Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
B.—Job: Although oppressed by his disconsolate condition, he nevertheless wishes and hopes that God will demonstrate his innocence, against the unreasonable accusations of his friends
(A brief preliminary repudiation of the discourses of the friends as aimless and unprofitable):
1 Then Job answered and said:
2 I have heard many such things:
miserable comforters are ye all.
3 Shall vain words have an end?
or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest?
4 I also could speak as ye do;
if your soul were in my soul’s stead,
I could heap up words against you,
and shake mine head at you.
5 But I would strengthen you with my mouth,
and the moving of my lips should assuage your grief.
1. Lamentation on account of the disconsolateness of his condition, as forsaken and hated by God and men:
6 Though I speak, my grief is not assuaged;
and though I forbear, what am I eased?
7 But now He hath made me weary:
Thou hast made desolate all my company.
8 And Thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me;
and my leanness rising up in me
beareth witness to my face.
9 He teareth me in His wrath, who hateth me;
He gnasheth upon me with His teeth;
mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me.
10 They have gaped upon me with their mouth;
they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully;
they have gathered themselves together against me.
11 God hath delivered me to the ungodly,
and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.
12 I was at ease, but He hath broken me asunder;
He hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces,
and set me up for His mark.
13 His archers compass me round about,
He cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare;
He poureth out my gall upon the ground.
14 He breaketh me with breach upon breach;
He runneth upon me like a giant.
15 I have sowed sackcloth upon my skin,
and defiled my horn in the dust.
16 My face is foul with weeping,
and on my eyelids is the shadow of death;
17 not for any injustice in mine hands;
also my prayer is pure.
2. Vivid expression of the hope of a future recognition of his innocence:
18 O earth, cover not thou my blood!
and let my cry have no place!
19 Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven,
and my record is on high.
20 My friends scorn me:
but mine eye poureth out tears unto God.
21 O that one might plead for a man with God,
as a man pleadeth for his neighbor!
22 When a few years are come,
then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.
Job 17:1 My breath is corrupt,
my days are extinct,
the graves are ready for me.
2 Are there not mockers with me?
and doth not mine eye continue in their provocation?
3 Lay down now, put me in a surety with Thee;
who is he that will strike hands with me?
4 For Thou hast hid their heart from understanding?
therefore shalt Thou not exalt them.
5 He that speaketh flattery to his friends,
even the eyes of his children shall fail.
6 He hath made me also a byword of the people;
and aforetime I was as a tabret.
7 Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow,
and all my members are as a shadow.
8 Upright men shall be astonished at this,
and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite.
9 The righteous also shall hold on his way,
and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.
3. Sharp censure of the admonitory speeches of the friends as unreasonable, and destitute of all power to comfort:
10 But as for you all, do ye return, and come now;
for I cannot find one wise man among you.
11 My days are passed,
my purposes are broken off,
even the thoughts of my heart.
12 They change the night into day:
the light is short because of darkness.
13 If I wait, the grave is mine house;
I have made my bed in the darkness.
14 I have said to corruption, Thou art my father;
to the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister.
15 And where is now my hope?
as for my hope, who shall see it?
16 They shall go down to the bars of the pit,
when our rest together is in the dust.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Heartlessly repulsed by his friends, and left without comfort, Job turns, more trustfully than in his previous apologies, to the God who evidenced Himself in his good conscience, of whom he cannot believe that He will leave him forever without testifying to his innocence, however cheerless a night of despair may in the meanwhile surround him. It is in the expression of his confidence, and of his inward yearning and waiting for this Divine testimony to his innocence (Job 16:18 to 17:9) that the significance of this discourse culminates, so far as it gives pleasing evidence of progress beyond Job’s former frame of mind. Along with this indeed it gives evidence that the spirit of hopeless and bitter complaint is, if not intensified, at least substantially unchanged and undiminished. The first principal division of the discourse (Job 16:6–17) which precedes that expression of yearning confidence in God’s help contains in particular an expression of cheerless lamentation over his condition, as one forsaken by God and men; while a shorter introduction prefaced to this division (Job 16:2–5), as well as the concluding section, or third division (Job 17:10–16) are particularly occupied with a bitter complaint on account of the misunderstanding and heartless conduct of the friends.—The whole discourse comprises six long strophes, the first of which constitutes the introduction, extending through four verses, or ten stichs (Job 16:2–5), while the first and second divisions contain each two strophes (of 6, 7 verses, or 14 stichs), the third division, however, only one strophe (of 7 verses, or 14 stichs).
2. Exordium of the discourse, or introductory strophe: A short preliminary repudiation of the discourses of the friends as aimless, and destitute of all power to comfort: ch 16:2–5.
Job 16:2. I have heard (already) many such things (רַבּוֹת, multa, as in ch, 23:14), and miserable comforters are ye all. מְנַחֲמֵי עָמָל, lit. “comforters of distress” [Gen of attribute, Green, § 254, 6] are burdensome comforters (consolatores onerosi, Jer.), who, instead of comfort, minister only trouble and distress; comp. Job 15:11.
Job 16:3. Are windy words (now) at an end? Comp. Job 15:2, where Eliphaz reproaches Job with windy speech—a reproach which Job now pays back in the same coin.—Or what vexes thee [addressed more particularly to Eliphaz] that thou answerest?המריץ, Hiph. of מרץ, “to be sick, weak” (see on Job 6:25), signifies “to make sick, to afflict” (Ewald, Schlott., Dillm.), or again “to goad, incite, vex” (Del.) [see the examples in notes on 6:25 favoring this definition]: not, “to make sweet, to sweeten,” as the Targ. interprets, as though מרץ were without further qualification = כִּי—ּמלץ moreover is not = quum (Hirz.), but as in Job 6:11quod: “what vexes thee that thou answerest,” or “to answer.”
Job 16:4. I also indeed would speak like you, i.e., would be minded to serve you with such like discourses as your own [Dillmann, Conant, Renan, Rodwell, etc., with good reason prefer to render the subjunctive אֲדַבֵּרָה “I could,” or “might,” rather than “would”].—If your soul were instead of mine;i.e. in case you had my place, your persons were instead of mine. [Conant, however: “Your soul is not to be taken as a periphrasis of the personal pronoun. Soul, the seat of intelligence, mental activity and emotion, stands as the representative of these faculties in man, and is specially appropriate here, where there is immediate reference to what is thought, felt and suffered. The force of the expression is lost therefore by substituting ye and me.”]—Would [or could] weave words against you.—הֶחֱבִיר בְּמִלִּיםis not “to make a league with words” (Gesen. [Rodwell], etc.), nor again: “to affect wisdom with words” (Ewald), but to “combine words, string them together like pearls.” Instead of the simple accus of the object מִלִּים, the more choice construction with בְּ instrum. is used; comp. the following member, also Job 16:10; Jer. 18:16; Lam. 1:17 (Gesen. § 138 [§ 135] 1, Rem. 3). [“When he says: I would range together, etc., he gives them to understand that their speeches are more artificial than natural, more declamations than the outgushings of the heart.” Del.]—And shake my head at you;viz., as a gesture of scorn and malicious pleasure; comp. Ps. 22:8 ; Is. 37:22; Jer. 18:16; Sir. 12:18; Matt. 27:39. It should be borne in mind that what is hateful in such conduct is not to be charged upon Job (who indeed only states what he could do if he had before him the friends, weak and miserable as he is now, and should then follow the promptings of the natural man), but on the friends, before whom Job here holds up as in a mirror the hatefulness of their own conduct. [In regard to the rendering of על by “against,” and the explanation of הֵנִיַע as a gesture of scorn, see below on Job 16:5]
Job 16:5. Would [could] strengthen you with my mouth:i.e. with mere words, instead of with deeds of a love that wins the heart. [On the form אֲאַמִּֽצְכֶם with Tsere shortened to Hhirik, see Green, § 104, h.]—And the sympathy of my lips (נִיד, commisseration, sympathy, only here; comp. the phrase, similar in sound, נִיבִ שְׂפָתַיִם, “fruit of the lips,” Is. 57:19) should assuage, soil, your grief. חָשַׂךְ, “to soothe, restrain, check,” here without an obj. as in Is. 58:1. The following verse easily enables us to supply כְּאֵב, as the object. [The E. V., Wem., Bar., Elz., etc., render this as a contrast with Job 16:4, as though Job, after there describing what he might do if they were in his place, describes here what, on the other hand, he really would do. But there is nothing to indicate such a contrast. Job 16:5 is most simply and naturally the continuation of Job 16:4.—The irony of the passage is most keen and cutting. If you were in my place, says Job, if your soul were tried as mine is, I could speak windy words in abundance as you have done, I could string them out one after another, and nod my head to comfort: oh, yes! all such comfort—sympathy of the head, of the mouth, of the lips, I could lavish upon you—that is cheap enough, as your conduct shows—but as for the heart, that is quite another matter! It will be seen from this paraphrase of Job’s language that a somewhat different view is taken of one or two expressions, particularly in Job 16:4, from that given above by Zöckler, It seems unnecessary and unnatural to suppose that Job would in Job 16:4 describe himself as framing words against them, and indulging in gestures of malicious mockery, and then in Job 16:5 as strengthening and soothing them with words—but nothing more. Moreover the expressions of Job 16:4 would thus lose their point, there being no reason to suppose that the friends had shown any such malignity as would be thus suggested. What Job says is, that he could multiply words of cold formal sympathy, that he could string out such words upon them, or towards them; and again that he could make with his head the customary oriental gesture of condolence (נוּעַ here like נוּד, see above, Job 2:11 and comp. Gesen. sub. 5.), this being by implication all the sympathy he had received from them.—E.]
3. First Division. A lamentation concerning the cheerlessness of his condition, as one forsaken and persecuted by God and men. Job 16:6–17.
First Strophe: Job 16:6–11. From the friends, the “miserable comforters,” who leave him in his helplessness, he turns to himself, who is so greatly in need of sympathy, because God has delivered him over to the scorn and the cruelty of the unrighteous.
Job 16:6. [“He bethinks himself whether he will continue, the colloquy further. Already in the lamentation of Job 3. Job had given vent to his grief, and solicited comfort. The colloquy thus far had shown that from them he had no comfort to expect. Should he then speak further, in order to procure at least some alleviation of his grief? but he cannot anticipate even this as the result of his speaking. He must accordingly be silent; yet even then he is no better off.” Dillm.]—If I speak (voluntative after אִם, see Ew. § 355, b) my grief is not assuaged; if I forbear (voluntative without אִם, as in Job 11:17; Ps. 73:16, etc.), what departs from me, viz. of my pain? how much of my pain goes away from me, do I lose? The unexpressed answer would naturally be; Nought! On יהלךְ, comp. Job 14:20.
Job 16:7. Nevertheless—now He hath exhausted me, viz. God, not the pain (כְּאֵבִי, Job 16:6), which the Vulg., Aben-Ezra, etc., regard as the subj. The particle אְַךְ, which belongs to the whole sentence, signifies neither: “of a truth, yea verily!” (Ew.) nor “only” [=entirely], as though it belonged only to הלאני (Hirz., Hahn, etc.), but it has here an adversative meaning, and states, in opposition to the two previously mentioned possibilities of speaking and being silent, what is actually the case with Job; hence it should be rendered “still, nevertheless,” verum tamen: [Renan: Mais quoi! “He is absolutely incapable of offering any resistance to his pain, and care has also been taken that no solacing word shall come to him from any quarter,” Del. See the next clause].—Thou hast desolated all my circle. עֵדָה here not “rabble,” as in Job 15:34, but sensu bono—circle of friends and family dependents (Carey: all my clan). [“This mention of the family is altogether in place, seeing that the loss of the same must be doubly felt by him now that his friends are hostile to him.” Schlott,]. The Pesh. reads “all my testimony” (עֵדָתִי), i.e., all that witness in my behalf, all my prosperity (so also Hahn among the moderns), to which however הֵשֵׂם is not particularly suitable. Note moreover the transition, bearing witness as it does to the vivid excitement of the speaker’s feelings, from the declarations concerning God in the third person (which we find in the first member, and which appear again Job 16:9 seq.), and the mournful plaintive address to Him here and in Job 16:8, in which the description before us is directly continued.
Job 16:8. And hast seized me (not “Thou makest me wrinkled,” Vulg., Luther [E. V., Lee, Rodwell] or “shrivelest me together, Del.—for קמט signifies “to press together, to fasten firmly together;” comp. Job 22:16. [Wordsworth attempts somewhat peculiarly to combine the two definitions: “Thou hast bound me fast with wrinkles, as with a chain”].—It is become a witness, viz., the fact that thou hast seized me; the circumstance that God makes him suffer so severely is—so at least it seems—a witness of his guilt. [This clause, taken in connection especially with the following parallelism, seems certainly to favor the rendering of the Vulg., E. V., etc. “thou hast filled me with wrinkles.” The witness against Job is naturally something which like his “leanness” is visible. The corrugation of the skin was a feature of elephantiasis more marked even than the emaciation of the body, and would hardly be omitted in so vivid a description of his condition as Job here gives. The primary signification of “seizing,” or “compressing” should not however be lost sight of; indeed it adds much to the terrible, force of the representation to retain it, and, with Wordsworth, to combine the two definitions, only in a somewhat different way from his; the true conception being that God—who in Job 16:12 is represented as seizing Job and dashing him in pieces,—is here represented as seizing, compressing him, until his body is shriveled, crumpled up into wrinkles.—E.]. In opposition to Ewald, who changes הָיָה into הַיָה (= הַוָּה, see Job 6:2; 30:13), and translates accordingly: “and calamity seized me as a witness ”—comp. Del. and Dillm. on the passage: [who object that it would leave לְעֵד without much of its force and emphasis, and that the construction would be too condensed and artificial].—And my leanness has appeared against me, accusing me to the face (speaking out against me, comp. Job 15:6b). On כַּחַשׁ = consumption, emaciation, comp. Ps. 109:24. The signification rests on a metaphor similar to that by virtue of which a dried-up brook is called a “liar” (Job 6:15 seq.).
Job 16:9. His anger has torn and made war upon me; He has gnashed against me with His teeth; as mine enemy He has whetted His eyes against me. God, who is now again spoken of in the third person, is imagined as a ferocious beast of prey, who is enraged against Job. So above in Job 10:16.—As to the “tearing,” comp. Hos. 6:1; the “making war,” Job 30:21; the “whetting” or “sharpening” of the eyes, Ps. 7:13 : also the acies oculorum of the Romans, and the modern expression, “to shoot a murderous look at any one”
Job 16:10. Men also, like God, fall upon Job, as his enemies, resembling beasts of prey.—They have opened wide their mouth against me (a gesture of insolent mockery, as in Ps. 22:8 ; Jer. 57:4); with abuse (i.e., with abusive speech) they strike me on the cheeks (comp. Mic. 4:14 [5:1]; Lam. 3:30; John 18:22; 19:3); together they strengthen themselves against me, or again: they complete; fill themselves up [= fill up their ranks] against me, for הְתְמַלֵּא means “to gather themselves together to a מְלֹא (Isa. 31:4), a heap;” not “to equip themselves with a full suit of armor,” as Hirzel would explain, supplying בַּרְזֶל.—The whole of this lamentation, which reminds us of Ps. 22., is general in its form; it contemplates nevertheless the hostile attacks made by the friends on Job, as in particular the word “together” in the third member shows—in hearing which the friends could not help feeling that they were personally aimed at in the strong expressions of the speaker, even as he on his part must have had his sensibilities hurt by such expressions as those of Eliphaz in Job 15:16 (see on the passage).
Job 16:11. God delivers me (comp. Deut. 23:16 ) to the unrighteous, and casts me headlong into the hand of the wicked. יִרְֽטֵנִי, Imperf. Kal. of ירט (contracted from יִירְטֵני, Ges., § 70 [§ 68], Rem. 3). [“The preformative Jod has Metheg in correct texts, so that we need not suppose, with Ralbag, a רטה similar in meaning to ירט.” Del.], præcipitem me dat; comp. LXX. ἔῤῥιψε and Symmachus ἐνέβαλε.—עֲויִל in the first member, “the perverted one, the reprobate, the unrighteous,” or again—“the boy” [der Bube, “or the boyish, childish, knavish one”] as Del. explains it, (referring to Job 19:18; 22:11), is used collectively for the plur., as the parallel term רְשָׁעִים in b shows.
Second Strophe: Job 16:12–17. Continuation of the description of the cruel and hostile treatment he had received from God, notwithstanding his innocence.
Job 16:12. I was at ease, and He then shattered me. שָׁלֵו, secure, unharmed, suspecting no evil; comp. Job 21:23; 3:26.—פַּרְֽפּרַ, Pilp. of פרר with strong intensive signification—“to shatter, to crush in pieces;” so also the following פִּצְפֵּץ, from פצץ, “to beat in pieces, to dash to pieces.” [“He compares himself to a man who is seized by the hair of his head, and thrown down a precipice, where his limbs are broken. He probably alludes to some ancient mode of punishing criminals.” Wemyss]. Observe the onomatopoetic element of these intensive forms, which furthermore are to be understood not literally or physically, but in a figurative sense of the sudden shattering of prosperity, and peace of soul.—And set me for a mark. מַטָּרָה (from נָטַר, τηρεῖν, like σκοπός from σκέπτεσθαι), target, mark, as in 1 Sam. 20:20; Lam. 3:12; comp. מִפְגַע above in Job 7:20.
Job 16:13 expands the figure in Job 12. c.—His arrows whirred about me. רַבָּיו, not “his troops, his archers” (Rabb. [E. V., Noy., Con., Car., Rod., Elz., etc.]), but according to the unanimous witness of the ancient versions: “his arrows, darts” (from רמה ,רבה – רבב, jacere, Gen. 49:23; comp. Gen. 21:10).—(He cleaves my reins without sparing, pours out on the earth my gall (comp. Lam. 2:11). Job here describes more specifically the terrible effect of God’s arrows, i.e., of the ailments inflicted on him by a hostile God (comp. Job 6:4, also the well-known mythological representations of classical antiquity), representing in accordance with the Hebrew conception the noblest and most sensitive of the inner organs of the body as affected, namely the reins, and also the gall-bladder. In view of the highly poetic character of the description, it is not necessary to inquire whether he conceives of the “outpouring” of the gall as taking place inwardly, without being at all perceptible externally, or whether, with a disregard of physiological possibility or probability, he represents it as something that is externally visible. It is moreover worthy of note that according to Arabic notions the “rupture of the gall-bladder” may really be produced by violent painful emotions. Comp. Delitzsch on the passage; also his Biblical Psychology [p. 317, Clark]; also my Theol. Naturalis, p. 618.
Job 16:14. He breaks through me breach upon breach. פֶּרֶץ, comp. Job 30:14, here as accus. of the object, united to its cognate verb; comp. Gesen., § 138 [§ 135] Rem. 1.—He runs upon me like a mighty warrior. In this new turn of the comparison Job, and in particular his body, appears as a wall, or a fortress, which is by degrees breached by missiles and battering-rams, and which God himself assaults by storm.
Job 16:15. I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin, i.e. I have girded around myself, and stitched together (about the loins) a closely fitting mourning garment of close hair (comp. שַׂק in Isa. 3:24; 20:2; 32:11; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30, etc.). The “sewing upon the skin” is doubtless to be understood only figuratively of the laying on of a closely fitting garment, which it is not intended to lay off immediately. Possibly, indeed, there may be an allusion to the cracked swollen skin of one diseased with elephantiasis, in which the hair of the sackcloth (cilicium) must of necessity stick (see my Kritische Gesch. der Ascese, p. 82 seq.). [See also Art. “Sackcloth” in SMITH’SBib. Dict. “Job does not say of it that he put it on, or slung it around him, but that he sewed it upon his naked body; and this is to be attributed to the hideous distortion of the body by elephantiasis, which will not admit of the use of the ordinary form of clothes.” Delitzsch]. In any case in referring to this stiff, almost dead skin, as a part of his fearfully distorted body, he chooses the term גֶּלֶד, which appears in Hebrew only here (though more common in Aram. and Arab.), and in contrast with עוֹר, the “sound, healthy skin,” may be translated “hide;” comp. the βύρσα of the LXX.—And have lowered (lit. “stuck,” see below) my horn—the symbol of power and of free manly dignity, comp. 1 Sam. 2:1, 10; Ps. 89:18 , 25 ; 92:11 ; etc., Luke 1:69—into the dust:—this being a sign of his humiliation, of his consciousness of the defeat, and of the deep sorrow which he has been called to endure. For this lowering of the horn into the dust of the earth is the direct opposite of “lifting up the horn” (Ps. 83:3  as a symbol of the increase of power and dignity. עוֹלֵל is with Saad., Rosenm., Ew., Hirz., Dillm., etc., to be derived from עלל, introire, of frequent use in the Aram, and Arab., and thus signifies “to stick into, to dig into.” If it were the Pil. of עלל, “to act,” meaning accordingly “to abuse,” or “to defile” (Targ., Pesch., Delitzsch [E. V., Schlott.] etc.), the לְ before the object would not be wanting; comp. Lam. 1:22; 2:20; 3:51. To be preferred to this is the translation—” I roll my horn in the dust” (Umbr., Vaihing., Hahn), a rendering which is etymologically admissible.
Job 16:16. My face is burning red with weeping. חֳמַרְמְרָה (instead of which we ought perhaps with the K’ri to read the plural חֳמַרְמְרוּ, unless we explain the fem., like תִּשְׁטֹף in Job 14:19, in accordance with Gesen., § 146, [§ 143], 3), Pualal of חמר, an intensive passive form, expressing the idea of being exceedingly reddened, glowing red (comp. Lam. 1:20; 2:11). [From the same root comes the name Alhambra, applied to the building from its color. See Delitzsch].—And on mine eyelashes is a death-shade, i.e., by reason of continuous weeping, and the weakening thereby of the power of sight, my eyes are encompassed by a gloom of night: [an explanation which Schlottmann characterizes as flat and prosaic. The idea is rather that in Job’s despondent mood he conceived of “the shadow of death” as gathering around. He had well-nigh wept himself out of life].
Job 16:17. Although no violence is in my hands (or clings to them) and my prayer is pure.—Job emphasizes his innocence here in contrast not only with Job 16:16, but with the whole description thus far given of the persecution which he had endured, Job 16:12–16.—עַל is used here, as in Is. 53:9, as a conjunction. in the sense of “notwithstanding that, although,” (Ewald, § 222, b), not as a preposition, as Hirzel explains it (“in spite of non-violence”).
4. Second Division. A vivid expression of the hope of a future recognition of his innocence: Job 16:18—17:9.
First Strophe: Job 16:18—ch. 17:2. [His confidence in God as his witness and vindicator—his only hope in view of the speedy approach of death].
Job 16:18. Earth, cover not thou my blood. i.e., drink it not up, let it lie open to view, and cry to heaven as a witness to my innocence, Comp. Gen. 4:10; Ezek. 24:7 seq.; Is. 26:21. [“As according to the tradition it is said to have been impossible to remove the stain of the blood of Zachariah, who was murdered in the court of the temple, until it was removed by the destruction of the temple itself.” Delitzsch. “According to the old belief no rain or dew: would moisten the spot marked by the blood of a person murdered when innocent, or change its blighted appearance into living green.” Ewald]. The second member also expresses essentially the same meaning: and let my cry have no resting-place, i.e., let not the cry for vengeance arising from my shed blood (or the cry of my soul poured out in my blood, Gen. 9:4, etc.), be stilled, let it not reach a place of rest, before it appears as my גוֹאֵל (Job 19:25) to deliver and avenge me. [“Therefore in the very God who appears to him to be a bloodthirsty enemy in pursuit of him, Job nevertheless hopes to find a witness of his innocence: He will acknowledge his blood, like that of Abel, to be the blood of an innocent man. It is an inward irresistible demand made by his faith which here brings together two opposite principles—principles which the understanding cannot unite—with bewildering boldness. Job believes that God will even finally avenge the blood which His wrath has shed, as blood that has been innocently shed.” Delitzsch].
Job 16:19. Even now behold in heaven my witness, and my attestor (שָׂהֵד, LXX. συνίστωρ, an Aram, synonym of עֵד, witness, comp. Gen. 31:47) in the heights.—In regard to מְרומִים as a synonym, of שָׁמַיִם, comp. Job 25:2; 31:2. גַם עַתָּה, “even now,” (not “now however,” Ewald) sets the present condition of Job, apparently quite forsaken, but in reality still supported and upheld by God as a heavenly witness of his innocence, in contrast with a future period, when he will be again publicly acknowledged and brought to honor. This more prosperous and happy future he does not yet indeed realize so vividly as later in Job 19:25 seq. That of which he speaks here is only the contrast between his apparent forsakenness, and the fact that, as he firmly believes, God in heaven is still on his side. [“If his blood is to be one day avenged, and his innocence recognized, he must have a witness of the same. And reflecting upon it he remembers that even now, when appearances are all against him, he has such a witness in God in heaven.” Dillm.].
Job 16:20. [“The conduct of the friends in denying, nay in mocking his innocence, compels him to cling to this God in heaven.” Dillm.].—They who mock me (lit., “my mockers,” with strong accent on “mockers”) are my friends. [“It is worthy of remark that the word here used, melits, signifies also an interpreter, an intercessor, and is employed in that sense; below, Job 33:23; comp. Gen. 42:23; 2 Chron. 32:31; Is. 43:27; and some, as Professors Lee and Carey, have assigned that sense to the word here, ‘My true interpreters are my friends;’ and they suppose in this word, here and in 33:23, a prophetic reference to the Mediator. But the Auth. Ver. appears to be correct; and the similarity of the words serves to bring out the contrast between the unkindness of man, and the mercy of God.” Words.].—To Eloah mine eye poureth tears:i.e. although my friends mock me, instead of taking me under their protection, and attesting my innocence, I still direct to God a look of tearful entreaty that He would do justice, etc.—[“An equally strong emphasis lies here on subj. and predicate: ‘My friends’ stands in contrast with God; ‘my mockers’ in contrast with ‘my witness,’ Job 16:19; and finally also ‘my mockers’ in contrast with ‘my friends.’ ” Schlottm.]. Ew., Dillm., etc., take the first member, less suitably, as assigning the reason for the second: “because my friends are become such as mock me, mine eye pours out tears to Eloah,” etc.
Job 16:21 states the object of the weeping (i.e., the yearning) look which he lifts up to God. This object is twofold: (1) That He would do justice to a man before God: lit. “that He would decide (וְיוֹכַח, voluntative expressing the final end, as in Job 9:33) for the man against Eloah, or with Eloah (עִם as in Ps. 55:19 ; 94:16  of an opponent); i.e., that before His own bar He would pronounce me not guilty, that He would cease to misunderstand and to persecute me as an enemy, but would rather assist me to my right, and so appear on my side. (2) (That He would do justice) to the son of man against his friend, that He would justify me against my human friend (רֵעֵהוּ distributively for רֵעָיו), and set me forth as innocent—which would result immediately upon his justification before God’s bar. For the interchange of “man” and “son of man” in poetic parallelism, comp. Ps. 8:5. It is not necessary to adopt Ewald’s suggestion (Jahrb. der bibl. Wissenschaft, IX. 38) to read בֵּין אָדָם, instead of בֶּן־א׳, in order to acquire a more suitable construction for חוכיח. The construction according to the common reading presents nothing that is objectionable, scarcely anything that is particularly harsh. The influence of the לְ of the first member extends forward to בֶּן־אָדָם (as in. Job 15:3), and the לְ before רֵעֵהוּ = “in respect to, against,” supplies the place of the עִם of the first member. It would be much harsher were we, with Schlottmann, Ewald (in Comm.), and Olsh. to translate the second member: “and judges man against his friend,” a rendering which is condemned by the usage of the language, for הוֹכִיחַ with accus. of person never signifies “to judge,” but always “to punish, reprove.” [“Job appeals from God to God: he hopes that truth and love will finally decide against wrath. … Schlottmann aptly recalls the saying of the philosophers, which applies here in a different sense from that in which it is meant: Nemo contra Deum, nisi Deus ipse.” Del. “The prayer of Job is fulfilled in Job 42:7; and that too in a sense quite otherwise than that which Job had ventured to hope for, even in this life. This is again one of the passages where the poet permits his hero, in an exalted moment, to enjoy a presage of the issue.” Dillm.] Concerning the theological significance of the wish here expressed by Job, that he might, be justified by God before God as well as before men; comp. the Doctrinal and Ethical Remarks.
Job 16:22. Giving the reason why Job longs to be vindicated, arising from the fact that his end is near, and that for him who has once died there is no prospect of a return to this life, [This, however, is not to be understood as a reason given why God should interpose speedily to vindicate him before his death. Rather the argument, is drawn from the hopelessness of his physical condition. Death was sure and near; that recovery which the friends promised on condition of repentance was out of the question: hence if he is to be vindicated, it must be by God, who can do it when he is gone.]—For years that may be numbered are coming on, and by a path without return shall I go hence.—The thought is substantially the same as in Job 7:7–10; and 10:20 seq.—שְׁנוֹת מִסְפַּר, lit. “years of number” (Gen. 34:30; Ps. 105:12), are years that may be numbered, i.e. a few years (LXX: ἔτη ἀριθ μητά), by which we are naturally to understand those which still remain before his death, the remaining years of his life (not all the years of his life, as Hahn and Del. explain). For יֶאֱתָיוּ (in regard to the form, comp. on Job 12:6) can only mean: “they are coming on, they stand before me,” not: “they are passing away” (transeunt, Vulg., etc.), nor: “their end is coming on” (Hahn, Del.). That Job here announces the sad issue in which the rapid and inevitably fatal course of the elephantiasis generally resulted, is shown by the conclusion of the discourse, Job 17:11–16.
Job 17:1 [the chapter-division here being manifestly errroneous] continues the statement of the reason given in Job 16:22. It consists of abrupt sob-like ejaculations of which it may be truly said with Oetinger that they form “the requiem, which Job chants for himself even while yet living.”—My spirit is disturbed, so correctly most moderns, taking רוּחִי in the sense of “the spirit or power.” The translation: “my breath is corrupt,” or “destroyed” (De Wette, Del. [B.V., Rod., Elz., Con., Ber.], etc.), is less suitable here to the connection, which requires, as the subject of Job’s expression, not that single symptom of a short and fetid breath [which would be a much less conclusive indication that his days were numbered than others which he might have mentioned], referred to also in Job 7:15; 19:17; but requires rather some sign of the incipient dissolution of the whole psychical bodily organism, a failure of the vital principle.—My days are extinct (דעך = זעך, Job 6:17, which some MSS. exhibit here also); graves await me [Rodney: for me the tombs!]. Comp. the Arabic proverb: “to be a grave-companion (Ssâchib el-kubûr);” also the familiar saying of Luther: “to walk on the grave;” and the modern expression: “to stand with one foot in the grave.”
Job 17:2. Verily mockery surrounds me: and on their quarreling mine eye must dwell.—So substantially Welte, Arnh., Del., Dillm. [Schlott,, Con., Words.], whose rendering of this difficult verse is the most satisfactory; for (1) It is best to take אִם־לֹא, as in Job 1:11; 22:20; 31:36, etc., as a formula of asseveration=“verily, truly.” (2) הֲתֻלִים (or according to another reading הֲתֻלִּים is an abstract term, formed from הֵתֵל = mockery, scoffing (not “deception,” as Hirzel renders it); to render it as a concrete term in the sense of “mockers” [E. V., Noyes, etc.], or “beguiled,” is at variance with the laws governing the formation of Hebrew words (see Ew. § 153, a; 179, a, b).—(3) הַמְרוֹתָם is Inf. Hiph. with suffix, from מרה, which means in Hiph. “to make refractory,” to incite to strife, to contend with one. The word is written with Dagh. dirimens in מ, comp. 9:18; Joel 1:17, etc.—(4) תָּלַן, Jussive or Voluntative form of לין, to lodge, to tarry (comp. Job 19:4; 29:19; 31:32), is a pausal form for תָּלֵן, which occurs also in Judg. 19:20, the use of which in a non-pausal position seems to be purely arbitrary, or rests possibly on euphonic grounds (the liquids l and n in juxtaposition being treated as though they were gutturals: comp. Ewald, § 141, b, Rem. 2). (5) The sense of the entire verse, according to the construction here given, is decidedly more suitable to the context: Of a truth it is mocking me (ה׳ עִמָּדִי, lit. “mockery is with me, befalls me”) to force me, who am standing on the verge of the grave to confess a guilt from which I know myself to be free; and such hateful quarrelsome conduct it is that I must have continually before my eyes!—Other renderings are e.g.—a. That of the Pesh., Vulg., and recently of Hirzel, which takes הֲתֻלִים in sense of “deception, illusion.” Thus Hirzel’s rendering is: “If deception is not with me, then let them continually henceforth quarrel.” b. That of Rosenmüller: annon illusiones mecum, et in adversando eorum pernoctat oculus meus.—c. That of Ewald (in part also of Eichhorn, Umbr.): “If only I were not mocked and mine eye were not obliged to dwell,” etc.—d. The rendering in part similar to the latter, of Vaih. and Heiligst.—“Oh, that mockery did not surround me! then could mine eye abide in peace with their contention!”—e. That of Stickel and Hahn: “Or are there not around me those who are deluded? must not mine eye dwell on their contention?”—[f. That of Renan: “May it please God that traitors might be far from me, and that mine eye be never more afflicted with their quarrels!”]
Second Strophe: Job 17:3–9. Repetition of the yearning and trustful supplication to God as the only remaining attestor or witness of his innocence now remaining to him in view of the heartless coldness, nay the hostility of his human friends.—Oh, lay down [now], be Thou bondsman for me with Thyself! who else will furnish surety to me? The thought is not substantially different from that in Job 16:21, only that the representation which there predominates of an adjudication in favor of Job’s innocence is here replaced by that of pledging or binding one’s self as security for it. For all the expressions of the verse are borrowed from the system of pledging. With the Imper. שִׂימָה is to be supplied, as the following lowing עָרִבֵנִי shows, an accus. of the object, “a pledge, security.” It is not necessary with Reiske and Olsh. to change עָרְבֵנִי to עַרְבֹנִי, arrhabonem meam. The following עִמָּךְ, indicating the person with whom the pledge is deposited, again represents God, precisely as in Job 16:21, as being, so to speak, divided, or separated into two persons. The word of entreaty ערב (which appears also in Is. 38:14. and Ps. 119:122, and which is here used with the accus. of the person following in the sense of “representing any one mediatorially as ἔγγυος or μεσίτης) is replaced in the second member by the circumstantial phrase נִתְקַע לְיָד, to give surety by striking hands. For this is the meaning of the phrase, which elsewhere reads תָּקַע יָד, or כַּף (Prov. 6:1; 17:18; 22:26), or simply תָּקַע (Prov. 11:15). Here, however, where, instead of the person, the hand of the person is mentioned (לְיָדִי, instead of the simple לִי, which, according to Prov. 6:1, we might be led to expect), the reflexive Niphal is used; hence literally: “who will strike himself [scil. his hand] into my hand;” i. e. who will (by a solemn striking of hands, as in a pledge) bind himself to me to vindicate publicly my innocence? What man will do this if Thou, God, doest it not?
Job 17:4 assigns a reason for this prayer for God’s intervention as his security in the shortsightedness and narrow-mindedness of the friends: for Thou hast closed [lit. hid] their heart to [lit. from] understanding (to [from] a correct knowledge in respect to my innocence), therefore Thou wilt not let them prevail: lit. wilt not exalt them, i. e. above me, who am unjustly injured by them, but wilt rather at last confound them by demonstrating my innocence (as actually came to pass, Job 42:7). תְּרוֹמֵם, Imperf. Pil. of רוּם with plur. suffix, is a contraction of תְּרוֹמְמֵם, with omission of Dagh. forte in מ on account of the preceding long ô. The correction תְּרֻמֵּם (suggested by Dillm. with a reference to Job 31:15; 41:2 K’ri) is unnecessary, as also the explanation of תְּרוֹמֵם as a Hithpael noun, signifying “striving upward, improvement, victory” (Ew.).
Job 17:5 continues the consideration of the unfriendly conduct of the friends. Friends are delivered for a spoil, while the eyes of their (lit. “of his”) children languish.—חֵלֶק, “a share of booty, spoil” (according to Num. 31:36) denotes here in particular, as the word הִגִּיד makes probable, mortgaged property, an article in pledge, distrained from a debtor by a judicial execution; הִגִּיד לְחֵלֶק (for ה׳ לִהְיוֹת חֵלֶק, comp. 1 Kings 14:2; Jer. 13:21) signifies to advertise and offer for sale such a pledged article in court; or, more simply and briefly, to distrain, to seize upon by means of a judicial execution. The subject of יַגִּיד is indefinite [“one exposes friends,” i. e., “friends are exposed”] (comp. Job 6:20). In the object רֵעִים Job certainly points immediately to himself, for certainly he only was the victim of the heartless conduct of the three. He purposely, however, expresses himself by a general proposition; for his whole description is as yet only ideal, imaginative. In the second member, as the sing, suffix in בָּנָיו shows, he again speaks only of himself as the one who was ill-treated, continuing the description (by means of an enallage of number, similar to that in Job 18:5; 24:5, 16; 27:23), as though he had in a written רֵעַ or רֵעֵהוּ. Hence literally: “and the eyes of his children languish,” or “although the eyes of his children languish” (Ewald, Stickel, Heiligst., Hahn, Dillmann, etc.). Many of the ancients, and also De Wette, Delitzsch [Noyes, Con., Renan, Barnes, Wem., Car., Wordsw., Rod.], etc., translate: “Whoso spoileth friends, the eyes of his children must fail” (or, optatively, “may the eyes of his children fail!” So Rosenmüller, Vaihinger). [The E. V. adopts the same view of the general construction, but less appropriately takes חֵלֶק in the sense of “flattery:” “He that speaketh flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail.”] In this way, doubtless, the harshness of that change of number is avoided; but so to predict (or even to wish for) the punishment of the evil-doer seems here too little suited to the context, and especially does not agree with the contents of the following verse. [But it certainly agrees very well with the last member of the preceding verse, the thought of which it both confirms and expands. God would not, could not, favor the friends, for they had betrayed friendship, and thus had incurred judgment in which their posterity would share. Job 17:5 may be, as conjectured by some, a proverbial saying quoted by Job to emphasize Job 17:4b. The “pining of the eyes” is a frequent figure for suffering. This last construction has in its favor, therefore: (1) That it is suitable to the connection. (2) That it avoids the harshness of the other construction, with its sudden change of number, and its strained introduction of the reference to the betrayed one’s children, which is particularly pointless when applied to the childless Job. (3) It takes away from Job 17:4 the isolation which belongs to it, according to the other construction, and provides a much simpler transition from Job 17:4 to Job 17:5.—E.]
Job 17:6 seq. Continued description of the unfriendly conduct of the friends, only Unit the same is now directly charged on God. And He (viz., God, who is manifestly to be understood here as the subject of the verb) has set me for a proverb to the world.—מְשֹׁל, a substant. infinitive (comp. Job 12:4), means a proverb, simile, sensu objective, hence an object of ridicule [or, as in E. V., “by-word”]. ַעמִּים, lit. “nations,” denotes here not the races living around Job (e. g., those “gipsy-like troglodytes” who are more fully described in Job 24:30, and who, Delitzsch thinks, may possibly be intended here), but the common people generally (vulgus, plebs), hence equivalent to the great multitude, the world; comp. Prov. 24:24. And I must be one to be spit upon in the face.—תֹּפֶת (only here in the O. T.) denotes spittle, an object spit upon; לְפָנִים is in the closest union with it (comp. Num. 12:14; Deut. 25:9). A תֹּפֶת לְפָ׳ is accordingly one into whose face any body spits, the object of the most unqualified public detestation. Comp. Job 30:9 seq., from which passage it also appears that Job speaks here not only of that which his friends did to him, but that he uses עַמּים in a more comprehensive sense.
Job 17:7. Then mine eye became dim with grief (כעשׂ, as in Job 6:2; and comp. Job 16:16; Ps. 6:8 ; 31:10 ), and all my members (lit. “my frames, bodily frames, or structures”) are as shadows [better on account of the generic הַ, “as a shadow”], i. e., so meagre and emaciated, like intangible shadows, or phantoms; comp. Job 19:20.
Job 17:8. The upright are astonished at this—because they cannot understand how things can come to such a pass with one of their sort. And the innocent is roused against the ungodly—lit. “stirred up” by anger—in an opposite sense to that of Job 31:29, describing “the innocent man’s sense of justice as being aroused on account of the prosperity of the חָנֵף, comp. Ps. 37:1; 73.” HIRZEL.
Job 17:8. Nevertheless the righteous holds fast on his way (the way of piety and rectitude in which he has hitherto walked), and he that is of clean hands (lit. “and the clean-of-hands,” וּטְהָר־, as in Prov. 22:11) increaseth in strength (יוֹסִיף, of inward increase, or growth of strength, as in Eccles. i:18).—The whole verse is of great significance as an expression of the cheerful confidence in his innocence and deliverance which Job reaches after the bitter reflections of Job 17:5 seq. So far from realizing the reproach of Eliphaz in Job 15:4, that he would “destroy piety and diminish devotion before God,” he holds fast on his godly way, yea, travels it still more joyously and vigorously than before (comp. Doctrinal and Ethical Remarks). [“These words of Job (if we may be allowed the figure) are like a rocket, which shoots above the tragic darkness of the book, lighting it up suddenly, although only for a short time.” DEL.]
5. Third Division: Sixth Strophe. Severe censure of the admonitions of the friends, as devoid of understanding, and without any power to comfort, Job 17:10–16.
Job 17:10. But as for ye all (כֻּלָּם for כֻּלְּכֶם as in 1 Kings 22:28, and Mic. 1:2 [corresponding more to the form of a vocative clause—Del.]; the preceding וְאוּלָם is here written וְֹאֻלָּם, with sharpened tone, for the sake of assonance)—come on again, I pray.—תָּשׁוּבוּ, instead of the Imper. שׁוּבוּ, which we might have expected, but which cannot stand so well at the beginning of the clause (comp. Ew., § 229) [besides that, as Delitzsch remarks, the first verb is used adverbially, iterum, denuo, according to GESEN., § 142 (§ 139), 3 a—and not either of a physical return, as though, irritated by his words, they had made a movement to depart (Renan), or of a mental return from their hostility (see 6:29).—E.]. In this sense it is followed by the supplementary verb בּוֹא in the Imperf., connected with it by ו. I shall nevertheless not find a wise man among you—i. e., your heart remains closed against a right understanding of my condition (see Job 17:4), however often and persistently you may attempt, to justify your attacks upon me. [“He means that they deceive themselves concerning the actual state of the case before them; for in reality he is meeting death without being deceived, or allowing himself to be deceived, about the matter.” DEL.]
Job 17:11 seq. prove this charge of a defective understanding on the part of the friends by setting forth the nearness of Job’s end, and the almost complete exhaustion of his strength: this fact is fatal to their preconceived opinion as to the possibility of a joyful restoration of his prosperity, such as they had frequently set forth as depending on his sincere repentance. My days are gone (being quite near their end—comp. Job 16:22), my plans are broken off (זִמּוֹת, lit. “connections, combinations,” from זמם, “to bind together,” the same as מְזִמּות elsewhere, Job 21:27; 42:2;—but not sensu malo, but in the good sense of the plans of his life which had been destroyed), the nurslings [Pfleglinge] of my heart.—מוֹרָשֵׁי are things which are coveted and earnestly Bought after, favorite projects, plans affectionately cherished; comp. אָרַשׁ, to long after, Ps. 21:3 [from which root Dillmann suggests the present noun may be derived (מוֹרָשׁ for מֹארָשׁ, like מוֹסֵר for מֹאסֵר from אסר), which would give at once the meaning, “desires, coveted treasures.” So apparently Zöckler. If, according to the prevailing view, it be taken from ירשׁ, the meaning will be peculia, cherished possessions.—E.] Not so suitable is the definition “possessions” (from ירשׁ, possidere, after Obad. Job 17:17 and Isa. 14:23), while the rendering ἄρθρα (LXX.), cords or bands [or, as Del. suggests, “joints, instead of valves of the heart”] (Gekat., Ewald) is entirely unsupported, and decidedly opposed to the laws of the language.
Job 17:12. They change night into day (comp. Isa. 5:20), inasmuch, to wit, as they picture before me joyous anticipations of life (thus Eliphaz in Job 5:17 seq.; Bildad in Job 8:20 seq.; Zophar in Job 11:13 seq.), while not-withstanding I have before me only the dark night of death. Light is to be near (lit. “is near,” i. e., according to their assertions) in the presence of darkness, i. e., there where the darkness is still present, or in conspectu;מִפְּנֵי, here therefore = coram, comp. Job 23:17 (so Umbreit, Vaih., Del.). Others (Ew., Hirz., Stick., Dillm.) take מִפְּנֵי in the comparative sense: light is nearer than the face of darkness, i. e., than the visible darkness, which, however, is less suitable in the parallelism. The same is true of the explanation of Welte—“and they bring the light near to the darkness;” of Rosenmüller—“light is near the darkness,” and similarly the LXX.; of Schlottmann—“light, to which the darkness already draws near;” of Renan—“Ah! but your light resembles the darkness!” etc.—Note still further that here in Job 17:11–12, where the tone of lamentation is resumed, those short, sob-like ejaculations appear again, which we have already met with above in Job 17:1–2. [The explanation here given does not seem to harmonize perfectly with the context. With Job 17:10 Job seems to dismiss the friends from his present discourse. He flings that verse at them as a parting contemptuous challenge, and so takes his leave of them. With Job 17:11 he enters on the pathetic elegiac strain with which he closes each one of his discourses thus far (see Job 7:22; 10:20 seq.; 14:18 seq.). Job 17:11, 12 are characterized, as Zöckler justly remarks, by “brief, sob-like ejaculations” (as in Job 17:1, 2), which are more befitting the elegy of a crushed heart than the sarcasm of a bitter spirit. Job makes himself the theme of the whole passage from Job 17:11 to Job 17:16. He is pre-occupied exclusively with his own lamentable condition and prospects, not with the course of his friends, any reference to which after Job 17:10 would interrupt the self-absorption of his sorrow. Supposing Job then to be occupied with himself solely, it follows that יָשִׂימוּ is to be taken impersonally, and the verse may be explained either—a. With Noyes: “Night, hath become day to me (i. e. I have sleepless nights; I am as much awake by night as by day), the light bordereth on darkness (i. e. the day seems very short; the daylight seems to go as soon as it is come).” Or b. We may translate: “Night will (soon) take the place of day, light (in which I am tarrying for a brief season, awaiting my abode in Sheol, Job 17:13) is not far from darkness (קָרוֹב מִפְּנֵי, prope abest ab; LXX. φῶς ἐγγὺ ἀπὸ προσώπου σκότους = οὐμακρὰν σκ̓., according to Olympiodorus.—The use of פְּנֵי with מִן, which Delitzsch objects to this rendering, is finely poetic. The darkness faces him, stares upon him, close at hand, just on the other side of this narrow term of light which is left to him). In favor of b may be urged: (1) The use of the fut. יָשִׂימוּ, following the preterites in Job 17:11.—(2) The analogy of Is. 5:20, where שִׂים לְ means to put for, exchange, substitute. (3) It preserves the continuity of Job’s reflections on his own condition, and his immediate prospects. (4) The thought is in admirable harmony with the description which immediately follows, in which he represents himself as lingering on the verge of Sheol, awaiting his speedy departure thither, preparing his couch in that darkness which is so near, etc.—E.]
Job 17:13 seq. show how far Job was right in seeing before his eyes nothing but night and darkness, and in giving up the hope of a state of greater prosperity which was held up before him by the friends, Job 17:13, 14 form the conditional protasis, introduced by אִם on which all the verbs in both verses depend, Job 17:15 being the apodosis, introduced by וְ consec. [Of which view of the construction, however, Delitzsch remarks) “There is no objection to this explanation so far as the syntax is concerned; but there will then be weighty thoughts which are also expressed in the form of fresh thoughts, for which independent clauses seem more appropriate, under the government of אִם as if they were pre-suppositions.” And see below.]
Job 17:13. If I hope for the underworld as my house [or abode], have spread in the darkness my couch.—[Delitzsch agrees with the E. V. in the construction: “If I wait, it is for Sheol as my house.” Gesenius, Fürst and Conant take הֵן = אִם, “Lo!” as in Hos. 12:12; Jer. 31:20.]
Job 17:14. If I have cried out to the grave: Thou art my father!—שַׁחַת, grave (comp. Job 9:31) in Heb. is strictly speaking feminine, here, however, it is construed ad sensum as a masculine (as is the case elsewhere with such feminines as דַּעַת ,נְחשֶׁת ,קֶשֶׁת, etc., comp. Ges., Thes., p. 1878). It is unnecessary with the LXX., Vulg., Pesh., to take שׁחת here in the sense of “death,” or with Nachman, Rosenm,, Schlottm., Del. [E. V., Con., Car.], etc., to assign to it the meaning: “corruption, rottenness” as though it were derived from שָׁחַת, not from שׁוּחַ, fodere: moreover the existence of such a second substant. שׁחת = corruption is susceptible of certain proof from no other passage. In regard to the bold poetic expression here given to the inward familiarity of Job with the state of death which lay before him, comp. Ps. 88:19 ; Prov. 7:4; also below Job 30:29.
Job 17:15. Apodosis: Where then (as to אֵפוֹ, which, notwithstanding the accents, is to be drawn into union with the preceding אַיֵּה, where? comp. on Job 9:24) is (now) my hope? Yea, my hope, who sees it?i. e., I who exhibits it to me as really well founded? who discloses it to me? In both clauses one and the same hope is intended, that viz. of the restoration of his prosperity in this life, even before death [this hope, Dillmann remarks, being the hope which, according to the friends, he should have, not the hope which, according to Job 17:13, he really has].
Job 17:16. To the bars of the grave it sinks down, when at the same time there is rest in the dust.—The subject here also is תִּקְוָתִי, Job 17:15, this hope being regarded as single, although the expression there was doubled. הֵּרַדְנָה is a poetic alternate form for תֵּרַד (Ew., § 191, Gesen., § 47, Rem. 3), not third pers. plur., as the old translators [and E. V.] rendered the form, and as among moderns [Green, § 88, Schlottm.], Böttcher and Dillmann take it, the latter supposing that the hope which Job really had, mentioned in Job 17:13, and the hope attributed to him by the friends in Job 17:15, are the two subjects of the verb.—בַּדֵּי שְׁאֹל are “bars of the underworld, of the realm of the dead,” not its “clefts” (Böttcher), nor its “bounds” (Hahn); for again in Ex. 25:13 seq.; 27:6 seq.; Hos. 11:6, בַּדִּים signifies “carrying poles,” or “cross-beams” (vectes). And whereas, according to many other passages, Sheol is represented as provided with doors or gates (Job 38:17; Is. 38:10; Ps. 9:14 ; 107:18), its “cross-beams” or “bars” signify essentially the same with its gates (comp. Lam. 2:9). In יַחַד, “at the same time” (not “together” [E. V.], as Hahn renders it, understanding it to be affirmed of the descending hope, and of Job at his death). Job expresses a thought similar to that in Job 14:22, the thought, namely, that the rest of his body in the dust coincides in time with the descent of the soul to Hades. נָֽחַת, pausal form for נחת, “rest,” signifies here the rest of the lifeless body in the grave: comp. Is. 26:19; Ps. 22:30 .
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The central point of this new reply of Job’s—and it is that which principally shows progress on the part of the sorely afflicted sufferer out of his spiritual darkness to a clearer perception and a brighter frame of mind—lies in the expression of a yearning hops in his future justification by God, which is found in the last section but one of the discourse, and which constitutes the real kernel of the argument. Inasmuch as the friends, instead of ministering to him loving sympathy and true comfort were become his “mockers” (Job 16:20), he finds himself all the more urgently driven to God alone as his helper, and the guardian of his innocence. Hence it is that he now suddenly turns to the same God, whom he had just before described in the strongest language as his ferocious, deadly enemy and persecutor, as well as the author of the suffering inflicted on him even by his human enemies, and, full of confidence, calls Him his “witness in heaven,” and his “attestor on high” (Job 16:19), who is already near to him, and who will not permit the earth to drink up his blood, which cries out to heaven, and thus to silence his self-vindication (Job 16:18). Nay, more: he lifts up his tearful eye with courageous supplication to God, praying Him that He would “do justice” to him before Himself, that He would represent him before His own judicial tribunal, interceding in his behalf, acquitting him, and thus vindicating his innocence against his human accusers (Job 16:21). “We see distinctly here how Job’s idea of God becomes brighter in that it becomes dualized (in that he prays to God Himself, the author of his sufferings, as his deliverer and helper). The God who delivers Job to death as guilty, and the God who cannot leave him unvindicated—even though it should be only after death—come forth distinct and separate as darkness from light out of the chaos of temptation.…Thus Job becomes here the prophet of the issue of his own course of suffering; and over his relation to Eloah and to the friends, of whom the former abandons him to the sinner’s death, and the latter declare him to be guilty, hovers the form of the God of the future, which now breaks through the darkness, from whom Job believingly awaits and implores what the God of the present withholds from him” (Del. i. 310–311).—The same duality between the God of the present as a God of terror, and the Redeemer-God of the future, becomes apparent in the earnest entreaty which is further on addressed to God, that He “would become a bondsman with Himself” for Job, seeing that He is the only possible guarantor of his innocence (Job 17:3). Not less does this duality between a God of truth, who knows and attests his righteous conduct, and a God of absolute power and fury, lie also at the foundation of the confident declaration which concludes this whole section, according to which the righteous man, untroubled by the suspicions and attacks of his enemies, “holds fast on his way,” and in respect of his innocence and purity only “increases in strength” (Job 17: 9). That to which Job here gives expression, primarily indeed in the form of entreaty, of yearning desire, or as an inference from religious and ethical postulates, acquires, when considered in its historical connection with his deliverance, the significance of an indirect prophecy, referring not only to the actual historical issue of his own suffering (which in fact ends with just such a vindication as he here wishes for himself), but also in general to the completed reconciliation of God with sinful humanity in Christ.—For this work of reconciliation was accomplished, according to 2 Cor. 5:19, precisely as Job here wishes for it. God was in Christ, and reconciled the world to Himself. He officiated as Judge, acquitting, and as Advocate, vindicating, in one person. He became in Christ His own Mediator with humanity (Gal. 3:20), and caused that “suretyship with Himself” to come to pass, which Job here wishes and longs for, in that He sent His own Son to be the “Mediator” (μεσίτης, 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 12:24), or a “surety” (ἔγγυος, Heb. 7:22) of the New Covenant, and so established for fallen humanity, subject to sin and to death, its penalty, an eternal redemption, which is ever renewed in each individual. The older expositors have for the most part failed to recognize this profounder typical and prophetic sense of the passage, obscured as it is by the erroneous translations of the verses in question given by the LXX. and the Vulgate. Comp. however the remarks of Cocceius below on Job 16:19 seq.
2. Although however Job seems by the profound truth and the striking power of these bold prophetic anticipations of his future vindication to be making most significant advances in the direction of more correct knowledge, and to be at any rate far above the limited and elementary conceptions of his friends, there is nevertheless in the midst of all this soaring of his purer and better consciousness to God one thing perceptibly wanting. It is the penitent confession of his sins. He not only calls himself a “righteous” man, and “pure of hands,” (Job 17:9), but with all earnestness he regards himself as such (comp. Job 16:17). He will by no means admit that his suffering is in any sense, or in any degree whatever, the punishment of his sins. In this particular he falls short of that which he himself has before this expressly conceded (Job 14:4). As the friends, in consequence of their superficial judgment, greatly exaggerated his guilt, so he, by no means free as yet from Pelagian self-righteousness, exaggerates his innocence. The justification which he wishes and hopes for, is not the New Testament δικαίωσις, that Divine act of grace declaring the repentant sinner righteous. It is only the Divine attestation of an innocence and freedom from sin, which he deems himself to possess in perfection. It thus stands very nearly related to that lawyer’s “willing to justify himself” which is mentioned in Luke 10:29; and is altogether different from that disposition which at last the actual justification and restoration of Job to favor produced (Job 42:6). Again—what he says in Job 16:15 seq. of thrusting his horn into the dust, of continuous weeping, of wearing sackcloth, has no reference to signs of actual repentance (a view often met with in the ancient commentators); these things are simply indications of physical pain, referring to a humiliation which proceeded less out of a complete and profound acquaintance with sin, than out of the sense of severe painful suffering (comp. above on this passage). With this defective knowledge of self, and partial self-righteousness, in which Job shows himself to be as yet entangled, is closely connected the gross harshness of the judgment concerning the friends, with which he requites their inconsiderate words against himself; characterizing them as windy phrase-mongers (Job 16:3), as unwise (Job 17:4, 10), as impudent mockers (Job 16:20; 17:2), as hard-hearted extortioners and distrainers (Job 17:5), yea, as belonging to the category of “children of the world” (Job 17:6), of the unrighteous and wicked (Job 16:10, 11), of the profligate (Job 17:8). Closely connected with it in like manner is the harsh and extreme judgment in which he indulges of that which God does against him; the description which he gives of Him as a mighty warrior rushing upon him with inexorable, nay with bloodthirsty cruelty (Job 16:12–14), attributing to Him as the higher cause all the ignominy and injustice which he had suffered through the friends (Job 16:11 seq.; 17:6 seq.). And finally here belongs the gloomy hopelessness in respect to the issue of his life into which his spirit sinks down again, (Job 17:11–16) from the courage and confidence to which it had been raised in the last section but one. This despair is in palpable contradiction with the better confidence which like a flash of light had illuminated the darkness of his anguished soul, although it is in unison with the state of the sufferer’s heart in this stage of his education in the school of suffering, lacking as it does as yet the complete exactness and purity of moral self-knowledge, and as a consequence the real stability and joyfulness of faith in God’s power to save. So it is that the hope, which again emerges in his next discourse, that his innocence will be acknowledged in a better hereafter, is by no means held by him with a firm and decided grasp, but rather appears only as a transient flash across the prevailing darkness of his soul.
3. Job suffers as a righteous man, comparatively, and for that reason the complaints of his anguished heart in this discourse resemble even in manifold peculiarities of expression that which other righteous sufferers of the Old Testament say in the outgushings of their hearts, e. g., the Psalmist in Ps. 22. (comp. above on Job 16:10), Ps. 44. and 69. (comp. especially the words: “I am made a byword to the world,” Job 17:6, with Ps. 44:15 , and 69:12 ); also the servant of Jehovah in the second division of Isaiah; comp. Job 17:8, “the righteous are astonished thereat,” with Isa. 52:14; also Job 16:16, 17—“My face is burning red with weeping, etc., … although no wrong cleaves to my hands,” etc., with Isa. 53:9—“although he hath done no violence, neither is any deceit found in his mouth:”—likewise Job 16:19—“Even now behold in heaven my witness,” with Is. 50:8 seq. (“He is near that justifieth me, who will condemn me?” etc.). Notwithstanding these and the like correspondences with the lamentations and prayers of other righteous sufferers, Seinecke (Der Grundgedanke des B. Hiob, 1863, p. 34 seq.) goes too far when, on the ground of such correspondences in this and in other discourses of Job, he regards Job as being in general an allegorical figure of essentially the same significance with the servant of God in Isaiah, and hence as a poetic personification of the suffering people of Israel. Scarcely can it be definitely said that the poet “by the relation to the passion-psalms stamped on the picture of the affliction of Job, has marked Job, whether consciously or unconsciously, as a typical person; that by taking up, and not unintentionally either, many national traits, he has made it natural to interpret Job as a Mashal of Israel” (Delitzsch I. 313). There is too evident a lack of distinct intimations of such a purpose on the part of the poet to justify us in assuming anything more than the fact that the illustrious sufferer of Uz has a typical significance for many pious sufferers of later (post-patriarchal, and post-solomonic) times, and that consequently later poets, the authors of the Lamentation-Psalms, or prophets (such as Isaiah, possibly also Ezekiel and Zechariah) borrowed many particular traits from the picture of his suffering. Moreover, in view of the uncertainty touching such a relation of the matter, we can only warn against any homiletic application of this Messianic-allegorical conception of Job as being essentially identical with the “servant of God.” The exposition for practical edification of the section Job 16:18–17:9, with its rich yield of thought in biblical theology and the history of redemption, would gain little more by any attempts in this direction than the obscuration of the simple fact by useless and barren subtleties.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Job 16:7 seq. OECOLAMPADIUS: He makes use of three motives most suitable for conciliating pity, to wit: the manifest severity of his sufferings (Job 16:7–14), repentance (??—Job 16:15–16), and innocence (Job 16:17–21).
Job 16:10 seq. BRENTIUS: There is this in God’s judgment that is most grievous—that He seems to favor our adversaries, and to stand on their side, by prospering their counsels and efforts against us. Nor is there any one who can endure this trial, unless thoroughly fortified by the word of God. Thus Christ Himself laments, saying: “Dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked enclosed me (Ps. 22.).—CRAMER: O soul, remember here thy Saviour, to whom also such things happened; for He suffered pain in body and soul, was persecuted by His enemies, and forsaken, afflicted, and tortured by God Himself.
Job 16:19 seq.: He intimates that God’s tribunal is above all tribunals; and when his mind and conscience, his faith and love toward God, cannot be recognised, appreciated or judged by any judge or witness, other than the Supreme, how can he do otherwise than appeal to Him? So the Apostle (1 Cor. 4:3–4) repudiates every judgment but that of God … (On Job 17:3.) Here he calls God, in whose power he is, his Surety; which is simply to ask that He would approve his appeal, and judge in accordance with it, so that if his adversary should carry the day, He would satisfy his claims. So we find elsewhere the pious, when wronged by an unrighteous judgment, appealing to the judgment of God, requesting Him to be their surety, as though they wished God to say to the adversary: This man is mine; enter thy suit, if any thing is due to thee, I will render satisfaction (Isa. 38:14: Ps. 119:122).
Job 16:22. BRENTIUS: Death is here called a path, by which we do not return. For take away the Word, or Christ, and death seems to be eternal annihilation; add the Word and Christ, and death will be the beginning of the resurrection.…(On Job 17:11 seq.). This despair of Job is described for our instruction, that we may learn: first, that no one can endure the judgment of death without God the Father; next that we may know by clear testimony that God alone is good, but every man a liar.
Job 17:11 seq. STARKE: We see here how unlike are God’s ways and thoughts, and those of men. Job had no other thought but that now it was all over with him, he would neither continue in life, nor again attain his former prosperity. And God had notwithstanding joined both these things together so wondrously and so gloriously, as the wished-for issue of Job’s sufferings sufficiently proves. DELITZSCH: Job feels himself to be inevitably given up as a prey to death, and as from the depth of Hades into which he is sinking, he stretches out his hands to God, not that He would sustain him in life, but that He would acknowledge him before the world as His. If he is to die even, he desires only that he may not die the death of a criminal. … When then the issue of the history is that God acknowledges Job as His servant, and after he is proved and refined by the temptation, preserves to him a doubly rich and prosperous life, Job receives beyond his prayer and comprehension; and after he has learned from his own experience that God brings to Hades and out again (1 Sam. 2:6; comp. on the other hand above, Job 7:9), he has forever conquered all fear of death, and the germs of the hope of a future life, which in the midst of his affliction, have broken through his consciousness, can joyously expand.
Then Job answered and said,