Job 8:14
Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job

TWO KINDS OF HOPE

Job 8:14
. - Romans 5:5.

These two texts take opposite sides. Bildad was not the wisest of Job’s friends, and he gives utterance to solemn commonplaces with partial truth in them. In the rough it is true that the hope of the ungodly perishes, and the limits of the truth are concealed by the splendour of the imagery and the perfection of artistic form in which the well-worn platitude is draped. The spider’s web stretched glittering in the dewy morning on the plants, shaking its threaded tears in the wind, the flag in the dry bed of a nullah withering while yet green, the wall on which leaning a man will fall, are vivid illustrations of hopes that collapse and fail. But my other text has to do with hopes that do not fail. Paul thinks that he knows of hope that maketh not ashamed, that is, which never disappoints. Bildad was right if he was thinking, as he was, of hopes fixed on earth; the Apostle was right, for he was thinking of hopes set on God. It is a commonplace that ‘hope springs immortal in the human breast’; it is equally a commonplace that hopes are disappointed. What is the conclusion from these two universal experiences? Is it the cynical one that it is all illusion, or is it that somewhere there must be an object on which hope may twine its tendrils without fear? God has given the faculty, and we may be sure that it is not given to be for ever balked. We must hope. Our hope may be our worst enemy; it may and should be our purest joy.

Let us then simply consider these two sorts of hope, the earthly and the heavenly, in their working in the three great realms of life, death, and eternity.

I. In life.

The faculty is inseparable from man’s consciousness of immortality and of an indefinitely expansible nature which ever makes him discontented with the present. It has great purposes to perform in strengthening him for work, in helping him over sorrows, in making him buoyant and elastic, in painting for him the walls of the dungeon, and hiding for him the weight of the fetters.

But for what did he receive this great gift? Mainly that he might pass beyond the temporal and hold converse with the skies. Its true sphere is the unseen future which is at God’s right hand.

We may run a series of antitheses, e.g.-

Earthly hope is so uncertain that its larger part is often fear.

Heavenly hope is fixed and sure. It is as certain as history.

Earthly hope realised is always less blessed than we expected. How universal the experience that there is little to choose between a gratified and a frustrated hope! The wonders inside the caravan are never so wonderful as the canvas pictures outside.

Heavenly hopes ever surpass the most rapturous anticipation. ‘The half hath not been told.’

Earthly hopes are necessarily short-winged. They are settled one way or another, and sink hull down below our horizon.

Heavenly hope sets its object far off, and because a lifetime only attains it in part, it blesses a lifetime and outlasts it.

II. Hope in death.

That last hour ends for us all alike our earthly joys and relations. The slow years slip away, and each bears with it hopes that have been outlived, whether fulfilled or disappointed. One by one the lights that we kindle in our hall flicker out, and death quenches the last of them. But there is one light that burns on clear through the article of death, like the lamp in the magician’s tomb. ‘The righteous hath hope in his death.’ We can each settle for ourselves whether we shall carry that radiant angel with her white wings into the great darkness, or shall sadly part with her before we part with life. To the earthly soul that last earthly hour is a black wall beyond which it cannot look. To the God-trusting soul the darkness is peopled with bright-faced hopes.

III. Hope in eternity.

It is not for our tongues to speak of what must, in the natural working out of consequences, be the ultimate condition of a soul which has not set its hopes on the God who alone is the right Object of the blessed but yet awful capacity of hoping, when all the fleeting objects which it sought as solace and mask of its own true poverty are clean gone from its grasp. Dante’s tremendous words are more than enough to move wholesome horror in any thinking soul: ‘Leave hope behind, all ye who enter here.’ They are said to be unfeeling, grim, and mediaeval, incredible in this enlightened age; but is there any way out of them, if we take into account what our nature is moulded to need and cling to, and what ‘godless’ men have done with it?

But let us turn to the brighter of these texts. ‘Hope maketh not ashamed.’ There will be an internal increase of blessedness, power, purity in that future, a fuller possession of God, a reaching out after completer likeness to Him. So if we can think of days in that calm state where time will be no more, ‘to-morrow shall be as this day and much more abundant,’ and the angel Hope, who kept us company through all the weary marches of earth, will attend on us still, only having laid aside the uncertainty that sometime veiled her smiles, but retaining all the buoyant eagerness for the ever unfolding wonders which gave us courage and cheer in the days of our flesh.Job 8:14. Whose hope shall be cut off — That is, whose wealth and outward glory, which is the foundation and matter of his hope, shall be suddenly and violently taken away from him; or, as the Hebrew יקושׂ, jacot, may be translated, whose hope shall be irksome or tedious to him, by the succession of earliest expectations and great disappointments. Whose trust shall be a spider’s web — Which though it be formed with great art and industry, and may do much mischief to others, yet is most slender and feeble, and easily swept down, or pulled in pieces, and unable to defend the spider that made it. The application is obvious.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.Behold, in his servants he putteth no confidence,

And his angels he chargeth with frailty;

How much more true is this of those who dwell in houses of clay,

Whose foundation is in the dust;

They are crushed before the moth-worm! Job 4:18-19.

He buildeth his house like the moth,

Or like a shed which the watchman maketh. Job 27:18.

2. Of reptiles, we find the asp and the viper mentioned:

He shall suck the poison of asps;

The viper's tongue shall destroy him. Job 20:16.

3. The birds or fowls that are mentioned in this book, are much more numerous. They are the following, nearly all so mentioned as their habits had been the subject of careful observation.

The vulture:

The path thereto no bird knoweth,

And the vulture's eye hath not seen it. Job 28:7.

continued...

14. cut off—so Gesenius; or, to accord with the metaphor of the spider's "house," "The confidence (on which he builds) shall be laid in ruins" (Isa 59:5, 6). i.e. Whose wealth and outward glory, which is the matter of his hope and trust, shall be cut off, i.e. suddenly and violently taken away from him. Whose hope shall be irksome or tedious to him, by the succession of earnest expectation and great disappointment.

A spider’s web; which though it be formed with great art and industry, and may do much mischief to others, yet is most slender and feeble, and easily swept down or pulled in pieces, and unable to defend the spider that made it. The application is obvious. Whose hope shall be cut off,.... The same thing as before, expressed in different words, and repeated for the certainty of it; signifying that it should be of no manner of use, should be wholly lost, and issue in black despair: the word has the signification of loathing, and is differently rendered, either, "whom his hope shall loathe" (e) or, "who shall loathe his hope" (f); he shall fret and tease, and vex himself that he should be such a fool to entertain such a vain hope, or to place hope and confidence in such vain things, finding himself most sadly disappointed:

and whose trust shall be a spider's web; or "a spider's house" (g); and such its web is to it; having made it, it encloses itself in it, and dwells securely: very fitly is the hope and confidence of an hypocrite compared to a spider's web, which is a very nice and curious piece of workmanship, as are the outward works of righteousness, done by hypocrites they are wrought out and set off to the best advantage, to be seen of men; yet very slight and thin, and will bear no weight; such are the best works of carnal professors; they make a fine appearance, but have no substance, do not flow from principles of grace, nor are done in the strength of Christ, or to the glory of God; are but "splendida peccata", as one calls them, and fall infinitely short of bearing the weight of the salvation of the soul: as the spider's web is spun out of its own bowels, so the works of such persons are wholly of themselves; they are their own, done without the grace of God and spirit of Christ; and such webs are not fit for garments, are too thin to cover naked souls; insufficient to shelter from divine wrath and vengeance; cannot bear the besom of justice, one stroke of which will sweep them all away; and though they may think themselves safe enclosed in them as in a house, they will find themselves in the issue wretchedly mistaken; for there is no shelter, safety, and security, in such cobwebs; there is none but in Christ and his righteousness.

(e) "quem abominabitur spes ejus", Montanus; "fastidit", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "cum taedio rejectabit", Schultens. (f) "Quippe abominabitur spem suam", Schmidt. (g) "domus araneae, vel aranei"; Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a {h} spider's web.

(h) Which is today and tomorrow swept away.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. shall be cut off] Perhaps rather, goeth in sunder, though the meaning is not quite certain. One would have expected a noun here parallel to “spider’s web” in the second clause, but no efforts to find a noun have been successful. Saadia in his Arabic Translation rendered gossamer, the filmy thread-like substance that floats in the air, or the thread-like shimmer of the air itself when sultry and moist. This is a very suitable sense but is without sufficient support.

a spider’s web] lit. spider’s house, cf. “house” in Job 8:15. The flimsiness of the spider’s house is proverbial in the East. Mohammed compares idolaters to the spider: The likeness of those who take to themselves patrons beside God is as the likeness of the spider who taketh to herself a house; and verily the frailest of houses is the spider’s house, if they did but know, Kor. 29:40. See also Job 27:18.Verse 14. - Whose hope shall be cut off; or, break in sunder (Revised Version). Here the second metaphor begins to come in. The ungodly, who has built up around him a house, and a body of dependants and friends, is like a spider which has spun itself a magnificent web, and thinks to find a defense in it. The moment it is put to the proof it breaks in sunder;" its delicate tracery is shattered; its fabric goes to nought. Job's house had gone to nought before his person was smitten, and, though it had once been so strong, in the hour of trial had lent him no support at all. And whose trust shall be a spider's web; literally, a spider's house. All the trust of the ungodly, in whatever it consists, shall be as fragile, as frail, as unsubstantial, as the filmy structure that a spider spins with such ears and skill, but which a wind, or a wasp, or an inconsiderate movement of its own may shatter to bits. 8 For inquire only of former ages,

And attend to the research of their fathers -

9 For we are of yesterday, without experience,

Because our days upon earth are a shadow -

10 Shall they not teach thee, speak to thee,

And bring forth words from their heart?

This challenge calls Deuteronomy 32:7 to mind. לבּך is to be supplied to כּונן; the conjecture of Olshausen, וּבונן, is good, but unnecessary. רשׁון is after the Aramaic form of writing, comp. Job 15:7, where this and the ordinary form are combined. The "research of their fathers," i.e., which the fathers of former generations have bequeathed to them, is the collective result of their research, the profound wisdom of the ancients gathered from experience. Our ephemeral and shadowy life is not sufficient for passing judgment on the dealings of God; we must call history and tradition to our aid. We are תּמול (per aphaeresin, the same as אתמול), yesterday equals of yesterday; it is not necessary to read, with Olshausen, מתּמול. There is no occasion for us to suppose that Job 8:9 is an antithesis to the long duration of life of primeval man. לב (Job 8:10) is not the antithesis of mouth; but has the pregnant signification of a feeling, i.e., intelligent heart, as we find לבב אישׁ, a man of heart, i.e., understanding, Job 34:10, Job 34:34. יוציאוּ, promunt, calls to mind Matthew 13:52. Now follow familiar sayings of the ancients, not directly quoted, but the wisdom of the fathers, which Bildad endeavours to reproduce.

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