Job 28:4
The flood breaks out from the inhabitant; even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.
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(4) The flood breaketh out . . . is very uncertain. We may render, Man breaketh open a shaft where none sojourneth; they are forgotten where none passeth by: i.e., the labourers in these deserted places, they hang afar from the haunts of men, they flit to and fro. Or it may be, The flood breaketh out from the inhabitants, even the waters forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from man: that is, the very course of rivers is subject to the will and power of man. Those who walk over the place forget that it was once a river, so completely has man obliterated the marks of it.

Job 28:4. The flood breaketh out — While men are digging and searching in the mines, a flood of waters breaks in suddenly and violently upon them, and disturbs them in their work; from the inhabitant — Hebrew, מעם גר, megnim gar, from with the inhabitant, or sojourner, as the word rather means: that is, out of that part of the earth which the miners inhabit, or wherever they sojourn and work; so that they dare not continue there any longer: but are forced to leave the place; even the waters forgotten of the foot — The first words in this clause, even the waters, are not in the Hebrew. It is only, They (namely, the waters) are forgotten of the foot; that is, the foot, treading on dry ground, forgets that the waters were lately there. They are dried up, they are gone away from men — That is, the art of man finds a way to divert such waters into different channels, and to drain them, so that they leave the places dry again, or, at least, run in such shallow streams that they are easily passed over.28:1-11 Job maintained that the dispensations of Providence were regulated by the highest wisdom. To confirm this, he showed of what a great deal of knowledge and wealth men may make themselves masters. The caverns of the earth may be discovered, but not the counsels of Heaven. Go to the miners, thou sluggard in religion, consider their ways, and be wise. Let their courage and diligence in seeking the wealth that perishes, shame us out of slothfulness and faint-heartedness in labouring for the true riches. How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! How much easier, and safer! Yet gold is sought for, but grace neglected. Will the hopes of precious things out of the earth, so men call them, though really they are paltry and perishing, be such a spur to industry, and shall not the certain prospect of truly precious things in heaven be much more so?The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant - It would be difficult to tell what idea our translators affixed to this sentence, though it seems to be a literal version of the Hebrew. There has been a great variety of rendering given to the passage. Noyes translates it:

"From the place where they dwell they open a shaft,

Unsupported by the feet,

They are suspended, they swing away from men."


"A flood goeth out from the realm of oblivion,

They draw it up from the foot of the mountain,

They remove it away from men."

According to this, the meaning, Herder says, would be, that "the dwelling of the forgotten would be the kingdom of the dead, and at greater depth than the deepest mines have reached. Streams break forth from the river of eternal oblivion beneath, and yet are overcome by the miners, pumped dry, and turned out of the way. "Yet I confess," says he, "the passage remains obscure to my mind." Coverdale renders it, "With the river of water parteth he asunder the strange people, that knoweth no good neighborhood; such as are rude, unmannerly, and boisterous." The Septuagint renders it, "The channels of brooks are choked up with sand; when to such as know not the right way strength is unavailing, and they are removed from among men." The difficulty of interpreting the passage has been felt by every expositor to be great; and there are scarcely two expositions alike. There can be no doubt that Job refers to mining operations, and the whole passage should be explained with reference to such works. But the obscurity may possibly arise from the fact that mining operations were then conducted in a manner different from what they are now, and the allusion may be to some custom which was then well understood, but of which we now know nothing. A plausible interpretation, at least, has been furnished by Gesenius, and one which seems to me to be more satisfactory than any other. An explanation of the words in the passage will bring out this view. The word rendered "breaketh out" (פרץ pârats) means to break, rend, tear through - and here refers to the act of breaking through the earth for the purpose of sinking a shaft or pit in a mine. The word rendered "flood" (נחל nachal) means properly a stream or brook; then a valley in which a brook runs along; and here Gesenius supposes it means a shaft or pit of a mine. It may be called a נחל nachal, or valley, from the resemblance to a gully which the water has washed away by a mountain-torrent.

From the inhabitant - This conveys evidently no idea as it now stands. The Hebrew is מעם־גר mē‛ı̂m-gār. The word גוּר gûr, from which גר gār is derived, means to sojourn for a time, to dwell, as a stranger or guest; and the phrase here means, "away from any dweller or inhabitant;" that is, from where people dwell, or from the surface of the ground as the home of men; that is, under ground. Or the idea is, that it is done where no one could dwell. It could not be the abode of man.

Even the waters forgotten of the foot - The words "even the waters" are supplied by the translators. The Hebrew is מני־רגל הנשׁכחים hanı̂śkâchı̂ym mı̂nı̂y-regel, and refers to being unsupported by the foot. They go into a place where the foot yields no support, and they are obliged to suspend themselves in order to be sustained.

They are dried up - דלו dâlû. The word דלל dâlal, from which this is derived, means to hang down, to be pendulous, as boughs are on a tree, or as a bucket is in a well. According to this interpretation, the meaning is, that they "hang down" far from men in their mines, and swing to and fro like the branches of a tree in the wind.

They are gone away from men - The word נעו nā‛û, from נוּע nûa‛, means to move to and fro, to waver, to vacillate. Gr. and Latin νεύω neuō, nuo, Germ. nicken, to nod backward and forward. The sense here is, that, far from the dwellings of people, they "wave to and fro" in their deep mines, suspended by cords. They descend by the aid of cords, and not by a firm foothold, until they penetrate the deep darkness of the earth. Other interpretations may be seen, however, defended at length in Schultens, and in Rosenmuller - who has adopted substantially that of Schultens - in Dr. Good, and in other commentaries. Few passages in the Bible are more obscure.

4. Three hardships in mining: 1. "A stream (flood) breaks out at the side of the stranger"; namely, the miner, a strange newcomer into places heretofore unexplored; his surprise at the sudden stream breaking out beside him is expressed (English Version, "from the inhabitant"). 2. "Forgotten (unsupported) by the foot they hang," namely, by ropes, in descending. In the Hebrew, "Lo there" precedes this clause, graphically placing it as if before the eyes. "The waters" is inserted by English Version. "Are dried up," ought to be, "hang," "are suspended." English Version perhaps understood, waters of whose existence man was previously unconscious, and near which he never trod; and yet man's energy is such, that by pumps, &c., he soon causes them to "dry up and go away" [So Herder]. 3. "Far away from men, they move with uncertain step"; they stagger; not "they are gone" [Umbreit]. This verse speaks either,

1. Of another great and remarkable work of God, whereby in some places either new rivers break forth, or old rivers break in upon the inhabitants, and drive them away; and in other places rivers or other waters are dried up, or derived into other channels or grounds, by which means these lands are rendered more useful and fruitful. Or rather,

2. Of an accident which commonly happens in mines, where, whilst men are digging, a flood of waters breaks in suddenly and violently upon them, and disturbs them in their work.

From the inhabitant, Heb.

from with the inhabitant, i.e. out of that part of the earth which the miners in a manner inhabit, or where they have their fixed abode, and for the most part dwell. Or, so that there is no inhabitant or abider, i.e. so that the miners dare continue there no longer, but are forced to come away.

Even the waters; which word is easily and fitly understood out of the foregoing word flood. Or without this supplement, the flood may be said to be forgotten, &c., that singular word being collectively taken, and so conveniently joined with this word of the plural number.

Forgotten of the foot, i.e. untrodden by the foot of man, such waters as men either never did pass over, by reason of their depth, cannot pass over; or such as though the miners at first for a while did pass over, yet now cannot, or dare not, do so any more. Forgetfulness is here ascribed to the foot, as it is to the hand, Psalm 137:5; and it is put for ignorance or unacquaintedness; as all sinners are said to forget God, though many of them never remembered nor minded him.

They are dried up, they are gone away from men; Heb.

they are dried up (or drawn up, to wit, by engines made for that purpose) from men, (i.e. from the miners, that they may not be hindered in their work. Or, with or by men, the prefix mem being oft put for beth, i.e. by the labour of men,) they remove or vanish, or pass away, and so the miners return to their work. The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant,.... Or, "so that there is no inhabitant" (z); of the mine, as the miner may be said to be, who lives there continually; and, when a flood of water arises, which is an usual thing in mines, he is obliged to flee, and make haste to save his life:

even the waters forgotten of the foot; such as never any foot of man touched, or was acquainted with, being subterraneous water, and never seen with the eye of man before, and who before knew not there were such floods underground (a). A like figurative expression in Psalm 137:5;

they are dried up, they are gone away from men; though such a flood of waters rise apace, and flow in with great force, and threaten the miners' lives, and the ruin of their works; yet they are not discouraged, but by means of engines, pumps, and buckets, and such like things, draw up the waters, and clear the mines of them; and they are gone from the workmen, who return to their work again, and go on with their mining: and so sometimes spiritual miners are interrupted by a flood of Satan's temptations, the world's persecutions, and various afflictions; but, by the assistance of the spirit and grace of God, whereby a standard is lifted up against them, they get clear of them, and receive no hurt by them, but go on cheerfully in the work of the Lord, Isaiah 59:19.

(z) "qui accolas non fert", Tigurine version; "dimisso accola", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "ut non sit accola", Mercerus. (a) Vid. Senecae Nat. Quaest. l. 5. c. 15.

The flood breaketh out from the {c} inhabitant; even the waters {d} forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men.

(c) Meaning, him that dwells by it.

4. This verse reads as a whole,

They break a shaft away from man’s abode;

They are forgotten of the foot;

Far away from men they hang, and swing.

The first clause, lit. away from the dweller or inhabitant, describes how the miners sink their shaft deep down below and away from the abode of men above. There they are forgotten by the foot of those overhead, who walk oblivious of them. And the last clause describes how they “hang and swing,” i.e. swing suspended in cages or from ropes as they pursue their unnatural operations—

half way down

Hangs one that gathers samphire—dreadful trade.Verse 4. - The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant. This passage is very obscure; but recent critics suggest, as its probable meaning, "He (i.e. the miner) breaketh open a shaft, away from where men inhabit" (see the Revised Version). The miner does not wish to be interfered with, and therefore sinks his shaft in some wild spot, far from the habitations of men. Even the waters forgotten of the foot; rather, they are forgotten of the foot; i.e. no one visits them; they are left alone; they are "forgotten of the foot" of the passer-by. They are dried up, they are gone away from men; rather, they hang swinging to and fro far from men. The descent of the shaft is made by a rope, to which they "hang swinging" all the time that they defend. As they have sought secrecy, all this takes place far from the haunts of men. 19 He lieth down rich, and doeth it not again,

He openeth his eyes and-is no more.

20 Terrors take hold of him as a flood;

By night a tempest stealeth him away.

21 The east wind lifteth him up, that he departeth,

And hurleth him forth from his place.

22 God casteth upon him without sparing,

Before His hand he fleeth utterly away.

23 They clap their hands at him,

And hiss him away from his place.

The pointing of the text ולא יאסף is explained by Schnurr., Umbr., and Stick.: He goes rich to bed and nothing is taken as yet, he opens his eyes and nothing more is there; but if this were the thought intended, it ought at least to have been ואין נאסף, since לא signifies non, not nihil; and Stickel's translation, "while nothing is carried away," makes the fut. instead of the praet., which was to be expected, none the more tolerable; also אסף can indeed signify to gather hastily together, to take away (e.g., Isaiah 33:4), when the connection favours it, but not here, where the first impression is that רשׁע is the subj. both to ולא יאסף and to ואיננו. Bttcher's translation, "He lieth down rich and cannot be displaced," gives the words a meaning that is ridiculed by the usage of the language. On the other hand, ולא יאסף can signify: and he is not conveyed away (comp. e.g., Jeremiah 8:2; Ezekiel 29:5; but not Isaiah 57:1, where it signifies to be swept away, and also not Numbers 20:26, where it signifies to be gathered to the fathers), and is probably intended to be explained after the pointing that we have, as Rosenm. and even Ralbag explain it: "he is not conveyed away; one opens his eyes and he is not;" or even as Schlottm.: "he is not conveyed away; in one moment he still looks about him, in the next he is no more;" but the relation of the two parts of the verse in this interpretation is unsatisfactory, and the preceding strophe has already referred to his not being buried. Since, therefore, only an unsuitable, and what is more, a badly-expressed thought, is gained by this reading, it may be that the expression should be regarded with Hahn as interrogative: is he not swept away? This, however, is only a makeshift, and therefore we must see whether it may not perhaps be susceptible of another pointing. Jerome transl.: dives cum dormierit, nihil secum auferet; the thought is not bad, but מאוּמה is wanting, and לא alone does not signify nihil. Better lxx (Ital., Syr.): πλούσιος κοιμηθήσεται καὶ ου ̓ προσθήσει. This translation follows the form of reading יאסף equals יוסיף, gives a suitable sense, places both parts of the verse in the right relation, and accords with the style of the poet (vid., Job 20:9; Job 40:5); and accordingly, with Ew., Hirz., and Hlgst., we decide in favour of this reading: he lieth down to sleep rich, and he doeth it no more, since in the night he is removed from life and also from riches by sudden death; or also: in the morning he openeth his eyes without imagining it is the last time, for, overwhelmed by sudden death, he closes them for ever. Job 27:20 and Job 27:20 are attached crosswise (chiastisch) to this picture of sudden destruction, be it by night or by day: the terrors of death seize him (sing. fem. with a plur. subj. following it, according to Ges. 146, 3) like a flood (comp. the floods of Belial, Psalm 18:5), by night a whirlwind (גּנבתּוּ סוּפה, as Job 21:18) carrieth him away. The Syriac and Arabic versions add, as a sort of interpolation: as a fluttering (large white) night-moth, - an addition which no one can consider beautiful.

Job 27:21 extends the figure of the whirlwind. In Hebrew, even when the narrative has reference to Egyptian matters (Genesis 41:23), the קדים which comes from the Arabian desert is the destructive, devastating, and parching wind κατ ̓ εξοχὴν.

(Note: In Syria and Arabia the east wind is no longer called qadı̂m, but exclusively sharqı̂ja, i.e., the wind that blows from the rising of the sun (sharq). This wind rarely prevails in summer, occurring then only two or three days a month on an average; it is more frequent in the winter and early spring, when, if it continues long, the tender vegetation is parched up, and a year of famine follows, whence in the Lebanon it is called semûm (שׂמוּם), which in the present day denotes the "poisonous wind" ( equals nesme musimme), but originally, by alliance with the Hebr. שׁמם, denoted the "devastating wind." The east wind is dry; it excites the blood, contracts the chest, causes restlessness and anxiety, and sleepless nights or evil dreams. Both man and beast feel weak and sickly while it prevails. Hence that which is unpleasant and revolting in life is compared to the east wind. Thus a maid in Hauran, at the sight of one of my Damascus travelling companions, whose excessive ugliness struck her, cried: billâh, nahâr el-jôm aqshar (Arab. 'qšr), wagahetni (Arab. w-jhṫnı̂) sharqı̂ja, "by God, it is an unhealthy day to-day: an east wind blew upon me." And in a festive dance song of the Merg district, these words occur:

wa rudd lı̂ hômet hodênik


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