Job 9:20
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 9:20. If I justify myself — If I plead against God my own righteousness and innocence; my own mouth shall condemn me — God is so infinitely wise, and just, and holy, that he will find sufficient matter of condemnation from my own words, though spoken with all possible care and circumspection; or he will discover so much imperfection in me, of which I was not aware, that I shall be compelled to join with him in condemning myself. If I say, I am perfect — The words, I say, are not in the Hebrew, but seem to be properly supplied to complete the sense. The meaning is, If I were perfect in my own opinion, if I thought myself completely righteous and faultless; it shall prove me perverse — That is, my own mouth shall prove, as he had just said; or he, that is, God shall, who is easily understood from the former verses, where he is often mentioned.

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 justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me - That is, referring still to the form of a judicial trial, if I should undertake to manage my own cause, I should lay myself open to condemnation even in my argument on the subject, and should show that I was far from the perfection which I had undertaken to maintain. By passionate expressions; by the language of complaint and murmuring; by a want of suitable reverence; by showing my ignorance of the principles of the divine government; by arguments unsound and based on false positions; or by contradictions and self-refutations, I should show that my position was untenable, and that God was right in charging me with guilt. In some or in all of these ways Job felt, probably, that in an argument before God he would be self-condemned, and that even an attempt to justify himself, or to prove that he was innocent, would prove that he was guilty. And is it not always so? Did a man ever yet undertake to repel the charges of guilt brought against him by his Maker, and to prove that he was innocent, in which he did not himself show the truth of what he was denying? Did not his false views of God and of his law; his passion, complaining, and irreverence; his unwillingness to admit the force of the palpable considerations urged to prove that he was guilty, demonstrate that he was at heart a sinner, and that he was insubmissive and rebellious? The very attempt to enter into such an argument against God, shows that the heart is not right; and the manner in which such an argument is commonly conducted demonstrates that he who does it is sinful.

If I say, I am perfect - Should I attempt to maintain such an argument, the very attempt would prove that my heart is perverse and evil. It would do this because God had adjudged the contrary, and because such an effort would show an insubmissive and a proud heart. This passage shows that Job did not regard himself as a man absolutely free from sin. He was indeed said Job 1:1 to be "perfect and upright;" but this verse proves that that testimony in regard to him was not inconsistent with his consciousness of guilt. See the notes at that verse. And is not the claim to absolute perfection in this world always a proof that the heart is perverse? Does not the very setting up of such a claim in fact indicate a pride of heart, a self-satisfaction, and an ignorance of the true state of the soul, which is full demonstration that the heart is far from being perfect? God adjudges man to be exceedingly sinful; and if I do not mistake the meaning of the Scriptures, this is his testimony of every human heart - totally until renewed - partially ever onward until death. If this be the account in the Scriptures, then the claim to absolute perfection is prima facie, if not full proof, that the heart is in some way perverse. It has come to a different conclusion from that of God. It sets up an argument against him - and there can be no more certain proof of a lack of perfection than such an attempt. There is in this verse an energy in the original which is very feebly conveyed by our translation. It is the language of strong and decided indignation at the very idea of asserting that he was perfect. תם אני tâm 'ănı̂y - "perfect I!" or, "I perfect! The thought is absurd! It can only prove that I am perverse to attempt to set up any such claim!" Stuhlman renders this,

"However good I may be, I must condemn myself;

However free from guilt, I must call myself evil:"

And explains it as meaning, "God can through the punishments which he inflicts constrain me to confess, against the clear consciousness of my innocence, that I am guilty."

20. it—(Job 15:6; Lu 19:22); or "He," God. If I plead against God mine own righteousness and innocency, God is so infinitely wise and just, that he will find sufficient matter of condemnation from my own words, though spoken with all possible care and circumspection; or he will discover so much wickedness in me of which I was not aware, that I shall be forced to join with him in condemning myself.

If I say, I am perfect; if I were perfect in my own opinion; if I thought myself completely righteous and faultless, it, i.e. my own mouth, as he now said, or,

he, i.e. God, who is easily understood by comparing this with the former verses, where the same he is oft mentioned,

shall also prove me perverse.

If I justify myself,.... Seek for justification by his own righteousness, trust in himself that he was righteous, say that he was so, and pronounce himself a righteous man, what would it signify?

mine own mouth shall condemn me; the words of it being sinful, vain, idle, and frothy; and if a man is to be justified, and condemned by his words, he may be sure of the latter: indeed, "if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man", James 3:2; but let a man be as careful as he can, and keep ever such a guard upon his lips, such is the imperfection of human nature, that, though a Moses, he will speak unadvisedly with his lips, at one time or another, and in many things will offend; which would be his condemnation, if there was no other way to secure from it; nay, for a sinful man to justify himself, or to say that he is a righteous man by his own righteousness, and insist upon this before God, if he is tried upon it he must be condemned; yea, saying he is so is a falsehood, abominable to God, and enough to condemn him; and besides, a man that knows himself, as Job did, must be conscious of much sin within him, however externally righteous he may be before men; so that, should he say he was righteous, his conscience would speak, or cause his mouth to speak and contradict and condemn him:

if I say, I am perfect; not in an evangelical sense, as he was; but in a legal sense, so as to be free from sin, which no man that is perfect in a Gospel sense is; as Noah, Jacob, David, and others, who were so, yet not without sin; if therefore a man should assert this, he would not say that which was right, but what was perverse, as might be proved:

it shall also prove me perverse; to be a wicked man; either he, God, shall prove, or it, his mouth, as in the preceding clause; for to say this is to tell a lie, which to do is perverseness, see 1 John 1:8.

If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: {o} if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.

(o) If I stood in my own defence yet God would have just cause to condemn me if he examined my heart and conscience.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20.  Were I in the right, mine own mouth would condemn me,

Were I perfect, He would prove me perverse:

20. In Job 9:20 Job is the speaker; he describes the effect upon him of the might of God,—though he had right on his side his own mouth would make him out wrong; out of terror he would speak at random or say the opposite of what he should say. The word perfect is used as in ch. Job 1:1, not in an absolute sense, but to mean upright and free from transgression. The subject in the second clause is more probably God than it, i. e. my mouth; were Job perfect the effect of God’s power would be that he would appear perverse or wicked.

Verse 20. - If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me. Since he could not wholly justify himself. "All men have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Job has already admitted the utterance of "rash words" (Job 6:3), and, at least hypothetically, that he "has sinned" (Job 7:20), and needs "pardon" for his "transgression" (Job 7:24). Job, if he tried to "justify himself," would have to acknowledge such shortcomings, such imperfections, such sins - at any rate, of infirmity - as would make his attempted justification a real self-condemnation. If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse; rather, even were I perfect it (i.e. my mouth) would prove me perverse; i.e. supposing I were actually perfect, and tried to prove it, my speech would be so hesitating and confused, that I should only seem to be perverse. Job 9:2016 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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