Job 20:16
He shall suck the poison of asps: the viper's tongue shall slay him.
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20:10-22 The miserable condition of the wicked man in this world is fully set forth. The lusts of the flesh are here called the sins of his youth. His hiding it and keeping it under his tongue, denotes concealment of his beloved lust, and delight therein. But He who knows what is in the heart, knows what is under the tongue, and will discover it. The love of the world, and of the wealth of it, also is wickedness, and man sets his heart upon these. Also violence and injustice, these sins bring God's judgments upon nations and families. Observe the punishment of the wicked man for these things. Sin is turned into gall, than which nothing is more bitter; it will prove to him poison; so will all unlawful gains be. In his fulness he shall be in straits, through the anxieties of his own mind. To be led by the sanctifying grace of God to restore what was unjustly gotten, as Zaccheus was, is a great mercy. But to be forced to restore by the horrors of a despairing conscience, as Judas was, has no benefit and comfort attending it.He shall suck the poison of asps - That which he swallowed as pleasant nutriment, shall become the most deadly poison; or the consequence shall be as if he had sucked the poison of asps. It would seem that the ancients regarded the poison of the serpent as deadly, however, it was taken into the system. They seem not to have been aware that the poison of a wound may be sucked out without injury to him who does it; and that it is necessary that the poison should mingle with the blood to be fatal.

The viper's tongue shall slay him - The early impression probably was, that the injury done by a serpent was by the fiery, forked, and brandished tongue, which was supposed to be sharp and penetrating. It is now known, that the injury is done by the poison ejected through a groove, or orifice in one of the teeth, which is so made as to lie flat on the roof of the mouth, except when the serpent bites, when that tooth is elevated, and penetrates the flesh. The word "viper" here (אפעה 'eph‛eh), "viper," is probably the same species of serpent that is known among the Arabs by the same name still - El Effah. See the notes at Isaiah 30:6. It is the most common and venomous of the serpent tribe in Northern Africa and in South-western Asia. It is remarkable for its quick and penetrating poison. It is about two feet long, as thick as a man's arm, beautifully spotted with yellow and brown, and sprinkled over with blackish specks. They have a large mouth, by which they inhale a large quantity of air, and when inflated therewith, they eject it with such force as to be heard a considerable distance. "Jackson." Capt. Riley, in his "Authentic Narrative," (New York, 1817,) confirms this account. He describes the viper as the "most beautiful object in nature," and says that the poison is so virulent as to cause death in fifteen minutes.

16. shall suck—It shall turn out that he has sucked the poison, &c. That which he hath greedily and industriously sucked in as pleasant and wholesome nourishment, shall in the issue be as ungrateful and destructive to him as the

poison or head (for the Hebrew word signifies both, and the poison lies in the head)

of asps would be to one that sucketh it. The viper’s tongue, together with its teeth, in which the poison lurks, which it conveys by biting a man. He shall suck the poison of asps,.... Or "the head of asps" (u); for their poison lies in their heads, particularly in their "teeth" (w); or rather is a liquor in the gums, yellow like oil (x); according to Pliny (y), in copulation the male puts his head into the mouth of the female, which she sucks and gnaws off through the sweetness of the pleasure, then conceives her young, which eat out her belly; this is to be understood not of the man's sin, then it would have been expressed either in the past or present tense, as if that was sweet unto him in the commission of it, sucked in like milk from the breast, or honey from the honeycomb; such were his contrivances and artful methods, and the success of them in getting riches, but in the issue proved like the poison of asps, pernicious and deadly to him, which caused him to vomit them up again; for poison excites vomiting: but of the punishment of his sin; for putting men to death by the poison of asps was a punishment inflicted by some people upon malefactors; and however, it is certain death, and immediately and quickly dispatches, and without sense; so the wages of sin is death, and there is no avoiding it, and it comes insensibly on carnal men; they are not aware of it, and in no pain about it, until in hell they lift up their eyes as the rich man did:

the viper's tongue shall slay him; though it is with its teeth it bites, yet, when it is about to bite, it puts out its tongue, and to it its poison is sometimes ascribed; though it is said (z) to be quite harmless, and therefore not to be understood in a literal sense, but figuratively of the tongue of a detractor, a calumniator and false accuser, such an one as Doeg; but cannot be the sense here, since the fall of the person here described would not be by any such means; but the phrase, as before, denotes the certain and immediate death of such a wicked man; for the bite of a viper was always reckoned incurable, and issued in sudden death, see Acts 28:3.

(u) "caput aspidum", V. L. Montanus. (w) Plin. Nat. Hist. l. 11. c. 37. Aelian. Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 4. (x) Philosoph. Transact. ut supra. (abridged, vol. 2. p. 819.) (y) Ib. c. 62. (z) Scheuchzer, ut supra, (Physic. Sacr. vol. 4.) p. 712.

He shall suck the {g} poison of asps: the viper's tongue shall slay him.

(g) He compares ill-gotten goods to the venom of asps, which is a dangerous serpent, noting that Jobs great riches were not truly come by and therefore God plagues him justly for the same.

16. A slight change of the figure. The meaning is: that which he sucks shall prove the poison of asps.Verse 16. - He shall suck the poison of asps. Probably Zophar does not affix any very distinct meaning to his threats. He is content to utter a series of fierce-sounding but vague menaces, which he knows that Job will regard as launched against himself, and does not care whether they are taken metaphorically or literally. Job will be equally distressed in either ease. The viper's tongue shall slay him. It is really the viper's tooth, and not his tongue, that slays; but Zophar is not, any more than Job (Job 27:18), an accomplished naturalist. 6 If his aspiration riseth to the heavens,

And he causeth his head to touch the clouds:

7 Like his dung he perisheth for ever;

Those who see him say: Where is he?

8 As a dream he flieth away, and they cannot find him;

And he is scared away as a vision of the night.

9 The eye hath seen him, and never again,

And his place beholdeth him no more.

10 His children must appease the poor,

And his hands give up his wealth.

11 His bones were full of youthful vigour;

Now it is laid down with him in the dust.

If the exaltation of the evil-doer rises to heaven, and he causes his head to reach to the clouds, i.e., to touch the clouds, he notwithstanding perishes like his own dung. We are here reminded of what Obadiah, Job 20:4, says of Edom, and Isaiah, Isaiah 14:13-15, says of the king of Babylon. שׂיא is equivalent to נשׂיא, like שׂוא, Psalm 89:10 equals נשׂוא; the first weak radical is cast away, as in כּילי equals נכילי, fraudulentus, machinator, Isaiah 32:5, and according to Olsh. in שׁיבה equals ישׁיבה, 2 Samuel 19:33. הגּיע is to be understood as causative (at least this is the most natural) in the same manner as in Isaiah 25:12, and freq. It is unnecessary, with Ew., Hirz., and Hlgst., after Schultens, to transl. כגללו, Job 20:7, according to the Arab. jlâl (whence the name Gell-ed-dn): secundum majestatem suam, or with Reiske to read בגללו, in magnificentia sua, and it is very hazardous, since the Hebrew גלל has not the meaning of Arab. jll, illustrem esse. Even Schultens, in his Commentary, has retracted the explanation commended in his Animadv., and maintained the correctness of the translation, sicut stercus suum (Jer. sicut sterquilinium), which is also favoured by the similar figurative words in 1 Kings 14:10 : as one burneth up (not: brushes away) dung (הגּלל), probably cow-dung as fuel, until it is completely gone. גּללו (or גּללו with an audible Shev) may be derived from גּלל, but the analogy of צללו favours the primary form גּל (Ew. 255, b); on no account is it גּלל. The word is not low, as Ezekiel 4:12, comp. Zephaniah 1:17, shows, and the figure, though revolting, is still very expressive; and how the fulfilment is to be thought of may be seen from an example from 2 Kings 9:37, according to which, "as dung upon the face of the field shall it be, so that they cannot say: this is Jezebel."

(Note: In Arabic, gille (גּלּה) and gelle (גּלּה) is the usual and preferred fuel (hence used as synon. of hhattab) formed of the dung of cows, and not indeed yoke-oxen (baqar 'ammle), because they have more solid fodder, which produces no material for the gelle, but from cattle that pasture in the open fields (baqar bat.tle), which are almost entirely milking cows. This dung is collected by women and children in the spring from the pastures as perfectly dry cakes, which have the green colour of the grass. Every husbandman knows that this kind of dung - the product of a rapid, one might say merely half, digestion, even when fresh, but especially when dry - is perfectly free from smell. What is collected is brought in baskets to the forming or pressing place (mattba'a, מטבּעה), where it is crumbled, then with water made into a thick mass, and, having been mixed with chopped straw, is formed by the women with the hand into round cakes, about a span across, and three fingers thick. They resemble the tanners' tan-cakes, only they are not square. Since this compound has the form of a loaf it is called qurss (which also signifies a loaf of bread); and since a definite form is given to it by the hand, it is called ttabu' (טבּוּע), collective ttbbi', which צפוּעי (צפיעי), Ezekiel 4:15, resembles in meaning; for ssaf', צפע (cogn. ssafhh, צפח), signifies to beat anything with the palm of the hand. First spread out, then later on piled up, the gelle lies the whole summer in the mattba'a. The domes (qubeb) are not formed until a month before the rainy season, i.e., a circular structure is built up of the cakes skilfully placed one upon another like bricks; it is made from six to eight yards high, gradually narrowed and finished with a vaulted dome, whence this structure has its name, qubbe (קבּה). Below it measures about eight or ten paces, it is always hollow, and is filled from beneath by means of an opening which serves as a door. The outside of the qubbe is plastered over with a thick solution of dung; and this coating, when once dried in the sun, entirely protects the building, which is both storehouse and store, against the winter rains. When they begin to use the fuel, they take from the inside first by means of the doorway, and afterwards (by which time the heavy rains are over) they use up the building itself, removing the upper part first by means of a ladder. By the summer the qubbe has disappeared. Many large households have three or four of these stores. Where walled-in courts are spacious, as is generally the case, they stand within; where not, outside. The communities bordering on the desert, and exposed to attacks from the Arabs, place them close round their villages, which gives them a peculiar appearance. When attacked, the herds are driven behind these buildings, and the peasants make their appearance between them with their javelins. Seetzen reckons the gelle among the seven characteristics of the district of Haurn (Basan).


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