But Job answered and said,
Verses 1, 2. - But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were throughly weighed! rather, my anger, or my vexation - the same word as that used by Eliphaz when reproaching Job, in Job 5:2. Job wishes that, before men blame him, they would calmly weigh the force of his feelings and expressions against the weight of the calamity which oppresses him. His words may seem too strong and too violent; but are they more than a just counterpoise to the extreme character of his afflictions? The weighing of words and thoughts was an essential element in the Egyptian conception of the judgment, where Thoth held the balance, and in the one scale were placed the merits of the deceased, in the other the image of Ma, or Truth, and his fate was determined by the side to which the balance inclined ('Ritual of the Dead,' ch. 125; Wilkinson, 'Ancient Egyptians,' vol. 5. p. 252). And my calamity laid in the balances together. My calamity placed in one scale, and my vexation in the other, and so weighed, each against each.
Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!
For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up.
Verse 3. - For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea (comp. Proverbs 27:3, "A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both;" see also Ecclus. 22:15). Therefore my words are swallowed up; rather, as in the Revised Version, therefore have my words been rash. Job here excuses without justifying himself. The excessive character of his sufferings has, he declares, forced him to utter rash and violent words, as these wherein he cursed his day and wished that he had never been born (Job 3:1, 3-11). Some allowance ought to be made for rash speech uttered under such circumstances.
For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.
Verse 4. - For the arrows of the Almighty are wlthin me (comp. Psalm 38:2, "For thine arrows stick fast in me"). So Shakespeare speaks of "the slings and arrows el outrageous fortune" for calamities generally. The metaphor is a very common one (see Deuteronomy 32:23, 42; Psalm 7:13; Psalm 21:12; Psalm 45:5; Lamentations 3:13, 14). The poison whereof. Poisoned arrows, such as are now employed by the savage tribes of Central Africa, were common in antiquity, though seldom used by civilized nations. Ovid declares that the Scythians of his time made use of them ('Tristia,' 1, 2). Drinketh up my spirit; rather, my spirit drinketh up. Job's spirit absorbs the poison that festers in his wounds, and therefore loses control over itself. This is his apology for his vehemence; he is well-nigh distraught. He adds, The terrors of God do set themselves in array against me. Besides actual pains and sufferings, he is assailed by fears. God's terrors, i.e. all the other evils that he has at his disposal, are drawn up against him, as it were, in battle array, and still further agitate and distract his soul. What further troubles may not God bring upon him?
Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? or loweth the ox over his fodder?
Verse 5. - Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? literally, over grass; i.e. when he has grass under his feet, and has consequently no cause of complaint. Job means to say that his own complainings are as natural and instinctive as these of animals (On the species of wild asses known to Job, see the comment on Job 39:5.) Or loweth the ox over his fodder? The lowing of the ox, like the braying of the wild ass, is a complaint - a sign of distress and discomfort.
Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?
Verse 6. - Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or, that which is insipid. Many critics suppose that in this and the following verse Job reproaches Eliphaz with the insipidity of his remarks, and declares that his soul refuses to touch such loathsome food. Others regard him as still speaking in his own defence, and justifying his expressions of disgust by the nauseous character of the food which had been put before him; i.e. of the treatment which he has received. Either explanation produces good sense; but perhaps the former is the more natural. Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? So our Revisers; and so Dillmann and Canon Cook. Professor Lee suggests "the whey of cheese" for "the white of an egg;" others, "the juice of purslaine." We have certainly no other evidence that eggs were eaten in primitive times.
The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat.
Verse 7. - The things that my soul refuse to touch are as my sorrowful meat; rather, as in the Revised Version, my soul refuseth to touch them; they are as loathsome meat to me. The doubt remains whether Job is speaking of the arguments of Eliphaz, or of the series of afflictions which have befallen him. Either explanation is possible.
Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!
Verse 8. - Oh that I might have my request! Here the second point is taken up. Eliphaz has threatened Job with death, representing it as the last and most terrible of punishments (Job 4:9, 20, 21; Job 5:2). Job's reply is that there is nothing he desires so much as death. His primary wish would have been never to have been born (Job 3:3-10); next to that, he would have desired an early death - the earlier the more acceptable (Job 3:11-19). As both these have been denied him, what he now desires, and earnestly asks for, is a speedy demise. It is not as yet clear what he thinks death to be, or whether he has any hope beyond the grave. Putting aside all such considerations, he here simply balances death against such a life as he now leads, and must expect to lead, since his disease is incurable, and decides in favour of death. It is not only his desire, but his "request" to God, that death may come to him quickly. And that God would grant me the thing that I long for; literally, my expectation or wish. The idea of taking his own life does not seem to have occurred to Job, as it would to a Greek (Plato, 'Phaedo,' § 16) or a Roman (Pithy, 'Epist.,' 1:12). He is too genuine a child of nature, too simple and unsophisticated, for such a thought to occur, and, if it occurred, would be too religious to entertain it for a moment. Like Aristotle, he would feel the act to be cowardly (Aristotle, 'Eth. Nic.,' 5, sub fin.); and, like Plato (l.s.c.), he would view it as rebellion against the will of God.
Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!
Verse 9. - Even that it would please God to destroy me; or, to crush me (Revised Version) - "to break me in pieces" (Lee). That he would let loose his hand; or, put forth his hand - stretch it out against me threateningly." And cut me off. "Cut me off bit by bit" (Lee); comp. Isaiah 38:12, where the same word is used of a weaver, who cuts the threads of his loom one by one, until the whole is liberated and comes away.
Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.
Verse 10. - Then should I yet have comfort. First, the comfort that the end was come, and that he would be spared further sufferings; and further, the still greater comfort that he had endured to the end, and not. denied nor renounced his trust in religion and in all the "words of the Holy One." Professor Lee sees here "the recognition of a future life, expressed in words as plain and obvious as possible" ('Book of the Patriarch Job,' p. 223). But to us it seems that, if the idea is present at all, it is covered up, latent; only so far implied as it may be said to be implied in all willingness to die, since it may be argued that even the most wretched life possible would be preferred by any man to no life at all, and so that when men are content to die they must be expecting, whether consciously or not, a life beyond the grave, and be sustained by that expectation. Yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; rather, yea, I would exult in anguish that did not spare. However great the pain that accompanied his death, Job would rejoice and exult in it, since by it his death was to be accomplished. For I have not concealed the words of the Holy One; rather, for I have not denied or renounced. It would be a part of Job's satisfaction in dying that he had not let go his integrity. Rather he had held it fast, and not renounced or abandoned his trust in God and in religion. "The words of the Holy One are the commands of God, however made known to man" (Canon Cook).
What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?
Verse 11. - What is my strength, that I should hope? Eliphaz had suggested that Job might recover and be restored to his former prosperity (Job 5:18-26). Job rejects this suggestion. His strength is brought too low; it is not conceivable that he should be restored, he cannot entertain any such hope. And what is mine end, that I should prolong my life? rather, that I should stretch out my spirit. Job cannot look forward to such an "end" as Eliphaz prophesies for him; therefore he cannot bring himself to wait on with patience.
Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass?
Verse 12. - Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass? It would require a man to have a body of brass, and strength like that of rocks, for him to be able to endure the ravages of such a disease, and yet to recover from it. Job cannot pretend to either.
Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?
Verse 13. - Is not my help in me? rather, Is it not that I have no help in me? (Revised Version). Job feels that, instead of having exceptional strength of constitution to enable him to bear up against his exhausting malady, he is absolutely without strength. All his vital power is used up. There is no help in him. And is wisdom driven quite from me? rather, Is not soundness driven quite from me? Tushiyah seems to mean here "strength of constitution" - that internal soundness which resists the inroads of disease, and sometimes triumphs over the most serious maladies. Whatever reserve of this kind he may have possessed by nature, it is now, Job feels, altogether lost and gone from him.
To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.
Verse 14. - To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend. Job begins here the third head of his reply to Eliphaz, in which he attacks him and his companions. The first duty of a comforter is to compassionate his afflicted friend, to condole with him, and show his sympathy with his sufferings. This is what every one looks for and expects as a matter of course. But Job has looked in vain. He has received no pity, no sympathy. Nothing has been offered him but arguments. And what arguments! How do they touch the point? How are they anything more than a venting of the speaker's own self-righteousness? Let them fairly consider his case, and point out to him where he has been blamable. But he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty; rather, even though he forsake the fear of the Almighty, or else might he forsake the fear of the Almighty. Job certainly does not mean to admit that he has renounced the fear of God, and become an apostate from religion; but only to assert, either, that, even had he done so, his friends ought still to have shown him kindness, or else that their not showing him kindness is the very way to drive him to apostasy.
My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away;
Verse 15. - My brethren; i.e. "my three friends," Eliphaz, who has spoken; Bildad and Zophar, who by their silence have shown their agreement with him. Have dealt deceitfully as a brook; i.e. "a winter torrent" - a "wady," to use the modern Arab expression. These watercourses are characteristic of Palestine and the adjacent regions. "During the winter months," says Dr. Cunningham Geikie, "they are often foaming rivers; but in the hot summer, when they would be of priceless value, their dry bed is generally the road from one point to another. The water rushes over the sheets of rock as it would from the roof of a house, and converging, as it descends, into minor streams in the higher wadies, these sweep on to a common channel in some central valley, and, thus united, swell in an incredibly short time into a deep, troubled, roaring flood, which fills the whole bottom of the wady with an irresistible torrent... The streams from Lebanon, and also from the high mountains of the Hauran. send down great floods of dark and troubled waters in spring, when the ice and snow of their summits are melted; but they dry up under the heat of summer, and the track of the torrent, with its chaos of boulders, stones, and gravel, seems as if it had not known a stream for ages. So Job's friends had in former times seemed as if they would be true to him for ever; but their friendship had vanished, like the rush of the torrent that had passed away" ('The Holy Land and the Bible,' vol. 1. pp. 123-125). And as the stream of brooks they pass away; or, the channel; i.e. the wady itself. Canon Cook well says on this, "The simile is remarkably complete. When little needed, the torrent overflows; when needed, it disappears. In winter it does not fertilize; in summer it is dried up. Nor is it merely useless; it deceives, alluring the traveller by the appearance of verdure, promising refreshment, and giving none."
Which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid:
Verse 16. - Which are blackish by reason of the ice. Job seems to have seen wadys where, in the winter-time, the water was actually frozen into hard black ice. This scarcely occurs now in the countries bordering on Palestine; but may have occurred in the region where Job dwelt, formerly. "Dark, turbid water" can scarcely be intended. And wherein the snow is hid. Some suppose melted snow to be meant; but the deep wadies in the Hauran and elsewhere would easily conceal snowdrifts.
What time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place.
Verse 17. - What time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place (see the passage quoted from Dr. Geikie in the comment on ver. 15).
The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish.
Verse 18. - The paths of their way are turned aside; rather, as in the Revised Version, the caravans that travel by the way of them turn aside. It seems impossible that the streams can be intended, since their paths are never "turned aside" - they simply shrink, fail, and dry up. But nothing is commoner than for caravans short of water to go out of their way in order to reach a wady, where they expect to be able to replenish their water-skins. If they are disappointed, if the wady is dry, they may be brought into great straits, and may even possibly perish. (For a probable instance, where dependence on a wady would, but for a miracle, have led to a great disaster, see 2 Kings 3:9-20.) They go to nothing, and perish; rather, they go up into the waste and perish. Having vainly sought water in the dry wady, they ascend out of it, and enter the broad waste of the desert, where they too often miserably perish.
The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them.
Verse 19. - The troops of Tema looked. The Tema were an Arab tribe descended from Ishmael (Genesis 25:15). They are generally conjoined with Dedan (Isaiah 21:13, 14; Jeremiah 25:23), another Arab tribe, noted for carry-lug on a caravan trade. Both tribes probably wandered, and occupied at different periods different portions of the desert. The name, Tema, may linger in the modern city and district of Tayma on the confines of Syria, and upon the pilgrim-route between Damascus and Mecca. The "troops of Tema" probably looked for the "caravans" of ver. 18 to arrive in their country; but they looked in vain. The desert had swallowed them up. The companies of Sheba waited for them. (On "Sheba," see the comment upon Job 1:15.)
They were confounded because they had hoped; they came thither, and were ashamed.
Verse 20. - They were confounded because they had hoped. Shame and confusion of face came upon them in consequence of their vain hope. In the same way, Job implies, he is ashamed of having looked for compassion and kindness from his friends. He should have been wiser and have known better. They came thither, and were ashamed. They not only hoped, but acted on their hope-let it turn them aside from their way (ver. 18) and bring them to ruin.
For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down, and are afraid.
Verse 21. - For now ye are nothing. Like the dried-up torrents, the comforters had come to nought; were wholly useless and unprofitable. Another reading gives the sense, "Ye are like to them" - "ye comforters," i.e., "are like the winter torrents, and have misled me, as they misled the caravans." Ye see my casting down, and are afraid. Here Job penetrates to the motive which had produced the conduct of his friends. They had come with good intentions, meaning to comfort and console him; but when they came, and saw what a wreck he was, how utterly "broken up" and ruined, they began to be afraid of showing too much friendliness. They thought him an object of the Divine vengeance, and feared lest, if they showed him sympathy, they might involve themselves in his punishment.
Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give a reward for me of your substance?
Verse 22. - Did I say, Bring unto me? The meaning is probably - If this be the case, if ye are afraid of helping me, why have ye come? Did I ask for your aid? No. I neither requested you to bring me anything for myself, nor to make a present to any one on my behalf; much less did I call upon you to deliver me out of the hand of my enemies, to chastize the Chaldeans and the men of Sheba (Job 1:15, 17), and recover. from them my property. No; I asked nothing at all of you; but when you came voluntarily, I did expect your pity (ver. 14). Or, Give a reward for me of your substance? i.e. give a present on my behalf to some influential person, who might thereupon take up my cause and befriend me. There is no need of supposing a "bribe" to be meant.
Or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand? or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?
Verse 23. - Or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand? rather, from the hand of the violent man. Or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty? literally, of the oppressor (see the Revised Version). Job had not called on his friends to do any of these things. He had not worn out their patience by asking now for this, and now for that. But he had expected their compassion, and this was denied him.
Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred.
Verse 24. - Teach me, and I will hold my tongue. Job is willing to be taught, if his friends have any instruction to give. He is willing to be reproved. But not in such sort as he has been reproved by Eliphas. His words were not "words of uprightness." Cause me to understand wherein I have erred. Point out, that is, in what my assumed guilt consists. You maintain that my afflictions are deserved. Point out what in my conduct has deserved them. I am quite ready to be convinced.
How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove?
Verse 25. - How forcible are right words! literally, words of uprightness. Such words have a force that none can resist. If the charges made by Eliphaz had been right and true, and his arguments sound and just, then Job must have yielded to them, have confessed himself guilty, and bowed down with shame before his judges. But they had had no such constraining power. Therefore they were not "words of uprightness." But what doth your arguing reprove? literally, What doth your reproving reprove? That is - What exactly is it that ye think to be wrong in me? At what is your invective aimed?
Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind?
Verse 26. - Do ye imagine to reprove words? or, Do ye propose? "Is it your intention?" Am I to understand that you blame nothing in my conduct, but only the words that I have spoken? i.e. the words recorded in ch. 3. And the speeshes of one that is desperate, which are as wind; or, whereas the speehes of one that is desperate are but as wind; literally, for the wind - spoken to the wind, for the wind to take hold of them and bear them away. Therefore not worth a reproof.
Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend.
Verse 27. - Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless; rather, on the fatherless would ye east lots (comp. Joel 3:3; Obadiah 1:11; Nahum 3:10). Job means to say they are so pitiless that they would cast lots for the children of an insolvent debtor condemned to become slaves at his death (see 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5). And ye dig a pit for your friend; or, ye would make merchandise of your friend as in the Revised Version. Job does not speak of what his friends had done, but of what he deems them capable of doing.
Now therefore be content, look upon me; for it is evident unto you if I lie.
Verse 28. - Now therefore be content, look upon me; rather, be pleased to look upon me. Professor Lee translates, "Look favorably upon me." But this addition is unnecessary. What Job desires is that his friends would look him straight in the face. Then they would not be able to doubt him. They would see that he was telling the truth. For it is evident unto you if I lie; rather, it will be evident unto you, etc. Others render the passage, "For surely I shall not lie to your face" (Schultens, Canon Cook, Revised Version).
Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it.
Verse 29. - Return, I pray you; i.e. "go back upon my case: reconsider it." And then, Let it not be iniquity; or, let there be no iniquity; i.e. let no injustice be done me. Yea, return again, my righteousness is in it If my cause be well considered, it will be seen that I am in no way blameworthy.
Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things?
Verse 30. - Is there iniquity in my tongue? (see ver. 26). Job now justifies his words, which previously he had admitted to have been "rash" (ver. 3). Perhaps he intends to distinguish between rashness and actual wickedness. Cannot my taste discern perverse things? i.e. I see no perversity or wickedness in what I have said. If there were any, I think I should discern it The reasoning is somewhat dangerous, since men are not infallible judges, not being unprejudiced judges, in their own case. Job's ultimate verdict on himself is that he has "uttered that which he understood not" (Job 42:3) - wherefore he "abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6).