Job 30:3
For want and famine they were solitary; fleeing into the wilderness in former time desolate and waste.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 30:3. For want and famine — Brought upon them either by their own sloth or wickedness, or by God’s just judgment. Hebrew, בחסר, becheser, In want and famine, which aggravates their following solitude. They were solitary, &c. — Although want commonly draws persons to places of resort and company for relief, yet they were so conscious of their own guilt, and contemptibleness, and hatefulness to all persons, that they shunned all company, and for fear or shame fled into and lived in desolate places.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.For want and famine - By hunger and poverty their strength is wholly exhausted, and they are among the miserable outcasts of society. In order to show the depth to which he himself was sunk in public estimation, Job goes into a description of the state of these miserable wretches, and says that he was treated with contempt by the very scum of society, by those who were reduced to the most abject wretchedness, and who wandered in the deserts, subsisting on roots, without clothing, shelter, or home, and who were chased away by the respectable portion of the community as if they were thieves and robbers. The description is one of great power, and presents a sad picture of his own condition.

They were solitary - Margin, or, "dark as the night." Hebrew גלמוד galmûd. This word properly means "hard," and is applied to a dry, stony, barren soil. In Arabic it means a hard rock. "Umbreit." In Job 3:7, it is applied to a night in which none are born. Here it seems to denote a countenance, dry, hard, emaciated with hunger. Jerome renders it, "steriles." The Septuagint, ἄγονος agonos - "sterile." Prof. Lee, "Hardly beset." The meaning is, that they were greatly reduced - or dried up - by hunger and want. So Umbreit renders it, "gantz ausgedorrt - altogether dried up."

Fleeing into the wilderness - Into the desert or lonely wastes. That is, they "fled" there to obtain, on what the desert produced, a scanty subsistence. Such is the usual explanation of the word rendered "flee" - ערק ‛âraq. But the Vulgate, the Syriac, and the Arabic, render it "gnawinq," and this is followed by Umbreit, Noyes, Schultens, and Good. According to this the meaning is, that they were "gnawers of the desert;" that is, that they lived by gnawing the roots and shrubs which they found in the desert. This idea is much more expressive, and agrees with the connection. The word occurs in Hebrew only in this verse and in Job 30:17, where it is rendered "My sinews," but which may more appropriately be rendered "My gnawing pains." In the Syriac and Arabic the word means to "gnaw," or "corrode," as the leading signification, and as the sense of the word cannot be determined by its usage in the Hebrew, it is better to depend on the ancient versions, and on its use in the cognate languages. According to this, the idea is, that they picked up a scanty subsistence as they could find it, by gnawing roots and shrubs in the deserts.

In the former time - Margin, "yesternight." The Hebrew word (אמשׁ 'emesh) means properly last night; the latter part of the preceding day, and then it is used to denote night or darkness in general. Gesenius supposes that this refers to "the night of desolation," the pathless desert being strikingly compared by the Orientals with darkness. According to this, the idea is not that they had gone but yesterday into the desert, but that they went into the shades and solitudes of the wilderness, far from the homes of men. The sense then is, "They fled into the night of desolate wastes."

Desolate and waste - In Hebrew the same word occurs in different forms, designed to give emphasis, and to describe the gloom and solitariness of the desert in the most impressive manner. We should express the same idea by saying that they hid themselves in the "shades" of the wilderness.

3. solitary—literally, "hard as a rock"; so translate, rather, "dried up," emaciated with hunger. Job describes the rudest race of Bedouins of the desert [Umbreit].

fleeing—So the Septuagint. Better, as Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate, "gnawers of the wilderness." What they gnaw follows in Job 30:4.

in former time—literally, the "yesternight of desolation and waste" (the most utter desolation; Eze 6:14); that is, those deserts frightful as night to man, and even there from time immemorial. I think both ideas are in the words darkness [Gesenius] and antiquity [Umbreit]. (Isa 30:33, Margin).

Want and famine, brought upon them either by their own sloth or wickedness, or by God’s just judgment. Heb. In want and famine, which aggravates their following solitude. Although want commonly drives persons to places of resort and company for relief, yet they were so conscious of their own guilt, and contemptibleness, and hatefulness to all persons, that they shunned all company, and for fear or shame fled into and lived in desolate places. For want and famine they were solitary,.... The Targum interprets it, without children; but then this cannot be understood of the fathers; rather through famine and want they were reduced to the utmost extremity, and were as destitute of food as a rock, or hard flint, from whence nothing is to be had, as the word signifies, see Job 3:7;

fleeing into the wilderness in former time desolate and waste: to search and try what they could get there for their sustenance and relief, fleeing through fear of being taken up for some crimes committed, or through shame, on account of their miserable condition, not caring to be seen by men, and therefore fled into the wilderness to get what they could there: but since men in want and famine usually make to cities, and places of resort, where provision may be expected; this may be interpreted not of their flying into the wilderness, though of their being there, perhaps banished thither, see Job 30:5; but of their "gnawing" (q), or biting the dry and barren wilderness, and what they could find there; where having short commons, and hunger bitten, they bit close; which, though extremely desolate, they were glad to feed upon what they could light on there; such miserable beggarly creatures were they: and with this agrees what follows.

(q) "qui rodebant in solitudine", V. L. "rodentes siccitatem", Schultens.

For want and famine they were solitary; fleeing into the wilderness in former time desolate and waste.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. The verse reads,

With want and hunger they are gaunt,

They gnaw the desert, in former time desolate and waste.

The first clause refers to the “shriveled” appearance of these outcasts from want; the second to their devouring the roots which they can gather in the steppe (Job 30:4), which has for long been desolate and unproductive. The word rendered “they gnaw” occurs again of Job’s gnawing pains, Job 30:17. For “in former time,” i. e. for long, others translate darkness: the darkness of desolation and waste—a description of the desert.

3–8. Description of this wretched class of outcasts. The tenses should all be put in the present. The race of people referred to appears to be the same as that in ch. 24.Verse 3. - For want and famine they were solitary; rather, they were gaunt (see the Revised Version). Compare the descriptions given to us of the native races of Central Africa by Sir S. Baker, Speke, Grant, Stanley, and others. Fleeing into the wilderness; rather, gnawing the wilderness; i.e. feeding on such dry and sapless roots and fruits as the wilderness produces. In former time desolate and waste; or, on the eve of wasteness and desolation. 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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