Job 36:20
Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.
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(20) Desire not the nighti.e., of death, as Job had done (Job 16:22; Job 17:13, &c., Job 19:27), or as, at all events, his words might be understood. For “people,” read peoples: i.e., nations.

Job 36:20-21. Desire not the night — The night of death, which Job had often desired, for then thou art irrecoverably gone: take heed of thy foolish and often-repeated desire of death, lest God inflict it upon thee in anger. When people are cut off in their place — By which individuals, and even whole nations and bodies of people, are sometimes cut off in wrath, in their several places where they are: or, are suddenly taken away before they can remove out of the place where the stroke of God finds them; or, in the place where they are settled and surrounded with all manner of comforts and friends, all which cannot prevent their being cut off. Take heed, regard not iniquity — Hebrew, אל תפן, al teepen, look not to it; namely, with an approving or desiring eye, as this expression is used Proverbs 23:31. This hast thou chosen rather than affliction — Thou hast chosen rather to quarrel with God, and censure his judgments, than humbly and quietly, submit to them, and wait upon God by faith and prayer for deliverance in his due time and appointed way.

36:15-23 Elihu shows that Job caused the continuance of his own trouble. He cautions him not to persist in frowardness. Even good men need to be kept to their duty by the fear of God's wrath; the wisest and best have enough in them to deserve his stroke. Let not Job continue his unjust quarrel with God and his providence. And let us never dare to think favourably of sin, never indulge it, nor allow ourselves in it. Elihu thinks Job needed this caution, he having chosen rather to gratify his pride and humour by contending with God, than to mortify them by submitting, and accepting the punishment. It is absurd for us to think to teach Him who is himself the Fountain of light, truth, knowledge, and instruction. He teaches by the Bible, and that is the best book; teaches by his Son, and he is the best Master. He is just in all proceedings.Desire not the night - That is, evidently, "the night of death." The darkness of the night is an emblem of death, and it is not uncommon to speak of death in this manner; see John 9:4, "The night cometh, when no man can work." Elihu seems to have supposed that Job might have looked forward to death as to a time of release; that so far from "dreading" what he had said would come, that God would cut him off at a stroke, it might be the very thing which he desired, and which he anticipated would be an end of his sufferings. Indeed Job had more than once expressed some such sentiment, and Elihu designs to meet that state of mind, and to charge him not to look forward to death as relief. If his present state of mind continued, he says, he would perish under the "wrath" of God; and death in such a manner, great as might be his sufferings here, could not be desirable.

When people are cut off in their place - On this passage, Schultens enumerates no less than "fifteen" different interpretations which have been given, and at the end of this enumeration remarks that he "waits for clearer light to overcome the shades of this night." Rosenmullcr supposes it means," Long not for the night, in which nations go under themselves;" that is, in which they go down to the inferior regions, or in which they perish. Noyes renders it, "To which nations are taken away to their place." Urnbroil renders it, "Pant not for the night, to go down to the people who dwell under thee;" that is, to the Shades, or to those that dwell in Sheol. Prof. Lee translates it, "Pant not for the night, for the rising of the populace from their places." Coverdale, "Prolong not thou the time, until there come a night for thee to set other people in thy stead." The Septuagint, "Do not draw out the night, that the people may come instead of them;" that is, to their assistance.

Dr. Good "Neither long thou for the night, for the vaults of the nations underneath them;" and supposes that the reference is to the "catacombs," or mummy-pits that were employed for burial-places. These are but specimens of the interpretations which have been proposed for this passage, and it is easy to see that there is little prospect of being able to explain it in a satisfactory manner. The principal difficulty in the passage is in the word rendered "cut off," (עלה ‛âlâh) which means "to go up, to ascend," and in the incongruity between that and the word rendered in their place (תחתם tachthâm), which literally means "under them." A literal translation of the passage is, "Do not desire the night to ascend to the people under them;" but I confess I cannot understand the passage, after all the attempts made to explain it. The trauslation given by Umbreit, seems best to agree with the connection, but I am unable to see that the Hebrew would bear this. See, however, his Note on the passage. The word עלה ‛âlâh he understands here in the sense of "going away," or "bearing away," and the pbrase the "people under them," as denoting the "Shades" in the world beneath us. The whole expression then would be equivalent to a wish "to die" - with the expectation that there would be a change for the better, or a release from present sufferings. Elihu admonishes Job not to indulge such a wish, for it would be no gain for a man to die in the state of mind in which he then was.

20. Desire—pant for. Job had wished for death (Job 3:3-9, &c.).

night—(Joh 9:4).

when—rather, "whereby."

cut off—literally, "ascend," as the corn cut and lifted upon the wagon or stack (Job 36:26); so "cut off," "disappear."

in their place—literally, "under themselves"; so, without moving from their place, on the spot, suddenly (Job 40:12) [Maurer]. Umbreit's translation: "To ascend (which is really, as thou wilt find to thy cost, to descend) to the people below" (literally, "under themselves"), answers better to the parallelism and the Hebrew. Thou pantest for death as desirable, but it is a "night" or region of darkness; thy fancied ascent (amelioration) will prove a descent (deterioration) (Job 10:22); therefore desire it not.

Desire not the night; either,

1. Properly, that in it thou mayst find some ease or rest, as men usually do. But this Job did not much desire, for he complains that his nights were as restless as his days. Or rather,

2. Metaphorically, the night of death, which is called the night both in Scripture, as John 9:4, and in other writers; and which Job had oft and earnestly desired, and even thirsted after, as this verb notes. See Job 7:15. And this seems best to agree with the foregoing counsel, Job 36:18, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke; for then, saith he, thou art irrecoverably lost and gone; and therefore take heed of thy foolish and oft-repeated desire of death, lest God inflict it upon thee in great anger. When; or, by which; which words are oft understood in divers texts of Scripture. People; even whole nations and bodies of people, which are all God’s creatures as well as thou, and yet are not spared by him, but cut off in wrath, and many of them sent from one death to another; take heed therefore thou be not added to the number.

Are cut off, Heb. are made to ascend, i.e. to vanish, or perish, or die, as this verb is oft used, as Job 18:16 Psalm 102:24.

In their place; in their several places where they are; or suddenly, before they can remove out of the place where the hand and stroke of God finds them; or in the place where they are settled and surrounded with all manner of comforts, and supports, and friends, all which could not prevent their being cut off. Possibly this phrase may allude to that expression of Job’s, Job 29:18, I shall die in my nest.

Desire not the night,.... Either in a literal sense, which Job might do; not for secrecy to commit sin, as the thief, murderer, and adulterer do; Elihu had no such suspicion of Job; nor for ease and rest, which he expected not; nor would his sores admit thereof; his nights were wearisome, and when come he wished they were gone, Job 7:2; but either for retirement, that he might muse and consider, and endeavour to search and find out the reason of God's dealing with men, in cutting off sometimes such great numbers together. Elihu suggests, that such a search was altogether vain and to no purpose; he would never be able to find out the reason of these things: or rather for shelter from the eye and hand of God; as nothing before mentioned could ward off his stroke, so neither could the night or darkness preserve from it; see Psalm 139:11. Or else the words may be taken in a figurative sense; either of the night of calamity and distress, he might be tempted to desire and wish for, to come upon his enemies; or rather of the night of death, he wished for himself, as he often had done; in doing which Elihu suggests he was wrong; not considering that if God should take him away with a stroke, and he not be humbled and brought to repentance, what would be the consequence of it;

when people are cut off in their place; as sometimes they are in the night, literally taken; just in the place where they stood or lay down, without moving elsewhere, or stirring hand or foot as it were. So Amraphel, and the kings with him, as Jarchi observes, were cut off in the night, the firstborn of Egypt, the Midianites and Sennacherib's army, Genesis 14:15; and so in the night of death, figuratively, the common passage of all men, as Mr. Broughton observes, who renders the words, "for people's passage to their place".

{o} Desire not the night, when people are cut off in their place.

(o) Do not be curious in seeking the cause of God's judgments, when he destroys any.

20–21. Elihu continues his warning to Job.

20.  Desire not that night

When the peoples are cut off in their place;

21.  Take heed, turn not unto iniquity,

For this thou choosest rather than affliction.

20. The “night” is as usual a figure for destruction and judgment. By this destroying judgment of God nations are “taken away” in their place, i. e. on the spot, suddenly and without power of escape; and Job is warned against desiring, lit. panting for, such a judgment. Job had often desired to meet God in judgment, and there may be a reference to this in the words, but the passage contains a general warning against Job’s rebellious words and demeanour towards God, and means “Act not as if thou soughtest to bring on thyself the dark and sudden judgment day of calamity when nations are swept away in their place.”

Verse 20. - Desire not the night, when people (rather, peoples) are cut off in their place. This is an allusion to Job's repeatedly expressed desire to be cut off at once, and laid in the grave (Job 6:9; Job 7:15; Job 14:13, etc.). Elihu holds that such a desire is wrongful. It certainly implies a want of complete resignation to the Divine will. Job 36:20Elihu calls upon Job to consider the uselessness of his vehement contending with God, and then warns him against his dreadful provocation of divine judgment: ne anheles (Job 7:2) noctem illam (with the emphatic art.) sublaturam populos loco suo. לעלות is equivalent to futuram (ההוה or העתידה) ut tollat equals sublaturam (vid., on Job 5:11, לשׂוּם, collocaturus; Job 30:6, לשׁכּן, habitandum est), syncopated from להעלות, in the sense of Psalm 102:25; and תּחתּם signifies, as Job 40:12 (comp. on Habakkuk 3:16), nothing but that just where they are, firmly fixed without the possibility of escape, they are deprived of being. If whole peoples are overtaken by such a fate, how much less shall the individual be able to escape it! And yet Job presses forward on to the tribunal of the terrible Judge, instead of humbling himself under His mighty hand. Oh that in time he would shrink back from this absolute wickedness (און), for he has given it the preference before עני, quiet, resigned endurance. בּחר על signifies, 2 Samuel 19:39, to choose to lay anything on any one; here as בחר בּ, elsewhere to extend one's choice to something, to make something an object of choice; perhaps also under the influence of the phrase התענּג על, and similar phrases. The construction is remarkable, since one would sooner have expected על־עני זה בחרת, hanc elegisti prae toleratione.
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