Job 29:25
I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelled as a king in the army, as one that comforts the mourners.
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(25) I sat.—It is still the custom among the Jews for mourners to sit upon the ground and for one who wishes to console them to occupy a seat above them. Such is Job’s pathetic lamentation over the days that were gone. He appears before us as a conspicuous example of one who had worn the poet’s crown of sorrow in the remembrance of happier things in time of sorrow. He is the type and representative of suffering humanity, of man waiting for redemption, but as yet unredeemed. It is in this way that he points us on to Christ, who, Himself the Redeemer, went through all the sorrows of sinful and unredeemed humanity. He is able to describe his former state and all its glory and bliss, while his friends are constrained to listen in silence. They have said their worst, they have aspersed and maligned his character, but they have not silenced him; he is able to make the most complete vindication of all his past life, to contrast its happiness with the present contempt and contumely of it, so much owing to them and their heartless, unsympathetic treatment of him, while they can make no reply.

Job 29:25. I chose out their way — They sought to me for advice in all doubtful and difficult cases, and I directed them what methods they should take; and sat chief — As a prince or judge, while they stood waiting for my counsel: Hebrew, ראשׁ, rosh, as their head, or ruler, and my word was as a law, or oracle to them. And dwelt as a king in the army — Whose presence puts life, and courage, and joy into the whole army. And no less acceptable was my presence to them. The word גדוד, gedud, here rendered army, is generally translated troops, as Genesis 49:19; Psalm 18:30. And Heath renders the last two clauses, “If I chose to travel with them, I had the most honourable place: I pitched my tent also as a king among the troop.” As one that comforteth the mourners — As I was able and ready to comfort any afflicted or sorrowful persons, so my consolations were always grateful and acceptable to 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.I chose out their way - That is, I became their guide and counsellor. Rosenmuller and Noyes explain this as meaning, "When I came among them;" that is, when I chose to go in their way, or in their midst. But the former interpretation better agrees with the Hebrew, and with the connection. Job is speaking of the honors shown to him, and one of the highest which he could receive was to be regarded as a leader, and to have such respect shown to his opinions that he was even allowed to select the way in which they should go; that is, that his counsel was implicitly followed.

And sat chief - Hebrew "Sat head." He was at the head of their assemblies.

And dwelt as a king in the army - As a king, surrounded by a multitude of troops, all of whom were subservient to his will, and whom he could command at pleasure. It is not to be inferred from this, that Job was a king, or that he was at the head of a nation. The idea is, merely, that the same respect was shown to him which is to a monarch at the head of an army.

As one that comforteth the mourners - In time of peace I was their counsellor, and in time of war they looked to me for direction, and in time of affliction they came to me for consolation. There were no classes which did not show me respect, and there were no honors which they were not ready to heap on me.

It may seem, perhaps, that in this chapter there is a degree of self-commendation and praise altogether inconsistent with that consciousness of deep unworthiness which a truly pious man should have. How, it may be asked, can this spirit be consistent with religion? Can a man who has any proper sense of the depravity of his heart, speak thus in commendation of his own righteousness, and recount with such apparent satisfaction his own good deeds? Would not true piety be more distrustful of self, and be less disposed, to magnify its own doings? And is there not here a recalling to recollection of former honors, in a manner which shows that the heart was more attached to them than that of a map whose hope is in heaven should be? It may not be possible to vindicate Job in this respect altogether, nor is it necessary for us to attempt to prove that he was entirely perfect. We are to remember, also, the age in which he lived; we are not to measure what he said and did by the knowledge which we have, and the clearer light which shines upon us. We are to bear in recollection the circumstances in which he was placed, and perhaps we shall find in them a mitigation for what seems to us to exhibit such a spirit of self-reliance, and which looks so much like the lingering love of the honors of this world. Particularly we may recall the following considerations:

(1) He was vindicating himself from charges of enormous guilt and hypocrisy. To meet these charges, he runs over the leading events of his life, and shows what had been his general aim and purpose. He reminds them, also, of the respect and honor which had been shown him by those who best knew him - by the poor the needy, the inhabitants of his own city, the people of his own tribe. To vindicate himself from the severe charges which had been alleged against him, it was not improper thus to advert to the general course of his life, and to refer to the respect in which he had been held. Who could know him better than his neighbors? Who could be better witnesses than the poor whom he had relieved; and the lame, the blind, the sorrowful, whom he had comforted? Who could better testify to his character than they who had followed his counsel in times of perplexity and danger? Who would be more competent witnesses than the mourners whom he had comforted?

(2) It was a main object with Job to show the greatness of his distress and misery, and for this purpose he went into an extended statement of his former happiness, and especially of the respect which had been shown him. This he contrasts beautifully with his present condition, and the colors of the picture are greatly heightened by the contrast. In forming our estimate of this chapter, we should take this object into the account, and should not charge him with a design to magnify his own righteousness, when his main purpose was only to exhibit the extent and depth of his present woes.

(3) It is not improper for a man to speak of his former prosperity and happiness in the manner in which Job did. He does not speak of himself as having any merit, or as relying on this for salvation. He distinctly traces it all to God Job 29:2-5, and says that it was because he blessed him that he had enjoyed these comforts. It was not an improper acknowledgment of the mercies which he had received from his hand, and the remembrance was fitted to excite his gratitude. And although there may seem to us something like parade and ostentation in thus dwelling on former honors, and recounting what he had done in days that were past, yet we should remember how natural it was for him, in the circumstances of trial in which he then was, to revert to past scenes, and to recall the times of prosperity, and the days when he enjoyed the favor of God.

(4) It may be added, that few people have ever lived to whom this description would be applicable. It must have required uncommon and very remarkable worth to have made it proper for him thus to speak, and to be able to say all this so as not to be exposed to contradiction. The description is one of great beauty, and presents a lovely picture of patriarchal piety, and of the respect which then was shown to eminent virtue and worth. It is an illustration of the respect that will be, and that ought to be, shown to one who is upright in his dealings with people, benevolent toward the poor and the helpless, and steady in his walk with God.

25. I chose out their way—that is, I willingly went up to their assembly (from my country residence, Job 29:7).

in the army—as a king supreme in the midst of his army.

comforteth the mourners—Here again Job unconsciously foreshadows Jesus Christ (Isa 61:2, 3). Job's afflictions, as those of Jesus Christ, were fitting him for the office hereafter (Isa 50:4; Heb 2:18).

I chose out their way; they sought to me for my advice in all doubtful and difficult cases, and I chalked out their path, and directed them what methods they should take to accomplish their desires.

Sat, as a prince or judge, whilst they stood waiting for my counsel.

Chief, or head; as their head or ruler, and my mind and word was as a law or oracle to them.

As a king in the army, whose presence puts life, and courage, and joy into the whole army. And no less acceptable was my presence to them.

As one that comforteth the mourners; as I was able and ready to comfort any afflicted or sorrowful persons, so my consolations were always grateful and welcome to them. Or, when he, to wit, the king,

comforteth the mourners, i.e. his army, when they are under some great consternation or dejection, by reason of some great loss or danger, but are revived by the presence and speech of a wise and valiant king or general. I chose out their way,.... When his friends and neighbours came to him for advice in things civil, he marked out their way for them, directed what steps to take, what methods to pursue for their good; they desired him to choose for them, preferring his judgment to theirs, and were determined to abide by his choice of ways and means, and to follow his counsel; and in religious matters, he instructed them in their duty, both towards God and men, and proposed unto them what was most eligible, both with respect to doctrine and practice;

and sat chief; in all their public assemblies; he presided in their councils and courts of judicature; and when met together for religious worship, he sat in the chair of the teacher, and instructed them; he was chief speaker, as the Heathens said of the Apostle Paul, Acts 14:12;

and dwelt as a king in the army, or "troop" (k). Mr. Broughton renders it with a garrison; Job was surrounded with multitudes of persons, that waited upon him on one account or another, who were ready to receive his words, and be obedient to them, as a king or general in the midst of an army, surrounded by his general officers, and the whole army encamped about him, doing him honour, and ready to obey whatever commands or instructions he should give them; some conclude from hence that Job was really a king, as being not a note of similitude, but of truth and reality, as in Matthew 14:2; and so he might be; for in those times and countries every city almost had its king; though this is not necessarily supposed here; for the phrase seems only to denote the authority and influence Job had over men by his advice and instruction, which were as much regarded as from a king; and the majesty he appeared in, and the reverence in which he was had:

as one that comforteth the mourners: which some restrain to the king in his army, and connect them therewith thus, "when he comforteth the mourners" (l); the soldiers mourning for some loss sustained, and slaughter made among them; whose minds the king or general by a set speech endeavours to cheer, and comfort, and allay their fears, and animate them to intrepidity and fortitude, when all eyes are upon him and attentive to him; and so attentive were Job's hearers to him. Bar Tzemach observes, that the copulative or "and", is wanting, and so is a clause by itself, and expresses something distinct from the forager, and may be supplied, "and I was as one that comforteth the mourners"; as a wise man that comforteth them, as Aben Ezra explains it; like one that made it his business to visit mourners in affliction, on account of the death of a relation, and the like: see Job 11:19; and speaks comfortable words to them, to support them under their sorrow; when such an one used to speak alone, and all stood silent before him, and attentive to him; and in a like position was Job, when he gave his instructions to those about him; and he was, no doubt, a comforter of mourners himself, being either in temporal afflictions, or in spiritual troubles; comforted those that were cast down in either sense, and was a type of Christ, who was appointed to comfort all that mourn in Zion.

(k) "in agmine", Montanus, Bolducius; "in turma", Mercerus, Drusius, Cocceius, Michaelis, Schultens. (l) "quando", Junius & Tremellius, Drusius; "quum vel quando", Schmidt.

I chose out {s} their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.

(s) I had them at commandment.

25. A concluding picture of the joy which he had in the fellowship of men, and how they recognised his worth and set him as a king among them, and yet how he with his high advantages and great wealth felt towards them, being among them as one that comforteth the mourning.

I chose out their way] The words probably mean that Job “chose” the way that led to the society of men, he gladly sought intercourse with them, and delighted himself in their fellowship. The other sense, I chose out the way for them to go, is less natural.Verse 25. - I chose out their way, and sat chief. Though not an absolute monarch, but only a patriarchal head, I practically determined the course which the tribe took, since my advice was always followed. I thus "sat chief" - nay, dwelt as a king in the army (or, in the host i.e. among the people), as one that comforteth the mourners; i.e. as one to whom all looked for comfort in times of distress and calamity, as much as for counsel and guidance at other times (vers. 21-23).

18 Then I:thought: With my nest I shall expire,

And like the phoenix, have a long life.

19 My root will be open for water,

And the dew will lodge in my branches.

20 Mine honour will remain ever fresh to me,

And my bow will become young in my hand.

In itself, Job 29:18 might be translated: "and like to the sand I shall live many days" (Targ., Syr., Arab., Saad., Gecat., Luther, and, among moderns, Umbr., Stick., Vaih., Hahn, and others), so that the abundance of days is compared to the multitude of the grains of sand. The calculation of the immense total of grains of sand (atoms) in the world was, as is known, a favourite problem of antiquity; and in the Old Testament Scriptures, the comprehensive knowledge of Solomon is compared to "the sand upon the sea-shore," 1 Kings 5:9, - how much more readily a long life reduced to days! comp. Ovid, Metam. xiv. 136-138; quot haberet corpora pulvis, tot mihi natales contingere vana rogavi. We would willingly decide in favour of this rendering, which is admissible in itself, although a closer definition like היּם is wanting by כחול, if an extensive Jewish tradition did not secure the signification of an immortal bird, or rather one rising ever anew from the dead. The testimony is as follows: (1) b. Sanhedrin 108b, according to which חול is only another name for the bird אורשׁינא,

(Note: The name is a puzzle, and does not accord with any of the mythical birds mentioned in the Zendavesta (vid., Windischmann, Zoroastrische Studien, 1863, S. 93). What Lewysohn, Zoologie des Talmuds, S. 353, brings forward from the Greek by way of explanation is untenable. The name of the bird, Vresha, in an obscure passage of the Bundehesch in Windischmann, ib. S. 80, is similar in sound. Probably, however, אורשׁינא is one and the same word as Simurg, which is composed of si ( equals sin) and murg, a bird (Pehlvi and Parsi mru). This si (sin) corresponds to the Vedic jena, a falcon, and in the Zend form, ana (na), is the name of a miraculous bird; so that consequently Simurg equals Sinmurg, Parsi Cnamru, signifies the Si- or Cna-bird (comp. Kuhn, Herabkunft des Feuers, 1859, S. 125). In אורשינא the two parts of the composition seem to be reversed, and אור to be corrupted from מור. Moreover, the Simurg is like the phoenix only in the length of its life; another mythological bird, Kuknus, on the other hand (vid., the art. Phnix in Ersch u. Gruber), resembles it also in rising out of its own ashes.)

of which the fable is there recorded, that when Noah fed the beasts in the ark, it sat quite still in its compartment, that it might not give more trouble to the patriarch, who had otherwise plenty to do, and that Noah wished it on this account the reward of immortality (יהא רעוא דלא תמות). (2) That this bird חול is none other than the phoenix, is put beyond all doubt by the Midrashim (collected in the Jalkut on Job, 517). There it is said that Eve gave all the beasts to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree, and that only one bird, the חול by name, avoided this death-food: "it lives a thousand years, at the expiration of which time fire springs up in its nest, and burns it up to about the size of an egg;" or even: that of itself it diminishes to that size, from which it then grows up again and continues to live (וחוזר ומתגדל איברים וחיה). (3) The Masora observes, that כחול occurs in two different significations (בתרי לישׁני), since in the present passage it does not, as elsewhere, signify sand. (4) Kimchi, in his Lex., says: "in a correct Jerusalem MS I found the observation: בשׁורק לנהרדעי ובחלם למערבאי, i.e., וכחוּל according to the Nehardean (Babylonian) reading, וכחול according to the western (Palestine) reading;" according to which, therefore, the Babylonian Masoretic school distinguished וכחול in the present passage from וכחול, Genesis 22:17, even in the pronunciation. A conclusion respecting the great antiquity of this lexical tradition may be drawn (5) from the lxx, which translates ὥσπερ στέλεχος φοίνικος, whence the Italic sicut arbor palmae, Jerome sicut palma.

If we did not know from the testimonies quoted that חול is the name of the phoenix, one might suppose that the lxx has explained וכחול according to the Arab. nachl, the palm, as Schultens does; but by a comparison of those testimonies, it is more probable that the translation was ὥσπερ φοῖνιξ originally, and that ὥσπερ στέλεχος φοίνικος is an interpolation, for φοῖνιξ signifies both the immortal miraculous bird and the inexhaustibly youthful palm.

(Note: According to Ovid, Metam. xv. 396, the phoenix makes its nest in the palm, and according to Pliny, h. n. xiii. 42, it has its name from the palm: Phoenix putatur ex hujus palmae argumento nomen accepisse, iterum mori ac renasci ex se ipsa; vid., A. Hahmann, Die Dattelpalme, ihre Namen und ihre Verehrung in der alten Welt, in the periodical Bonplandia, 1859, Nr. 15, 16. Masius, in his studies of nature, has very beautifully described on what ground "the intelligent Greek gave a like name to the fabulous immortal bird that rises again out of its own ashes, and the palm which ever renews its youth." Also comp. (Heimsdrfer's) Christliche Kunstsymbolik, S. 26, and Augusti, Beitrge zur christl. Kunst-Geschichte und Liturgik, Bd. i. S. 106-108, but especially Piper, Mythologie der christl. Kunst (1847), i.446f.)

We have the reverse case in Tertullian, de resurrectione carnis, c. xiii., which explains the passage in Ps; Psalm 92:13, δίκαιος ὡς φοῖνιξ ἀντηήσει, according to the translation justus velut phoenix florebit, of the ales orientis or avis Arabiae, which symbolizes man's immortality.

(Note: Not without reference to Clemens Romanus, in his I. Ep. ad Corinth. c. xxv., according to which the phoenix is an Arabian bird, which lives five hundred years, then dies in a nest which it builds of incense, myrrh, and spices, and leaves behind it the larva of a young bird, which, when grown up, brings the nest with the bones of its father and places it upon the altar of the sun at the Egyptian Heliopolis. The source of this is Herodotus ii. 73) who, however, has an egg of myrrh instead of a nest of myrrh); and Tacitus, Ann. vi. 28, gives a similar narrative. Lactantius gives a different version in his poem on the phoenix, according to which this, the only one of its race, "built its nest in a country that remained untouched by the deluge." The Jewish tragedy writer, Ezekilos, agrees more nearly with the statement of Arabia being the home of the phoenix. In his drama Ἐξαγωγή, a spy sent forward before the pilgrim band of Israel, he states that among other things the phoenix was also seen; vid., my Gesch. der jd. Poesie, S. 219.)


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