Job 29:24
If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down.
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(24) If I laughed on them.—That is, “They would not believe that I could be so affable to them, could so condescend to them—they looked up to me with the greatest deference.”

Job 29:24. If I laughed on them — That is, carried myself familiarly and pleasantly with them; they believed it not — It was so acceptable to them to see me well pleased with them, and cheerful among them, that they could scarcely believe their eyes and ears which testified that it was so. And the light of my countenance they cast not down — My familiarity with them did not produce presumption in them to say or do any thing that might grieve me, or make my countenance to fall. They were very cautious not to abuse my smiles, nor to give me any occasion to change my countenance or carriage toward them.

29:18-25 Being thus honoured and useful, Job had hoped to die in peace and honour, in a good old age. If such an expectation arise from lively faith in the providence and promise of God, it is well; but if from conceit of our own wisdom, and dependence on changeable, earthly things, it is ill grounded, and turns to sin. Every one that has the spirit of wisdom, has not the spirit of government; but Job had both. Yet he had the tenderness of a comforter. This he thought upon with pleasure, when he was himself a mourner. Our Lord Jesus is a King who hates iniquity, and upon whom the blessing of a world ready to perish comes. To Him let us give ear.If I laughed on them they believed it not - There is considerable variety in the interpretation of this member of the verse. Dr. Good renders it, "I smiled upon them, and they were gay." Herder, If I laughed at them, they were not offended." Coverdale," When I laughed, they knew well it was not earnest." Schultens, "I will laugh at them, they are not secure." But Rosenmuller, Jun. et Trem., Noyes and Umbreit, accord with the sense given in our common translation. The Hebrew literally is, "Should I laugh upon them, they did not confide;" and, according to Rosenmuller, the meaning is, "Such was the reverence for my gravity, that if at any time I relaxed in my severity of manner, they would scarcely believe it, nor did they omit any of their reverence toward me, as if familiarity with the great should produce contempt." Grotius explains it to mean, "Even my jests, they thought, contained something serious." The word used here, however (שׂחק śâchaq), means not only to laugh or smile upon, but; to laugh at, or deride; Psalm 52:6; Job 30:1; compare Job 5:22; Job 39:7; Job 22:19. It seems to me, that the sense is that so great was his influence, that he was able to control them even with a smile, without saying a word; that if, when a measure was proposed in debate, he should even smile, though he said nothing, they would have no confidence in it, but would at once abandon it as unwise. No higher influence than this can be well conceived, and this exposition accords with the general course of remark, where Job traces along the various degrees of his influence until he comes to this, the highest of them all.

And the light of my countenance they cast not down - His smile of favor on an undertaking, or his smile at the weakness or lack of wisdom of any thing proposed, they could not resist. It settled the matter. They had not power by their arguments or moral courage to resist him even if he did not say a word, or even to change the aspect of his countenance. A look, a token of approbation or disapprobation from him, was enough.

24. When I relaxed from my wonted gravity (a virtue much esteemed in the East) and smiled, they could hardly credit it; and yet, notwithstanding my condescension, they did not cast aside reverence for my gravity. But the parallelism is better in Umbreit's translation, "I smiled kindly on those who trusted not," that is, in times of danger I cheered those in despondency. And they could not cast down (by their despondency) my serenity of countenance (flowing from trust in God) (Pr 16:15; Ps 104:15). The opposite phrase (Ge 4:5, 6). "Gravity" cannot well be meant by "light of countenance." If I laughed on them, or sported or jested with them, i.e. carried myself familiarly and pleasantly with them.

They believed it not; it was so acceptable to them to see me well-pleased with them, that they could scarce believe their eyes and ears that it was so: compare Genesis 45:26 Psalm 126:1.

The light of my countenance they cast not down; my familiarity did not breed contempt or presumption in them to say or do any thing that might grieve me, or make my countenance to fall, as it doth in case of shame or sorrow, Genesis 4:5. They were very cautious not to abuse my smiles, nor to give me any occasion to change my countenance or carriage towards them.

If I laughed on them, they believed it not,.... Not that he at any time laughed at them, by way of derision; but when in a cheerful frame of mind, or in a merry mood, he used freedom and familiarity, and jested with them; but they could not believe that he did jest, or was in jest, he being a man always of such gravity and seriousness, that they concluded the smile on his countenance, and the pleasant turn of his expression, had a serious meaning in them; or such familiarity with them was so pleasing to them, that they could scarcely for joy believe that he did condescend to indulge such an air of pleasantry: or as Mr. Broughton renders it, and so some others to the same sense, "they would not be bold" (i); familiarity with them did not breed contempt, as it sometimes does; they did not presume upon it, and grow bold and insolent, and make him their equal, and jest with him again; but still there was an awe upon them, and they behaved with reverence to him; and to show how great it was is the design of the expression:

and the light of my countenance they cast not down; they did not ruffle his mind, or disturb the serenity of it; or cause him to change his countenance, through any bold and indecent behaviour towards him, encouraged by the freedom and pleasantry he used with them; they did not put him to shame, or provoke him to anger and displeasure by any unbecoming deportment; they kept their distance, they did not detract from his authority and majesty, or in the least lessen that, but behaved with the same reverence and regard to him they ever did; see Genesis 4:6.

(i) "non tamen sibi sumebant audaciam", Michaelis; "neque tam audaces fiunt", Reimar apud Schultens.

If I {q} laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they {r} cast not down.

(q) That is, they thought it not to be a rest, or they did not think that I would condescend to them.

(r) They were afraid to offend me and cause me to be angry.

24. The verse means rather,

I laughed on them, when they had no confidence,

And the light of my countenance they cast not down.

Job, with his broader insight and more capable counsel, smiled on those who were perplexed and despondent; what seemed insurmountable difficulty or threatened disaster to them, seemed to him a thing easy to overcome and nothing to create alarm; while on the other hand the despondency of others was never able to cloud the cheerfulness of his countenance, so full was his mind of resource.

Verse 24. - If I laughed on them, they believed it not; rather, if I smiled on them. If, as a mark of favour, I smiled on any, they thought it such graciousness and condescension that they could scarcely believe it possible. And the light of my countenance they cast not down. They never put me out of countenance, or made me sad and gloomy, by opposing my views and ranging themselves against me. Job 29:2421 They hearkened to me and waited,

And remained silent at my decision.

22 After my utterance they spake not again,

And my speech distilled upon them.

23 And they waited for me as for the rain,

And they opened their mouth wide for the latter rain.

24 I smiled to them in their hopelessness,

And the light of my countenance they cast not down.

25 I chose the way for them, and sat as chief,

And dwelt as a king in the army,

As one that comforteth the mourners.

Attentive, patient, and ready to be instructed, they hearkened to him (this is the force of שׁמע ל), and waited, without interrupting, for what he should say. ויחלּוּ, the pausal pronunciation with a reduplication of the last radical, as Judges 5:7, חדלּוּ (according to correct texts), Ges. 20, 2, c; the reading of Kimchi, ויחלוּ, is the reading of Ben-Naphtali, the former the reading of Ben-Ascher (vid., Norzi). If he gave counsel, they waited in strictest silence: this is the meaning of ידּמוּ (fut. Kal of דּמם); למו, poetic for ל, refers the silence to its outward cause (vid., on Habakkuk 3:16). After his words non iterabant, i.e., as Jerome explanatorily translates: addere nihil audebant, and his speech came down upon them relieving, rejoicing, and enlivening them. The figure indicated in תּטּף is expanded in Job 29:23 after Deuteronomy 32:2 : they waited on his word, which penetrated deeply, even to the heart, as for rain, מטר, by which, as Job 29:23, the so-called (autumnal) early rain which moistens the seed is prominently thought of. They open their mouth for the late rain, מלקושׁ (vid., on Job 24:6), i.e., they thirsted after his words, which were like the March or April rain, which helps to bring to maturity the corn that is soon to be reaped; this rain frequently fails, and is therefore the more longed for. פּער פּה is to be understood according to Psalm 119:131, comp. Psalm 81:11; and one must consider, in connection with it, what raptures the beginning of the periodical rains produces everywhere, where, as e.g., in Jerusalem, the people have been obliged for some time to content themselves with cisterns that are almost dried to a marsh, and how the old and young dance for joy at their arrival!

In Job 29:24 a thought as suited to the syntax as to the fact is gained if we translate: "I smiled to them - they believed it not," i.e., they considered such condescension as scarcely possible (Saad., Raschi, Rosenm., De Wette, Schlottm., and others); עשׂחק is then fut. hypotheticum, as Job 10:16; Job 20:24; Job 22:27., Ew. 357, b. But it does not succeed in putting Job 29:24 in a consistent relation to this thought; for, with Aben-Ezra, to explain: they did not esteem my favour the less on that account, my respect suffered thereby no loss among them, is not possible in connection with the biblical idea of "the light of the countenance;" and with Schlottm. to explain: they let not the light of my countenance, i.e., token of my favour, fall away, i.e., be in vain, is contrary to the usage of the language, according to which הפּיל פּנים signifies: to cause the countenance to sink (gloomily, Genesis 4:5), whether one's own, Jeremiah 3:12, or that of another. Instead of פּני we have a more pictorial and poetical expression here, אור פּני: light of my countenance, i.e., my cheerfulness (as Proverbs 16:15). Moreover, the אשׂחק אליהם, therefore, furnishes the thought that he laughed, and did not allow anything to dispossess him of his easy and contented disposition. Thus, therefore, those to whom Job laughed are to be thought of as in a condition and mood which his cheerfulness might easily sadden, but still did not sadden; and this their condition is described by לא יאמינוּ (a various reading in Codd. and editions is ולא), a phrase which occurred before (Job 24:22) in the signification of being without faith or hope, despairing (comp. האמין, to gain faith, Psalm 116:10), - a clause which is not to be taken as attributive (Umbr., Vaih.: who had not confidence), but as a neutral or circumstantial subordinate clause (Ew. 341, a). Therefore translate: I smiled to them, if they believed not, i.e., despaired; and however despondent their position appeared, the cheerfulness of my countenance they could not cause to pass away. However gloomy they were, they could not make me gloomy and off my guard. Thus also Job 29:25 is now suitably attached to the preceding: I chose their way, i.e., I made the way plain, which they should take in order to get out of their hopeless and miserable state, and sat as chief, as a king who is surrounded by an armed host as a defence and as a guard of honour, attentive to the motion of his eye; not, however, as a sovereign ruler, but as one who condescended to the mourners, and comforted them (נחם Piel, properly to cause to breathe freely). This peaceful figure of a king brings to mind the warlike one, Job 15:24. כּאשׁר is not a conj. here, but equivalent to כאישׁ אשׁר, ut (quis) qui; consequently not: as one comforts, but: as he who comforts; lxx correctly: ὃν τρόπον παθεινοὺς παρακαλῶν. The accentuation (כאשׁר Tarcha, אבלים Munach, ינחם Silluk) is erroneous; כאשׁר should be marked with Rebia mugrasch, and אבלים with Mercha-Zinnorith.

From the prosperous and happy past, absolutely passed, Job now turns to the present, which contrasts so harshly with it.

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