How long [will it be] ere ye make an end of words?
&c.] Because these words are expressed the plural number, some think more persons than one are addressed, either Eliphaz and Job together, who are complained of as taking up all the time, and having all the talk to themselves, that another could scarce put in a word; Bildad could say this with a better grace, because his discourses were but short; or else all his friends, whom he blames for not stopping Job's mouth at once, and for lengthening out the dispute with him; as if he should say, why are you so complaisant to him, to wait till he has done speaking, before you reply? why do not you, without any ceremony, interrupt him, and not suffer him to go on with his prate, a man that is so insufferably rude as to reckon us all as beasts? and to what purpose is it to talk to such a man, that is so hardened and incorrigible, so proud and conceited? it is all labour in vain, and mere beating the air; it is high time to have done talking, and to put an end to the dispute, when things are such a pass with him as they are: or else the words are directed to Job, and his friends that were with him, who might now and then speak a word in his behalf, though their words are not recorded; or, however, by their looks or gestures might show their approbation of Job's defences: that there were others present besides Job and his three friends, it is probable; yea, it is certain that Elihu was present all the while, but he was not altogether of Job's mind; nor does it appear that he had any to take his part, for his brethren, acquaintance, kinsfolk, and familiar friends, stood at a distance from him, and his maids and menservants used him ill; and even his own wife was not very kind to him, as he declares in the following chapter; wherefore it seems best of all to understand these words as spoken to Job alone, the plural being used for the singular, according to the idiom of the tongue in which they were spoken, and so are a charge of loquacity against him for talking too much, and too long, unless it had been to better purpose; and in like manner Bildad begins his first reply to Job, ( Job 8:2 ) ; a late interpreter renders the words, "how long will you lay snares with words" F5? use cautious words, set snares with words to catch, lie upon the catch, and lay hold upon a word, and improve it to disadvantage, which is imprudently or inadvertently dropped:
mark, and afterwards we will speak;
or "let us speak" F6; after we have well considered things, got a right understanding of them, and thoroughly digested them, and have well concerted things, and have thought very closely what reply to make to them; and so the words are a tacit reflection of Bildad's on his other two friends, that they spoke before they thought, and therefore some things impertinently, which Job took the advantage of against them; wherefore it would be right, for the future, to mark and consider things well beforehand, and then speak, as they then would with greater propriety, and more to the purpose: public speakers especially, or such who are engaged in public service, or in a public dispute, should meditate beforehand what to say, lest they deliver what is crude and undigested, and may be turned against them. Our Lord indeed directed his disciples, when called before kings and, governors for his sake, not to premeditate what they should answer; but that was an extraordinary case, and they were promised to have extraordinary assistance, whereby some great ends were to be answered, the confusion of their enemies, and the confirmation of the Christian religion. But the words seem rather directed to Job, and to carry in them a charge of inattention to what was said to him by his friends; and therefore Bildad exhorts him to mark and observe what they said to him, to listen attentively to that, and well consider it, and then it would be an encouragement to them to proceed in discoursing with him. Job is represented like some hearers, that stop their ears to the voice of the charmer charming ever so wisely; or that are careless and inattentive to what they hear, and let it pass, and never think of it more; whereas hearers of the word should be swift to hear, and listen with attention, and take care that they let not slip what they have heard, and that they meditate upon it in order to get instruction by it, and when they hear in such a manner it is? a encouragement to speak; or else the sense is, "act wisely" F7, like an honest man, and show yourself to be a wise man, a man of understanding, that well weighs and considers things, and rightly takes them in, and receives instruction by them, and talks like a sensible man: "then afterwards we will speak"; or otherwise, if you go on to talk in the foolish manner you do, it is to no purpose to carry on the dispute; the best way is to put an end to it at once.
F6 (rbdn rhaw) "et postea loquamur", Piscator, Mercerus, Cocceius.
F7 (wnybt) "diserte agatis", Schultens.