Job 7:20
I have sinned; what shall I do to you, O you preserver of men? why have you set me as a mark against you, so that I am a burden to myself?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) I have sinnedi.e., “Putting the case that I have sinned, yet what then can I do unto Thee, O thou keeper of men? “with a possible allusion to Job 7:12, though the verb is not the same.

O thou preserver of men.—“Why hast Thou set me as a mark for Thee to expend all Thine arrows upon?” or, “Why hast Thou made me to be Thy stumbling-block, so that Thou ever comest into collision against me, so that I am become a burden to myself?”

Job 7:20. I have sinned — Although I am free from those crying sins for which my friends suppose thou hast sent this uncommon judgment upon me; yet I freely confess that I am a sinner, and therefore obnoxious to thy justice. And what shall I do unto thee? — To satisfy thy justice, or regain thy favour. I can do nothing to purchase or deserve it, and therefore implore thy mercy to pardon my sins; O thou Preserver of men — O thou, who, as thou wast the Creator of man, delightest to be, and to be called, the Preserver and Saviour of men; and who waitest to be kind and gracious to men, from day to day: do not deal with me in a way contrary to thy own nature and name, and to the manner of thy dealing with all the rest of mankind. As Job had expressed himself before as if he thought he was treated with severity, Schultens chooses to render נצר, notzer, observer, rather than preserver. This indeed seems to be more agreeable to the context, which intimates that the eye of God was upon Job to observe and watch him as an offender; and this construction may be justified from Jeremiah 4:16, where the same word, in the plural number, is rendered watchers. According to this translation the meaning is, O thou observer of men, who dost exactly know and diligently observe all men’s inward motions and outward actions; if thou shalt be severe to mark mine iniquities, as thou seemest to be, I have not what to say or do unto thee. Why hast thou set me as a mark, &c. — Into which thou wilt shoot all the arrows of thy indignation? So that I am a burden to myself — I am weary of myself and of my life, being no way able to resist or endure the strokes of so potent an adversary.7:17-21 Job reasons with God concerning his dealings with man. But in the midst of this discourse, Job seems to have lifted up his thoughts to God with some faith and hope. Observe the concern he is in about his sins. The best men have to complain of sin; and the better they are, the more they will complain of it. God is the Preserver of our lives, and the Saviour of the souls of all that believe; but probably Job meant the Observer of men, whose eyes are upon the ways and hearts of all men. We can hide nothing from Him; let us plead guilty before his throne of grace, that we may not be condemned at his judgment-seat. Job maintained, against his friends, that he was not a hypocrite, not a wicked man, yet he owns to his God, that he had sinned. The best must so acknowledge, before the Lord. He seriously inquires how he might be at peace with God, and earnestly begs forgiveness of his sins. He means more than the removing of his outward trouble, and is earnest for the return of God's favour. Wherever the Lord removes the guilt of sin, he breaks the power of sin. To strengthen his prayer for pardon, Job pleads the prospect he had of dying quickly. If my sins be not pardoned while I live, I am lost and undone for ever. How wretched is sinful man without a knowledge of the Saviour!I have sinned - חטאתי châṭâ'tı̂y. This is a literal translation, and as it stands in the common version it is the language of a penitent - confessing that he had erred, and making humble acknowledgment of his sins. That such a confession became Job, and that he would be willing to admit that he was a sinner, there can be no doubt; but the connection seems rather to require a different sense - a sense implying that though he had sinned, yet his offences could not be such as to require the notice which God had taken of them. Accordingly this interpretation has been adopted by many, and the Hebrew will bear the construction. It may be rendered as a question, "Have I sinned; what did I against thee" Herder. Or, the sense may be, "I have sinned. I admit it. Let this be conceded. But what can that be to a being like God, that he should take such notice of it? Have I injured him? Have I deserved these heavy trials? Is it proper that he should make me a special mark, and direct his severest judgments against me in this manner?" compare the notes at -Job 35:6-8. The Syriac renders it in this manner, "If I have sinned, what have I done to thee?" So the Arabic, according to Walton. So the Septuagint, Εἰ ἐγὼ ἥμαρτον Ei egō hēmarton - "if I have sinned." This expresses the true sense. The object is not so much to make a penitent confession, as it is to say, that on the worst construction of the case, on the admission of the truth of the charge, he had not deserved the severe inflictions which he had received at the hand of God.

What shall I do unto thee? - Or, rather, what have I done unto thee? How can my conduct seriously affect thee? It will not mar thy happiness, affect thy peace, or in any way injure a being so great as God. This sentiment is often felt by people - but not often so honestly expressed.

O thou Preserver of men - Or, rather, "O thou that dost watch or observe men." The word rendered "Preserver" נצר notsēr is a participle from נצר nâtsar which means, according to Gesenius, to watch, to guard, to keep, and is used here in the sense of observing one's faults; and the idea of Job is, that God closely observed the conduct of people; that he strictly marked their faults, and severely punished them; and he asks with impatience, and evidently with improper feeling, why he thus closely watched people. So it is understood by Schultens, Rosenmuller, Dr. Good, Noyes, Herder, Kennicott, and others. The Septuagint renders it, "who knowest the mind of men?"

Why hast thou set me as a mark? - The word rendered "mark" מפגע mı̂phgâ‛, means properly that which one impinges against - from פגע pâga‛, to impinge against, to meet, to rush upon anyone - and here means, why has God made me such an object of attack or assault? The Septuagint renders it, κατεντευκτήν σου katenteuktēn sou, "an accuser of thee."

So that I am a burden to myself - The Septuagint renders this, ἐπὶ σοὶ φορτίον epi soi phortion, a burden to thee. The copy from which they translated evidently had עליך ‛alēykā - to thee, instead of עלי ‛ālay - to me, as it is now read in the Hebrew. "The Masoretes also place this among the eighteen passages which they say were altered by transcribers." Noyes. But the Received Text is sustained by all the versions except the Septuagint and by all the Hebrew manuscripts hitherto examined, and is doubtless the true reading. The sense is plain, that life had become a burden to Job. He says that God had made him the special object of his displeasure, and that his condition was insupportable. That there is much in this language which is irreverent and improper no one can doubt, and it is not possible wholly to vindicate it. Nor are we called to do it by any view which we have of the nature of inspiration. He was a good, but not a perfect man. These expressions are recorded, not for our imitation, but to show what human nature is. Before harshly condemning him, however, we should ask what we would be likely to do in his circumstances; we should remember also, that he had few of the truths and promises to support him which we have.

20. I have sinned—Yet what sin can I do against ("to," Job 35:6) thee (of such a nature that thou shouldst jealously watch and deprive me of all strength, as if thou didst fear me)? Yet thou art one who hast men ever in view, ever watchest them—O thou Watcher (Job 7:12; Da 9:14) of men. Job had borne with patience his trials, as sent by God (Job 1:21; 2:10); only his reason cannot reconcile the ceaseless continuance of his mental and bodily pains with his ideas of the divine nature.

set me as a mark—Wherefore dost thou make me thy point of attack? that is, ever assail me with new pains? [Umbreit] (La 3:12).

I have sinned: although I am innocent and free from those crying sins, for which my friends suppose thou hast sent this uncommon judgment upon me; yet if thou be strict to mark what is amiss, I freely confess that I am a sinner, and therefore obnoxious to thy justice, and I humbly beg thy pardon for it, as it follows, Job 3:21; and therefore accept of this confession.

What shall I do unto thee, to satisfy thy justice, or regain thy favour? I can do nothing to purchase or deserve it, and therefore implore thy mercy to pardon my sins. O thou preserver of men; O thou who, as thou wast the Creator of man, delightest to be, and to be called, the Preserver and Saviour of men; and that waitest to be kind and gracious to men from day to day, as occasion requires; do not deal with me in a way contrary to thy own nature and name, and to the manner of thy dealing with all the rest of mankind. Otherwise, O thou observer of men; thou who dost exactly know and diligently observe all men’s inward motions and outward actions; and therefore if thou shalt be severe to mark mine iniquities, as thou seemest to be, I have not what to say or do unto thee: compare Job 9:3,15,29 14:4.

As a mark against thee; into which thou wilt shoot all the arrows of thy indignation.

I am a burden to myself, i.e. I am weary of myself, and of my life, being no way able to resist or endure the assaults of so potent an adversary. I have sinned,.... Some render it, "if I have sinned" (w); be it so that I have, as my friends say, yet since there is forgiveness with thee, why should I be so afflicted as I am? but there is no need of such a supplement, the words are an affirmation, I have sinned, or I am a sinner; not that he owned that he had been guilty of any notorious sin, or had lived a sinful course of life, on account of which his afflictions came upon him, as his friends suggested; but that he was not without sin, was daily guilty of it, as men, even the best of men, ordinarily are; and being a sinner was not a match for a holy God; he could not contend with him, nor answer him for one sin of a thousand committed by him in thought, word, or deed; and therefore desires him to desist and depart from him, see Luke 5:8,

what shall I do unto thee? this he said, not as one in distress of mind on account of sin, and under the load of the guilt of it, inquiring what he must do to make satisfaction for it, how and what way he could be saved from it; for he knew that nothing done by him in a ceremonial way by sacrifices, nor in a moral way by the performance of duties, could take away sin, or atone for it, or save him from it; he knew this was only by his living Redeemer, and whom he knew and determined should be his salvation, and he only; see Job 9:30; but rather as it may be rendered, "what can or ought I do unto thee?" (x) that is, more than I have done, namely, to confess my sin unto thee; what more dost thou require of me? or what more can be done by me, than to repent of my sin, acknowledge it, and beg pardon for it? as he does in Job 7:21, or "what can I do unto thee?" thou art all over match for me, I cannot struggle and contend with thee, a sinful man with an holy God:

O thou preserver of men? as he is in a providential way, the supporter of men in their lives and beings; or, "O thou keeper of men" (y), as he is, not only of Israel, but of all others, and that night and day; perhaps Job may refer to his setting and keeping a watch over him, Job 7:12; and enclosing and hedging him all around with afflictions, so that he could not get out of the world as he desired; or, "O thou observer of men" (z), of their words, ways, works, and actions, and who kept such a strict eye upon him while wrestling with him, and therefore what could he do? or, "O thou Saviour of men" (a), by whom only I can be saved from the sins I have been and am daily guilty of:

why hast thou set me as a mark against thee? as a butt to shoot thine arrows at, one affliction after another, thick and fast, see Job 16:12 Lamentations 3:12; the words I think may be rendered, "why hast thou appointed me to meet thee", or "for a meeting with thee?" (b) as one man challenge, another to meet him in such a place and fight him: alas! I am not equal to thee, I am a mere worm, not able to contend with thee the mighty God, or to meet thee in the way of thy judgments, and to endure the heavy strokes of thy angry hand; and so Bar Tzemach paraphrases it,"thou hast hated me, and not loved me; that thou hast set, or appointed me to meet thee, as a man meets his enemy in the time of his wrath, and he stirs up against him all his fury:''and to the same sense, and much in the same words, Jarchi interprets it:

so that I am a burden to myself? weary of his life, through the many pressing and heavy afflictions upon him, as Rebekah was of hers, because of the daughters of Heth, Genesis 27:46. The reading which we follow, and is followed by the Targum, and by most interpreters, Jewish and Christian, is a correction of the scribes, and one of the eighteen places corrected by them; which is no argument of the corruption of the Hebrew text, but of the contrary; since this was only placed in the margin of the Bible, as the Masorites afterwards did with their various readings, showing only what was their sense of this, and the like passages; and as an instruction how in their opinion to understand them, still retaining the other reading or writing; and which, according to Aben Ezra, may be rightly interpreted, and is, "so that I am a burden to thee" (c); and which is followed by some, signifying, as Job thought at least, that he was so offensive to him that he could not bear him, but treated him as an enemy; was weary of him, as God is said to be of sinners and their sins, and of the services and duties of carnal professors, see Isaiah 1:14; so Abendana interprets it,"thou hast set me for a mark unto thee, as if I was a burden to thee.''

(w) Vatablus, Drusius, Schmidt; so Sept. Syr. & Ar. (x) "quid faciam aut facere possum tibi", Michaelis; "debeam", Schmidt. (y) "custos hominum". V. L. Pagninus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Mercerus. (z) "Observator", Schultens. (a) "Sospitatur", Codurcus; "servator", Drusius, Schmidt, Michaelis. Vid. Witsii Oeconom. Foeder. l. 4. c. 3. sect. 30. (b) "in occursum tibi", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Drusius. (c) , Sept. "et tibi", Beza, Grotius.

I have {n} sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?

(n) After all temptations faith steps forth and leads Job to repentance: yet it was not in such perfection that he could bridle himself from reasoning with God, because he still tried his faith.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. The first half of the verse reads,

Have I sinned: what do I unto thee, O thou watcher of men?

I have sinned] Rather as above, have I sinned; the words being put as a supposition, equivalent to, if I have sinned. Job makes the supposition, he hardly concedes the fact, which is not meantime the point. His object is to pursue the idea that even sin (supposing it) on man’s part cannot affect God, and ought not to be the reason for such unsparing pains as man has to suffer. In ch. Job 14:3-4, where Job is calmer and more self-possessed, the same argument occurs, but is there supported by a reference to the universal sinfulness of mankind, which descends to the individual by inheritance and makes him more excusable and pitiable. Here the moral relations of men and God are less before his mind, it is God’s natural Greatness in contrast with the natural littleness of man that engages his attention, and he thinks that in this there is a reason why men even if sinful should be less severely reckoned with.

what shall I do unto thee?] Rather, what do I unto thee? that is, how do I affect thee by my sin? The idea is repeatedly expressed in the Poem that God is too high to be affected by men’s actions, whether sinful or righteous, cf. ch. Job 22:2 seq., Job 35:5 seq.

thou preserver of men] Rather, thou watcher, or keeper, of men. “Watcher” or keeper, elsewhere a word of comfort to the godly (Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 31:23; Psalm 121:4), is here used in an invidious sense to express the constant espionage exercised by God over men, that He may detect their sin and bring them to a reckoning, cf. ch. Job 13:27, Job 14:16.

a mark against thee] lit. unto thee. The word mark here does not mean a target at which to discharge arrows (ch. Job 6:4, Job 16:4), but a stumbling-block or obstacle against which one strikes. Job feels that he is continually in the way of God, an obstacle against which the Almighty is always of set purpose striking Himself. The thought is one of unprecedented boldness.

am a burden to myself] Or, am become a burden, &c., that is, weary of myself and of my life, cf. 2 Samuel 15:33. The Septuagint seems to have read, “a burden unto thee”; and according to Jewish tradition this was the original reading, but was corrected by the scribes as savouring of impiety.

20, 21. Third, Job makes the supposition that he has sinned, and asks, how such a thing can affect God? and, why He does not take away his sin instead of plaguing him unto death because of it?Verse 20. - I have sinned. This is not so much a confession as a concession, equivalent to "Granting that I have sinned," or, "Suppose that I have sinned." In that case, What shall I do unto thee? or, What can I do for thee? How is it in my power to do anything? Can I undo the past? Or can I make compensation in the future? Neither seems to Job to be possible. O thou Preserver of men; rather, thou Observer of men. A continuation of the complaint that God's eye is always upon him. Why hast thou set me as a mark against thee? "A mark" (מפגע) is either "a butt," "a target for arrows," or else "an obstacle," "a stumbling-block," which God, by repeated blows, is removing out of his way. The latter meaning is preferred by Schultens and Professor Lee; the former by Rosenmuller and our Revisers. So that I am a burden to myself (comp. Psalm 38:4). 12 Am I a sea or a sea-monster,

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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