Job acknowledges God's justice. (1-13) He is not able to contend with God. (14-21) Men not to be judged by outward condition. (22-24) Job complains of troubles. (25-35)
Verses 1-13 In this answer Job declared that he did not doubt the justice of God, when he denied himself to be a hypocrite; for how should man be just with God? Before him he pleaded guilty of sins more than could be counted; and if God should contend with him in judgment, he could not justify one out of a thousand, of all the thoughts, words, and actions of his life; therefore he deserved worse than all his present sufferings. When Job mentions the wisdom and power of God, he forgets his complaints. We are unfit to judge of God's proceedings, because we know not what he does, or what he designs. God acts with power which no creature can resist. Those who think they have strength enough to help others, will not be able to help themselves against it.
Verses 14-21 Job is still righteous in his own eyes, ch. 32:1 , and this answer, though it sets forth the power and majesty of God, implies that the question between the afflicted and the Lord of providence, is a question of might, and not of right; and we begin to discover the evil fruits of pride and of a self-righteous spirit. Job begins to manifest a disposition to condemn God, that he may justify himself, for which he is afterwards reproved. Still Job knew so much of himself, that he durst not stand a trial. If we say, We have no sin, we not only deceive ourselves, but we affront God; for we sin in saying so, and give the lie to the Scripture. But Job reflected on God's goodness and justice in saying his affliction was without cause.
Verses 22-24 Job touches briefly upon the main point now in dispute. His friends maintained that those who are righteous and good, always prosper in this world, and that none but the wicked are in misery and distress: he said, on the contrary, that it is a common thing for the wicked to prosper, and the righteous to be greatly afflicted. Yet there is too much passion in what Job here says, for God doth not afflict willingly. When the spirit is heated with dispute or with discontent, we have need to set a watch before our lips.
Verses 25-35 What little need have we of pastimes, and what great need to redeem time, when it runs on so fast towards eternity! How vain the enjoyments of time, which we may quite lose while yet time continues! The remembrance of having done our duty will be pleasing afterwards; so will not the remembrance of having got worldly wealth, when it is all lost and gone. Job's complaint of God, as one that could not be appeased and would not relent, was the language of his corruption. There is a Mediator, a Daysman, or Umpire, for us, even God's own beloved Son, who has purchased peace for us with the blood of his cross, who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through him. If we trust in his name, our sins will be buried in the depths of the sea, we shall be washed from all our filthiness, and made whiter than snow, so that none can lay any thing to our charge. We shall be clothed with the robes of righteousness and salvation, adorned with the graces of the Holy Spirit, and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. May we learn the difference between justifying ourselves, and being thus justified by God himself. Let the tempest-tossed soul consider Job, and notice that others have passed this dreadful gulf; and though they found it hard to believe that God would hear or deliver them, yet he rebuked the storm, and brought them to the desired haven. Resist the devil; give not place to hard thoughts of God, or desperate conclusions about thyself. Come to Him who invites the weary and heavy laden; who promises in nowise to cast them out.
Job 9:1-35 . REPLY OF JOB TO BILDAD.
2. I know it is so of a truth--that God does not "pervert justice" ( Job 8:3 ). But (even though I be sure of being in the right) how can a mere man assert his right--(be just) with God. The Gospel answers ( Romans 3:26 ).
3. If he--God
will contend with him--literally, "deign to enter into judgment."
he cannot answer, &c.--He (man) would not dare, even if he had a thousand answers in readiness to one question of God's, to utter one of them, from awe of His Majesty.
4. wise in heart--in understanding!--and mighty in power! God confounds the ablest arguer by His wisdom, and the mightiest by His power.
hardened himself--or his neck ( Proverbs 29:1 ); that is, defied God. To prosper, one must fall in with God's arrangements of providence and grace.
5. and they know not--Hebrew for "suddenly, unexpectedly, before they are aware of it" ( Psalms 35:8 ); "at unawares"; Hebrew, which "he knoweth not of" ( Joel 2:14 , Proverbs 5:6 ).
6. The earth is regarded, poetically, as resting on pillars, which tremble in an earthquake ( Psalms 75:3 , Isaiah 24:20 ). The literal truth as to the earth is given ( Job 26:7 ).
7. The sun, at His command, does not rise; namely, in an eclipse, or the darkness that accompanies earthquakes ( Job 9:6 ).
sealeth up the stars--that is, totally covers as one would seal up a room, that its contents may not be seen.
8. spreadeth out--( Isaiah 40:22 , Psalms 104:2 ). But throughout it is not so much God's creating, as His governing, power over nature that is set forth. A storm seems a struggle between Nature and her Lord! Better, therefore, "Who boweth the heavens alone," without help of any other. God descends from the bowed-down heaven to the earth ( Psalms 18:9 ). The storm, wherein the clouds descend, suggests this image. In the descent of the vault of heaven, God has come down from His high throne and walks majestically over the mountain waves (Hebrew, "heights"), as a conqueror taming their violence. So "tread upon" ( Deuteronomy 33:29 , Amos 4:13 , Matthew 14:26 ). The Egyptian hieroglyphic for impossibility is a man walking on waves.
9. maketh--rather, from the Arabic, "covereth up." This accords better with the context, which describes His boundless power as controller rather than as creator [UMBREIT].
Arcturus--the great bear, which always revolves about the pole, and never sets. The Chaldeans and Arabs, early named the stars and grouped them in constellations; often travelling and tending flocks by night, they would naturally do so, especially as the rise and setting of some stars mark the distinction of seasons. BRINKLEY, presuming the stars here mentioned to be those of Taurus and Scorpio, and that these were the cardinal constellations of spring and autumn in Job's time, calculates, by the precession of equinoxes, the time of Job to be eight hundred eighteen years after the deluge, and one hundred eighty-four before Abraham.
Orion--Hebrew, "the fool"; in Job 38:31 he appears fettered with "bands." The old legend represented this star as a hero, who presumptuously rebelled against God, and was therefore a fool, and was chained in the sky as a punishment; for its rising is at the stormy period of the year. He is Nimrod (the exceedingly impious rebel) among the Assyrians; Orion among the Greeks. Sabaism (worship of the heavenly hosts) and hero-worship were blended in his person. He first subverted the patriarchal order of society by substituting a chieftainship based on conquest ( Genesis 10:9 Genesis 10:10 ).
Pleiades--literally, "the heap of stars"; Arabic, "knot of stars." The various names of this constellation in the East express the close union of the stars in it ( Amos 5:8 ).
chambers of the south--the unseen regions of the southern hemisphere, with its own set of stars, as distinguished from those just mentioned of the northern. The true structure of the earth is here implied.
10. Repeated from Eliphaz ( Job 5:9 ).
11. I see him not: he passeth on--The image is that of a howling wind ( Isaiah 21:1 ). Like it when it bursts invisibly upon man, so God is felt in the awful effects of His wrath, but is not seen ( John 3:8 ). Therefore, reasons Job, it is impossible to contend with Him.
12. If "He taketh away," as in my case all that was dear to me, still a mortal cannot call Him to account. He only takes His own. He is an absolute King ( Ecclesiastes 8:4 , Daniel 4:35 ).
13. If God--rather, "God will not withdraw His anger," that is, so long as a mortal obstinately resists [UMBREIT].
the proud helpers--The arrogant, who would help one contending with the Almighty, are of no avail against Him.
14. How much less shall I? &c.--who am weak, seeing that the mighty have to stoop before Him. Choose words (use a well-chosen speech, in order to reason) with Him.
15. ( Job 10:15 ). Though I were conscious of no sin, yet I would not dare to say so, but leave it to His judgment and mercy to justify me ( 1 Corinthians 4:4 ).
16, 17. would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice--who breaketh me (as a tree stripped of its leaves) with a tempest.
19. UMBREIT takes these as the words of God, translating, "What availeth the might of the strong?" "Here (saith he) behold! what availeth justice? Who will appoint me a time to plead?" (So Jeremiah 49:19 ). The last words certainly apply better to God than to Job. The sense is substantially the same if we make "me" apply to Job. The "lo!" expresses God's swift readiness for battle when challenged.
20. it--( Job 15:6 , Luke 19:22 ); or "He," God.
21. Literally, here (and in Job 9:20 ), "I perfect! I should not know my soul! I would despise," [that is], "disown my life"; that is, Though conscious of innocence, I should be compelled, in contending with the infinite God, to ignore my own soul and despise my past life as if it were guilty [ROSENMULLER].
22. one thing--"It is all one; whether perfect or wicked--He destroyeth." This was the point Job maintained against his friends, that the righteous and wicked alike are afflicted, and that great sufferings here do not prove great guilt ( Luke 13:1-5 , Ecclesiastes 9:2 ).
23. If--Rather, "While (His) scourge slays suddenly (the wicked, Job 9:22 ), He laughs at (disregards; not derides) the pining away of the innocent." The only difference, says Job, between the innocent and guilty is, the latter are slain by a sudden stroke, the former pine away gradually. The translation, "trial," does not express the antithesis to "slay suddenly," as "pining away" does [UMBREIT].
24. Referring to righteous "judges," in antithesis to "the wicked" in the parallel first clause, whereas the wicked oppressor often has the earth given into his hand, the righteous judges are led to execution--culprits had their faces covered preparatory to execution ( Esther 7:8 ). Thus the contrast of the wicked and righteous here answers to that in Job 9:23 .
if not, where and who?--If God be not the cause of these anomalies, where is the cause to be found, and who is he?
25. a post--a courier. In the wide Persian empire such couriers, on dromedaries or on foot, were employed to carry the royal commands to the distant provinces ( Esther 3:13 Esther 3:15 , 8:14 ). "My days" are not like the slow caravan, but the fleet post. The "days" are themselves poetically said to "see no good," instead of Job in them ( 1 Peter 3:10 ).
26. swift ships--rather, canoes of reeds or papyrus skiffs, used on the Nile, swift from their lightness ( Isaiah 18:2 ).
28. The apodosis to Job 9:27 --"I still am afraid of all my sorrows (returning), for I know that thou wilt (dost) (by removing my sufferings) not hold or declare me innocent. How then can I leave off my heaviness?"
29. The "if" is better omitted; I (am treated by God as) wicked; why then labor I in vain (to disprove His charge)? Job submits, not so much because he is convinced that God is right, as because God is powerful and he weak [BARNES].
30. snow water--thought to be more cleansing than common water, owing to the whiteness of snow ( Psalms 51:7 , Isaiah 1:18 ).
never so clean--Better, to answer to the parallelism of the first clause which expresses the cleansing material, "lye:" the Arabs used alkali mixed with oil, as soap ( Psalms 73:13 , Jeremiah 2:22 ).
32. ( Ecclesiastes 6:10 , Isaiah 45:9 ).
33. daysman--"mediator," or "umpire"; the imposition of whose hand expresses power to adjudicate between the persons. There might be one on a level with Job, the one party; but Job knew of none on a level with the Almighty, the other party ( 1 Samuel 2:25 ). We Christians know of such a Mediator (not, however, in the sense of umpire on a level with both)--the God-man, Christ Jesus ( 1 Timothy 2:5 ).
34. rod--not here the symbol of punishment, but of power. Job cannot meet God on fair terms so long as God deals with him on the footing of His almighty power.
35. it is not so with me--As it now is, God not taking His rod away, I am not on such a footing of equality as to be able to vindicate myself.