Job 9:19
If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(19) If I speak of strength.—All this is the most uncompromising acknowledgment of the absolute inability of man to stand in judgment before God. The whole of this is so very abrupt and enigmatical that it is extremely difficult to be sure of the argument, though naturally the general drift of it is obvious enough. “If it were a trial of strength—Who is Almighty?—and if it was a matter of judgment, is He not judge and court together? and what authority that He would acknowledge could give me the opportunity of pleading my cause before Him? Were I righteous, my own mouth would show me wicked; were I perfect, then would it or He prove me perverse. Were I perfect, I should not know myself, or know it myself. I despise my life under such conditions; therefore, said I, it is all one: He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked alike.”

Job 9:19. If I speak of strength — If my cause were to be decided by power; he is strong — Infinitely stronger than I; and if of judgment — If I would contend with him in a way of right; who shall set, &c. — There is no superior judge that can summon him and me together. Heath thus explains the words: “If I think to right myself by force, it is vain; for he is stronger than I: if I choose to decide our dispute by law, who hath authority to call us before him?”

9:14-21 Job is still righteous in his own eyes, ch. 32:1, and this answer, though it sets forth the power and majesty of God, implies that the question between the afflicted and the Lord of providence, is a question of might, and not of right; and we begin to discover the evil fruits of pride and of a self-righteous spirit. Job begins to manifest a disposition to condemn God, that he may justify himself, for which he is afterwards reproved. Still Job knew so much of himself, that he durst not stand a trial. If we say, We have no sin, we not only deceive ourselves, but we affront God; for we sin in saying so, and give the lie to the Scripture. But Job reflected on God's goodness and justice in saying his affliction was without cause.If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong - There has been a considerable variety in the interpretation of this passage. The meaning seems to be this. It refers to a judicial contest, and Job is speaking of the effect if he and God were to come to a trial, and the cause were to be settled before judges. He is urging reasons why he would have no hope of success in such a case. He says, therefore, "If the matter pertained only to strength, or if it were to be determined by strength, lo, he is more mighty than I am, and I could have no hope of success in such a controversy: and if the controversy was one of judgment, that is, of justice or right, I have no one to manage my cause - no one that could cope with him in the pleadings - no one who could equal him in setting forth my arguments, or presenting my side of the case. It would, therefore, be wholly an unequal contest, where I could have no hope of success; and I am unwilling to engage in such a controversy or trial with God. My interest, my duty, and the necessity of the case, require me to submit the case without argument, and I will not attempt to plead with my Maker." That there was a lack of right feeling in this, must be apparent to all.

There was evidently the secret belief that God had dealt with him severely; that he had gone beyond his deserts in indicting pain on him, and that he was under a necessity of submitting not so much to justice and right as to mere power and sovereignty. But who has not had something of this feeling when deeply afflicted? And yet who, when he has had it, has not felt that it was far from being what it should be? Our feeling should be, "we deserve all that we suffer, and more than we have yet endured. God is a sovereign; but He is right. Though he afflicts us much, and others little, yet it is not because he is unjust, but because he sees that there is some good reason why we should suffer. That reason may be seen yet by us, but if not, we should never doubt that it exists."

Who shall set me a time to plead? - Noyes renders this, "Who shall summon me to trial?" Dr. Good, "Who should become a witness for me?" The sense is, "Who would summon witnesses for me? If it was a mere trial of strength, God is too mighty for me; if it were a question of justice, who would compel witnesses to come on my side? Who could make them willing to appear against God, and to bear testimony for me in a controversy with the Almighty?"

19. Umbreit takes these as the words of God, translating, "What availeth the might of the strong?" "Here (saith he) behold! what availeth justice? Who will appoint me a time to plead?" (So Jer 49:19). The last words certainly apply better to God than to Job. The sense is substantially the same if we make "me" apply to Job. The "lo!" expresses God's swift readiness for battle when challenged. If my cause were to be decided by power,

lo, he is strong, i.e. stronger than I. If I would contend with him in a way of right, there is no superior judge that can summon him and me together, and appoint us a time of pleading before him, and oblige us both to stand to his sentence; and therefore I must be contented to sit down with the loss.

If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong,.... Or think of it, or betake myself to that, and propose to carry my point by mere force, as some men do by dint of power and authority they are possessed of; alas! there is nothing to be done this way; I am a poor, weak, feeble creature in body, mind, and estate; I am not able to contend with so powerful an antagonist on any account, in any way: God is strong, he is the "most strong" (w), as some render it; he is mighty, is the Almighty; the weakness of God is stronger than men; there is no disputing with God upon the foot of strength:

and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead? If I think and propose to put things upon the foot of justice, to have the cause between us issued in that way, I cannot expect to succeed by right, any more than by might; he is so strictly just and holy, that no righteousness and holiness of, mine can stand before him; he is God, and I a man, and therefore not fit to come together in judgment; and he a pure and holy Being, just and true, and without iniquity, and I a sinful polluted creature; and besides, there is none superior to him, that I can appeal unto, none that can appoint a place, or fix a time, for the hearing of the cause between us, or that can preside in judgment and determine the matter in controversy; nay, there is not one among the creatures that can be a daysman, an arbiter or umpire; yea not one that can be so much as employed as council, that can take the cause in hand, and plead it, and be a patron for me, and defender of me; so that, let me take what course I will, I am sure to be nonsuited and worsted, see Jeremiah 49:19.

(w) "robustissimus est", V. L.

If I speak of strength, lo, he is {n} strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?

(n) After he has accused his own weakness, he continues to justify God and his power.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
19–21. These three verses read as follows,

If you speak of the strength of the mighty, Here I am! (saith He)

If of judgment, Who will set me a time?

Verse 19. - If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong. Still the idea is, "How can I contend with God? If it is to be a trial of strength, it is he who is strong, not I; if it is to be a suit, or pleading for justice, who will appoint me a day?" And if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead? (comp. below, ver 33). Job 9:1916 If when I called He really answered,

I could not believe that He would hearken to me;

17 He would rather crush me in a tempest,

And only multiply my wounds without cause;

18 He would not suffer me to take my breath,

But would fill me with bitter things.

19 If it is a question of the strength of the strong - : "Behold here!"

And if of right - : "Who will challenge me?"

20 Where I in the right, my mouth must condemn me;

Were I innocent, He would declare me guilty.

The answer of God when called upon, i.e., summoned, is represented in Job 9:16 as an actual result (praet. followed by fut. consec.), therefore Job 9:16 cannot be intended to express: I could not believe that He answers me, but: I could not believe that He, the answerer, would hearken to me; His infinite exaltation would not permit such condescension. The אשׁר which follows, Job 9:17, signifies either quippe qui or quoniam; both shades of meaning are after all blended, as in Job 9:15. The question arises here whether שׁוף signifies conterere, or as cognate form with שׁאף, inhiare, - a question also of importance in the exposition of the Protevangelium. There are in all only three passages in which it occurs: here, Genesis 3:15, and Psalm 139:11. In Psalm 139:11 the meaning conterere is unsuitable, but even the signification inhiare can only be adopted for want of a better: perhaps it may be explained by comparison with צעף, in the sense of obvelare, or as a denominative from נשׁף (the verb of which, נשׁף, is kindred to נשׁב, נשׁם, flare) in the signification obtenebrare. In Genesis 3:15, if regarded superficially, the meaning inhiare and conterere are alike suitable, but the meaning inhiare deprives that utterance of God of its prophetic character, which has been recognised from the beginning; and the meaning conterere, contundere, is strongly supported by the translations. We decide in favour of this meaning also in the present passage, with the ancient translations (lxx ἐκτρίψῃ, Targ. מדקדּק, comminuens). Moreover, it is the meaning most generally supported by a comparison with the dialects, whereas the signification inhiare can only be sustained by comparison with שׁאף and the Arabic sâfa (to sniff, track by scent, to smell); besides, "to assail angrily" (Hirz., Ewald) is an inadmissible contortion of inhiare, which signifies in a hostile sense "to seize abruptly" (Schlottm.), properly to snatch, to desire to seize.

Translate therefore: He would crush me in a tempest and multiply (multiplicaret), etc., would not let me take breath (respirare), but (כּי, Ges. 155, 1, e. a.) fill me (ישׂבּיענּי, with Pathach with Rebia mugrasch) with bitter things (ממּררים, with Dag. dirimens, which gives the word a more pathetic expression). The meaning of Job 9:19 is that God stifles the attempt to maintain one's right in the very beginning by His being superior to the creature in strength, and not entering into a dispute with him concerning the right. הנּה (for הנּני as איּה, Job 15:23, for איּו): see, here I am, ready for the contest, is the word of God, similar to quis citare possit me (in Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44), which sounds as an echo of this passage. The creature must always be in the wrong, - a thought true in itself, in connection with which Job forgets that God's right in opposition to the creature is also always the true objective right. פּי, with suffix, accented to indicate its logical connection, as Job 15:6 : my own mouth.

(Note: Olshausen's conjecture, פּיו, lessens the difficulty in Isaiah 34:16, but here it destroys the strong expression of the violence done to the moral consciousness.)

In ויּעקשׁני the Chirek of the Hiphil is shortened to a Sheva, as 1 Samuel 17:25; vid., Ges. 53, rem. 4. The subject is God, not "my mouth" (Schlottm.): supposing that I were innocent, He would put me down as one morally wrong and to be rejected.

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