Job 4:5
But now it is come on you, and you faint; it touches you, and you are troubled.
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Job 4:5. But now it is come upon thee — That is, the evil which thou didst fear, (Job 3:25,) or, that which had come upon those whom thou didst so comfort. And thou faintest — There is no more spirit left in thee: and thou canst not practise thy own advice. It toucheth thee, and thou art troubled — It is now come to be thine own case, and thou art struck with consternation.4:1-6 Satan undertook to prove Job a hypocrite by afflicting him; and his friends concluded him to be one because he was so afflicted, and showed impatience. This we must keep in mind if we would understand what passed. Eliphaz speaks of Job, and his afflicted condition, with tenderness; but charges him with weakness and faint-heartedness. Men make few allowances for those who have taught others. Even pious friends will count that only a touch which we feel as a wound. Learn from hence to draw off the mind of a sufferer from brooding over the affliction, to look at the God of mercies in the affliction. And how can this be done so well as by looking to Christ Jesus, in whose unequalled sorrows every child of God soonest learns to forget his own?But now it is come upon thee - That is, calamity; or, the same trial which others have had, and in which thou hast so successfully exhorted and comforted them. A similar sentiment to that which is here expressed, is found in Terence:

Facile omnes, cum valemus, recta consilia aegrotis damus.

And. ii. i. 9.

It toucheth thee - That is, affliction has come to yourself. It is no longer a thing about which you can coolly sit down and reason, and on which you can deliver formal exhortations.

And thou art troubled - Instead of evincing the calm submission which you have exhorted others to do, your mind is now disturbed and restless. You vent your complaints against the day of your birth, and you charge God with injustice. A sentiment resembling this, occurs in Terence, as quoted by Codurcus:

Nonne id flagitium est, te aliis consilium dare,

Foris sapere, tibi non posse te auxiliarier?

Something similar to this not unfrequently occurs. It is an easy thing to give counsel to others, and to exhort them to be submissive in trial. It is easy to utter general maxims, and to suggest passages of Scripture on the subject of affliction, and even to impart consolation to others; but when trial comes to ourselves, we often fail to realize the power of those truths to console us. Ministers of the gospel are called officially to impart such consolations, and are enabled to do it. But when the trial comes on them, and when they ought by every solemn consideration to be able to show the power of those truths in their own case, it sometimes happens that they evince the same impatience and want of submission which they had rebuked in others; and that whatever truth and power there may have been in their instructions, they themselves little felt their force. It is often necessary that he who is appointed to comfort the afflicted, should be afflicted himself. Then he can "weep with those who weep;" and hence, it is that ministers of the gospel are called quite as much as any other class of people to pass through deep waters. Hence, too, the Lord Jesus became so pre-eminent in suffering, that he might be touched with the feelings of our infirmity, and be qualified to sympathize with us when we are tried; Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:15-16. It is exceedingly important that when they whose office it is to comfort others are afflicted, they should exhibit an example of patience and submission. Then is the time to try their religion; and then they have an opportunity to convince others that the doctrines which they preach are adapted to the condition of weak and suffering man.

5. thou art troubled—rather, "unhinged," hast lost thy self-command (1Th 3:3). Now it is come, i.e. the evil which thou didst fear, Job 3:25, and which was come upon those whom thou didst so comfort.

Thou faintest; thou allowest in thyself what thou wouldst not bear in others. What in them was a vice, in thee, it seems, is become a virtue. Thou art wise for others, but not for thyself; a good physician to cure others, but not thyself; quick-sighted to see the faults of others, but blind to thine own.

It toucheth thee; it is now come to be thine own case. But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest,.... The affliction and evil that he feared, Job 3:25; or rather the same trials and afflictions were come upon him as had been on those whom he had instructed and reproved, and whose hands and hearts he had strengthened and comforted; and yet now thou thyself "faintest", or "art weary" (z), or art bore down and sinkest under the burden, and bearest it very impatiently (a), quite contrary to the advice given to others; and therefore it was concluded he could not be a virtuous, honest, and upright man at heart, only in show and appearance. Bolducius renders the words, "God cometh unto thee", or "thy God cometh"; very wrongly, though the sense may be the same; God cometh and visits thee by laying his afflicting hand upon thee:

it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled; suggesting that it was but a touch, a slight one, a light affliction; thereby lessening Job's calamity and distress, or making little and light of it, and aggravating his impatience under it, that for such a trial as this he should be so excessively troubled, his passions should be so violently moved, and he be thrown into so much disorder and confusion, and be impatient beyond measure; no bounds being set to his grief, and the expressions of it; yea, even to be in the utmost consternation and amazement, as the word (b) signifies.

(z) Defatigaris, Cocceius. (a) aegre tulisti, Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus; "impatienter fers", Schmidt, Michaelis, Piscator. (b) "consternaris", Mercerus, Cocceius, Schmidt, Michaelis, Schultens.

But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.
5. it is come upon thee] Rather, it cometh. It is the calamity, which Eliphaz does not care further to particularize.

art troubled] Or, art confounded, losest self-possession, as Job had indeed described himself as one wholly perplexed, “whose way was hid,” Job 3:23.

We must beware of supposing that there is any flavour of sarcasm in the words of Eliphaz, as if he hinted that Job found it an easier thing to administer comfort to others than to take home the comfort to himself. Such a thing is wholly foreign to the mood of Eliphaz at starting, who, though he does find something to blame in Job’s state of mind, is perfectly sincere and friendly. It is equally irrelevant to the connexion.

Those whom Job had consoled are to be supposed pious men under trials. Job, as a man of deep religious experience, was able to set before them such views of providence, and of the uses of adversity in God’s hand, and open up such prospects to them, that he upheld and confirmed them. The Job 4:3-5 are incomplete, and form the foreground to Job 4:6-7, which express the real point of the statement of Eliphaz.Verse 5. - But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest. Now it is thy turn - calamity has come upon thee and all that thou weft wont to say to others is forgotten. The wise physician cannot heal himself. Instead of receiving thy chastisement in a right spirit, thou "faintest," or rather, "thou art angry, art offended" - as the same verb is also to be translated in the second verse. There is a tone of sarcasm about these remarks, which implies a certain hardness and want of real affection in the speaker, and which cannot but have been perceived by Job, and have detracted from the force of what Eliphaz urged. If one has to rebuke a friend, it should be done with great delicacy. Our "precious balms" should not be allowed to "break his head" (Psalm 141:6). It toucheth thee, and thou art troubled; or, perplexed - "confounded." 24 For instead of my food my sighing cometh,

And my roarings pour themselves forth as water.

25 For I fear something terrible, and it cometh upon me,

And that before which I shudder cometh to me.

26 I dwelt not in security, nor rested, nor refreshed myself:

Then trouble cometh.

That לפני may pass over from the local signification to the substitutionary, like the Lat. pro (e.g., pro praemio est), is seen from Job 4:19 (comp. 1 Samuel 1:16): the parallelism, which is less favourable to the interpretation, before my bread (Hahn, Schlottm., and others), favours the signification pro here. The fut. consec. ויּתּכוּ (Kal of נתך) is to be translated, according to Ges. 129, 3, a, se effundunt (not effuderunt): it denotes, by close connection with the preceding, that which has hitherto happened. Just so v. 25a: I fear something terrible; forthwith it comes over me (this terrible, most dreadful thing). אתה is conjugated by the ה passing into the original א of the root (vid., Ges. 74, rem. 4). And just so the conclusion: then also forthwith רגן (i.e., suffering which disorders, rages and ransacks furiously) comes again. Schlottm. translates tamely and wrongly: then comes - oppression. Hahn, better: Nevertheless fresh trouble always comes; but the "nevertheless" is incorrect, for the fut. consec. indicates a close connection, not contrast. The praett., Job 3:26, give the details of the principal fact, which follows in the fut. consec.: only a short cessation, which is no real cessation; then the suffering rages afresh.

Why - one is inclined to ask respecting this first speech of Job, which gives rise to the following controversy - why does the writer allow Job, who but a short time before, in opposition to his wife, has manifested such wise submission to God's dealings, all at once to break forth in such despair? Does it not seem as though the assertion of Satan were about to be confirmed? Much depends upon one's forming a correct and just judgment respecting the state of mind from which this first speech proceeds. To this purpose, consider (1) That the speech contains no trace of what the writer means by את־האלהים ברך: Job nowhere says that he will have nothing more to do with God; he does not renounce his former faithfulness: (2) That, however, in the mind of the writer, as may be gathered from Job 2:10, this speech is to be regarded as the beginning of Job's sinning. If a man, on account of his sufferings, wishes to die early, or not to have been born at all, he has lost his confidence that God, even in the severest suffering, designs his highest good; and this want of confidence is sin.

There is, however, a great difference between a man who has in general no trust in God, and in whom suffering only makes this manifest in a terrible manner, and the man with whom trust in God is a habit of his soul, and is only momentarily repressed, and, as it were, paralysed. Such interruption of the habitual state may result from the first pressure of unaccustomed suffering; it may then seem as though trust in God were overwhelmed, whereas it has only given way to rally itself again. It is, however, not the greatness of the affliction in itself which shakes his sincere trust in God, but a change of disposition on the part of God which seems to be at work in the affliction. The sufferer considers himself as forgotten, forsaken, and rejected of God, as many passages in the Psalms and Lamentations show: therefore he sinks into despair: and in this despair expression is given to the profound truth (although with regard to the individual it is a sinful weakness), that it is better never to have been born, or to be annihilated, than to be rejected of God (comp. Matthew 26:24, καλὸν ἦ αὐτῷ ει ̓ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος). In such a condition of spiritual, and, as we know from the prologue, of Satanic temptation (Luke 22:31; Ephesians 6:16), is Job. He does not despair when he contemplates his affliction, but when he looks at God through it, who, as though He were become his enemy, has surrounded him with this affliction as with a rampart. He calls himself a man whose way is hidden, as Zion laments, Isaiah 40:27, "My way is hidden from Jehovah;" a man whom Eloah has hedged round, as Jeremiah laments over the ruins of Jerusalem, Lamentations 3:1-13 (in some measure a comment on Job 3:23), "I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath ... . He has hedged me round that I cannot get out, and made my chain heavy."

In this condition of entire deprivation of every taste of divine goodness, Job breaks forth in curses. He has lost wealth and children, and has praised God; he has even begun to bear an incurable disease with submission to the providence of God. Now, however, when not only the affliction, but God himself, seems to him to be hostile (nunc autem occultato patre, as Brentius expresses it),

(Note: Fries, in his discussion of this portion of the book of Job, Jahrbb. fr Deutsche Theologie, 1859, S. 790ff., is quite right that the real affliction of Job consists in this, that the inward feeling of being forsaken of God, which was hitherto strange to him, is come upon him. But the remark directed against me, that the feeling of being forsaken of God does not always stand in connection with other affliction, but may come on the favoured of God even in the midst of uninterrupted outward prosperity, does not concern me, since it is manifestly by the dispensations which deprive him of all his possessions, and at last affect him corporeally and individually, that Job is led to regard himself as one forsaken of God, and still more than that, one hated by God; and since, on the other hand also, this view of the tempted does not appear to be absolutely subjective, God has really withdrawn from Job the external proof, and at the same time the feeling, of His abiding love, in order to try the fidelity of His servant's love, and prove its absoluteness.)

we hear from his mouth neither words of praise (the highest excellence in affliction) nor words of resignation (duty in affliction), but words of despair: his trust in God is not destroyed, but overcast by thick clouds of melancholy and doubt.

It is indeed inconceivable that a New Testament believer, even under the strongest temptation, should utter such imprecations, or especially such a question of doubt as in Job 3:20 : Wherefore is light given to the miserable? But that an Old Testament believer might very easily become involved in such conflicts of belief, may be accounted for by the absence of any express divine revelation to carry his mind beyond the bounds of the present. Concerning the future at the period when the book of Job was composed, and the hero of the book lived, there were longings, inferences, and forebodings of the soul; but there was no clear, consoling word of God on which to rely, - no θεῖος λόγος which, to speak as Plato (Phaedo, p. 85, D), could serve as a rescuing plank in the shipwreck of this life. Therefore the πανταχοῦ θρυλλούμενον extends through all the glory and joy of the Greek life from the very beginning throughout. The best thing is never to have been born; the second best, as soon as possible thereafter, to die. The truth, that the suffering of this present time is not worthy of the glory which shall be revealed in us, was still silent. The proper disposition of mind, under such veiling of the future, was then indeed more absolute, as faith committed itself blindfold to the guidance of God. But how near at hand was the temptation to regard a troublous life as an indication of the divine anger, and doubtingly to ask, Why God should send the light of life to such! They knew not that the present lot of man forms but the one half of his history: they saw only in the one scale misery and wrath, and not in the other the heaven of love and blessedness to be revealed hereafter, by which these are outweighed; they longed for a present solution of the mystery of life, because they knew nothing of the possibility of a future solution. Thus it is to be explained, that not only Job in this poem, but also Jeremiah in the book of his prophecy, Job 20:14-18, curses the day of his birth. He curses the man who brought his father the joyous tidings of the birth of a son, and wishes him the fate of Sodom and Gomorrha. He wishes for himself that his mother might have been his grave, and asks, like Job, "Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labour and sorrow, and that my days should be consumed in shame?" Hitzig remarks on this, that it may be inferred from the contents and form of this passage, there was a certain brief disturbance of spirit, a result of the general indescribable distress of the troublous last days of Zedekiah, to which the spirit of the prophet also succumbed. And it is certainly a kind of delirium in which Jeremiah so speaks, but there is no physical disorder of mind with it: the understanding of the prophet is so slightly and only momentarily disturbed, that he has the rather gained power over his faith, and is himself become one of its disturbing forces.

Without applying to this lyric piece either the standard of pedantic moralizing, or of minute criticism as poetry, the intense melancholy of this extremely plaintive prophet may have proceeded from the following reasoning: After I have lived ten long years of fidelity and sacrifice to my prophetic calling, I see that it has totally failed in its aim: all my hopes are blighted; all my exhortations to repentance, and my prayers, have not availed to draw Judah back from the abyss into which he is now cast, nor to avert the wrath of Jehovah which is now poured forth: therefore it had been better for me never to have been born. This thought affects the prophet so much the more, since in every fibre of his being he is an Israelite, and identifies the weal and woe of his people with his own; just as Moses would rather himself be blotted out form the book of life than that Israel should perish, and Paul was willing to be separated from Christ as anathema if he could thereby save Israel. What wonder that this thought should disburden itself in such imprecations! Had Jeremiah not been born, he would not have had occasion to sit on the ruins of Jerusalem. But his outburst of feeling is notwithstanding a paroxysm of excitement, for, though reason might drive him to despair, faith would teach him to hope even in the midst of downfall; and in reality, this small lyric piece in the collective prophecy of Jeremiah is only as a detached rock, over which, as a stream of clear living water, the prophecy flows on more joyous in faith, more certain of the future. In the book of Job it is otherwise; for what in Jeremiah and several of the psalms is compressed into a small compass, - the darkness of temptation and its clearing up, - is here the substance of a long entanglement dramatically presented, which first of all becomes progressively more and more involved, and to which this outburst of feeling gives the impulse. As Jeremiah, had he not been born, would not have sat on the ruins of Jerusalem; so Job, had he not been born, would not have found himself in this abyss of wrath. Neither of them knows anything of the future solution of every present mystery of life; they know nothing of the future life and the heavenly crown. This it is which, while it justifies their despair, casts greater glory round their struggling faith.


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