Job's former comforts. (1-6) The honour paid to Job, His usefulness. (7-17) His prospect of prosperity. (18-25)
Verses 1-6 Job proceeds to contrast his former prosperity with his present misery, through God's withdrawing from him. A gracious soul delights in God's smiles, not in the smiles of this world. Four things were then very pleasant to holy Job. 1. The confidence he had in the Divine protection. 2. The enjoyment he had of the Divine favour. 3. The communion he had with the Divine word. 4. The assurance he had of the Divine presence. God's presence with a man in his house, though it be but a cottage, makes it a castle and a palace. Then also he had comfort in his family. Riches and flourishing families, like a candle, may be soon extinguished. But when the mind is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, when a man walks in the light of God's countenance, every outward comfort is doubled, every trouble is diminished, and he may pass cheerfully by this light through life and through death. Yet the sensible comfort of this state is often withdrawn for a season; and commonly this arises from sinful neglect, and grieving the Holy Spirit: sometimes it may be a trial of a man's faith and grace. But it is needful to examine ourselves, to seek for the cause of such a change by fervent prayer, and to increase our watchfulness.
Verses 7-17 All sorts of people paid respect to Job, not only for the dignity of his rank, but for his personal merit, his prudence, integrity, and good management. Happy the men who are blessed with such gifts as these! They have great opportunities of honouring God and doing good, but have great need to watch against pride. Happy the people who are blessed with such men! it is a token for good to them. Here we see what Job valued himself by, in the day of his prosperity. It was by his usefulness. He valued himself by the check he gave to the violence of proud and evil men. Good magistrates must thus be a restraint to evil-doers, and protect the innocent; in order to this, they should arm themselves with zeal and resolution. Such men are public blessings, and resemble Him who rescues poor sinners from Satan. How many who were ready to perish, now are blessing Him! But who can show forth His praises? May we trust in His mercy, and seek to imitate His truth, justice, and love.
Verses 18-25 Being thus honoured and useful, Job had hoped to die in peace and honour, in a good old age. If such an expectation arise from lively faith in the providence and promise of God, it is well; but if from conceit of our own wisdom, and dependence on changeable, earthly things, it is ill grounded, and turns to sin. Every one that has the spirit of wisdom, has not the spirit of government; but Job had both. Yet he had the tenderness of a comforter. This he thought upon with pleasure, when he was himself a mourner. Our Lord Jesus is a King who hates iniquity, and upon whom the blessing of a world ready to perish comes. To Him let us give ear.
Job 29:1-25 .
1. Job pauses for a reply. None being made, he proceeds to illustrate the mysteriousness of God's dealings, as set forth ( Job 28:1-28 ) by his own case.
2. preserved me--from calamity.
3. candle--when His favor shone on me
darkness--By His safeguard I passed secure through dangers. Perhaps alluding to the lights carried before caravans in nightly travels through deserts [NOYES].
4. youth--literally, "autumn"; the time of the ripe fruits of my prosperity. Applied to youth, as the Orientalists began their year with autumn, the most temperate season in the East.
secret--when the intimate friendship of God rested on my tent ( Proverbs 3:32 , Psalms 31:20 , Genesis 18:17 , John 15:15 ). The Hebrew often means a divan for deliberation.
6. butter--rather, "cream," literally, "thick milk." Wherever I turned my steps, the richest milk and oil flowed in to me abundantly. Image from pastoral life.
When I washed my steps--Literal washing of the feet in milk is not meant, as the second clause shows; Margin, "with me," that is, "near" my path, wherever I walked ( Deuteronomy 32:13 ). Olives amidst rocks yield the best oil. Oil in the East is used for food, light, anointing, and medicine.
7-10. The great influence Job had over young and old, and noblemen.
through . . . street!--rather, When I went out of my house, in the country (see Job 1:1 , prologue) to the gate (ascending), up to the city (which was on elevated ground), and when I prepared my (judicial) seat in the market place. The market place was the place of judgment, at the gate or propylæa of the city, such as is found in the remains of Nineveh and Persepolis ( Isaiah 59:14 , Psalms 55:11 , 127:5 ).
8. hid--not literally; rather, "stepped backwards," reverentially. The aged, who were already seated, arose and remained standing (Hebrew) until Job seated himself. Oriental manners.
9. ( Job 4:2 ;
Refrained talking--stopped in the middle of their speech.
10. Margin, "voice--hid," that is, "hushed" ( Ezekiel 3:26 ).
Tongue cleaved, &c.--that is, awed by my presence, the emirs or sheiks were silent.
11. blessed--extolled my virtues ( Proverbs 31:28 ). Omit "me" after "heard"; whoever heard of me (in general, not in the market place, Job 29:7-10 ) praised me.
gave witness--to my honorable character. Image from a court of justice ( Luke 4:22 ).
the eye--that is, "face to face"; antithesis to
ear--that is, report of me.
12-17. The grounds on which Job was praised ( Job 29:11 ), his helping the afflicted ( Psalms 72:12 ) who cried to him for help, as a judge, or as one possessed of means of charity. Translate: "The fatherless who had none to help him."
13. So far was I from sending "widows" away empty ( Job 22:9 ).
ready to perish--( Proverbs 31:6 ).
14. ( Isaiah 61:10 , 1 Chronicles 12:18 ).
diadem--tiara. Rather, "turban," "head-dress." It and the full flowing outer mantle or "robe," are the prominent characteristics of an Oriental grandee's or high priest's dress ( Zechariah 3:5 ). So Job's righteousness especially characterized him.
15. Literally, "the blind" ( Deuteronomy 27:18 ); "lame" ( 2 Samuel 9:13 ); figuratively, also the spiritual support which the more enlightened gives to those less so ( Job 4:3 , Hebrews 12:13 , Numbers 10:31 ).
16. So far was I from "breaking the arms of the fatherless," as Eliphaz asserts ( Job 22:9 ), I was a "father" to such.
the cause which I knew not--rather, "of him whom I knew not," the stranger ( Proverbs 29:7 [UMBREIT]; contrast Luke 18:1 , &c.). Applicable to almsgiving ( Psalms 41:1 ); but here primarily, judicial conscientiousness ( Job 31:13 ).
17. Image from combating with wild beasts ( Job 4:11 , Psalms 3:7 ). So compassionate was Job to the oppressed, so terrible to the oppressor!
jaws--Job broke his power, so that he could do no more hurt, and tore from him the spoil, which he had torn from others.
18. I said--in my heart ( Psalms 30:6 ).
in--rather, "with my nest"; as the second clause refers to long life. Instead of my family dying before me, as now, I shall live so long as to die with them: proverbial for long life. Job did realize his hope ( Job 42:16 ). However, in the bosom of my family, gives a good sense ( Numbers 24:21 , Obadiah 1:4 ). Use "nest" for a secure dwelling.
sand--( Genesis 22:17 , Habakkuk 1:9 ). But the Septuagint and Vulgate, and Jewish interpreters, favor the translation, "the phoenix bird." "Nest" in the parallel clause supports the reference to a bird. "Sand" for multitude, applies to men, rather than to years. The myth was, that the phoenix sprang from a nest of myrrh, made by his father before death, and that he then came from Arabia (Job's country) to Heliopolis (the city of the Sun) in Egypt, once in every five hundred years, and there burnt his father [HERODOTUS, 2:73]. Modern research has shown that this was the Egyptian mode of representing hieroglyphically a particular chronological era or cycle. The death and revival every five hundred years, and the reference to the sun, implies such a grand cycle commencing afresh from the same point in relation to the sun from which the previous one started. Job probably refers to this.
19. Literally, "opened to the waters." Opposed to Job 18:16 . Vigorous health.
20. My renown, like my bodily health, was continually fresh.
bow--Metaphor from war, for, my strength, which gains me "renown," was ever renewed ( Jeremiah 49:35 ).
21. Job reverts with peculiar pleasure to his former dignity in assemblies ( Job 29:7-10 ).
22. not again--did not contradict me.
dropped--affected their minds, as the genial rain does the soil on which it gently drops ( Amos 7:16 , Deuteronomy 32:2 , Solomon 4:11 ).
23. Image of Job 29:22 continued. They waited for my salutary counsel, as the dry soil does for the refreshing rain.
opened . . . mouth--panted for; Oriental image ( Psalms 119:131 ). The "early rain" is in autumn and onwards, while the seed is being sown. The "latter rain" is in March, and brings forward the harvest, which ripens in May or June. Between the early and latter rains, some rain falls, but not in such quantities as those rains. Between March and October no rain falls ( Deuteronomy 11:14 , 5:7 ).
24. When I relaxed from my wonted gravity (a virtue much esteemed in the East) and smiled, they could hardly credit it; and yet, notwithstanding my condescension, they did not cast aside reverence for my gravity. But the parallelism is better in UMBREIT'S translation, "I smiled kindly on those who trusted not," that is, in times of danger I cheered those in despondency. And they could not cast down (by their despondency) my serenity of countenance (flowing from trust in God) ( Proverbs 16:15 , Psalms 104:15 ). The opposite phrase ( Genesis 4:5 Genesis 4:6 ). "Gravity" cannot well be meant by "light of countenance."
25. I chose out their way--that is, I willingly went up to their assembly (from my country residence, Job 29:7 ).
in the army--as a king supreme in the midst of his army.
comforteth the mourners--Here again Job unconsciously foreshadows Jesus Christ ( Isaiah 61:2 Isaiah 61:3 ). Job's afflictions, as those of Jesus Christ, were fitting him for the office hereafter ( Isaiah 50:4 , Hebrews 2:18 ).