Job 9:23
If the whip slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) The scourge slay suddenly.—Probably meaning that in the case of hidden calamity overtaking an innocent man, He, God, will laugh at it: that is to say, take no more notice of it than if it furnished Him with sport. The very fact of such calamity befalling, as it often does, the innocent is at all events, in one view, a proof of His indifference to it who, by the exercise of His providence, could easily interpose to prevent it, and so looks as if He verily winked at it. Job’s argument is the argument of a man who wilfully shuts out faith in his estimate of God’s dealings; not that Job is devoid of faith, but in the course of arguing with his friends, who maintain the strict, rigid justice of God, he confronts them with the severe logic of facts, which they can neither contradict nor explain. Of course, for the very requirements of argument, he takes the pessimist view of the Divine providence, and declares even that the earth is given over into the hands of the wicked man. “He covereth the face of the judges thereof; and if it is not He that doeth this, who is it? there can be none other. He either doeth the evil Himself, or He permits it to be done; and what is the difference, supposing Him able to prevent it?” When we review the disorders of the earth—and how much more in Job’s days was it so—all must admit that faith is sorely tried; and even faith can render but a very partial explanation of them, so that such a line as this is fully justified, when the adversary is determined to maintain that all is rose-coloured, happy, and equal as Job’s friends did. They had before them an instance of inequality in the Divine conduct, and they must either make it square with the Divine justice or give up the contest. They could not do the one, and were unwilling to do the other; it only remained, therefore, for Job to assert the inequality of the Divine dealings, and he puts the case as strongly as he can, all the time, it must never be forgotten, holding fast his faith in God, so that at the last he is even justified by God, who says to his friends, “Ye have not spoken of me that which is right, like my servant” (Job 42:8).

9:22-24 Job touches briefly upon the main point now in dispute. His friends maintained that those who are righteous and good, always prosper in this world, and that none but the wicked are in misery and distress: he said, on the contrary, that it is a common thing for the wicked to prosper, and the righteous to be greatly afflicted. Yet there is too much passion in what Job here says, for God doth not afflict willingly. When the spirit is heated with dispute or with discontent, we have need to set a watch before our lips.If the scourge slay suddenly - If calamity comes in a sudden and unexpected manner. Dr. Good, following Reiske, translates this," if he suddenly slay the oppressor," understanding the word scourge שׁוט shôṭ as meaning an oppressor, or one whom God employs as a scourge of nations. But this is contrary to all the ancient versions. The word שׁוט shôṭ means properly a whip, a scourge (compare the notes at Job 5:21), and then calamity or affliction sent by God upon men. Such is clearly the case here.

He will laugh at the trial of the innocent - That is, he seems to disregard or to be pleased with their trials. He does not interpose to rescue them. He seems to look calmly on, and suffers them to be overwhelmed with others. This is a poetic expression, and cannot mean that God derides the trials of the innocent, or mocks their sufferings. It means that he seems to be inattentive to them; he suffers the righteous and the wicked to be swept away together as if he were regardless of character.

23. If—Rather, "While (His) scourge slays suddenly (the wicked, Job 9:22), He laughs at (disregards; not derides) the pining away of the innocent." The only difference, says Job, between the innocent and guilty is, the latter are slain by a sudden stroke, the former pine away gradually. The translation, "trial," does not express the antithesis to "slay suddenly," as "pining away" does [Umbreit]. If the scourge slay suddenly; either,

1. If some common and deadly judgment come upon a people, which destroys both good and bad. Or,

2. If God inflicts some grievous and unexpected stroke upon an innocent person, as it follows. He will laugh at the trial of the innocent; as he doth at the destruction of the wicked, Psalm 2:4. His outward carriage is the same to both; he neglects the innocent, and seems not to answer their prayers, and suffers them to perish with others, as if be took pleasure in their ruin also. But withal, he intimates the matter and cause of his laughter or complacency which God takes in their afflictions, because to them they are but trials of their faith, and patience, and perseverance, which tends to God’s honour, and their own eternal advantage. If the scourge slay suddenly,.... Not Satan, as Jarchi and Bar Tzemach; but any sore calamity which surrounds a man, lashes, cuts, and distresses him, as a whip or scourge; such as any of God's sore judgments, the sword, famine, pestilence, or evil beasts, which sometimes come suddenly, unawares, unthought of, and unexpected; and are sometimes only chastisements in love, the scourgings of a father, though generally in wrath and hot displeasure, and are an overflowing scourge, which carry all before them; and therefore some restrain it to wicked men, as the Septuagint version; and some understand it as if they were more mildly and gently dealt with, by being suddenly and at once slain with such a scourge, in their persons, families, and substance, while others have their afflictions protracted, and linger long under them, as in the next clause:

he will laugh at the trial of the innocent; not that are free from sin entirely; for there are none such, no, not newborn infants; though they may be comparatively so, yet they are not in an absolute sense, being conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity: besides, here it means adult persons, good men, that are truly gracious, sincere, upright, harmless in their lives and conversations, whose afflictions are "trials" of their faith and patience, and other graces; and when God is said to "laugh" at them, who seems to be designed here, this must be understood consistent with his pity to his people, his sympathy with them under all their afflictions, he not willingly afflicting or grieving the children of men; nor can it be thought that he has them in derision and contempt, or laughs at their calamities, or in reality, as he does at wicked men; but that he carries it so oftentimes, in the dispensations of his providence, as if he made no difference between them, but mocked at the one as well as the other; seemingly giving no heed to their cries; not hastening to their help and deliverance, but lengthening out their troubles for the trial of their graces; and so indeed is greatly delighted with the exercise of them under them, and with seeing them bear them with so much patience, courage, and greatness of mind and submission to his will. Some interpret this of a wicked man laughing at the calamities of the righteous, as the Ammonites and Edomites rejoiced at the destruction of the Jews; the church's enemy at her fall, and as the Papists will at the witnesses being slain; but the former sense seems best; rather the scourge itself laughs at the trial of the innocent; so Schultens.

If the scourge {q} slay suddenly, he will {r} laugh at the trial of the innocent.

(q) That is, the wicked.

(r) This is spoken according to our apprehension, as though he would say, If God destroyed only the wicked, Job 5:3, why would he allow the innocent to be so long tormented by them?

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. Further illustration of this character of God.

the scourge] i. e. the plague, as pestilence, famine, war, and the like, Isaiah 28:15.

will laugh at the trial] Or, mocks at the despair, cf. Job 6:14.Verse 23. - If the scourge slay suddenly. Such a "scourge" as war, or pestilence, or famine, is probably meant. If one of these be let loose upon a land, and slay, as it always does slay, indifferently the good and the bad, the innocent and the guilty, what is God's attitude? Does he interpose to save the righteous? By no means. He looks on passively, indifferently. Job even goes further, and says, with an audacity that borders on irreverence, if it does not even overstep the border, He will laugh at the trial of the innocent. St. Jerome says, "There is nothing in the whole book harsher than this." It may, perhaps, be excused, partly as rhetorical, partly as needful for the full expansion of Job's argument. But it is a fearful utterance. (Professor Lee's attempt to explain the whole passage differently is scarcely a successful one.) 16 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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