Matthew Poole's Commentary
Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.Man’s natural misery, sin, and short life, our plea with God not to disturb us by his power, but suffer us to accomplish our appointed time, Job 14:1-6. The other creatures decay and revive; but man, once dead, returneth not till the end of all things, Job 14:7-12. He wisheth to be hid in the grave, in hopes of the resurrection, Job 14:13-15; for that here God was strict in marking his iniquity, and prevailed against him, Job 14:16-20. Man’s misery with respect to his children, Job 14:21,22.
That is born of a woman. This expression is here used, either,
1. To intimate the cause of man’s misery, that he was born of a woman, a weak creature, 1 Peter 3:7, and withal corrupt and sinful, and of that sex by which sin and calamity was brought into the world. See Job 15:14 Genesis 3:17 1 Timothy 2:13,14. Or,
2. To note the universality of the thing; every man, every mother’s son, as we use to speak. Men’s fathers are ofttimes unknown and uncertain, but their mothers are always definite and certain. One man was then to be born, and afterwards was born, without an earthly father, to wit, our Lord and Saviour Christ; but no man was ever born without a mother.
Of few days; a short-lived creature in himself, and therefore needs no violent hand to cut him off, because he withereth so soon of his own accord.
Full of trouble; and therefore a fitter object for Divine compassion, than for his fury or severity. He chiefly intendeth himself; but he expresseth it thus generally, partly to relieve himself with the thoughts of the common calamities of mankind; and partly to move God with the consideration of the frailty and misery of human nature, and consequently of his condition.
He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.He cometh forth out of his mother’s womb, Job 1:21.
Like a flower; which quickly groweth up and maketh a fair show, but soon withereth, or is cut down.
As a shadow; which being made by the sun, follows its motions, and is in perpetual variation, until at last it quite vanish and disappear.
And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?Dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one; either,
1. To take thought or care about him. Or rather,
2. To observe all his ways, that thou mayst find cause of punishment. He is not a fit match for thee. It is below thee to contend with him, and to use thy infinite wisdom and power to crush him. This seems best to suit with the scope and context.
Bringest me into judgment with thee, i.e. pleadest with me by thy judgments, and thereby, in a manner, forcest me to plead with thee, without granting me those two necessary and favourable conditions, expressed Job 13:20,21.
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.I do not say, I am clean, as Zophar pretendeth, Job 11:4; but confess that I am a very unclean creature, and therefore liable to thy justice, if thou wilt deal rigorously with me; but remember that this is not my peculiar case, but the common lot of every man, who, coming from sinful parents, and being infected with original corruption, must unavoidably be unclean. Why then dost thou inflict such peculiar and extraordinary judgments upon me for that which is common to all men? And although my original corruption do not excuse my actual sins, yet I hope it may procure some mitigation to my punishments, and move thy Divine pity, which oft showeth itself upon such occasions. See Genesis 8:21.
Not one, i.e. no man can cleanse himself or any other from all sin. See 1 Kings 8:46 Psalm 14:3 Ecclesiastes 7:21. This is the prerogative of thy grace, which therefore I humbly implore of thee.
Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;His days; the days or (as it follows) months of his life. Are determined; are by thy sentence and decree limited to a certain period.
With thee, i.e. exactly known to thee, or in thy power and disposal. Thou hast appointed a certain end of his days, beyond which he cannot prolong his life; and therefore let this short life and unavoidable death suffice for man’s punishment, and do not add further and sorer calamities.
Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.Turn from him; withdraw thine afflicting hand from him.
That he may rest; that he may have some present comfort and ease. Or, and let it cease, to wit, the affliction, which is sufficiently implied. Others, and let him cease, to wit, to live, i.e. take away my life. But that seems not to agree with the following clause of this verse, nor with the succeeding verses.
Till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day; give him some respite till he finish his course, and come to the period of his life which thou hast allotted to him, as a man appoints a set time to a mercenary servant.
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.But man, though a far nobler creature, is in a much worse condition, and when once he loseth this present and worldly life, he never recovers it; therefore show some pity to him, and give him some comfort whilst he lives.
Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;Wax old; begin to wither and decay.
And the stock die, to wit, in outward appearance.
Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.Through the scent of water, i.e. by means of water. Scent or smell is figuratively ascribed to a tree.
Like a plant; like a tree newly planted.
But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?Dieth, and wasteth away; his body by degrees rotting away; or, and is cut off, as this word is used, Exodus 17:13 Isaiah 14:12.
Where is he? i.e. he is nowhere; or, he is not, to wit, in this world, as that phrase is commonly used. See Job 3:16 7:8,21.
As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:This may be understood either,
1. By way of opposition, the waters go or flow out of the sea, and return thither again, Ecclesiastes 1:7; and a lake or river sometimes decayeth, and drieth up, but afterwards is recruited and replenished. But man lieth, &c., as it follows. Or,
2. By way of resemblance; As waters, i.e. some portion of waters, fail from the sea, being either exhaled or drawn up by the sun, or received and sunk into the dry and thirsty earth, or overflowing its banks; and as the flood, or a river, or a pond (for the word signifies any considerable confluence of waters) in a great drought decayeth, and is dried up; in both which cases the selfsame waters never return to their former places; so it is with man. Or thus, As when the waters fail from the sea, i.e. when the sea forsakes the place into which it used to flow, the river, which was fed by it, Ecclesiastes 1:7, decayeth and drieth up, without all hopes of recovery; so man, when once the fountain of his radical moisture is dried up, dies, and never revives again.
So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.Man lieth down, to wit, in his bed, the grave, or to sleep the sleep of death, as this phrase is used, Genesis 46:30 Deu 31:6 2 Samuel 7:12 1 Kings 1:21.
Riseth not, to wit, to tills life; for he speaks not here of the life to come, nor of the resurrection of the belly after death by the Divine power; of his belief whereof he giveth sufficient evidences in divers places.
Till the heavens be no more, i.e. either,
1. Never; because the heavens, though they shall be changed in their qualities, yet shall never cease to be, as to the substance of them. And therefore everlasting and unchangeable things are expressed by the duration of the heavens; of which see Psalm 72:5,7,17 89:29,36,37 Mt 5:18 24:35. Or,
2. Not until the time of the general resurrection, and the restitution of things, when these visible heavens shall pass away, and be no more, at least in the same form and manner as now they are; of which see Psalm 102:26 Luke 21:33 2 Peter 3:7,10 Re 21:1.
O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!In the grave; either,
1. In some dark vault under ground, such as good men hide themselves in times of persecution, Hebrews 11:38. Lord, hide me in some hiding place from thy wrath, and all the intolerable effects of it, which are upon me; for I cannot be hid from thee, but by thee. Or,
2. In the grave, properly so called. Though I know life once lost is irrecoverable, yet I heartily desire death, rather than to continue in these torments. And if the next words and wish seem to suppose the continuance of his life, that is not strange; for he speaks like one almost distracted with his miseries, sometimes wishing one thing, sometimes another and the quite contrary, as such persons use to do. And these wishes may be understood disjunctively, I wish either that I were dead, or that God would give me life free from these torments. Or the place may be understood thus, I could wish, if it were possible, that I might lie in the grave for a time till these storms be blown over, and then be restored to a comfortable life.
That thou wouldest keep me secret; in some secret and safe place, under the shadow of thy wings and favour, that I may have some support and comfort from thee.
Until thy wrath be past; whilst I am oppressed with such grievous and various calamities; which he calls God’s wrath, because they were, or seemed to be, the effects of his wrath.
A set time, to wit, to my sufferings, as thou hast done to my life, Job 14:5.
Remember me, i.e. wherein thou wilt remember me, to wit, in mercy, or so as to deliver me; for it is well known that God is frequently said to forget those whom he suffers to continue in misery, and to remember those whom he delivers out of it.
If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.Shall he live again? i.e. he shall not, namely, in this world, as was said before. The affirmative question is equivalent to an absolute denial, as Genesis 18:17 Psalm 46:7 Jeremiah 5:9, and every where.
Seeing death puts an end to all men’s hopes of any comfortable being here, because man once dead never returns to life, I will therefore wait on God, and hope for his favour whilst I live, and it is possible to enjoy it, and will continue waiting from time to time
until my change come, i.e. either,
1. Death, the great and last change; which is expressed by the root of this word, Job 10:17. Or,
2. The change of my condition for the better, which you upon your terms encourage me to expect, and which I yet trust in God I shall enjoy; for this word properly signifies vicissitudes or changes in one’s condition; and this seems to suit best with the following verse. And this change, or a comfortable life here, Job so heartily wisheth, not only from that love of life and comfort which is naturally implanted in all men, good and bad, and is not forbidden by God, which also was stronger in those Old Testament saints, when the discoveries of God’s grace to sinners, and of eternal life, were much darker than now they are; but also because this would be an effectual vindication of his own integrity and good name, and of the honour of religion, both which did suffer some eclipse from Job’s extreme calamities, as is evident from the discourses of his friends.
Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.I trust there is a time coming when thou wilt grant me the mercy which now thou deniest me, to wit, a favourable hearing, when thou wilt call to me to speak for myself, and I shall answer thee; which I know will be to thy satisfaction and my comfort. Compare this with Job 13:22, where the same words are used in this same sense. Or, Thou shalt call me out of the grave of my calamities, and I shall answer thee, and say, Here I am, raised out of the pit in which I was buried by thy powerful and gracious command. To the work of thine hands, i.e. to me, who am thy workmanship in divers respects, from whom thou now seemest to have an aversion and abhorrency; but I doubt not thou wilt have a desire, i.e. show thy affection or good will to me; or a desire to look upon me, and to deliver me. Nor is it strange that Job, who lately was upon the brink of despair, doth now breathe out words of hope; such ebbings and flowings being usual, both with Job elsewhere, as Job 13:15,16, and with David frequently in the Psalms, and with others of God’s people.
For now thou numberest my steps: dost thou not watch over my sin?For now; so this is a reason of his desire of death, Job 14:13. Or rather, But now; for this seems to be added by way of opposition. I believe thou wilt pity and help me, but for the present it is far otherwise with me.
Thou, numberest my steps; thou makest a strict inquiry into all my actions, that thou mayst find out all mine errors, and punish them. Compare Job 13:27 31:4 34:1 Psalm 56:6.
Dost thou not watch over my sin, i.e. dost thou not watch for my haltings, or miscarriages, as if thou wast glad of an occasion to punish me? Or, thou dost not delay the punishment of my sin; for the same Hebrew word signifies both sin and its punishments.
My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity.Sealed up in a bag; as writings or other choice things, that they may be safely kept, and all of them brought forth upon occasion, and not one of them forgotten or lost. Compare Deu 32:44 Job 37:7 Hosea 13:12.
Thou sewest up mine iniquity, i.e. thou keepest all my sins in thy memory, and fastenest the guilt of them upon my conscience. Or, thou addest to my sin, one sin to another; the follies of my youth, Job 13:26, to those of my riper years. Or, thou addest to my punishment, i.e. thou punishest me more than mine iniquities deserve, all things considered. For this sinful thought seems sometimes to have risen in Job’s mind, as may be gathered from divers parts of this book; which therefore Zophar decries and disproves, Job 11:6.
And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place.As when a great mountain falls, either by an earthquake or inundation of waters, or from any other cause, it moulders away like a fading leaf, (as the Hebrew word signifies,) and never recovers its former height and stability; and as the rock, when by the violence of winds or earthquake, &c.
it is removed out of its place, and thrown down, is never readvanced; and as the waters by continual droppings, or violent and frequent assaults, wear away, or break the stones to pieces, so as they can never be made whole again; and as thou washest away, to wit, by a great and violent inundation which thou sendest, the things which grow out of the dust of the earth, to wit, herbs, and fruits, and plants, which once washed away are irrecoverably lost, and, or so, (as this particle is oft used, i.e. in like manner, to wit, irrecoverably,) thou destroyest the hope of man; i.e. so when man dies, all hope of living again in this world is utterly lost: and this seems to be the plain meaning of these two verses. And as before he declared the hopelessness of man’s restoration from death to this animal life, by way of opposition to such things as did rise in a manner from death to life, Job 14:7, &c.; so now he declares it by way of similitude or resemblance to such things, as being once lost and gone are past all hopes of recovery.
The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth; and thou destroyest the hope of man.No text from Poole on this verse.
Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away.When once thou takest away this life, it is gone for ever; for he speaks not here of man’s future and eternal life in another world.
He passeth, i.e. he dieth, or is about to die. Man’s death is oft called a passage, or a going, to intimate that it is not an annihilation, but only a translation of him into another place and state. His countenance; either,
1. His visage, which by death and its harbingers is quite transformed in colour and shape, as we see by daily experience. Or,
2. The face and state of his affairs, as to worldly riches, and pleasures, and honours, all which he leaves behind him.
Sendest him away to his long home by death.
His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.He knoweth it not; either,
1. Is ignorant of all such events; or,
2. Is not concerned nor affected with them. A dead or dying man minds not these things.
But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.This is man’s condition; he is miserable both when he dies, because he dies without hope of returning to life, as he had discoursed before; and (as he now adds) whilst he lives, whilst his flesh is upon him, and his soul within him; whilst the soul is clothed with or united to the body, he feels sharp
pain in his body, and bitter grief in his soul. Seeing therefore the state of man upon earth is so vain and unhappy every way, Lord, give me some comfort to sweeten my life, or take away my life from me.