Job speaks of man's life. (1-6) Of man's death. (7-15) By sin man is subject to corruption. (16-22)
Verses 1-6 Job enlarges upon the condition of man, addressing himself also to God. Every man of Adam's fallen race is short-lived. All his show of beauty, happiness, and splendour falls before the stroke of sickness or death, as the flower before the scythe; or passes away like the shadow. How is it possible for a man's conduct to be sinless, when his heart is by nature unclean? Here is a clear proof that Job understood and believed the doctrine of original sin. He seems to have intended it as a plea, why the Lord should not deal with him according to his own works, but according to His mercy and grace. It is determined, in the counsel and decree of God, how long we shall live. Our times are in his hands, the powers of nature act under him; in him we live and move. And it is very useful to reflect seriously on the shortness and uncertainty of human life, and the fading nature of all earthly enjoyments. But it is still more important to look at the cause, and remedy of these evils. Until we are born of the Spirit, no spiritually good thing dwells in us, or can proceed from us. Even the little good in the regenerate is defiled with sin. We should therefore humble ourselves before God, and cast ourselves wholly on the mercy of God, through our Divine Surety. We should daily seek the renewing of the Holy Ghost, and look to heaven as the only place of perfect holiness and happiness.
Verses 7-15 Though a tree is cut down, yet, in a moist situation, shoots come forth, and grow up as a newly planted tree. But when man is cut off by death, he is for ever removed from his place in this world. The life of man may fitly be compared to the waters of a land flood, which spread far, but soon dry up. All Job's expressions here show his belief in the great doctrine of the resurrection. Job's friends proving miserable comforters, he pleases himself with the expectation of a change. If our sins are forgiven, and our hearts renewed to holiness, heaven will be the rest of our souls, while our bodies are hidden in the grave from the malice of our enemies, feeling no more pain from our corruptions, or our corrections.
Verses 16-22 Job's faith and hope spake, and grace appeared to revive; but depravity again prevailed. He represents God as carrying matters to extremity against him. The Lord must prevail against all who contend with him. God may send disease and pain, we may lose all comfort in those near and dear to us, every hope of earthly happiness may be destroyed, but God will receive the believer into realms of eternal happiness. But what a change awaits the prosperous unbeliever! How will he answer when God shall call him to his tribunal? The Lord is yet upon a mercy-seat, ready to be gracious. Oh that sinners would be wise, that they would consider their latter end! While man's flesh is upon him, that is, the body he is so loth to lay down, it shall have pain; and while his soul is within him, that is, the spirit he is so loth to resign, it shall mourn. Dying work is hard work; dying pangs often are sore pangs. It is folly for men to defer repentance to a death-bed, and to have that to do which is the one thing needful, when unfit to do anything.
Job 14:1-22 . JOB PASSES FROM HIS OWN TO THE COMMON MISERY OF MANKIND.
1. woman--feeble, and in the East looked down upon ( Genesis 2:21 ). Man being born of one so frail must be frail himself ( Matthew 11:11 ).
few days--( Genesis 47:9 , Psalms 90:10 ). Literally, "short of days." Man is the reverse of full of days and short of trouble.
2. ( Psalms 90:5 ;
3. open . . . eyes upon--Not in graciousness; but, "Dost Thou sharply fix Thine eyes upon?" watching on the part of God? ( Zechariah 12:4 ).
4. A plea in mitigation. The doctrine of original sin was held from the first. "Man is unclean from his birth, how then can God expect perfect cleanness from such a one and deal so severely with me?"
5. determined--( Job 7:1 , Isaiah 10:23 , Daniel 9:27 , 11:36 ).
6. Turn--namely, Thine eyes from watching him so jealously ( Job 14:3 ).
hireling--( Job 7:1 ).
accomplish--rather, "enjoy." That he may at least enjoy the measure of rest of the hireling who though hard worked reconciles himself to his lot by the hope of his rest and reward [UMBREIT].
7. Man may the more claim a peaceful life, since, when separated from it by death, he never returns to it. This does not deny a future life, but a return to the present condition of life. Job plainly hopes for a future state ( Job 14:13 , Job 7:2 ). Still, it is but vague and trembling hope, not assurance; excepting the one bright glimpse in Job 19:25 . The Gospel revelation was needed to change fears, hopes, and glimpses into clear and definite certainties.
9. scent--exhalation, which, rather than the humidity of water, causes the tree to germinate. In the antithesis to man the tree is personified, and volition is poetically ascribed to it.
like a plant--"as if newly planted" [UMBREIT]; not as if trees and plants were a different species.
10. man . . . man--Two distinct Hebrew words are here used; Geber, a mighty man: though mighty, he dies. Adam, a man of earth: because earthly, he gives up the ghost.
wasteth--is reduced to nothing: he cannot revive in the present state, as the tree does. The cypress and pine, which when cut down do not revive, were the symbols of death among the Romans.
11. sea--that is, a lake, or pool formed from the outspreading of a river. Job lived near the Euphrates: and "sea" is applied to it ( Jeremiah 51:36 , Isaiah 27:1 ). So of the Nile ( Isaiah 19:5 ).
fail--utterly disappeared by drying up. The rugged channel of the once flowing water answers to the outstretched corpse ("lieth down," Job 14:12 ) of the once living man.
12. heavens be no more--This only implies that Job had no hope of living again in the present order of the world, not that he had no hope of life again in a new order of things. Psalms 102:26 proves that early under the Old Testament the dissolution of the present earth and heavens was expected (compare Genesis 8:22 ). Enoch before Job had implied that the "saints shall live again" ( Jude 1:14 , Hebrews 11:13-16 ). Even if, by this phrase, Job meant "never" ( Psalms 89:29 ) in his gloomier state of feelings, yet the Holy Ghost has made him unconsciously ( 1 Peter 1:11 1 Peter 1:12 ) use language expressing the truth, that the resurrection is to be preceded by the dissolution of the heavens. In Job 14:13-15 he plainly passes to brighter hopes of a world to come.
13. Job wishes to be kept hidden in the grave until God's wrath against him shall have passed away. So while God's wrath is visiting the earth for the abounding apostasy which is to precede the second coming, God's people shall be hidden against the resurrection glory ( Isaiah 26:19-21 ).
set time--a decreed time ( Acts 1:7 ).
14. shall he live?--The answer implied is, There is a hope that he shall, though not in the present order of life, as is shown by the words following. Job had denied ( Job 14:10-12 ) that man shall live again in this present world. But hoping for a "set time," when God shall remember and raise him out of the hiding-place of the grave ( Job 14:13 ), he declares himself willing to "wait all the days of his appointed time" of continuance in the grave, however long and hard that may be.
appointed time--literally, "warfare, hard service"; imlying the hardship of being shut out from the realms of life, light, and God for the time he shall be in the grave ( Job 7:1 ).
change--my release, as a soldier at his post released from duty by [UMBREIT and GESENIUS], but elsewhere GESENIUS explains it, "renovation," as of plants in spring ( Job 14:7 ), but this does not accord so well with the metaphor in "appointed time" or "warfare."
15. namely, at the resurrection ( John 5:28 , Psalms 17:15 ).
have a desire to--literally, "become pale with anxious desire:" the same word is translated "sore longedst after" ( Genesis 31:30 , Psalms 84:2 ), implying the utter unlikelihood that God would leave in oblivion the "creature of His own hands so fearfully and wonderfully made." It is objected that if Job knew of a future retribution, he would make it the leading topic in solving the problem of the permitted afflictions of the righteous. But, (1) He did not intend to exceed the limits of what was clearly revealed; the doctrine was then in a vague form only; (2) The doctrine of God's moral government in this life, even independently of the future, needed vindication.
16. Rather, "Yea, thou wilt number my steps, and wilt not (as now) jealously watch over my sin." Thenceforward, instead of severe watching for every sin of Job, God will guard him against every sin.
number . . . steps--that is, minutely attend to them, that they may not wander [UMBREIT] ( 1 Samuel 2:9 , Psalms 37:23 ).
17. sealed up--( Job 9:7 ). Is shut up in eternal oblivion, that is, God thenceforth will think no more of my former sins. To cover sins is to completely forgive them ( Psalms 32:1 , 85:2 ). Purses of money in the East are usually sealed.
sewest up--rather, "coverest"; akin to an Arabic word, "to color over," to forget wholly.
18. cometh to naught--literally, "fadeth"; a poetical image from a leaf ( Isaiah 34:4 ). Here Job falls back into his gloomy bodings as to the grave. Instead of "and surely," translate "yet"; marking the transition from his brighter hopes. Even the solid mountain falls and crumbles away; man therefore cannot "hope" to escape decay or to live again in the present world ( Job 14:19 ).
out of his place--so man ( Psalms 103:16 ).
19. The Hebrew order is more forcible: "Stones themselves are worn away by water."
things which grow out of--rather, "floods wash away the dust of the earth." There is a gradation from "mountains" to "rocks" ( Job 14:18 ), then "stones," then last "dust of the earth"; thus the solid mountain at last disappears utterly.
20. prevailest--dost overpower by superior strength.
changest countenance--the change in the visage at death. Differently ( Daniel 5:9 ).
21. One striking trait is selected from the sad picture of the severance of the dead from all that passes in the world ( Ecclesiastes 9:5 ), namely, the utter separation of parents and children.
22. "Flesh" and "soul" describe the whole man. Scripture rests the hope of a future life, not on the inherent immortality of the soul, but on the restoration of the body with the soul. In the unseen world, Job in a gloomy frame anticipates, man shall be limited to the thought of his own misery. "Pain is by personification, from our feelings while alive, attributed to the flesh and soul, as if the man could feel in his body when dead. It is the dead in general, not the wicked, who are meant here."