Job 22:2
Can a man be profitable to God, as he that is wise may be profitable to himself?
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(2) As he that is wise.—It is probably an independent statement: “Surely he that is wise is profitable, &c.”

Job 22:2. Can a man be profitable unto God — That is, add any thing to his perfection or felicity? namely, by his righteousness, as the next verse shows. Why then dost thou insist so much upon thy own righteousness, as if thou didst oblige God by it; or, as if he could not, without injustice, afflict thee, who supposest thyself to be a righteous person? As, or because, he that is wise — He that is a truly righteous and good man; may be profitable to himself — Does much good to himself; promotes his own peace, and honour, and happiness, by his goodness. Because a wise man receives great benefit by his virtue, shall we think that God is a gainer by it too?22:1-4 Eliphaz considers that, because Job complained so much of his afflictions, he thought God was unjust in afflicting him; but Job was far from thinking so. What Eliphaz says, is unjustly applied to Job, but it is very true, that when God does us good it is not because he is indebted to us. Man's piety is no profit to God, no gain. The gains of religion to men are infinitely greater than the losses of it. God is a Sovereign, who gives no account of his conduct; but he is perfectly wise, just, faithful, good, and merciful. He approves the likeness of his own holiness, and delights in the fruits of his Spirit; he accepts the thankful services of the humble believer, while he rejects the proud claim of the self-confident.Can a man be profitable unto God? - Can a man confer any favor on God, so as to lay him under obligation? Eliphaz supposes that Job sets up a "claim" to the favor of God, because he was of service to him, or because God had something to fear if he was cut off. He maintains, therefore, that a man can confer no favor on God, so as to lay him under obligation. God is independent and supreme. He has nothing to gain if man is righteous - he has nothing to apprehend if he is punished. He is not dependent at all on man.

As he that is wise - Margin, or, "if he may be profitable, doth his goodness depend thereon." The meaning of the passage is, a wise man may promote his own advantage, but he cannot be of advantage to God. All the result of his wisdom must terminate on himself, and not on God; compare Psalm 16:2. Of the correctness of this sentiment there can be no doubt. It accords with reason, and with all that is said in the Scriptures. God is too great to be benefited by man. He is infinite in all his perfections; he is the original fountain of blessedness; he is supremely wise; he has all resources in himself, and he cannot be dependent on his creatures. He cannot, therefore, be deterred from punishing them by any dread which he has of losing their favor - he cannot be induced to bless them because they have laid him under obligation. Eliphaz meant this as a reply to what Job had said. He had maintained, that God did "not" treat people according to their character in this life, but that, in fact, the wicked were often prospered, and suffered to live long. Eliphaz at once "infers," that if this were so, it must be because they could render themselves "serviceable" to God, or because he must have something to dread by punishing them. In the general sentiment, he was right; in the "inference" he was wrong - since Job had not affirmed that they are spared from any such cause, and since many other "reasons" may be assigned.

2. as he that is wise—rather, yea the pious man profiteth himself. So "understanding" or "wise"—pious (Da 12:3, 10; Ps 14:2) [Michaelis]. Be profitable unto God, i.e. add any thing to his perfection or felicity, to wit, by his righteousness, as the next verse shows. Why then dost thou insist so much upon thy own righteousness, as if thou didst oblige God by it, or as if he could not without injury afflict thee? who supposest thyself to be a righteous person, though indeed thou art not so, as he saith, Job 22:5,6, &c.; but if thou wert really so, God is not thy debtor for it.

As; or, because; or, but; or, yea rather: so this latter clause is to be read without an interrogation, and the former with it.

He that is wise may be profitable to himself: a wise or good man (for these in Scripture use are one and the same) doth much good to himself; he promotes his own peace, and honour, and happiness by his goodness; and having so great a reward for his virtue, God is not indebted to him, but he is indebted to God for it. Can a man be profitable unto God?.... Eliphaz imagined that Job thought so, by his insisting so much on his integrity, and complaining of his afflictions; and that God was beholden to him for his holiness and righteousness, and that instead of afflicting him, should have heaped honours and happiness upon him; whereas there is not anything a man can do, or does, by which God can be profiled; which is a very great truth, though misapplied to Job through a wrong construction of his words and meaning. No man, even the best of men, and by the best things they can do, can be profitable to God; as for bad men, they are altogether unprofitable to themselves and to others, and still less profitable to God; and as for good men, their "goodness extendeth not" to the Lord, Psalm 16:2; it comes from him, it is his own previously; it is of no avail and advantage to him, who is perfect and all sufficient; when they have done all that they are commanded, they are bid to say, and very truly, "we are unprofitable servants", Luke 17:10; they do indeed glorify God, and are the means of others glorifying him by their good works; but then they add no glory to him, which he had not before; they only declare the glory of God by the light of their grace and works, as the heavens and luminaries in them do by their light and lustre; they worship God as they ought to do; but then he is not worshipped by them "as though he needed anything" of them, Acts 17:25; it is they, and not he, that get by worship; it is good for them, and they find their account in it, to draw near to him, and wait upon him, and worship him; what are all their prayers and praises to him? the benefit redounds to themselves: some men are very serviceable to promote the interest of religion, either by their purses, or by their gifts and talents, fitting for public usefulness; but then, what do they give to God but what is his own? "of thine own have we given thee", says David, 1 Chronicles 29:14; or what do they do for him? it is for the good of themselves, and others, Romans 11:35. Some are useful in the conversion of men to God, either by the public ministry of the word, or in private life by discourse and conversation; but then the profit of all this is to men, and not unto God; there is nothing that a man can do, by which he can make God his debtor, or lay him under an obligation to him, which he would, if he could be profitable to him; but whatever he does, it is but his duty, and what God has a prior right unto; and therefore men can merit nothing at the hand of God, no, not the least mercy; it is by the grace of God a good man is what he is, and does what he does; the Targum paraphrases it, "can a man teach God?" and so Mr. Broughton; see Job 21:22;

as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself? or "though", or "indeed, truly he that is wise", &c. (h). A man that is worldly wise is profitable to himself and his family, by gathering wealth and riches; and a man that is wise, and has a large understanding of natural things, may be profitable to himself by enriching his mind with knowledge, increasing the pleasure of it, and getting credit and fame among men by it, and may be profitable to others by communicating his knowledge to them, see Proverbs 9:12; and one that is spiritually wise, or has the true grace of God, and wisdom in the hidden part, which is no other than real godliness, gets great gain; for godliness is that to him, and is profitable for all things, having the promise of the present and future life; and he that has an interest in Christ, the Wisdom of God, is a happy man indeed, since he has that, the merchandise of which is better than silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold; one that is wise unto salvation, and is a wise professor of religion, and walks wisely and circumspectly, has great advantages; he builds his salvation on the rock Christ, and is safe and sure; he is concerned to have the oil of grace, with the lamp of a profession, and so is always ready to meet the bridegroom; and being careful of his conversation, keeps his garments that his shame is not seen; and so a wise minister of the word, "one that instructs" (i), or gives instructions to others, as the word here signifies; or one that causes to understand, or is the means of causing men to understand, such a man is profitable to himself and to others, see Daniel 12:3.

(h) "immo", Beza; "profecto", Schultens. (i)

Can a man be {a} profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be profitable unto himself?

(a) Though man was just, yet God could not profit from this his justice; and therefore when he punished him, he had no regard to his justice, but to his sin.

2. This verse reads,

Can a man be profitable unto God?

Nay, he that is wise is profitable unto himself.

A man’s actions cannot affect God; the advantage of wisdom, that is, prudent and right conduct, can only accrue to a man himself.

2–5. God’s treatment of men cannot be due to any respect which He has to Himself, for He is too lofty to be affected by anything human. He deals with men according to their ways, and Job’s afflictions can be due only to his sin.27 Behold I know your thoughts

And the stratagems, with which ye overpower me!

28 When ye say: Where is the house of the tyrant,

And where the pavilions of the wicked - :

29 Have ye not asked those who travel,

Their memorable things ye could surely not disown:

30 That the wicked was spared in the day of calamity,

In the day of the outburst of wrath they were led away.

31 Who liketh to declare to him his way to his face?

And hath he done aught, who will recompense it to him?

Their thoughts which he sees through, are their secret thoughts that he is such an evil-doer reaping the reward of his deeds. מזמּות (which occurs both of right measures, good wise designs, Proverbs 5:2; Proverbs 8:12, and of artful devices, malicious intrigues, Proverbs 12:2; Proverbs 14:17, comp. the definition of בּעל מזמּות, Proverbs 24:8) is the name he gives to the delicately developed reasoning with which they attack him; חמס (comp. Arab. taḥammasa, to act harshly, violently, and overbearingly) is construed with על in the sense of forcing, apart from the idea of overcoming. In Job 21:28, which is the antecedent to Job 21:29, beginning with כּי האמרוּ (as Job 19:28), he refers to words of the friends like Job 8:22; Job 15:34; Job 18:15, Job 18:21. נדיב is prop. the noble man, whose heart impels (נדב, Arab. nadaba) him to what is good, or who is ready and willing, and does spontaneously that which is good (Arab. naduba), vid., Psychol. S. 165; then, however, since the notion takes the reverse way of generosus, the noble man (princely) by birth and station, with which the secondary notion of pride and abuse of power, therefore of a despot or tyrant, is easily as here (parall. רשׁעים, comp. עשׁיר, Isaiah 53:9, with the same word in the parallel) combined (just so in Isaiah 13:2, and similarly at least above, Job 12:21, - an anomaly of name and conduct, which will be for the future put aside, according to Isaiah 32:5). It is not admissible to understand the double question as antithetical, with Wolfson, after Proverbs 14:11; for the interrogative איּה is not appropriate to the house of the נדיב, in the proper sense of the word. Job 21:28, משׁכנות is not an externally but internally multiplying plur.; perhaps the poet by byt intends a palace in the city, and by אהל משׁכנות a tent among the wandering tribes, rendered prominent by its spaciousness and the splendour of the establishment.

(Note: Although the tents regularly consist of two divisions, one for the men and another for the women, the translation "magnificent pavilion" (Prachtgezelt), disputed by Hirz., is perfectly correct; for even in the present day a Beduin, as he approaches an encampment, knows the tent of the sheikh immediately: it is denoted by its size, often also by the lances planted at the door, and also, as is easily imagined, by the rich arrangement of cushions and carpets. Vid., Layard's New Discoveries, pp. 261 and 171.)

Job thinks the friends reason a priori since they inquire thus; the permanent fact of experience is quite different, as they can learn from ערי דרך, travellers, i.e., here: people who have travelled much, and therefore are well acquainted with the stories of human destinies. The Piel נכּר, proceeding from the radical meaning to gaze fixedly, is an enantio'seemon, since it signifies both to have regard to, Job 34:19, and to disown, Deuteronomy 32:27; here it is to be translated: their אתת ye cannot nevertheless deny, ignore (as Arab. nakira and ankara). אתת are tokens, here: remarkable things, and indeed the remarkable histories related by them; Arab. âyatun (collective plur. âyun), signs, is also similarly used in the signification of Arab. ‛ibrat, example, historical teaching.

That the כּי, Job 21:30, as in Job 21:28, introduces the view of the friends, and is the antecedent clause to Job 21:31 : quod (si) vos dicitis, in tempora cladis per iram divinam immissae servari et nescium futuri velut pecudem eo deduci improbum (Bttcher, de fin. 76), has in the double ל an apparent support, which is not to be denied, especially in regard to Job 38:23; it is, however, on account of the omission of the indispensable תאמרו in this instance, an explanation which does violence to the words. The כּי, on the contrary, introduces that which the accounts of the travellers affirm. Further, the ל in ליום indicates here not the terminus ad quem, but as in לערב, in the evening, the terminus quo. And the verb חשׂך, cohibere, signifies here to hold back from danger, as Job 33:18, therefore to preserve uninjured. Ew. translates Job 21:30 erroneously: "in the day when the floods of wrath come on." How tame would this הוּבל, "to be led near," be! This Hoph. signifies elsewhere to be brought and conducted, and occurs in Job 21:32, as in Isaiah 55:12 and elsewhere, of an honourable escort; here, in accordance with the connection: to be led away out of the danger (somewhat as Lot and his family by the escort of angels). At the time, when streams of wrath (עברה, the overflowing of vexation equals outburst of wrath, like the Arab. ‛abrt, the overflowing of the eye equals tears) go forth, they remain untouched: they escape them, as being under a special, higher protection.


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