Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said,Eliphaz’s reproof: Job’s knowledge and talk vain; he feareth not God, nor prayeth to him; but his own mouth uttered his iniquity, and should condemn him, Job 15:1-6. Job not the wisest of men, Job 15:7,8; nor wiser than they, who were elder than he, Job 15:9,10. He despised the consolations of God, and turned away his spirit against him, Job 15:11-13. The angels not clean in God’s sight, much less man, Job 15:14-16. A description of the ancients; their wisdom, and reports concerning destruction, and terrors on the wicked, and the causes of it, Job 15:17-35.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Should a wise man utter vain knowledge, and fill his belly with the east wind?A wise man; such as thou seemest and pretendest to be.
Vain knowledge, i.e. empty words, without any sense or solidity in them.
Fill his belly, i.e. satisfy his own mind and conscience, which being secret is compared to the inwards of the belly; as Job 32:19 Proverbs 20:27 22:18.
With the east wind, i.e. with discourses which are not only flashy and unprofitable, and without any weight, but also boisterous and pernicious, both to himself and others; as the east wind was in those parts, Genesis 41:6 Exodus 10:13 Hosea 12:1.
Should he reason with unprofitable talk? or with speeches wherewith he can do no good?Either to himself or others, but much hurt; which is implied by the contrary, as is usual.
Yea, thou castest off fear, and restrainest prayer before God.Heb. Thou makest void fear, i.e. the fear of God, as the word is oft used
for the word of God; or piety and religion, which oft cometh under the name of fear. This may be understood either,
1. Of Job himself; that he cast off all reverence to God, by uttering such bold and reproachful expressions concerning God and his providence. Or,
2. With respect to others; that by his insolent and unworthy speeches of and carriage towards God, and by those false and pernicious principles which he had laid down; as that God dealt with men in way of absolute sovereignty, not of justice; and that he made no difference between good and bad in the course of his providence, but did equally prosper or afflict both of them; he did that which tended to the subversion of the fear and worship of God.
Restrainest prayer; as this Hebrew word signifies also, Psalm 102:1. Or, meditation or speech; which well agrees to prayer, which is accompanied with serious thoughts and expressions. The sense is, either,
1. Instead of humble and fervent prayer to God, which thy condition calleth for, thou breathest forth false and blasphemous speeches against him. Or,
2. Thou dost by thy words, and examples, and principles, as far as in thee lies, banish prayer out of the world, by making it useless and unprofitable to men.
For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity, and thou choosest the tongue of the crafty.i.e. Thy words discover the naughtiness of thy heart, and justify my charge against time, that thou castest off fear, &c. Thou speakest wickedly, but craftily; thou coverest thy impious principles and passions with fair pretences of piety and respect to God, wherewith thou endeavourest to mock God, and deceive men.
Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee.My condemnation of thee is grounded upon thine own words.
Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills?Hast thou lived ever since the creation of the world, and treasured up the experiences of all ages in thy own breast, that thou speakest so arrogantly and magisterially, and with such contempt of other men? Art thou the most ancient and the wisest of all mortal men? Whom dost thou make thyself? Before the hills; before the earth was made and distinguished into mountains and valleys.
Hast thou heard the secret of God? and dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?Hath God acquainted thee with all his secret counsels, whereby he governs the world, that thou dost pass so bold a censure upon all his designs and actions? Art thou the only wise man in the world, and we and all others but fools?
What knowest thou, that we know not? what understandest thou, which is not in us?He retorts upon Job his own expressions, Job 12:3 13:2.
With us are both the grayheaded and very aged men, much elder than thy father.With us, i.e. among us; either,
1. Some of us, who seem to have been very ancient from Job 32:7. Or,
2. Some others with whom we have conversed, and who are of our opinion in this matter. And this they oppose to that passage of Job’s, Job 12:12.
Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee?Are those comforts, which we in the name, and according to the mind, and by the direction, of God have propounded to thee, upon condition of thy true repentance, Job 11:13,14, &c., small and contemptible in thine eyes? Hast thou any secret and peculiar ground or way of comfort which is unknown to us, and to all other men, except thyself; for which, or in comparison of which, thou despisest our consolations as mean and trivial? To pretend to this is vanity and impudence; and if thou hast not this, to despise and reject our comforts is horrible pride and stubbornness.
Why doth thine heart carry thee away? and what do thy eyes wink at,Why dost thou suffer thyself to be transported by the pride and lusts of thy heart to use such unworthy and unbecoming expressions, both concerning us, and concerning God and his providence.
What do thine eyes wink at, i.e. what dost thou aim at? What benefit dost thou expect from such words and carriages? So it is a metaphor from archers, who wink when they take their aim at a mark. Or, why do thine eyes wink, i.e. why dost thou look with such an angry, supercilious, and disdainful look, expressing both thy contempt of us, and thy rage against God? The eye is observed both by God and men, as the great discoverer of the heart; and winking with the eye is a note of a malicious mind, Psalm 35:9 Proverbs 6:13 10:10.
That thou turnest thy spirit against God, and lettest such words go out of thy mouth?That, or for, or surely. Thy spirit, i.e. either thy breath, or thy rage, or thy soul; for all these the spirit signifies. Heb. Thou makest thy spirit to return to, or to return again against, that God from whom thou didst receive it.
What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?What is man, Heb. frail, or sick, or wretched man? his mean original and corrupt nature showeth him to be unclean.
Which is born of a woman; from whom he derives infirmity, and corruption, and guilt, and the curse consequent upon it.
Righteous, to wit, in his own eyes, as thou, O Job, art.
Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight.In his saints, i.e. in his angels, as appears by comparing Job 4:18, who are called his saints or holy ones, Deu 33:2 Psalm 103:20 Daniel 4:13,23 Mt 18:10 24:36; who though they were created holy, yet he could not be confident in them, nor they be confident in themselves that they would continue in their integrity if they were left to themselves, and not upheld by God’s special grace and assistance. See Poole "Job 4:18".
The heavens, Heb. and the heavens, i.e. either,
1. The heavens properly so called; which though they be free from those drossy mixtures which are and appear in heavenly bodies, yet are not absolutely pure, but have some spots and blemishes in them; as philosophers have discovered, and the all-seeing God knoweth. Compare Job 25:5, where the stars are said not to be pure; unless the stars also there be metaphorically put for the angels, as they are Job 38:7, and for other holy ministers of God, as Daniel 8:10 Revelation 1:16,20 12:1,4.
2. The angels that dwell in heaven; heaven being oft put for its inhabitants; either for God, as Psalm 73:9 Daniel 4:26 Luke 15:18,21; or for the angels that dwell in heaven, as Psalm 89:5 148:1,2. So this is a repetition of the same thing in other words. And these are not pure, to wit, simply and perfectly, and comparatively to God; in which and such like respects God only is said to be good, and wise, and immortal. The angels are pure from corruption, but not from imperfection, nor from a possibility of sinning, if God should withdraw his help from them.
How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?Who, besides his natural proneness to sin, hath contracted habits and customs of sinning, and sinneth as freely and easily, as greedily and delightfully, as frequently and abundantly, as men, especially in those hot countries, used to drink up water. But this did not Job; and therefore though the things delivered by him and the rest be true in the general, yet they commit a great error in misapplying them to Job, for which therefore they are afterwards reproved.
I will shew thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare;I will prove what I have affirmed, that such strokes as thine are peculiar to hypocrites and wicked men. I speak not by hearsay only, but from my own experience.
Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it:Wise men; who are most able to be witnesses and judges in these matters.
From their fathers, or ancestors; who diligently observed this, and carefully transmitted their own judgment and experience successively to their posterity.
Have not hid it; they judged it to be so certain and important a truth, that they would not conceal it in their own breasts, but made conscience of publishing it for the instruction and comfort of succeeding ages.
Unto whom alone the earth was given, and no stranger passed among them.Unto whom alone the earth was given; either,
1. By the special and gracious gift of God; whereas wicked men invaded their parts of the earth, and took them away by force. Or,
2. By the choice and consent of the people, who for their great and known wisdom and virtue conferred this power and trust upon them. This he allegeth, partly to make their testimony more considerable, because these were not obscure, and mean, and foolish men, whose words are commonly despised, but the most worthy and famous men in their places and ages; and partly to contradict and confute what Job had said, Job 9:24, that the earth was given into the hand of the wicked. By the earth he means either the dominion of the earth, to wit, of that part of the earth in or nigh which Job and his friends lived; or rather, the possession of the earth, i.e. of a great portion of worldly goods; or particularly, the land, or that land, (as the word properly signifies,) to wit, the land of Canaan, which was given by special gift unto Abraham, (from whom it seems most probable that both Job and his friends were descended,) and to Isaac, and to Jacob; who, though they met with some common and ordinary afflictions, yet enjoyed a great measure of comfort, and wealth, and honour, and power in the world, as the fruits of God’s blessing, and of his covenant made with good men, whilst wicked men were exposed to manifold distresses and grievous calamities; all which those holy patriarchs diligently observed, and industriously imparted to their children, to encourage them to continue and proceed in the ways of true piety. But how was the earth or land given to them alone, as is here said?
1. Because Noah and his sons (of whom some understand these words) had the sole possession and dominion of the earth. Or,
2. Because Canaan was given to Abraham and to his seed alone; and some of Abraham’s children had the dominion of, or an ample possession in, those parts where Job and his friends lived, who also seem to be in the number of them. Or,
3. Because they only had it either by God’s special and gracious providence, or by the choice and approbation of the people; whereas wicked men took it by rapine and violence, without asking leave either from God or men.
No stranger, i.e. the enemy; for such are called strangers, both in Scripture, as Proverbs 5:10 Isaiah 1:7 Ezekiel 11:9 28:10, and in other authors. No person of a strange nation and disposition or religion.
Among them, i.e. through their land, as this phrase is used, Numbers 20:18, to wit, so as to molest, or disturb, or spoil them, as the Sabeans and Chaldeans did thee. God watched over those wise and holy men so carefully, that no enemy should invade them; and so he would have done over thee, if thou hadst been such a one.
The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days, and the number of years is hidden to the oppressor.Travaileth with pain, i.e. lives a life of care, and fear, and grief, by reason of God’s wrath, and the torments of his own mind, and his manifold and dreadful outward calamities.
The number of his years is hidden, i.e. he knows not how short the time of his tyranny and life is, and therefore lives in continual fear of losing them. The number of a good man’s years are also hid from him as well as they are from the wicked men; but to those this is a great torment and mischief; whereas it is not so to him. Or, and a few years (Heb. a number of years, put by a common hypallage for years of number; as few years are called, Job 16:22, because they are soon numbered; as men of number, is put for a few men, Genesis 34:30 Deu 4:27 33:6) are laid or treasured up, i.e. are allotted to him by God’s secret counsel; for God cuts off such men in the midst of their days. Psalm 55:23; whereas long life is promised, and commonly given, to righteous men.
To the oppressor, i.e. to the wicked man; but he names this one sort of them, the oppressors, partly, because he supposed Job to be guilty of this sin, Job 22:6; partly, in opposition to what Job had affirmed of the safety and happiness of such persons, Job 12:6; and partly, because such are most apt to expect and promise to themselves a longer and happier life than other men, because of their singular preservatives and advantages of life above other men.
A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him.Even when he feels no evil, he is tormented with perpetual fears and expectations of it from the sense of his own guilt, and of God’s all-seeing eye and righteous judgment. See Leviticus 26:36 Deu 28:65.
Shall come upon him; or, shall invade and destroy him suddenly and unexpectedly; which is a great aggravation of it.
He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.i.e. When he falls into trouble, he despairs of God’s mercy, and of deliverance, by reason of his guilty conscience; which he speaks with particular reflection upon Job, who would receive no comfort nor matter of hope.
He is waited for of the sword, i.e. besides the calamity which is upon him, he is in constant expectation of further and greater miseries; for the sword is oft used for any grievous affliction, as Luke 2:35.
He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand.His poverty is so great, that he is forced to wander hither and thither to seek for bread, and cannot find it. A just punishment for him that took away the bread and substance of others by violence.
He knoweth; he is assured of it from his own guilty conscience.
The day of darkness, i.e. the time of his total, and irrecoverable, and everlasting destruction.
Is ready at his hand, i.e. ready to seize upon him, or take him by the hand or shoulder like a serjeant to arrest him. The words may well he rendered, was prepared by his hand, i.e. by his works or actions; which being most commonly done with the hand, are oft called by that name, as Exodus 14:31 Judges 9:16 Proverbs 10:4 12:24. So the sense is, He is conscious to himself that by his wicked life he hath prepared and stored up calamities and destruction for himself, and therefore he expected nothing less.
Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle.i.e. When trouble comes, instead of trusting, and hoping, and comforting himself in God, as good men do in such cases, as 1 Samuel 30:6, he is full of torment and dread of the issue of it, and concludes it will end in his utter ruin, as he hath great reason to do.
Ready to the battle; or, prepared or furnished; or, disposed with his army round about him, as this word seems to signify.
For he stretcheth out his hand against God, and strengtheneth himself against the Almighty.Now he gives the reason of all the forementioned calamities which befell him, which was his great wickedness in the time of his peace and prosperity.
He stretcheth out his hand against God, i.e. he commonly and customarily sinned against God with a high and out-stretched hand, i.e. boldly and presumptuously, as one that neither desired his favour, nor feared his anger.
Strengtheneth himself, i.e. he putteth his forces in array, as if he would fight with him.
Against the Almighty; which aggravates the madness of this poor contemptible worm that durst fight against the omnipotent God.
He runneth upon him, even on his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers:Runneth upon him, i.e. assaults him, or rusheth upon him with great swiftness and fury, as this phrase signifies, Daniel 8:6. This he is either,
1. God, who was expressed twice in the last verse, and who is here produced as entering the lists and fighting with his daring adversary. Or rather,
2. The wicked man, of whom and whose sin and misery he speaks in the whole context, both before and after this; who in the last verse was introduced as preparing for the battle, and here as actually and impudently fighting with him.
Even on his neck; as a stout warrior, who cometh close to his adversary and grapples with him, and taketh him by the neck to throw him down. Compare 2 Samuel 2:16 Job 16:2. Or, with his neck. So it is a metaphor from a mad and raging bull, which runs upon his enemy with a hard and stiff neck.
Upon the thick bosses of his bucklers, i.e. even where his enemy is strongest; he is not discouraged with the enemies’ thick, and strong, and eminent shields, but boldly ventures in upon them, and amongst them. Or, with the thick bosses (Heb. the thickness and eminency) of his shields, wherewith he invaded the enemy, that so he might both defend himself and offend his enemy; for the ancient shields were useful both ways, because they had a sharp iron or steel in the midst of them.
Because he covereth his face with his fatness, and maketh collops of fat on his flanks.With his fatness: this is mentioned as the reason of his insolent carriage towards God, because he was fat, i.e. rich, and potent, and successful, as that expression signifies, Deu 32:15 Psalm 78:31 Jeremiah 46:21. His great prosperity made him proud and secure, and regardless of God and men.
Maketh collops of fat on his flanks; his only care and study is to pamper and please himself, and obey his own mind and lusts, and in defence and pursuance of them he contends with God.
And he dwelleth in desolate cities, and in houses which no man inhabiteth, which are ready to become heaps.He dwelleth in desolate cities: these words may note either,
1. His tyranny and cruelty, whereby he makes the places of his abode and dominion desolate by his frequent murders, spoils, and oppressions, wherewith he destroyeth great numbers of his people, and forceth others to flee out of his reach. Or,
2. His pride, and power, and wealth; which enabled and engaged him to build desolate houses and cities for his own glory, and safety, and conveniency; of which See Poole "Job 3:14". Or,
3. His punishment and misery; that for his impiety towards God, and oppression of men, he was driven out of his dominions and possessions, and forced to flee into desolate places for safety and a habitation. This seems best to agree with the Hebrew words, which run thus, But (for so the particle and is commonly used, as hath been oft said) he shall dwell, &c. And so this is fitly opposed to this last-mentioned prosperity, and is the beginning of the description of his misery, which is continued in the following verses.
Which are ready to become heaps; which were ready to fall, and to be turned into a heap of stones.
He shall not be rich, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth.He shall not be rich, i. e not abide rich, but shall become poor.
Neither shall his substance continue; what he had gotten shall be taken from him.
The perfection thereof, i.e. the perfection of his substance, or that complete estate and glory which he hath attained, shall not be continued to him and to his posterity. Or, neither shall their perfection (i.e. that prosperity, and wealth, and power wherein they placed their perfection or happiness) spread itself, or be propagated or spread abroad, but shall be diminished and taken away. It is a metaphor from a tree. Compare Job 8:16.
He shall not depart out of darkness; the flame shall dry up his branches, and by the breath of his mouth shall he go away.He shall not depart out of darkness; his misery shall have no end.
The flame; God’s anger and judgment upon him.
His branches; either,
1. His children; or,
2. Wealth, and power, and glory, wherewith he was encompassed, and adorned, and secured, as trees are with their branches.
Of his mouth, i.e. of God’s mouth, as appears both by comparing this with Job 15:25, where God is expressed as the adversary with whom this wicked wretch contendeth; and by the nature of the thing, and the whole context, all this man’s calamities being manifestly the effects of God’s anger; and by other places of Scripture, where the breath of God’s mouth or lips are mentioned as that whereby he destroyeth wicked men; as Job 4:9 Isaiah 11:4 2 Thessalonians 2:8. And this expression intimates to us with how much facility God subdueth his enemies; he needs no arms or instruments; his word, his blast, one act of his will, is more than sufficient to do it.
Shall he go away, Heb. go back, i.e. retreat and run away from God faster than he did run towards and upon him, Job 15:26. So it is a continuation of the former metaphor of a battle or conflict between two persons.
Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity: for vanity shall be his recompence.In vanity, i.e. in the vain and deceitful things of this world, such as power, riches, honour, &c., of which, and of the loss of them, he had been largely discoursing; and now he subjoins a general caution to all men to take heed of running into the same error and mischief with the forementioned persons; and withal he secretly intimates Job’s great sin, which was the cause of his ruin, to wit, his carnal confidence in those vain things, the wealth, and glory, and children which God had given him; from which crime he therefore vindicates himself hereafter. For vanity, i.e. disappointment and dissatisfaction, and the vanishing or loss of all their imaginary felicity; the same word vanity being elegantly repeated in another sense, as is usual in Scripture and all authors.
His recompence, Heb. his exchange; he shall exchange one vanity for another, a pleasing vanity for a vexatious vanity. But this verse is and may be rendered otherwise; the Hebrew particle al being here, as it is elsewhere, taken for a simple negation. Thus, He that is deceived with vanity, (i.e. with the vain things of this world, wherewith most men are deceived and bewitched,) will not believe that vanity (i.e. emptiness, and disappointment, and misery) shall be his recompence. And so this is an aggravation of his calamity, that it surprised him when he was confident and secure from all fears of such an event.
It shall be accomplished before his time, and his branch shall not be green.It shall be accomplished, to wit, that which was last mentioned, that vanity should be his recompence. Or, it, i.e. his branch, mentioned in the next clause of the verse, from which it is understood in this former clause, as is very usual in the Holy Scripture, shall be consumed, or cut off.
Before his time, i.e. when by the course of nature and common providence it might have continued and flourished much longer.
His branch; either,
1. His glory and prosperity. Or rather,
2. His children, by comparing Job 15:34, where the desolation is said to fall upon all the congregation and tabernacles of these men; and so he reflects upon Job, who lost his children.
Shall not be green, i.e. shall not continue to flourish, as it had done.
He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine, and shall cast off his flower as the olive.He; either,
1. The wicked man, who by his sins is the author of his own ruin. Or,
2. God, who is easily understood, both from the matter and context.
Shall shake off, Heb. shall take away by violence.
His unripe grape, i. e. his fruit, his children, or other comforts, before their time.
As the vine, i.e. as the vine either itself droppeth, or rather loseth, its tender grapes, which are plucked off by a violent hand.
As the olive; which flourisheth much about the same time with the vine, and is commonly handled in the same manner.
For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.The congregation, i.e. their children, and servants, and friends, and dependents.
Desolate, i.e. utterly destroyed. Fire, i.e. some eminent and terrible judgment of God, which is oft expressed by fire; as Isaiah 9:19 26:11.
The tabernacles of bribery, i.e. which were either built or maintained by extortion and bribery, and suchlike unrighteous courses, whereof they thought Job guilty, Job 22:8.
They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.They conceive mischief, i.e. they devise and contrive injurious and pernicious enterprises against others.
Vanity, or iniquity, or injury, or trouble; either,
1. To others; they execute what they had contrived. Or,
2. To themselves; the mischief they designed for others falleth upon their own heads, and they reap what they sowed. And their belly, i.e. their inward parts, their hearts and minds. See Poole "Job 15:2".
Prepareth deceit; either,
1. For others, whom they design to cheat; or,
2. For themselves, who whilst they seek to deceive others, shall find that they themselves are most deceived, as being deprived of all their desires and hopes wherewith they fed themselves, and cast into all those calamities which they thought to prevent by these artifices.