Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,
Verses 1-23. - This chapter divides itself into three distinct portions. In the first, which extends to the end of ver. 6, Job is engaged in maintaining, with the utmost possible solemnity (ver. 2), both his actual integrity (ver. 6) and his determination to hold fast his integrity as long as he lives (vers. 4-6). In the second (vers. 7-10) he implicates a curse upon his enemies. In the third (vers. 11-23) he returns to the consideration of God's treatment of the wicked, and retracts the view which he had maintained controversially in Job 24:2-24, with respect to their prosperity, impunity, and equalization with the righteous in death. The retractation is so complete, the concessions are so large, that some have been induced to question whether they can possibly have been made by Job, and have been led on to suggest that we have here a third speech of Zophar's, such as "the symmetry of the general form" requires, which by accident or design has been transferred from him to Job. But the improbability of such a transfer, considering how in the Book of Job the speech of each separate interlocutor is introduced, is palpable; the dissimilarity between the speech and the other utterances of Zophar is striking; and (;he judgment of two such liberal critics as Ewald and Renan, that the passage is rightly placed, and rightly assigned to Job, should set all doubt at rest, and make an end of controversy (see Mr. Froude's 'Short Studies on Great Subjects,' vol. 1 pp. 315, 316; and Canon Cook's "Introduction to the Book of Job," in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 7). Verse 1. - Moreover Job continued his parable, and said. The word translated "parable" (משׁל) is only used previously in Numbers 23, and 24. It is thought to "comprehend all discourses in which the results of discursive thought are concisely or figuratively expressed" (Cook). The introduction of a new term seems to imply that the present discourse occupies a position different from that of all the preceding ones. It is not tentative, controversial, or emotional, but expresses the deliberate judgment of the patriarch on the subjects discussed in it. Note the repetition of the term in Job 29:1.
As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul;
Verse 2. - As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment, Job has not previously introduced any form of adjuration. His "yea has been yea, and his nay nay." Now, however, under the solemn circumstances of the occasion, when he is making his last appeal to his friends for a favourable judgment, he thinks it not inappropriate to preface what he is about to say by an appeal to God as his Witness. "As God liveth," or "As the Lord liveth," was the customary oath of pious Israelites and of God-fearing men generally in the ancient world (see Judges 8:19; Ruth 3:13; 1 Samuel 14:39; 1 Samuel 20:3; 2 Samuel 4:9; 2 Samuel 12:5; 1 Kings 2:24; 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 5:20; 2 Chronicles 18:13; Jeremiah 38:16). Job adds that the God to whom he appeals is he who has "taken away," or "withheld," his judgment, i.e. who has declined to enter with him into a controversy as to the justice of his doings (Job 9:32-35; 13:31; 23:3-7). And the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; or, made my soul bitter. Though he slays him, yet does Job trust in God (Job 13:15). He is his Witness, his Helper, his Redeemer (Job 19:25).
All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;
Verse 3. - All the while my breath is in me. This verse is parenthetic. Job claims in it to be in possession of all his faculties, notwithstanding his sufferings. The right translation would seem to be, "For my life is yet whole within me" (see the Revised Version). And the spirit of God is in my nostrils. The spirit of God, originally breathed into man's nostrils, whereby he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7), is still, Job says, within him, and makes him capable of judging and declaring what is right.
My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.
Verse 4. - My lips shall not speak wickedness. Nothing shall induce him, Job says, to speak knowingly wicked words. Nor my tongue utter deceit. Neither will he be induced, whatever happens, to utter untruth. A confession of guilt, such as his friends have endeavoured to extort from him, would be both wicked and false.
God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.
Verse 5.- God forbid that I should justify you; i.e. allow that you have been right all along, and that I have drawn these judgments down upon me by secret sins. Till I die I will
My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.
Verse 6. - My righteousness I held fast, and will not let it go. Not only will Job never cease to maintain his integrity in the past, but he will hold fast to the same course of blameless life in the future. He will not "curse God, and die." Resolutely he will maintain his faith in God, and his dependence on him. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live. This is probably the true meaning, though some suggest "My heart doth not reproach me for any of my days" Job determines to "have always a conscience void of offence, both toward God and toward man" (Acts 24:16; comp. Acts 23:1; 1 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Timothy 1:3; 1 John 3:21).
Let mine enemy be as the wicked, and he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous.
Verse 7. - Let mine enemy be as the wicked. The nexus of this passage with what goes before is uncertain. Some suppose Job's full thought to have been, "Ye try to persuade me to act wickedly by making a false representation of my feelings and convictions; but I absolutely refuse to do so. Let that rather be the act of my enemy." Others regard him as simply so vexed by his pretended friends, who are his real enemies, that he is driven to utter an imprecation against them. And he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous. This is another instance of a mere pleonastic hemistich - a repetition of the preceding clause in different words.
For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?
Verse 8. - For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained. The hypocrite and liar may get advantage in this life by his lies and his hypocrisy. He may deceive men; he may raise himself in their opinion; he may derive worldly advantage from having secured their approval But what will he have to look forward rein the end, when God taketh away (i.e. removeth from earth) his soul? Job evidently regards the soul that is "taken away" or removed from earth as still existing, still conscious, still capable of hope or of despair, and asks what hope of a happy future could the man who had lived a hypocrite entertain, when God required his soul, and he felt under God's judgment. The question reminds us of those words of our blessed Lord "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36, 37).
Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon him?
Verse 9. - Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon Him? Can he expect that in the day of trouble, "when distress and anguish come upon him" (Proverbs 1:27), God will hear his cry, and respond to it, and give him relief? No; conscious hypocrisy - living a lie - cuts off from God, severs between a man and his Maker, makes all prayers for help vain, until it is repented of and put away from us. The man who dies in it is in a desperate case.
Will he delight himself in the Almighty? will he always call upon God?
Verse 10. - Will he delight himself in the Almighty? A further ill result of hypocrisy is noted. Not only does it alienate God from us, but it nile,ares us from God. The hypocrite cannot "delight in the Almighty." He must shriek from him, tear him, dislike to dwell on the thought of his presence and realize it. His natural inclination must be to withdraw his thoughts from God, and give himself up to the worldliness which has been his attraction to assume the hypocrite's part. Will he always call upon God? Can be even be depended on not to renounce the service of God altogether? The mutual alienation above spoken of must tend to check communion, to disincline to prayer and calling upon God, to erect a barrier between the hypocrite and the Almighty, which, though for a while it may be insufficient to withstand the force of use and wont, will yet, in the long run, be sure to tell, and will either put an end to prayer altogether, or reduce it to a formality.
I will teach you by the hand of God: that which is with the Almighty will I not conceal.
Verses 11-23. - It is impossible to deny that this passage directly contradicts Job's former utterances, especially Job 24:2-24. But the hypotheses which would make Job irresponsible for the present utterance and fix on him, as his steadfast conviction, the opposite theory, are unsatisfactory and have no solid basis. To suppose that Zophar is the real speaker is to imagine the absolute loss and suppression of two entire verses - one between vers. 10 and 11, assigning the speech to him, and another at the beginning of ch. 28, reintroducing Job and making him once more the interlocutor. That this should have happened by accident is inconceivable. Τὰ κατὰ τύχην οὐ πάνυ συνδυάζεται To ascribe it to intentional corruption by a Hebrew redactor, bent on maintaining the old orthodox view, and on falsely and wickedly giving the authority of Job to it (Froude 'Short Studies on Great Subjects,' vol. 1. p. 316), is to take away all authority from the existing text of the Hebrew Scriptures, and to open a door to any amount of wild suggestion and conjectural emendation. The other hypothesis - that of Eichhorn - that Job is here simply anticipating what his adversaries will say, though a less dangerous view, is untenable, since Job never does this without following up his statement of the adversaries' ease with a reply, and here is no reply whatever, but a simple turning away, after ver. 23, to another subject. The explanation of the contradiction by supposing that Job's former statement was tentative and controversial, or else hasty and ill-considered, and that now, to prevent misconception, he determines to set himself right, is, on the other hand, thoroughly defensible, and receives a strong support from the remarkable introduction in ver. 11, which "prepares us, if not for a recantation, yet (at any rate) for a modification of statements wrung from the speaker when his words flowed over from a spirit drunk with the poison of God's arrows" (see the remarks of Canon Cook, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 90, which are in substantial agreement with those of Ewald said Dillmann). Verse 11. - I will teach you by (or, concerning) the hand of God. Job is now at last about to deliver his real sentiments respecting God's dealings with men in the world, and prefaces his. remarks with this solemn introduction, to draw special attention to them. He is aware that his previous statements on the subject, especially in Job 24:2-24, have been overstrained and exaggerated, and wishes, now that he is uttering his last words (Job 31:40), to correct his previous hasty utterances, and put on record his true views. That which is with the Almighty will I not conceal. By "that which is with the Almighty" Job means the Divine principles of action.
Behold, all ye yourselves have seen it; why then are ye thus altogether vain?
Verse 12. - Behold, all ye yourselves have seen it. The true Divine scheme of action has been so long and so frequently made manifest - openly set forth in the sight o! men - that Job cannot believe that those whom he addresses are ignorant of it. They must themselves have seen the scheme at work. Why then are ye thus altogether vain? Why, then, do they not draw true inferences from the facts that come under their notice?
This is the portion of a wicked man with God, and the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty.
Verse 13. - This is the portion of a wicked men with God. In "this" Job includes all that follows from ver. 14 to ver. 23 - "this, which I am going to lay down." He pointedly takes up the words of Zophar in Job 20:29, admitting their general truth. And the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty. Retribution is "their portion" "their heritage" i.e. the natural result and consequence of their precedent sin.
If his children be multiplied, it is for the sword: and his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread.
Verse 14. - If his children be multiplied, it is for the sword. Among the items of prosperity which Job had assigned to the wicked man in one of his previous discourses (Job 21:8, 11) was a numerous and flourishing offspring. Now he feels forced to admit that, frequently at any rate, this flourishing offspring is overtaken by calamity (Job 21:19) - it falls by the sword, either in predatory warfare, to which it was bred up, or as the consequence of a blood-feud inherited from its progenitor. They who "take the sword," either in their own persons or in their posterity, "perish with the sword." And his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread. If they escape this fate, then, mostly, they fall into poverty, and suffer want, no one caring to relieve them, since they have an ill reputation, the memory of their parent's wickedness clinging to them long after his decease.
Those that remain of him shall be buried in death: and his widows shall not weep.
Verse 15. - Those that remain of him shall be buried in death. Not simply "shall die," but shall "be buried," i.e. lost sight of, and forgotten, "in death." And his widows shall not weep (scrap. Psalm 78:64). The deaths of his offspring shall not be lamented by their widows - a very grievous omission in the eyes of Orientals.
Though he heap up silver as the dust, and prepare raiment as the clay;
Verse 16. - Though he heap up silver as the dust. The city of Tyro, we are told by Zechariah, "heaped up silver as the dust" (Zechariah 9:3), i.e. in vast quantities, beyond count. So might the wicked man do. He might also prepare raiment as the clay; i.e. fill his house with rich dresses, partly for his own wear, partly to be given as robes of honour to his friends and boon companions (setup. Genesis 45:22; 2 Kings 5:22; 2 Kings 10:22, Matthew 6:19; James 5:2). Robes of honour are still kept in store by Eastern monarchs, and presented as marks of favour to visitors of importance,
He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver.
Verse 17. - He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on. The raiment thus accumulated shall pass from the wicked into the hands of the just, who at his death shall enter upon his inheritance (Job 20:18, 20, 28). And the innocent shall divide the silver (see the first clause of ver. 16).
He buildeth his house as a moth, and as a booth that the keeper maketh.
Verse 18. - He buildeth his house as a moth. The moth is the symbol of fragility, decay, and weakness. The wicked man's attempt to build himself up a house, and establish a powerful family, is no better than a moth's attempt to make itself a permanent habitation. As moths do not construct dwellings for themselves, it has been proposed (Merx) to read כעכבישׁ, "as a spider," for מעשׁ, "as a moth;" but the change is too great to be at all probable. May not the cocoon, from which the moth issues as. from a house, have been in Job's mind? The hawk-moth buries itself in a neat cave for the pupa stage; and there may have been even better examples in Uz. But we ourselves have not known these facts long, and therefore we need not be surprised to find Job making a mistake in natural history. And as a booth that the keeper maketh. Huts or lodges of boughs were set up in vineyards and orchards by those who had to watch them (see Isaiah 1:8; Lamentations 2:6). They were habitations of the weakest and frailest kind.
The rich man shall lie down, but he shall not be gathered: he openeth his eyes, and he is not.
Verse 19. - The rich man lieth down; rather, he lieth down rich (see the Revised Version). But he shall not be gathered. If we accept the present text, we may translate, But it (i.e. his wealth) shall not be gathered' and suppose his wealth to have consisted in agricultural produce. Or we may alter יאספ into יוסיפ, and translate, He lieth down rich, but he shall do so no more - a correction to which the οὐ προσθήσει of the Septuagint points. He openeth his eyes, and he is not. Some translate, "It is not;" i.e. the harvest, in which his wealth consisted, is not - it has been all destroyed by blight or robbers Those who render, "He is not," generally suppose that he opens his eyes only to find himself in the hands of murderers.
Terrors take hold on him as waters, a tempest stealeth him away in the night.
Verse 20. - Terrors take hold on him as waters (comp. Job 18:11). Terrors sweep over the wicked man like a flood of waters - vague terrors with respect to the past, the present, and the future. He fears the vengeance of these whom he has oppressed and injured, the loss of his prosperity at any moment by a reverse of fortune, and a final retribution at the hand of God commensurate with his ill desert. He is at all times uneasy; sometimes he experiences a sudden rush upon him of such gloomy thoughts, which overwhelms him, and sweeps him away like a mighty stream. A tempest stealeth him away in the night. While he is off his guard, as it were, in the night, a sudden storm bursts on him, and removes him from his place.
The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth: and as a storm hurleth him out of his place.
Verse 21. - The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth. The khamsin wind, coming with all its violence and burning heat, drives him before it, and is irresistible (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. p. 482). And as a storm hurleth him out of his place. This is little more than a repetition of the previous hemistich. The man is swept from the earth by a storm of calamity
For God shall cast upon him, and not spare: he would fain flee out of his hand.
Verse 22. - For God shall out upon him, and not spare. Some commentators regard the storm as still the subject, and translate, "For it shall east itself upon him [or, 'rush upon him'] and not spore" (Sohultens, Merx). The difference is not great, since the storm represents God's judgment. He would fain flee out of his hand; or, if the storm is meant, out of its hand.
Men shall clap their hands at him, and shall hiss him out of his place.
Verse 23. - Men shall clap their hands at him. Applauding, i.e. the just judgment of God upon him. And shall hiss him out of his place. Accompany with hisses his final ruin and downfall - hissing him, while they applaud the action of God in respect to him.