Then Job answered and said,
Verses 1, 2.. - Then Job answered and said, I have heard many such things. There was nothing new in the second speech of Eliphaz, if we except its increased bitterness. Job had heard all the commonplaces about the universal sinfulness of man, and the invariable connection between sin and suffering, a thousand times before. It was the traditional belief in which he and all those about him had been brought up. But it brought him no relief. The reiteration of it only made him feel that there was neither comfort nor instruction to be got from his so-called "comforters." Hence his outburst. Miserable comforters are ye all!
I have heard many such things: miserable comforters are ye all.
Shall vain words have an end? or what emboldeneth thee that thou answerest?
Verse 3. - Shall vain words have an end? literally, as in the margin, words of wind; i.e. words which pass by a man "as the idle wind which he regards not." Will his friends never bring their futile speaking to a close? Or what emboldeneth thee that thou anwerest? rather, what provoketh thee? (Revised Version) Job had begged that his friends would be silent (Job 13:5, 13). He supposes that they would have complied with his wish if he had not provoked them, but professes an inability to see what provocation he had given. His last speech, however, had certainly not been conciliatory (see Job 12:1-3; Job 13:4, 7, etc.).
I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you, and shake mine head at you.
Verse 4. - I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul's stead, I could heap up words against you. It is only too easy to heap up rhetorical declamation against an unfortunate sufferer, whose physical and mental agonies absorb almost his whole attention. If you were in my place and condition, and I in yours, I could moralize in your tone and spirit for hours. And shake my head at you. A Hebrew mode of expressing condemnation of a man's conduct (see Psalm 22:7; Isaiah 37:22; Jeremiah 18:16; Matthew 27:39, etc.).
But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.
Verse 5. - But I would strengthen you with my mouth. The meaning is somewhat doubtful, and different renderings have been proposed. But the rendering of the Authorized Version is quite defensible, and is accepted by our Revisers. This gives the sense, "I, if I were in your place, would not act as you have acted, but, on the contrary, would do my best to strengthen you with words of comfort and encouragement." The moving of my lips should assuage your grief. (So Rosenmuller and our Revisers.) The words are a covert reproach of the three "friends" for not acting as Job declares that he would have acted if the positions had been reversed.
Though I speak, my grief is not asswaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased?
Verse 6. - Though I speak, my grief is not assuaged: and though I forbear, what am I eased! As it is, nor speech nor silence are of any avail. Neither of them brings me any relief. My sufferings continue as before, whichever course I take.
But now he hath made me weary: thou hast made desolate all my company.
Verse 7. - But now. These words mark a transition. Job turns from complaints against his "comforters" to an enumeration of his own sufferings. He hath made me weary. God has afflicted him with an intolerable sense of weariness. He is tired of life; tired of disputing with his friends; tired even of pouring out his lamentations and complaints and expostulations to God. His one desire is rest. So I have seen in the piombi of Venice, where political prisoners were tortured by cold and heat, and hunger and thirst, for long weeks or months, and brought to despair, such scratchlags as the following: "Luigi A. implora pace, Giuseppe B. implore eterna quiete." Job has entreated for this boon of rest repeatedly (Job 3:13; Job 6:9; Job 7:15; Job 10:18, etc.). Thou hast made desolate all my company. The loss of his children has desolated his household; his other afflictions have alienated his friends.
And thou hast filled me with wrinkles, which is a witness against me: and my leanness rising up in me beareth witness to my face.
Verse 8. - And thou hast filled me with wrinkles. So St. Jerome, Professor Lee, Dr. Stanley Leathes, and others; but the generality of modern commentators prefer the rendering, "Thou hast bound me fast," i.e. deprived me of all power of resisting or moving (comp. Psalm 88:8, "I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth"). Which is a witness against me; i.e. a witness of thy displeasure, and so (as men suppose) of my guilt. And my leanness rising up in me heareth witness to my face; rather, my leanness rising up against me. This emaciation is taken as another witness of his extreme sinfulness.
He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me: he gnasheth upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me.
Verse 9. - He teareth me in his wrath, who hateth me; literally, his wrath teareth and he hateth me. God treats Job as severely as if he hated him. That he is actually hated of God Job does not believe; otherwise he would long since have ceased to call upon him, and pour out his heart before him. He gnasheth upon me with his teeth (comp. Psalm 35:16; Psalm 37:12). Mine enemy (or rather, adversary) sharpeneth his eyes upon me; i.e. makes me a whetstone on which he sharpens his angry glances.
They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered themselves together against me.
Verse 10. - They have gaped upon me with their mouth. The "man of sorrows" of the Old Testament is, in many respects, a type of the "Man of sorrows" of the New; and, in the Messianic psalms, David constantly applies to Christ expressions which Job had used in reference to himself (see Psalm 22:13). They have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully (comp. Micah 5:1; Matthew 27:30; Luke 22:64; John 18:22). They have gathered themselves together against me (see Psalm 35:15, and compare, in illustration of the literal and historical sense, Job 30:1, 10-14).
God hath delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked.
Verse 11. - God hath delivered me to the ungodly. All that Job had suffered at the hands of wicked men, the gibes of his "comforters," the insults and "derision ' of "base men" (Job 30:1, 8-10), the desertion of many who might have been expected to have come to his aid, being by God's per-minion, is attributed by Job to God himself, who has "delivered" him up to these "ungodly" ones, and permits them to add to and intensify his sufferings. He was not so ruthlessly treated as his great Anti-type; he was not bound with thongs, or crowned with thorns, or smitten with a reed, or scourged, or crucified - even the smiting on the cheek, spoken of in ver. 10, was probably metaphorical; but he suffered, no doubt, grievously, through the scorn and contumely that assailed him, through his friends' unkindness, and his enimies' insolent triumph, and the rude jeers of the "abjeets" who made him their "song" and their "byword" (Job 30:9). And turned me over into the hands of the wicked. Job speaks as if God had wholly given him up, made him over to the wicked, to deal with him exactly as they chose. This, of course, was not so. If the malevolence of Satan was limited by the Divine will (Job 1:12; Job 2:6); so, much more, would the malevolence of man be limited.
I was at ease, but he hath broken me asunder: he hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces, and set me up for his mark.
Verse 12. - I was at ease (compare the picture drawn in Job 1:1-5). Job had been "at ease," tranquil, prosperous, happy. He had been almost without a care, when suddenly "trouble came." But he hath broken me asunder; rather, he brake me asunder (see the Revised Version). In the midst of his ease and tranquillity, God suddenly poured out his chastisements, and "brake Job asunder," i.e. destroyed his life, ruined it and broke it down. He hath also taken me by my neck, and shaken me to pieces; or, dashed me to pieces. And set me up for his mark; i.e. as a target for his arrows (comp. Deuteronomy 32:23; Job 6:4; Psalm 7:13; Psalm 38:2, etc.; Lamentations 3:12).
His archers compass me round about, he cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare; he poureth out my gall upon the ground.
Verse 13. - His archers compass me round about. God is represented, not as himself the shooter of the arrows, but as surrounding Job with a body of archers, who are under his command and carry out his will. So, generally, Scripture represents the judgments of God as carried out by interior agents (see 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; 2 Kings 19:35, etc.). He cleaveth my reins asunder, and doth not spare. The allusion is probably to Job's physical sufferings, which included severe pains in the lumbar region. He poureth out my gall upon the ground. The rupture of the gallbladder causes the contents to be sprit upon the ground.
He breaketh me with breach upon breach, he runneth upon me like a giant.
Verse 14. - He breaketh me with breach upon breach. As an enemy, when he besieges a town, crushes its resistance by means of "breach upon breach." so is Job crushed by one attack after another. He runneth upon me like a giant; i.e. with overwhelming force - a force that is quite irresistible.
I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin, and defiled my horn in the dust.
Verse 15. - I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin. Another transition. Job turns to the consideration of how he has acted under his severe afflictions. In the first place, he has put on sackcloth, not for a time merely, as ordinary mourners do, but for a permanency, so that he may be said to have sewn it to his skin. There is, perhaps, also an allusion to the adhesion of the garment to his many sores. And have defiled my horn in the dust. "My horn" is equivalent to "my pride," "my dignity." Job, when he left his state, and put on sackcloth, and "sat down among the ashes" (Job 2:8), denuded himself of his honour and dignity, and as it were trailed them in the dust
My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death;
Verse 16. - My face is foul with weeping He has wept so much that his face is stained with his tears. And on my eyelids is the shadow of death. There is an awful shadow on his eyes and eyelids, portending death
Not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure.
Verse 17. - Not for any injustice in mine hands; or, not that there is any violence in my hands (scrap. Isaiah 53:9, where the expression used of the Messiah is nearly the same). Job repudiates the charge of rapine and robbery which Eliphaz has brought against him (Job 15:28, 34). His hands have not done violence to any. Also my prayer is pure. Neither has he been guilty of the hypocrisy which Eliphaz has also charged him with (Job 15:34). His prayers have been sincere and genuine.
O earth, cover not thou my blood, and let my cry have no place.
Verse 18. - O earth, cover not thou my blood! There was a widespread belief in the ancient world that innocent blood, spilt upon the ground, cried to God for vengeance, and remained a dark blot upon the earth till it was avenged, or until it was covered up. Job apostrophizes the earth, and be-seethes it not to cover up his blood when he dies, as he expects to do, shortly. And let my cry have no place; i.e. let it have no hiding-place, but fill earth and heaven. Let it continue to be heard until it is answered.
Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.
Verse 19. - Also now, behold, my Witness is in heaven; rather, even now (see the Revised Version). Job claims God for his Witness, looks to him for an ultimate vindication of his character, is sure that in one way or another he will make his righteousness clear as the noonday in the sight of men and angels (see Job 19:25-27, of which this is in some sort an anticipation). My record - or, he that vouches for me (Revised Version) - is on high - one of the so frequent pleonastic repetitions of one and the same idea.
My friends scorn me: but mine eye poureth out tears unto God.
Verse 20. - My friends scorn me; literally, my scorners are my companions; i.e. I have to live with those who scorn me (comp. ch. 30:1-13). But mine eye poureth out tears unto God. It is not to his "friends" or "companions," or "comforters," or any human aid, that Job turns in his distress. God alone is his Refuge. Forced by his woes to pass his time in weeping and mourning (see ver. 16), it is to God that his heart turns, to God that he "pours out his tears." Hardly as he thinks God to have used him, bitterly as he sometimes ventures to complain, yet the idea never crosses him of looking for help or sympathy to any other quarter, of having recourse to any other support or stay. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15), expresses the deepest feeling of his heart, the firmost principle of his nature. Nothing overrides it. Even "out of the depths" his soul cries to the Lord (see Psalm 130:1).
O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!
Verse 21. - Oh that one might plead for a man with God! The original here is obscure. It may mean, Oh that he (i.e. God himself) would plead for a man with God! i.e. would become a Mediator between himself and man, plead for him, undertake his defence, and obtain for him merciful consideration. Or, nearly as in the Authorized Version, Oh that one might plead for man (i.e. mankind at large) with God! interest him on their behalf, and obtain a merciful judgment for them. The former rendering is to be preferred. As a man pleadeth for his neighbour; literally, as a son of man (or, as the Son of man) pleadeth for his neighbour. If we take the simpler rendering, "as a son of man," then the meaning is simply, "Oh that God would plead for man with himself, as a man is wont to plead for his fellow-man!" But if we prefer the other rendering, "as the Son of man," a Messianic interpretation will be necessary. (So Professor Lee and Dr. Stanley Leathes) But Messianic interpretations of passages that do not require them, and that have no such traditional interpretation, require extreme caution.
When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.
Verse 22. - When a few years are come; literally, a number of years, which generally means a small number. I shall go the way whence I shall not return. This verse would more fitly begin the following chapter, which opens in a similar strain, with an anticipation of the near approach of death