Then Job answered and said,
Verses 1-24:25. - Job replies to Eliphaz in a speech of no great length, which, though it occupies two chapters, runs to only forty-two verses. He begins by justifying the vehemence of his complaints, first, on the ground of the severity of his sufferings (ver. 2), and secondly, on the ground of his conviction that, if God would bring him to an open trial before his tribunal, he would acquit him (vers. 3-12). By the way, he complains that God hides himself, and cannot be found (vers. 3, 8, 9). He then further complains that God is not to be bent from his purpose, which is set against Job (vers. 13-17). In ch. 24. he goes over ground already trodden, maintaining the general prosperity of the wicked, and their exemption from any special earthly punishment (vers. 2-24). He winds up, finally, with a challenge to his opponents to disprove the truth of what he has said (ver. 25). Verses 1, 2. - Then Job answered and said, Even to-day is my complaint bitter; i.e. even to-day, notwithstanding all that has been said by my opponents against my right to complain, I do complain, and as bitterly as ever. And I justify my complaint on the following ground - my stroke is heavier than my groaning. If I complain bitterly, I suffer even more bitterly (comp. Job 6:2).
Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.
Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!
Verse 3. - Oh that I knew where I might find him! This is the cry of the desolate human soul, feeling its need of God, and yet not knowing how to approach him. God seems to be very far removed from us. He is in heaven, and we are on earth; nay, he is in the highest heaven, or outside it, walking on its circumference (Job 22:14). How are we to approach near to him, so near as to be sure that he can hear us? How are we to "find" him? So, in all ages, has the human heart gone out to God, aspiring towards him, seeking after him, but, for the most part, baffled and disappointed. Job, like most other men in the olden times, though he has faith in God, though he serves him and prays to him, has yet the feeling that he is remote, distant, well-nigh inaccessible. It needed revelation to let man know that God is not far off, but very near to each one of us; that "in him we live, and move, and have our being" (Acts 17:28). That I might come even to his seat! Job's idea of bridging the distance between himself and God is that he should rise to the region where God is, not that God should condescend to come down to him. He wishes to "come to God's seat" - to that awful throne in the heaven of heavens, where God sitteth, surrounded by his hosts of angels, dealing out justice and judgment to mortal men (comp. Psalm 9:4, 7; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 45:6; Isaiah 6:1).
I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
Verse 4. - I would order my cause before him. Job has put away the feelings of shame and diffidence, which were predominant with him when he said, "How should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand" (Job 9:2, 3); and again, "How much less shall I answer him, and cheese out my words to reason with him? Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer; but I would make my supplication to my Judge" (Job 9:14, 15). He now wishes to contend and argue and reason. This is quite in accordance with our experience. Many am the moods of man - various and conflicting his desires! His mind never continues long in one stay. And fill my mouth with arguments (comp. Psalm 38:14, where our translators render the same word by "reproofs," but where "arguments" or "pleadings" would be more appropriate). The LXX. has there ἐλεγμοὶ, and in the present passage ἔλεγχοι. The word is forensic.
I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
Verse 5. - I would know the words which he would answer me. It would be a satisfaction to Job in his present mood to know exactly how God would answer him, what reply he would make to his "arguments." The tone of thought is too bold for a creature, and would certainly not be becoming in Christians. And understand what he would say unto me. Here we have another of the redundant second clauses, which merely echo the idea contained in the previous clause.
Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.
Verse 6. - Will he plead against me with his great power? rather, Would he contend against me in the greatness of his power? (see the Revised Version). Flint is, "Would he crush me by mere strength and force? Would he use against me that overwhelming might which he possesses? No, Job answers, certainly not; but he would put strength in me; or, rather, but he would give heed to me he would pay attention to my cause (comp. Job 4:20, ad fin., where the same verb is used).
There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.
Verse 7. - There the righteous might dispute with him. There, before his high tribunal (ver. 3), the upright man (ישׁר) might argue or reason with him, appealing from his justice to his mercy - from God the Judge to God the Saviour (Loathes), vindicating his integrity, acknowledging his transgressions, and pleading that they were sins of infirmity-and at last obtaining from God the acquittal anticipated in the second clause of the verse. In the absence of any revelation of an Advocate who will plead our cause before God for us, Job would seem to have been justified in expecting such a liberty of pleading his own cause as he here sets forth. So should I be delivered for ever from my Judge. The "Judge of all the earth" will certainly and necessarily "do right." Job's conscience testifies to his substantial integrity and uprightness (comp. 1 John 3:21). He is, therefore, confident that, if he can once bring his cause to God's cognizance, he will obtain acquittal and deliverance.
Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
Verses 8, 9. - Here Job returns to the complaint of ver. 3. He cannot "find" God. God hides himself. It is in vain that he searches on every side. There is no manifestation, no open vision. Nothing, however, leads him to doubt God's existence, or even his presence where he is unperceived. "Job's conviction of God's absolute presence comes out most strongly when he feels that he cannot discern him" (Cook). Verse 8. - Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; that is, "He is not there to my perceptions." I may believe it, but I have no sensible proof of it, and I cannot demonstrate it. And backward, but I cannot perceive him. In describing locality, the Hebrews, Arabs, and Orientals generally always imagined themselves to be looking eastward, facing the rising sun. Hence the same word is used for" in front," "forwards," and "the east;" for "behind," "backwards," and "the west;" for "the left hand" and "the north;" for "the right hand" and "the south."
On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:
Verse 9. - On the left hand, where he doth work; literally, in his workshop. There is an ellipse after "workshop" of some phrase like "I look for him." But I cannot behold him; rather, but I apprehend him not - I cannot as it were, lay my hand upon him (LXX., οὐ κάτεσχον). He hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him; literally, and I do not see him.
But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Verse 10. - But he knoweth the way that I take; or, the way that is with me. My inability to find God does not in any way interfere with his perfect knowledge of me. God knows both "the way of the righteous" (Psalm 1:6) "and "the way of the wicked," which" he turns upside down "(Psalm 146:9). He is "about our path, and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways" (Psalm 139:2). When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold; i.e. as gold from the furnace, I shall come forth purified, when my trial is over (comp. Psalm 12:6; Isaiah 1:25; Jeremiah 6:29, 30; Jeremiah 9:7, etc.). Job seems at last to have woke up to the conception that there is a purifying power in affliction.
My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
Verse 11. - My foot hath held his steps; rather, hath held dose to his steps, or his path; i.e. I have followed in God's way, and kept as close to it as possible. In other words. I have kept his way, and not declined from it.
Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
Verse 12. - Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips. Professor Lee rightly observes that this declaration "takes it for granted that, at least, some precepts of God had been revealed before this time" ('Book of Job,' p. 370). Them were "commandments" which Job recognized as having proceeded from God, and "words" which he looked upon as being the utterances of his mouth. This is strong evidence of a primeval revelation which, if not reduced to writing, had, at any rate, been handed down by tradition to Job's day. Genesis 3:14-19 and Genesis 9:1-7 may afford the true explanation of this difficulty. I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food. This is scarcely strong enough. Job says, "I have treasured up taken to myself, and preserved the words of his mouth," either "more than my necessary food" or "more than my own law." If the former rendering be preferred, there is no need of explanation; if the latter, we must regard "my own law" as meaning "the law of my own mind, my own will, the will of the natural man" (Cook).
But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.
Verse 13. - But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? Once more we hear the voice of complaint. The happier tone of thought which extends from ver. 6 to ver. 12 grows out of a sanguine hope on Job's part that God will bring him before his tribunal, and judge his cause according to righteousness. Now he bethinks himself that hitherto God, notwithstanding his prayers, has refused to summon him to his judgment-seat, and begins to fear that there is no likelihood of his changing. "He is One," or "in one." With him is "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). How is it likely that he will act in the future otherwise than he has acts! in the past? What his soul desireth, even that he doeth. A somewhat harsh way of saying that God doeth that which seemeth him best - and which, therefore, is best. Job does not really suppose that God is actuated by caprice or favouritism.
For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.
Verse 14. - For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me; i.e he will assuredly accomplish whatever he has decreed for me. I cannot expect that he will blench or change. And many such things are with him. He has many other weapons in his armoury, many other woes with which he might afflict me.
Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.
Verse 15. - Therefore am I troubled at his presence. The thought of these further afflictions troubles me, and makes me shrink from his unseen presence. I know not how soon he may lay a fresh burden upon me. When I consider, I am afraid of him. When I reflect on the many forms of suffering which I may still have to undergo, my fears increase, I tremble at the future.
For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:
Verse 16. - For God maketh my heart soft; of faint as in Leviticus 26:36 and Deuteronomy 20:3. He takes away my courage, and leaves me a prey to terror. And the Almighty troubleth me. The verb used (the hiph. form of בהל) is a very strong one, and means "hath filled me with horror and consternation?
Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.
Verse 17. - Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face. Job complains of two things:
(1) That he was not cut off (i.e. removed from earth) before the great darkness fell upon his life (comp. Job 3:11-13).
(2) That he was not "covered,' i.e. sheltered and protected, by the love and care of God when the dark days came.