Job 19:24
That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
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19:23-29 The Spirit of God, at this time, seems to have powerfully wrought on the mind of Job. Here he witnessed a good confession; declared the soundness of his faith, and the assurance of his hope. Here is much of Christ and heaven; and he that said such things are these, declared plainly that he sought the better country, that is, the heavenly. Job was taught of God to believe in a living Redeemer; to look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come; he comforted himself with the expectation of these. Job was assured, that this Redeemer of sinners from the yoke of Satan and the condemnation of sin, was his Redeemer, and expected salvation through him; and that he was a living Redeemer, though not yet come in the flesh; and that at the last day he would appear as the Judge of the world, to raise the dead, and complete the redemption of his people. With what pleasure holy Job enlarges upon this! May these faithful sayings be engraved by the Holy Spirit upon our hearts. We are all concerned to see that the root of the matter be in us. A living, quickening, commanding principle of grace in the heart, is the root of the matter; as necessary to our religion as the root of the tree, to which it owes both its fixedness and its fruitfulness. Job and his friends differed concerning the methods of Providence, but they agreed in the root of the matter, the belief of another world.That they were graven - Cut in, or sculptured - as is done on stones. That they might become thus a permanent record.

With an iron pen - A stylus, or an engraving tool - for so the word (עט ‛êṭ) means. The instrument formerly used for writing or engraying was a small, sharp-pointed piece of iron or steel, that was employed to mark on lead or stone - somewhat in the form of small graying tools now. When the writing was on wax, the instrument was made with a flat head, that it could be obliterated by pressing it on or passing it over the wax.

The reason why Job mentions the iron pen here is, that he wished a perment record. He did not desire one made with paint or chalk, but one which would convey his sentiments down to future times.

And lead - That is, either engraved on lead, or more probably with lead. It was customary to cut the letters deep in stone, and then to fill fill them up with lead, so that the record became more permanent. This I take to be the meaning here. The Hebrew will scarcely allow of the supposition that Job meant that the records should be made on plates of lead - though such plates were used early, but perhaps not until after the time of Job.

In the rock - It was common, at an early period, to make inscriptions on the smooth surface of a rock. Perhaps the first thai were made were on stones, which were placed as way marks, or monuments over the dead - as we now make such inscriptions on grave-stones. Then it became common to record any memorable transaction - as a battle - on stones or rocks; and perhaps, also, sententious and apothegmatical remarks were recorded in this manner, to admonish travelers, or to transmit them to posterity. Numerous inscriptions of this kind are found by travelers in the East, on tombs, and on rocks in the desert. All that can be appropriate here is a notice of such early inscriptions of that kind in Arabia, as would render it probable that they existed in the time of Job, or such as indicate great antiquity. Happily we are at no loss for such inscriptions on rocks in the country where Job 54ed.

The Wady Mokatta, the cliffs of which bear these inscriptions, is a valley entering Wady Sheikh, and bordering the upper regions of the Sinai mountains. It extends for about three hours' march, and in most places its rocks present abrupt cliffs, twenty or thirty feet high. From these cliffs large masses have separated, and lie at the bottom of the valley. The cliffs and rocks are thickly covered with inscriptions, which are continued at intervals of a few hundred paces only, for at least the distance of two hours and a half. Burckhardt, in his travels from Akaba to Cairo, by Mount Sinai, observed many inscriptions on the rocks, part of which he has copied. See his Travels in Syria, Lond. Ed. pp. 506, 581, 582, 606, 613, 614. Pococke, who also visited the regions of Mount Sinai in 1777, has given a description of the inscriptions which he saw on the rocks at Mount Sinai. Vol. i. 148, be says," There are on many of the rocks, both near these mountains and in the road, a great many inscriptions in an ancient character; many of them I copied, and observed that most of them were not cut, but stained, making the granite of a lighter color, and where the stone had scaled, I could see the stain had sunk into the stone."

Numerous specimens of these inscriptions may be seen in Pococke, vol. i. p. 148. These inscriptions were also observed by Robinson and Smith, and are described by them in Biblical Researches, vol. i. 108, 118, 119, 123, 161, 167. They are first mentioned by Cosmas, about 535 a.d. He supposed them to be the work of the ancient Hebrews, and says that certain Jews, who had read them, explained them to him as noting "the journey of such an one, out of such a tribe, in such a year and month." They have also been noticed by many early travelers, as Neitzschitz, p. 149; Moncongs, i. p. 245; and also by Niebuhr in his Reisebeschr. i. p. 250. The copies of them given by Pococke and Niebuhr are said to be very imperfect; those by Seetzen are better, and those made by Burckhardt are tolerably accurate. Rob. Bib. Research. i. 553. A large number of them have been copied and published by Mr. Grey, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, vol. iii. pt. 1, Lond. 1832; consisting of one hundred and seventy-seven in the unknown character, nine in Greek, and one in Latin. These inscriptions, which so long excited the curiosity of travelers, have been recently deciphered (in the year 1839) by Professor Beer, of the University of Leipzig. He had turned his attention to them in the year 1833, but without success.

In the year 1839 his attention was again turned to them, and after several months of the most persevering application, he succeeded in making out the alphabet, and was enabled to read all the inscriptions which have been copied, with a good degree of accuracy. According to the results of this examination, the characters of the Sinaitic inscriptions belong to a distinct and independent alphabet. Some of the letters are wholly unique; the others have more or less affinity with the Palmyrene, and particularly with the Estrangelo and the Cufic. They are written from right to left. The contempts of the inscriptions, so far as examined, consist only of proper names, preceded by a word which is usually שׁלם shâlôm, peace, though occasionally some other word is used. In one or two instances the name is followed by a sentence which has not yet been deciphered. The names are those common in Arabic. It is a remarkable fact that not one Jewish or Christian name has been found.

The question, as to the writers of these inscriptions, receives very little light from their contents. A word at the end of some of them may be so read as to affirm that they were pilgrims, and this opinion Professor Beer adopts; but this is not certain. That the writers were Christians, seems apparent from many of the crosses connected with the inscriptions. The age, also, of the inscriptions, receives no light from their conents, as no date has yet been read. Beer supposes that the greater part of them could not have been written earlier than the fourth century. Little light, therefore, is cast upon the question who wrote them; what was their design; in what age they were written, or who were the pilgrims who wrote them. See Rob. Bib. Research. i.-552-556. That there were such records in the time of Job, is probable.

24. pen—graver.

lead—poured into the engraven characters, to make them better seen [Umbreit]. Not on leaden plates; for it was "in the rock" that they were engraved. Perhaps it was the hammer that was of "lead," as sculptors find more delicate incisions are made by it, than by a harder hammer. FOSTER (One Primeval Language) has shown that the inscriptions on the rocks in Wady-Mokatta, along Israel's route through the desert, record the journeys of that people, as Cosmas Indicopleustes asserted, A.D. 535.

for ever—as long as the rock lasts.

An iron pen; of which also there is mention Jeremiah 17:1.

And lead; or, or lead; or, with lead; the particle and being oft so used, as Genesis 4:20 Exodus 1:6 Jeremiah 22:7. For this lead may be either,

1. The writing pen, which might be either of iron or of lead; for though lead be of itself too soft, yet there was an art of tempering lead with other metals to such a degree of hardness that it could pierce into a rock; as they did-also temper brass, so that they could make bows and swords of it. Or,

2. The writing table; for the ancients did use to write divers things in lead, as is well known. Or,

3. The writing ink, as I may call it; for they used to grave the letters in a stone with an iron tool, and then to fill up the cuts or furrows made in the stone with lead, that the words might be more plainly seen and read.

That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! Or "that they were written with an iron pen and lead, that they were cut or hewn out in a rock for ever"; not with both an iron and leaden pen, or pencil; for the marks of the latter are not durable, and much less could it be used on a rock according to our version; but the sense seems to be, that they might be written with an iron pen, which was used in writing, Jeremiah 17:1; upon a sheet of lead, as the Vulgate Latin version; for it was usual in ancient times, as Pliny (q) and others relate, for books to be made of sheets of lead, and for public records to be engrossed, as in plates of brass, so sometimes in sheets of lead, for the perpetuity of them; or else it refers to the cutting out of letters on stones, as the law was on two tables of stone, and filling up the incisions or cuttings with lead poured into them, as Jarchi suggests: so Pliny, (r) speaks of stone pillars in Arabia and the parts adjacent, with unknown characters on them; also this may have respect to the manner of writing on mountains and rocks formerly, as the Israelites at or shortly after the times of Job did. There are now, in the wilderness through which the Israelites passed, hills called Gebel-el-mokatab, the written mountains, engraved with unknown ancient characters, out into the hard marble rock; supposed to be the ancient Hebrew, written by the Israelites for their diversion and improvement which are observed by some modern travellers (s). In the last age, Petrus a Valle and Thomas a Novaria saw them; the latter of which transcribed some of them, some of which seemed to be like to the Hebrew letters now in use, and others to the Samaritans; and some agreed with neither (t); and Cosmoss the Egyptian (u), who wrote A. D. 535, declares on his own testimony, that all the mansions of the Hebrews in the wilderness were to be seen in stones with Hebrew letters engraved on them, which seemed to be an account of their journeys in it. The inscription on a stone at Horeb, brought from thence by the above mentioned Thomas a Novaria, and which Kircher (w) has explained thus,

"God shall make a virgin conceive, and she shall bring forth a son,''

is thought by learned men to be of a later date, and the explication of it is not approved of by them. (x) Job may have in view his sepulchre hewn out of a rock, as was usual, and as that was our Lord was laid in; and so his wish might be that the following words were his funeral epitaph, and that they might be cut out and inscribed upon his sepulchral monument, his rocky grave; that everyone that passed by might read his strong expressions of faith in a living Redeemer, and the good hope he had of a blessed resurrection.

(q) Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 11. Alex. ab Alex. l. 2. c. 30. Pausaniae Messenica, sive, l. 4. p. 266. & Boeotica, sive, l. 9. p. 588. (r) Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 28. & 29. (s) See a Journal from Cairo, &c. in 1722, p. 45, 46. and Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. ii. p. 171, 181. (t) Antiqu. Eccles. Orient. p. 147. (u) Apud Montfaucon, tom. 2. p. 205. (w) Prodrom. Copt. c. 8. p. 201, 207. (x) Vide Hottinger. Praefat. ad Cipp. Hebr. p. 6, 7, 8. Wagenseil Carmin. Lipman. Confut. p. 429, &c.

That they were graven with {p} an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!

(p) He protests that despite his sore passions his religion is perfect and that he in not a blasphemer as they judged him.

24. In Job 19:23 Job longed that his words were written. But ordinary writing is perishable. And now he desires that his words were hewn in indelible characters upon the rock. The “lead” was probably run into the traces cut in the stone. It need not be said that “the rock” like “the book” means merely rock, and not any particular rock.

Verse 24. - That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! A peculiar kind of rock-inscription, of which, so far as I know, no specimens remain, appears to be here alluded to. Job wished the characters of his record to be cut deep into the rock with an iron chisel, and the incision made to be then filled up with lead (compare the mediaeval "brasses"). Job 19:2421 Have pity upon me, have pity upon me,

O ye my friends, For the hand of Eloah hath touched me.

22 Wherefore do ye persecute me as God,

And are never satisfied with my flesh?

23 Oh that my words were but written,

That they were recorded in a book,

24 With an iron pen, filled in with lead,

Graven in the rock for ever!

25 And I:know: my Redeemer liveth,

And as the last One will He arise from the dust.

In Job 19:21 Job takes up a strain we have not heard previously. His natural strength becomes more and more feeble, and his voice weaker and weaker. It is a feeling of sadness that prevails in the preceding description of suffering, and now even stamps the address to the friends with a tone of importunate entreaty which shall, if possible, affect their heart. They are indeed his friends, as the emphatic רעי אתּם affirms; impelled towards him by sympathy they are come, and at least stand by him while all other men flee from him. They are therefore to grant him favour (חנן, prop. to incline to) in the place of right; it is enough that the hand of Eloah has touched him (in connection with this, one is reminded that leprosy is called נגע, and is pre-eminently accounted as plaga divina; wherefore the suffering Messiah also bears the significant name חוּרא דבי רבּי, "the leprous one from the school of Rabbi," in the Talmud, after Isaiah 53:4, Isaiah 53:8), they are not to make the divine decree heavier to him by their uncharitableness. Wherefore do ye persecute me - he asks them in Job 19:22 - like as God (כּמו־אל, according to Saad. and Ralbag equals כמו־אלּה, which would be very tame); by which he means not merely that they add their persecution to God's, but that they take upon themselves God's work, that they usurp to themselves a judicial divine authority, they act towards him as if they were superhuman (vid., Isaiah 31:3), and therefore inhumanly, since they, who are but his equals, look down upon him from an assumed and false elevation. The other half of the question: wherefore are ye not full of my flesh (de ma chair, with מן, as Job 31:31), but still continue to devour it? is founded upon a common Semitic figurative expression, with which may be compared our Germ. expression, "to gnaw with the tooth of slander" comp. Engl. "backbiting". In Chaldee, אכל קרצוהי די, to eat the pieces of (any one), is equivalent to, to slander him; in Syriac, ochelqarsso is the name of Satan, like διάβολος. The Arabic here, as almost everywhere in the book of Job, presents a still closer parallel; for Arab. 'kl lḥm signifies to eat any one's flesh, then (different from אכל בשׂר, Psalm 27:2) equivalent to, to slander,

(Note: Vid., Schultens' ad Prov. Meidanii, p. 7 (where "to eat his own flesh," equivalent to "himself," without allowing others to do it, signifies to censure his kinsmen), and comp. the phrase Arab. aclu-l-a‛râdhi in the signification arrodere existimationem hominum in Makkari, i. 541, 13.)

since an evil report is conceived of as a wild beast, which delights in tearing a neighbour to pieces, as the friends do not refrain from doing, since, from the love of their assumption that his suffering must be the retributive punishment of heinous sins, they lay sins to his charge of which he is not conscious, and which he never committed. Against these uncharitable and groundless accusations he wishes (Job 19:23) that the testimony of his innocence, to which they will not listen, might be recorded in a book for posterity, or because a book may easily perish, graven in a rock (therefore not on leaden plates) with an iron style, and the addition of lead, with which to fill up the engraved letters, and render them still more imperishable. In connection with the remarkable fidelity with which the poet throws himself back into the pre-Israelitish patriarchal time of his hero, it is of no small importance that he ascribes to him an acquaintance not only with monumental writing, but also with book and documentary writing (comp. Job 31:35).

The fut., which also elsewhere (Job 6:8; Job 13:5; Job 14:13, once the praet., Job 23:3, noverim) follows מי־יתּן, quis dabat equals utinam, has Waw consec. here (as Deuteronomy 5:26 the praet.); the arrangement of the words is extremely elegant, בּסּפר stands per hyperbaton emphatically prominent. כּתב and חקק (whence fut. Hoph. יחקוּ with Dag. implicitum in the ח, comp. Job 4:20, and the Dag. of the ק omitted, for יוּחקּוּ, according to Ges. 67, rem. 8) interchange also elsewhere, Isaiah 30:8. ספר, according to its etymon, is a book formed of the skin of an animal, as Arab. sufre, the leathern table-mat spread on the ground instead of a table. It is as unnecessary to read לעד (comp. Job 16:8, lxx, εἰς μαρτύριον) instead of לעד here, as in Isaiah 30:8. He wishes that his own declaration, in opposition to his accusers, may be inscribed as on a monument, that it may be immortalized,


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