They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hastens to the prey.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Swift ships.—What is meant by the swift ships, or ships of Desire, no one knows. Literally, ships of Eveh, probably a proper name, and perhaps referring to a particular kind of boat in use on the Nile; if so, this is one instance out of many of Job’s acquaintance with Egypt. The Vulgate has, naves poma portantes. Job is a problem to himself; he is confident of his innocence, and yet he is confident that that very innocence will avail him nothing before God, he is sure that he must be condemned. Now, it is impossible to deny that this is the very attitude of the Gospel; it is, therefore, if we bear in mind the vast antiquity of the confession, both a witness to the truth of the Gospel and an anticipation of it that God alone could give. Indeed, it is hopelessly impossible to enter into the position of Job unless we are ourselves enlightened with the teaching of the Gospel, and able to look at it from the Gospel standpoint. While, therefore, admitting this fact, we are the better able to appreciate the wonderful confession Job is about to make in Job 9:32-33.Job 9:26. As the swift ships — Hebrew, ships of desire; that is, such as are longed for, and long to be at their destined port, and crowd all the sail they can for that purpose. Or, as in the Chaldee paraphrase, ships loaded, pretiosis, with things of value; and are therefore named swift ships, because the more valuable the effects are, the more haste is made to return home for readier sale. The Hebrew may also be translated, ships of pleasure, which sail more swiftly than ships of burden. As the eagle that hasteth to the prey — Which generally flies most swiftly when hungry, and in sight of his prey. See here how swift the motion of time is! It is always upon the wing, hastening to its period. What little need have we of pastimes! What great need to redeem time, which runs out, runs on so fast toward eternity! And how vain are the enjoyments of time, which we may be deprived of, even while time continues. Our day may be longer than our sunshine: and when that is gone, it is as if it had never been.Isaiah 18:2. Such vessels would be distinguished for the ease with which they might be rowed, and the rapidity of their motion. Chardin supposes that the reference is to vessels that were made to go on the Euphrates or the Tigris, and that were borne along with the rapid current. The supposition of an allusion to any boat or vessel under full sail, will be in accordance with the language here, though the probability is, that the reference is to the light vessels, made of reeds, that might be propelled with so much fleetness. Sails were frequently used, also, for such vessels.Swift ships, Heb. ships of desire; which make great haste, as if they longed for their desired haven, as it is called, Psalm 107:30. Or, ships of pleasure; which sail more swiftly than ships of great burden.
As the eagle; which generally flies most swiftly, Deu 28:49 Jeremiah 4:13 Lamentations 4:19, especially when its own hunger and the sight of its prey quickens its motion.
"ships burdened with precious fruits;''and the Vulgate Latin version is,"ships carrying apples:''now ships loaded with such sort of goods, with perishing commodities, are obliged to make their port as soon as possible. Some leave the word untranslated, and call them "ships of Ebeh" (d); which, according to Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and others, is either the name of a place, or of a river in Arabia, which ran with a rapid stream, and in which ships were carried with great celerity. Bolducius relates from a traveller of his acquaintance, who finished his travels in 1584, that he saw such a river about Damascus, not far from the sepulchre of Job; but that must be the river Chrysorrhoas, now called Barrady; but there were two rivers of this name Ebeh; one near Cufa, and another in Wasith, a country of Babylon, as Golius observes (e). Others take the word to have the signification of reed or papyrus, which grew on the banks of the Nile, and of which ships were made; see Gill on Isaiah 18:1; and render the words "ships of reeds" or "of papyrus" (f), and which, being light, were very swift:
as the eagle that hasteth to the prey; the eagle is the swiftest of birds, and therefore persons and things exceeding swift are compared unto them, see Habakkuk 1:8; and it flies the most swiftly when being hungry, and in sight of its prey, and is nearest to it, and flaps upon it, which is the thing referred to, and so may be rendered, "that flies upon the prey" (g). Job uses these metaphors, which are the most appropriate, to show how fleeting his days of prosperity were, and how soon gone: and a climax may be observed in the words; a runner, though he runs swiftly, a ship moves faster than he, and an eagle, just about to seize its prey, flies swifter than that.
(b) "navibus desiderii", Mercerus, Drusius, Schmidt; so Ben Gersom. (c) "Naves inimicitiarum, i.e. "piraticae, vel hostiles"; as some in Drusius; so Broughton. (d) "Navibus Ebeh", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Bolducius, Codurcus. (e) Lexic. Arab. p. 2.((f) "Naves arundinis", Michaelis, "navibus papyraceis", Schultens, Ikenius, in ib. (g) "involans in escam", Junius & Tremellius; "involat in escam", Piscator, Schultens.They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)26. the swift ships] the ships of reed. These skiffs, constructed of a wooden keel and the rest of reeds, are the “vessels of bulrushes” of Isaiah 18:2. They carried but one or two persons, and being light were extremely swift. The ancients were familiar with them; Plin. xiii. 11, ex ipso quidem papyro navigia texunt; and Lucan, Phars, iv. 36,
conseritur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro,
(quoted in Gesenius, Com. on Is. i. p. 577).
Job as usual heaps images together to picture out the brevity of his life, cf. ch. Job 7:6 seq. Here the images are new, a runner, a skiff of reed, an eagle swooping on his prey.Verse 26. - They are passed away as the swift ships; literally, like the ships of reed. The allusion is probably to the frail reed vessels of the Egyptians, of which many ancient writers speak (see Theophrastus, 'Hist. Plant.,' 4:9; Pithy, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6:56; 13:11; Luean, ' Pharsalis,' 4:36, etc.). They were long, light canoes, formed generally of the papyrus plant, and propelled either by a single paddle or by a punting-pole. They were fiat-bottomed and broad, like punts, with a stem and stern rising considerably above the level of the water (see the authofs 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. pp. 507, 508). Isaiah speaks of them as "vessels of bulrushes," in which "swift messengers" were sent by the nations peopling the banks of the Nile (Isaiah 18:1, 2). The Euphrates boats described by Herodotus (1:194) were of an entirely different construction, and cannot be here intended. They consisted of a framework of wood, which was covered with skins, and then coated with bitumen, and resembled the Welsh "coracles." As the eagle that hasteth to the prey; or, as the eagle that swoopeth on the prey (Revised Version). Job's observation presents to him three types of swiftness - the trained runner upon the earth, the swift ships upon the waters, and the hungry eagle in the air. It seems to him that his life passes away as swiftly as any of these.
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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