How long will you not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Till I swallow down my spittle.—This is doubtless a proverbial expression, like “the twinkling of an eye,” or “while I fetch a breath.”Job 7:19. How long wilt thou not depart from me — How long will it be ere thou withdraw thy afflicting hand from me? The Hebrew is literally, How long wilt thou not take thine eyes off me? “This,” says Dodd, “is a metaphor from combatants, who never take their eyes from off their antagonists. The figure is preserved in the next sentence, which represents a combatant seized by his adversary in such a manner as to prevent his swallowing his spittle or fetching his breath.” Till I swallow my spittle? —
For a little while: or, that I may have a breathing time: an Arabic proverb at present in use. See Schultens.Job 14:6. The word rendered "depart" שׁעה shâ‛âh means to look, to look around, and then to look away from anyone or anything. The idea here is, that God had fixed his eyes upon Job, and he asks with anxiety, how long this was to continue, and when he would turn his eyes away; compare the notes at Job 7:8. Schultens supposes that the metaphor here is taken from combatants, who never take their eyes from their antagonists.
Till I swallow down my spittle - For the shortest time. But there has been considerable variety in the explanation of this phrase. Herder renders it, "Until I draw my breath." Noyes, "Until I have time to breathe;" but he acknowledges that he has substituted this for the proverb which occurs in the original. The Hebrew is literally rendered in the common version, and the proverb is retained in Arabia to the present day. The meaning is, Give me a little respite; allow me a little time; as we would say, Suffer me to breathe. "This," says Burder, "is a proverb among the Arabians to the present day, by which they understand, Give me leave to rest after my fatigue. This is the favor which Job complains is not granted to him. There are two instances which illustrate this passage (quoted by Schultens) in Harris's Narratives entitled the Assembly. One is of a person, who, when eagerly pressed to give an account of his travels, answered with impatience, 'Let me swallow down my spittle, for my journey hath fatigued me.' The other instance is of a quick return made to a person who used the proverb. 'Suffer me, ' said the person importuned, 'to swallow down my spittle;' to which the friend replied, 'You may, if you please, swallow down even the Tigris and the Euphrates; ' that is, You may take what time you please."
The expression is proverbial, and corresponds to ours when we say, "in the twinkling of an eye," or, "until I can catch my breath;" that is, in the briefest interval. Job addresses this language to God. There is much impatience in it, and much that a pious man should not employ; but we are to remember that Job was beset with special trials, and that he had not the views of the divine existence and perfections, the promises and the high hopes, which as Christians we have under the fuller light of revelation; and before harshly condemning him we should put ourselves in his situation, and ask ourselves how we would be likely to think and feel and speak if we were in the same circumstances.
Till I swallow down my spittle, i.e. for a little time; or that I may have a breathing time: a proverbial expression, like that Spanish proverb, I have not time or liberty to spit out my spittle. Or this expression may have respect to Job’s distempered and calamitous condition, wherewith he was so overwhelmed, that he either had not strength, or could not take heed, to spit out his spittle, as he should have done, but swallowed it down, as sick and melancholy persons often do.
nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle? some think Job has reference to his disease which affected his throat, that being so dried up, or having a quinsy in it, that he could not swallow his spittle, or it was with great difficulty he did it; or rather it is a proverbial expression, signifying that his afflictions were incessant, that he had no respite nor intermission, had not space enough given him to swallow down his spittle, or take his breath, as in Job 9:18; so Schultens observes, that with the Arabians this was a proverbial form of speech, when they required time for anything, "give me time to swallow my spittle"; or when they had not proper time, or any intermission, used to say, "you will not give me time to swallow my spittle"; and one being asked a multitude of questions, replied, "suffer me to swallow my spittle", that is, give me time to make an answer: or the sense is, that his antagonist in wrestling with him held him so fast, and kept him so close to it, and so twisted him about, and gave him fall upon fall, so that he had no time to swallow his spittle; or he so collared him, and gripped him, and almost throttled him, that he could not swallow it down; all which intends how closely and incessantly Job was followed with one affliction upon another, and how severe and distressing they were to him.How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)19. depart from me] lit. look away from me; an impatient demand that God would turn away His plaguing glance; cf. “watcher of men,” Job 7:20.
swallow down my spittle] A proverbial phrase like “twinkling of an eye,” signifying a moment, as we might say “till I let over”; cf. “draw my breath,” ch. Job 9:18. To let one swallow his spittle is to give him a moment’s respite or time. The phrase is not unusual among the Arabs. In De Sacy’s Notes to Hariri, p. 164, a person tells the following: “I said to one of my Sheichs (teachers), Let me swallow my spittle; to which he replied, I will let you swallow the two Confluents (the Tigris and Euphrates).”Verse 19. - How long wilt thou not depart from me? rather, Wilt thou not look away from me? (see the Revised Version). Job does not go so far as to ask that God should "depart from" him. He knows, doubtless, that that would be the extreme of calamity. But he would have God sometimes turn away his eyes from him, and not always regard him so intently. There is something of the same tone of complaint in the psalmist's utterance., "Thou art about my path, and about my bed, and spiest out all my ways" (Psalm 139:3, Prayer-book Version). Nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle? Even, i.e., for the shortest space of time passible. A proverbial expression.
That thou settest a watch over me?
13 For I said, My bed shall comfort me;
My couch shall help me to bear my complaint.
14 Then thou scaredst me with dreams,
And thou didst wake me up in terror from visions,
15 So that my soul chose suffocation,
Death rather than this skeleton.
16 I loathe it, I would not live alway;
Let me alone, for my days are breath.
Since a watch on the sea can only be designed to effect the necessary precautions at its coming forth from the shores, it is probable that the poet had the Nile in mind when he used ים, and consequently the crocodile by תּנּין. The Nile is also called ים in Isaiah 19:5, and in Homer ὠκεανός, Egyptian oham ( equals ὠκεανός), and is even now called (at least by the Bedouins) bahhr (Arab. bahr). The illustrations of the book, says von Gerlach correctly, are chiefly Egyptian. On the contrary, Hahn thinks the illustration is unsuitable of the Nile, because it is not watched on account of its danger, but its utility; and Schlottman thinks it even small and contemptible without assigning a reason. The figure is, however, appropriate. As watches are set to keep the Nile in channels as soon as it breaks forth, and as men are set to watch that they may seize the crocodile immediately he moves here or there; so Job says all his movements are checked at the very commencement, and as soon as he desires to be more cheerful he feels the pang of some fresh pain. In Job 7:13, ב after נשׂא is partitive, as Numbers 11:17; Mercier correctly: non nihil querelam meam levabit. If he hopes for such repose, it forthwith comes to nought, since he starts up affrighted from his slumber. Hideous dreams often disturb the sleep of those suffering with elephantiasis, says Avicenna (in Stickel, S. 170). Then he desires death; he wishes that his difficulty of breathing would increase to suffocation, the usual end of elephantiasis. מחנק is absolute (without being obliged to point it מחנק with Schlottm.), as e.g., מרמס, Isaiah 10:6 (Ewald, 160, c). He prefers death to these his bones, i.e., this miserable skeleton or framework of bone to which he is wasted away. He despises, i.e., his life, Job 9:21. Amid such suffering he would not live for ever. הבל, like רוּח, Job 7:7.
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