Job 17:16
They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.
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(16) They shall go down to the bars of the pit.—The last verse of this chapter, which is itself one of the most difficult, is the most difficult of all. The difficulty consists in this: the bars of the grave are masculine, and the verb, they shall go down, is feminine plural; it seems improbable that the bars of the grave should be the subject of the verb (though perhaps not absolutely impossible); but if the bars of the grave are the place to which the going down is, as in the Authorised Version, then what is the subject to the verb, go down, seeing that hope, the apparent subject, is a feminine singular? Some render “it shall go down,” but this is in defiance of the grammar, though, probably, the meaning it conveys is not far from the truth. The words clearly express a condition of utter despair, and that Job’s only hope of rest is in the grave. It is a rule in Hebrew grammar that when the verb precedes its subject it need not agree with it in gender or number; but here the verb must, at all events, come after its subject, and consequently, it is very difficult to determine what that subject is. The only apparent subject is to be found in the corruption of the worm of Job 17:14; but they, instead of going down to the grave, are already there.

Job 17:16. They shall go down to the bars of the pit — They that would see my hope must go down into the grave, or rather into the invisible world, to behold it. Or, he means, My hope shall go down, of which he spake in the singular number, Job 17:15, and which he here changes into the plural, as is usual in these poetical books. Thus Houbigant renders this clause: It, namely, my hope, shall descend together with me into the grave: it shall rest with me in the dust. My hopes of temporal good are dying, and will be buried in my grave, where I and they, and I and my friends, shall lie together. Remember, reader, we must all shortly lie in the dust, under the bars of the pit; held fast there, till the general resurrection. And all good men, if, like Job and his friends, they cannot agree now, will there rest together. Let the foresight of this cool the heat of all contenders, and moderate the disputers of this world. 17:10-16 Job's friends had pretended to comfort him with the hope of his return to a prosperous estate; he here shows that those do not go wisely about the work of comforting the afflicted, who fetch their comforts from the possibility of recovery in this world. It is our wisdom to comfort ourselves, and others, in distress, with that which will not fail; the promise of God, his love and grace, and a well-grounded hope of eternal life. See how Job reconciles himself to the grave. Let this make believers willing to die; it is but going to bed; they are weary, and it is time that they were in their beds. Why should not they go willingly when their Father calls them? Let us remember our bodies are allied to corruption, the worm and the dust; and let us seek for that lively hope which shall be fulfilled, when the hope of the wicked shall be put out in darkness; that when our bodies are in the grave, our souls may enjoy the rest reserved for the people of God.They shall go down - That is, my hopes shall go down. All the expectations that I have cherished of life and happiness, will descend there with me. We have a similar expression when we say, that a man "has buried his hopes in the grave," when he loses an only son.

To the bars of the pit - "Bars of Sheol" - שׁאול בד bad she'ôl. Vulgate, "Profoundest deep." Septuagint, εἰς ᾅδην eis hadēn - to Hades. Sheol, or Hades, was supposed to be under the earth. Its entrance was by the grave as a gate that led to it. It was protected by bars - as prisons are - so that those who entered there could not escape; see the notes at Isaiah 14:9. It was a dark, gloomy dwelling, far away from light, and from the comforts which people enjoy in this life; see Job 10:21-22. To that dark world Job expected soon to descend; and though he did not regard that as properly a place of punishment, yet it was not a place of positive joy. It was a gloomy and wretched world - the land of darkness and of the shadow of death; and he looked to the certainty of going there not with joy, but with anguish and distress of heart. Had Job been favored with the clear and elevated views of heaven which we have in the Christian revelation, death to him would have lost its gloom.

We wonder, often, that so good a man expressed such a dread of death, and that he did not look more calmly into the future world. But to do him justice, we should place ourselves in his situation. We should lay aside all that is cheerful and glad in the views of heaven which Christianity has given us. We should look upon the future world as the shadow of death; a land of gloom and spectres; a place beneath the ground - dark, chilly, repulsive; and we shall cease to wonder at the expressions of even so good a man at the prospect of death. When we look at him, we should remember with thankfulness the different views which we have of the future world, and the source to which we owe them. To us, if we are pious in any measure as Job was, death is the avenue, not to a world of gloom, but to a world of light and glory. It opens into heaven. There is no gloom, no darkness, no sorrow. There all are happy; and there all that is mysterious in this life is made plain - all that is sad is succeeded by eternal joy. These views we owe to that gospel which has brought life and immortality to light; and when we think of death and the future world, when from the midst of woes and sorrows we are compelled to look out on eternity, let us rejoice that we are not constrained to look forward with the sad forebodings of the Sage of Uz, but that we may think of the grave cheered by the strong consolations of Christian hope of the glorious resurrection.

When our rest together is in the dust - The rest of me and my hopes. My hopes and myself will expire together.

16. They—namely, my hopes shall be buried with me.

bars—(Isa 38:10). Rather, the wastes or solitudes of the pit (sheol, the unseen world).

rest together—the rest of me and my hope is in, &c. Both expire together. The word "rest" implies that man's ceaseless hopes only rob him of rest.

They; either,

1. They that would see my hope, they must go into the grave to behold it. Or rather,

2. My hopes; of which he spoke in the singular number, Job 17:15, which he here changeth into the plural, as is very usual in these poetical books.

To the bars of the pit, i.e. into the closest and innermost parts of the pit: my hopes are dying, and will be buried in my grave.

When our rest together is in the dust: so the sense is, when those spectators, together with myself, shall be in our graves. Heb. seeing that (as this Hebrew particle im oft signifies; or, certainly, as it is used Numbers 17:13 Job 6:13, and elsewhere) our rest shall be together in the dust, i.e. I and my hopes shall be buried together. They shall go down to the bars of the pit,.... He himself, and his friends, and the hopes they would have him entertain; these should all go down together to the grave, and there lie barred and locked up; these hopes, so as never to rise anymore, and the bodies of himself, and his friends, till loosed by him who has the keys of hell and death: or "the bars shall go down to the grave"; the members of his body, as Jarchi, which are the bars of it, as some in Bar Tzemach; the strength and support of it, as particularly the bones, these shall go down to the grave, and there turn to rottenness and dust; and therefore, as if he should say, as he elsewhere does, "what is my strength, that I should hope?" Job 6:11;

when our rest together is in the dust; which is man's original, and to which he returns, and in which the dead lie and sleep until the resurrection; and where they are at rest from all adversity and affliction of body, mind, and estate; from all the troubles and vexations occasioned by wicked men, and from all disputes, wranglings, contentions, and animosities among friends, which would be the case of Job, and his friends, when their heads were laid in the dust, and which he supposed would quickly be; and therefore it was in vain for them to feed him with hopes of outward happiness, and for him to entertain them; it best came them both to think of death and the grave as near at hand, where their controversies would be buried, and they would be good friends, and lie quietly together, and take their rest until they should awake and rise to everlasting life.

{p} They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust.

(p) All worldly hope and prosperity fail which you say, are only signs of God's favour but seeing that these things perish, I set my hope in God and in the life everlasting.

16. The truth in regard to his hope is this, something different from the tale of his friends,

It shall go down to the bars of the pit,

When once there is rest in the dust.

The pit is in Heb. Sheol. As a great subterranean prison-house it has bars or bolts, for it has also gates, ch. Job 38:17; cf. Isaiah 38:10, Psalm 9:13. In the New Test, its “keys” are spoken of, Revelation 1:18. The word together means perhaps, “at the same time”; his hope shall go down to the grave, when at the same time, or, “when once” he himself finds rest in the dust.

See the Additional Note to ch. 19. in the Appendix.Verse 16. - They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when our rest together is in the dust. There is great difficulty in determining the subject to the verb "go down," which is the third person plural feminine, whereas the only plural substantive at all near - the word translated "bars" - is masculine. Some suppose Job's hopes to be meant, "hope" in the preceding verse having the force of any number of "hopes" (so the R.V.) Others disregard the grammatical difficulty of the plural feminine verb, and, making "bars" the nominative, translate, "The bars of Sheol shall go down," i.e. "be broken down, perish;" or interrogatively, "Shall the bars of Sheol go down?" This rendering is thought to be "in harmony with the whole undercurrent of thought in the chapter;" but it has not approved itself to many commentators. The present commentator must acknowledge that he is unable to attach any satisfactory meaning to the words of the Hebrew text.

10 But only come again all of you!

I shall not find a wise man among you. -

11 My days are past, My purposes cut off,

The cherished thoughts of my heart, -

12 Ye explain night as day,

Light is near when darkness sets in.

The truly righteous man, even if in the midst of his affliction he should see destruction before him, does not however forsake God. But (nevertheless) ye - he exclaims to the friends, who promise him a long and prosperous life if he will only humble himself as a sinner who is receiving punishment - repeat again and again your hortatory words on penitence! a wise man who might be able to see into my real condition, I shall not find among you. He means that they deceive themselves concerning the actual state of the case before them; for in reality he is meeting death without being deceived, or allowing himself to be deceived, about the matter. His appeal is similar to Job 6:29. Carey translates correctly: Attack me again with another round of arguments, etc. Instead of ואוּלם, as it is written everywhere else (generally when the speech is drawing to a close), we find ואלּם (as the form of writing אלם, אלּם occurs also in the subst. אוּלם), perh. in order to harmonize with כּלּם, which is here according to rule instead of כּלּכם, which corresponds more to our form of a vocative clause, just as in 1 Kings 22:28; Micah 1:2 (Ewald, 327, a).

(Note: Comp. my Anekdota zur Gesch. der mittelalterlichen Scholastik unter Juden und Moslemen (1841), S. 380.)

In וּבאוּ תּשׁוּבוּ the jussive and imper. (for the Chethib יבאי, which occurs in some Codd. and editions, is meaningless) are united, the former being occasioned by the arrangement of the words, which is unfavourable to the imper. (comp. Ew. 229); moreover, the first verb gives the adverbial notion iterum, denuo to the second, according to Ges. 142, 3, a.

What follows, Job 17:11, is the confirmation of the fact that there is no wise man among them who might be able to give him efficient solace by a right estimate of the magnitude and undeservedness of his suffering. His life is indeed run out; and the most cherished plans and hopes which he had hedged in and fostered for the future in his heart, he has utterly and long since given up. The plur. (occurring only here) of זמּה, which occurs also sensu malo, signifies projects, as מזמות, Job 21:27; Job 42:2, from זמם, to tie; Aben-Ezra refers to the Arab. zamâm (a thread, band, esp. a rein). These plans which are now become useless, these cherished thoughts, he calls מורשׁי, peculia (from ירשׁ, to take possession of) of his heart. Thus, after Obad. Oba 1:17, Gecatilia (in Aben-Ezra) also explains, while, according to Ewald, Beitrge, S. 98, he understands the heart-strings, i.e., the trunks of the arteries (for thus is Arab. n't to be explained), and consequently, as Ewald himself, and even Farisol, most improbably combines מורשׁ with מותר (יתר). Similarly the lxx τὰ ἄρθρα τῆς καρδίας, as though the joints (instead of the valves) of the heart were intended; probably with Middeldorpf, after the Syriac Hexapla, ἄκρα is to be read instead of ἄρθρα; this, however, rests upon a mistaking of מורשׁי for ראשׁי. While he is now almost dead, and his life-plans of the future are torn away (נתּקוּ), the friends turn night into day (שׂים, as Isaiah 5:20); light is (i.e., according to their opinion) nearer than the face of darkness, i.e., than the darkness which is in reality turned to him, and which is as though it stared at him from the immediate future. Thus Nolde explains it as comparative, but connecting Job 17:12 with ישׂימו, and considering פני (which is impossible by this compar. rendering) as meaningless: lucem magis propinquam quam tenebras. It is however possible that מפני is used the same as in Job 23:17 : light is, as they think near before darkness, i.e., while darkness sets in (ingruentibus tenebris), according to which we have translated. If we understand Job 23:12 from Job's standpoint, and not from that of the friends, מן קרוב is to be explained according to the Arab. qrı̂b mn, prope abest ab, as the lxx even translatesφῶς ἐγγὺς ἀπὸ προσώπου σκότους, which Olympiodorus interprets by ου ̓ μακρὰν σκότους. But by this rendering פני makes the expression, which really needs investigation, only still lamer. Renderings, however, like Renan's Ah! votre lumire resemble aux tenbres, are removed from all criticism. The subjective rendering, by which Job 17:12 is under the government of ישׂימו, is after all the most natural. That he has darkness before him, while the friends present to him the approach of light on condition of penitence, is the thought that is developed in the next strophe.

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