Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it.
Verses 1, 2. - The first two verses of ch. 13. are closely connected with ch. 12, forming the natural termination to the first section of Job's argument, that all results, whether good or evil, must be referred to God. Ver. 1 is little more than a repetition of Job 12:9 and ver. 2 of Job 12:3. Verse 1. - Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it. All the particulars mentioned concerning God's government of the world in Job 12:6-25 are derived by Job from his own experience. His eye has seen them or his ear has heard them. He is not indebted to others for information on these simple points, which he regards as necessarily impressed by their experience on all grown men (see Job 12:9).
What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.
Verse 2. - What ye know, the same do I know also. Job's friends have claimed to instruct him and set him right, on the ground of their age and experience (Job 4:8; Job 5:27; Job 8:8-10), He protests that, in the matters on which they have lectured him, they have no advantage over himself - he knows all that they know - in truth, the knowledge is open to all (see Job 12:3). I am not inferior unto you. An exact repetition of the second clause of Job 12:3.
Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.
Verses 3-13. - The second section of Job's argument is prefaced, like the first (Job 12:2-5), with a complaint with respect to the conduct of his opponents. He taxes them with the fabrication of lies (ver 4), with want of skill as physicians of souls (ver. 4), with vindicating God by reasonings in which they do not themselves believe (vers. 7, 8), and consequently with really mocking him (ver. 9). Having warned them that they are more likely to offend God than to please him by such arguments as those that they have urged (vers. 10-12), he calls on them to hold their peace, and allow him to plead his cause with God (ver. 13). Verse 3. - Surely I would speak to the Almighty. It is not Job's wish to argue his ease with his three friends, but to reason it out with God. His friends, however, interfere with this design, check it, thwart it, prevent him from carrying it out. He must therefore first speak a few words to them. And I desire to reason with God. Compare God's own invitation to his people, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord" (Isaiah 1:18), and again, "Put me in remembrance, let us plead together; declare thou, that thou mayest be justified" (Isaiah 43:26); which indicate God's gracious willingness to allow men to plead on their own behalf before him, and do their best to justify themselves.
But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value.
Verse 4. - But ye are forgers of lies. A harsh expression, indicating that Job was thoroughly exasperated. The lies which his friends had forged were, partly, misrepresentations of what he had said, as for example Job 11:4, but mainly statements, more or less covert, which implied that he had brought all his calamities on himself by a course of evil-doing (see Job 4:7, 8; Job 8:13, 14; Job 11:11, 14, 20). Ye are all physicians of no value. Job's friends had come to him to "comfort" him (Job 2:11), and act as physicians of his soul. But they had entirely failed to be of the least service. They had not even understood his case.
O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.
Verse 5. - Oh that ye would altogether hold your peace! The friends had "held their peace" for seven days after their arrival (Job 2:13). Oh that they would have held it altogether! Their words had done nothing but exasperate and goad almost to madness. There is a mournful pathos in Job's entreates to them to be silent (comp ver. 13). And it should be your wisdom. "Speech," it has been said, "is silvern, silence is golden." No doubt" there is a time for everything... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7); nor is the rule of La Trappe altogether a wise one. But probably ten times as much harm is done in the world by speaking as by keeping silence. "Words for God" need especial care and caution. If they do not do good, the harm that they may do is incalculable.
Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.
Verse 6. - Hear now my reasoning. As his friends have not kept silence, but have spoken, Job claims a right to be heard in his turn. If it be thought that he is somewhat impatient, it must be remembered that his opponents are three to one, all eager to catch him in a fault, and not very mild in their reprimands. And hearken to the pleadings of my lips. Job's "pleadings" are addressed, not to his friends, but to God, and are contained in vers. 14-28 of the present, and the whole of the succeeding chapter.
Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him?
Verse 7. - Will ye speak wickedly for God? We are not to suppose that Job's friends consciously used unsound and untrue arguments in their disputations with him on God's behalf. On the contrary, they are to be regarded as convinced of the truth of their own reasonings - as brought up in the firm belief, that temporal prosperity or wretchedness was dealt out by God, immediately, by his own will, to his subjects according to their behaviour. Holding this, they naturally thought that Job, being so greatly afflicted, must be a great sinner, and, as they could not very plausibly allege any open sins against him, they saw in his sufferings a judgment on him for secret sins. "His chosen friends, as Mr. Froude says, "wise, good, pious men, as wisdom and piety were then, without one glimpse of the true cause of his sufferings, saw in them a judgment of this character. He became to them an illustration, and even (such are the para-logisms of men of this description) a proof of their theory that 'the prosperity of the wicked is but for a while;' and instead of the comfort and help that they might have brought him, and which in the end they were made to bring him, he is to them no more than a text for the enunciation of solemn falsehood" ('Short Studies,' vol. 1. p. 300), i.e. of statements which were false, though solemnly believed by them to be true. And talk deceitfully for him. "Deceitfully," because untruly, yet so plausibly as to be likely to deceive others.
Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?
Verse 8. - Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God? Job intends to accuse his opponents of leaning unduly to God's side, and being prepared to justify him in the teeth of reason and justice. This is like the conduct of a judge who should allow his decision to be biassed by favour towards one or the other party in a suit.
Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?
Verse 9. - Is it good that he should search you out? "Are your motives in thus acting," Job asks his opponents, "so pure that they will stand the severity of God's judgment when he turns his scrutiny upon you and searches out the grounds of your proceedings? Is not your real motive to carry favour with him because he is so great and powerful?" Or as one man mocketh another, do ye so meek him? You may impose on a man by so acting, but you will not impose on God.
He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons.
Verse 10. - He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons. Even though it is his own person which you accept, his own cause that you unduly favour, he, as the God of truth, and Maintainer of right, will assuredly reprove and condemn you.
Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you?
Verse 11. - Shall not his excellency make you afraid! and his dread fall upon you? Will not the very excellency and perfection of God cause you all the more to fear, since they will be arrayed against you? God, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, who is no respecter of persons, and hates those who are respecters of persons, will by his very purity and truth be offended at your conduct, and induced to punish it,
Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.
Verse 12. - Your remembrances are like unto ashes. The "remembrances" intended are probably the wise saws, embodiments of the ancient wisdom, on which Job's adversaries have relied in their disputations with him (Job 4:7, 8; Job 8:8-11, etc.). These Job declares to be mere dust and ashes - useless, worthless, such as the first breath of air wilt blow away. Your bodies to bodies of clay; rather, your mounds or your defences (see the Revised Version). These defences, Job says - i.e, the arguments by which his opponents support their views - are no better than "defences of clay " - easy to batter down and destroy. The ancient defences of a town were usually either of stone, as at Khorsabad ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. pp. 278, 279), or of crude brick faced with burnt brick, as at Babylon and elsewhere. But Job seems to be speaking of something more primitive than either of these - mere earthworks, like the Roman aggera hastily thrown up and easy to level with the ground.
Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will.
Verse 13. - Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak; literally, be silent from me that I may speak; but our version gives the true meaning. Job repeats the entreaty with which he had bemoan (vers. 5, 6). And let some on me what will. Job is prepared to face the worst. He feels, as he expresses it below (ver. 19), that, if he holds his tongue, he must die. He must speak, and speak he will. After that, let God do as he may please - he will accept his punishment, if God thinks fit to punish him.
Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand?
Verses 14-28. - The appeal is now to God; but Job prefaces it by excusing his boldness (vers. 14-19). Verse 14. - Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth! An obscure phrase, to be explained by the parallel in the second member of the verse. The general meaning is, "Why do I jeopardize everything - my body, taking it as it were between my teeth; and my soul, taking it as it were in my hand?" Neither idea will bear minute analysis; but the latter, at any rate, was known to the Greeks (Athen., 'Deipnosoph.,' p. 569), and is common in English. And put my life in my hand (comp. Judges 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21; Psalm 119:109).
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
Verse 15. - Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; rather, yet will I wait for him. The passage is one of the few in this book where there are two readings - לו איחל and לאֹ איחל. Those who prefer the latter commonly render it, "I have no hope;" but it is pointed out by Canon Cook that there are reasons for regarding לֹא as an archaic form for לו, which sometimes takes its place. If this be not allowed the reading לו will have to be preferred, on the double authority of the versions and of the context. Job cannot possibly have said, in one verse, "I have no hope," and in the next, "He (God) shall be my Salvation." But I will maintain mine own ways before him; i.e. "I will maintain that they are right and good ways, not open to the imputations that my 'friends' have cast upon them" (Job 4:7, 8; Job 8:6, 20; Job 11:11, 14, 20).
He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.
Verse 16. - He also shall be my Salvation. Whatever God does to him (ver. 13), whatever burden he lays upon him, though he even "slay" him (ver. 15), yet Job is sure that ultimately, in one way or another, God will be his Salvation. It is this determined trustfulness which at once gives Job's character its strength, and atones in a certain sense for his over-boldness in challenging God to a controversy. His heart is right with God. Though the secrets of the unseen world have been hidden from him, and the condition of man after death is a mystery on which he can only form vague conjectures, yet he is sure that in the end God will not fail him. For an hypocrite shall not come before him. If he were a hypocrite the case would be different; he would tremble before God, instead of feeling confident. But, knowing that he is honest and true, he is not afraid; he is bold to "come before him," and plead his cause before him.
Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears.
Verse 17. - Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your ears. A last appeal to his opponents to give him their full attention (comp. ver. 6),
Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall be justified.
Verse 18. - Behold now, I have ordered my cause; i.e. I have prepared my pleadings, and arranged them; I know what I am about to say. Also I know that I shall be justified. I am confident, i.e. that the cause, if it be fully heard, will be decided in my favour. It will appear that I have not brought my calamities upon myself by my own misdoings. Of justification, in the forensic sense, of imputed righteousness, with its concomitant ideas, Job, of course, knows nothing.
Who is he that will plead with me? for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.
Verse 19. - Who is he that will plead with me? Will God himself plead? Or will he depute some one, man or angel? Job is impatient that the pleadings should begin. For now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost. Some translate, "For now shall I hold my peace and give up the ghost," which they explain to mean, "If God does implead me, I shall take refuge in silence, and straightway expire." But this seems an impossible conclusion, when all that Job has been aiming at and striving for since his opponents taxed him with wickedness has been that he might "speak to the Almighty, and reason with God" (ver. 3). It is far simpler to keep to the translation of the Authorized Version, and understand Job to mean that things have now reached a point at which he must either speak or expire.
Only do not two things unto me: then will I not hide myself from thee.
Verse 20. - Only do not two things unto me. Before beginning his plea, Job has two requests to make of God.
(1) That he will put an end for a time to his bodily sufferings - suspend them, at any rate, while the pleading continues;
(2) that he will during the same space abstain from terrifying him mentally, as he had done on previous occasions (Job 6:4; Job 7:14; Job 9:14; see below, ver. 21). Then will I not hide myself from thee; literally, from thy face (comp. Job 9:34, 35, "Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me: then would I speak, and not fear him ").
Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid.
Verse 21. - Withdraw thine hand far from me; i.e. "thy afflicting hand." Job views all his physical suffering as coming directly from the hand of God - momentarily caused by him, and therefore removable by him at any moment. He has no thought for secondary causes. And let not thy dread make me afraid. Job speaks here and elsewhere of spiritual terrors - those vague and impalpable fears which suggest themselves inwardly to the soul, and are tar more painful, far more dreadful, than any amount of bodily anguish. Unless he is free from these, as well as from physical pains, he cannot plead his cause freely and fully.
Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me.
Verse 22. - Then call thou, and I will answer. "Then" - when I am free from suffering, both mental and bodily - implead me, bring thy charges against me, and I will answer them. As Mr. Fronds observes, "Job himself had been educated in the same creed" as his comforters; "he, too, had been taught to see the hand of God in the outward dispensation" ('Short Studies,' vol. 1. p. 300). He therefore assumes that God will have a particular charge to make against him, in connection with each of the calamities that have come on him, and he is prepared to face these changes and confute them. At the same time, he is undoubtedly much confused and perplexed, not knowing how to reconcile his traditional belief with his internal consciousness of innocence. Or let me speak, and answer thou me. "Let me," i.e. "take the initiative, if thou preferrest it so - let me ask the questions, and do thou answer."
How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin.
Verse 23. - How many are mine iniquities and sins? This is scarcely, as Professor Stanley Leathes represents it, "a deep confession of personal sin" ('Old Testament Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 27). It is more in the nature of a remonstrance. "These sins of mine, for which I. am so grievously punished, what are they? Name them. How many are there of them? Let me know exactly what they are; and then I can question my conscience concerning them." Make me to know my transgression and my sin. These words imply that lie does not know them at present. He knows of some infirmities and lighter misdoings of his youth (ver. 26); but he knows of no such sins as are commensurate with his sufferings.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?
Verse 24. - Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy? What is thy reason for withdrawing from me the light of thy countenance, and behaving towards me as though thou weft mine enemy? Job does not believe God to be his enemy. He knows that God will one day be his Salvation (ver. 16); but he recognizes a present alienation, and desires to be made acquainted with the cause of it.
Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?
Verse 25. - Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble? Job compares himself to two of the weakest things in nature - a withered leaf, and a morsel of dry stubble. He cannot believe that God will employ his almighty strength in crushing and destroying what is so slight and feeble. A deep sense of God's goodness and compassion underlies the thought.
For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.
Verse 26. - For thou writest bitter things against me. The allusion seems to be to the ordinary practice in ancient law-courts of formulating a written acte d'accusation against supposed criminals. Keeping up the imagery of a court and pleadings, Job represents God as engaged in drawing up such a document against him. The "bitter things" are the charges which the acts contains. And makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth. Job, like David, has to acknowledge "sins and offences" committed in his youth (Psalm 25:6). In considering what the indictment against him can be, he can only suppose that these old and long-forsaken sins are being remembered and brought up against him, and that he is being punished for them. He does not exclaim against this as injustice; he feels probably that there is no statute of limitations respecting sins and their punishment; but it can scarcely have seemed to him consistent with God's goodness and mercifulness that the offences of his immature age should be visited upon him so bitterly.
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.
Verse 27. - Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks (comp. Job 33:11). The punishment is said to be still in use among the Bedouin Arabs. It was well known to the Israelites (Proverbs 7:22; Jeremiah 20:2; Jeremiah 29:26), to the Greeks (Herod., 9:87), and to the Romans (Acts 16:24). And lookest narrowly unto all my paths. Not allowing me to escape thee. Thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet; rather, upon the soles of my feet. The "print" intended is probably a mark which the stocks were in the habit of making (see Professor Sayee, in Sunday at Home December, 1890, p. 125).
And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is moth eaten.
Verse 28. - And he. The change of person is very strange, but not unknown to the Hebrew idiom. It is impossible that any one but Job himself can be meant. As a rotten thing consumeth, as a garment that is moth-eaten. An allusion to the character of the disease from which he is suffering.