Job 8:17
His roots are wrapped about the heap, and sees the place of stones.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) His roots are wrapped about.—This is the cause of his continual luxuriance, that his roots receive moisture from below, where they are wrapped about the spring which fertilises them underneath; they are planted near to a perennial fountain, and therefore (see Job 8:6) “he is green before the sun.”

And seeth the place of stones.—Rather, the house of stonesi.e., the stone house. He seeth the permanent and durable edifice of stone which is the habitation of civilisation and culture, and here his holding is so firm that, even if plucked up, his roots and suckers are so numerous that they leave behind them descendants and offshoots, so that out of his earth others grow; or, more correctly, out of another dust they grow. Even if transplanted, this luxuriant tree will flourish equally well in another soil.

Job 8:17. His roots are wrapped about the heap — Heath renders this, He windeth his roots about a spring; he twisteth himself about a heap of stones: and he approves a slight alteration of the text made by Houbigant; who, rather more elegantly, reads, He has his roots involved, or, fixed, in a hill; he adheres to the midst of stones. This circumstance is added to signify the tree’s firmness and strength; that it was not fixed in loose and sandy ground, which a violent wind might overthrow, but in solid ground, within which were many stones, which its numerous and spreading roots embraced, folding and interweaving themselves about them. He seeth the place of stones — The tree reacheth thither, takes the advantage of that place for the strengthening of itself. By this the writer seems to express the apparent firmness and worldly dependance of the hypocrite.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.His roots are wrapped about the heap - There has been great diversity of opinion in the interpretation of this passage. Jerome renders it, "over the heap of stones his roots are condensed." Walton, "super fontem - over a fountain." The Septuagint, "he lies down (or sleeps, κοιμᾶται koimatai) on a heap of stones; and he lives in the midst of flint-stones." According to some, the word rendered heap גל gal means a fountain; according to others, it means a heap or pile of stones; according to Dr. Good, it means a rock. According to the view of the former, it refers to the flourishing condition of a hypocrite or sinner, and means that he is like a tree that sends its roots by a fountain, and is nourished by it. According to others, the reference is to the fact that the hypocrite is like a plant that has no depth of earth for its roots, that wraps its rooks around anything, even a heap of stones, to support itself; and that consequently will soon wither under the intense heat of the sun. The word גל gal, rendered "heap," means either

(1.) A heap, as a heap of stones, from גלל gâlal - to roll, as e. g. stones. It may denote a heap of stones, Joshua 7:26, but it commonly refers to the ruins of walls and cities, Jeremiah 9:11; Jeremiah 51:37; Isaiah 25:2. It means

(2.) A fountain or spring, so called from the rolling or welling up of the waters, Sol 4:12, and hence, rolling waves or billows, Psalm 42:7; Psalm 89:9; Psalm 107:25, Psalm 107:29. The parallelism, if nothing else, demands that the usual signification should be given to it here; and the true sense is, that the prosperous wicked man or the hypocrite is like a plant which stands in the midst of rocks, rubbish, or old ruins, and not like one that stands in a fertile soil where it may strike its roots deep. The reference is to the fact that a tree or plant which springs up on a rock, or in the midst of rocks, will send its roots afar for nutriment, or will wrap them around the projecting points of rocks in order to obtain support. All have observed this in trees standing on rocks; but the following extract from Sillinian's Journal for January, 1840, wil illustrate the fact referred to here more fully.

"About fifteen years ago, upon the top of an immense boulder of limestone, some ten or twelve feet in diameter, a sapling was found growing. The stone was but slightly imbedded in the earth; several of its sides were raised from four to six feet above its surface; but the top of the rock was rough with crevices, and its surface, which was sloping off, on one side, to the earth, was covered with a thin mould. From this mould the tree had sprung up, and having thrust its roots into the crevices of the rock, it had succeeded in reaching the height of some twelve or fifteen feet. But about this period the roots on one side became loosened from their attachment, and the tree gradually declined to the opposite side, until its body was in a parallel line with the earth. The roots on the opposite side, having obtained a firmer hold, afforded sufficient nourishment to sustain the plant; although they could not, alone, retain it in its vertical position. In this condition of things, the tree as if 'conscious of its needs, ' adopted (if the term may be used) an ingenious process, in order to regain its former upright position. One of the most vigorous of the detached roots sent out a branch from its side, which, passing round a projection of the rock, again united with the parent stalk, and thus formed a perfect loop around this projection, which gave to the root an immovable attachment.

"The tree now began to recover from its bent position. Obeying the natural tendency of all plants to grow erect, and sustained by this root, which increased with unwonted vigor, in a few years it had entirely regained its vertical position, elevated, as no one could doubt who saw it, by the aid of the root which had formed this singular attachment. But this was not the only power exhibited by this remarkable tree.

"After its elevation it flourished vigorously for several years. Some of its roots had traced the sloping side of the rock to the earth, and were buried in the soil below. Others, having embedded themselves in its furrows, had completely filled these crevices with vegetable matter. The tree still continuing to grow, concentric layers of vegetable matter were annually deposited between the alburnum and liber, until by the force of vegetable growth alone, the rock was split from the top to the bottom, into three nearly equal divisions, and branches of the roots were soon found, extending down, through the divisions into the earth below. On visiting the tree a few months since, to take a drawing of it, we found that it had attained an altitude of fifty feet, and was four and a half feet in circumference at its base."

The image here shows that the author of this beautiful fragment was a careful observer of nature, and the comparison is exceedingly pertinent and striking. What more beautiful illustration of a hypocrite can there be? His roots do not strike into the earth. His piety is not planted in a rich soil. It is on the hard rock of the unconverted human heart. Yet it sends out its roots afar; seems to flourish for a time; draws nutriment from remote objects; clings to a crag or a projecting rock, or to anything for support - until a tempest sweeps it down to rise no more! No doubt the idea of Bildad was, that Job was just such a man.

Seeth the place of stones - Septuagint, "and lives in the midst of flints," not an unapt rendering - and a very striking description of a hypocrite. So Castellio, "existit inter lapides." Its only nutriment is derived from the scanty earth in the stony soil on which it stands, or in the crevices of the rocks.

17. seeth the place of stones—Hebrew, "the house of stones"; that is, the wall surrounding the garden. The parasite plant, in creeping towards and over the wall—the utmost bound of the garden—is said figuratively to "see" or regard it. About the heap, to wit, of stones, which word may be here understood out of the latter branch of the verse, as is very usual in Scripture use. This circumstance of the tree is added to signify, either,

1. Its firmness and strength, that it was not in loose and sandy ground, which a violent wind might overthrow, but in solid and hard ground, within which were many stones, which its numerous and spreading roots embrace, folding and interweaving themselves severally about several stones. Or,

2. Its singular and extraordinary growth, in spite of all disadvantages and oppositions; that even stony ground, which is very prejudicial to trees, Matthew 13:5, doth not hinder its growth, but only add to its strength. So God and man seem to conspire, and all things concur, to secure and perpetuate this man’s happiness. Some render the words, His roots are wrapped, or folded, or spread about, or beside, a spring, as the Hebrew gal sometimes signifies, as Joshua 15:19 Song of Solomon 4:12, i.e. a moist ground, which is much to its advantage: see Psalm 1:3 Jeremiah 17:8. Seeth he, i.e. the tree whose roots he last mentioneth, reacheth thither, spreadeth himself so far, takes the advantage of that place for the strengthening of itself. Seeing is oft put for enjoying, and is frequently attributed to lifeless things, by a known figure, called prosopopeia. The place, Heb. the house, which is oft used for a place; as 2 Samuel 6:17 1 Kings 8:6. Others render the words thus, he looketh upon the house of stones, i.e. made of stones for greater beauty and strength. He standeth proudly, and looketh boldly upon its owner’s house, nigh unto which it is placed, even in his garden, as was said before. His roots are wrapped about the heap,.... The heap of stones where the tree stands; it strikes its roots among them, and implicates and twists them about them, and secures itself and grows up notwithstanding them: and this expresses the seeming stable state and condition of hypocrites for a season, who not only flourish, but seem to take root; and who maintain their ground amidst some difficulties; this fitly agrees with and describes such hearers of the word, and professors of religion, comparable to the seed sown on stony ground, Matthew 13:5,

and seeth the place of stones; or, "the house of stones" (n); a house built of stones, high and stately; yet this tree rises higher than that, overtops and overlooks it; and is represented as viewing it thoroughly, or looking down upon it, and all around it, being so high and so spreading; the Targum renders it, implicateth the house of stones; "platteth", as Mr. Broughton, or twists about them, and so many of the Jewish writers; but this seems to be designed in the former clause: all this suits very well with good men, whose "roots are wrapped about the fountain" (o); as the words may be rendered; about the love of God, in which they are rooted and grounded, and are like trees planted by rivers of water, the river of divine love, which refreshes, revives, and makes them fruitful; and about Christ, the fountain of gardens and well of living waters; in whom they are rooted and built up, increase, flourish, and are established; and though they are among stones, and attended with many difficulties, yet they abide and surmount all; believe in hope against hope, and see and enjoy, yea, even dwell in the house of stones, the church of God, built on a rock, against which the gates of hell cannot prevail.

(n) "domum lapidum", Montanus, Cocceius, Schmidt, Michaelis, Schultens; so Tigurine version, Codurcus, Junius & Tremellius. (o) "juxta fontem", Pagninus, Mercerus; so Vatablus, Piscator, Gersom, and Bar Tzemach.

His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. seeth the place of stones] This translation can hardly mean that in his high growth he looks down upon the stone heap, or bends over it, but rather that he chooses it, fixes himself upon it. Others prefer the sense: he pierces between the stones, that is, with his roots, or, he pierces the place of stones, the word which ordinarily means to see having it is said in the dialect of the Hauran the sense of cut, or split (Wetzstein in Delitzsch, note, p. 120). This affords a more distinct sense. The luxuriance of the plant and its hold of the soil are graphically described. It is fresh and green under the heat of the sun; its suckers spread out and run over all the garden; its shoots clasp the heap of stones and weave themselves about it; and, finally, its roots thrust themselves down and pierce the stony soil, grasping the heart of the earth.Verse 17. - His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth (rather, he seeth) the place (literally, house) of stones. This passage is very obscure The word gal, translated heap, means sometimes a spring or stream of water (Song of Solomon 4:12); and many of the best Hebraists regard it as having that meaning here (Buxtorf, Lee, Stanley Leathes, Revised Version). In this case we have to regard the rapidly growing plant as having its roots wrapped about the perennial spring, which was a not uncommon, and always a much-desired, feature of an Eastern garden. Thus nourished, it naturally increased and spread itself, and "was green before the sun." May we suppose that it "saw the house of stones," because the spring which nourished it gushed forth from the native rock so that its roots were in contact with both? 11 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.)

continued...

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