Then Job answered and said,…
In this reply Job refuses to make a direct rejoinder to the attack upon him; he is too utterly bowed down in his weakness. But -
I. The first part of his speech consists of A BITTER SARCASM UPON THE IDLE TALK OF HIS FRIENDS. (Vers. 1-5.) Their speeches are useless. They mean to comfort (Job 15:11); but their reasonings produce an opposite effect on his mind. They should cease; there must he something ailing those who are thus afflicted with the disease of words. Words will not heal the broken bones nor soothe the wounded heart. Were it so, then Job could act the part of comforter as well as they, in the case of their affliction. Thus with scorn he repels their futile attempts to "charm ache with air, and agony with words," to "patch grief with proverbs."
Can counsel, and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting if,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air, and agony with words;
No, no; 'tis all men's office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow;
But no man's virtue, nor sufficiency,
To be so moral when he shall endure
The like himself: therefore give me no counsel:
My griefs cry louder than advertisement."
II. Next, he relapses into a MELANCHOLY CONTEMPLATION OF HIS EXTREME MISERY. (Vers. 6-17.)
1. The alternative of silence or of speech is equally unbearable. (Ver. 6.) A healthy man can give vent to his feelings in talk; but no words suffice to check the flow of this immense grief. Would he do well to be silent? But, then, what grief would depart from him? None! There is no riddance either way. Speak or not, his suffering remains the same.
2. The instinct to pour forth his woe proves irrepressible and he proceeds with the description of his terrible sufferings. (Vers. 7-14.) His strength is exhausted. His house is desolate. His wrinkled and emaciated body is a spectacle to move his own pity. But still keener are the sufferings of his mind. The thought that God has inflicted this suffering, that he is, as he supposes, an object of the Divine wrath, fills his mind with intolerable gloom. And not only is God against him, but evil men seem to be employed as instruments of his wrath. They, envious of his former prosperity, and of his goodness, now gather around to heap every insult upon his head. Tracing again all to God, Job conceives of him under the image of a furious warrior, who has advanced against him in utmost violence, caused a shower of arrows to fall upon him, pierced him as with a sword, battered him into ruins as a strong wall is battered into breaches by the violence of the battering-ram.
3. His present condition. (Vers. 15-17.) Humbling himself beneath the rod, he has adopted all the symbolic language of penitence and grief. He has put on the sackcloth; bowed his head to the dust; given himself to weeping until his eyes are heavy and his face is red. And all this though there is no wrong in his hand, and his prayer is pure."
III. THE HEAVEN-PIERCING CRY OF INNOCENCE. (Vers. 18-22.) So soon as in the course of these sad reflections Job once more recurs to the consciousness of his innocence, new courage is born to his heart; in his very exhaustion he can still cry to Heaven in the might of a confidence that will yet wring an answer from God. He calls upon the earth not to hide his blood, and may his cry have no resting-place. The allusion is to the ancient sacred custom of blood-revenge (Genesis 4:10, 11; comp. Isaiah 26:21; 2 Samuel 1:21). But the circumstances under which the desire net to die unavenged here appears are quite unusual As one persecuted, not merely by man, but far more by God, near to death, he maintains his innocence before man and God. Here is a seeming contradiction between the dark thoughts just expressed of God, and this profound faith in the invisible and just Judge. Grief is full of inconsistencies and contradictions, arising from the imperfection of the understanding. They cannot be solved by thought, only as here by faith. Thus we come to another moment of calm amidst this terrible tempest of grief - another break in the sky amidst these storms. The chapter leaves the deposit of a noble consolation at our feet.
1. The existence of the Witness in heaven. An all-intelligent Witness, a feeling Witness, an all-remembering Witness of innocent suffering, is our heavenly Father. There may be ever an appeal to him from the unfeeling conduct and the mocking observation of men.
2. The certainty of a just decision in the end. "If we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." In all the sense of life's mystery, and the temptation to doubt whether God be perfectly good and kind, let Patience, supported by faith, have her perfect work. Let us "remember Job," and "consider the end of the Lord" - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Job answered and said,
WEB: Then Job answered,