Job 18:13
It shall devour the strength of his skin: even the firstborn of death shall devour his strength.
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(13) The strength of his skin.—This verse should probably be rendered, “It shall devour the members of his body, even the firstborn of death shall devour his members;” and by the “firstborn of death” is probably to be understood some wasting disease such as Job’s, the phrase being so used as a euphemism.

Job 18:13. It shall devour, &c. — “Filthy ulcers shall consume his skin; an untimely death shall destroy his children. — Heath and Houbigant. This sarcasm was peculiarly adapted to the case of Job, whose skin was thus consumed, and whose children had been destroyed in this manner. The reader must have had occasion frequently to remark, in this book, how often, amidst the sublimity of the eastern metaphors, the author drops the metaphor and treats of his subject simply; as in the present case, having spoken of the wicked man under the metaphor of a wild beast caught in a snare, in this verse he considers him no longer in that view, but speaks of him immediately in his own character.” — Dodd.

18:11-21 Bildad describes the destruction wicked people are kept for, in the other world, and which in some degree, often seizes them in this world. The way of sin is the way of fear, and leads to everlasting confusion, of which the present terrors of an impure conscience are earnests, as in Cain and Judas. Miserable indeed is a wicked man's death, how secure soever his life was. See him dying; all that he trusts to for his support shall be taken from him. How happy are the saints, and how indebted to the lord Jesus, by whom death is so far done away and changed, that this king of terrors is become a friend and a servant! See the wicked man's family sunk and cut off. His children shall perish, either with him or after him. Those who consult the true honour of their family, and its welfare, will be afraid of withering all by sin. The judgments of God follow the wicked man after death in this world, as a proof of the misery his soul is in after death, and as an earnest of that everlasting shame and contempt to which he shall rise in the great day. The memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot, Pr 10:7. It would be well if this report of wicked men would cause any to flee from the wrath to come, from which their power, policy, and riches cannot deliver them. But Jesus ever liveth to deliver all who trust in him. Bear up then, suffering believers. Ye shall for a little time have sorrow, but your Beloved, your Saviour, will see you again; your hearts shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh away.It shall devour the strength of his skin - Margin, bars. The margin is a correct translation of the Hebrew. The word used (בדי badēy, construct with עורו ‛ôrô - his skin) means bars, staves, branches, and here denotes his limbs, members; or, more literally, the bones, as supports of the skin, or the human frame. The bones are regarded as the bars, or the framework, holding the other parts of the body in their place, and over which the skin is stretched. The word "it" here refers to the "first-born of death" in the other hemistich of the verse; and the meaning is, that the strength of his body shal be entirely exhausted.

The first-born of death - The "first-born" is usually spoken of as distinguished for vigor and strength; Genesis 49:3, "Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength;" and the idea conveyed here by the "first-born of death" is the most fearful and destructive disease that death has ever engendered; compare Milton's description of the progeny of sin, in Paradise Los. Diseases are called "the sons or children of death" by the Arabs, (see Schultens in loc.,) as being begotten by it.

13. Umbreit has "he" for "it," that is, "in the rage of hunger he shall devour his own body"; or, "his own children" (La 4:10). Rather, "destruction" from Job 18:12 is nominative to "devour."

strength—rather, "members" (literally, the "branches" of a tree).

the first-born of death—a personification full of poetical horror. The first-born son held the chief place (Ge 49:3); so here the chiefest (most deadly) disease that death has ever engendered (Isa 14:30; "first-born of the poor"—the poorest). The Arabs call fever, "daughter of death."

The strength of his skin, Heb. the bars, or rather, the branches of the skin, i.e. either the veins and sinews, which branch out themselves through the skin as well as elsewhere; or the fat and flesh, which like bars support the skin, and adorn and beautify it, as branches do a tree; without which the skirt is shrivelled up and deformed.

The first-born of death, i.e. a most remarkable and terrible kind of death. The first-born was the chief of his brethren, and therefore this title is given to things eminent in their kind, as Isaiah 14:30 Colossians 1:18 Hebrews 12:23 Revelation 1:5.

It shall devour the strength of his skin,.... Or "the bars of his skin" (x), the strength and support of his body, for which his skin may be put, as the bones; or "the branches of his skin" (y), the veins, which like so many branches run under, and may be seen through the skin: now these, it, famine, or want of food, devours, and destroys the strength and beauty of the skin, cause it to be black like an oven, Lamentations 4:8; bring a man to a mere skeleton, to skin and bones, waste and consume the members of his body, his flesh, and blood, and bones; the Targum, Jarchi, and Aben Ezra, by "his bars" or "branches" understand his children, which are his bars, the strength of him, and are to him as branches to a tree, proceeding from him; and if we render it, as some do, he "shall devour" (z), or "eat", that is, the wicked man, it points to us the most horrible scene in a famine, which is shocking and shuddering, and yet what has been, as in the sieges of Samaria and Jerusalem, a parent's eating and devouring his own children, 2 Kings 6:28; but rather the "it is the firstborn of death", in the next clause, which is to be supplied from thence here:

even the firstborn of death shall devour his strength; and so Mr. Broughton translates the whole verse,

"a strange death shall eat all the branches of his body, all its branches shall it eat;''

which the Targum interprets of the angel of death, him which has the power of death: but rather it signifies not what presides over death, but what death first produces, which are corruption and rottenness, dust and worms; these are the firstborn of death, or the firstfruits and effects of it, and which devour and destroy not the skin only, but the whole body and all its members: or "the firstborn death" (a); death, which is a firstborn, it is the firstborn of sin; sin is its parent, last conceives sin, and that brings forth death; death is the child of sin, and is its firstborn, and sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and this is what devours and destroys the strength of men. Some understand by firstborn death a premature one, death before the usual time or common course of nature; wicked men do not live out half their days; and when they are taken off in their youth, in the prime of their days and strength, and amidst all their wealth, riches, and pleasures, this is the first, or firstborn death, as that is a secondary one which is late, in the time of old age. This is the ingenious thought of Pineda; but, perhaps, rather, as the firstborn is the chief and principal, so here may be meant the chiefest of deaths, the most hard, cruel, and severe; the first of those, that death has under it, which are principally the sword, famine, pestilence, and the noisome beast, see Revelation 6:8; it is commonly thought that famine is intended, spoken of in the context; but why not rather some thing distinct from it, and particularly the pestilence? since that is emphatically called death by the Jews, and in the passage last referred to, and is the terror by night, and the arrow that flies by day, even the pestilence that walks in darkness, and the destruction that wastes at noonday; by means of which thousands and ten thousands of wicked men fall at the sides of good men, when it does not affect them: and so may be the evil particularly threatened to a wicked man here, see Psalm 91:5.

(x) "vectes cutis suae", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schultens, Michaelis. (y) "Ramos cutis", Montanus, Vatablus, Drusius, Mercerus, Schmidt; "ramos corporis ipsius", Cocceius. (z) "comedet", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus. (a) "primogenita mors", V. L.

It shall devour the strength of his skin: even the {h} firstborn of death shall devour his strength.

(h) That is, some strong and violent death will consume his strength: or as the Hebrew word signifies his members or parts.

13. The verse reads,

It shall devour the members of his body,

Even the firstborn of death shall devour his members.

The subject it in clause one is the “firstborn of death” in clause two; cf. a similar construction, Jdg 5:20, “they fought from heaven, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera”. “Members of his body” is literally the pieces (“parts” ch. Job 41:12) of his skin. The firstborn of death is the strongest child of death (Genesis 49:3); or else, less naturally, the “deadliest death,” cf. firstborn of the poor (= the very poorest) Isaiah 14:30; in any case the phrase means the most terrible and fatal disease. The Arabs call deadly diseases “daughters of destiny”—destiny, as the bacchanal fatalist sings,

Ordained for us and we ordained for it.

Verse 13. - It shall devour the strength of his skin; literally, the bars of his skin by which some understand "the muscles," some "the members," of his body. The general meaning is plain, that destruction shall always be close to him, and shall ultimately make him its own. Even the firstborn of death shall devour his strength. By "the firstborn of death" is probably intended, either some wasting disease generally, or perhaps the special disease from which Job is suffering. Job 18:1312 His calamity looketh hunger-bitten,

And misfortune is ready for his fall.

13 It devoureth the members of his skin;

The first-born of death devoureth his members.

14 That in which he trusted is torn away out of his tent,

And he must march on to the king of terrors.

15 Beings strange to him dwell in his tent;

Brimstone is strewn over his habitation.

The description of the actual and total destruction of the evil-doer now begins with יהי (as Job 24:14, after the manner of the voluntative forms already used in Job 24:9). Step by step it traces his course to the total destruction, which leaves no trace of him, but still bears evident marks of being the fulfilment of the curse pronounced upon him. In opposition to this explanation, Targ., Raschi, and others, explain אנו according to Genesis 49:3 : the son of his manhood's strength becomes hungry, which sounds comical rather than tragic; another Targ. transl.: he becomes hungry in his mourning, which is indeed inadmissible, because the signif. planctus, luctus, belongs to the derivatives of אנה, אנן, but not to און. But even the translation recently adopted by Ew., Stick., and Schlottm., "his strength becomes hungry," is unsatisfactory; for it is in itself no misfortune to be hungry, and רעב does not in itself signify "exhausted with hunger." It is also an odd metaphor, that strength becomes hungry; we would then rather read with Reiske, רעב באנו, famelicus in media potentia sua. But as און signifies strength (Job 18:7), so און (root אן, to breathe and pant) signifies both wickedness and evil (the latter either as evil equals calamity, or as anhelitus, sorrow, Arab. ain); and the thought that his (i.e., appointed to the evil-doer) calamity is hungry to swallow him up (Syr., Hirz., Hahn, and others), suits the parallelism perfectly: "and misfortune stands ready for his fall."

(Note: If רעב elsewhere corresponds to the Arabic rugb, to be voraciously hungry, the Arab. ra‛b, to be paralyzed with fright, might correspond to it in the present passage: "from all sides spectres alarm him (בעתהו from בעת equals Arab. bgt, to fall suddenly upon any one; or better: equals b‛ṯ, to hunt up, excitare, to cause to rise, to fill with alarm) and urge him forward, seizing on his heels; then his strength becomes a paralyzing fright (רעב), and destruction is ready to overwhelm him." The ro‛b (רעב, thus in Damascus) or ra‛b (רעב, thus in Hauran and among the Beduins) is a state of mind which only occurs among us in a lower degree, but among the Arabs it is worthy of note as a psychological fact. If the wahm (Arab. 'l-whm), or idea of some great and inevitable danger or misfortune, overpowers the Arab, all strength of mind and body suddenly forsakes him, so that he breaks down powerless and defenceless. Thus on July 8, 1860, in Damascus, in a few hours, about 6000 Christian men were slain, without any one raising a hand or uttering a cry for mercy. Both European and native doctors have assured me the ro‛b in Arabia kills, and I have witnessed instances myself. Since it often produces a stiffness of the limbs with chronic paralysis, all kinds of paralysis are called ro‛b, and the paralytics mar‛ûb. - Wetzst.)

איד signifies prop. a weight, burden, then a load of suffering, and gen. calamity (root אד, Arab. âda, e.g., Sur. 2, 256, la jaâduhu, it is not difficult for him, and adda, comp. on Psalm 31:12); and לצלעו not: at his side (Ges., Ew., Schlottm., Hahn), but, according to Psalm 35:15; Psalm 38:18 : for his fall (lxx freely, but correctly: ἐξαίσιοϚ); for instead of "at the side" (Arab. ila ganbi), they no more say in Hebrew than in Germ. "at the ribs."

Job 18:13 figuratively describes how calamity takes possession of him. The members, which are called יצרים in Job 17:7, as parts of the form of the body, are here called בּדּים, as the parts into which the body branches out, or rather, since the word originally signifies a part, as that which is actually split off (vid., on Job 17:16, where it denotes "cross-bars"), or according to appearance that which rises up, and from this primary signification applied to the body and plants, the members (not merely as Farisol interprets: the veins) of which the body consists and into which it is distributed. עור (distinct from גּלד, Job 16:15, similar in meaning to Arab. baschar, but also to the Arab. gild, of which the former signifies rather the epidermis, the latter the skin in the widest sense) is the soluble surface of the naked animal body. בּכור מות devours this, and indeed, as the repetition implies, gradually, but surely and entirely. "The first-born of the poor," Isaiah 14:30, are those not merely who belong (בּני) to the race of the poor, but the poor in the highest sense and first rank. So here diseases are conceived of as children of death, as in the Arabic malignant fevers are called benât el-menı̂jeh, daughters of fate or death; that disease which Bildad has in his mind, as the one more terrible and dangerous than all others, he calls the "first-born of death," as that in which the whole destroying power of death is contained, as in the first-born the whole strength of his parent.

(Note: In Arabic the positive is expressed in the same metonymies with abu, e.g., abû 'l-chêr, the benevolent; on the other hand, e.g., ibn el̇hhâge is much stronger than abu 'l-hhâge: the person who is called ibn is conceived of as a child of these conditions; they belong to his inmost nature, and have not merely affected him slightly and passed off. The Hebrew בכור represents the superlative, because among Semites the power and dignity of the father is transmitted to the first-born. So far as I know, the Arab does not use this superlative; for what is terrible and revolting he uses "mother," e.g., umm el-fâritt, mother of death, a name for the plague (in one of the modern popular poets of Damascus), umm el-quashshâsh, mother of the sweeping death, a name for war (in the same); for that which awakens the emotions of joy and grief he frequently uses "daughter." In an Arabian song of victory the fatal arrows are called benât el-môt, and the heroes (slayers) in the battle benı̂ el-môt, which is similar to the figure used in the book of Job. Moreover, that disease which eats up the limbs could not be described by a more appropriate epithet than בכור מות. Its proper name is shunned in common life; and if it is necessary to mention those who are affected with it, they always say sâdât el-gudhamâ to avoid offending the company, or to escape the curse of the thing mentioned. - Wetzst.)

The Targ. understands the figure similarly, since it transl. מלאך מותא (angel of death); another Targ. has instead שׁרוּי מותא, the firstling of death, which is intended in the sense of the primogenita ( equals praematura) mors of Jerome. Least of all is it to be understood with Ewald as an intensive expression for בן־מות, 1 Samuel 20:31, of the evil-doer as liable to death. While now disease in the most fearful form consumes the body of the evil-doer, מבטחו (with Dag.f. impl., as Job 8:14; Job 31:24, Olsh. 198, b) (a collective word, which signifies everything in which he trusted) is torn away out of his tent; thus also Rosenm., Ew., and Umbr. explain, while Hirz., Hlgst., Schlottm., and Hahn regard מבטחו as in apposition to אהלו, in favour of which Job 8:14 is only a seemingly suitable parallel. It means everything that made the ungodly man happy as head of a household, and gave him the brightest hopes of the future. This is torn away (evellitur) from his household, so that he, who is dying off, alone survives. Thus, therefore, Job 18:14 describes how he also himself dies at last. Several modern expositors, especially Stickel, after the example of Jerome (et calcet super eum quasi rex interitus), and of the Syr. (praecipitem eum reddent terrores regis), take בּלּהות as subj., which is syntactically possible (vid., Job 27:20; Job 30:15): and destruction causes him to march towards itself (Ges.: fugant eum) like a military leader; but since הצעיד signifies to cause to approach, and since no אליו (to itself) stands with it, למלך is to be considered as denoting the goal, especially as ל never directly signifies instar. In the passage advanced in its favour it denotes that which anything becomes, that which one makes a thing by the mode of treatment (Job 39:16), or whither anything extends (e.g., in Schultens on Job 13:12 : they had claws li-machlbi, i.e., "approaching to the claws" of wild beasts).


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