Job 7:21
And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
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(21) And why dost thou not pardon my transgression?—In Job’s belief, sin was the origin of all disaster, and so he thinks that if he were but pardoned his sorrows would pass away. Our Lord has not discouraged the belief when He has taught us that His miracle of healing the paralytic was accompanied with the assurance of forgiveness (e.g., Matthew 9:2; Mark 2:5; Luke 5:20).

Job 7:21. Why dost thou not pardon, &c. — Seeing thou art so gracious to others, so ready to preserve and forgive them; why may not I hope for the same favour from thee? For now shall I sleep in the dust — If thou dost not speedily help me it will be too late, I shall be dead, and so incapable of receiving those blessings which thou art wont to give to men in the land of the living; and thou shalt seek me, &c., but I shall not be — When thou shalt diligently seek for me that thou mayest show favour to me, thou wilt find that I am dead and gone, and so wilt lose the opportunity of doing it; help, therefore, speedily. The consideration of this, that we must shortly die, and perhaps may die suddenly, should make us all very solicitous to get our sins pardoned, and our iniquities taken away.

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!And why dost thou not pardon my transgression? - Admitting that I have sinned Job 7:20, yet why dost thou not forgive me? I shall soon pass away from the land of the living. I may be sought but I shall not be found. No one would be injured by my being pardoned - since I am so short-lived, and so unimportant in the scale of being. No one can be benefited by pursuing a creature of a day, such as I am, with punishment. Such seems to be the meaning of this verse. It is the language of complaint, and is couched in language filled with irreverence. Still it is language such as awakened and convicted sinners often use, and expresses the feelings which often pass through their hearts. They admit that they are sinners. They know that they must be pardoned or they cannot be saved. They are distressed at the remembrance of guilt, and under this state of mind, deeply convicted and distressed, they ask with a complaining spirit why God does not pardon them? Why does he allow them to remain in this state of agitation, suspense, and deep distress? Who could be injured by their being forgiven? Of what consequence to others can it be that they should not be forgiven? How can God be benefited by his not pardoning them? It may not be easy to answer these questions in a manner wholly satisfactory; but perhaps the following may be some of the reasons why Job had not the evidence of forgiveness which he now desired, and why the convicted sinner has not. The main reason is, that they are not in a state of mind to make it proper to forgive them.

(1) There is a feeling that they have a claim on God for pardon, or that it would be wrong for God not to pardon them. When people feel that they have a claim on God for pardon, they cannot be forgiven. The very notion of pardon implies that it must be when there is no claim existing or felt.

(2) There is no proper submission to God - to his views, his terms, his plan. In order that pardon may be extended to the guilty, there should be acquiescence in God's own terms, and time, and mode. The sinner must resign himself into his hands, to be forgiven or not as he pleases - feeling that the whole question is lodged in his bosom, and that if he should not forgive, still it would be right, and his throne would be pure. In particular, under the Christian method of pardon, there must be entire acquiescence in the plan of salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ; a willingness to accept of forgiveness, not on the ground of personal claim, but on the ground of his merits; and it is because the convicted sinner is not willing to be pardoned in this way, that he remains unforgiven. There should be a feeling, also, that it would be right for God to pardon others, if he pleases, even though we are not saved; and it is often because the convicted sinner is not willing that that should be done, because he feels that it would be wrong in God to save others and not him, that he is not forgiven. The sinner is often suffered to remain in this state until he is brought to acquiesce in the right of a sovereign God to save whom he pleases.

(3) There is a complaining spirit - and that is a reason why the sinner is not forgiven. That was manifestly the case with Job; and when that exists, how can God forgive? How can a parent pardon an offending child, when he is constantly complaining of his injustice and of the severity of his government? This very spirit is a new offence, and a new reason why he should be punished. So the awakened sinner murmurs. He complains of the government of God as too severe; of his law, as too strict; of his dealings, as harsh and unkind. He complains of his sufferings, and thinks they are wholly beyond his deserts. He complains of the doctrines of the Bible as mysterious, incomprehensible, and unjust. In this state how can he be forgiven? God often suffers the awakened sinner, therefore, to remain under conviction for sin, until he is willing to acquiesce in all his claims, and to submit without a complaint; and then, and not until then, he extends forgiveness to the guilty and troubled spirit.

For now shall I sleep in the dust - On the word sleep, as applied to death, see the notes at Job 3:13. The meaning is, that he was soon to die. He urges the shortness of the time which remained to him as a reason why his afflictions should be lightened, and why he should be pardoned. If God had anything that he could do for him, it must be done soon. But only a brief period remained, and Job seems to be impatient lest the whole of his life should be gone, and he should sleep in the dust without evidence that his sins were pardoned. Olympiodorus, as quoted by Rosenmuller, expresses the sense in the following manner: "If, therefore, I am so short-lived (or momentary, πρόσκαιρος proskairos) and obnoxious to death, and must die after a short time, and shall no more arise, as if from sleep, why dost not thou suffer the little space of life to be free from punishment?"

And thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be - That is, thou shalt seek to find me after I have slept in the dust, as if with the expectation that I should wake, but I shall not be found. My sleep will be perpetual, and I shall no more return to the land of the living. The idea seems to be, that if God were to show him any favor, it must be done soon. His death, which must happen soon, would put it out of the power even of God to show him mercy on earth, if he should relent and be inclined to favor him. He seems not to doubt that God would be disposed yet to show him favor; that he would be inclined to pardon him, and to relax the severity of his dealings with him, but he says that if it were done it must be done soon, and seems to apprehend that it would be delayed so long that it could not be done. The phrase "in the morning" here is used with reference to the sleep which he had just mentioned.

We sleep at night, and awake and arise in the morning. Job says it would not be so with him in the sleep of death. He would awake no more; he could no more be found. - In this chapter there is much language of bitter complaint, and much which we cannot justify. It should not be taken as a model for our language when we are afflicted, though Job may have only expressed what has passed through the heart of many an afflicted child of God. We should not judge him harshly. Let us ask ourselves how we would have done if we had been in similar circumstances. Let us remember that he had comparatively few of the promises which we have to comfort us, and few of the elevated views of truth as made known by revelation, which we have to uphold us in trial. Let us be thankful that when we suffer, promises and consolations meet us on every hand. The Bible is open before us - rich with truth, and bright with promise.

Let us remember that death is not as dark and dismal to us as it was to the pious in the time of the patriarchs - and that the grave is not now to us as dark and chilly, and gloomy, and comfortless an abode. To their view, the shadow of death cast a melancholy chillness over all the regions of the dead; to us the tomb is enlightened by Christian hope. The empire of Death has been invaded, and his power has been taken away. Light has been shed around the tomb, and the grave to us is the avenue to immortal life; the pathway on which the lamp of salvation shines, to eternal glory. Let us not complain, therefore, when we are afflicted, as if the blessing were long delayed, or as if it could not be conferred should we soon die. If withheld here, it will be imparted in a better world, and we should be willing to bear trials in this short life, with the sure promise that God will meet and bless us when we pass the confines of life, and enter the world of glory.

21. for now—very soon.

in the morning—not the resurrection; for then Job will be found. It is a figure, from one seeking a sick man in the morning, and finding he has died in the night. So Job implies that, if God does not help him at once, it will be too late, for he will be gone. The reason why God does not give an immediate sense of pardon to awakened sinners is that they think they have a claim on God for it.

Seeing thou art so gracious to others, so ready to preserve and pardon them, why may not I hope for the same favour from thee? If thou dost not speedily help me, it will be too late, I shall be dead, and so uncapable of those blessings which thou usest to give to men in the land of the living. When thou shalt diligently seek for me, that thou mayst show favour to me, thou wilt find that I am dead and gone, and so wilt lose thy opportunity: help therefore speedily.

And why dost thou not pardon my transgression,.... Or "lift it up" (d); every sin is a transgression of the law of God, and the guilt of it upon the conscience is a burden too heavy to bear, and the punishment of it is intolerable; pardon lifts up and takes away all manner of sin, and all that is in sin; it takes off the load of sin from the conscience, and eases it, and loosens from obligation to punishment for it, which comes to pass in this manner: Jehovah has taken lifted up sin from his people, and has put and laid it, or caused it to meet on his Son, by the imputation of it to him; and he has voluntarily taken it on himself, and has bore it, and has taken it away by his blood and sacrifice, which being applied to the conscience of a sinner, lifts it up and takes it from thence, and speaks peace and pardon to him; it wholly and entirely removes it from him, even as far as the east is from the west; and for such an application Job postulates with God, with whom there was forgiveness, and who had proclaimed himself a God pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; and which he does when he both removes the guilt of it from the conscience, and takes away all the effects of it, such as afflictions and the like; in which latter sense Job may well be understood, as agreeing with his case and circumstances:

and take away mine iniquity? or "cause it to pass away" (e) from him, by applying his pardoning grace and mercy to his conscience, and by removing his afflicting hand from him:

for now shall I sleep in the dust; having sin pardoned, and the hand of God removed; I shall depart out of the world in peace, lie down in the grave, and rest quietly till the resurrection; there being in the bed of dust no tossings to and fro as now, nor a being scared with dreams and terrified with night visions. Mr. Broughton renders it, "whereas I lie now in the dust"; as if it referred to his present case, sitting as a mourner in dust and ashes, and his flesh clothed with clods of dust; or, in a figurative sense, lying in the dust of self-abhorrence; but the former sense seems best:

and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be; meaning not in the morning of the resurrection, for then he will be found; but it is a figurative way of speaking, as Bar Tzemach observes, just as one goes to visit a sick man in a morning, and he finds him dead, and he is not any more in the land of the living: many interpreters understand this as Job's sense, that he should quickly die; he could not be a long time in the circumstances he was; and therefore if the Lord had a mind to bestow any good thing on him in the present life, he must make haste to do it, since in a short time he should be gone, and then, if he sought for him, it would be too late, he should be no more; but the sense is this, that when he lay down in the dust, in the grave, he should be seen no more on earth by any man, nay, not by the eye of God himself, should the most early and the most diligent search be made for him. Mr. Broughton takes it to be a petition and request to die, rendering the words,"why dost thou not quickly seek me out, that I should be no more?''and to which others (f) agree.

(d) "tolles", Montanus, Beza, Drusius, Mercerus, Michaelis. (e) "transire facies", Pagninus, Montanus, Drusius. (f) So Junius & Tremellius.

And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall {o} not be.

(o) That is, I will be dead.

21. seek me in the morning] Rather, seek me, simply, or, seek me earnestly; the addition “in the morning” (just as “betimes,” ch. Job 8:5) rests upon a mistaken etymology. Job concludes his speech by a pathetic reference to what must be the speedy issue of God’s stringent watching of him: he will lie down in the dust and even should God enquire for him it will be too late.

There is something very open and engaging in the character of Job as it appears in this speech. He confesses the impatience that Eliphaz found fault with, though he excuses it by the incalculable weight of his affliction (ch. Job 6:2). He admits that his words have been wild, though he thinks this was but natural when a creature found himself in conflict with God (ch. Job 6:4). He even suggests to his friends the worth at which to estimate his language when he says that the words of one that is desperate go into the wind (ch. Job 6:26). And he goes so far as to speak of himself as losing hold of the fear of the Almighty under the trial of his calamities (ch. Job 6:14). There is something simple too and childlike in his defence of his cry of despair by the example of the lower creatures, which also express their pain or want by cries of distress (ch. Job 6:5).

In keeping with this openness in regard to himself is his impatience and resentment of the covert insinuations of his friends through their first spokesman. He demands that they should shew him what they are hinting at by the pictures they are drawing and the blind parables they are narrating at him (ch. Job 6:24); he himself will look them in the face and affirm his innocence (ch. Job 6:28). And even the one bitter sentence which he utters against their hard-heartedness (ch. Job 6:27) is quite in harmony with the honest directness of the rest of his words.

The state of Job’s mind in ch. 7, when he turns away from his friends and casts his eye over the life of man as a whole, is more difficult to estimate. It appears to him that God has made man’s condition upon the earth full of painfulness and bounded within iron limits. The world wears many aspects according to the eye that beholds it. It was natural for one in Job’s condition to view it on its dark side. His view, however, has deeper grounds than mere subjective feeling. The view which Eliphaz presented of a scheme of universal goodness linking all events into a unity and making good the end even of ill may be the view which we ultimately rest in. Yet we believe in such a scheme rather than observe it. And the reasons of our belief, though various, are instinctive and ideal oftener than inductive. There are moments when another view forces itself upon the mind. And Scripture has here given this experience a place in its picture of man’s life. It may be said that Job spoke under a mistake. Men so often make mistakes even in the highest things. It may also be said that enough was revealed to Job to correct his false impressions. But men so often are either unable or unwilling to receive that which is revealed.

There is this difference between us and Job: where we can say “the world,” he was obliged to say “God.” In this chapter he regards God almost exclusively on the physical side of His Being. He speaks out of the agony of suffering and from the abjectness of his own whole condition, and contrasts these with the natural Greatness of the Being who has plunged him into them. It is the physical claim of sentient life, which he urges, not to be tortured on any grounds whatsoever they be. In this mortal agony of the creature, and in view of the Greatness of God, moral considerations are almost mocked at, and sin is sneered out of reckoning as an irrelevancy.

Verse 21 - And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity? Job feels that, if he has sinned, which he is ready to admit as possible, though he has certainly no deep conviction of sin (Job 6:24, 29, 30; Job 7:19), at any rate he has not sinned greatly, heinously; and therefore he cannot understand why he has not been forgiven. The idea that the Almighty cannot forgive sin except upon conditions, is unknown to him. Believing God to be a God of mercy, he regards him also, just as Nehemiah did, as a "God of pardons" (Nehemiah 9:17) - a belief which seems to have been instinctive with men of all nations. And it appears to him unaccountable that pardon has not been extended to himself. Like his "comforters." he makes the mistake of supposing that all his afflictions have been penal, are signs of God's displeasure, and intended to crush and destroy him. He has not woke up to the difference between God's punishments and his chastisements. Apparently, he does not know that "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth," or that men are "made perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). For now shall I sleep in the dust. Now it is too late for pardon to avail anything. Death is nigh at hand. The final blow must soon be struck. And thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be. The idea seems to be - God will relent at last; he will seek to alleviate my sufferings; he will search for me diligently - but I shall have ceased to be.

Job 7:2120 Have I sinned - what could I do to Thee?!

O Observer of men,

Why dost Thou make me a mark to Thee,

And am I become a burden to Thee?

21 And why dost Thou not forgive my transgression,

And put away my iniquity?

For now I will lay myself in the dust,

And Thou seekest for me, and I am no more.

"I have sinned" is hypothetical (Ges. 155, 4, a): granted that I have sinned. According to Ewald and Olsh., אפעל־לך מה defines it more particularly: I have sinned by what I have done to Thee, in my behaviour towards Thee; but how tame and meaningless such an addition would be! It is an inferential question: what could I do to Thee? i.e., what harm, or also, since the fut. may be regulated by the praet.: what injury have I thereby done to Thee? The thought that human sin, however, can detract nothing from the blessedness and glory of God, underlies this. With a measure of sinful bitterness, Job calls God האדם נצר, the strict and constant observer of men, per convicium fere, as Gesenius not untruly observes, nevertheless without a breach of decorum divinum (Renan: O Espion de l'homme), since the appellation, in itself worthy of God (Isaiah 27:3), is used here only somewhat unbecomingly. מפגּע is not the target for shooting at, which is rather מטּרה (Job 16:12; Lamentations 3:12), but the object on which one rushes with hostile violence (בּ פּגע). Why, says Job, hast Thou made me the mark of hostile attack, and why am I become a burden to Thee? It is not so in our text; but according to Jewish tradition, עלי, which we now have, is only a סופרים תקון, correctio scribarum,

(Note: Vid., the Commentary on Habakkuk, S. 206-208; comp. Geiger, Urschrift und Uebersetzungen der Bibel, S. 308ff.)

for אליך, which was removed as bordering on blasphemy: why am I become a burden to Thee, so that Thou shouldest seek to get rid of me? This reading I should not consider as the original, in spite of the tradition, if it were not confirmed by the lxx, εἰμὶ δὲ ἐπὶ σοὶ φορτίον.

It is not to be objected, that he who is fully conscious of sin cannot consider the strictest divine punishment even of the smallest sin unjust. The suffering of one whose habitual state is pleasing to God, and who is conscious of the divine favour, can never be explained from, and measured according to, his infirmities: the infirmities of one who trusts in God, or the believer, and the severity of the divine justice in the punishment of sin, have no connection with one another. Consequently, when Eliphaz bids Job regard his affliction as chastisement, Job is certainly in the wrong to dispute with God concerning the magnitude of it: he would rather patiently yield, if his faith could apprehend the salutary design of God in his affliction; but after his affliction once seems to him to spring from wrath and enmity, and not from the divine purpose of mercy, after the phantom of a hostile God is come between him and the brightness of the divine countenance, he cannot avoid falling into complaint of unmercifulness. For this the speech of Eliphaz is in itself not to blame: he had most feelingly described to him God's merciful purpose in this chastisement, but he is to blame for not having taken the right tone.

The speech of Job is directed against the unsympathetic and reproving tone which the friends, after their long silence, have assumed immediately upon his first manifestation of anguish. He justifies to them his complaint (ch. 3) as the natural and just outburst of his intense suffering, desires speedy death as the highest joy with which God could reward his piety, complains of his disappointment in his friends, from whom he had expected affectionate solace, but by whom he sees he is now forsaken, and earnestly exhorts them to acknowledge the justice of his complaint (ch. 6). But can they? Yes, they might and should. For Job thinks he is no longer an object of divine favour: an inward conflict, which is still more terrible than hell, is added to his outward suffering. For the damned must give glory to God, because they recognise their suffering as just punishment: Job, however, in his suffering sees the wrath of God, and still is at the same time conscious of his innocence. The faith which, in the midst of his exhaustion of body and soul, still knows and feels God to be merciful, and can call him "my God," like Asaph in Psalm 73, - this faith is well-nigh overwhelmed in Job by the thought that God is his enemy, his pains the arrows of God. The assumption is false, but on this assumption Job's complaints (ch. 3) are relatively just, including, what he himself says, that they are mistaken, thoughtless words of one in despair. But that despair is sin, and therefore also those curses and despairing inquiries!

Is not Eliphaz, therefore, in the right? His whole treatment is wrong. Instead of distinguishing between the complaint of his suffering and the complaint of God in Job's outburst of anguish, he puts them together, without recognising the complaint of his suffering to be the natural and unblamable result of its extraordinary magnitude, and as a sympathizing friend falling in with it. But with regard to the complaints of God, Eliphaz, acting as though careful for his spiritual welfare, ought not to have met them with his reproofs, especially as the words of one heavily afflicted deserve indulgence and delicate treatment; but he should have combated their false assumption. First, he should have said to Job, "Thy complaints of thy suffering are just, for thy suffering is incomparably great." In the next place, "Thy cursing thy birth, and thy complaint of God who has given thee thy life, might seem just if it were true that God has rejected thee; but that is not true: even in suffering He designs thy good; the greater the suffering, the greater the glory." By this means Eliphaz should have calmed Job's despondency, so as to destroy his false assumption; but he begins wrongly, and consequently what he says at last so truly and beautifully respecting the glorious issue of a patient endurance of chastisement, makes no impression on Job. He has not fanned the faintly burning wick, but his speech is a cold and violent breath which is calculated entirely to extinguish it.


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