Job 21:5
Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand on your mouth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 21:5. Mark me, and be astonished — Consider what I am about to say, concerning the wonderful prosperity of the worst of men, and the pressures of some good men; and it will fill you with astonishment at the mysterious conduct of Divine Providence herein. And lay your hand upon your mouth — Be silent: quietly wait the issue; and judge nothing before the time. God’s way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters. When we cannot account for what he doth, in suffering the wicked to prosper, and the godly to be afflicted, nor fathom the depth of those proceedings, it becomes us to sit down and admire them. Upright men shall be astonished at this, chap. Job 17:8. Be you so.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.Mark me - Margin, "look unto." Literally, "Look upon me. That is, attentively look on me, on my sufferings, on my disease, and my losses. See if I am a proper object of repreach and mockery - see if I have not abundant reason to be in deep distress when God has afflicted me in a manner so unusual and mysterious.

And be astonished - Silent astonishment should be evinced instead of censure. You should wonder that a man whose life has been a life of piety, should exhibit the spectacle which you now behold, while so many proud contemners of God are permitted to live in affluence and ease.

And lay your hand upon your mouth - As a token of silence and wonder. So Plutarch, de Iside et Osiride, "Wherefore, he had laid his finger on his mouth as a symbol of silence and admiration - ἐχεμυθίας καὶ σιωπῆς σύμβολον echemuthias kai siōpēs sumbolon."

5. lay … hand upon … mouth—(Pr 30:32; Jud 18:19). So the heathen god of silence was pictured with his hand on his mouth. There was enough in Job's case to awe them into silence (Job 17:8). Consider what I am about to say concerning the wonderful prosperity of the worst of men, and the intolerable pressures of some good men, such as I have manifested and shall prove that I am, and it is able to fill you that are but spectators with astonishment and horror at the strange and mysterious course of Divine Providence herein; and therefore it is no wonder if I, who suffer such things from that God whom I have so faithfully served, am overwhelmed with the sense of it.

Lay your hand upon your mouth, i.e. be silent, as this phrase is oft used, as Job 40:4 Proverbs 10:32 Micah 7:16; for shame forbear to vex me with your words: or, you will lay, &c.; the imperative being put for the future, as is usual. I am persuaded you will be silenced and convinced by what I shall say. Mark me,.... Or "look at me" (n); not at his person, which was no lovely sight to behold, being covered with boils from head to foot, his flesh clothed with worms and clods of dust, his skin broken, yea, scarce any left; however, he was become a mere skeleton, reduced to skin and bone; but at his sorrows, and sufferings, and consider and contemplate them in their minds, and see if there was any sorrow like his, or anyone that suffered as he did, and in such pitiful circumstances; or that they would have a regard to his words, and well weigh what he had said, or was about to say, concerning his own case, or concerning the providences of God with respect to good and bad men, and especially the latter:

and be astonished; at what had befallen him, at his afflictions, being an innocent man, and not chargeable with any crime for which it could be thought that these came upon him; and at the different methods of Providence towards good men and bad men, the one being afflicted, and the other in prosperous circumstances, see Job 17:8;

and lay your hand upon your mouth; and be silent, since such dispensations of Providence are unsearchable, and past finding out; and, as they are not to be accounted for, are not to be spoken against: and it would have been well if Job had taken the same advice himself, and had been still, and owned and acknowledged the sovereignty of God, and not opened his mouth in the manner he had done, and cursed the of his birth, and complained of hard treatment at the hand of God perhaps his sense may be, that he would have his friends be silent, and forbear drawing the characters of men from the outward dealings of God with them. This phrase is used of silence in Job 29:9; thus Harpocrates, the god of silence with the Heathens, is always pictured with his hand to his mouth.

(n) "respicite ad me", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, &c.

Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon your {c} mouth.

(c) He charges them as though they were not able to comprehend his feeling of God's judgment, and exhorts them therefore to silence.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. The mystery which he will lay before them if they will mark it will strike them dumb. To “lay the hand upon the mouth” is a gesture of awe-struck silence, cf. ch. Job 40:4.Verses 5, 6. - Here we have an abrupt transition. Job is about to controvert Zophar's theory of the certain retribution that overtakes the wicked man in this life, and to maintain that, on the contrary, he usually prospers (vers. 7-18). Knowing that, in thus running counter to the general religious teaching, he will arouse much horror and indignation on the part of those who hear him, he prefaces his remarks with a notice that they will cause astonishment, and an acknowledgment that he himself cannot reflect upon the subject without a feeling of alarm and dismay. He thus hopes partially to disarm his opponents. Verse 5. - Mark me; literally, look to me; i.e. "attend to me," for I am about to say something well worth attention. And be astonished. Prepare yourselves, i.e., for something that will astonish you. And lay your hand upon your mouth. Harpocrates, the Egyptian god of silence, was often represented with his finger on his lips (see the author's 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. p. 362). The symbolism is almost universal. Job begs his auditors to "refrain their lips," and, however much astonished, to keep silence until he has concluded. 26 All darkness is reserved for his treasured things,

A fire that is not blown upon devoureth him;

It feedeth upon what is left in his tent.

27 The heavens reveal his iniquity,

And the earth riseth up against him.

28 The produce of his house must vanish,

Flowing away in the day of God's wrath.

. . . . . .

29 This is the lot of the wicked man from Elohim,

And the heritage decreed for him from God.

As in Psalm 17:14 God's store of earthly goods for the children of men is called צפוּן (צפין), so here the stores laid up by man himself are called צפוּניו. Total darkness, which will finally destroy them, is decreed by God against these stores of the godless, which are brought together not as coming from the hand of God, but covetously, and regardless of Him. Instead of טמוּן it might also have been צפוּן (Job 15:20; Job 21:19; Job 24:1), and instead of לצפוּניו also לטמוּניו (Deuteronomy 33:19); but טמוּן is, as Job 40:13 shows, better suited to darkness (on account of the ט, this dull-toned muta, with which the word begins). כּל־חשׁך signifies sheer darkness, as in Psalm 39:6, כל־הבל, sheer nothingness; Psalm 45:14, כל־כבודה, sheer splendour; and perhaps Isaiah 4:5, כל־כבוד, sheer glory. And the thought, expressed with somewhat of a play upon words, is, that to the θησαυρίζειν of the godless corresponds a θησαυρίζειν of God, the Judge (Romans 2:5; James 5:3): the one gathers up treasures, and the other nothing but darkness, to whom at an appointed season they shall be surrendered. The תּאכלהוּ which follows is regarded by Ges. as Piel instead of תּאכּלהוּ, but such a resolving of the characteristic sharpened syllable of Piel is unsupportable; by Hirz., Olsh. 250, b, and Pual instead of תּאכּלהוּ, but אכּל signifies to be eaten, not (so that it might be connected with an accusative of the obj.) to get to eat; by Ew., Hupf., as Kal for תּאכלהוּ, which is possible both from the letters and the matter (vid., on Psalm 94:20); but more correctly it is regarded as Poel, for such Poel forms from strong roots do occur, as שׁפט (vid., on Job 9:15), and that the Cholem of these forms can be shortened into Kametz-chatuph is seen from ודרשׁוּ, Psalm 109:10 (vid., Psalter in loc.).

(Note: Such a contraction is also presented in the readings תּרצחוּ, Psalm 62:4; מלשׁני, Psalm 101:5; and ויּחלקם, 1 Chronicles 23:6; 1 Chronicles 24:3. All these forms are not resolved forms of Piel (Ges., Berth., Olsh. 248, a), but contracted forms of Poel with Kametz-chatuph instead of Cholem. תּהתלּוּ, Job 13:9, is not a resolved form of Piel, but a non-syncopated Hiphil. It should be observed that the Chateph-Kametz in "wedorschu" above and at p. 328 is used as an unmistakeable sign of the ŏ. - Tr.])

The Poel is in the passage before us the intensive of Kal: a fire which is not blown upon shall eat him up. By this translation נפּח is equivalent to נפּחה, since attention is given to the gender of אשׁ in the verb immediately connected with it, but it is left out of consideration in the verbs נפח and ירע which stand further form it, which Olshausen thinks doubtful; there are, however, not a few examples which may be adduced in favour of it, as 1 Kings 19:11; Isaiah 33:9; comp. Ges. 147, rem. 1. Certainly the relative clause לא נפח may also be explained by supplying בּהּ: into which one has not blown, or that one has not blown on (Symm., Theod., ἄνευ φυσήματος): both renderings are possible, according to Ezekiel 22:20, Ezekiel 22:22; but since the masc. ירע follows, having undoubtedly אשׁ as its subject, we can unhesitatingly take the Synallage gen. as beginning even with נפח. A fire which needs no human help for its kindling and its maintenance is intended (comp. on לא ביד, Job 34:20); therefore "fire of God," Job 1:16. This fire feasts upon what has escaped (שׂריד, as Job 20:21; Job 18:19), i.e., whatever has escaped other fates, in his tent. yeera` (Milel) is fut. apoc. Kal; the form of writing ירע (fut. apoc. Niph.) proposed by Olsh. on account of the change of gender, i.e., it is devoured, is to be rejected for the reason assigned in connection with נפח. The correct interpretation has been brought forward by Schultens.

It is not without reference to Job 16:18-19, where Job has called upon earth and heaven as witnesses, that in Job 20:27 Zophar continues: "the heavens reveal his guilt, and the earth rises against him;" heaven and earth bear witness to his being an abhorrence, not worthy of being borne by the earth and shone upon by the light of heaven; they testify this, since their powers from below and above vie with one another to get rid of him. מתקוממה is connected closely with לו (which has Lamed raphatum) by means of Mercha-Zinnorith, and under the influence of the law, according to which before a monosyllabic accented word the tone is drawn back from the last syllable of the preceding word to the penultima (Ew. 73, 3), is accented as Milel on account of the pause.

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