Then Job answered and said,
Verses 1-29. - Job begins his answer to Bildad's second speech by an expostulation against the unkindness of his friends, who break him in pieces, and torture him, with their reproaches (vers. 1-5). He then once more, and more plainly than on any other occasion, recounts his woes.
(1) His severe treatment by God (vers. 6-13);
(2) his harsh usage by his relatives and friends (vers. 14-19): and
(3) the pain caused him by his disease (ver. 20); and appeals to his friends on these grounds for pity and forbearance (vers. 21, 22). Next, he proceeds to make his great avowal, prefacing it with a wish for its preservation as a perpetual record (vers. 23, 24); the avowal itself follows (vers. 25-27); and the speech terminates with a warning to his "comforters," that if they continue to persecute him, a judgment will fall upon them (vers. 28, 29). Verses 1, 2. - Then Job answered and said, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? Job is no Stoic. He is not insensible to his friends' attacks. On the contrary, their words sting him, torture him, "break him in pieces," wound his soul in its tenderest part. Bildad's attack had been the cruellest of all, and it drives him to expostulation (vers. 2-5) and entreaty (vers. 21, 22).
How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?
These ten times have ye reproached me: ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me.
Verse 3. - These ten times have ye reproached me. (For the use of the expression "ten times" for "many times." "frequently." see Genesis 31:7, 41; Numbers 14:22; Nehemiah 4:12; Daniel 1:20, etc.) Ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me; rather, that ye deal hardly with me (see the Revised Version). The verb used does not occur elsewhere, but seems to have the meaning of "ill use" or "ill treat" (see Professor Lee's "Commentary on the Book of Job" p. 328).
And be it indeed that I have erred, mine error remaineth with myself.
Verse 4. - And be it indeed that I have erred; or, done wrong. Job at no time maintains his impeccability. Sins of infirmity he frequently pleads guilty to, and specially to intemperate speech (see Job 6:26; Job 9:14, 20, etc.). Mine error remaineth with myself; i.e. "it remains mine; and I suffer the punishment."
If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me, and plead against me my reproach:
Verse 5. - If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me. If you have no sense of justice, and are disinclined to pay any heed to my expostulations; if you intend still to insist on magnifying yourselves against me, and bringing up against me my "reproach;" then let me make appeal to your pity. Consider my whole condition - how I stand with God, who persecutes me and "destroys" me (ver. 10); how I stand with my relatives and such other friends as I have beside yourselves, who disclaim and forsake me (vers. 13-19); and how I am conditioned with respect to my body, emaciated and on the verge of death (ver. 20); and then, if neither your friendship nor your sense of justice will induce you to abstain from persecuting me, abstain at any rate for pity's sake (ver. 21). And plead against me my reproach. Job's special "reproach" was that God had laid his hand upon him. This was a manifest fact, and could not be denied. His "comforters" concluded from it that he was a monster of wickedness.
Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.
Verse 6. - Know now that God hath overthrown me; or, perverted me - "subverted me in my cause" (see Lamentations 3:6). And hath compassed me with his net. Professor Lee thinks that the net, or rather noose, intended by the rare word מצוּד is the lasso' which was certainly employed in war (Herod., 7:85), and probably also in hunting, from ancient times in the East. Bildad had insinuated that Job had fallen into his own snare (Job 18:7-9); Job replies that the snare in which he is taken is from God.
Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment.
Verse 7. - Behold, I cry out of wrong; i.e. "I cry out that I am wronged." I complain that sufferings are inflicted on me that I have not deserved. This has been Job's complaint from the first (Job 3:26; Job 6:29; Job 9:17, 22; Job 10:3, etc.). But I am not heard; i.e. "I am not listened to - my cry is not answered." I cry aloud, but there is no judgment; or, no decision- "no sentence." All Job's appeals to God have elicited no reply from him. He still keeps silence. Job appears from the first to have anticipated such a theophany as ultimately takes place (ch. 38-41.) and vindicates his character.
He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.
Verse 8. - He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass (comp. Job 3:25; Job 13:27; Hosea 2:6), and he hath set darkness in my paths. Job complains of the want of light; in his heart he cries, Ἐν δὲ φάει καὶ ὄλεσσον. Nothing vexes him so much as his inability to understand why he is afflicted.
He hath stripped me of my glory, and taken the crown from my head.
Verse 9. - He hath stripped me of my glory. The glory which he had in his prosperity; not exactly that of a king, but that of a great sheikh or emir - of one who was on a par with the noblest of those about him (see Job 1:3). And taken the crown from my head. Not an actual crown, which sheikhs do not wear, but a metaphor for dignity or honour.
He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone: and mine hope hath he removed like a tree.
Verse 10. - He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone; or, broken me down. Job compares himself to a city, the walls of which are attacked on every side and broken down. His ruin is complete - he perishes. And mine hope hath he removed like a tree; rather, torn up like a tree. Job's "hope" was, no doubt, to lead a tranquil and a godly life, surrounded by his relatives and friends, in favour with God and man, till old age came, and he descended, like a ripe shock of corn (Job 5:26), to the grave. This hope had been "torn up by the roots" when his calamities fell upon him.
He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies.
Verse 11. - He hath also kindled his wrath against me. It is not what has happened to him in the way of affliction and calamity that so much oppresses and crushes the patriarch, as the cause to which he, not unnaturally, ascribes his afflictions, vie. the wrath of God. Participating in the general creed of his time, he believes his sufferings to come direct from God, and to be proofs of God's severe anger against him. He is not, however, prepared on this account to renounce God. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15) is still his inward sustaining thought and guiding principle. And he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies. Job felt himself treated as an enemy of God, and supposed that God must consider him such. He either had no glimpse of the cheering truth, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6), or he could not imagine that such woes as his were mere chastenings.
His troops come together, and raise up their way against me, and encamp round about my tabernacle.
Verse 12. - His troops come together (comp. Job 16:13, "His archers compass me round about"). It seems to Job that God brings against him a whole army of assailants, who join their forces together and proceed to the attack. Clouds of archers, troops of ravagers, come about him, and fall upon him from every side. And raise up their way against me; rather, and cast up their bank against me. Job still regards himself as a besieged city (see ver. 10), and represents his assailants as raising embankments to hem him in, or mounds from which to batter his defences (compare the Assyrian sculptures, passim). And encamp round about my tabernacle; i.e. "my tent," or "my dwelling."
He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me.
Verse 13. - He hath put my brethren far from me. Job had actual "brothers" (Job 42:11), who forsook him and "dealt deceitfully" with him (Job 6:15) during the time of his adversity, but were glad enough to return to him and "eat bread with him" in his later prosperous life. Their alienation from him during the period of his afflictions he here regards as among the trials laid upon him by God. Compare the similar woe of Job's great Antitype (John 5:5, "For neither did his brethren believe on him"). And mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me (comp. Psalm 38:11; Psalm 69:9; Psalm 88:8, 18). The desertion of the afflicted by their fair-weather friends is a standing topic with the poets and moralists of all ages and nations. Job was not singular in this affliction.
My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.
Verse 14. - My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me (see Psalm 41:9).
They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger: I am an alien in their sight.
Verse 15. - They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger. Even the inmates of his house, male and female, his servants, guards, retainers, handmaids, and the like, looked on him and treated him as if unknown to them. l am an alien in their sight. Nay, not only as if unknown, but "as an alien," i.e. a foreigner.
I called my servant, and he gave me no answer; I intreated him with my mouth.
Verse 16. - I called my servant, and he gave me no answer. Astounding insolence in an Oriental servant or rather slave (עבד), who should have hung upon his master's words, and striven to anticipate his wishes. I intreated him with my mouth. Begging him probably for some service which was distasteful, and which he declined to render.
My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body.
Verse 17. - My breath is strange to my wife. The breath of a sufferer from elephantiasis has often a fetid odour which is extremely disagreeable. Job's wife, it would seem, held aloof from him on this account, so that he lost the tender offices which a wife is the fittest person to render. Though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body. This translation is scarcely tenable, though no doubt it gives to the words used a most touching and pathetic sense. Translate, and I am loathsome to the children of my mother's wench; i.e. to my brothers and sisters (comp. Job 42:11). It would seem that they also avoided Job's presence, or at any rate any near approach to him. Under the circumstances, this is perhaps not surprising; but Job, in his extreme isolation, felt it keenly.
Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me.
Verse 18. - Yea, young children despised me. (So Rosenmuller, Canon Cook, and the Revised Version.) Others translate, "the vile," or "the perverse" (comp. Job 16:11). But the rendering of the Authorized Version receives support from Job 21:11. The forwardness of rude and ill-trained children to take part against God's saints appears later in the history of Elisha (2 Kings 2:23, 24). I arose, and they spake against me; or, when I arise they speak against me (compare. the Revised Version).
All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me.
Verse 19. - All my inward friends abhorred me; literally, all the men of my counsel; i.e. all those whom I was accustomed to consult, and whose advice I was wont to take, in any difficulty, by keeping aloof, have shown their abhorrence of me. And they whom I loved are turned against me (comp. Psalm 41:9; Psalm 55:12-14: Jeremiah 20:10). The saints of God in all ages, and however differently circumstanced, are assailed by almost the same trials and temptations. Whether it be Job, or David, or Jeremiah, or One greater than any of them, the desertion and unkindness of their nearest and dearest, as the bitterest of all sufferings, is almost sure to be included in their cup, which they must drink to the dregs, if they are to experience to the full "the precious uses of adversity."
My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.
Verse 20. - My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh. Here the third source of Job's misery is brought forward - his painful and incurable disease. This has brought him to such a pitch of emaciation that his bones seem to adhere to the tightened skin, and the scanty and shrunken muscles, that cover them (comp. Job 33:21 and Lamentations 4:8). Such emaciation of the general frame is quite compatible with the unsightly swelling of certain parts of the body which characterizes elephantiasis. And I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. The expression is, no doubt, proverbial, and signifies "barely escaped;" but its origin is obscure.
Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.
Verse 21. - Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends. On the enumeration of his various woes, Job's appeal for pity follows. We must not regard it as addressed merely to the three so-called "friends" (Job 2:11) or "comforters" (Job 16:2), Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. It is an appeal to all those who are around him and about him, whose sympathies have been bither to estranged (vers. 13-19), but whose regard he does not despair of winning back. Will they not, when they perceive the extremity and variety of his sufferings, be moved to compassion by them, and commiserate him in his day of calamity? For the hand of God hath touched me. To the "comforters" this is no argument. They deem him unworthy of pity on the very ground that he is "smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4); since they hold that, being so smitten, he must have' deserved his calamity. But to unprejudiced persons, not wedded to a theory, such an aggravation of his woe would naturally seem to render him a greater object of pity and compassion.
Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?
Verse 22. - Why do ye persecute me as God? i.e. Why are ye as hard on me as God himself? If I have offended him, what have I done to offend you? And are not satisfied with my flesh? i.e. "devour my flesh, like wild beasts, and yet are not satisfied."
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!
Verse 23. - Oh that my words were written! It is questioned what words of his Job is so anxious to have committed to writing - those that precede the expression of the wish, or those that follow, or both. As there is nothing that is very remarkable in the preceding words, whereas the latter are among the most striking in the book, the general opinion has been that he refers to these last. It is now universally allowed, even by those whose date for Job is the most remote, that books were common long before his time, and so that he might naturally have been familiar with them. Writing is, of course, even anterior to books, and was certainly in use before B.C. 2000. The earliest writing was probably on stone or brick, and was perhaps in every case hieroglyphical. When writing on papyrus, or parchment, or the bark of trees, came into use, a cursive character soon superseded the hieroglyphical, though the latter continued In be employed for religious purposes, and for inscriptions on stone. Oh that they were printed in a book! rather, inscribed, or engraved. The impression of the characters below the surface of the writing material, as in the Babylonian and Assyrian clay-tablets, seems to be pointed at.
That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!
Verse 24. - That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! A peculiar kind of rock-inscription, of which, so far as I know, no specimens remain, appears to be here alluded to. Job wished the characters of his record to be cut deep into the rock with an iron chisel, and the incision made to be then filled up with lead (compare the mediaeval "brasses").
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
Verse 25. - For I know that my Redeemer liveth. Numerous endeavours have been made to explain away the mysterious import of this verse. First, it is noted that a goel is any one who avenges or ransoms another, and especially that it is "the technical expression for the avenger of blood" (Froude, 'Short Stories,' vol. 1. p. 284) so often mentioned in the Old Testament. It is suggested, therefore, that Job's real meaning may be that he expects one of his relatives to arise after his death as the avenger of his blood, and to exact retribution for it. But unless in the case of a violent death at the hands of a man, which was not what Job expected for himself, there could be no avenger of blood. Job has already expressed his desire to have a thirdsman between him and God (Job 9:32-35), which thirdsman can scarcely be other than a Divine Personage. In Job 16:19 be has declared his conviction that" his Witness is in heaven." In ver. 21 of the same chapter he longs to have an advocate to plead his cause with God. In Job 17:3 he calls upon God to be Surety for him. Therefore, as Dr. Stanley Leathes points out, "he has already recognized God as his Judge his Umpire his Advocate his Witness and his Surety in some cases by formal confession of the fact, in others by earnest longing after, and aspiration for, some one to act in that capacity." After all this, it is not taking a very long step in advance to see and acknowledge in God his Goel, or "Redeemer." And that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; rather, and that at the last he shall stand up over my dust. אַחַדון is not "one who comes after me;" but, if a noun, "the last one" as רִאשׁון is "the first one "(Isaiah 44:6); if intended adverbially, "at the last" - i.e, at the end of all things. "At the latter day" is not an improper translation.
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:
Verse 26. - And though after my skin worms destroy this body. The supposed ellipsis of "worms" is improbable, as is also that of "body." Translate, and after my skin has been thus destroyed - "thus" meaning, "as you see it before your eyes." Yet in my flesh shall I see God; literally, from my flesh - scarcely, as Renan takes it, "without my flesh," or "away from my flesh" - "prive de ma chair;" but rather, "from the standpoint of my flesh " - "in my body," not "out of my body" - shall I see God. This may be taken merely as a prophecy of the theophany recorded in ch. 38-42. (see especially Job 42:5). But the nexus with ver. 25, and the expressions there used - "at the last," and "he shall stand up over my dust" - fully justify the traditional exegesis, which sees in the passage an avowal by Job of his confidence that he will see God "from his body" at the resurrection.
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.
Verse 27. - Whom I shall see for myself. Not by proxy, i.e. or through faith, or in a vision, but really, actually, I shall see him for myself. As Schultens observes, an unmistakable tone of exultation and triumph pervades the passage. And mine eyes shall behold, and not another; i.e. "not the eyes of another." I myself, retaining my personal identity, "the same true living man," shall with my own eyes look on my Redeemer. Though my reins be consumed within me. There is no "though "in the original. The clause is detached and independent, nor is it very easy to trace any connection between it and the rest of the verse. Schultens, however, thinks Job to mean that he is internally consumed by a burning desire to see the sight of which he has spoken. (So also Dr. Stanley Leathes.)
But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?
Verse 28. - But ye should say, Why persecute we him? rather, if ye shall say How shall we persecute him? That is to say, "If, after what I have said, ye continue bitter against me, and take counsel together as to the best way of persecuting me, then, seeing the root of the matter (i.e. the essence of piety) is found in me, be ye afraid," etc.
Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment.
Verse 29. - Be ye afraid of the sword; i.e. "the sword of God's justice, which will assuredly smite you if you persecute an innocent man." For wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword; rather, for wrath is among the transgressions of the sward; i e. among the transgressions for which the sword is the fit punishment. It is "wrath" which leads Job's "comforters" to Persecute him. That ye may know there is a judgment; or, so that ye will know there is a judgment When the blow comes upon them they will recognize that it has come upon them on account of their ill treatment of their friend.