Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, etc. — Does thy fear, thy confidence, come to nothing? Does it come only to this, that thou faintest now? Rather, by transposition, “Is not thy fear (of God) thy hope? and the uprightness of thy ways thy confidence? If so, bethink thee, who ever perished being innocent?” [Umbreit]. But Luk_13:2, Luk_13:3 shows that, though there is a retributive divine government even in this life, yet we cannot judge by the mere outward appearance. “One event is outwardly to the righteous and to the wicked” (Ecc_9:2); but yet we must take it on trust, that God deals righteously even now (Psa_37:25; Isa_33:16). Judge not by a part, but by the whole of a godly man’s life, and by his end, even here (Jam_5:11). The one and the same outward event is altogether a different thing in its inward bearings on the godly and on the ungodly even here. Even prosperity, much more calamity, is a punishment to the wicked (Pro_1:32). Trials are chastisements for their good (to the righteous) (Psa_119:67, Psa_119:71, Psa_119:75). See on Introduction on the Design of this Book.
Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways? Translate, with the Revised Version, Is not thy fear of God thy confidence’ and thy hope the integrity of thy ways? The verse is composed, as usual, of two clauses, balancing each other; and the meaning seems to be that, if Job is as convinced of his piety and uprightness as he professes to be, he ought still to maintain confidence in God, and a full expectation of deliverance from his troubles. If he does not, what is the natural inference? Surely, that he is not so confident of his innocence as he professes to be.
Is not this thy fear, thy confidence? – There has been considerable variety in the interpretation of this verse. Dr. Good renders it,
Is thy piety then nothing? thy hope
Thy contidence? or the uprightness of thy ways?
Noyes renders it,
Is not thy fear of God thy hope,
And the uprightness of thy ways the confidence?
Rosenmuller translates it,
Is not in thy piety and integrity of life
Thy confidence and hope?
In the Vulgate it is translated, “Where is thy fear, thy fortitude, thy patience, and the integrity of thy ways?” In the Septuagint, “Is not thy fear founded on folly, and thy hope, and the evil of thy way?”
Castellio translates it,
Nimirum tanturn religionis, quantum expectationis;
Quantum spei, tanturn habebas integritatis morum;
And the idea according to his version is, that he had as much religion as was prompted by the hope of reward; that his piety and integrity were sustained only by his hope, and were not the result of principle; and that of course his religion was purely selfish. If this be the sense, it is designed to be a reproach, and accords with the charge in the question of Satan Job_1:9, “Doth Job fear God for naught?” Rosenmuller adopts the opinion of Ludovicus de Dieu, and explains it as meaning,” You seemed to be a man fearing God, and a man of integrity, and you were led hence to cherish high hopes and expectations; but now you perceive that you were deceived. Your piety was not sincere and genuine, for the truly pious do not thus suffer. Remember therefore that no one perishes being innocent.” Codurcus renders it, “All thy hope was placed in thy religion, and thy expectation in the rectitude of thy ways; consider now, who perishes being innocent?” The true sentiment of the passage has undoubtedly been expressed by Good, Noyes. and Codurcus. The Hebrew rendered thy fear יראתך yârê’tek means doubtless religious fear, veneration, or piety, and is a word synonymous with εὐλάβεια eulabeia, εὐσέβεια eusebeia, religion. The sentiment is, that his confidence or hope was placed in his religion – in his fear of God, his respect and veneration for him, and in reliance on the equity of his government. This had been his stay in times past; and this was the subject which was naturally brought before him then. Eliphaz asks whether he should not put his trust in that God still, and not reproach him as unequal and unjust in his administration.
The uprightness of thy ways – Hebrew, The perfection of thy ways. Note Job_1:1. The idea is, that his hope was founded on the integrity of his life, and on the belief that the upright would be rewarded. The passage may be rendered,
Is not thy confidence and thy expectation
Founded on thy religion,
And on the integrity of thy ways?
This is the general sentiment which Eliphaz proceeds to illustrate and apply. If this was a just principle, it was natural to ask whether the trials of Job did not prove that he had no well grounded reason for such confidence.
Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? The heart of the matter is now approached. Job is called upon to “remember” the long-established moral axiom, that only evil-doing brings down upon men calamities, and that therefore, where calamities fall, them must be precedent wickedness. If he does not admit this, he-is challenged to bring forward examples, or even a single example, of suffering innocence. If he does admit it, he is left to apply the axiom to himself. Or where were the righteous cut off? Was the example of “righteous Abel” (Mat_23:35) unknown to Eliphaz? And had he really never seen that noblest of all sights, the good man struggling with adversity? One would imagine it impossible to attain old age, in the world wherein we live, without becoming convinced by our own observation that good and evil, prosperity and adversity, are not distributed in this life according to moral desert; but a preconceived notion of what ought to have been seems here, as elsewhere so often in the field of speculation, to have blinded men to the actual facts of the ease, and driven them to invent explanations of the facts, which militated against their theories, of the most absurdly artificial character. To account for the sufferings of the righteous, the explanation of “secret sins” was introduced, and it was argued that, where affliction seemed to fall on the good man, his goodness was not real goodness—it was a counterfeit, a sham—the fabric of moral excellence, so fair to view, was honeycombed by secret vices, to which the seemingly good man was a prey. Of course, if the afflictions wore abnormal, extraordinary, then the secret sins must be of a most heinous and horrible kind to deserve such a terrible retribution. This is what Eliphaz hints to be the solution in Job’s case. God has seen his secret sins—he has “set them in the light of his countenance” (Psa_90:8)—and is punishing them openly. Job’s duty is to humble himself before God, to confess, repent, and amend. Then, and then only, may he hope that God will remove his hand, and put an end to his sufferings
Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? – The object of this question is manifestly to show to Job the inconsistency of the feelings which he had evinced. He claimed to be a righteous man. He had instructed and counselled many others. He had professed confidence in God, and in the integrity of his own ways. It was to have been expected that one with such pretensions would have evinced resignation in the time of trial, and would have been sustained by the recollection of his integrity. The fact, therefore, that Job had thus “fainted,” and had given way to impatient expressions, showed that he was conscious that he had not been altogether what he had professed to be. “There must have been,” is the meaning of Eliphaz, “something wrong, when such calamities come upon a man, and when his faith gives way in such a manner. It would be contrary to all the analogy of the divine dealings to suppose that such a man as Job had professed to be, could be the subject of overwhelming judgments; for who, I ask, ever perished, being innocent? It is a settled principle of the divine government, that no one ever perishes who is innocent, and that great calamities are a proof of great guilt.”
This declaration contains the essence of all the positions held by Eliphaz and his colleagues in this argument. This they considered as so established that no one could call it in question, and on the ground of this they inferred that one who experienced such afflictions, no matter what his professions or his apparent piety had been, could not be a good man. This was a point about which the minds of the friends of Job were settled; and though they seem to have been disposed to concede that some afflictions might happen to good men, yet when sudden and overwhelming calamities such as they now witnessed came upon them, they inferred that there must have been corresponding guilt. Their reasoning on this subject – which runs through the book – perplexed but did not satisfy Job, and was obviously based on a wrong principle – The word “perished” here means the same as cut off, and does not differ much from being overwhelmed with calamity. The whole sentence has a proverbial cast; and the sense is, that when persons were suddenly cut off it proved that they were not innocent. Job, therefore, it was inferred, could not be a righteous man in these unusual and very special trials.
Or where were the righteous cut off? – That is, by heavy judgment; by any special and direct visitation. Eliphaz could not mean that the righteous did not die – for he could not be insensible to that fact; but he must have referred to sudden calamities. This kind of reasoning is common – that when men are afflicted with great and sudden calamities they must be especially guilty. It prevailed in the time of the Savior, and it demanded all his authority to settle the opposite principle; see Luk_13:1-5. It is that into which people naturally and easily fall; and it required much observation, and long experience, and enlarged views of the divine administration, to draw the true lines on this subject. To a certain extent, and in certain instances, calamity certainly does prove that there is special guilt. Such was the case with the old world that was destroyed by the deluge; such was the case with the cities of the plain; such is the case in the calamities that come upon the drunkard, and such too in the special curse produced by indulgence in licentiousness. But this principle does not run through all the calamities which befall people. A tower may fall on the righteous as well as the wicked; an earthquake may destroy the innocent as well as the guilty; the pestilence sweeps away the holy and the unholy, the profane and the pure, the man who fears God and him who fears him not; and the inference is now seen to be too broad when we infer, as the friends of Job did, that no righteous man is cut off by special calamity, or that great trials demonstrate that such sufferers are less righteous than others are. Judgments are not equally administered in this world, and hence, the necessity for a future world of retribution; see the notes at Luk_13:2-3.
But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were throughly weighed! rather, my anger, or my vexation—the same word as that used by Eliphaz when reproaching Job, in Job_5:2. Job wishes that, before men blame him, they would calmly weigh the force of his feelings and expressions against the weight of the calamity which oppresses him. His words may seem too strong and too violent; but are they more than a just counterpoise to the extreme character of his afflictions? The weighing of words and thoughts was an essential element in the Egyptian conception of the judgment, where Thoth held the balance, and in the one scale were placed the merits of the deceased, in the other the image of Ma, or Truth, and his fate was determined by the side to which the balance inclined. And my calamity laid in the balances together. My calamity placed in one scale, and my vexation in the other, and so weighed, each against each.
O that my grief were thoroughly weighed – The word rendered “grief” here (כעשׂ ka‛aś) may mean either vexation, trouble, grief; Ecc_1:18; Ecc_2:23; or it may mean anger; Deu_32:19; Eze_20:28. It is rendered by the Septuagint here, ὀργή orgē – anger; by Jerome, peccata – sins. The sense of the whole passage may either be, that Job wished his anger or his complaints to be laid in the balance with his calamity, to see if one was more weighty than the other – meaning that he had not complained unreasonably or unjustly (Rosenmuller); or that he wished that his afflictions might be put into one scale and the sands of the sea into another, and the one weighed against the other (Noyes); or simply, that he desired that his sorrows should be accurately estimated. This latter is, I think, the true sense of the passage. He supposed his friends had not understood and appreciated his sufferings; that they were disposed to blame him without understanding the extent of his sorrows, and he desires that they would estimate them aright before they condemned him. In particular, he seems to have supposed that Eliphaz had not done justice to the depth of his sorrows in the remarks which he had just made. The figure of weighing actions or sorrows, is not uncommon or unnatural. It means to take an exact estimate of their amount. So we speak of heavy calamities, of afflictions that crush us by their weight. etc.
Laid in the balances – Margin, “lifted up.” That is, raised up and put in the scales, or put in the scales and then raised up – as is common in weighing.
Together – יחד yachad. At the same time; that all my sorrows, griefs, and woes, were piled on the scales, and then weighed. He supposed that only a partial estimate had been formed of the extent of his calamities.
For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea (comp. Pro_27:3, “A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both;” see also Ecclesiasticus 22:15). Therefore my words are swallowed up; rather, as in the Revised Version, therefore have my words been rash. Job here excuses without justifying himself. The excessive character of his sufferings has, he declares, forced him to utter rash and violent words, as these wherein he cursed his day and wished that he had never been born (Job_3:1, Job_3:3-11). Some allowance ought to be made for rash speech uttered under such circumstances.
Teach me, and I will hold my tongue. Job is willing to be taught, if his friends have any instruction to give. He is willing to be reproved. But not in such sort as he has been reproved by Eliphas. His words were not “words of uprightness.” Cause me to understand wherein I have erred. Point out, that is, in what my assumed guilt consists. You maintain that my afflictions are deserved. Point out what in my conduct has deserved them. I am quite ready to be convinced.
Teach me, and I will hold my tongue – That is, give me any real instruction, or show me what is my duty, and I will be silent. By this he means that Eliphaz had really imparted no instruction, but had dealt only in the language of reproof. The sense is, “I would willingly sit and listen where truth is imparted, and where I could be enabled to see the reason of the divine dealings. If I could be made to understand where I have erred, I would acquiesce.”
If thy children have sinned against him – Bildad here assumes that the children of Job had been wicked, and had been cut off in their sins. This must have cut him to the quick, for there was nothing which a bereaved father would feel more acutely than this. The meaning here is somewhat weakened by the word “if.” The Hebrew אם ‘ı̂m is rather to be taken in the sense of “since” – assuming it as an indisputable point, or taking it for granted. It was not a supposition that if they should now do it, certain other consequences would follow; but the idea is, that since they had been cut off in their sins, if Job would even now seek God with a proper spirit, he might be restored to prosperity, though his beginning should be small; Job_8:7.
And he have cast them away – Bildad supposes that they had been disowned by God, and had been put to death.
For their transgression – Margin, in the hand of their. The Hebrew is, by the hand of their transgression; i. e, their sin has been the cause of it, or it has been by the instrumentality of their sin. What foundation Bildad had for this opinion, derived from the life and character of the sons of Job, we have no means of ascertaining. The probability is, however, that he had learned in general that they had been cut off; and that, on the general principle which he maintained, that God deals with men in this life according to their character, he inferred that they must have been distinguished for wickedness. Men not unfrequently argue in this way when sudden calamity comes upon others.
Job 8:4. The construction of the English version is possible, which makes the whole of v. 4 the supposition or protasis and begins the second member of the sentence with v. 5. But more probably v. 4 is complete in itself: if thy children have sinned so (or, then) he hath, &c.
cast them away for] Rather lit., he hath sent them away, or, let them go, into the hand of their transgression. The idea is that evil carries its own retribution with it, and that a sinner is destroyed by the very sin which he commits, a common idea in the Book, cf. ch. 4:8, 15:31, 35, 18:7, 8, 20:12 seq. Though Bildad puts his reference to the children of Job hypothetically there is great harshness in the allusion, and we may understand how the father would smart under it from his own reference later in the Book to the time when his children were yet alive: “When my boys were about me,” ch. 29:5. A wiser and more human-hearted Teacher than Bildad has instructed us from the instances of the affliction of blindness (John 9:2–3) and the accident in the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4) that calamity is no proof of guilt in those on whom it falls, and that evil may serve in the hand of God wider uses than the chastisement of individuals. This is the very lesson of the Book of Job, though it seems that men in the days of our Lord had not yet learned it. The verse refers back to ch. 1:19, and is evidence that the Prologue forms an integral part of the Book.
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes – If thou wouldest do it now. If even on the supposition that your sons have thus perished, and that God has come out in judgment against your family, you would look to God, you might be restored to favor. The word rendered “seek betimes” (שׁחר shâchar) means literally to seek in the morning, to seek early; and then, to make it the first business. It is derived from the word meaning aurora (שׁחר shachar) and has reference to the early light of the morning, and hence, to an early seeking. It may be applied to seeking him in early life, or as the first thing – looking to him immediately when help is needed, or before we apply to anyone else; compare Pro_7:15; Pro_8:17; Pro_13:24; Job_24:5; Psa_63:1; Psa_78:34; Isa_26:9; Hos_5:15; compare the advice of Eliphaz, Job_5:8.
Job 8:5. Bildad saw in the fate of Job’s children not only proof that they had sinned but that their sin was deadly. He saw in Job’s afflictions proof equally decisive that he had sinned, but the fact that he was still spared, however severe his afflictions, gave a different complexion to his sin, and also suggested a different meaning for his afflictions. They were chastisements meant for his good, and Bildad is enabled to hope the best for Job, if he will rightly lay his trials to heart.
wouldest seek unto God betimes] Rather, if thou wilt seek earnestly unto God. Thou is emphatic in antithesis to “thy children,” v. 4.
If thou wert pure and upright. Job had asserted this, not in so many words, but substantially (Job_6:29, Job_6:30). We have God’s testimony that it was true (Job_1:8; Job_2:3); not, of course, in the sense that he was absolutely free from sin, but in that qualified sense in which “just,” and “righteous,” and “pure,” and “holy” can be properly used of men. Bildad implies, without boldly asserting it, that he does not believe Job to deserve the epithets, either absolutely or in a qualified sense. If he were so, Surely now he (i.e. God) would awake for thee. This is a common anthropomorphism (see Psa_7:6; Psa_35:25; Psa_44:23; Psa_59:4, Psa_59:5; Isa_51:9). And make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous; or, make peaceful the habitation wherein thy righteousness dwelleth; i.e. make peaceful the habitation wherein thou, a righteous man ex hypothesi, dwellest.
If thou wert pure and upright – There is something especially severe and caustic in this whole speech of Bildad. He first assumes that the children of Job were cut off for impiety, and then takes it for granted that Job himself was not a pure and upright man. This inference he seems to have derived partly from the fact that he had been visited with so heavy calamities, and partly from the sentiments which Job had himself expressed. Nothing could be more unjust and severe, however, than to take it for granted that he was a hypocrite, and then proceed to argue as if that were a settled point. He does not make it a supposition that possibly Job might have erred – which would not have been improper; but he proceeds to argue as if it were a point about which there could be no hesitation.
He would awake for thee – He would arouse or excite himself יעיר yā‛ı̂r on thy account. The image is that of arousing oneself from sleep or inactivity to aid another; and the idea is, that God had, as it were, slumbered over the calamities of Job, or had suffered them to come without interposing to prevent them, but that he would arouse himself if Job were pure, and would call upon him for aid.
And make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous – That is, if thy habitation should become righteous now, he would make it prosperous. Hitherto, is the idea of Bildad, it has been a habitation of wickedness. Thy children have been wicked, and are now cut off. Thou thyself hast been a wicked man, and in consequence art afflicted. If now thou wouldest become pure and seek unto God, then God would make thy habitation prosperous. What could more try the patience of a sufferer than such cold and unfeeling insinuations? And what could more beautifully illustrate the nature of true courtesy, than to sit unmoved and hear such remarks? It was by forbearance in such circumstances eminently that Job showed his extraordinary patience.
Job 8:6. if thou wert pure] Or, if thou be pure, cf. subjunctive in ch. 11:15.
surely now he would awake] Rather, surely now he will awake. The words, if thou wilt seek, v. 5, suggest the right point of view from which to look at the words, if thou be pure, &c. The whole passage refers to the conduct which Bildad hopes for from Job. The meaning, therefore, does not seem to be, If thou be pure, as thou sayest, and as we have supposed thee; but rather, If thou become pure, through penitence, and by letting afflictions work the fruits of righteousness, cf. ch. 11:13 seq.
make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous] Or, restore thy righteous habitation, that is, restore the lost prosperity (cf. Joel 2:25) of thy habitation, now become the abode of righteousness. Bildad comes out with his suspicions of Job’s guilt much more explicitly than Eliphaz did; and similarly Zophar, ch. 11:13.
Though thy beginning was small; rather, were small. Bildad does not refer to the past, but to the present. Though, if God were now to set to work to prosper Job, his beginning would be slender indeed, yet what the outcome might be none could know. God might prosper him greatly. Yet thy latter end should greatly increase. Here, once mere, Bildad does but follow in the steps of Eliphaz (see Job_5:18-26), prophesying smooth things, as be had done. It is difficult to believe that either comforter put any faith in the prospect which he held out, or imagined that Job would really be restored to prosperity. Rather there is a covert sarcasm in their words. If thou weft indeed so free from guilt as thou claimest to be, then thou wouldst be confident of a happy issue out of thy afflictions. If thou art not confident of such an issue, it is because thou art conscious of guilt.
Though thy beginning was small – On the supposition that the children of Job had been cut off, his family now was small. Yet Bildad says, that if he were to begin life again, even with so small a family, and in such depressed and trying circumstances, if he were a righteous man he might hope for returning prosperity.
Yet thy latter end – From this, it is evident that Job was not now regarded as an old man. He would still have the prospect of living many years. Some have supposed, however that the meaning here is, that his former prosperity should appear small compared with that which he would hereafter enjoy if he were pure and righteous. So Noyes and Rosenmuller interpret it. But it seems to me that the former interpretation is the correct one. Bildad utters a general sentiment, that though when a man begins life he has a small family and little property, yet if he is an upright man, he will be prospered and his possessions will greatly increase; compare Job_42:12 : “Yahweh blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.”
Job 8:8. prepare thyself to the search] i. e., give heed to the research, or, to that which their fathers have searched out. By referring to a former age, and then to the fathers of that age or generation, Bildad intimates that his truth was recognised through all antiquity backwards till history loses itself in the beginnings of time.
And that he would show thee the secrets of wisdom – The hidden things that pertain to wisdom. The reference here is to the wisdom of God himself. The sense is this, “you now think yourself pure and holy. You have confidence in your own wisdom and integrity. But this apprehension is based on a short-sighted view of God, and on ignorance of him. If he would speak and show you his wisdom; if he would express his sense of what purity is, you would at once see how far you have come from perfection, and would be overwhelmed with a sense of your comparative vileness and sin.”
That they are double to that which is – Noyes renders this,” his wisdom which is unsearchable.” Dr. Good, strangely enough, “for they are intricacies to iniquity.” The expression, as it stands in our common version, is not very intelligible; and indeed it is difficult, to attach any idea to it. Of the words used in the Hebrew, the sense is not difficult. The word כפלים kı̂playı̂m, “double,” is from כפל kâphal “to fold,”” to double;” and means a doubling Job_41:5; and then two folds, or double folds, and the sense here is, that the wisdom of God is “double-fold;” that is, complicated, inexplicable, or manifold. It is not spread out and plain, but is infolded, so that it requires to be unrolled to be understood. The word rendered “that which is” (תשׁיה tûshı̂yâh), means properly a setting upright, uprightness – from ישׁע yâsha‛. Hence, it means help, deliverance, Job_6:13; purpose, undertaking, see the notes at Job_5:12; and then counsel, wisdom, understanding, Job_12:16; Isa_28:29. It means here, I suppose, “understanding;” and the idea is, that the wisdom of God is “double of understanding;” that is, it is so infolded, so complex, that it greatly surpasses our comprehension. What we see is a small part of it; and the “secrets” of his wisdom – the parts of his wisdom which are not unfolded, are far above our grasp. His wisdom is like a vast roll or volume, only the first and a very small part of which is unrolled so that we can read it. But who can look into that that remains unopened, and penetrate between the involutions, so as to perceive and read it all? It is but little that is now unrolled of the mighty volume – the remainder will be unfolded as years and ages shall pass on, and the entire unfolding of the book will be reserved for eternity.
Know, therefore, that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth – The word here rendered “exacteth” (ישׁה yasheh) more properly means “to forget” – from נשׁה nâshâh. It also means to loan on usury, or to borrow; but the sense here is rather that of forgetting. It is not used in the sense of exacting. The true meaning is, “know, therefore, that for thee God hath caused to be forgotten a part of thy iniquity.” That is, he has treated you as if he had caused a part of your sins to be out of mind, or as if they were not remembered. Instead of treating you, as you complain, with severity, he has by no means inflicted on you the calamities which you deserve. The ground of this unfeeling assertion is the abstract proposition that God is infinitely wiser than human beings; that he has a deeper insight into human guilt than people can have; and that if he should disclose to us all that he sees of the heart, we should be amazed at the revelations of our own sins. This sentiment is undoubtedly true, and accords almost cxactly with what Job had himself said Job_9:19-22, but there is something very harsh and severe in the manner in which Zophar applies it.
Job 11:6. shew thee the secrets of wisdom] Wisdom here is God’s omniscience. Its secrets are not the things known to it, such, for example, as Job’s sins, but its own profound depths and insight.
that they are double to that which is] Or, that it (wisdom) is double in (true) understanding. By double or twofold in regard to true understanding is not meant, double of man’s wisdom or that of the creature in general, but rather, twofold what Job conceived of it, in other words, that, in regard to its true insight, it far exceeded all conception. This translation presents the smallest deviation from the A. V. and is simple. It is an objection to it that it makes “understanding” a quality of “wisdom,” while the former word (on which see note on ch. 5:12) would more naturally be but another name for the “wisdom,” as it is in Job’s reply to all this, ch. 12:16, cf. v. 13. Hence others assume that the word twofold means “many folds,” translating: that folds, complications, belong to (true) understanding,—that is, that (God’s) understanding is manifold.
Know therefore] i. e. then shouldst thou know. The imperative is a more vivid way of expressing the future, see on ch. 5:1.
exacteth of thee less, &c.] This gives the general sense, though the translation seems to rest both on a false etymology and a false idea of construction. Literally the words mean: God bringeth into forgetfulness for thee some of thy guilt, that is, remembereth not against thee all thy guilt. Others (e.g. Hitz.): God causeth thee to forget thy guilt. The general meaning is, that if God would appear and speak and reveal His knowledge of Job’s sins, Job would be brought to know that he was guilty—perhaps even that his afflictions were far below his guilt. This is a harder word than has yet been uttered against Job.
If thou prepare thine heart. Having indicated God’s righteousness by these general remarks (Job_11:7-12), and implied that Job’s complaints are vain and futile, Zophar, in conclusion, addresses Job once more directly: “If thou (אתּה) prepare thine heart,” cleanse it, that is, of all defilement, direct it, and set it straight (see Psa_78:8) before God, then such and such results (set forth in verses 15-19) will follow. And stretch out thine hands toward him. The outward act of worship must follow the inward movement of the heart, for the turning to God to be complete.
If thou prepare thine heart – Zophar now proceeds to state that if Job even yet would return to God, he might hope for acceptance. Though he had sinned, and though he was now, as he supposed, a hollow-hearted and an insincere man, yet, if he would repent, he might expect the divine favor. In this he accords with the sentiment of Eliphaz, and he concludes his speech in a manner not a little resembling his; see Job_5:17-27.
And stretch out thine hands toward him – In the attitude of supplication. To stretch out or spread forth the hands, is a phrase often used to denote the act of supplication; see 1Ti_2:8, and the notes of Wetstein on that place. Horace, 3 Carm. xxiii. 1, Coelo supinas si tuleris manus. Ovid, M. ix. 701, Ad sidera supplex Cressa manus tollens. Trist. i. 10, 21, Ipsc gubernator, tollens ad sidera palmas; compare Livy v. 21. Seneca, Ep. 41; Psa_63:4; Psa_134:2; Psa_141:2; Ezr_9:5.
If iniquity be in thine hand. Zophar assumes this to be probable, nay, almost certain. He has already told Job that God has exacted from him less than his iniquity (און, the same word) deserves (verse 6). Conformably with this view, he now suggests that it would not do for Job to stretch out to God in prayer a hand full of iniquity, and that therefore, previously to making his supplication, he would do well to lay his iniquity aside. In a general way, the advice is excellent; but it was insulting to Job, who denied that he had any definite act of sin on his conscience. Put it far away; i.e. repent of it, confess it to God; if the case admits of it, make reparation or restitution. And let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles; or, in thy tents. The insinuation seems to be that Job is a robber chief, and that his tent and the tents of his followers are full of ill-gotten spoils, the fruit of his raids upon the defenceless.
If iniquity be in thine hand – If you have in your possession anything that has been unjustly obtained. If you have oppressed the poor and the fatherless, and have what properly belongs to them, let it be restored. This is the obvious duty of one who comes to God to implore his favor; compare Luk_19:8.
Job 11:14. The reformation which Zophar impresses on Job has several steps: first, the preparation of his heart; then, prayer unto God; then, the putting away of his personal sins; and finally, those of his home. These are enumerated, one after another, but nothing lies in the order of enumeration.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Zophar refers to Job’s own words (Job_10:15), “yet will I not lift up my head,” even though righteous. Zophar declares, if Job will follow his advice, he may “lift up his face.”
spot — (Deu_32:5).
steadfast — literally, “run fast together,” like metals which become firm and hard by fusion. The sinner on the contrary is wavering.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot – That is, thy face shall be bright, clear, and cheerful. Thus, we speak of a bright and happy countenance. Zophar undoubtedly designs to show what his appearance would be, contrasted with what it then was. Now his countenance was dejected and sad. It was disfigured by tears, and terror, and long continued anguish. But if he would put away iniquity, and return to God, his face would be cheerful again, and he would be a happy man.
Yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear – The word rendered “steadfast” (מצק mutsaq) is from יצק yâtsaq, to pour, to pour out, and is applied to liquids, or to metals which are fused and poured into a mould, and which then become hard. Hence, it is used in the sense of firm, solid, intrepid. “Gesenius.” Schultens supposes that the reference here is to metallic mirrors, made by casting, and then polished, and that the idea is, that his face would shine like such a mirror. But it may be doubted whether this interpretation is not too refined. The other and more common explanation well suits the sense, and should probably be retained.
But ye are forgers of lies. A harsh expression, indicating that Job was thoroughly exasperated. The lies which his friends had forged were, partly, misrepresentations of what he had said, as for example Job_11:4, but mainly statements, more or less covert, which implied that he had brought all his calamities on himself by a course of evil-doing (see Job_4:7, Job_4:8; Job_8:13, Job_8:14; Job_11:11, Job_11:14, Job_11:20). Ye are all physicians of no value. Job’s friends had come to him to “comfort” him (Job_2:11), and act as physicians of his soul. But they had entirely failed to be of the least service. They had not even understood his case.
But ye are forgers of lies – The word lies here seems to be used in a large sense, to denote sophisms, false accusations, errors. They maintained false positions; they did not see the exact truth in respect to the divine dealings, and to the character of Job. They maintained strenuously that Job was a hypocrite, and that God was punishing him for his sins. They maintained that God deals with people in exact accordance with their charactor in this world, all of which Job regarded as false doctrine, and asserted that they defended it with sophistical arguments invented for the purpose, and thus they could be spoken of as “forgers of lies.”
Physicians of no value – The meaning is, that they had come to give him consolation, but nothing that they had said had imparted comfort. They were like physicians sent for to visit the sick, who could do nothing when they came; compare Job_16:2.
. but ye are forgers of lies] The but in v. 3 had for its background the knowledge of the Divine wisdom (vv. 1, 2); Job knows this well, but for all his knowledge of it he desires to plead his cause before God, he will speak unto the Almighty. This desire and purpose, however, are crossed by the thought of the use which his friends make of the Divine wisdom against him, and he is diverted from his great object to administer a rebuke to them—but ye are forgers of lies. Verses 4–12 are therefore a digression, the main object being resumed in v. 13; the digression, however, is profoundly interesting. In clause one Job tells his friends that their assumptions of his guilt and the application which they made to his case of the Divine omniscience are false; in the second he compares them to ignorant physicians, who take in hand a disease which they are incompetent to treat.
Then call thou, and I will answer – Call me to trial; summon me to make my defense. This is language taken from courts of justice, and the idea is, that if God would remove his calamity, and not overawe him, and would then call on him to make a defense, he would be ready to respond to his call. The language means, “be thou plaintiff in the case, and I will enter on my defense.” He speaks now to God not as to a judge but as a party, and is disposed to go to trial. See the notes at Job_9:33-35.
Or let me speak, and answer thou me – “Let me be the plaintiff, and commence the cause. In any way, let the cause come to an issue. Let me open the cause, adduce my arguments, and defend my view of the subject; and then do thou respond.” The idea is, that Job desired a fair trial. He was willing that God should select his position, and should either open the cause, or respond to it when he had himself opened it. To our view, there is something that is quite irreverent in this language, and I know not that it can be entirely vindicated. But perhaps, when the idea of a trial was once suggested, all the rest may be regarded as the mere filling up, or as language fitted to carry out that single idea, and to preserve the concinnity of the poem. Still, to address God in this manner is a wide license even for poetry. There is the language of complaint here; there is an evident feeling that God was not right; there is an undue reliance of Job on his own powers; there is a disposition to blame God which we can by no means approve, and which we are not required to approve. But let us not too harshly blame the patriarch. Let him who has suffered much and long, who feels that he is forsaken by God and by man, who has lost property and friends, and who is suffering under a painful bodily malady, if he has never had any of those feelings, cast the first stone. Let not those blame him who live in affluence and prosperity, and who have yet to endure the first severe trial of life. One of the objects, I suppose, of this poem is, to show human nature as it is; to show how good people often feel under severe trial; and it would not be true to nature if the representation had been that Job was always calm, and that he never cherished an improper feeling or gave vent to an improper thought.
Job 13:23. Job begins his plea with the demand to know the number of his sins—how many iniquities and sins have I?—and in general to be made aware of them. He means what great sins he is guilty of, sins that account for his present afflictions. He does not deny sinfulness, even sins of his youth (v. 26); what he denies is special sins of such magnitude as to account for his calamities. Job and his friends both agree in the theory that great afflictions are evidence that God holds those whom He afflicts guilty of great offences. The friends believe that Job is guilty of such offences; he knows he is not, and he here demands to know what the sins are of which God holds him guilty.
Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy? What is thy reason for withdrawing from me the light of thy countenance, and behaving towards me as though thou weft mine enemy? Job does not believe God to be his enemy. He knows that God will one day be his Salvation (verse 16); but he recognizes a present alienation, and desires to be made acquainted with the cause of it.
Job 13:24. Wherefore hidest thou thy face] This does not mean, Wherefore dost thou refuse to answer me now? the reference is to God’s severity in afflicting him, as is shewn by the words “holdest me for thine enemy,” cf. ch. 19:5, 35:2 seq.
Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? – Job here means to say that the treatment of God in regard to him was like treading down a leaf that was driven about by the wind – an insigni ficant, unsettled, and worthless thing. “Wouldst thou show thy power against such an object?” – The sense is, that it was not worthy of God thus to pursue one so unimportant, and so incapable of offering any resistance.
And wilt thou pursue the dry stubble? – Is it worthy of God thus to contend with the driven straw and stubble of the field? To such a leaf, and to such stubble, he compares himself; and he asks whether God could be employed in a work such as that would be, of pursuing such a flying leaf or driven stubble with a desire to overtake it, and wreak his vengeance on it.
Job 13:25. Wilt thou break] Or, Wilt thou affright, that is, chase. The “driven leaf” and the “dry stubble” are figures for that which is so light and unsubstantial that it is the sport of every wind of circumstance. So Job describes himself, in contrast with God, and asks, Is thy determination to assail this kind of foe the explanation of my afflictions?