Job 29:16
I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
29:7-17 All sorts of people paid respect to Job, not only for the dignity of his rank, but for his personal merit, his prudence, integrity, and good management. Happy the men who are blessed with such gifts as these! They have great opportunities of honouring God and doing good, but have great need to watch against pride. Happy the people who are blessed with such men! it is a token for good to them. Here we see what Job valued himself by, in the day of his prosperity. It was by his usefulness. He valued himself by the check he gave to the violence of proud and evil men. Good magistrates must thus be a restraint to evil-doers, and protect the innocent; in order to this, they should arm themselves with zeal and resolution. Such men are public blessings, and resemble Him who rescues poor sinners from Satan. How many who were ready to perish, now are blessing Him! But who can show forth His praises? May we trust in His mercy, and seek to imitate His truth, justice, and love.I was a father to the poor - I took them under my protection, and treated them as if they were my own children.

And the cause which I knew not I searched out - This is according to the interpretation of Jerome. But the more probable meaning is, "the cause of him who was unknown to me, that is, of the stranger, I searched out." So Rosenmuller, Herder, Umbreit, and Good. According to this, the sense is, that, as a magistrate, he gave particular attention to the cause of the stranger, and investigated it with care. It is possible that Job here designs specifically to reply to the charge brought against him by Eliphaz in Job 22:6 ff. The duty of showing particular attention to the stranger is often inculcated in the Bible, and was regarded as essential to a character of uprightness and piety among the Orientals.

16. So far was I from "breaking the arms of the fatherless," as Eliphaz asserts (Job 22:9), I was a "father" to such.

the cause which I knew not—rather, "of him whom I knew not," the stranger (Pr 29:7 [Umbreit]; contrast Lu 18:1, &c.). Applicable to almsgiving (Ps 41:1); but here primarily, judicial conscientiousness (Job 31:13).

A father, i.e. had the care and bowels of a father to them.

The cause which I knew not; either,

1. Those which were not brought to my knowledge or tribunal, either through neglect, or because the injured persons durst not complain, I diligently inquired after. Or,

2. Those which were hard and difficult, and possibly were made so by the frauds or arts of the oppressors, or their advocates, which the poor injured person could not find out, I took pains to discover.

I was a father to the poor,.... Not in a literal sense; for his children were rich as well as himself, while he had them; but in a civil sense, he was the patron of the poor; he was an advocate for them, he took their part, he pleaded their cause, defended their persons, and secured the little property they had; he had the pity and compassion of a father for them, and supplied their wants; he fed them and clothed them; he did not eat his morsel alone, but gave them part of it, and warmed them with the fleece of his flock:

and the cause which I knew not I searched out; any cause that was brought before him, he knew thing of before, and which, upon the opening of it, did not appear plain and easy, but had its difficulties; this he closely examined, and searched thoroughly into the merits of, till it appeared plain to him on which side the truth and justice of it lay; he did not hurry it over, and pass sentence, having only in a superficial manner considered it, as is too often the case; but after a long examination of the contending parties, and of the witnesses on both sides, to whom he gave an impartial hearing, he pronounced the decisive sentence; see Proverbs 25:2. Some think this refers to his diligent search and inquiry after causes that were not brought before him; he did, not wait for application to be made to him, but hearing of, or upon inquiry finding, that there were persons oppressed and distressed by cruel men, he of himself voluntarily offered his assistance, searched into their cause, made himself master of it, and freed them from their distresses; so different were his behaviour and character from that of the unjust judge, Luke 18:1; though others, choose to render the words, "the cause of him that I knew not", &c. (t); of a stranger, of one that he had never seen before, of one that was most unknown to him in the world; the cause of such an one he took as, much pains with to get the true knowledge of, and do justice to, as of the dearest relation, the nearest neighbour, and the most intimate friend and acquaintance that he had.

(t) "quem non cognoveram", Junius & Tremellius, Michaelis; "ignotissimi", Schultens.

I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. the cause which I knew not] Rather, the cause of him whom I knew not. Not merely the poor about him, to whom he might feel that he owed help, but even strangers who had a cause that needed unravelling he aided by his wisdom and justice.

Verse 16. - I was a father to the poor (comp. ver. 12, and see below, ch. 31:16-22): and the cause which I knew not I searched out; rather, the cause of him that I knew not I searched out (see the Revised Version). When men were quite unknown to him, Job still gave to their causes the utmost possible attention, "searching them out," or investigating them, as diligently as if they had been the causes of his own friends. Job 29:1615 I was eyes to the blind,

And feet was I to the lame.

16 I was a father to the needy,

And the cause of the unknown I found out,

17 And broke the teeth of the wicked,

And I cast the spoil forth out of his teeth.

The less it is Job's purpose here to vindicate himself before the friends, the more forcible is the refutation which the accusations of the most hard-hearted uncharitableness raised against him by them, especially by Eliphaz, Job 22, find everywhere here. His charity relieved the bodily and spiritual wants of others - eyes to the blind (לעוּר with Pathach), feet to the lame. A father was he to the needy, which is expressed by a beautiful play of words, as if it were: the carer for the care-full ones; or what perhaps corresponds to the primary significations of אב and אביון:

(Note: There is an old Arabic defective verb, bayya, which signifies "to seek an asylum for one's self," e.g., anâ baj, I come as one seeking protection, a suppliant, in the usual language synon. of Arab. dachala, and thereby indicating its relationship to the Hebr. בּוא, perhaps the root of בּית (בּתּים), the ת of which would then not be a radical letter, but, as according to Ges. Thes. in זית, used only in the forming of the word, and the original meaning would be "a refuge." Traced to a secondary verb, אבה (properly to take up the fugitive, qabila-l-bı̂ja) springing from this primitive verb, אב would originally signify a guardian, protector; and from the fact of this name denoting, according to the form פּעל, properly in general the protecting power, the ideal femin. in אבות (Arab. abawât' and the Arabic dual abawain (properly both guardians), which embraces father and mother, would be explained and justified. Thus the rare phenomenon that the same אבה signifies in Hebr. "to be willing," and in Arab. "to refuse," would be solved. The notion of taking up the fugitive would have passed over in the Hebrew, taken according to its positive side, into the notion of being willing, i.e., of receiving and accepting (אבּל, qabila, e.g., 1 Kings 20:8, לא תעבה equals la taqbal); in the Arabic, however, taken according to its negative side, as refusing the fugitive to his pursuer, into that of not being willing; and the usage of the language favours this: abâhu ‛aleihi, he protected him against (Arab. 'lâ) the other (refused him to the other); Arab. abı̂yun equals ma'bin, protected, inaccessible to him who longs for it; Arab. ibyat, the protection, i.e., the retention of the milk in the udder. Hence אביון, from the Hebrew signif. of the verb, signifies one who desires anything, or a needy person, but originally (inasmuch as אבה is connected with Arab. byy) one who needs protection; from the Arabic signif. of Arab. 'abâ, one who restrains himself because he is obliged, one to whom what he wants is denied. To the Arab. ibja (defence, being hindered) corresponds in form the Hebr. אבה, according to which אניות אבה, Job 9:26, may be understood of ships, which, with all sails set and in all haste, seek the sheltering harbour before the approaching storm. We leave this suggestion for further research to sift and prove. More on Job 34:36. - Wetzst.)

the protector of those needing (seeking) protection. The unknown he did not regard as those who were nothing to him, but went unselfishly and impartially into the ground of their cause. לא־ידעתּי is an attributive clause, as Job 18:21; Isaiah 55:5; Isaiah 41:3, and freq., with a personal obj. (eorum) quos non noveram, for the translation causam quam nesciebam (Jer.) gives a tame, almost meaningless, thought. With reference to the suff. in אחקרהוּ, on the form ehu used seldom by Waw consec. (Job 12:4), and by the imper. (Job 40:11), chiefly with a solemn calm tone of speech, vid., Ew. 250, c. Further: He spared not to render wrong-doers harmless, and snatched from them what they had taken from others. The cohortative form of the fut. consec., ואשׁבּרה, has been discussed already on Job 1:15; Job 19:20. The form מתלּעות is a transposition of מלתּעות, to render it more convenient for pronunciation, for the Arab. ṭl‛, efferre se, whence a secondary form, Arab. tl‛, although used of the appearing of the teeth, furnishes no such appropriate primary signification as the Arab. lḏg, pungere, mordere, whence a secondary form, Arab. ltg; the Aethiopic maltâht, jawbone (maxilla), also favours מלתעה as the primary form. He shattered the grinders of the roguish, and by moral indignation against the robber he cast out of his teeth what he had stolen.

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