Job 21:4
As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) Is my complaint to man?—“It is not to man that I complain. I do not ask for your sympathy, and, therefore, why should ye resent an offence that is not given? If, however, I did ask it, might not my spirit with good reason be impatient? But, on the contrary, my complaint is to God; and, concerning the ways of God, I venture to ask why it is that His justice is so tardy; and this is a problem which when I remember it I am troubled, and horror taketh hold on my flesh, so difficult and arduous is it.”

Job 21:4. Is my complaint to man? — No: if it were, I see it would be to little purpose to complain. I do not make my complaint to, or expect relief from you, or from any men; but from God only. I am pouring forth my complaints to him; to him I appeal. Let him be judge between you and me. Before him we stand upon equal terms, and, therefore, I have the privilege of being heard as well as you. And if it were so — If my complaint were to man; why should not my spirit be troubled? — Would I not have cause to be troubled? For they would not regard, nor even rightly understand me; but my complaint is to God, who will suffer me to speak, though you will not.

21:1-6 Job comes closer to the question in dispute. This was, Whether outward prosperity is a mark of the true church, and the true members of it, so that ruin of a man's prosperity proves him a hypocrite? This they asserted, but Job denied. If they looked upon him, they might see misery enough to demand compassion, and their bold interpretations of this mysterious providence should be turned into silent wonder.As for me, is my complaint to man? - There is some difficulty in the interpretation of this verse, and considerable variety of explanation may be seen among expositors. The "object" of the verse is plain. It is to state a reason why they should hear him with patience and without interruption. The meaning of this part of the verse probably is, that his principal difficulty was not with his friends, but with God. It was not so much what they had said, that gave him trouble, as it was what God had done. Severe and cutting as were their rebukes, yet it was far more trying to him to be treated as he had been by God, "as if" he were a great sinner. That was what he could not understand. Perplexed and troubled, therefore, by the mysteriousness of the divine dealings, his friends ought to be willing to listen patiently to what he had to say; and in his anxiety to find out "why" God had treated him so, they ought not at once to infer that he was a wicked man, and to overwhelm him with increased anguish of spirit.

It will be recollected that Job repeatedly expressed the wish to be permitted to carry his cause at once up to God, and to have his adjudication on it. See Job 13:3, note; Job 13:18, notes. It is that to which he refers when he says here, that he wished to have the cause before God, and not before man. It was a matter which he wished to refer to the Almighty, and he ought to be allowed to express his sentiments with entire freedom. One of the difficulties in understanding this verse arises from the word "complaint." We use it in the sense of "murmuring," or "repining;" but this, I think, is not its meaning here. It is used rather in the sense of "cause, argument, reasoning, or reflections." The Hebrew word שׂיח śı̂yı̂ch means, properly, that which is "brought out" - from שׂיח śı̂yach, "to bring out, to put forth, to produce" - as buds, leaves, flowers; and then it means "words" - as brought out, or spoken; and then, meditations, reflections, discourses, speeches; and then it "may" mean "complaint." But there is no evidence that the word is used in that sense here. It means his reflections, or arguments. They were not to man. He wished to carry them at once before God, and he ought, therefore, to be allowed to speak freely. Jerome renders it, "disputatio mea." The Septuagint, ἔλεγξις elengcis - used here, probably, in the sense of "an argument to produce conviction," as it is often.

And if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled? - Margin, "shortened," meaning the same as troubled, afflicted, or impatient. A more literal translation will better express the idea which is now lost sight of, "And if so, why should not my spirit be distressed?" That is, since my cause is with God - since my difficulty is in understanding his dealings with me - since I have carried my cause up to him, and all now depends on him, why should I not be allowed to have solicitude in regard to the result? If I manifest anxiety, who can blame me? Who would not, when his all was at stake, and when the divine dealings toward him were so mysterious?

4. Job's difficulty was not as to man, but as to God, why He so afflicted him, as if he were the guilty hypocrite which the friends alleged him to be. Vulgate translates it, "my disputation."

if it were—rather, "since this is the case."

To man; or, of man; for the prefix lamed commonly signifieth both to and of. And this question implies a denial, or that his complaint is not to or of man, to wit, only, but to or of God; as is here sufficiently implied, and oft elsewhere expressed by Job in this book. So the sense seems to be either,

1. This, I do not make my moan or complaint unto, or expect relief from, you, or from any men, but from God only; and therefore you have reason patiently to hear me when I am pouring forth my complaints to God. Or rather,

2. This, Do I only complain, or have I reason to complain, only of you and your unmerciful carriage to me; or of men who have dealt barbarously with me? Job 1 Job 30:1,9, &c. Surely no; but, my complaint is of God, and of his hard and severe dealing with me. It is he who hath alienated my friends’ affections from me, and stirred up mine enemies against me. And though it hath been my chief care and business to please and serve him, yet he hath also set himself against me, and shot all his arrows into me. And therefore my expostulation with him (which here follows, Job 21:7) is the more reasonable; and if you will hear me calmly and patiently, you will find that I have cause of complaining. If it were so, i.e. if my complaint were only of man, I have cause to be troubled. Or, if it be so, i.e. if I do not complain of man, but of God, it is no wonder if my spirit be greatly oppressed; and you ought to allow me the liberty of easing my troubled mind, and modestly pleading my cause before God.

Be troubled, Heb. be shortened, or straitened, i.e. either grieved or vexed, as this word signifies, Exodus 6:9 Numbers 21:4 Judges 10:16 16:16 The heart is enlarged by joy, and contracted by sorrow; as appears by philosophy and experience.

As for me, is my complaint to man?.... Job had been complaining, and still was, and continued to do so after this, but not to them, his friends, nor any other man; his complaint was made to God, and of him he thought he was hardly dealt with by him, he could not tell for what; he had desired to know the reason why he contended with him in such a manner, but could get no satisfaction; when his friends came first to visit him, they said nothing to him, nor he to them; and when he did speak, it was not to them, but to God, of whom he complains; and expostulates with him why he had ever been born, or had not died as soon as born, and not have lived to have seen such unhappy days, and endured so much affliction and trouble:

and if it were so; that he had made his complaint to man, since it would have been in vain, and to no purpose, he should have got no relief, nor obtained any satisfaction:

why should not my spirit be troubled? or "shortened" (l); or, as the Targum, be straitened; for as comfort and joy enlarge the heart, trouble contracts and straitens it; or is "my prayer" or (m) "petition to men?" it was not, though he was reduced so low, and was in such a distressed condition; he had asked nothing of men, not of these his friends, neither to give him of their substance, nor to help him out of the hands of his enemies, Job 6:21; he had poured out his complaint before God, and had directed his prayer to the God of his life; he had desired to speak to none but the Almighty, and to reason only with him; he had petitioned him to take cognizance of his case, and to admit of a hearing of it before him, and to have it determined by him; he had complained of wrongs and injuries done him, and begged to be redressed and righted, but got no answer; God did not think fit to answer him, but hid himself from him, and continued so to do: "and if", if this be the case, as it really was, "why should not my spirit be troubled?" is there not reason for it? Some think Job's meaning is, is "my disputation", as the Vulgate Latin version, or is my discourse concerning human things, things within the compass of human knowledge and reasoning? or, to be attained to by the force of that, without divine revelation? no, it is concerning divine things; concerning the mysteries of Providence, with respect to good and bad men; concerning the living Redeemer, his incarnation, resurrection, &c. and faith in him; concerning the general resurrection, the final judgment, and a future state of happiness: or does my complaint, petition, or discourse, savour of that which is human, and is intermixed with human frailty? if it be so, it should be borne with, it should be considered I am but a man, and liable to err; and especially great allowances should be made in my present circumstances, being trader such sore afflictions; and it may be reasonably thought, that though the spirit may be willing to behave in a better manner, the flesh is weak, and much must be imputed unto that; and it will not seem so extravagant to indulge a troubled spirit so severely exercised; persons under afflictions generally think they do well to be troubled, and that there is reason enough for it, and ought to be borne with, and not to be reproached and rallied on that account.

(l) "abbreviabitur", Montanus, Vatablus, "abbreviaretur", Drusius, Cocceius, Michaelis. (m) "precatio mea", Drusius.

As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it {b} were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?

(b) As though he would say, I do not talk with man but with God, who will not answer me, and therefore my mind must be troubled.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. is my complaint to man] Rather, of, or, concerning man. The whole first clause means, Is my complaint about man? my emphatic. The words may express a reason for their listening to him, it is not of them nor of men at all that he complains; it is of another, and of a moral riddle and evil that may well excuse his impatience.

And if it were so … troubled] Rather, or wherefore should I not be impatient? lit. should not my spirit be short?

Verse 4. - As for me, is my complaint to man? Do I address myself to man, pour out my complaint to him, and expect him to redress my wrongs? No; far otherwise. I address myself to God, from whom alone I can look for effectual assistance. And if it were so; rather, and if so, if this is the case, if my appeal is to God, and he makes me no answer, then why should not my spirit be troubled? or, Why should I not be impatient? (Revised Version). Job thinks that he has a right to be impatient, if God does not vouchsafe him an answer. Job 21:4 1 Then began Job, and said:

2 Hear, oh hear, my speech,

And let this be instead of your consolations.

3 Suffer me, and I will speak,

And after I have spoken thou mayest mock.

4 As for me, then, doth my complaint concern man,

Or wherefore should I not become impatient?

5 Turn ye to me and be astonished,

And lay your hand upon your mouth.

6 Even if I think of it I am bewildered,

And my flesh taketh hold on trembling - :

The friends, far from being able to solve the enigma of Job's affliction, do not once recognise the mystery as such. They cut the knot by wounding Job most deeply by ever more and more frivolous accusations. Therefore he entreats them to be at least willing to listen (שׁמעוּ with the gerund) to his utterance (מלּה) respecting the unsolved enigma; then (Waw apodosis imper.) shall this attention supply the place of their consolations, i.e., be comforting to him, which their previous supposed consolations could not be. They are to bear with him, i.e., without interruption allow him to answer for himself (שׂאוּני with Kametz before the tone, as Jonah 1:12, comp. קחהוּ, 1 Kings 20:33, not as Hirz. thinks under the influence of the distinctive accent, but according to the established rule, Ges. 60, rem. 1); then he will speak (אנכי contrast to the "ye" in שׂאוני without further force), and after he has expressed himself they may mock. It is, however, not תלעיגוּ (as Olshausen corrects), but תלעיג (in a voluntative signific. equals תלעג), since Job here addresses himself specially to Zophar, the whole of whose last speech must have left the impression on him of a bitter sarcasm (sarkasmo's from sarka'zein in the sense of Job 19:22), and has dealt him the freshest deep blow. In Job 21:4 שׂיחת is not to be understood otherwise than as in Job 7:13; Job 9:27; Job 10:1; Job 23:2, and is to be translated "my complaint." Then the prominently placed אנכי is to be taken, after Ezekiel 33:17, Ges. 121, 3, as an emphatic strengthening of the "my": he places his complaint in contrast with another. This emphasizing is not easily understood, if one, with Hupf., explains: nonne hominis est querela mea, so that ה is equivalent to הלא (which here in the double question is doubly doubtful), and ל is the sign of the cause. Schultens and Berg, who translate לאדם more humano, explain similarly, by again bringing their suspicious ל comparativum

(Note: In the passage from Ibn-Kissa quoted above, p. 421, Schultens, as Fleischer assures me, has erroneously read Arab. lmchâlı̂b instead of kmchâlı̂b, having been misled by the frequent failing of the upper stroke of the Arab. k, and in general Arab. l is never equals k, and also ל never equals כ, as has been imagined since Schultens.)

here to bear upon it. The ל by שׂיחי (if it may not also be compared with Job 12:8) may certainly be expected to denote those to whom the complaint is addressed. We translate: As for me, then, does my complaint concern men? The אנכי which is placed at the beginning of the sentence comes no less under the rule, Ges. 145, 2, than 121, 3. In general, sufferers seek to obtain alleviation of their sufferings by imploring by words and groans the pity of sympathizing men; the complaint, however, which the three hear from him is of a different kind, for he has long since given up the hope of human sympathy, - his complaint concerns not men, but God (comp. Job 16:20).

continued...

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