity. A more complete parallel is furnished by the wandering tribes of the 'Aneze and Sharrt of the Syrian deserts, people who have indeed had their struggles, and have even been weakened by emigration, but have certainly never lost their political and religious autonomy, and have preserved valuable traditions which may be traced to the earliest antiquity. It is unnecessary to prove this by special instance, when the whole outer and inner life of these peoples can be regarded as the best commentary on the biblical accounts of the patriarchal age. It is, however, not so much the fact that the evil-doer receives his punishment, in favour of which Eliphaz appeals to the teaching handed down from the fathers, as rather the belief in it, consequently in a certain degree the dogma of a moral order in the world. This dogma is an essential element of the ancient Abrahamic religion of the desert tribes - that primitive religion which formed the basis of the Mosaic, and side by side with it was continued among the nomads of the desert; which, shortly before the appearance of Christianity in the country east of Jordan, gave birth to mild doctrines, doctrines which tended to prepare the way for the teaching of the gospel; which at that very time, according to historical testimony, also prevailed in the towns of the Higz, and was first displaced again by the Jemanic idolatry, and limited to the desert, in the second century after Christ, during the repeated migrations of the southern Arabs; which gave the most powerful impulse to the rise of Islam, and furnished its best elements; which, towards the end of the last century, brought about the reform of Islamism in the province of Negd, and produced the Wahabee doctrine; and which, finally, is continued even to the present day by the name of Dn Ibrhm, "Religion of Abraham," as a faithful tradition of the fathers, among the vast Ishmaelitish tribes of the Syrian desert, "to whom alone the land is given over, and into whose midst no stranger has penetrated." Had this cultus spread among settled races with a higher education, it might have been taught also in writings: if, however, portions of writings in reference to it, which have been handed down to us by the Arabic, are to be regarded as unauthentic, it may also in 'Irk have been mixed with the Sabian worship of the stars; but among the nomads it will have always been only oral, taught by the poets in song, and contained in the fine traditions handed down uncorrupted from father to son, and practised in life.


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