Matthew Poole's Commentary
But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.Job’s honour is turned into contempt, Job 30:1-14; his prosperity into calamity, fears, pains, despicableness, Job 30:15-19; notwithstanding his prayer now, and his former charity, and hope, Job 30:20-26. His great sorrow, Job 30:27-31.
But now my condition is sadly changed for the worse.
They that are younger than I; whom both universal custom and the light of nature taught to reverence their elders and betters.
Have me in derision; make me the object of their contempt and scoffs: thus my glory is turned into shame.
I would have disdained; or rather, I might have disdained, i.e. whose condition was so mean and vile, that in the opinion and according to the custom of the world they were unworthy of such an employment.
To have set with the dogs of my flock; to be my shepherds, and the companions of my dogs which watch my flocks. Dogs are every where mentioned with contempt, as filthy, unprofitable, and accursed creatures; as 2 Samuel 16:9 2 Kings 8:13 Philippians 3:2 Revelation 22:15.
Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished?Nor was it strange that I did, or would. or might refuse to take them into any of my meanest services, because they were utterly impotent, and therefore unserviceable.
In whom old age was perished; or, lost; either,
1. Because they never attain to it, but are consumed by their lusts or cut off for their wickedness by the just hand of God, or men, in the midst of their days. Or,
2. Because they had so wasted their strength and spirits by their evil courses, that when they came to old age, they were feeble and decrepit, and useless for any labour. Or,
3. Because they had not that prudence and experience which is proper and usual in that age, by which they might have been useful, if not for work, yet to oversee and direct others in their work. But the words may be thus rendered, in whom vigorous age was perished, i.e. who were grown impotent for service. For the word here rendered old age, is used only here and Job 5:26, where also it may be so rendered, Thou shalt come to thy grave in a vigorous or mature age, having the rigour of youth even in thine old age, and until thy death, as Moses had. And if this word do signify old age, yet it signifies not every, but only a flourishing and vigorous, old age; as the Hebrews note, and the word may seem to imply; whence the LXX. interpreters also render it perfection, to wit, of age, and of thee endowments belonging to age.
For want and famine they were solitary; fleeing into the wilderness in former time desolate and waste.Want and famine, brought upon them either by their own sloth or wickedness, or by God’s just judgment. Heb. In want and famine, which aggravates their following solitude. Although want commonly drives persons to places of resort and company for relief, yet they were so conscious of their own guilt, and contemptibleness, and hatefulness to all persons, that they shunned all company, and for fear or shame fled into and lived in desolate places.
Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.Mallows; or, purslain, or salt or bitter herbs, as the word seems to import, which shows their extreme necessity.
By the bushes; or, by the shrubs, nigh unto which they grew; or, with the barks of trees, as the Vulgar Latin renders it.
Juniper roots: possibly the word may signify some other plant, for the Hebrews themselves are at a loss for the signification of the names of plants.
They were driven forth from among men, (they cried after them as after a thief;)Giving one another warning of their danger from them.
To dwell in the clifts of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks.As unworthy of human society, and for their beggary and dishonesty suspected and avoided of all men.
Among the bushes they brayed; under the nettles they were gathered together.They brayed, like the wild asses, Job 6:5, for hunger or thirst.
Under the nettles, which seem not proper for that use. This Hebrew word is used but twice in Scripture, and it is acknowledged both by Jewish and Christian writers, that the signification of the Hebrew words which express plants, or beasts, or stones, &c. is very uncertain; and therefore this is by others, and may well be, understood of some kind of thorns; and so this is the same thing with the bushes in the former branch of the verse, under which they hid themselves, that they might not be discovered when they were sought out for justice.
They were children of fools, yea, children of base men: they were viler than the earth.Children of fools; either,
1. The genuine children of foolish parents; their children not only by birth, but by imitation; as they only are esteemed the children of Abraham who do the works of Abraham, John 8:39. Or,
2. Fools, by a common Hebraism, as the sons of men are put for men, and the children of wisdom for wise men, &c.
Children of base men, Heb. men without name, i.e. without any degree of credit or reputation; as men of name is put for renowned persons, Genesis 6:4.
Viler than the earth, which we tread and spit upon, and are not willing to touch.
And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword.The matter of their song and derision. They now rejoice in my calamities, because formerly I used my authority to punish such vagrants and miscreants.
They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face.They flee far from me, in contempt of my person, and loathing of my sores.
Spare not to spit in my face; not literally, for they kept far from him, as he now said; but figuratively, i.e. they use all manner of contemptuous and reproachful expressions and carriages towards me, not only behind my back, but even to my face.
Because he hath loosed my cord, and afflicted me, they have also let loose the bridle before me.Because he, to wit, God, for it follows, he afflicted me, which was God’s work.
Hath loosed my cord; either,
1. He hath slackened the string (as this word sometimes signifies) of my bow, and so rendered my bow and arrows useless, either to offend others, or to defend myself, i.e. he hath deprived me of my strength or defence: so this is opposed to that expression, Job 29:20. Or,
2. He hath taken away from me that power and authority wherewith, as with a cord, I bound them to the good behaviour, and kept them within their bounds. The like expression is used in the same sense Job 15:18.
Afflicted me: when they perceived that God, who had been my faithful friend, and constant defender, had forsaken me, and was become mine enemy, they presently took this advantage of showing their malice against me.
They have also let loose the bridle; they cast off all former restraints of law, or humanity, or modesty, and gave themselves full liberty to speak or act what they pleased against me. Before me; they durst now do those things before mine eyes, which formerly they trembled lest they should come to my ears.
Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction.Upon my right hand. This circumstance is noted, either because this was the place of adversaries or accusers in courts of justice, Psalm 109:6 Zechariah 3:1; or to show their boldness and contempt of him, that they durst oppose him even on that side where his chief strength lay.
Rise, to wit, in way of contempt and opposition, or to accuse and reproach me, as my friends now do; as one who by my great, but secret, wickedness have brought these miseries upon myself.
The youth, Heb. young striplings, who formerly hid themselves from my presence, Job 29:8.
They push away my feet; either,
1. Properly, they trip up my heels Or rather,
2. Metaphorically, they endeavour utterly to overwhelm my goings, and to cast me down to the ground.
The ways, i.e. causeways, or banks; so it is a metaphor from soldiers, who raise or cast up banks against the city which they besiege. Or, they raise up a level, or smooth the path by continual treading it; they prepare, and contrive, and use several methods to destroy me.
Of their destruction; either,
1. Passively; so the sense is, they raise or heap upon me, i.e. impute to me, the ways, i.e. the causes, of their ruin; they charge me to be the author of their ruin. Or rather,
2. Actively, of that destruction which they design and carry on against me; which best suits with the whole context, wherein Job is constantly represented as the patient, and wicked men as the agents.
They mar my path, they set forward my calamity, they have no helper.As I am in great misery, so they endeavour to stop all my ways out of it, and to frustrate all my counsels and courses of obtaining relief or comfort. And although Job had no hopes of a temporal deliverance or restitution, yet he could not but observe and resent the malice of those who did their utmost to hinder it. Or the sense is, They pervert all my ways, putting perverse and false constructions upon them, censuring all my conscientious discharges of my duty to God and men, as nothing but craft and hypocrisy.
They set forward my calamity; increasing it by their bitter taunts, and invectives, and censures. Or, they profit by, or are pleased and satisfied with, my calamity. It doth them good at the heart to see me in misery.
They have no helper: this is added as an aggravation of their malice; they impudently persisted in their malicious designs against me, though none encouraged or assisted them therein. Or, even they who had no helper, who were themselves in a forlorn and miserable condition; and yet they could so far forget or overlook their own calamities as to take pleasure in mine.
They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters: in the desolation they rolled themselves upon me.As a wide breaking in of waters; as fiercely and violently as a river doth when a great breach is made in the bank which kept it in. Heb. as at a wide breach; as a besieging army, having made a breach in the walls of the city, do suddenly and forcibly rush into it. In the desolation; or, for or instead of a desolation, i.e. that they might utterly destroy me, and make me desolate. Or, in the waste place, i. e. in that part of the bank or wall which was wasted or broken down.
They rolled themselves upon me; as the waters or soldiers come rolling or tumbling in at the breach.
Terrors are turned upon me: they pursue my soul as the wind: and my welfare passeth away as a cloud.Terrors, to wit, from God, who sets himself against me, and in some sort joins his forces with these miscreants.
Are turned upon me; are directed against me, to whom they seem not to belong, as being the portion of wicked men.
My soul, Heb. my principal or excellent one, i.e. my soul, which is fitly so called, as being the chief part of man; as it is called a man’s glory, Genesis 49:6, and his only one, Psalm 22:20, and which is the proper seat and object of Divine terrors, as his body was of his outward pains and ulcers.
As the wind, i.e. speedily, vehemently, and irresistibly.
My welfare; all the happiness and comfort of any life.
As a cloud; which is quickly dissolved into rain, or dissipated by the sun, or driven away with the wind.
And now my soul is poured out upon me; the days of affliction have taken hold upon me.My soul is poured out; all the strength and powers of my soul are melted, and fainting, and dying away, through my continued and insupportable sorrows and calamities.
Upon me; or, within me, as this Hebrew particle is elsewhere used, as Psalm 42:5,6 Isa 26:9 Hosea 11:8.
My bones are pierced in me in the night season: and my sinews take no rest.My bones are pierced: Heb. It, to wit, the terror or affliction last mentioned; or, He, i.e. God, hath pierced my bones. This is no slight and superficial, but a most deep wound, that reacheth to my very heart, and bones, and marrow. Nothing in me is so secret but it reacheth it, nothing so hard and solid but it feels the weight and burden of it.
In me, Heb. from above me, by an arrow shot from Heaven, whence my calamities come, and that in a singular and eminent manner. Or, by that which is upon me: the sores which are upon my skin, or outward flesh, do pierce and pain me even to the bones. For now he is come from describing the terrors of his mind, to express the torments of his body.
In the night season; when others do, and I should, receive some rest and refreshment.
My sinews; and the flesh of my body which covereth the sinews, and is mixed with them, and may seem to be synecdochically expressed by the sinews, which are the strength and support of the flesh. So he signifies that neither his bones nor his flesh resteth. Or, and my veins or arteries, which rest or move slowly when the mind and body are well composed; but in Job did move vehemently and restlessly, by reason of his great heat, and pain, and passion.
By the great force of my disease is my garment changed: it bindeth me about as the collar of my coat.My disease is so strong and prevalent, that it breaks forth every where in my body, in such plenty of purulent and filthy matter, that it infects and discolours my very garments. Others, By the great power of God
my garment is changed. In both these translations the words, of disease, and of God, are not in the Hebrew text, but are supplied by the translators. But the words are by some not untruly nor unfitly rendered thus, without any supplement, With great force my garment is changed; for so this verb is used, 1 Kings 22:30. So the sense is, I cannot shift or put off my garment without great strength and difficulty; the reason whereof is rendered in the following words.
It bindeth me about; it cleaveth fast to me, being glued by that filthy matter issuing from my sores.
As the collar of my coat; as my collar girdeth in and cleaveth to my neck. He alludes to the fashion of the Eastern outward garments, which were seamless, and all of a piece, and had a straight mouth at the top, which was brought over the head, and contracted and fastened close about the neck.
He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes.He hath made me contemptible and filthy, and loathsome for my sores, my whole body being a kind of quagmire, in regard of the filth breaking forth in all its parts;
and I am become like dust and ashes, like one dead and turned to dust; more like a rotten carcass than a living man.
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not.Thou dost not hear me, to wit, so as to answer or help me.
I stand up, or, I stand, to wit, before thee, i.e. I pray, as this phrase signifies, Jeremiah 15:1 18:20, this being a gesture of prayer, Matthew 6:5. And so the same thing is here repeated in other words, after the manner. Or, I persist or persevere in praying; I pray importunately and continually, as thou requirest.
Thou regardest me not; so the particle not is supplied out of the former clause. Or without the negation, thou knowest or observest me, and all my griefs and cries, and yet dost not pity nor help me, but rather takest pleasure in the contemplation of my calamities, as the following words imply. Or it may be taken interrogatively, Dost thou regard me? i.e. thou dost not.
Thou art become cruel to me: with thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me.Become cruel, Heb. turned to be cruel; as if thou hadst changed thy very nature, which is kind, and merciful, and gracious; and such thou hast been formerly in thy carriage to me; but now thou art grown severe, and rigorous, and inexorable.
Thou opposest thyself against me; thy power wherewith I hoped and expected that thou wouldst have supported me under my troubles thou usest against me.
Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou causest me to ride upon it, and dissolvest my substance.Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou dost not suffer me to rest or lie still for a moment, but disquietest me, and exposest me to all sorts of storms and calamities; so that I am like chaff or stubble lifted up to the wind, and violently tossed hither and thither in the air, without the least stop or hinderance.
To ride upon it, i.e. to be carried and hurried about by it. By this restlessness, and the vehemency of these winds, my body is almost consumed and wasted, and my heart is melted within me.
For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.I see nothing will satisfy thee but my death, which thou art bringing upon me in a lingering and dismal manner.
To the house appointed for all living; to the grave, to which all living men are coming and hastening.
Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave, though they cry in his destruction.There is great variety and difficulty in the sense and connexion of these words. They may be joined either,
1. With the following verse, as describing Job’s compassion to others in affliction, which by the principles of reason and religion should have procured him some pity from God and men in his affliction. And to that purpose the words are or may be translated thus: But was not my prayers for them (which words may be understood out of the following clause) when he stretched out his hand? (to wit, against them to destroy them;) in his destruction or oppression (understand it actively, i.e. when God was about to destroy any other man or men) was not (the negation being understood out of the former branch of the verse, as is usual) my cry for them? the feminine-gender being put for the masculine, as it is elsewhere; or for these things, the feminine being put for the neuter; that is, for those destructive calamities which were upon them. Or,
2. With the foregoing verse. And so these words contain either,
1. A consolation against the evil last mentioned: so the sense is, Though God will undoubtedly bring me to the grave by these torments, yet this comforts me, that surely he will not stretch out his hand (to wit, to afflict or punish me further, as this phrase is used, Exodus 3:20 Isaiah 9:12,13) in the grave, though they, i.e. the perishing persons, cry or roar (i.e. be sorely pained and tormented)
in his destruction, i.e. whilst God is destroying them. Or this last clause may be read interrogatively, Is there any cry in his destruction? When a man is cut off or destroyed by death, doth he then cry and complain? No, there is an end of all these miseries. Or rather,
2. A confirmation of what he last said. For the whole context shows that Job is not taking any comfort to himself, but rather aggravating his sufferings. I know, saith he, that I am a dead man, and my condition is desperate, for surely he, i.e. God, will not stretch out his hand (to wit, to save or rescue me, as this phrase is used, Psalm 18:17 144:7, compared with Acts 4:30) to or in the grave, (i.e. to a dead man, such as I am in effect, having not only one foot, but in a manner both feet, in the grave, as being upon the very brink of the pit,) though they cry (to wit, unto God, i.e. though there be a great and a general cry and lamentation for him among his friends, or others, and an earnest desire of him, if possibly he might be restored to life again) in his destruction, i.e. when he is destroyed or dead; yet all these cries would be in vain.
Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?Whence is it that neither God nor man show any compassion to me, but both conspire to afflict me, and increase my torments? Doth God now mete out to me the same measure which I meted out to others? Have I now judgment without mercy, because I afforded no mercy nor pity to others in misery? No, my conscience acquits me from this inhumanity. I did not slightly resent, but bitterly mourn and weep over others in their miseries; and therefore I had reason to expect more compassion than I find.
Was not my soul grieved for the poor, even for him who was not capable of requiting my kindness in case of his recovery? which shows that my sympathy was real, and not reigned, as it is in some who pretend great sorrow for the rich in their troubles, hoping thereby to insinuate themselves into their favour and friendship, and thereby to procure some advantage to themselves.
When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.Instead of the return of the like pity to me, which I might justly challenge and expect whensoever I should stand in need of it, I meet with a sad disappointment, and my pity is recompensed with others’ cruelty to me.
My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me.My inward parts boiled without ceasing. The bowels are the seat of passion and of compassion; and therefore this may be understood, either,
1. Of his compassionate and deep sense of others’ miseries; which is oft expressed by bowels, as Isaiah 16:11 Colossians 3:12, and elsewhere, of which he spoke Job 30:25, to which he subjoins the contrary usage which he met with, Job 30:26. And then, in this first part of Job 30:27, he renews the mention of his compassion to others, and in the latter part he adds, by way of antithesis or opposition, that his mercy was requited with cruel afflictions. Or,
2. Of the grievousness of his troubles, which is sometimes expressed by the troubling or boiling of the bowels, or inward parts; as Lamentations 1:20.
Prevented me, i.e. came upon me suddenly and unexpectedly, when I promised to myself peace and prosperity, as the usual recompence which God promiseth and giveth to such as fear and please him, as I have done.
I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation.I went, or, I walked hither and thither as I could. Or, I converse or appear among others.
Mourning without the sun; spending my days in mourning, without any sun-light or comfort; or so oppressed with sadness, that I did not care nor desire to see the light of the sun. Heb. black not by the sun. My very countenance is changed and become black, but not by the sun, which makes many other persons black, Song of Solomon 1:5,6; but by the force of my disease and deep melancholy, which ofttimes makes a man’s visage black and dismal. See Psalm 119:83 Lamentations 5:10. And this he repeats in plainer terms, Job 30:30, as an eminent token of his excessive grief and misery.
I stood up; either because my disease and pain made me weary of other postures; or that others might take notice of me, and be moved with pity towards me.
I cried with a loud and direful clamour, through great and sudden anguish.
In the congregation; where prudence and modesty taught me to forbear it, if extreme necessity and misery had not forced me to it.
I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.A brother, to wit, by imitation of their cries: persons of like qualities are oft called brethren, as Genesis 49:5 Proverbs 18:9.
To dragons; which howl and wail mournfully in the deserts, Micah 1:8, either through hunger or thirst, or when he fights with and is beaten by the elephant. To owls; whose sad and mournful noises are known. Or, ostriches; which also is noted to make lamentable outcries.
My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.My skin is black upon me; either by his dark-coloured scabs, wherewith his body was in a manner wholly overspread; or by grief, as before.
My bones are burned with heat; the effect of his fever and sorrow, which dried up all his moisture, and caused great inflammations and burning heats within him.
My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.Either,
1. I have now nothing but bitter lamentations instead of my former expressions of joy. Or,
2. Those very things which formerly were occasions and instruments of my delight, do now renew and aggravate my sorrows.