Job 30:2
Yes, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished?
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(2) Whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, is the description of the fathers; Job 30:3 seqq. describes their children. The people here spoken of seem to have been somewhat similar to those known to the ancients as Troglodytes (Herod. iv. 183, &c.), the inhabitants of caves, who lived an outcast life and had manners and customs of their own. They are desolate with want and famine. They flee into the wilderness on the eve of wasteness and desolation, or when all is dark (yester night), waste, and desolate. It is evident that Job must have been familiar with a people of this kind, an alien and proscribed race living in the way he mentions.

Job 30:2. Yea, whereto might their hands profit me? — Nor was it strange that I did, or might refuse to take them into any of my meanest services, being utterly impotent and unfit for any business; in whom old age was perished — Who were grown no wiser for being old. Or, rather, who had so wasted their strength and spirits by their evil courses, that when they came to old age they were debilitated, feeble, and useless for any labour. Accordingly, Houbigant interprets the clause, When all their health or strength was worn out; and others render it, In whom vigorous age was perished; that is, who were grown useless for service. For the word כלח, chelach, here rendered old age, is used only here and Job 5:26, where also it may be so rendered, Thou shalt come to thy grave in a vigorous, or mature age, having the vigour of youth even in thy old age, and until thy death, as Moses had. And if this word do signify old age, yet it signifies not every, but only a flourishing and healthful old age; as the Hebrews note, and the word may seem to imply; whence the LXX. also render it perfection, namely, of age, and of the endowments belonging to age.30:1-14 Job contrasts his present condition with his former honour and authority. What little cause have men to be ambitious or proud of that which may be so easily lost, and what little confidence is to be put in it! We should not be cast down if we are despised, reviled, and hated by wicked men. We should look to Jesus, who endured the contradiction of sinners.Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me - There has been much difference of opinion respecting the meaning of this passage. The general sense is clear. Job means to describe those who were reduced by poverty and want, and who were without respectability or home, and who had no power in any way to affect him. He states that they were so abject and worthless as not to be worth his attention; but even this fact is intended to show how low he was himself reduced, since even the most degraded ranks in life did not show any respect to one who had been honored by princes. The Vulgate renders this, "The strength - virtus - of whose hands is to me as nothing, and they are regarded as unworthy of life." The Septuagint, "And the strength of their hands what is it to me? Upon whom perfection - συντέλεια sunteleia - has perished." Coverdale, "The power and strength of their hands might do me no good, and as for their age, it is spent and passed away without any profit." The literal translation is, "Even the strength of their hands, what is it to me?" The meaning is, that their power was not worth regarding. They were abject, feeble, and reduced by hunger - poor emaciated creatures, who could do him neither good nor evil. Yet this fact did not make him feel less the indignity of being treated by such vagrants with scorn.

In whom old age was perished - Or, rather, in whom vigor, or the power of accomplishing, anything, has ceased. The word כלח kelach, means "completion," or the act or power of finishing or completing anything. Then it denotes old age - age as "finished" or "completed;" Job 5:26. Here it means the maturity or vigor which would enable a man to complete or accomplish anything, and the idea is, that in these persons this had utterly perished. Reduced by hunger and want, they had no power of effecting anything, and were unworthy of regard. The word used here occurs only in this book in Hebrew JObadiah 5:26; Job 30:2, but is common in Arabic; where it refers to the "wrinkles," the "wanness," and the "austere aspect" of the countenance, especially in age. See "Castell's Lex."

2. If their fathers could be of no profit to me, much less the sons, who are feebler than their sires; and in whose case the hope of attaining old age is utterly gone, so puny are they (Job 5:26) [Maurer]. Even if they had "strength of hands," that could be now of no use to me, as all I want in my present affliction is sympathy. Nor was it strange that I did, or would. or might refuse to take them into any of my meanest services, because they were utterly impotent, and therefore unserviceable.

In whom old age was perished; or, lost; either,

1. Because they never attain to it, but are consumed by their lusts or cut off for their wickedness by the just hand of God, or men, in the midst of their days. Or,

2. Because they had so wasted their strength and spirits by their evil courses, that when they came to old age, they were feeble and decrepit, and useless for any labour. Or,

3. Because they had not that prudence and experience which is proper and usual in that age, by which they might have been useful, if not for work, yet to oversee and direct others in their work. But the words may be thus rendered, in whom vigorous age was perished, i.e. who were grown impotent for service. For the word here rendered old age, is used only here and Job 5:26, where also it may be so rendered, Thou shalt come to thy grave in a vigorous or mature age, having the rigour of youth even in thine old age, and until thy death, as Moses had. And if this word do signify old age, yet it signifies not every, but only a flourishing and vigorous, old age; as the Hebrews note, and the word may seem to imply; whence the LXX. interpreters also render it perfection, to wit, of age, and of thee endowments belonging to age. Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me,.... For though they were strong, lusty, hale men, able to do business, yet their strength was to sit still and fold their hands in their bosoms, so that their strength was of no profit or avail to themselves or others; they were so slothful and lazy, that Job could not employ them in any business of his to any advantage to himself; and this may be one reason, among others, why he disdained to set them with the dogs of his flock to keep it; for the fathers seem to be intended all along to Job 30:8; though it matters not much to which of them the words are applied, since they were like father like son:

in whom old age was perished? who did not arrive to old age, but were soon consumed by their lusts, or cut off for their sins; and so the strength and labour of their hands, had they been employed, would have been of little worth; because the time of their continuance in service would have been short, especially being idle and slothful: some understand it of a lively and vigorous old age, such as was in Moses; but this being not in them, they were unfit for business, see Job 5:26; or they had not the endowments of old age, the experience, wisdom, and prudence of ancient persons, to contrive, conduct, and manage affairs, or direct in the management of them, which would make up for lack of strength and labour. Ben Gersom, Bar Tzemach, and others, interpret the word of time, or the time of life, that was perished or lost in them; their whole course of life, being spent in sloth and idleness, was all lost time.

Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was {c} perished?

(c) That is, their fathers died of hunger before they came to age.

2. The verse refers to the fathers (Job 30:1), and gives the reason why Job did not employ them, or consider them worthy of a treatment equal to that of his dogs—they were enfeebled and fallen into premature decay. Yet the children of these miserable people now have him in derision. In the East the “dogs of the flock” have only one use, viz. to guard the flock and the encampment from attacks by night.Verse 2. - Yes, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me? Men, who had no such strength in their hands as to yield an employer any profit - poor, weak creatures, in whom old age (rather, manly vigour) was perished. An effete race seems to be pointed at, without strength or stamina, nerveless, spiritless, "destined to early decay and premature death;" but how they had sunk into such a condition is not apparent. Too often such remanents are merely tribes physically weak, whom more powerful ones have starved and stunted, driving them into the least productive regions, and in every way making life hard for them. 21 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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