Job 9:29
If I be wicked, why then labor I in vain?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Job 9:29. If I be wicked, &c. — The Hebrew, אנכי ארשׁעanochi ershang, is, I am, or, I shall be wicked, or guilty, without any supposition. That is, Whether I be holy or wicked, if I dispute with thee I shall be found guilty; or, I shall be treated as guilty; I shall not be acquitted, or exempted from punishment. Why then labour I in vain? — Since my friends will still continue to think and treat me as wicked, and thou wilt still continue to afflict me with the calamities and miseries which gave them occasion to think so, why should I use any efforts to clear myself, and vindicate my innocence? Why should I speak in a cause that is already prejudged? Or, why should I comfort myself with vain hopes of deliverance? With men it is often labour in vain for the most innocent to go about to clear themselves: they will be adjudged guilty, though the evidence be ever so plain for them. But it is not so in our dealings with God, who is the patron of oppressed innocence, and to whom it was never in vain to commit a righteous cause.9:25-35 What little need have we of pastimes, and what great need to redeem time, when it runs on so fast towards eternity! How vain the enjoyments of time, which we may quite lose while yet time continues! The remembrance of having done our duty will be pleasing afterwards; so will not the remembrance of having got worldly wealth, when it is all lost and gone. Job's complaint of God, as one that could not be appeased and would not relent, was the language of his corruption. There is a Mediator, a Daysman, or Umpire, for us, even God's own beloved Son, who has purchased peace for us with the blood of his cross, who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through him. If we trust in his name, our sins will be buried in the depths of the sea, we shall be washed from all our filthiness, and made whiter than snow, so that none can lay any thing to our charge. We shall be clothed with the robes of righteousness and salvation, adorned with the graces of the Holy Spirit, and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. May we learn the difference between justifying ourselves, and being thus justified by God himself. Let the tempest-tossed soul consider Job, and notice that others have passed this dreadful gulf; and though they found it hard to believe that God would hear or deliver them, yet he rebuked the storm, and brought them to the desired haven. Resist the devil; give not place to hard thoughts of God, or desperate conclusions about thyself. Come to Him who invites the weary and heavy laden; who promises in nowise to cast them out.If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain? - The word "if," here introduced by our translators, greatly obscures the sense. The meaning evidently is, "I am held to be guilty, and cannot answer to that charge. God regards me as such, and if I should attempt to meet him on the charge, it would be a vain attempt; and I must admit its truth. It would be labor in vain to deny it against one so mighty as he is." This interpretation accords with the argument in the whole chapter. Job maintains that it would be in vain to contend with God, and he gives up the argument in despair. It is quite evident, however, that he does not do it so much because he is convinced himself, as because he knows that God is great, and that it would be useless to contend with him. There is evidently implied all along the feeling that if he was able to cope with God in the argument, the result would be different. As it is, he submits - not because he is convinced, but because he is weak; not because he sees that God is right, but because he sees that he is powerful. How much submission of this kind is there in the world - submision, not to right, but to power; submission to God, not because he is seen to be wise and good, but because he is seen to be almighty, and it is vain to attempt to oppose him! It is needless to say that such feelings evince no true submission. 29. The "if" is better omitted; I (am treated by God as) wicked; why then labor I in vain (to disprove His charge)? Job submits, not so much because he is convinced that God is right, as because God is powerful and he weak [Barnes]. Heb. I shall be wicked, or guilty, to wit, before thee. Whether I be holy or wicked, if I dispute with thee, I shall be found guilty. Or thus, I shall be used like a wicked man, and punished as such. So this is opposed to his not being held innocent, Job 9:28, i.e. not being acquitted or exempt from punishment. Why then should I not indulge my griefs, but restrain them? Why should I comfort myself with vain hopes of deliverance, as thou advisest me, Job 8:6; or seek to God, as I was directed, Job 5:8, for that ease which I see he is resolved not to give me? Why should I trouble myself with clearing mine innocency, seeing God will still hold me guilty? If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain? If he was that wicked person, that hypocrite, Bildad and his other friends took him to be, it was in vain for him to make his supplications to God, as they advised him; so Gersom gives the sense of the words; since God hears not sinners, such as live in sin, regard iniquity in their hearts, and practise it in their lives, at least secretly, as it was suggested Job did; if he was such an one, it must be all lost labour to pray to God to show favour to him, and deliver him out of his troubles, since he might reasonably expect he would shut his eyes and stop his ears at such a man, and regard not his cries; seeking to him must be in vain; prayer may be fitly enough expressed by labour, it is a striving and wrestling with God, and especially when it is constant, importunate, and fervent: but rather the sense is, that if he was a wicked man in the account of God, or was dealt with as one; if God would not hold him innocent, as he asserts in the latter part of Job 9:28; then it was a vain thing to labour the point in the vindication of himself; since he could never think of succeeding against God, so wise and powerful, so holy, just, and pure. The word "if" is not in the original text, and may be left out, and the words be rendered, "I am wicked" (l); not in any notorious manner, as having lived a scandalous life, or been guilty of some gross enormities, as his friends insinuated, but in common with other men; he was born a sinner, had been a transgressor from the womb, and though he was renewed and sanctified by the spirit of God, yet sin dwelt in him, and through the infirmity of the flesh he was daily sinning in thought, word, or deed; nor did he expect it would be otherwise with him while in this world; yea, it was impossible for him to be without sin, as Bar Tzemach observes to be the sense of the phrase; and therefore if God would not clear him, or hold him innocent, unless he was entirely free from sin, as it was labouring in vain to attain to such perfection, so it must be to no purpose, and is what he chiefly intends, to attempt to vindicate himself before God: or "I shall be wicked", or "ungodly" (m); I shall be treated as such not only by his friends, who would reckon him a very wicked man so long as those afflictions continued on him, let him say what he would; but by the Lord himself, who he believed would never release him from them as long as he lived, which in the eye of men would be a tacit condemnation of him; so the Targum,"I shall be condemned,''and therefore it was labour in vain, striving against the stream, to go about to vindicate himself; nor was it possible that he could make himself out so clear and pure and perfect, that such an holy Being as God was could find no fault in him, in whose sight the heavens, and the inhabitants of them, were not clean; this is further evinced in the following words.

(l) "impius sum", V. L. Pagninus; so Schmidt. (m) "Ego impius ero", Montanus, Mercerus, Bolducius; "ego reus ero", Codurcus; "equidem improbus ero", Schultens.

If I be wicked, why then {x} labour I in vain?

(x) Why does God not destroy me at once? thus he speaks according to the infirmity of the flesh.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
29. if I be wicked] Rather, I shall be guilty, that is, I have to be, shall be held, guilty; God has resolved so to consider me. Everywhere in these verses guilt and afflictions mean the same thing, the one being the sign of the other.Verse 29. - If I be wicked; rather, I am wicked; i.e. I am accounted so - I am already condemned. The extreme afflictions raider which I suffer indicate that God has passed sentence upon me, and awarded me my punishment. Why then labour I in vain? i.e. Why argue? Why seek to justify myself, since no result is likely to follow? Nothing that I can say will alter God's foregone conclusion. 21 Whether I am innocent, I know not myself,

My life is offensive to me.

22 There is one thing-therefore I maintain - :

The innocent and wicked He destroyeth.

23 If the scourge slay suddenly,

He laugheth at the melting away of the innocent.

24 Countries are given into the hand of the wicked;

The countenance of its rulers He veileth -

Is it not so, who else doeth it?

Job 9:21 is usually considered to be an affirmation of innocence on the part of Job, though without effect, and even at the peril of his own destruction: "I am innocent, I boldly say it even with scorn of my life" (Schnurr., Hirz., Ewald, Schlottm.). But although נפשׁי אדע לא may mean: I care nothing for my soul, i.e., my life (comp. Genesis 39:6), its first meaning would be: I know not my soul, i.e., myself; and this sense is also quite in accordance with the context. He is innocent, but the contradiction between his lot and his innocence seems to show that his self-consciousness is deceptive, and makes him a mystery to himself, leads him astray respecting himself; and having thus become a stranger to himself, he abhors this life of seeming contradictions, for which he desires nothing less than its long continuance (vid., Job 7:16). The היא אחת which follows we do not explain: "it is all the same to me whether I live or not," but: it is all one whether man is innocent or not. He himself is a proof of this; therefore he maintains, etc. It is, however, also possible that this expression, which is similar in meaning to Ecclesiastes 9:2 (there is one event, אחד מקרה, to the righteous and to the wicked), and is well translated in the Targ. by היא מכילא חדא (there is one measure of retribution, מכילא equals מדּה, μέτρον, Matthew 7:2), refers to what follows, and that "therefore I maintain" is parenthetical (like אמרתי, Psalm 119:57; אמר לי, Isaiah 45:24), and we have translated it accordingly. There is certainly a kind of suspense, and על־כן d introduces an assertion of Job, which is founded upon the fact of the continuance of his own misfortune, - an assertion which he advances in direct contradiction to the friends, and which is expressly censured by Elihu.

In Job 9:23., by some striking examples, he completes the description of that which seems to be supported by the conflict he is called to endure. שׁוט, a scourge, signifies a judgment which passes over a nation (Isaiah 28:15). It swept off the guiltless as well, and therefore Job concludes that God delights in מסּה, πειρασμός, trial, or perhaps more correctly the melting away (from מסס, as Job 6:14) of the guiltless, i.e., their dissolution in anguish and dismay, their wearing away and despondency. Jerome rightly remarks that in the whole book Job says nihil asperius than what he says in Job 9:23. Another example in favour of his disconsolate היא אחת is that whole lands are given into the hand of the wicked: the monarch is an evil man, and the countenance of their judges He (God) covers, so that they do not distinguish between right and wrong, nor decide in favour of the former rather than of the latter. God himself is the final cause of the whole: if not, i.e., if it is not so, who can it then be that causes it? אפו (four times in the book of Job instead of the usual form אפוא) is, according to the current opinion, placed per hyperbaton in the conditional instead of the interrogative clause; and מי אפו are certainly not, with Hirzel, to be taken together. There is, however, not a proper hyperbaton, but אפו here gives intensity to the question; though not directly as Job 17:15 (Ges. 153, 2), but only indirectly, by giving intensity to that which introduces the question, as Job 24:25 and Genesis 27:37; translate therefore: if it really is not so (comp. the Homeric expression ει ̓ δ ̓ ἄγε). It is indisputable that God, and no one else, is the final cause of this misery, apparently so full of contradiction, which meets us in the history of mankind, and which Job now experiences for himself.

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