Job 21:5
Mark me, and be astonished, and lay your hand upon 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. Job 21:5 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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