Job 13
Matthew Poole's Commentary
Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it.
Job’s friends not wiser than he: he would reason with God; but they were liars, and talked deceitfully for God, who would search and reprove them for accepting persons, Job 13:1-10. God’s excellency, and they as ashes and clay, Job 13:11,12. He is resolute, being in extreme misery, and having confidence in God, before whom he would speak, and God should save him; not so with a hypocrite, Job 13:13-16. He ordereth his cause to plead with God; only desireth a removal of God’s hand upon him, Job 13:17-22. His request to know his sins and God’s purpose, since God delighteth not in our misery, Job 13:23-28.

All this which either you or I have discoursed concerning the infinite power and wisdom of God, I know, both by seeing it, i.e. by my own observation and experience, and by hearing it from my ancestors; so that I did not need your tedious and impertinent discourses concerning those matters.

What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.
No text from Poole on this verse.

Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.
According to thy wish, Job 11:5, I had rather debate the matter with God than with you. I am not afraid of presenting my person and cause before him, who is a witness of my integrity, and would not deal so unmercifully with me as you do.

But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.
Forgers of lies, i.e. authors of false doctrine, to wit, that great afflictions are peculiar to hypocrites and wicked men.

Physicians of no value; unfaithful and unskilful; prescribing bad remedies, and misapplying good ones.

O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.
For then your ignorance and folly had been concealed, which is now manifest. Compare Proverbs 17:28.

Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.
i.e. Attend to it, and consider it more seriously than you have done.

The pleadings of my lips, i.e. the arguments which I shall produce.

Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him?
Will you utter falsehoods upon pretence of pleasing God, or of maintaining God’s honour or justice? Doth he need such defences?

Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?
Will ye accept his person? not judging according to the right of the cause, but the quality of the person, as corrupt judges do.

Will ye contend, i.e. wrangle and quarrel with me, and cavil at my speeches, and pervert my meaning?

For God, i.e. that you may gratify him, or defend his rights.

Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?
Is it good? will it be to your credit and comfort?

Search you out, i.e. narrowly examine your hearts and discourses, whether you have uttered truth or falsehood, and whether your speeches proceed from true zeal for God, or from your own prejudices and passions, and from a desire to curry favour with him.

Do ye so mock him, to wit, by covering your uncharitableness and corrupt affections with pretences of piety, as if God could not discern your artifices; or by pleading his cause with weak and foolish arguments, which is a kind of mockery to him, and an injury to his cause; or by seeking to flatter him with false praises, as if he did distribute the things of this world with exact justice, prospering only the good, and severely afflicting none but wicked men?

He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons.
i.e. Punish you; as this word is oft used, as hath been once and again observed.

Secretly; though it be concealed in your own breasts, and no eye see it; yea, though it be so close that your own minds and consciences, through ignorance, or inadvertency, or slothfulness, do not perceive it; yet He, who is greater than your consciences, sees and knows it.

Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you?
His excellency; his infinite wisdom, which sees your secret falsehoods; and his justice and power, which can and will punish you for it.

Make you afraid of speaking rashly or falsely of his ways and counsels.

Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.
Your remembrances; either,

1. Actively, i.e. your memorials, or your discourses and arguments, by which you design to bring things to my remembrance. So he might possibly allude to that passage, Job 4:7. Remember, I pray thee, &c. That and all your other mementos are like unto ashes, i.e. contemptible and unprofitable, Heb. are parables, or speeches, of dust, or ashes. Or,

2. Passively; all that which is most excellent and memorable in you, your wealth, and dignity, and wit, and reputation, or whatsoever it is for which you expect or desire to be remembered, it is all but poor despicable dust and ashes. And therefore you have just reason to abhor yourselves, and to dread the Divine Majesty, as I now advised you.

Your bodies; though they be not full of sores and boils as mine is, yet they are but dust, and to dust they shall return as well as mine. Heb. your backs, which, being the strongest part of the body, is put for the whole body. Or, your eminencies, or excellencies, as this word most properly signifies, as Hebricians observe; so it answers to their memorables. All those things wherein you do, or think that you do, excel others, are but like eminencies, or lumps, or heaps of clay, vain and useless things, if compared with the excellencies of God. Or, your heights, i.e. your lofty discourses, are like clay, i.e. without solidity and strength.

Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will.
Do not now interrupt me in my discourse; which peradventure he observed by their gestures some of them were now attempting.

That I may speak; that I may freely utter my whole mind.

Let come on me what will: for the event of my discourse with God, wherewith you threaten me, I am willing to submit myself to him, to do with me as he pleaseth; for I know he will not judge so severely and partially of me, or my words, as you do, but will accept what is good, and pass by any circumstantial defects in my person or speech, as knowing that I speak from an upright heart.

Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand?
According to this translation the sense seems to be this, If you speak truth, and God punisheth none but wicked men, why doth he bring me (whom he knows to be no hypocrite, as you slander me) to that extremity of pain and misery, that I am almost constrained to tear and eat my own flesh, (which is mentioned as the character of men in great anguish, Isaiah 9:20 49:26) and am ready to lay violent hands upon myself? Is it so great a crime to complain in this case, or at least to inquire into the cause of this unwonted severity? But this sense seems not well to suit either with the foregoing or following verses, but to come in abruptly. Others therefore render the words thus,

Why should I take my flesh in my teeth, & c.? And so this may be either,

1. A reason of his ardent desire of liberty of speech, because he could hold his tongue no longer, but must needs tear himself to pieces, if he had not some vent for his grief. So this agrees well both with Job 13:13, where he desired this freedom; and with Job 13:19, where the same sense is expressed in plainer words. Or,

2. An antidote against despair. I perceive, O my friends, by your discourses, that you intend to drive me to utter despair, if I do not turn to God in another manner than yet I have done; which if it were true, I should certainly tear my flesh, and violently take away my own life; but I see no reason why I should give way to any such despair or desperate actions? And this also hath a good dependence upon the foregoing words, let come on me what will; (q.d. But I have no reason to fear such consequences as you suggest, nor to despair of a merciful audience and relief from God;) and a good connexion with those which follow, Job 13:15, where he declares his hope and confidence in God. The phrase of having one’s life in his hand notes a condition extremely dangerous, and almost desperate, as Judges 12:3 1 Samuel 19:5 28:21 Psalm 119:109.

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
Though God should yet more and more increase my torments, so that I could bear them no longer, but should perceive myself to be at the point of death, and without all hopes of recovery in this world.

Yet will I trust in him; or, shall I not trust in him? Should I despair? No, I will not. I know he is a just, and a faithful, and merciful God, and he knows that my heart is upright before him, and that I am no hypocrite.

But though I will trust in him, yet I will humbly expostulate the matter with him; I will argue, or prove, or demonstrate my ways, i.e. I will make a full free confession of the whole course of my life, and I will boldly, though submissively, assert mine own integrity, which he also will, I doubt not, acknowledge. And what I have done amiss I will as freely confess, and make supplication to my Judge for the pardon of it.

Before him; before his tribunal; for I desire no other judge but him.

He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.
I rest assured that he will save me out of these miseries sooner or later, one way or other, if not with a temporal, yet with an eternal salvation after death; of which he speaks Job 19:25, &c.

For; or but, as this particle commonly signifies; for this clause is put by way of opposition to the former, and the sense is, But if I were a hypocrite, as you allege, I durst not present myself before him to plead my cause with him, as now I desire to do, nor could I hope for any salvation from or with him in heaven.

Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears.
This he desired before, Job 13:6, and now repeateth, either because they manifested some neglect or dislike of his speech, and some desire to interrupt him; or because he now comes more closely to his business, the foregoing verses being mostly in way of preface to it.

My declaration, i.e. the words whereby I declare my mind.

Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.
I have ordered my cause, to wit, within myself. I have seriously and sincerely considered the state of my case, and what can be said either for me or against me, and am ready to plead my cause.

Justified, i.e. acquitted by God from that hypocrisy and wickedness wherewith you charge me, and declared a righteous and innocent person, human infirmities excepted.

Who is he that will plead with me? for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.
Who is he that will plead with me? where is the man that will do it? nay, oh that God would do it! which here he implies, and presently expresseth.

I shall give up the ghost; my grief for God’s heavy hand and find your bitter reproaches would break my heart, if I should not give it vent.

Only do not two things unto me: then will I not hide myself from thee.
Which two he expresseth Job 13:21. Then shall I boldly present myself and cause before thee.

Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid.
i.e. Suspend my torments during the time of my pleading with thee, that my mind may be at liberty; and do not present thyself to me in terrible majesty, neither deal with me in rigorous justice; but hear me meekly, as one man heareth another, and plead with me upon those gracious terms wherewith thou usest to deal with mankind.

Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me.
Then choose thy own method. Either do thou charge me with hypocrisy, or more than common guilt, and I will defend myself; or I will argue with thee concerning thy extraordinary severity towards me; and do thou show me the reasons of it. This proposal savoured of too great self-confidence, and of irreverence towards God; for which and suchlike speeches he is reproved by God, Job 38:2,3 40:2.

How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin.
That I am a sinner I confess; but that I am guilty of so many or such heinous crimes as my friends suppose I utterly deny; and if it be so, do thou, O Lord, discover it to my shame.

Make me to know my transgression and my sin, if peradventure my heart deceive me therein; for I am not conscious to myself of any enormous crime.

Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?
Hidest thou thy face, i.e. withdrawest thy favour and help which thou didst use to afford me; as this phrase is commonly used, as Deu 31:17 Psalm 13:1 102:2, &c.

Holdest me for thine enemy, i.e. dealest as sharply with me as if I were thy professed enemy.

Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?
Doth it become thy infinite and excellent majesty to use all thy might to crush such a poor, impotent, frail creature as I am, that can no more resist thy power than a leaf, or a little loose and dry straw can resist the fury of the wind or fire.

For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.
Thou writest, i.e. thou appointest or inflictest. A metaphor from princes or judges, who anciently used to write their sentence or decrees concerning persons or causes brought before them. See Psalm 149:9 Jeremiah 22:30 John 19:22.

Bitter things, i.e. a terrible sentence, or most grievous punishments.

Makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth; thou dost now at once bring upon me the punishment of all my sins, not excepting those of my youth, which because of the folly and weakness of that age are usually excused or winked at, or at least but gently punished.

Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, and lookest narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet.
Thou encompassest me with thy judgments, that I may have no way or possibility to escape. When thou hast me fast in prison, thou makest a strict and diligent search into all the actions of my life, that thou mayst find matter to condemn me. Thou followest me close at the heels, either to observe my actions, or to pursue me with thy judgments, so that thou dost oft tread upon my heels, and leave the prints of thy footsteps upon them.

And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth eaten.
He; either,

1. Man, or Job, supposed to be God’s adversary in this contest. So he speaks of himself in the third person, as is usual in this and other sacred books. So the sense is, he, i.e. this poor frail creature, this carcass or body of mine, which possibly he pointed at with his finger,

consumeth or pineth away, &c. So he mentions here the effect of God’s severe proceedings against him, to wit, his consumption and utter destruction, which was making haste towards him. Or,

2. God, of whom he hitherto spoke in the second person, and now in the third person; such changes of persons being very frequent in poetical writings, such as this is. So he continueth the former discourse; and as before he mentioned God’s severe inquiry into his ways, and sentence against him, so here he describes the consequence and dreadful execution of it upon him; he, i.e. God, consumeth (for the verb is active) me as rottenness consumeth that in which it is, or as a rotten thing is consumed, and as a moth which eateth a garment.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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