Job 17:9
The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that has clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 17:9. The righteous shall hold on his way — Shall persevere in that good way upon which he hath entered, and not be turned from it by any afflictions which may befall himself, or any other good men; nor by any contempt or reproach cast upon them by the ungodly, by reason thereof. And he that hath clean hands — Whose life, and the course of whose actions, is righteous and holy; which is a sign that his heart also is upright and pure from the love of sin; shall be stronger and stronger — Shall not be shaken and discouraged by the afflictions and distresses of the godly, nor by the bitter censures and reproaches of hypocrites or wicked men; but will be confirmed thereby, and made more constant and resolute in cleaving to God, his ways, and people.17:1-9 Job reflects upon the harsh censures his friends had passed upon him, and, looking on himself as a dying man, he appeals to God. Our time is ending. It concerns us carefully to redeem the days of time, and to spend them in getting ready for eternity. We see the good use the righteous should make of Job's afflictions from God, from enemies, and from friends. Instead of being discouraged in the service of God, by the hard usage this faithful servant of God met with, they should be made bold to proceed and persevere therein. Those who keep their eye upon heaven as their end, will keep their feet in the paths of religion as their way, whatever difficulties and discouragements they may meet with.The righteous also shall hold on his way - The meaning of this verse is plain; but the connection is not so apparent. It seems to me that it refers to "Job himself," and is a declaration that "he," a righteous man, who had been so grievously calumniated, would hold on his way, and become stronger and stronger, while "they" would sink in the public esteem, and be compelled to abandon their position. It is the expression of a confident assurance that "he" would be more and more confirmed in his integrity, and would become stronger and stronger in God. Though Job intended, probably, that this should be applied to himself, yet he has expressed it in a general manner, and indeed the whole passage has a proverbial cast; and it shows that even then it was the settled belief that the righteous would persevere. As an expression of the early faith of the pious in one of the now settled doctrines of Christianity, "the perseverance of the saints," this doctrine is invaluable. It shows that that doctrine has traveled down from the earliest ages. It was one of the elementary doctrines of religion in the earliest times. It became a proverb; and was admitted among the undisputed maxims of the wise and good, and it was such a sentiment as was just adapted to the circumstances of Job - a much tried and persecuted man. He was in all the danger of apostasy to which the pious are usually exposed; he was tempted to forsake his confidence in God; he was afflicted for reasons which he could not comprehend; he was without an earthly friend to sustain him, and he seemed to be forsaken by God himself; yet he had the fullest conviction that he would be enabled to persevere. The great principle was settled, that if there was true religion in the heart, it would abide; that if the path of righteousness had been entered, he who trod it would keep on his way.

And he that hath clean hands - The innocent; the friend of God; the man of pure life; see the notes at Job 9:30; compare Psalm 24:4. "Clean hands" here, are designed to denote a pure and holy life. Among the ancients they were regarded as indicative of purity of heart. Porphyry remarks (de antro Nympharum) that in the "mysteries," those who were initiated were accustomed to wash their hands with honey instead of water, as a pledge that they would preserve themselves from every impure and unholy thing; see Burder, in Rosenmuller's Alte u. neue Morgenland, in loc.

Shall be stronger and stronger - Margin, as in Hebrew add strength. He shall advance in the strength of his attachment to God. This is true. The man of pure and blameless life shall become more and more established in virtue; more confirmed in his principles; more convinced of the value and the truth of religion. Piety, like everything else, becomes stronger by exercise. The man who speaks truth only, becomes more and more attached to truth; the principle of benevolence is strengthened by being practiced; honesty, the more it is exhibited, becomes more the settled rule of the life; and he who prays, delights more and more in his appoaches to God. The tendency of religion in the heart is to grow stronger and stronger; and God intends that he who has once loved him, shall continue to love him forever.

9. The strength of religious principle is heightened by misfortune. The pious shall take fresh courage to persevere from the example of suffering Job. The image is from a warrior acquiring new courage in action (Isa 40:30, 31; Php 1:14). Shall hold on his way, i.e. shall persist in that good way into which he hath entered, and not be turned from it by any afflictions which may befall himself or any other good men, nor by any contempt or reproach cast upon them by the ungodly by reason thereof.

He that hath clean hands, i.e. whose life and the course of his actions is holy and righteous; which is a sign that his heart also is pure and perfect.

Shall be stronger and stronger; shall not be shaken and discouraged by the grievous afflictions of the godly, nor by the bitter censures and reproaches of hypocrites or wicked men, cast upon them for that cause; but will be continued thereby, and made more constant and resolute in cleaving to God, and his ways and people, in spite of all difficulties and miseries. The righteous also shall hold on his way,.... He that is righteous, not in appearance but really, not in a legal but in an evangelic sense; who is justified by the righteousness of Job's living Redeemer, who lives by faith on his righteousness, and in consequence of that in holiness of life and conversation; such an one being in Christ the way of righteousness and salvation, and walking in the paths of faith, holiness, and truth, and in all the tracks of religious worship, private and public, he will persevere therein, and will not on any account depart out of the right way into which he has been led and directed. This is opposed to a going back, as some do, and to a turning to the right hand or the left, as others, and to a standing still, being stumbled, offended, and discouraged; and it supposes a progress, a going forward in the way, so as not to be moved out of it by their own, or the afflictions of others, by the reproaches and persecutions of men, the temptations of Satan, the snares, riches, honours, and pleasures of the world, or through darkness, desertion, and unbelief; they may indeed have many slips and falls, and be almost, but not altogether, out of the way, and never finally or to perdition; which is owing not to their conduct and care, might and strength, but to the power of God, and the supplies of his grace, to Christ and his strength, and to the Spirit and his influence, guidance, and direction:

and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger; or "add strength" (u); increase in it. This character is opposed to one of an immoral life and conversation, and describes one that is not guilty of any notorious crime, that does not live in any known sin, but in the general course of his life is upright and sincere, holy, harmless, and inoffensive; such a man as he is already a partaker of spiritual grace and strength, and so, as he wants more, it is given him; his spiritual strength is renewed, he goes from one degree of it to another, and even while walking in the way of God he finds an increase of it; yea, that itself is strength unto him; as his day is his strength is, to assist him in religious services, to enable him to resist his enemies, and endure afflictions, and continue in the good ways of God.

(u) "addet fortitudinem", Pagninus, Montanus.

The righteous also shall hold on his {k} way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.

(k) That is, will not be discouraged, considering that the godly are punished as well as the wicked.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. The righteous also shall hold on] Or, But the righteous shall hold on. The righteous will not allow themselves to be misled from the path of rectitude by these moral wrongs which they see prevail in God’s rule of the world, they will cling in spite of them to their righteous life. Nay such obscurities and wrongs will but make the joy which they possess in righteousness the dearer and deeper, and instead of faltering they will be (rather, will wax) stronger and stronger. Though Job speaks here in the name of the “righteous” and “clean of hands” it is his own sentiments and resolution that he gives expression to, and the passage is perhaps the most surprising and lofty in the Book. In ch. Job 19:25 Job, conscious of his innocence and assured by his heart that he is a God-fearing man, is enabled to reach out his hand to grasp what must yet in the future be the solution of the riddle of his present life. And, no doubt, a similar thought precedes the present passage (ch. Job 16:18 seq.). It does not appear, however, that this thought is present to his mind here. Rather he is again completely enveloped in the darkness of his present life, the awful problem of which confounds him and all religious men. But no mysteries or wrongs shall make him falter in the way of righteousness. And the human spirit rises to the height of moral grandeur, when it proclaims its resolution to hold on the way of righteousness independently both of men and God.Verse 9. - The righteous also; rather, yet the righteous. A strong opposing clause. Notwithstanding all the afflictions that befall him, and all the further afflictions which he anticipates, yet the truly righteous man shall hold on his way; i.e. maintain his righteous course, neither deviating from it to the right hand nor to the left, but holding to the strict line of rectitude without. wavering. Job is not thinking particularly of himself, but bent on testifying that righteous men generally act as they do, not from any hope of reward, but from principle and the bent of their characters. And he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. Not only will the just man maintain his integrity, but, as time goes on, his goodness will be more and more firmly established (comp. Aristotle's 'Theory of Habits'). 3 Lay down now, be bondsman for me with Thyself;

Who else should furnish surety to me?!

4 For Thou hast closed their heart from understanding,

Therefore wilt Thou not give authority to them.

5 He who giveth his friends for spoil,

The eyes of his children shall languish.

It is unnecessary, with Reiske and Olsh., to read ערבני (pone quaeso arrhabonem meum equals pro me) in order that שׂימה may not stand without an object; שׂימה has this meaning included in it, and the ארבני which follows shows that neither לבך (Ralbag) nor ידך (Carey) is to be supplied; accordingly שׂים here, like Arab. wḍ‛ (wâḍ‛), and in the classics both τιθέναι and ponere, signifies alone the laying down of a pledge. Treated by the friends as a criminal justly undergoing punishment, he seeks his refuge in God, who has set the mark of a horrible disease upon him contrary to his desert, as though he were guilty, and implores Him to confirm the reality of his innocence in some way or other by laying down a pledge for him (ὑποθήκη). The further prayer is ערבני, as word of entreaty which occurs also in Hezekiah's psalm, Isaiah 38:14, and Psalm 119:122; ערב seq. acc. signifies, as noted on the latter passage, to furnish surety for any one, and gen. to take the place of a mediator (comp. also on Hebrews 7:22, where ἔγγυος is a synon. of μεσίτης). Here, however, the significant עמּך is added: furnish security for me with Thyself; elsewhere the form is ל ערב, to furnish security for (Proverbs 6:1), or לפני before, any one, here with עם of the person by whom the security is to be accepted. The thought already expressed in Job 16:21 receives a still stronger expression here: God is conceived of as two persons, on the one side as a judge who treats Job as one deserving of punishment, on the other side as a bondsman who pledges himself for the innocence of the sufferer before the judge, and stands as it were as surety against the future. In the question, Job 17:3, the representation is again somewhat changed: Job appears here as the one to whom surety is given. נתקע, described by expositors as reciprocal, is rather reflexive: to give one's hand (the only instance of the med. form of כּף תּקע) equals to give surety by striking hands, dextera data sponsionem in se recipere (Hlgst.). And לידי is not to be explained after the analogy of the passive, as the usual ל of the agents: who would allow himself to be struck by my hand, i.e., who would accept the surety from me (Wolfson), which is unnatural both in representation and expression; but it is, according to Proverbs 6:1 (vid., Bertheau), intended of the hand of him who receives the stroke of the hand of him who gives the pledge. This is therefore the meaning of the question: who else (הוּא מי), if not God himself, should strike (his hand) to my hand, i.e., should furnish to me a pledge (viz., of my innocence) by joining hands? There is none but God alone who can intercede for him, as a guarantee of his innocence before himself and others. This negative answer: None but Thou alone, is established in Job 17:4. God has closed the heart of the friends against understanding, prop. concealed, i.e., He has fixed a curtain, a wall of partition, between their hearts and the right understanding of the matter; He has smitten them with blindness, therefore He will not (since they are suffering from a want of perception which He has ordained, and which is consequently known to Him) allow them to be exalted, i.e., to conquer and triumph. "The exaltation of the friends," observes Hirzel rightly, "would be, that God should openly justify their assertion of Job's guilt." Lwenthal translates: therefore art thou not honoured; but it is not pointed תּרמם equals תּתרמם, but תּרמם, whether it be that אתם is to be supplied, or that it is equivalent to תּרממם (Ew. 62, a, who, however, prefers to take is as n. Hithpa. like תּקמם in the unimproved signification: improvement, since he maintains this affords no right idea), according to the analogy of similar verb-forms (Job 31:15; Isaiah 64:6), by a resolving of the two similar consonants which occur together.

The hope thus expressed Job establishes (Job 17:5) by a principle from general experience, that he who offers his friends as spoil for distribution will be punished most severely for the same upon his children: he shall not escape the divine retribution which visits him, upon his own children, for the wrong done to his friends. Almost all modern expositors are agreed in this rendering of לחלק as regards Job 17:5; but חלק must not be translated "lot" (Ewald), which it never means; it signifies a share of spoil, as e.g., Numbers 31:36 (Jerome praedam), or even with a verbal force: plundering (from חלק, 2 Chronicles 28:21), or even in antithesis to entering into bond for a friend with all that one possesses (Stick., Schlottm.), a dividing (of one's property) equals distraining, as a result of the surrender to the creditor, to which the verb הגּיד is appropriate, which would then denote denouncing before a court of justice, as Jeremiah 20:10, not merely proclaiming openly, as Isaiah 3:9. We have translated "spoil," which admits of all these modifications and excludes none; the general meaning is certainly: one deserts (instead of shielding as an intercessor) his friends and delivers them up; יגּיד with a general subj., as Job 4:2 (if any one attempts), Job 15:3; Job 27:23. With respect to the other half of the verse, Job 17:5, the optative rendering: may they languish (Vaih.), to the adoption of which the old expositors have been misled by parallels like Psalm 109:9., is to be rejected; it is contrary to the character of Job (Job 31:30). We agree with Mercerus: Nequaquam hoc per imprecationem, sed ut consequentis justissimae poenae denunciationem ab Iobo dictum putamus. For v. 5b is also not to be taken as a circumstantial clause: even if the eyes of his children languish (Ew., Hlgst. Stick., Hahn, Schl.). It is not רעהוּ, but רעים; and before supposing here a Synallage num. so liable to be misunderstood, one must try to get over the difficulty without it, which is here easy enough. Hence Job is made, in the intended application of the general principle, to allude to his own children, and Ewald really considers him the father of infant children, which, however, as may be seen from the prologue, is nothing but an invention unsupported by the history. Since it is בניו and not בניהם, we refer the suff. to the subj. of יגיד. The Waw of ועיני Mich. calls Waw consecutivum; it, however, rather combines things that are inseparable (certainly as cause and effect, sin and punishment). And it is יגיד, not הגיד, because the perf. would describe the fact as past, while the fut. places us in the midst of this faithless conduct. Job says God cannot possibly allow these, his three friends, the upper hand. One proclaims his friends as spoil (comp. Job 6:27), and the eyes of his children languish (comp. Job 11:20), i.e., he who so faithlessly disowns the claims of affection, is punished for it on that which he holds most dear. But this uncharitableness which he experiences is also a visitation of God. In the next strophe he refers all that he meets with from man to Him as the final cause, but not without a presage of the purpose for which it is designed.

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