Job 8:11
Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?
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(11) The flag is the plant of Genesis 41:2, which the cattle feed upon. This figure is enforced by a second, that, namely, of the spider’s web, the most fragile and transient of tenements.

Job 8:11-12. Can the rush grow without mire, &c. — This, and what follows, he speaks as from those ancients, to whom he had referred him, and concerning whom he says, that they would give him such instructions as these. While it is yet in its greenness — Whereby it promises long continuance: and not cut down — Though no man cut it down it withers of itself, and saves a man the labour of cutting or plucking it up. Before any other herb — Sooner than other herbs, or, as לפני, liphnee, means, in their presence, or they surviving; in which sense it is said, that Ishmael died in the presence of his brethren; the rest of the herbs, as it were, looking upon it, and admiring the sudden change.

8:8-19 Bildad discourses well of hypocrites and evil-doers, and the fatal end of all their hopes and joys. He proves this truth of the destruction of the hopes and joys of hypocrites, by an appeal to former times. Bildad refers to the testimony of the ancients. Those teach best that utter words out of their heart, that speak from an experience of spiritual and divine things. A rush growing in fenny ground, looking very green, but withering in dry weather, represents the hypocrite's profession, which is maintained only in times of prosperity. The spider's web, spun with great skill, but easily swept away, represents a man's pretensions to religion when without the grace of God in his heart. A formal professor flatters himself in his own eyes, doubts not of his salvation, is secure, and cheats the world with his vain confidences. The flourishing of the tree, planted in the garden, striking root to the rock, yet after a time cut down and thrown aside, represents wicked men, when most firmly established, suddenly thrown down and forgotten. This doctrine of the vanity of a hypocrite's confidence, or the prosperity of a wicked man, is sound; but it was not applicable to the case of Job, if confined to the present world.Can the rush - This passage has all the appearance of being a fragment of a poem handed down from ancient times. It is adduced by Bildad as an example of the views of the ancients, and, as the connection would seem to imply, as a specimen of the sentiments of those who lived before the life of man had been abridged. It was customary in the early ages of the world to communicate knowledge of all kinds by maxims, moral sayings, and proverbs; by apothegms and by poetry handed down from generation to generation. Wisdom consisted much in the amount of maxims and proverbs which were thus treasured up; as it now consists much in the knowledge which we have of the lessons taught by the past, and in the ability to apply that knowledge to the various transactions of life. The records of past ages constitute a vast storehouse of wisdom, and the present generation is more wise than those which have gone before, only because the results of their observations have been treasured up, and we can act on their experience, and because we can begin where they left off, and, taught by their experience, can avoid the mistakes which they made. The word "rush" here גמא gôme' denotes properly a bulrush, and especially the Egyptian papyrus - papyrus Nilotica; see the notes at Isaiah 18:2. It is derived from the verb גמא gâmâ', to absorb, to drink up, and is given to this plant because it absorbs or drinks up moisture. The Egyptians used it to make garments, shoes, baskets, and especially boats or skiffs; Pithy, Nat. His. 13. 21-26; see the notes at Isaiah 18:2. They also derived from it materials for writing - and hence, our word paper. The Septuagint renders it here, πάπυρος papuros.

Without mire - Without moisture. It grew in the marshy places along the Nile.

Can the flag - Another plant of a similar character. The word אחוּ 'âchû, flag, says Gesenius, is an Egyptian word, signifying marsh-grass, reeds, bulrushes, sedge, everything which grows in wet grounds. The word was adopted not only into the Hebrew, but also into the Greek idiom of Alexandria, where it is written, ἄχι achi, ἄχει achei. Jerome says of it, "When I inquired of the learned what this word meant, I heard from the Egyptians, that by this name everything was intended in their language which grew up in a pool." The word is synonymous with rush, or bulrush, and denotes a plant which absorbs a great quantity of water. What is the exact idea which this figure is designed to convey, is not very clear. I think it probable that the whole description is intended to represent a hypocrite, and that the meaning is, that he had in his growth a strong resemblance to such a rush or reed. There was nothing solid or substantial in his piety. It was like the soft, spongy texture of the water-reed, and would wilt under trial, as the papyrus would when deprived of water.

11. rush—rather, "paper-reed": The papyrus of Egypt, which was used to make garments, shoes, baskets, boats, and paper (a word derived from it). It and the flag, or bulrush, grow only in marshy places (such as are along the Nile). So the godless thrives only in external prosperity; there is in the hypocrite no inward stability; his prosperity is like the rapid growth of water plants. Without mire, i.e. if it be not in moist and miry ground. This and what follows he mentions as it were in the person of those ancients to whom he had referred him, of whom he saith that they would give him such instructions as these.

The flag; or, the grass; or, the meadow, as this word is used, Genesis 41:2, i.e. the grass of a meadow, But our translation seems the best, because it is compared with other herbs.

Can the rush grow up without mire?.... No, at least not long, or so as to lift up his head on high, as the word signifies (a); the rush or bulrush, which seems to be meant, delights in watery places, and has its name in Hebrew from its absorbing or drinking up water; it grows in moist and watery clay, or in marshy places, which Jarchi says is the sense of the word here used; the Septuagint understands it of the "paper reed", which, as Pliny (b) observes, grows in the marshy places of Egypt, and by the still waters of the river Nile:

can the flag grow without water? or "the sedge" (c); which usually grows in moist places, and on the banks of rivers; this unless in such places, or if without water, cannot grow long, or make any very large increase, or come to maturity; so some (d) render it, "if the rush should grow up without", &c. then it would be with it as follows.

(a) "an attollit se", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius; "an superbiet", so some; Beza, Schultens. (b) Nat. Hist. l. 13. c. 11. (c) "carectum", V. L. "ulva", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt, Michaelis, Schultens. (d) Sic Bar Tzemach & Belgae.

Can the rush {g} grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?

(g) As a rush cannot grow without moisture, so the hypocrite because he does not have faith which is watered with God's Spirit.

11. The ancient wisdom itself. This wisdom is plainly not that of the Arabs or Idumeans, but is Egyptian. The rush is most probably the Papyrus, which is said to attain a growth twice the height of a man. The flag is the Nile-reed, or Nile-grass (only here and Genesis 41:2).

Verse 11 - Can the rush grow up without mire? The word translated "rush" (גמא) is that which occurs also in Exodus if. 3: Isaiah 18:2 and Isaiah 35:7, as designating a plant common in Egypt, and which is only found in these four places. It is generally admitted that the "papyrus" is meant "a plant of the Cyperaceae or sedge family, which was formerly common in Egypt" (Hooker, in Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 3. p. 1019). The chief peculiarity of the papyrus is its triangular stem, which rises to the height of six or seven, sometimes even of thirteen or fourteen, feet, and terminates in a bunch of thread-like flowering branchlets. The pith of these stems was the material of which the ancient Egyptians made their paper. The papyrus is a water-plant, and needs an abundant supply, but would often spring up out of any small pool which the Nile left as it retired, and, when the water failed from the peel, would rapidly wither away. A fine papyrus plant was on view, with other water-plants, in the circular greenhouse in Kew Gardens, towards the end of the season of 1890. Can the flag grow without water "The flag" (אחוּ) seems to be the ordinary sedge, or marah-plant. Like the papyrus, it would often spring up in all its greenness from a pool or pond left by the retiring river, and then in a few days, when the water was dried up, would wither away. Both images represent the prosperity of the wicked, and were probably proverbial. Job 8:1111 Doth papyrus grow up without mire?

Doth the reed shoot up without water?

12 It is still in luxuriant verdure, when it is not cut off,

Then before all other grass it with

13 So is the way of all forgetters of God,

And the hope of the ungodly perisheth,

14 Because his hope is cut off,

And his trust is a spider's house:

15 He leaneth upon his house and it standeth not,

He holdeth fast to it and it endureth not.

Bildad likens the deceitful ground on which the prosperity of the godless stands to the dry ground on which, only for a time, the papyrus or reed finds water, and grows up rapidly: shooting up quickly, it withers as quickly; as the papyrus plant,

(Note: Vid., Champollion-Figeac, Aegypten, German translation, pp. 47f.)

if it has no perpetual water, though the finest of grasses, withers off when most luxuriantly green, before it attains maturity. גּמא, which, excepting here, is found only in connection with Egypt (Exodus 2:3; Isaiah 18:2; and Isaiah 35:7, with the general קנה as specific name for reed), is the proper papyrus plant (Cypeerus papyyrus, L.): this name for it is suitably derived in the Hebrew from גּמא, to suck up (comp. Lucan, iv. 136: conseritur bibul Memphytis cymba papyro); but is at the same time Egyptian, since Coptic kam, cham, signifies the reed, and 'gôm, 'gōme, a book (like liber, from the bark of a tree).

(Note: Comp. the Book of the Dead (Todtenbuch), ch. 162: "Chapter on the creation of warmth at the back of the head of the deceased. Words over a young cow finished in pure gold. Put them on the neck of the dead, and paint them also on a new papyrus," etc. Papyrus is here cama: the word is determined by papyrus-roll, fastening and writing, and its first consonant corresponds to the Coptic aspirated g. Moreover, we cannot omit to mention that this cama equals gôme also signifies a garment, as in a prayer: "O my mother Isis, come and veil me in thy cama." Perhaps both ideas are represented in volumen, involucrum; it is, however, also possible that goome is to be etymologically separated from kam, cham equals גמא.)


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