Job 4:17

17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?

Job 4:17 in Other Translations

17 Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?
17 'Can mortal man be in the right before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker?
17 ‘Can a mortal be innocent before God? Can anyone be pure before the Creator?’
17 "'How can mere mortals be more righteous than God? How can humans be purer than their Creator?
17 "Can a person be more righteous than God, or a man more pure than his Maker?"

Job 4:17 Meaning and Commentary

Job 4:17

Shall mortal man be more just than God?
&c.] Poor, weak, frail, dying man, and so sinful, as his mortality shows, which is the effect of sin; how should such a man be more righteous than God? who is so originally and essentially of himself, completely, perfectly, yea, infinitely righteous in his nature, and in his works, both of providence and grace; in chastising his people, punishing the wicked, and bestowing favours upon his friends, even in their election, redemption, justification, pardon, and eternal happiness: yea, not only profane wicked sinners can make no pretensions to anything of this kind, but even the best of men, none being without sin, no, not man in his best estate; for the righteousness he had then was of God, and therefore he could not be more just than he that made him upright. This comparative sense, which our version leads to, is more generally received; but it seems not to be the sense of the passage, since this is a truth clear from reason, and needed no vision or revelation to discover it; nor can it be thought that God would send an angelic spirit in such an awful and pompous manner, to declare that which every one knew, and no man would contradict; even the most self-righteous and self-sufficient man would never be so daring and insolent as to say he was more righteous than God; but the words should be rather rendered, "shall mortal man be justified by God, or be just from God?" or "with" him, or "before" him F20, in his sight, by any righteousness in him, or done by him? shall he enter into his presence, stand at his bar, and be examined there, and go away from thence, in the sight and account of God, as a righteous person of himself? no, he cannot; now this is a doctrine opposed to carnal reasoning and the common sentiments of men, a doctrine of divine revelation, a precious truth: this is the string of pearls Eliphaz received, see ( Job 4:12 ) ; that mortal man is of himself an unrighteous creature; that he cannot be justified by his own righteousness in the sight of God; and that he must look and seek out for a better righteousness than his own, to justify him before God; and this agrees with Eliphaz's interpretation of the vision, ( Job 15:14 ) ; with the sentiments of his friend Bildad, who seems to have some respect to it, ( Job 25:4 ) ; and also of Job himself, ( Job 9:2 ) ; and in like manner are we to understand the following clause:

shall a man be more pure than his Maker?
even the greatest and best of men, since what purity was in Adam, in a state of innocence, was from God; and what good men have, in a state of grace, is from the grace of God and blood of Christ, without which no man is pure at all, and therefore cannot be purer than him from whom they have it: or rather "be pure from", or "with", or "before his Maker" F21, or be so accounted by him; every man is impure by his first birth, and in his nature state, and therefore cannot stand before a pure and holy God, who of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; or go away his presence, and be reckoned by him a pure and holy creature of himself; nor can any thing that he can do, in a moral or ceremonial manner, cleanse him from his impurity; and therefore it is necessary he should apply to the grace of God, and blood of Christ, for his purification.


F20 (qduy hwlam vwnah) "an mortalis a Deo justificabitur?" Codurcus' Bolducius, Deodatus, Gussetius, Ebr. Comment. p. 709. "Num mortalis a numine justus erit?" Schultens; so Mr. Broughton, "can the sorrowful man be holden just before the Puissant?"
F21 (rbg rhjy whvem) "an quisquam vir a factore suo mundus habebitur?" Codurcus; "an a conditore suo purus erit vir?" Schultens; so Mr. Broughton, "can the human being be clear before him that was his Maker?"

Job 4:17 In-Context

15 A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end.
16 It stopped, but I could not tell what it was. A form stood before my eyes, and I heard a hushed voice:
17 ‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?
18 If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error,
19 how much more those who live in houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, who are crushed more readily than a moth!

Cross References 2

  • 1. Job 9:2; Job 13:18; Psalms 143:2
  • 2. Job 8:3; Job 10:3; Job 14:4; Job 15:14; Job 21:14; Job 25:4; Job 31:15; Job 32:22; Job 35:10; Job 36:3,13; Job 37:23; Job 40:19; Psalms 18:26; Psalms 51:5; Psalms 119:73; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Isaiah 51:13; Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:24
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