Job complains that God has withdrawn. (1-7) He asserts his own integrity. (8-12) The Divine terrors. (13-17)
Verses 1-7 Job appeals from his friends to the just judgement of God. He wants to have his cause tried quickly. Blessed be God, we may know where to find him. He is in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself; and upon a mercy-seat, waiting to be gracious. Thither the sinner may go; and there the believer may order his cause before Him, with arguments taken from his promises, his covenant, and his glory. A patient waiting for death and judgment is our wisdom and duty, and it cannot be without a holy fear and trembling. A passionate wishing for death or judgement is our sin and folly, and ill becomes us, as it did Job.
Verses 8-12 Job knew that the Lord was every where present; but his mind was in such confusion, that he could get no fixed view of God's merciful presence, so as to find comfort by spreading his case before him. His views were all gloomy. God seemed to stand at a distance, and frown upon him. Yet Job expressed his assurance that he should be brought forth, tried, and approved, for he had obeyed the precepts of God. He had relished and delighted in the truths and commandments of God. Here we should notice that Job justified himself rather than God, or in opposition to him, ch. 32:2 . Job might feel that he was clear from the charges of his friends, but boldly to assert that, though visited by the hand of God, it was not a chastisement of sin, was his error. And he is guilty of a second, when he denies that there are dealings of Providence with men in this present life, wherein the injured find redress, and the evil are visited for their sins.
Verses 13-17 As Job does not once question but that his trials are from the hand of God, and that there is no such thing as chance, how does he account for them? The principle on which he views them is, that the hope and reward of the faithful servants of God are only laid up in another life; and he maintains that it is plain to all, that the wicked are not treated according to their deserts in this life, but often directly the reverse. But though the obtaining of mercy, the first-fruits of the Spirit of grace, pledges a God, who will certainly finish the work which he has began; yet the afflicted believer is not to conclude that all prayer and entreaty will be in vain, and that he should sink into despair, and faint when he is reproved of Him. He cannot tell but the intention of God in afflicting him may be to produce penitence and prayer in his heart. May we learn to obey and trust the Lord, even in tribulation; to live or die as he pleases: we know not for what good ends our lives may be shortened or prolonged.
Job 23:1-17 . JOB'S ANSWER.
2. to-day--implying, perhaps, that the debate was carried on through more days than one
bitter--( Job 7:11 , 10:1 ).
my stroke--the hand of God on me (Margin, Job 19:21 , Psalms 32:4 ).
heavier than--is so heavy that I cannot relieve myself adequately by groaning.
3. The same wish as in Job 13:3 (compare Hebrews 10:19-22 ).
Seat--The idea in the Hebrew is a well-prepared throne ( Psalms 9:7 ).
4. order--state methodically ( Job 13:18 , Isaiah 43:26 ).
fill, &c.--I would have abundance of arguments to adduce.
5. he--emphatic: it little matters what man may say of me, if only I know what God judges of me.
6. An objection suggests itself, while he utters the wish ( Job 23:5 ). Do I hereby wish that He should plead against me with His omnipotence? Far from it! ( Job 9:19 Job 9:34 , 13:21 , 30:18 ).
strength--so as to prevail with Him: as in Jacob's case ( Hosea 12:3 Hosea 12:4 ). UMBREIT and MAURER better translate as in Job 4:20 (I only wish that He) "would attend to me," that is, give me a patient hearing as an ordinary judge, not using His omnipotence, but only His divine knowledge of my innocence.
7. There--rather, "Then": if God would "attend" to me ( Job 23:6 ).
righteous--that is, the result of my dispute would be, He would acknowledge me as righteous.
delivered--from suspicion of guilt on the part of my Judge.
8. But I wish in vain. For "behold," &c.
forward . . . backward--rather, "to the east--to the west." The Hebrew geographers faced the east, that is, sunrise: not the north, as we do. So "before" means east: "behind," west (so the Hindus). Para, "before"--east: Apara, "behind"--west: Daschina, "the right hand"--south: Bama, "left"--north. A similar reference to sunrise appears in the name Asia, "sunrise," Europe, "sunset"; pure Babylonian names, as RAWLINSON shows.
9. Rather, "To the north."
work--God's glorious works are especially seen towards the north region of the sky by one in the northern hemisphere. The antithesis is between God working and yet not being beheld: as in Job 9:11 , between "He goeth by," and "I see Him not." If the Hebrew bears it, the parallelism to the second clause is better suited by translating, as UMBREIT, "doth hide himself"; but then the antithesis to "behold" would be lost.
right hand--"in the south."
hideth--appropriately, of the unexplored south, then regarded as uninhabitable because of its heat (see Job 34:29 ).
10. But--correcting himself for the wish that his cause should be known before God. The omniscient One already knoweth the way in me (my inward principles: His outward way or course of acts is mentioned in Job 23:11 . So in me, Job 4:21 ); though for some inscrutable cause He as yet hides Himself ( Job 23:8 Job 23:9 ).
when--let Him only but try my cause, I shall, &c.
11. held--fast by His steps. The law is in Old Testament poetry regarded as a way, God going before us as our guide, in whose footsteps we must tread ( Psalms 17:5 ).
declined--( Psalms 125:5 ).
12. esteemed--rather, "laid up," namely, as a treasure found ( Matthew 13:44 , Psalms 119:11 ); alluding to the words of Eliphaz ( Job 22:22 ). There was no need to tell me so; I have done so already ( Jeremiah 15:16 ).
necessary--"Appointed portion" (of food; as in Proverbs 30:8 ). UMBREIT and MAURER translate, "More than my law," my own will, in antithesis to "the words of His mouth" ( John 6:38 ). Probably under the general term, "what is appointed to me" (the same Hebrew is in Job 23:14 ), all that ministers to the appetites of the body and carnal will is included.
13. in one mind--notwithstanding my innocence. He is unaltered in His purpose of proving me guilty ( Job 9:12 ).
soul--His will ( Psalms 115:3 ). God's sovereignty. He has one great purpose; nothing is haphazard; everything has its proper place with a view to His purpose.
14. many such--He has yet many more such ills in store for me, though hidden in His breast ( Job 10:13 ).
15. God's decrees, impossible to be resisted, and leaving us in the dark as to what may come next, are calculated to fill the mind with holy awe [BARNES].
16. soft--faint; hath melted my courage. Here again Job's language is that of Jesus Christ ( Psalms 22:14 ).
17. Because I was not taken away by death from the evil to come (literally, "from before the face of the darkness," Isaiah 57:1 ). Alluding to the words of Eliphaz ( Job 22:11 ), "darkness," that is, calamity.
cut off--rather, in the Arabic sense, brought to the land of silence; my sad complaint hushed in death [UMBREIT]. "Darkness" in the second clause, not the same Hebrew wor as in the first, "cloud," "obscurity." Instead of "covering the cloud (of evil) from my face," He "covers" me with it ( Job 22:11 ).