He hath made me also a byword of the people
Either Eliphaz, or God; for whatsoever befell him, whether more immediately by the hand of God, or by any instrument, the ascribes it to him, as being suffered in Providence to befall him; as when he became a byword or proverb to the people in common, to whom an example might be set by one or more of Job's friends. The name of Job is to this day a byword or proverb among men, both for his poverty and his patience; if a man is described as very poor, he is said to be as poor as Job; or if very patient under his afflictions, he is said to be as patient as Job; but as neither of these are to the disgrace of Job, something else seems rather intended here, even something to his reproach; as when a man was represented as a very wicked man, or an hypocrite, it used to be said, such an one is as wicked a creature, and as arrant an hypocrite, as Job:
and aforetime I was as a tabret;
the delight of the people, who, when he appeared in the public streets, came out and went before him, singing, and dancing, and beating on tabrets, and such like musical instruments, to express their joy upon the sight of him; but now it was otherwise with him, and he whom they could not sufficiently extol and commend, now knew not well what to say bad enough of him; such a change in the sentiments and conduct of men must needs be very chagrining: or "aforetime I was as a lord", as Ben Gersom, from the use of the word in ( Daniel 3:2 ) ; as he supposes; he was like a lord or nobleman, or as one in some high office, and now as the offscouring of all things; or it denotes what he was "before them", the people, in their sight at present, and should be: the word used is "Tophet", which Aben Ezra takes to be the name of a place, and as it seems of that place where children were offered to Moloch, and which place was in being, and such practices used by the Canaanites in the times of Job; and this place, which was also called the valley of Hinnom, being afterwards used for hell, led the Targum to paraphrase the words thus, "and hell from within shall I be"; and so Sephorno, in appearance hell to all that see me; and in general it may signify that he was, or should be, avoided, as any unclean place, very ungrateful and disagreeable, as that place was; or as anything abominable, and to be loathed and rejected, and this way go several interpreters F19; though some think respect is had to the punishment of tympanization, in which sufferers were beaten upon in several parts of their bodies, as if men were beating upon a tabret or drum, which gave great pain and torment, see ( Hebrews 11:35 Hebrews 11:37 ) ; and with such like cruelty and indignity Job suggests he was or should be used; and therefore begs for a surety, for one to interpose and plead on his behalf; let the carriage of men to him be what it will, that is here referred to; compare with this ( Psalms 69:11 ) .
F19 Schmidt, Michaelis, Schultens.