Job 9:30
If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
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Job 9:30-31. If I wash myself with snow-water, &c. — If I clear myself from all imputations, and fully prove my innocence before men; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch — That is, in miry and puddle water, whereby I shall become most filthy. As Job’s washing himself is to be understood only of his clearing himself judicially, and showing that he was innocent of the things laid to his charge, so God’s plunging him, &c., is not to be understood of his making him sinful and guilty, but of his proving him to be so, notwithstanding all the professions and evidences of his purity before men. And mine own clothes shall abhor me — I shall be so filthy, that my own clothes, if they had any sense in them, would abhor to touch me. Job saw that his afflictions, coming from the hand of God, were the things that blackened him in the eyes of his friends, and caused them to think him a wicked man; and therefore, on that account, as well as because of the pain and torment they gave him, he complained of them, and of the continuance of them. Observe, reader, if we be ever so industrious to justify ourselves before men, and to preserve our credit with them; if we keep our hands ever so clean from the pollutions of gross sin; yet God, who knows our hearts, can charge us with so much secret iniquity, and internal depravity, as must for ever cut us off from all hopes of ever being able to justify ourselves before him. Paul, while a Pharisee, had made his hands, as he thought, very clean, but when the commandment came, and discovered to him that his inward parts were very wickedness, he found himself plunged in the ditch.

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 wash myself with snow water - If I should make myself as pure as possible, and should become, in my view, perfectly holy. Snow water, it seems, was regarded as especially pure. The whiteness of snow itself perhaps suggested the idea that the water of melted snow was better than other for purification. Washing the hands formerly was an emblem of cleansing from guilt. Hence Pilate, when he gave up the Savior to death, took water and washed his hands before the multitude, and said that he was innocent of his blood; Matthew 27:24. The expression used here by Job, also is imitated by the Psalmist, to denote his innocence:

I will wash mine hands in innocency:

So will I compass thine altar, O Lord. Psalm 26:6.

Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain,

And washed my hands in innocency.

30. snow water—thought to be more cleansing than common water, owing to the whiteness of snow (Ps 51:7; Isa 1:18).

never so clean—Better, to answer to the parallelism of the first clause which expresses the cleansing material, "lye:" the Arabs used alkali mixed with oil, as soap (Ps 73:13; Jer 2:22).

If I wash myself; either,

1. Really, by sanctification, cleansing my heart and life from all filthiness; or rather,

2. Declaratively or judicially, i.e. if I clear myself from all imputations, and fully prove my innocency before men.

With snow water, i.e. as men cleanse their bodies, and as under the law they purified themselves, with water, which he here calls water of snow, either because by its purity and brightness it resembled snow; or because in those dry countries, where fresh and pure water was scarce, snow water was much in use; or because that water might be much used among them in some of their ritual purifications, as coming down from heaven.

If I wash myself with snow water,.... As it came from heaven, or flowed from the mountains covered with snow, as Lebanon, see Jeremiah 18:14; or was kept in vessels for such use, as being judged the best for such a purpose; so it was used by the ancients (n), as being what whitens the skin, and strengthens the parts by contracting the pores, and hindering perspiration; it signifies, in a figurative sense, that let him take what methods he would to cleanse himself from sin, they were all in vain, his iniquity would be seen, and remain marked before God; and indeed there is nothing that a man can do that will make him pure and clean in the sight of an holy God; this is not to be done by ceremonial ablutions, such as might be in use in Job's time, before the law of Moses was given, and to which he may have some reference; these only sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, or only externally, but could not purify the heart, so as to have no more conscience of sin; nor by moral duties, not by repentance, as Sephorno; a fountain, a flood, an ocean of tears of humiliation and repentance, would not wash away sin; if, instead of ten thousand rivers of oil, so many rivers of brinish tears could be produced, they would be of no avail to cleanse the sinner; nor any works of righteousness done by man, for these themselves need washing in the blood of the Lamb; for nothing short of the blood of Christ, and the grace of God, can do it:

and make my hands never so clean; the hands are what men work with, Ecclesiastes 9:10; and so may design good works, which are sometimes called clean hands; see Psalm 24:4; compared with Psalm 15:1; and may be said to be so when they are done well, from a pare heart, and faith unfeigned, without selfish and sordid views, with a single eye to the glory of God; which is doing them as well, and making the hands as clean, as well can be; yet these are of no avail with respect to justification before God, and acceptance with him, or with regard to salvation, which is all of grace, and not of works, be they what they will; some render the words, "and cleanse my hands with soap" (o), which cleanses them best of anything, see Jeremiah 2:22.

(n) "Discubuimus, pueris aquam nivalem in manus infundentibus", Petronius in Satyr. (o) Smegmate, Codurcus, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt; so the Targum, and Mr. Broughton.

If I wash {y} myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;

(y) Though I seem pure in my own eyes, yet all is but corruption before God.

30. with snow water] This is according to one reading (bemê). According to another (bemô), with snow. The latter is better; snowwater is turbid and foul, ch. Job 6:16; snow is the symbol of the most perfect purity, Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:7. Locman’s 23rd fable illustrates this Oriental idea very well: “A stripped himself of his clothes one day and began rubbing his body with snow. He was asked, Why do you rub yourself with snow? He answered, Perhaps I shall become white. A wise man passing by said to him, You fellow, don’t fatigue yourself, your body may well make the snow black, but it will never make you white. The moral is &c.”

make my hands never so clean] lit. cleanse my hands with lye, or, potash.

Verse 30. - If I wash myself with snow-water (comp. Psalm 51:7). If I should succeed in purging myself of all guilt, and establishing, so far as words can do it, my spotless innocence even then what advantage should I gain? Snow-water does not really cleanse what is defiled better than any other water, but a lively fancy might suppose it to do so. Job indulges in this fancy, but then checks himself, and adds a prosaic alternative. And make my hands never so clean; rather, and make my hands clean with lye. Lye, or potash, is the principal and most essential ingredient in soap. and the readiest and best detergent. If Job cleanses himself to the very utmost, "Cut bone?" he asks. Job 9:3029 If I am wicked, why do I exert myself in vain?

30 If I should wash myself with snow water,

And make my hands clean with lye,

31 Then thou wouldst plunge me into the pit,

And my clothes would abhor me.

32 For He is not a man as I, that I should answer Him,

That we should go together to judgment.

33 There is not an arbitrator between us

Who should lay his hand upon us both.

The clause with strongly accented "I" affirms that in relation to God is from the first, and unchangeably, a wicked, i.e., guilty, man (Psalm 109:7) (רשׁע, to be a wicked man, means either to act as such Job 10:15, or to appear as such, be accounted as such, as here and Job 10:7; Hiph., Job 9:20, to condemn). Why, therefore, should he vainly (הבל, acc. adv., like breath, useless) exert himself by crying for help, and basing his plaint on his innocence? In Job 9:30 the Chethib is במו, the Keri במי, as the reverse in Isaiah 25:10; mo itself appears in the signification water (Egyptian muau), in the proper names Moab and Moshe (according to Jablonsky, ex aqua servatus); in במו, however, the mo may be understood according to Ges. 103, 2. This is the meaning - no cleansing, even though he should use snow and בּר (a vegetable alkali), i.e., not even the best-grounded self-justification can avail him, for God would still bring it to pass, that his clearly proved innocence should change to the most horrible impurity. Ewald, Rdiger, and others translate incorrectly: my clothes would make me disgusting. The idea is tame. The Piel תּעב signifies elsewhere in the book (Job 19:19; Job 30:10) to abhor, not to make abhorrent; and the causative meaning is indeed questionable, for מתעב (Isaiah 49:7) signifies loathing, as מכסּה (Job 23:17) covering, and Ezekiel 16:25 certainly borders on the signification "to make detestable," but תעב may also be in the primary meaning, abominari, the strongest expression for that contempt of the beauty bestowed by God which manifests itself by prostitution. Translate: My clothes would abhor me; which does not mean: I should be disgusted with myself (Hirzel); Job is rather represented as naked; him, the naked one, God would - says he - so plunge into the pit that his clothes would conceive a horror of him, i.e., start back in terror at the idea of being put on and defiled by such a horrible creature (Schlottm., Oehler). For God is not his equal, standing on the same level with him: He, the Absolute Being, is accuser and judge in one person; there is between them no arbitrator who (or that he) should lay, etc. Mercier correctly explains: impositio manus est potestatis signum; the meaning therefore is: qui utrumque nostrum velut manu imposita coerceat.

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