Job reproves his friends. (1-5) He represents his case as deplorable. (6-16) Job maintains his innocency. (17-22)
Verses 1-5 Eliphaz had represented Job's discourses as unprofitable, and nothing to the purpose; Job here gives his the same character. Those who pass censures, must expect to have them retorted; it is easy, it is endless, but what good does it do? Angry answers stir up men's passions, but never convince their judgments, nor set truth in a clear light. What Job says of his friends is true of all creatures, in comparison with God; one time or other we shall be made to see and own that miserable comforters are they all. When under convictions of sin, terrors of conscience, or the arrests of death, only the blessed Spirit can comfort effectually; all others, without him, do it miserably, and to no purpose. Whatever our brethren's sorrows are, we ought by sympathy to make them our own; they may soon be so.
Verses 6-16 Here is a doleful representation of Job's grievances. What reason we have to bless God, that we are not making such complaints! Even good men, when in great troubles, have much ado not to entertain hard thoughts of God. Eliphaz had represented Job as unhumbled under his affliction: No, says Job, I know better things; the dust is now the fittest place for me. In this he reminds us of Christ, who was a man of sorrows, and pronounced those blessed that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Verses 17-22 Job's condition was very deplorable; but he had the testimony of his conscience for him, that he never allowed himself in any gross sin. No one was ever more ready to acknowledge sins of infirmity. Eliphaz had charged him with hypocrisy in religion, but he specifies prayer, the great act of religion, and professes that in this he was pure, though not from all infirmity. He had a God to go to, who he doubted not took full notice of all his sorrows. Those who pour out tears before God, though they cannot plead for themselves, by reason of their defects, have a Friend to plead for them, even the Son of man, and on him we must ground all our hopes of acceptance with God. To die, is to go the way whence we shall not return. We must all of us, very certainly, and very shortly, go this journey. Should not then the Saviour be precious to our souls? And ought we not to be ready to obey and to suffer for his sake? If our consciences are sprinkled with his atoning blood, and testify that we are not living in sin or hypocrisy, when we go the way whence we shall not return, it will be a release from prison, and an entrance into everlasting happiness.
Job 16:1-22 . JOB'S REPLY.
2. ( Job 13:4 ).
3. "Words of wind," Hebrew. He retorts upon Eliphaz his reproach ( Job 15:2 ).
emboldeneth--literally, "What wearies you so that ye contradict?" that is, What have I said to provoke you? &c. [SCHUTTENS]. Or, as better accords with the first clause, "Wherefore do ye weary yourselves contradicting?" [UMBREIT].
4. heap up--rather, "marshal together (an army of) words against you."
shake . . . head--in mockery; it means nodding, rather than shaking; nodding is not with us, as in the East, a gesture of scorn ( Isaiah 37:22 , Jeremiah 18:16 , Matthew 27:39 ).
5. strengthen . . . with . . . mouth--bitter irony. In allusion to Eliphaz' boasted "consolations" ( Job 15:11 ). Opposed to strengthening with the heart, that is, with real consolation. Translate, "I also (like you) could strengthen with the mouth," that is, with heartless talk: "And the moving of my lips (mere lip comfort) could console (in the same fashion as you do)" [UMBREIT]. "Hearty counsel" ( Proverbs 27:9 ) is the opposite.
6. eased--literally, "What (portion of my sufferings) goes from me?"
7. But now--rather, "ah!"
company--rather, "band of witnesses," namely, those who could attest his innocence (his children, servants, &c.). So the same Hebrew is translated in Job 16:8 . UMBREIT makes his "band of witnesses," himself, for, alas! he had no other witness for him. But this is too recondite.
8. filled . . . with wrinkles--Rather (as also the same Hebrew word in Job 22:16 ; English Version, "cut down"), "thou hast fettered me, thy witness" (besides cutting off my "band of witnesses," Job 16:7 ), that is, hast disabled me by pains from properly attesting my innocence. But another "witness" arises against him, namely, his "leanness" or wretched state of body, construed by his friends into a proof of his guilt. The radical meaning of the Hebrew is "to draw together," whence flow the double meaning "to bind" or "fetter," and in Syriac, "to wrinkle."
leanness--meaning also "lie"; implying it was a "false witness."
9. Image from a wild beast. So God is represented ( Job 10:16 ).
who hateth me--rather, "and pursues me hard." Job would not ascrible "hatred" to God ( Psalms 50:22 ).
mine enemy--rather, "he sharpens, &c., as an enemy" ( Psalms 7:12 ). Darts wrathful glances at me, like a foe ( Job 13:24 ).
10. gaped--not in order to devour, but to mock him. To fill his cup of misery, the mockery of his friends ( Job 16:10 ) is added to the hostile treatment from God ( Job 16:9 ).
smitten . . . cheek--figurative for contemptuous abuse ( Lamentations 3:30 , Matthew 5:39 ).
gathered themselves--"conspired unanimously" [SCHUTTENS].
11. the ungodly--namely, his professed friends, who persecuted him with unkind speeches.
turned me over--literally, "cast me headlong into the hands of the wicked."
12. I was at ease--in past times ( Job 1:1-3 ).
by my neck--as an animal does its prey (so Job 10:16 ).
shaken--violently; in contrast to his former "ease" ( Psalms 102:10 ). Set me up (again).
mark--( Job 7:20 , Lamentations 3:12 ). God lets me always recover strength, so as to torment me ceaselessly.
13. his archers--The image of Job 16:12 is continued. God, in making me His "mark," is accompanied by the three friends, whose words wound like sharp arrows.
gall--put for a vital part; so the liver ( Lamentations 2:11 ).
14. The image is from storming a fortress by making breaches in the walls ( 2 Kings 14:13 ).
a giant--a mighty warrior.
15. sewed--denoting the tight fit of the mourning garment; it was a sack with armholes closely sewed to the body.
horn--image from horned cattle, which when excited tear the earth with their horns. The horn was the emblem of power ( 1 Kings 22:11 ). Here, it is
in the dust--which as applied to Job denotes his humiliation from former greatness. To throw one's self in the dust was a sign of mourning; this idea is here joined with that of excited despair, depicted by the fury of a horned beast. The Druses of Lebanon still wear horns as an ornament.
16. foul--rather, "is red," that is, flushed and heated [UMBREIT and NOYES].
shadow of death--that is, darkening through many tears ( Lamentations 5:17 ). Job here refers to Zophar's implied charge ( Job 11:14 ). Nearly the same words occur as to Jesus Christ ( Isaiah 53:9 ). So Job 16:10 above answers to the description of Jesus Christ ( Psalms 22:13 , Isaiah 50:6 , and Job 16:4 to Psalms 22:7 ). He alone realized what Job aspired after, namely, outward righteousness of acts and inward purity of devotion. Jesus Christ as the representative man is typified in some degree in every servant of God in the Old Testament.
18. my blood--that is, my undeserved suffering. He compares himself to one murdered, whose blood the earth refuses to drink up until he is avenged ( Genesis 4:10 Genesis 4:11 , Ezekiel 24:1 Ezekiel 24:8 , Isaiah 26:21 ). The Arabs say that the dew of heaven will not descend on a spot watered with innocent blood (compare 2 Samuel 1:21 ).
no place--no resting-place. "May my cry never stop!" May it go abroad! "Earth" in this verse in antithesis to "heaven" ( Job 16:19 ). May my innocence be as well-known to man as it is even now to God!
19. Also now--Even now, when I am so greatly misunderstood on earth, God in heaven is sensible of my innocence.
record--Hebrew, "in the high places"; Hebrew, "my witness." Amidst all his impatience, Job still trusts in God.
20. Hebrew, "are my scorners"; more forcibly, "my mockers--my friends!" A heart-cutting paradox [UMBREIT]. God alone remains to whom he can look for attestation of his innocence; plaintively with tearful eye, he supplicates for this.
21. one--rather, "He" (God). "Oh, that He would plead for a man (namely, me) against God." Job quaintly says, "God must support me against God; for He makes me to suffer, and He alone knows me to be innocent" [UMBREIT]. So God helped Jacob in wrestling against Himself (compare Job 23:6 , Genesis 32:25 ). God in Jesus Christ does plead with God for man ( Romans 8:26 Romans 8:27 ).
as a man--literally, "the Son of man." A prefiguring of the advocacy of Jesus Christ--a boon longed for by Job ( Job 9:33 ), though the spiritual pregnancy of his own words, designed for all ages, was but little understood by him ( Psalms 80:17 ).
for his neighbour--Hebrew, "friend." Job himself ( Job 42:8 ) pleaded as intercessor for his "friends," though "his scorners" ( Job 16:20 ); so Jesus Christ the Son of man ( Luke 23:34 ); "for friends" ( John 15:13-15 ).
22. few--literally, "years of number," that is, few, opposed to numberless ( Genesis 34:30 ).