Job 4:19
How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?
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(19) Houses of clay.—This may perhaps contain an allusion to Genesis 11:3.

Are crushed before the moth?—That is to say, are so frail that even the moth destroys them.

4:12-21 Eliphaz relates a vision. When we are communing with our own hearts, and are still, Ps 4:4, then is a time for the Holy Spirit to commune with us. This vision put him into very great fear. Ever since man sinned, it has been terrible to him to receive communications from Heaven, conscious that he can expect no good tidings thence. Sinful man! shall he pretend to be more just, more pure, than God, who being his Maker, is his Lord and Owner? How dreadful, then, the pride and presumption of man! How great the patience of God! Look upon man in his life. The very foundation of that cottage of clay in which man dwells, is in the dust, and it will sink with its own weight. We stand but upon the dust. Some have a higher heap of dust to stand upon than others but still it is the earth that stays us up, and will shortly swallow us up. Man is soon crushed; or if some lingering distemper, which consumes like a moth, be sent to destroy him, he cannot resist it. Shall such a creature pretend to blame the appointments of God? Look upon man in his death. Life is short, and in a little time men are cut off. Beauty, strength, learning, not only cannot secure them from death, but these things die with them; nor shall their pomp, their wealth, or power, continue after them. Shall a weak, sinful, dying creature, pretend to be more just than God, and more pure than his Maker? No: instead of quarrelling with his afflictions, let him wonder that he is out of hell. Can a man be cleansed without his Maker? Will God justify sinful mortals, and clear them from guilt? or will he do so without their having an interest in the righteousness and gracious help of their promised Redeemer, when angels, once ministering spirits before his throne, receive the just recompence of their sins? Notwithstanding the seeming impunity of men for a short time, though living without God in the world, their doom is as certain as that of the fallen angels, and is continually overtaking them. Yet careless sinners note it so little, that they expect not the change, nor are wise to consider their latter end.How much less - (אף 'aph). This particle has the general sense of addition, accession, especially of something more important;" yea more, besides, even." Gesenius. The meaning here is, "how much more true is this of man!" He puts no confidence in his angels; he charges them with frailty; how much more strikingly true must this be of man! It is not merely, as our common translation would seem to imply, that he put much less confidence in man than in angels; it is, that all he had said must be more strikingly true of man, who dwelt in so frail and humble a habitation.

In them that dwell in houses of clay - In man. The phrase "houses of clay" refers to the body made of dust. The sense is, that man, from the fact that he dwells in such a tabernacle, is far inferior to the pure spirits that surround the throne of God, and much more liable to sin. The body is represented as a temporary tent, tabernacle, or dwelling for the soul. That dwelling is soon to be taken down, and its tenant, the soul, to be removed to other abodes. So Paul 2 Corinthians 5:1 speaks of the body as ἡ ἐπίγειος ἡμῶν οἰκία τοῦ σκήνους hē epigeios hēmōn oikia tou skēnous - "our earthly house of this tabernacle." So Plato speaks of it as γηΐ́νον σκῆνος gēinon skēnos - an earthly tent; and so Aristophanes (Av. 587), among other contemptuous expressions applied to people, calls them πλάσματα πηλοῦ plasmata pēlou, "vessels of clay." The idea in the verse before us is beautiful, and as affecting as it is beautiful. A house of clay (חמר chômer) was little fitted to bear the extremes of heat and cold, of storm and sunshine, of rain, and frost, and snow, and would soon crumble and decay. It must be a frail and temporary dwelling. It could not endure the changes of the seasons and the lapse of years like a dwelling of granite or marble. So with our bodies. They can bear little. They are frail, infirm, and feeble. They are easily prostrated, and soon fall back to their native dust. How can they who dwelt in such edifices, be in any way compared with the Infinite and Eternal God?

Whose foundation is in the dust - A house to be firm and secure should be founded on a rock; see Matthew 7:25. The figure is kept up here of comparing man with a house; and as a house that is built on the sand or the dust may be easily washed away (compare Matthew 7:26-27), and could not be confided in, so it was with man. He was like such a dwelling; and no more confidence could be reposed in him than in such a house.

Which are crushed - They are broken in pieces, trampled on, destroyed (דכא dâkâ'), by the most insignificant objects.

Before the moth - See Isaiah 50:9, note; Isaiah 51:8, note. The word moth (עשׁ ‛âsh), Greek σής sēs, Vulgate, tinea, denotes properly an insect which flies by night, and particularly that which attaches itself to woolen cloth and consumes it. It is possible, however, that the word here denotes the moth-worm. This "moth-worm is one state of the creature. which first is inclosed in an egg, and thence issues in the form of a worm; after a time, it quits the form of a worm, to assume that of the complete state of the insect, or the moth." Calmet. The comparison here, therefore, is not that of a moth flying against a house to overset it, nor of the moth consuming man as it does a garment, but it is that of a feeble worm that preys upon man and destroys him; and the idea is, that the most feeble of all objects may crush him. The following remarks from Niebuhr (Reisebeschreibung von Arabien, S. 133), will serve to illustrate this passage, and show that so feeble a thing as a worm may destroy human life. "There is in Yemen, in India, and on the coasts of the South Sea, a common sickness caused by the Guinea, or nerve-worm, known to European physicians by the name of vena Medinensis. It is supposed in Yemen that this worm is ingested from the bad water which the inhabitants of those countries are under a necessity of using. Many of the Arabians on this account take the precaution to strain the water which they drink. If anyone has by accident swallowed an egg of this worm, no trace of it is to be seen until it appears on the skin; and the first indication of it there, is the irritation which is caused. On our physician, a few days before his death, five of these worms made their appearance, although we had been more than five months absent from Arabia. On the island of Charedsch, I saw a French officer, whose name was Le Page, who after a long and arduous journey, which he had made on foot, from Pondicherry to Surat, through the heart of India, found the traces of such a worm in him, which he endeavored to extract from his body.

He believed that be had swallowed it when drinking the waters of Mahratta. The worm is not dangerous, if it can be drawn from the body without being broken. The Orientals are accustomed, as soon as the worm makes its appearance through the skin, to wind it up on a piece of straw, or of dry wood. It is finer than a thread, and is from two to three feet in length. The winding up of the worm frequently occupies a week; and no further inconvenience is experienced, than the care which is requisite not to break it. If, however, it is broken, it draws itself back into the body, and then becomes dangerous. Lameness, gangrene, or the loss of life itself is the result." See the notes at Isaiah referred to above. The comparison of man with a worm, or an insect, on account of his feebleness and shortness of life, is common in the sacred writings, and in the Classics. The following passage from Pindar, quoted by Schultens, hints at the same idea:

Ἐπάμεροι, τί δέ τις; τί δ ̓ οῦ τις;

Σκιᾶς ὄναρ ἄνθρωποι.

Epameroi, ti de tis; ti d' ou tis;

Skias onar anthrōpoi.

"Things of a day! What is anyone? What is he not? Men are the dream of a shadow!" - The idea in the passage before us is, that people are exceedingly frail, and that in such creatures no confidence can be placed. How should such a creature, therefore, presume to arraign the wisdom and equity of the divine dealings? How can he be more just or wise than God?

19. houses of clay—(2Co 5:1). Houses made of sun-dried clay bricks are common in the East; they are easily washed away (Mt 7:27). Man's foundation is this dust (Ge 3:19).

before the moth—rather, "as before the moth," which devours a garment (Job 13:28; Ps 39:11; Isa 50:9). Man, who cannot, in a physical point of view, stand before the very moth, surely cannot, in a moral, stand before God.

How much less, understand, doth he put trust in them, &c.! Or, How much more, understand, doth he charge folly on them, &c.! Either of these supplements are natural and easy, being fetched out of the former verse, and necessary to make the sense complete. The sense is, What strange presumption then is it, for a foolish and mortal man to pretend to a higher privilege than the angels do, to make himself more just than God, or to exalt himself above or against God, as thou dost! On them, i.e. on men, as it follows, who, though they have immortal spirits, yet those spirits dwell in mortal bodies, which are great debasements, and clogs, and encumbrances, and snares to them; and which are here called

houses, ( because they are the receptacles of the soul, and the places of its settled and continual abode,) and

houses of clay, and earthly houses, 2 Corinthians 5:1; partly because they were made of clay, or earth, Genesis 2:7 1 Corinthians 15:47; and partly to note their great frailty and mutability; whereas the angels are free spirits, unconfined to such carcasses, and dwell in celestial, and glorious, and everlasting mansions.

Whose foundation is in the dust; whose very foundation, no less than the rest of the building, is

in the dust; who as they dwell in dust and clay, so they had their foundation or original from it, and they must return to it, Ecclesiastes 12:7; and, as to their bodies, lie down and sleep in it, Daniel 12:2, as in his long home, Ecclesiastes 12:5, and the only continuing city which he hath in this world.

Which are crushed, Heb. they crush them, i.e. they are or will be crushed; the active verb used impersonally, as it is Job 7:3 24:20 Proverbs 6:30 Luke 12:20.

Before the moth, i.e. sooner than a moth is crushed, which is easily done by a gentle touch of the finger. An hyperbolical expression. So the Hebrew word liphne, commonly signifying place, doth here note time, as it is used Genesis 27:7 29:26 36:31. Or, at the face, or appearance, of a moth. No creature is so weak and contemptible but one time or other it may have the body of man in its power, as the worms, the moths’ cousin-germans, have in the grave. But he instanceth in a moth rather than a worm, because it is the weaker of the two, and because it better agrees with the similitude of a house, in which moths commonly are more frequent, and powerful, and mischievous than worms. How then canst thou think, O Job, to contend with thy Maker, that must become a prey to such small and impotent creatures?

How much less on them that dwell in houses of clay,.... Meaning men, but not as dwelling in houses, in a proper sense, made of clay dried by the sun, as were common in the eastern countries; nor in mean cottages, as distinguished from cedar, and ceiled houses, in which great personages dwelt, for this respects men in common; nor as being in the houses of the grave, as the Targum, Jarchi, and others, which are no other than dust, dirt, and clay; for this regards not the dead, but the living; but the bodies of men are meant; in which their souls dwell; which shows the superior excellency of the soul to the body, and its independency of it, being capable of existing without it, as it does in the separate state before the resurrection; so bodies are called tabernacles, and earthen vessels, and earthly houses, 2 Peter 1:13 2 Corinthians 4:7; and bodies of clay, Job 13:12; so the body is by Epictetus (c) called clay elegantly wrought; and another Heathen writer (d) calls it clay steeped in, or macerated and mixed with blood: being of clay denotes the original of bodies, the dust of the earth; and the frailty of them, like brittle clay, and the pollution of them, all the members thereof being defiled with sin, and so called vile bodies, and will remain such till changed by Christ, Philippians 3:21; now the argument stands thus, if God put no trust in angels, then much less in poor, frail, mortal, sinful men; he has no dependence on their services, whose weakness, unprofitableness, and unfaithfulness, he well knows; he puts no trust in their purposes, and resolutions, and vows, which often come to nothing; nor does he trust his own people with their salvation and justification, or put these things upon the foot of their works, but trusts them and the salvation and justification of them with his Son, and puts them upon the foot of his own grace and mercy: and if he charges the holy angels with folly, then much more (for so it may be also rendered) will he charge mortal sinful men with it, who are born like the wild ass's colt, and are foolish as well as disobedient, even his chosen ones, especially before conversion; or thus if so stands the case of angels, then much less can man be just before him, and pure in his sight: the weakness, frailty, and pollution of the bodies of men, are further enlarged on in some following clauses:

whose foundation is in the dust; meaning not the lower parts of the body, as the feet, which support and bear it up; rather the soul, which is the basis of it, referring to its corruption and depravity by sin; though it seems chiefly to respect the original of the body, which is the dust of the earth, of which it consists, and to which it will return again, this being but a poor foundation to stand upon, Genesis 2:7; for the sense is, whose foundation is dust, mere dust, the particle being redundant, or rather an Arabism:

which are crushed before the moth? that is, which bodies of men, or houses of clay founded in the dust; or, "they crush them"; or "which" or "whom they crush" (e); either God, Father, Son, and Spirit, as some; or the angels, as others; or distresses, calamities, and afflictions, which sense seems best, by which they are crushed "before the moth" or "worm" (f); that is, before they die, and come to be the repast of worms, Job 19:26; or before a moth is destroyed, as soon, or sooner (g), than it is; so a man may be crushed to death, or his life taken from him, as soon as a moth's; either by the immediate hand of God, as Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:5; or by the sword of man, as Amasa by Joab, 2 Samuel 20:10; or rather, "like a moth" (h), as easily and as quickly as a moth is crushed between a man's fingers, or by his foot: some, as Saadiah Gaon, and others, render it, "before Arcturus" (i), a constellation in the heavens, Job 9:9; and take the phrase to be the same as that, "before the sun"; Psalm 72:17; and to denote the perpetuity and duration of their being crushed, which would be as long as the sun or Arcturus continued, that is, for ever; but either of the above senses is best, especially the last of them.

(c) Arrian. Epictet. l. 1. c. 1.((d) Theodor. Gadareus, apud Sueton. Vit. Tiber. c. 57. (e) "conterent eos", Montanus, Mercerus, Michaelis, Schultens; "sub trinitas personarum", Schmidt; "angeli", Mercerus; so Sephorno and R. Simeon Bar Tzemach; "calamitates", Vatablus; so some in Bar Tzemach. (f) "conam verme", Coceius; so the Targum and Bar Tzemach. (g) "Antequam tinea", Junius & Tremellius; "citius quam tinea", Piscator. (h) , Sept. "instar tineae", Noldius, Schmidt; so Aben Ezra and Broughton. (i) "Donec fuerit Arcturus", Pagninus, Vatablus; so some in Aben Ezra, Ben Melech.

How much less in them that dwell in houses of {n} clay, whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?

(n) That is, in this mortal body, subject to corruption, as in 2Co 5:1.

19. houses of clay] The verse refers to men, and their “houses of clay” are their bodies, which are of the dust, Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19; 2 Corinthians 5:1.

whose foundation] Men’s bodies being compared to houses are now spoken of as, like houses, having a foundation. They are not only of earth, they are founded on earth—of the earth earthy. They are built of earth, derived from earth, limited to earth. The accumulation of terms enhances the material nature of man in opposition to the spirits on high. Yet even these spirits are limited, and, as creatures, not absolute in their holiness, and to God’s eye even erring. No words could more strongly express God’s unapproachable holiness.

before the moth] The words may mean: sooner, easier, than the moth is crushed. They can hardly mean in the connexion, by the moth; although the moth is usually elsewhere spoken of as the destroyer, ch. Job 13:28; Isaiah 50:9; Isaiah 51:8, and not as the object of destruction. The phrase before might have a sense similar to what it has in ch. Job 3:24, like the moth; so the Sept.

Verse 19. - How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay! rather, hew muck more cloth he not put trust in them that inhabit houses of clay! i.e. "earthly bodies," bodies made out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7; setup, Job 33:6). Whose foundation is in the dust; i.e." whose origin was the dust of the ground," which were formed from it and must return to it, according to the words of Genesis 3:19, "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou must return." Which are crushed before the moth. This is somewhat obscure. It may mean, "which are so fragile that a moth, a fly, or other weak creature may destroy them," or "which are crushed with the same ease with which a moth is crushed and destroyed." Job 4:19אף signifies, like כּי אף, quanto minus, or quanto magis, according as a negative or positive sentence precedes: since Job 4:18 is positive, we translate it here quanto magis, as 2 Samuel 16:11. Men are called dwellers in clay houses: the house of clay is their φθαρτὸν σῶμα, as being taken de limo terrae (Job 33:6; comp. Wis. 9:15); it is a fragile habitation, formed of inferior materials, and destined to destruction. The explanation which follows - those whose יסוד, i.e., foundation of existence, is in dust - shows still more clearly that the poet has Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19, in his mind. It crushes them (subject, everything that operates destructively on the life of man) לפני־עשׁ, i.e., not: sooner than the moth is crushed (Hahn), or more rapidly than a moth destroys (Oehler, Fries), or even appointed to the moth for destruction (Schlottm.); but לפני signifies, as Job 3:24 (cf. 1 Samuel 1:16), ad instar: as easily as a moth is crushed. They last only from morning until evening: they are broken in pieces (הכּת, from כּתת, for הוּכת); they are therefore as ephemerae. They perish for ever, without any one taking it to heart (suppl. על־לב, Isaiah 42:25; Isaiah 57:1), or directing the heart towards it, animum advertit (suppl. לב, Job 1:8).

In Job 4:21 the soul is compared to the cord of a tent, which stretches out and holds up the body as a tent, like Ecclesiastes 12:6, with a silver cord, which holds the lamp hanging from the covering of the tent. Olshausen is inclined to read יתדם, their tent-pole, instead of יתרם, and at any rate thinks the accompanying בּם superfluous and awkward. But (1) the comparison used here of the soul, and of the life sustained by it, corresponds to its comparison elsewhere with a thread or weft, of which death is the cutting through or loosing (Job 6:9; Job 27:8; Isaiah 38:12); (12) בּם is neither superfluous nor awkward, since it is intended to say, that their duration of life falls in all at once like a tent when that which in them (בם) corresponds to the cord of a tent (i.e., the נפשׁ) is drawn away from it. The relation of the members of the sentence in Job 4:21 is just the same as in Job 4:2 : Will they not die when it is torn away, etc. They then die off in lack of wisdom, i.e., without having acted in accordance with the perishableness of their nature and their distance from God; therefore, rightly considered: unprepared and suddenly, comp. Job 36:12; Proverbs 5:23. Oehler, correctly: without having been made wiser by the afflictions of God. The utterance of the Spirit, the compass of which is unmistakeably manifest by the strophic division, ends here. Eliphaz now, with reference to it, turns to Job.

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