Job's troubles. (1-6) Job expostulates with God. (7-16) He begs release. (17-21)
Verses 1-6 Job here excuses what he could not justify, his desire of death. Observe man's present place: he is upon earth. He is yet on earth, not in hell. Is there not a time appointed for his abode here? yes, certainly, and the appointment is made by Him who made us and sent us here. During that, man's life is a warfare, and as day-labourers, who have the work of the day to do in its day, and must make up their account at night. Job had as much reason, he thought, to wish for death, as a poor servant that is tired with his work, has to wish for the shadows of the evening, when he shall go to rest. The sleep of the labouring man is sweet; nor can any rich man take so much satisfaction in his wealth, as the hireling in his day's wages. The comparison is plain; hear his complaint: His days were useless, and had long been so; but when we are not able to work for God, if we sit still quietly for him, we shall be accepted. His nights were restless. Whatever is grievous, it is good to see it appointed for us, and as designed for some holy end. When we have comfortable nights, we must see them also appointed to us, and be thankful for them. His body was noisome. See what vile bodies we have. His life was hastening apace. While we are living, every day, like the shuttle, leaves a thread behind: many weave the spider's web, which will fail, ch. 8:14 . But if, while we live, we live unto the Lord, in works of faith and labours of love, we shall have the benefit, for every man shall reap as he sowed, and wear as he wove.
Verses 7-16 Plain truths as to the shortness and vanity of man's life, and the certainty of death, do us good, when we think and speak of them with application to ourselves. Dying is done but once, and therefore it had need be well done. An error here is past retrieve. Other clouds arise, but the same cloud never returns: so a new generation of men is raised up, but the former generation vanishes away. Glorified saints shall return no more to the cares and sorrows of their houses; nor condemned sinners to the gaieties and pleasures of their houses. It concerns us to secure a better place when we die. From these reasons Job might have drawn a better conclusion than this, I will complain. When we have but a few breaths to draw, we should spend them in the holy, gracious breathings of faith and prayer; not in the noisome, noxious breathings of sin and corruption. We have much reason to pray, that He who keeps Israel, and neither slumbers nor sleeps, may keep us when we slumber and sleep. Job covets to rest in his grave. Doubtless, this was his infirmity; for though a good man would choose death rather than sin, yet he should be content to live as long as God pleases, because life is our opportunity of glorifying him, and preparing for heaven.
Verses 17-21 Job reasons with God concerning his dealings with man. But in the midst of this discourse, Job seems to have lifted up his thoughts to God with some faith and hope. Observe the concern he is in about his sins. The best men have to complain of sin; and the better they are, the more they will complain of it. God is the Preserver of our lives, and the Saviour of the souls of all that believe; but probably Job meant the Observer of men, whose eyes are upon the ways and hearts of all men. We can hide nothing from Him; let us plead guilty before his throne of grace, that we may not be condemned at his judgment-seat. Job maintained, against his friends, that he was not a hypocrite, not a wicked man, yet he owns to his God, that he had sinned. The best must so acknowledge, before the Lord. He seriously inquires how he might be at peace with God, and earnestly begs forgiveness of his sins. He means more than the removing of his outward trouble, and is earnest for the return of God's favour. Wherever the Lord removes the guilt of sin, he breaks the power of sin. To strengthen his prayer for pardon, Job pleads the prospect he had of dying quickly. If my sins be not pardoned while I live, I am lost and undone for ever. How wretched is sinful man without a knowledge of the Saviour!
Job 7:1-21 . JOB EXCUSES HIS DESIRE FOR DEATH.
1. appointed time--better, "a warfare," hard conflict with evil (so in Isaiah 40:2 , Daniel 10:1 ). Translate it "appointed time" ( Job 14:14 ). Job reverts to the sad picture of man, however great, which he had drawn ( Job 3:14 ), and details in this chapter the miseries which his friends will see, if, according to his request ( Job 6:28 ), they will look on him. Even the Christian soldier, "warring a good warfare," rejoices when it is completed ( 1 Timothy 1:18 , 2 Timothy 2:3 , 2 Timothy 4:7 2 Timothy 4:8 ).
2. earnestly desireth--Hebrew, "pants for the [evening] shadow." Easterners measure time by the length of their shadow. If the servant longs for the evening when his wages are paid, why may not Job long for the close of his hard service, when he shall enter on his "reward?" This proves that Job did not, as many maintain, regard the grave as a mere sleep.
3.--Months of comfortless misfortune.
I am made to possess--literally, "to be heir to." Irony. "To be heir to," is usually a matter of joy; but here it is the entail of an involuntary and dismal inheritance.
Months--for days, to express its long duration.
Appointed--literally, "they have numbered to me"; marking well the unavoidable doom assigned to him.
4. Literally, "When shall be the flight of the night?" [GESENIUS]. UMBREIT, not so well, "The night is long extended"; literally, "measured out" (so Margin).
5. In elephantiasis maggots are bred in the sores ( Acts 12:23 , Isaiah 14:11 ).
clods of dust--rather, a crust of dried filth and accumulated corruption ( Job 2:7 Job 2:8 ).
my skin is broken and . . . loathsome--rather, comes together so as to heal up, and again breaks out with running matter [GESENIUS]. More simply the Hebrew is, "My skin rests (for a time) and (again) melts away" ( Psalms 58:7 ).
6. ( Isaiah 38:12 ). Every day like the weaver's shuttle leaves a thread behind; and each shall wear, as he weaves. But Job's thought is that his days must swiftly be cut off as a web;
without hope--namely, of a recovery and renewal of life ( Job 14:19 , 1 Chronicles 29:15 ).
7. Address to God.
Wind--a picture of evanescence ( Psalms 78:39 ).
shall no more see--rather, "shall no more return to see good." This change from the different wish in Job 3:17 , &c., is most true to nature. He is now in a softer mood; a beam from former days of prosperity falling upon memory and the thought of the unseen world, where one is seen no more ( Job 7:8 ), drew from him an expression of regret at leaving this world of light ( Ecclesiastes 11:7 ); so Hezekiah ( Isaiah 38:11 ). Grace rises above nature ( 2 Corinthians 5:8 ).
8. The eye of him who beholds me (present, not past), that is, in the very act of beholding me, seeth me no more.
Thine eyes are upon me, and I am not--He disappears, even while God is looking upon him. Job cannot survive the gaze of Jehovah ( Psalms 104:32 , Revelation 20:11 ). Not, "Thine eyes seek me and I am not to be found"; for God's eye penetrates even to the unseen world ( Psalms 139:8 ). UMBREIT unnaturally takes "thine" to refer to one of the three friends.
9. ( 2 Samuel 12:23 ).
the grave--the Sheol, or place of departed spirits, not disproving Job's belief in the resurrection. It merely means, "He shall come up no more" in the present order of things.
10. ( Psalms 103:16 ). The Oriental keenly loves his dwelling. In Arabian elegies the desertion of abodes by their occupants is often a theme of sorrow. Grace overcomes this also ( Luke 18:29 , Acts 4:34 ).
11. Therefore, as such is my hard lot, I will at least have the melancholy satisfaction of venting my sorrow in words. The Hebrew opening words, "Therefore I, at all events," express self-elevation [UMBREIT].
12. Why dost thou deny me the comfort of care-assuaging sleep? Why scarest thou me with frightful dreams?
Am I a sea--regarded in Old Testament poetry as a violent rebel against God, the Lord of nature, who therefore curbs his violence ( Jeremiah 5:22 ).
or a whale--or some other sea monster ( Isaiah 27:1 ), that Thou needest thus to watch and curb me? The Egyptians watched the crocodile most carefully to prevent its doing mischief.
14. The frightful dreams resulting from elephantiasis he attributes to God; the common belief assigned all night visions to God.
15. UMBREIT translates, "So that I could wish to strangle myself--dead by my own hands." He softens this idea of Job's harboring the thought of suicide, by representing it as entertained only in agonizing dreams, and immediately repudiated with horror in Job 7:16 , "Yet that (self-strangling) I loathe." This is forcible and graphic. Perhaps the meaning is simply, "My soul chooses (even) strangling (or any violent death) rather than my life," literally, "my bones" ( Psalms 35:10 ); that is, rather than the wasted and diseased skeleton, left to him. In this view, "I loathe it" ( Job 7:16 ) refers to his life.
16. Let me alone--that is, cease to afflict me for the few and vain days still left to me.
17. ( Psalms 8:4 , 144:3 ). Job means, "What is man that thou shouldst make him [of so much importance], and that thou shouldst expend such attention [or, heart-thought] upon him" as to make him the subject of so severe trials? Job ought rather to have reasoned from God's condescending so far to notice man as to try him, that there must be a wise and loving purpose in trial. David uses the same words, in their right application, to express wonder that God should do so much as He does for insignificant man. Christians who know God manifest in the man Christ Jesus may use them still more.
18. With each new day ( Psalms 73:14 ). It is rather God's mercies, not our trials, that are new every morning ( Lamentations 3:23 ). The idea is that of a shepherd taking count of his flock every morning, to see if all are there [COCCEIUS].
19. How long (like a jealous keeper) wilt thou never take thine eyes off (so the Hebrew for "depart from") me? Nor let me alone for a brief respite (literally, "so long as I take to swallow my spittle"), an Arabic proverb, like our, "till I draw my breath."
20. I have sinned--Yet what sin can I do against ("to," Job 35:6 ) thee (of such a nature that thou shouldst jealously watch and deprive me of all strength, as if thou didst fear me)? Yet thou art one who hast men ever in view, ever watchest them--O thou Watcher ( Job 7:12 , Daniel 9:14 ) of men. Job had borne with patience his trials, as sent by God ( Job 1:21 , 2:10 ); only his reason cannot reconcile the ceaseless continuance of his mental and bodily pains with his ideas of the divine nature.
set me as a mark--Wherefore dost thou make me thy point of attack? that is, ever assail me with new pains? [UMBREIT] ( Lamentations 3:12 ).
21. for now--very soon.
in the morning--not the resurrection; for then Job will be found. It is a figure, from one seeking a sick man in the morning, and finding he has died in the night. So Job implies that, if God does not help him at once, it will be too late, for he will be gone. The reason why God does not give an immediate sense of pardon to awakened sinners is that they think they have a claim on God for it.