For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity. Some render, “Thine iniquity teacheth thy mouth,” causing it to utter such profane speeches (Vulgate, Dillmann, Canon Cook, Revised Version); but the translation of the Authorized Version is defensible on grammatical grounds, and yields a good sense, so that no alteration is necessary. And thou choosest the tongue of the crafty; or, the tongue of the subtle (comp. Gen_3:1, where the epithet assigned to the serpent is the same). Eliphaz probably means to tax Job with cloaking his real impiety under a pretence of religiousness.
5.Uttereth — יאלŠ, (yealleph,) teacheth. Iniquity is the grammatical subject of the sentence, which should read, For thine iniquity teacheth thee. Iniquity was his oracle — “an oracle of transgression,” נאםפשׁע, (Psa_36:2,) a kind of demon, in the inmost recesses of the heart, whispering the dialect, (the alephs,) the abc’s of evil.
Crafty — ’Haroum; the same word is used of the serpent in Gen_3:1. The use of this comparatively rare word may have made it an offensive echo of the preceding thought. “Job plays the part of a thief, who, when accused, strives to criminate his accusers.” — Ewald.
For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity – Margin, “teacheth.” That is, “your whole argument shows that you are a guilty man. A man who can defend such positions about God cannot be a pious man, or have any proper veneration for the Most High.” A man may pursue an argument, and defend positions, that shall as certainly show that he is destitute of religion as though he lived an abandoned life; and he who holds opinions that are dishonorable to God, can no more be a pious man than if he dishonored God by violating his law.
Thou choosest the tongue of the crafty – Instead of pursuing an argument with candor and sincerity, you have resorted to miserable sophisms, such as running disputants use. You have not showed a disposition to ascertain and defend the truth, but have relied on the arts and evasions of the subtle disputant and the rhetorician. His whole discourse, according to Eliphaz, was a work of mere art, designed to blind his hearers; to deceive them with a favorable opinion of his piety; and to give some plausible, but delusive view of the government of God.
Thine own mouth condemneth thee – That is, the sentiments which you have uttered show that you cannot be a pious man.
What knowest thou – Is it likely that thy intellect is greater than ours; and that thou hast cultivated it better than we have done ours?
What understandest thou – Or, Dost thou understand any thing, and it is not with us? Show us any point of knowledge possessed by thyself, of which we are ignorant.
What knowest thou, that we know not? So far as worldly wisdom went, this was probably quite true. Job was not more advanced in knowledge than Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. But he had a keener spiritual insight. He was wiser in the “wisdom which is from above.” Perplexed and confused as were his thoughts concerning the Divine government of the universe, they were nearer the truth, more worthy of the Divine nature, than those of his adversaries. In his reply, without claiming any special wisdom, he pours contempt on their pretensions to spiritual understanding (Job_17:4, Job_17:10). What understandest thou, which is not in us? A mere repetition of the first member of the verse in different words.
With us are both the gray headed – That is, some of us who are here are much older than thy father; or we express the sentiments of such aged men. Job had admitted Job_12:12, that with the aged was wisdom, and in length of days understanding; and Eliphaz here urges that on that principle he and his friends had a claim to be heard. It would seem from this, that Job was very far from being regarded as an old man, and would probably be esteemed as in middle life. The Targum (Chaldee) refers this to Eliphaz himself and his two friends. “Truly Eliphaz, who is hoary-headed (דסיב) and Bildad, the long-lived (דקשיש) are with us, and Zophar, who is older than thy father.” But it is not certain that he meant to confine the remark to them. It seems to me probable that this whole discussion occurred in the presence of others, and perhaps was a public contest. It is clear, I think, that Elihu was present, and heard it all (see Job_32:4), and it would accord well with Oriental habits to suppose that this was a trim of skill, which many were permitted to witness, and which was continued for a considerable time. Eliphaz may, therefore, have meant to say that among his friends who had assembled to hear this debate, there were not a few who coincided with him in sentiment, who were much more aged than Job, and who had had much longer experience in the world.
The wicked man travaileth with pain – This is a most forcible truth: a life of sin is a life of misery; and he that Will sin Must suffer. One of the Targums gives it a strange turn: – “All the days of the ungodly Esau, he was expected to repent, but he did not repent; and the number of years was hidden from the sturdy Ishmael.” The sense of the original, מתחולל mithcholel, is he torments himself: he is a true heautontimoreumenos, or self-tormentor; and he alone is author of his own sufferings, and of his own ruin.
20.Is hidden — Rather, That are reserved, for the oppressor. His life is prolonged, but with the intention of punishment. Years of splendour have no power to allay his trouble — it lies deep within, where God and the soul come together. Hence the word conscience, which implies a second and divine party to the knowledge and punishment of sin. In its maturest form the compunction of conscience becomes remorse, with its meaning of to bite back upon the soul. Eliphaz uses a figure common in the East when he compares the gnawing of conscience to the pains of childbirth. In the Greek language, the term wickedness, (πονηρια,) in its root, signifies labor, misery, and the Hebrew word for sin (עון) means misfortune and punishment. (See note, Job_3:17.) A most remarkable letter was that of Tiberius Cesar, monarch of the world, (Luk_3:1,) to his Senate, commencing in these words: “What to write you, Conscript Fathers, or in what manner to write, or what altogether not to write at this juncture, if I can determine, may all the gods and goddesses doom me to worse destruction than that by which I feel myself consuming daily.” — TACITUS, Annals.
Travaileth with pain – That is, his sorrows are like the pains of parturition. Eliphaz means to say that he is a constant sufferer.
All his days – It seems difficult to see how they could have ever formed this universal maxim. It is certainly not literally true now; nor was it ever. But in order to convey the doctrine that the wicked would be punished in as pointed and striking a manner as possible, it was made to assume this universal form – meaning that the life of the wicked would be miserable. There is some reason to think that this and what follows to the close of the chapter, is an ancient fragment which Eliphaz rehearses as containing the sentiments of a purer age of the world.
And the number of years is hidden to the oppressor – Wemyss renders this, “and a reckoning of years is laid up for the violent.” So, also, Dr. Good. The Vulgate renders it, “and the number of the years of his tyranny is uncertain.” Rosenmuller, Cocceius, Drusius, and some others suppose that there should be understood here and repeated the clause occurring in the first hemistich, and that it means, “and in the number of years which are laid up for the violent man, he is tortured with pain.” Luther renders it, “and to a tyrant is the number of his years concealed.” It is difficult to tell what the passage means. To me, the most probable interpretation is one which I have not met with in any of the books which I have consulted, and which may be thus expressed,” the wicked man will be tormented all his days.” To one who is an oppressor or tyrant, the number of his years is hidden. He has no security of life. He cannot calculate with any certainty on its continuance. The end is hid. A righteous man may make some calculation, and can see the probable end of his days. He may expect to see an honored old age. But tyrants are so often cut down suddenly; they so frequently perish by assassination, and robbers are so often unexpectedly overcome, that there is no calculation which can be formed in respect to the termination of their course. Their end is hid. They die suddenly and disappear. This suits the connection; and the sentiment is, in the main, in accordance with facts as they occur.
Also now, behold, my Witness is in heaven; rather, even now (see the Revised Version). Job claims God for his Witness, looks to him for an ultimate vindication of his character, is sure that in one way or another he will make his righteousness clear as the noonday in the sight of men and angels (see Job_19:25-27, of which this is in some sort an anticipation). My record—or, he that vouches for me (Revised Version)—is on high—one of the so frequent pleonastic repetitions of one and the same idea.
My witness is in heaven – That is, I can appeal to God for my sincerity. He is my witness; and he will bear record for me. This is an evidence of returning confidence in God – to which Job always returns even after the most passionate and irreverent expressions. Such is his real trust in God, that though he is betrayed at times into expressions of impatience and irreverence, yet he is sure to return to calmer views, and to show that he has true confidence in the Most High. The strength, the power, and the point of his expressions of passion and impatience are against his “friends;” but they “sometimes” terminate on God, as if even he was leagued with them against him. But he still had “permanent” or “abiding” confidence in God.
My record is on high – Margin “in the high places.” It means, in heaven. Luther renders this, und der mich kennet, ist in der Hohe – and he who knows me is on high. The Hebrew is שׂהדי śâhêdı̂y – “my witness;” properly an eye witness. The meaning is, that he could appeal to God as a witness of his sincerity.
My friends scorn me; literally, my scorners are my companions; i.e. I have to live with those who scorn me (comp. Job_30:1-13). But mine eye poureth out tears unto God. It is not to his “friends” or “companions,” or “comforters,” or any human aid, that Job turns in his distress. God alone is his Refuge. Forced by his woes to pass his time in weeping and mourning (see verse 16), it is to God that his heart turns, to God that he “pours out his tears.” Hardly as he thinks God to have used him, bitterly as he sometimes ventures to complain, yet the idea never crosses him of looking for help or sympathy to any other quarter, of having recourse to any other support or stay. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job_13:15), expresses the deepest feeling of his heart, the firmost principle of his nature. Nothing overrides it. Even “out of the depths” his soul cries to the Lord (see Psa_130:1).
20.My friends scorn me — מליצירעיis almost invariably rendered, My scorners are my friends. But the word melits, in its root, signifies not only to “mock,” but “to speak in a foreign tongue,” (Gesenius,) whence the meaning of interpreter, intercessor, which is the rendering it bears in the other places where it occurs, (Gen_42:23; 2Ch_32:31 margin; Job_33:23, and Isa_43:27 margin;) also in the Targum peraklit, “advocate.” This leads Arnheim, Carey, and Prof. Lee to read it, “My interpreter is my friend,” and to argue, not so reasonably, that it refers to the promised mediator. To the objection that both words are in the plural, it is replied that this is an instance of the plural of majesty — the use of a word in the plural to express the idea of exaltation — as in Isa_54:5, “Thy Maker is thy husband,” where both words also are plural. The ever-ready assumption that the context demands “scorners” is not altogether satisfactory.
My friends scorn me – Margin “are my scorners.” That is, his friends had him in derision and mocked him, and he could only appeal with tears to God.
Mine eye poureth out tears unto God – Despised and mocked by his friends, he made his appeal to one who he knew would regard him with compassion. This shows that the heart of Job was substantially right. Notwithstanding, all his passionate exclamations; and notwithstanding, his expressions, when he was urged on by his sorrows to give vent to improper emotions in relation to God; yet he had a firm confidence in him, and always returned to right feelings and views. The heart may sometimes err. The best of people may sometimes give expression to improper feelings. But they will return to just views, and will ultimately evince unwavering confidence in God.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
one — rather, “He” (God). “Oh, that He would plead for a man (namely, me) against God.” Job quaintly says, “God must support me against God; for He makes me to suffer, and He alone knows me to be innocent” [Umbreit]. So God helped Jacob in wrestling against Himself (compare Job_23:6; Gen_32:25). God in Jesus Christ does plead with God for man (Rom_8:26, Rom_8:27).
as a man — literally, “the Son of man.” A prefiguring of the advocacy of Jesus Christ – a boon longed for by Job (Job_9:33), though the spiritual pregnancy of his own words, designed for all ages, was but little understood by him (Psa_80:17).
for his neighbour — Hebrew, “friend.” Job himself (Job_42:8) pleaded as intercessor for his “friends,” though “his scorners” (Job_16:20); so Jesus Christ the Son of man (Luk_23:34); “for friends” (Joh_15:13-15).
Oh that one might plead for a man with God! The original here is obscure. It may mean, Oh that he (i.e. God himself) would plead for a man with God! i.e. would become a Mediator between himself and man, plead for him, undertake his defence, and obtain for him merciful consideration. Or, nearly as in the Authorized Version, Oh that one might plead for man (i.e. mankind at large) with God! interest him on their behalf, and obtain a merciful judgment for them. The former rendering is to be preferred. As a man pleadeth for his neighbour; literally, as a son of man (or, as the Son of man) pleadeth for his neighbour. If we take the simpler rendering, “as a son of man,” then the meaning is simply, “Oh that God would plead for man with himself, as a man is wont to plead for his fellow-man!” But if we prefer the other rendering, “as the Son of man,” a Messianic interpretation will be necessary. (So Professor Lee and Dr. Stanley Leathes) But Messianic interpretations of passages that do not require them, and that have no such traditional interpretation, require extreme caution.
Oh that one might plead for a man – A more correct rendering of this would be, “Oh that it might be for a man to contend with God;” that is, in a judicial controversy. It is the expression of an earnest desire to carry his cause at once before God, and to be permitted to argue it there. This desire Job had often expressed; see Job_13:3, note; Job_13:18-22, notes. On the grammatical construction of the passage, see Rosenmuller.
As a man pleadeth for his neighbour – Hebrew “the son of man;” that is, the offspring of man. Or, rather, as a man contendeth with his neighbor; as one man may carry on a cause with another. He desired to carry his cause directly before God, and to be permitted to argue the case with him, as one is permitted to maintain an argument with a man; see the notes at Job_13:20-21.
If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me. If you have no sense of justice, and are disinclined to pay any heed to my expostulations; if you intend still to insist on magnifying.yourselves against me, and bringing up against me my “reproach;” then let me make appeal to your pity. Consider my whole condition—how I stand with God, who persecutes me and “destroys” me (Job_19:10); how I stand with my relatives and such other friends as I have beside yourselves, who disclaim and forsake me (Job_19:13-19); and how I am conditioned with respect to my body, emaciated and on the verge of death (Job_19:20); and then, if neither your friendship nor your sense of justice will induce you to abstain from persecuting me, abstain at any rate for pity’s sake (Job_19:21). And plead against me my reproach. Job’s special “reproach” was that God had laid his hand upon him. This was a manifest fact, and could not be denied. His “comforters” concluded from it that he was a monster of wickedness.
If, indeed, ye will magnify yourselves against me – This is connected with the next verse. The sense is, “all these calamities came from God. He has brought them upon me in a sudden and mysterious manner. In these circumstances you ought to have pity upon me; Job_19:21. Instead of magnifying yourselves against me, setting yourselves up as censors and judges, overwhelming me with reproaches and filling my mind with pain and anguish, you ought to show to me the sympathy of a friend.” The phrase, “magnify yourselves,” refers to the fact that they had assumed a tone of superiority and an authoritative manner, instead of showing the compassion due to a friend in affliction.
And plead against me my reproach – My calamities as a cause of reproach. You urge them as a proof of the displeasure of God, and you join in reproaching me as a hypocrite. Instead of this, you should have shown compassion to me as a man whom God had greatly afflicted.
Know now that God hath overthrown me – The matter is between him and me, and he has not commissioned you to add reproaches to his chastisements.
And hath compassed me with his net – There may be an allusion here to the different modes of hunting which have been already referred to in the preceding chapter. But if we take the whole verse together, and read the latter clause before the former, thus, “Know, therefore, that God hath encompassed me with his net, and overthrown me;” the allusion may be to an ancient mode of combat practiced among the ancient Persians, ancient Goths, and among the Romans. The custom among the Romans was this: “One of the combatants was armed with a sword and shield, the other with a trident and net. The net he endeavored to cast over the head of his adversary, in which, when he succeeded, the entangled person was soon pulled down by a noose that fastened round the neck, and then despatched. The person who carried the net and trident was called Retiarius, and the other who carried the sword and shield was termed Secutor, or the pursuer, because, when the Retiarius missed his throw, he was obliged to run about the ground till he got his net in order for a second throw, while the Secutor followed hard to prevent and despatch him.” The Persians in old times used what was called (Persic) kumund, the noose. It was not a net, but a sort of running loop, which horsemen endeavored to cast over the heads of their enemies that they might pull them off their horses. That the Goths used a hoop net fastened to a pole, which they endeavored to throw over the heads of their foes, is attested by Olaus Magnus, Hist. de Gentibus Septentrionalibus, Rom. 1555, lib. xi., cap. 13, De diversis Modis praeliandi Finnorum. His words are, Quidam restibus instar retium ferinorum ductilibus sublimi jactatione utuntur: ubi enim cum hoste congressi sunt, injiciunt eos restes quasi laqueos in caput resistentis, ut equum aut hominem ad se trahant. “Some use elastic ropes, formed like hunting nets, which they throw aloft; and when they come in contact with the enemy, they throw these ropes over the head of their opponent, and by this means they can then drag either man or horse to themselves.” At the head of the page he gives a wood-cut representing the net, and the manner of throwing it over the head of the enemy. To such a device Job might allude, God hath encompassed me with his Net, and overthrown me.
Know now that God hath overthrown me; or, perverted me—”subverted me in my cause” (see Lam_3:6). And hath compassed me with his net. Professor Lee thinks that the net, or rather noose, intended by the rare word מצוּד is the lasso, which was certainly employed in war (Herod; 7.85), and probably also in hunting, from ancient times in the East. Bildad had insinuated that Job had fallen into his own snare (Job_18:7-9); Job replies that the snare in which he is taken is from God.
6.Overthrown me — Others read, perverted, wrested me.
With his net — The net was frequently used in ancient warfare for the purpose of entangling, and thus more easily destroying, an enemy. Kitto (Pict. Bible) cites an instance in history (about 600 years before Christ) of a single combat between the commanders of the Athenian and Mitylenean forces; the latter (Pittacus, one of the famous seven sages) concealed behind his shield a net, in which, throwing it suddenly, he entangled the Athenian general, and easily slew him. “Bildad had said that the wicked would be taken in his own snares. Job says that God has ensnared him.” — Elzas.
Know now that God – Understand the case; and in order that they might, he goes into an extended description of the calamities which God had brought upon him. He wished them to be “fully” apprised of all that he had suffered at the hand of God.
Hath overthrown me – The word used here (עות ‛âvath) means to bend, to make crooked or curved; then to distort, prevert: them to overturn, to destroy; Isa_24:1; Lam_3:9. The meaning here is, that he had been in a state of prosperity, but that God had completely “reversed” everything.
And hath compassed me with his net – Has sprung his net upon me as a hunter does, and I am caught. Perhaps there may be an allusion here to what Bildad said in Job_18:8 ff, that the wicked would be taken in his own snares. Instead of that, Job says that “God” had sprung the snare upon him – for reasons which he could not understand, but in such a manner as should move the compassion of his friends.
For I know that my Redeemer liveth – Any attempt to establish the true meaning of this passage is almost hopeless. By learned men and eminent critics the words have been understood very differently; some vehemently contending that they refer to the resurrection of the body, and the redemption of the human race by Jesus Christ; while others, with equal vehemence and show of argument, have contended that they refer only to Job’s restoration to health, family comforts, and general prosperity, after the present trial should be ended. In defense of these two opinions larger treatises have been written than the whole book of Job would amount to, if written even in capitals. To discuss the arguments on either side the nature of this work forbids; but my own view of the subject will be reasonably expected by the reader. I shall therefore lay down one principle, without which no mode of interpretation hitherto offered can have any weight. The principle is this: Job was now under the especial inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and spoke prophetically. Now, whether we allow that the passage refers to the general resurrection and the redemption by Christ, or to Job’s restoration to health, happiness, and prosperity, this principle is equally necessary.
1. In those times no man could speak so clearly concerning the general resurrection and the redemption by Jesus Christ as Job, by one class of interpreters, is supposed here to do, unless especially inspired for this very purpose.
2. Job’s restoration to health and happiness, which, though it did take place, was so totally improbable to himself all the way through, so wholly unexpected, and, in every sense, impossible, except to the almighty power of God, that it could not be inferred from any thing that had already taken place, and must be foreshown by direct inspiration.
Now, that it was equally easy to predict either of these events, will be at once evident, because both were in futurity, and both were previously determined. Nothing contingent could exist in either; with them man had nothing to do; and they were equally within the knowledge of Him to whose ubiquity there can be neither past nor future time; in whose presence absolute and contingent events subsist in their own distinctive characters, and are never resolved into each other. But another question may arise, Which was most likely to be the subject of this oracular declaration, the general resurrection and redemption by Christ; or the restoration of Job to health and affluence? If we look only to the general importance of these things, this question may be soon decided; for the doctrine of human redemption, and the general resurrection to an eternal life, are of infinitely greater importance than any thing that could affect the personal welfare of Job. We may therefore say, of two things which only the power of God can effect, and one of which only shall be done it is natural to conclude he will do that which is of most importance; and that is of most importance by which a greater measure of glory is secured to himself, and a greater sum of good produced to mankind. As, therefore, a revelation by which the whole human race, in all its successive generations, to the end of time, may be most essentially benefited, is superior in its worth and importance to that by which one man only can be benefited, it is natural to conclude here, that the revelation relative to the general resurrection, etc., is that which most likely the text includes. But to this it may be answered, God does not do always in the first instance that which is most necessary and important in itself, as every thing is done in that order and in that time which seems best to his godly wisdom; therefore, a thing of less importance may be done now, and a thing of greater importance left to a future time. So, God made the earth before he made man, produced light before he formed the celestial luminaries, and instituted the Mosaic economy before the Christian dispensation. This is all true, for every thing is done in that season in which it may best fulfill the designs of providence and grace. But the question still recurs, Which of the predictions was most congruous to the circumstances of Job, and those of his companions; and which of them was most likely to do most good on that occasion, and to be most useful through the subsequent ages of the world? The subject is now considerably narrowed; and, if this question could be satisfactorily answered, the true meaning of the passage would be at once found out.
1. For the sake of righteousness, justice, and truth, and to vindicate the ways of God with man, it was necessary that Job’s innocence should be cleared; that the false judgments of his friends should be corrected; and that, as Job was now reduced to a state of the lowest distress, it was worthy the kindness of God to give him some direct intimation that his sufferings should have a happy termination. That such an event ought to take place, there can be no question: and that it did take place, is asserted in the book; and that Job’s friends saw it, were reproved, corrected, and admitted into his favor of whom they did not speak that which was right, and who had, in consequence, God’s wrath kindled against them, are also attested facts. But surely there was no need of so solemn a revelation to inform them of what was shortly to take place, when they lived to see it; nor can it be judged essentially necessary to the support of Job, when the ordinary consolations of God’s Spirit, and the excitement of a good hope through grace, might have as completely answered the end.
2. On the other hand, to give men, who were the chiefs of their respective tribes, proper notice of a doctrine of which they appear to have had no adequate conception, and which was so necessary to the peace of society, the good government of men, and the control of unruly and wayward passions, which the doctrine of the general resurrection and consequent judgment is well calculated to produce; and to stay and support the suffering godly under the afflictions and calamities of life; were objects worthy the highest regards of infinite philanthropy and justice, and of the most pointed and solemn revelation which could be given on such an occasion. In short, they are the grounds on which all revelation is given to the sons of men: and the prophecy in question, viewed in this light, was, in that dark age and country, a light shining in a dark place; for the doctrine of the general resurrection and of future rewards and punishments, existed among the Arabs from time immemorial, and was a part of the public creed of the different tribes when Mohammed endeavored to establish his own views of that resurrection and of future rewards and punishments, by the edge of the sword. I have thus endeavored dispassionately to view this subject; and having instituted the preceding mode of reasoning, without foreseeing where it would tend, being only desirous to find out truth, I arrive at the conclusion, that the prophecy in question was not designed to point out the future prosperity of Job; but rather the future redemption of mankind by Jesus Christ, and the general resurrection of the human race. After what has been stated above, a short paraphrase on the words of the text will be all that is necessary to be added. I know, ידעתי yadati, I have a firm and full persuasion, that my Redeemer, גאלי goali, my Kinsman, he whose right it was among the ancient Hebrews to redeem the forfeited heritages belonging to the family, to vindicate its honor, and to avenge the death of any of his relatives by slaying the murderer; (Lev_25:25; Num_35:12; Rth_3:13); but here it must refer to Christ, who has truly the right of redemption, being of the same kindred, who was born of woman, flesh of flesh and bone of our bone. Liveth, חי chai, is the living One, who has the keys of hell and death: the Creator and Lord of the spirits of all flesh, and the principle and support of all life. And that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. The latter day, אחרון acharon, the latter day, or time, when God comes to judgment; or finally, or at last, or in the last time, or latter days, as the Gospel is termed, he shall be manifested in the flesh. He shall stand, יקום yakum, he shall arise, or stand up, i.e., to give sentence in judgment: or he himself shall arise from the dust, as the passage has been understood by some to refer to the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Upon the earth, על עפר al aphar, over the dead, or those who are reduced to dust. This is the meaning of עפר aphar in Psa_30:9 : What profit is there in my blood when I go down to the pit? Shall the Dust (i.e., the dead) praise thee? He shall arise over the dust – over them who sleep in the dust, whom he shall also raise up.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
redeemer — Umbreit and others understand this and Job_19:26, of God appearing as Job’s avenger before his death, when his body would be wasted to a skeleton. But Job uniformly despairs of restoration and vindication of his cause in this life (Job_17:15, Job_17:16). One hope alone was left, which the Spirit revealed – a vindication in a future life: it would be no full vindication if his soul alone were to be happy without the body, as some explain (Job_19:26) “out of the flesh.” It was his body that had chiefly suffered: the resurrection of his body, therefore, alone could vindicate his cause: to see God with his own eyes, and in a renovated body (Job_19:27), would disprove the imputation of guilt cast on him because of the sufferings of his present body. That this truth is not further dwelt on by Job, or noticed by his friends, only shows that it was with him a bright passing glimpse of Old Testament hope, rather than the steady light of Gospel assurance; with us this passage has a definite clearness, which it had not in his mind (see on Job_21:30). The idea in “redeemer” with Job is Vindicator (Job_16:19; Num_35:27), redressing his wrongs; also including at least with us, and probably with him, the idea of the predicted Bruiser of the serpent’s head. Tradition would inform him of the prediction. Foster shows that the fall by the serpent is represented perfectly on the temple of Osiris at Philae; and the resurrection on the tomb of the Egyptian Mycerinus, dating four thousand years back. Job’s sacrifices imply sense of sin and need of atonement. Satan was the injurer of Job’s body; Jesus Christ his Vindicator, the Living One who giveth life (Joh_5:21, Joh_5:26).
at the latter day — Rather, “the Last,” the peculiar title of Jesus Christ, though Job may not have known the pregnancy of his own inspired words, and may have understood merely one that comes after (1Co_15:45; Rev_1:17). Jesus Christ is the last. The day of Jesus Christ the last day (Joh_6:39).
stand — rather, “arise”: as God is said to “raise up” the Messiah (Jer_23:5; Deu_18:15).
earth — rather, “dust”: often associated with the body crumbling away in it (Job_7:21; Job_17:16); therefore appropriately here. Above that very dust wherewith was mingled man’s decaying body shall man’s Vindicator arise. “Arise above the dust,” strikingly expresses that fact that Jesus Christ arose first Himself above the dust, and then is to raise His people above it (1Co_15:20, 1Co_15:23). The Spirit intended in Job’s words more than Job fully understood (1Pe_1:12). Though He seems, in forsaking me, to be as one dead, He now truly “liveth” in heaven; hereafter He shall appear also above the dust of earth. The Goel or vindicator of blood was the nearest kinsman of the slain. So Jesus Christ took our flesh, to be our kinsman. Man lost life by Satan the “murderer” (Joh_8:44), here Job’s persecutor (Heb_2:14). Compare also as to redemption of the inheritance by the kinsman of the dead (Rth_4:3-5; Eph_1:14).
This is the reason of his great confidence in the goodness of his cause, and his willingness to have the matter depending between him and his friends published and submitted to any trial, because he had a living and powerful Redeemer to plead his cause, and vindicate his person from all their severe censures, and to give sentence for him.
I know: I have no knowledge, nor confidence, nor hope of restitution to the prosperities of this life; yet this one thing I know, which is more comfortable and considerable, and therein I rejoice, though I be now a dying man, and in a desperate condition for this life.
My redeemer; in whom I have a particular interest, and he hath a particular care of me.
Quest. What redeemer and what deliverance doth Job speak of in this and the two following verses?
Answ. Some late interpreters understand this place metaphorically, of God’s delivering Job out of his doleful and desperate condition, and restoring him to his former splendour and happiness in the world; it being a very usual thing in Scripture to call eminent dangers or calamities by the name of death, as Psa_22:15 88:4,5 Eze 37:11,12 2Co_11:23; and great and glorious deliverances by the name of quickening and resurrection, as Psa_71:20Isa_26:19Rom_11:15. But the most interpreters, both ancient and modern, understand it of Christ, and of his resurrection, and of Job’s resurrection to life by his power and favour; which seems most probable for many reasons.
1. From that known rule, that a proper and literal interpretation of Scripture is always to be preferred before the metaphorical, where it suits with the text and with other scriptures.
2. From the Hebrew word goel, here used; which although sometimes it be used of God absolutely, or essentially considered, yet it most properly agrees to Jesus Christ; for this word, as all Hebricians know, is primarily used of the next kinsman, whose office it was to redeem by a price paid the sold or mortgaged estate of his deceased kinsman, Lev_25:25; and to revenge his death, Num_35:12; and to maintain his name and honour, by raising up seed to him, Deu_25:5: all which most fitly agrees to Christ, who is our nearest Kinsman and Brother, Heb_2:11, as having taken our nature upon him by incarnation; who also hath redeemed that everlasting inheritance which our first parents had utterly lost and sold by the price of his own blood; and hath revenged the death of mankind upon the great contriver of it, the devil, by destroying him and his kingdom; and hath taken a course to preserve our name, and honour, and persons to eternity. And if the places where God is called Goel in the Old Testament be examined, it will be found that either all or most of them may be, and some of them must be, understood of God the Son, or of Christ, as Gen_48:16Isa_49:20. See also Psa_74:2Isa_41:14 44:16 49:7 52:3 63:16.
3. Because Job was so far from such a firm confidence as he here professeth, that he had not the least degree of hope of any such glorious temporal restoration as his friends promised to him, as we have oft seen and observed in the former discourses, as Job_16:22 17:12,13, &c. And therefore that hope which every righteous man hath in his death, Pro_14:32, and which Job oft professeth that he had, must necessarily be fixed upon his happiness in the future life.
4. Because some of the following expressions cannot without wresting and violence be applied to a metaphorical resurrection, as we shall see in the sequel.
5. Because this is a more lofty and spiritual strain than any in Job’s former discourses, and quite contrary to them. And as they generally savour of dejection and diffidence, and do either declare or increase his grief; so this puts him into another and much better temper. And therefore it is well observed, that after this time and these expressions we meet not with any such impatient or despairing passages as we had before; which shows that they had inspired him with new life and comfort.
6. Because this well agrees with other passages in this book; wherein Job declareth, that although he had no hope as to this life, And the comforts thereof, yet he had a hope beyond death, which made him profess, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him, Job_13:15. Trust in him; for what? Surely for comfort and happiness. Where? Not in this life, for that he supposeth to be lost; therefore it must be in the next life. And this was one reason why he so vehemently desired death, because he knew it would bring him unto God and unto true felicity. And this his hope and confidence in God, and in his favour to him, Job opposeth to those foul and false aspersions which his friends had cast upon him, as if he had forsaken God, and cast off all fear of him, and hope in him.
1. If this place had spoken of the resurrection of the body, some of the Hebrew’ writers or commentators upon this place, who did believe that doctrine, would have understood it so, and have urged it against the Sadducees, which they did not.
1. All the Jewish writers which are now extant lived and wrote since Christ’s time, when the doctors of that people were very ignorant of many great truths, and of the plain meaning of many scriptures, and very corrupt in their principles as well as in their practices.
2. There was a manifest reason why they could not understand this text thus, because they believed that Job in his agonies did deny God’s providence, and consequently the resurrection and the future judgment, which though it was a most uncharitable and false opinion, yet forced them to interpret this text another way.
2. How is it credible that Job, in those ancient times, and in that dark state of the church, should know these great mysteries of Christ’s incarnation, and of the resurrection and life to come?
Answ. 1. The mystery of Christ’s incarnation was revealed to Adam by that first and famous promise, that the seed of the woman should break the serpent’s head, Gen_3:15; which being the only foundation of all his hopes for the recovery and salvation of himself, and of all his posterity, he would doubtless carefully and diligently teach and explain it, as need required, to those that descended from him.
2. That the ancient patriarchs and prophets were generally acquainted with these doctrines is undeniably evident from Heb 11 1Pe_1:9-12.
3. Particularly Abraham, from whom Job is supposed to have descended, had the promise made to him, that Christ should come out of his loins, Gen_12:3; and is said to have seen, Christ’s day, and rejoiced to see it, Joh_8:56, and had his hopes and desires fixed upon a divine and heavenly city and country, Heb_11:10,16. And as Abraham knew and believed these things himself, so it is manifest that, he taught them to his children and servants, Gen_18:19, and to his kindred and others, as he had occasion. And therefore it cannot seem strange that Job professeth his faith and hope in these things.
My redeemer liveth: I am a dying man, and my hopes are dying, but he liveth, and that for ever; and therefore though I die, yet he both can and will make me live again in due time, though not in this world, yet in the other, which is much better; and though I am now highly censured and condemned by my friends and others as a great dissembler and a secret sinner, whom God’s hand hath found out; yet there is a day coming wherein my cause shall be pleaded, and my name and honour vindicated from all these reproaches, and my integrity brought to light.
He shall stand: I am falling and dying, but he shall stand firm, and unmovable, and victorious, in full power and authority; all which this word
stand signifies; and therefore he is able to make me stand in judgment, and to maintain my cause against all opposers. Or, he shall arise, as this verb most commonly signifies, i.e. either,
1. He shall exist, or be born, as this word is oft used; as Num_32:14Deu_29:22Jud_2:101Ki_3:12Mat_11:11. And it notes Christ’s incarnation, that although as he was God he was now and from all eternity in being, yet he should in due time be made man, and be born of a woman. Or,
2. He shall arise out of the dust; which had been more probable, if it had been in the text from or out of, as now it is upon, the earth or dust; for Christ’s resurrection from the dead might be fitly mentioned here as the cause of Job’s resurrection, which followeth.
At the latter day; either,
1. In the days of the Messiah, or of the gospel, which are oft called the
latter or last days or times; as Isa_2:2Hos_3:5Joe_2:28, compared with Act_2:171Ti_4:12Ti_3:1Heb_1:1. Or rather,
2. At the day of the general resurrection and judgment, which, as those holy patriarchs well knew and firmly believed, was to be at the end of the world, and which is called the last day, Joh_6:39,40,44,51 11:24 12:48 1Pe_1:5; for this was the time when Job’s resurrection, of which he speaketh here, was to be. Heb. at the last; by which word he plainly intimates that his hope was not of things present, and of worldly felicities, of which his friends had discoursed so much; but of another kind of, and a far greater, blessedness, which should accrue to him in after-times, long after he was dead and rotten. Or, the last; who is both the first and the last, Isa_44:6Rev_1:11, who shall subdue and survive all his and his people’s enemies, and after others the last enemy, death, 1Co_15:26, and then shall raise up his people and plead their cause, and vindicate them from all the calumnies and injuries which are put upon them, and conduct them to life and glory.
Upon the earth; the place upon which Christ shall appear and stand at the last day. Heb. upon the dust; in which his saints and members lie or sleep, whom he will raise out of it. And therefore he is fitly said to stand upon the dust, or the grave, or death, because then he will put that among other enemies under his feet; as it is expressed, 1Co_15:25,26. Some render the words thus, and that very agreeably to the Hebrew, the last, or at the last, he shall arise or stand up against (for so this very phrase is used, Gen_4:8Jud_9:18Psa_44:3) the dust, and fight with it, and rescue the bodies of the saints, which are held in it as prisoners, from its dominion and territories. Some understand this of God, that he should stand last in the field, as Conqueror of all his enemies. But this neither agrees with the words, the Hebrew aphar signifying dust, and being never used of the field or place of battle; nor with Job’s scope, which was to defend himself against his friends’ accusations, and to comfort himself with his hopes and assurance of God’s favour to be exhibited to him in due time; which end the words in that sense would by no means serve, because God might and would be Conqueror of all his enemies, though Job himself had been one of them, and though his cause had been bad, and his friends should with God have triumphed over him.
For I know that my Redeemer liveth. Numerous endeavours have been made to explain away the mysterious import of this verse. First, it is noted that a goel is any one who avenges or ransoms another, and especially that it is “the technical expression for the avenger of blood” so often mentioned in the Old Testament. It is suggested, therefore, that Job’s real meaning may be that he expects one of his relatives to arise after his death as the avenger of his blood, and to exact retribution for it. But unless in the case of a violent death at the hands of a man, which was not what Job expected for himself, there could be no avenger of blood. Job has already expressed his desire to have a thirdsman between him and God (Job_9:32-35), which thirdsman can scarcely be other than a Divine Personage. In Job_16:19 be has declared his conviction that” his Witness is in heaven.” In Job_16:21 of the same chapter he longs to have an advocate to plead his cause with God. In Job_17:3 he calls upon God to be Surety for him. Therefore, as Dr. Stanley Leathes points out, “he has already recognized God as his Judge, his Umpire, his Advocate, his Witness, and his Surety, in some eases by formal confession of the fact, in others by earnest longing after, and aspiration for, some one to act in that capacity.” After all this, it is not taking a very long step in advance to see and acknowledge in God his Goel, or “Redeemer.” And that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; rather, and that at the last he shall stand up over my dust. אַחַדון is not “one who comes after me;” but, if a noun, “the last one,” as רִאשׁוֹן is “the first one “(Isa_44:6); if intended adverbially, “at the last”—i.e, at the end of all things. “At the latter day” is not an improper translation.
25. For I know — “For” — and. It is not uncommon in the classics to commence a distinct poem or treatise in like manner. (OVID, Amo_3:8; PROPERTIUS, Job_1:17.) Ewald pertinently renders it but, in the sense of “Yet whereto other thoughts?” Or it may be used in a manner similar to the οτι of classic and N.T. Greek, which is often redundant before citations and declarative sentences. (Comp. THAYER’S Buttmann, pp. 245, 274.) And I, I know. The “I” stands forth with prominence as if to express the personal identity of the entire man. No one of the constituent natures answers to the “I;” but all — body, mind, and spirit together — constitute man. Thus in Job_19:27, “Whom I, I shall see for myself.” I know — By degrees has Job been rising to this wondrous sunlight of faith. There has been all along not only a progress of doctrine, but a steady advance in faith. He has sighed for a daysman (Job_9:33) who might intercede for man with God. (Job_16:21.) The fearful struggle in the fourteenth chapter disclosed, for the miserable service in sheol, gleams of hope that God would bring it to an end. (Job_14:14.) Still horrors and doubts have “compassed him about” until, in agony, he cries out to God that he himself should be his sponsor with himself. (Job_17:3.) And all this time his “attester in the heights” (Job_16:19) has kept silence. But now the clouds vanish, and he cries triumphantly aloud, I KNOW my Redeemer liveth, etc. It is to be remembered that from this time forth we hear no more of the gloom of sheol, or of dismal doubts concerning the state of the dead.
My Redeemer — Hebrew, Goel. The prime meaning of the verb is loose, set free. There is no word that, better than redeemer, expresses the fourfold duties of a goel or kinsman. On him devolved, first, the recovery of the lost possession of a kinsman; (Lev_25:25;) second, the deliverance of a kinsman from bondage; (Lev_25:48-49;) third, the avenging of the violent death of a kinsman; (Num_35:12;) fourth, care for the widow of a deceased and childless kinsman; (Deu_25:5.) See vol. 3:308, 314. Christ is our nearest kinsman. Through his veins coursed a tide of blood in common with that of our entire race. The extremes of our race unite in him — however remote the circle of humanity, its radii all centre in him. Each human being can lay claim to a relationship to this divine Goel as close and tender as that which bound the brothers and sisters of Jesus to himself. (Mat_13:56.) He stretches his arm of protection over our whole life, and draws to his heart each sorrowing child of Adam.
Liveth — (Is) living. “He ever liveth,” “hath life in himself,” “in him was life.” Job’s Redeemer would be pre-eminently a living one. “Life, in the Hebrew and Semitic languages, is a more complete idea than being.” — Dillmann.
He shall stand — The posture of Christ in great emergencies. (Act_7:56.) Faith sees its future champion standing upon (not rising upon) the dust, as some would read the clause. The attitude is one of firmness, dignity, and endurance, like that of the angel of the last day. (Rev_10:5.)
At the latter day upon the earth — Though Merx and others render אחרון at the latter, at last, it is plainly a substantive: —
The last (Gesenius, Michaelis, Zockler, etc.) It is an attribute of Deity (Isa_48:12) which Christ assumes to himself, (Revelations Job_1:11,) and to which the apostle alludes (“the last Adam”) in his description of the resurrection. (1Co_15:45.)
The earth — The dust. That into which the dead body moulders; hence the “dusty death” of the classics. Shall the dust (dead body: De Wette) praise thee? (Psa_30:9.) Ewald and Merx read, instead of “upon the earth,” “on (my) grave.” a sense justified by the frequent use by Job of “dust” for the grave. (Job_7:21; Job_10:9; Job_17:16; Job_20:11; Job_21:26; Job_34:15.) The expression dust is peculiarly elegant in view of man’s origin and destiny. (Gen_3:19.) In the Arabic the tomb is called turbe, dust.
And though – Margin, Or, after I shall awake, though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh shall I see God. This verse has given not less perplexity than the preceding. Noyes renders it,
And though with this skin this body be wasted away,
Yet in my flesh shall I see God.
Dr. Good renders it,
And, after the disease hath destroyed my skin,
That in my flesh I shall see God.
Rosenmuller explains it, “And when after my skin (scil. is consumed and destroyed) they consume (scil. those corroding, or consuming, that is, it is corroded, or broken into fragments) this, that is, this structure of my bones – my body (which he does not mention, because it was so wasted away that it did not deserve to be called a body) – yet without my flesh – with my whole body consumed, shall I see God.” He translates it,
Et quum post cutem meam hoc fuerit consumptum,
Tamen absque carne mea videbo Deum.
The Hebrew is literally, “and after my skin.” Gesenius translates it, “After they shall have destroyed my skin, this shall happen – that I will see God.” Herder renders it,
Though they tear and devour this my skin,
Yet in my living body shall I see God.
The fair and obvious meaning, I think, is that which is conveyed by our translation. Disease had attacked his skin. It was covered with ulcers, and was fast consuming; compare Job_2:8; Job_7:5. This process of corruption and decay he had reason to expect would go on until all would be consumed. But if it did, he would hold fast his confidence in God. He would believe that he would come forth as his vindicator, and he would still put his trust in him.
Worms – This word is supplied by our translators. There is not a semblance of it in the original. That is, simply, “they destroy;” where the verb is used impersonally, meaning that it would be destroyed; The agent by which this would be done is not specified. The word rendered “destroy” נקפו nâqaphû from נקף nâqaph, means “to cut, to strike, to cut down” (compare the notes at Job_1:5, for the general meaning of the word), and here means to destroy; that is, that the work of destruction might go on until the frame should be wholly wasted away. It is not quite certain that the word here would convey the idea that he expected to die. It may mean that he would become entirely emaciated, and all his flesh be gone. There is nothing, however, in the word to show that he did not expect to die – and perhaps that would be the most obvious and proper interpretation.
This body – The word body is also supplied by the translators. The Hebrew is simply זאת zô’th – this. Perhaps he pointed to his body – for there can be no doubt that his body or flesh is intended. Rosenmuller supposes that he did not mention it, because it was so emaciated that it did not deserve to be called a body.
Yet in my flesh – Hebrew “From my flesh” – מבשׂרי mı̂bâśârı̂y. Herder renders this, “In my living body.” Rosenmuller, absque carne mea – “without my flesh;” and explains it as meaning, “my whole body being consumed, I shall see God.” The literal meaning is, “from, or out of, my flesh shall I see God.” It does not mean in his flesh, which would have been expressed by the preposition ב (b) – but there is the notion that from or out of his flesh he would see him; that is, clearly, as Rosenmuller has expressed it, tho’ my body be consumed, and I have no flesh, I shall see him. Disease might carry its fearful ravages through all his frame, until it utterly wasted away, yet; he had confidence that he would see his vindicator and Redeemer on the earth. It cannot be proved that this refers to the resurrection of that body, and indeed the natural interpretation is against it. It is, rather, that though without a body, or though his body should all waste away, he would see God as his vindicator. He would not always be left overwhelmed in this manner with calamities and reproaches. He would be permitted to see God coming forth as his Goal or Avenger, and manifesting himself as his friend. Calmly, therefore, he would bear these reproaches and trials, and see his frame waste away, for it would not always be so – God would yet undertake and vindicate his cause.
Shall I see God – He would be permitted to behold him as his friend and avenger. What was the nature of the vision which he anticipated, it is not possible to determine with certainty. If he expected that God would appear in some remarkable manner to judge the world and to vindicate the cause of the oppressed; or that he would come forth in a special manner to vindicate his cause; or if he looked to a general resurrection, and to the trial on that day, the language would apply to either of these events.
Whom I shall see for myself. Not by proxy, i.e.’ or through faith, or in a vision, but really, actually, I shall see him for myself. As Schultens observes, an unmistakable tone of exultation and triumph pervades the passage. And mine eyes shall behold, and not another; i.e. “not the eyes of another.” I myself, retaining my personal identity, “the same true living man,” shall with my own eyes look on my Redeemer. Though my reins be consumed within me. There is no “though “in the original. The clause is detached and independent, nor is it very easy to trace any connection between it and the rest of the verse. Schultens, however, thinks Job to mean that he is internally consumed by a burning desire to see the sight of which he has spoken. (So also Dr. Stanley Leathes.)
27.Whom I — See note on Job_19:25.
Mine eyes — If the sight of God be solely that of the disembodied spirit, as many think, the expression “mine eyes” is superfluous and misleading. The six preceding Hebrew words four times disclose the same thought, that he, the identical person, after death, shall see God. If the sight be not a bodily one, the introduction of “mine eyes” is a solecism, a descent in thought, and a blemish upon the inscription. The eye is the frailest, most delicate, of the members of our physical frame — among the first to succumb to decay, and yet it is to be the medium through which the soul shall enjoy the sight of God. If God’s promise cover the eye it suffices for our entire dust.
Behold — The Hebrew, exact in the use of his language, employed חזה see (twice above) for mental vision, and for the sight of such objects as were subjected to the mind without the senses, such, for instance, as visions and oracles. (Num_24:4; Num_24:16; Eze_12:27; Hab_1:1,) while ראה, behold, was used of sight as an act of the senses. “The preterite raou, rendered behold, after the future ‘I shall see,’ is the perfect of certainty or futurity;” (Zockler) in like manner Delitzsch, Ewald, etc.
And not another — According to Gesenius, Stickel, Hahn, etc., “another” is the object of the verb. Thus Dr. Clarke: “Not a stranger, one who has no relation to human nature, but my redeeming kinsman.” Many others, however, (Zockler, Hengstenberg, etc.,) make another or stranger the nominative of the verb, and read, not a stranger, who would have no interest in the beatific sight, but himself, (now the alien, the rejected of God, then no longer a stranger,) shall behold him in his capacity of divine Goel. The words correlate with “mine eyes.” They are words of ecstatic triumph, and form the transition to the last clause of the inscription.
Though my reins — Neither the though of the text nor the when of Conant is justifiable. The reins, which were regarded as the seat of the deepest affections, consume within him (see margin) from intense longing for the realization of such a sight of God. See Excursus ix, p. 285.
Conclusion — Inspired by the vision of faith, Job not only ceases to be a supplicant for pity, but faithfully warns his persecutors that continued maltreatment of the unfortunate must provoke the wrath of Heaven, 28, 29.
Whom I shall see for myself – It will not come to be by mere report. I shall not merely hear of the decision of God in my favor, but I shall myself behold him. He will at length come forth, and I shall be permitted to see him, and shall have the delightful assurance that he settles this controversy in my favor, and declares that I am his friend. Job was thus permitted to see God Job_42:5, and hear his voice in his favor. He spake to him from the whirlwind Job_38:1, and pronounced the sentence in his favor which he had desired.
And not another – Margin, a stranger. So in the Hebrew. The meaning is, that his own eyes would be permitted to see him. He would have the satisfaction of seeing God himself, and of hearing the sentence in his favor. That expectation he deemed worthy of a permanent record, and wished it transmitted to future times, that in his darkest days and severest trials – when God overwhelmed him, and man forsook him, he still firmly maintained his confidence in God, and his belief that he would come forth to vindicate his cause.
Though my reins – The margin renders this, “my reins within me are consumed with earnest desire for that day.” Noyes translates it, “For this my soul panteth within me.” Herder,
I shall see him as my deliverer,
Mine eyes shall behold him, as mine,
For whom my heart so long fainted.
So Wemyss, “My reins faint with desire of his arrival.” Jerome renders it (Vulgate), reposita est hoec spes mea in sinu meo – “this, my hope, is laid up in my bosom.” The Septuagint, “All which things have been done – συντετέλεσται suntetelestai – in my bosom,” but what they understood by this it is difficult to say. The word rendered “reins” כליה kı̂lyâh – or in the plural כליות kı̂lyôth – in which form only it is found), means properly the reins, or the kidneys Job_16:13. and then comes to denote the inward parts, and then the seat of the desires and affections, because in strong emotions the inward parts are affected. We speak of the heart as the seat of the affections, but with no more propriety than the Hebrews did of the upper viscera in general, or of the reins. In the Scriptures the heart and the reins are united as the seat of the affections. Thus, Jer_11:20, God “trieth the reins and the heart;” Jer_17:10; Jer_20:12; Psa_7:10. I see no reason why the word here may not be used to denote the viscera in general, and that the idea may be, that he felt that his disease was invading the seat of life, and his body, in all its parts, was wasting away. Our word vitals, perhaps, expresses the idea.
Be consumed – Gesenius renders this, “Pine away.” So Noyes, Wemyss, and some others. But the proper meaning of the word is, to consume, to be wasted, to be destroyed. The word כלה kâlâh strictly means to finish, complete, render entire; and thence has the notion of completion or finishing – whether by making a thing perfect, or by destroying it. It is used with reference to the eyes that fail or waste away with weeping, Lam_2:11, or to the spirit or heart. as fainting with grief and sorrow. Psa_84:3; Psa_143:7; Psa_69:4. It is used often in the sense of destroying. Jer_16:4; Ezr_5:13; Psa_39:11; Isa_27:10; Isa_49:4; Gen_41:30; Jer_14:12; et soepe al. This, I think, is the meaning here. Job affirms that his whole frame, external and internal, was wasting away, yet he had confidence that he would see God.
Within me – Margin, in my bosom. So the Hebrew. The word bosom is used here as we use the word chest – and is not improperly rendered “within me.” In view of this exposition of the words, I would translate the whole passage as follows:
For I know that my Avenger liveth,
And that hereafter he shall stand upon the earth;
And though after my skin this (flesh) shall be destroyed,
Yet even without my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself,
And mine eyes shall behold, and not another,
Though my vitals are wasting away within me.
It has already been observed, that very various views have been entertained of this important passage of Scripture. The great question has been, whether it refers to the Messiah, and to the resurrection of the dead, or to an expectation which Job had that God would come forth as his vindicator in some such way as he is declared afterward to have done. It may be proper, therefore. to give a summary of the arguments by which these opinions would be defended. I have not found many arguments stated for the former opinion, though the belief is held by many, but they would be probably such as the following: –
I. Arguments which would be adduced to show that the passage refers to the Messiah and to the future resurrection of the dead.
(1) The language which is used is such as would appropriately describe such events. This is undoubted, though more so in our translation than in the original; but the original would appropriately express such an expectation.
(2) The impression which it would make on the mass of readers, and particularly those of plain, sober sense, who had no theory to defend. It is probably a fact, that the great body of the readers of the Bible suppose that it has such a reference. It is usually a very strong presumptive proof of the correctness of an interpretation of Scripture when this can be alleged in its favor, though it is not an infallible guide.
(3) The probability that some knowledge of the Messiah would prevail in Arabia in the time of Job. This must be admitted, though it cannot be certainly demonstrated; compare Num_24:17. The amount of this is, that it could not be regarded as so improbable that any such knowledge would prevail as to demonstrate certainly that this could not be referred to the Messiah.
(4) The probability that there would be found in this book some allusion to the Redeemer – the great hope of the ancient saints, and the burden of the Old Testament But this is not conclusive or very weighty, for there are several of the books of the Old Testament which contain no distinct allusion to him.
(5) The pertinency of such a view to the case, and its adaptedness to give to Job the kind of consolation which he needed. There can be no doubt of the truth of this; but the question is, not what would have imparted consolation, but what knowledge he actually had. There are many of the doctrines of the Christian religion which would have been eminently fitted to give comfort in such circumstances to a man in affliction, which it would be exceedingly unreasonable to expect to find in the book of Job, and which it is certain were wholly unknown to him and his friends.
(6) The importance which he himself attached to his declaration, and the solemnity of the manner in which he introduced it. His profession of faith on the subject he wished to have engraved in the eternal rocks. he wished it transmitted to future times. He wished a permanent record to be made, that succeeding ages might read it, and see the ground of his confidence and his hope. This, to my mind, is the strongest argument which has occurred in favor of the opinion that the passage refers to the Redeemer and to the resurrection. These are all the considerations which have occurred to me, or which I have found stated, which would go to sustain the position that the passage referred to the resurrection. Some of them have weight; but the prevailing opinion, that the passage has such a reference. will be found to be sustained, probably, more by the feelings of piety than by solid argument and sound exegesis. It is favored, doubtless, by our common version, and there can be no doubt that the translators supposed that it had such a reference.
II. On the other hand, weighty considerations are urged to show that the passage does not refer to the Messiah, and to the resurrection of the dead. They are such as the following:
(1) The language, fairly interpreted and translated, does not necessarily imply this. It is admitted that our translators had this belief, and without doing intentional or actual violence to the passage, or designing to make a forced translation, they have allowed their feelings to give a complexion to their language which the original does not necessarily convey. Hence, the word “Redeemer,” which is now used technically to denote the Messiah, is employed, though the original “may,” and commonly “does,” have a much more general signification; and hence, the phrase “at the latter day,” also a technical phrase, occurs, though the original means no more than “afterward” or “after this;” and hence, they have employed the phrase “in my flesh,” though the original means no more than “though my flesh be all wasted away.” The following I believe to express fairly the meaning of the Hebrew:” I know that my deliverer, or avenger, lives, and that he will yet appear in some public manner on the earth; and though after the destruction of my skin, the process of corruption shall go on until “all” my flesh shall be destroyed, yet when my flesh is entirely wasted away, I shall see God; I shall have the happiness of seeing him for myself, and beholding him with my own eyes, even though my very vitals shall be consumed. He will come and vindicate me and my cause. I have such confidence in his justice, that I do not doubt that he will yet show himself to be the friend of him who puts his trust in him.”
(2) It is inconsistent with the argument, and the whole scope and connection of the book, to suppose that this refers to the Messiah and to the resurrection of the body after death. The book of Job is strictly an “argument” – a train of clear, consecutive reasoning. It discusses a great inquiry about the doctrines of divine Providence and the divine dealings with people. The three friends of Job maintained that God deals with men strictly according to their character in this life – that eminent wickedness is attended with eminent suffering; and that when people experience any great calamity, it is proof of eminent wickedness. All this they meant to apply to Job, and all this Job denied. Yet he was perplexed and confounded. He did not know what to do with the “facts” in the case; but still he felt embarrassed. All that he could say was, that God would “yet” come forth and show himself to be the friend of those who loved him and that though they suffered now, yet he had confidence that be would appear for their relief.
Now, had they possessed the knowledge of the doctrine of the “resurrection of the dead,” it would have ended the whole debate. it would not only have met all the difficulties of Job, but we should have found him perpetually recurring to it – placing it in every variety of form – appealing to it as relieving his embarrassments, and as demanding an answer from his friends. But, on the supposition that this refers to the resurrection, it is remarkable that the passage here stands alone. Job never adverted to it before, but allowed himself to be greatly embarrassed for the lack of just such an argument, and he never refers to it again. He goes on to argue again “as if” he believed no such doctrine. He does not ask his friends to notice this: he expresses no surprise that they should pass by, in entire neglect, an argument which “must have been seen” to be decisive of the controversy. It is equally unaccountable that his friends should not have noticed it.
If the doctrine of the resurrection was true, it settled the case. It rendered all their arguments worthless, and would have met the case just as we meet similar cases now. It was incumbent on them to show that there was no evidence of the truth of any such doctrine as the resurrection, and that this could not be urged to meet their arguments. Yet they never allude to so important and unanswerable an argument, and evidently did not suppose that Job referred to any such event. It is equally remarkable that neither Elihu nor God himself, in the close of the book, make any such allusion, or refer to the doctrine of the resurrection at all, as meeting the difficulties of the case. In the argument with which the Almighty is represented as closing the book, the whole thing is resolved into a matter of “sovereignty,” and people are required to submit because God is great, and is inscrutable in his ways – not because the dead will be raised, and the inequalities of the present life will be recompensed in a future state. The doctrine of a “resurrection” – a great and glorious doctrine, such as, if once suggested, could not have escaped the profound attention of these sages – would have solved the whole difficulty; and yet, confessedly, it is never alluded to by them – never introduced – never examined – never admitted or rejected – never becomes a matter of inquiry, and is never referred to by God himself as settling the matter – never occurs in the book in any form, unless it be in this. This is wholly unaccountable on the supposition that this refers to the resurrection.
(3) The interpretation which refers this to the resurrection of the dead, is inconsistent with numerous passages where Job expresses a contrary belief. Of this nature are the following: Job_7:9,” As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more;” Job_7:21, “I shall sleep in the dust thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be;” see Job_10:21-22, “I go whence I shall not return – to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death; a land of darkness as darkness itself;” Job 14 throughout, particularly Job_14:7, Job_14:9,Job_14:11-12,” For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down and riseth not; until the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.”
Job_16:22, “when a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” These passages all imply that when he should die, he would not appear again on the earth. This is not such language as one would use who believed in the resurrection of the dead. It is true, that in the discourses of Job, various and sometimes apparently contradictory feelings are expressed. He was a severe sufferer; and under strong conflicting emotions he sometimes expressed himself in a manner which he at other times regrets, and gives vent to feelings which, on mature reflection, he confesses to have been wrong. But how is it “possible” to believe that a man, in his circumstances, would ever deny the doctrine of the resurrection if he held it? How could he forget it? How could he throw out a remark that “seemed” to imply a doubt of it? If he had known of this, it would have been a sheet-anchor to his soul in all the storms of adversity – an unanswerable argument to all that his friends advanced – atopic of consolation which he could never have lost sight of, much less denied. He would have clung to that hope as the refuge of his soul, and not for one moment would he have denied it, or expressed a doubt of its truth.
(4) I may urge as a distinct argument what has before been hinted at, that this is not referred to as a topic of consolation by either of the friends of Job, by Elihu, or by God himself. Had it been a doctrine of those times, his friends would have understood it, and it would have reversed all their theology. Had it been understood by Elihu, he would have urged it as a reason for resignation in affliction. Had God designed that it should be known in that age, no more favorable opportunity could be conceived for the purpose than at the end of the arguments in this book. What a flood of light would it have thrown on the design of afflictions! How effectually would it have rebuked the arguments of the friends of Job! And how clear is it, therefore, that God did not “intend” that it should then be revealed to man, but meant that it should be reserved for a more advanced state of the world, and particularly that it should be reserved as the grand doctrine of the Christian revelation.
(5) A fifth consideration is, that on the supposition that it refers to the resurrection, it would be inconsistent with the views which prevailed in the age when Job is supposed to have lived. It is wholly in advance of that age. It makes little difference in regard to this whether we suppose him to have lived in the time of Abraham, Jacob, or Moses, or even at a later period – such a supposition would be equally at variance with the revelations which had then been given. The clear doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, is one of the unique doctrines of Christianity – one of the last truths of revelation, and is one of the glorious truths which seem to have been reserved for the Redeemer himself to make known to man. There are, indeed, obscure traces of it in the Old Testament. Occasionally we meet with a hint on the subject that was sufficient to excite the hopes of the ancient saints, and to lead them to suppose that more glorious truths were in reserve to be communicated by the Messiah. But those hints occur at distant intervals; are obscure in their character, and perhaps if all in the Old Testament were collected, they would not be sufficient to convey any very intelligible view of the resurrection of the dead.
But on the supposition that the passage before us refers to that doctrine, we have here one of the most clear and full revelations on the subject, laid far back in the early ages of the world, originating in Arabia, and entirely in advance of the prevailing views of the age, and of all that had been communicated by the Spirit of inspiration to the generations then living. It is admitted, indeed, that it was “possible” for the Holy Spirit to communicate that truth in its fulness and completeness to an Arabian sage; but it is not the way in which revelation, in other respects, has been imparted. It has been done “gradually.” Obscure intimations are given at first – they are increased from time to time – the light becomes clearer, until some prophet discloses the whole truth, and the doctrine stands complete before us. Such a course we should expect to find in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, and such is exactly the course pursued, unless “this” passage teaches what was in fact the highest revelation made by the Messiah.
(6) All which the words and phrases fairly convey, and all which the argument demands, is fully met by the supposition that it refers to some such event as is recorded in the close of the book. God appeared in a manner corresponding to the meaning of the words here upon the earth. He came as the Vindicator, the Redeemer, the גאל gō’el, of Job. He vindicated his cause, rebuked his friends, expressed his approbation of the sentiments of Job, and blessed him again with returning prosperity and plenty. The disease of the patriarch may have advanced, as he supposed it would. His flesh may have wasted away, but his confidence in God was not misplaced, and he came forth as his vindicator and friend. It was a noble expression of faith on the part of Job; it showed that he “had” confidence in God, and that in the midst of his trials he truly relied on him; and it was a sentiment worthy to be engraved in the eternal rock, and to be transmitted to future times.
It was an invaluable lesson to sufferers, showing them that confidence could, and should be placed in God in the severest trials. So far as I can see, all that is fairly implied in the passage, when properly interpreted, is fully met by the events recorded in the close of the book. Such an interpretation meets the exigency of the case, accords with the strain of the argument and with the result, and is the most simple and natural that has been proposed. These considerations are so weighty in my mind that they have conducted me to a conclusion, contrary I confess to what I had “hoped” to have reached, that this passage has no reference to the Messiah and the doctrine of the resurrection. We do not “need” it – for all the truths respecting the Messiah and the resurrection which we need, are fully revealed elsewhere; and though this is an exquisitely beautiful passage, and piety would love to retain the belief that it refers to the resurrection of the dead, yet “truth” is to be preferred to indulgence of the wishes and desires of the heart, however amiable or pious, and the “desire” to find certain doctrines in the Bible should yield to what we are constrained to believe the Spirit of inspiration actually taught.
I confess that I have never been so pained at any conclusion to which I have come in the interpretation of the Bible, as in the case before us. I would like to have found a distinct prophecy of the Messiah in this ancient and venerable book. I would like to have found the faith of this eminent saint sustained by such a faith in his future advent and incarnation. I would like to have found evidence that this expectation had become incorporated in the piety of the early nations, and was found in Arabia. I would like to have found traces of the early belief of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead sustaining the souls of the patriarchs then, as it does ours now, in trial. But I cannot. Yet I can regard it as a most beautiful and triumphant expression of confidence in God, and as wholly worthy to be engraved, as Job desired it might be, in the solid rock forever, that the passing traveler might see and read it; or as worthy of that more permanent record which it has received by being “printed in a book” – by an art unknown then, and sent down to the end of the world to be read and admired in all generations.
The opinion which has now been expressed, it is not necessary to say, has been held by a large number of the most distinguished critics. Grotius says that the Jews never applied it to the Messiah and the resurrection. The same opinion is held by Grotius himself, by Warburton, Rosenmuller, Le Clerc, Patrick, Kennicott, Dalthe, and Jahn. Calvin seems to be doubtful – sometimes giving it an interpretation similar to that suggested above, and then pursuing his remarks as if it referred to the Messiah. Most of the fathers, and a large portion of modern critics, it is to be admitted, suppose that it refers to the Messiah, and to the future resurrection.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
The answer is Rom_2:4; 1Ti_1:16; Psa_73:18; Ecc_8:11-13; Luk_2:35 -end; Pro_16:4; Rom_9:22.
old — in opposition to the friends who asserted that sinners are “cut off” early (Job_8:12, Job_8:14).
Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Job asks for an explanation of the facts which his own experience has impressed upon him. He has seen that “the wicked live” quite as long as the righteous, that in many cases they attain to a ripe old age, and become among the powerful of the earth. The great “pyramid kings” of Egypt, whose cruel oppressions were remembered down to the time of Herodotus (Herod; 2.124-128), reigned respectively, according to Egyptian tradition, sixty-three and sixty-six years(Manetho ap. Euseb; ‘Chronicles Can.,’ pars 2.). Rameses II; the cruel oppressor of the Jews, and the Pharaoh from whom Moses fled, had a reign of sixty-seven years.
Job 21:7.Wherefore do the wicked live — Zophar’s assertion (Job_20:5,) calls forth the counter thesis of this verse. The existence of evil is a mystery, among the first to perplex and the last to leave the mind. The question why the wicked live is but one of its phases, and is of personal interest, for it concerns ourselves. The question does not so often assume the form why we should live, as why others should, whom we suppose to be much more depraved than ourselves. Its solution is much simplified if we confine the thought to ourselves, for extreme wickedness is but the outgrowth of a nature that we share in common with the wicked. In such case of reflection upon ourselves and others there will readily be suggested: 1. The possibilities for good in all moral existence; 2. That the freedom of the will devolves upon the human agent the responsibility of perverted life; and, 3. Perfection of being can seemingly be secured only amid the most adverse influences of trial, for Christ himself was made “perfect through suffering,” one large element of which was meted out at the hand of the wicked. Science resolves its nebulae; but this cloud of mystery defies all resolution, and may continue so to do forever. Goethe has said profoundly, “Man is not born to solve the mystery of existence, but he must nevertheless attempt it, that he may learn to keep within the limits of the knowable.” For Plutarch’s views on the protracted life of the wicked, see Meth. Quar. Revelation, 1852, pp. 399-401; or Bib. Sacra, 1856, pp. 616-619.
Wherefore do the wicked live? – Job comes now to the main design of his argument in this chapter, to show that it is a fact, that the wicked often have great prosperity; that they are not treated in this life according to their character; and that it is not a fact that men of eminent wickedness, as his friends maintained, would meet, in this life, with proportionate sufferings. He says, that the fact is, that they enjoy great prosperity; that they live to a great age; and that they are surrounded with the comforts of life in an eminent degree. The meaning is, “If you are positive that the wicked are treated according to their character in this life – that great wickedness is followed by great judgments, how is it to be accounted for that they live, and grow old, and are mighty in power?” Job assumes the fact to be so, and proceeds to argue as if that were indisputable. It is remarkable, that the fact was not adverted to at an earlier period of the debate. It would have done much to settle the controversy. The “question,” “Why do the wicked live?” is one of great importance at all times, and one which it is natural to ask, but which it is not even yet always easy to answer. “Some” points are clear, and may be easily suggested. They are such as these – They live
(1) to show the forbearance and long suffering of God;
(2) to furnish a full illustration of the character of the human heart;
(3) to afford them ample space for repentance, so that there shall not be the semblance of a ground of complaint when they are called before God, and are condemned;
(4) because God intends to make some of them the monuments of his mercy, and more fully to display the riches of his grace in their conversion, as he did in the case of Paul, Augustine, John Bunyan, and John Newton;
(5) they may be preserved to be the instruments of his executing some important purpose by them, as was the case with Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar; or,
(6) he keeps them, that the great interests of society may be carried on; that the affairs of the commercial and the political world may be forwarded by their skill and talent.
For some, or all of these purposes, it may be, the wicked are kept in the land of the living, and are favored with great external prosperity, while many a Christian is oppressed, afflicted, and crushed to the dust. Of the “fact,” there can be no doubt; of the “reasons” for the fact, there will be a fuller development in the future world than there can be now.
Become old – The friends of Job had maintained that the wicked would be cut off. Job, on the other hand, affirms that they live on to old age. The “fact” is, that many of the wicked are cut off for their sins in early life, but that some live on to an extreme old age. The argument of Job is founded on the fact, that “any” should live to old age, as, according to the principles of his friends, “all” were treated in this life according to their character.
Yea, are mighty in power – Or, rather, “in wealth” – חיל chayı̂l. Jerome, “Are comforted in riches” – ”confortatique divitiis.” So the Septuagint, ἐν πλούτῳ en ploutō. The idea is, that they become very rich.
8.Their offspring — The children of the wicked live on, while his own are dead. The thought which he twice repeats in this verse, and which he resumes in the 11th, by contrast points most pathetically to the darkest phase of his inexpressible calamity, of which it is to be remarked he never directly speaks. This very silence, more eloquent than words, is the natural outgrowth of untold calamity, (Job_6:3.) The naturalness of the book, seemingly beyond the power of invention, must impress the reader at every step.
Their seed – Their children – their posterity.
Is established in their sight – Around them, where they may often see them – where they may enjoy their society. The friends of Job had maintained, with great positiveness and earnestness, that the children of wicked people would be cut off. See Job_18:19; Job_20:28. This position Job now directly controverts, and says that it is a fact, that so far from being cut off, they are often established in the very presence of their ungodly parents, and live and prosper. How, he asks, is this consistent with the position, that God deals with people in this life according to their character?
Their houses are safe from fear; literally, their houses are in peace, without fear. Neither is the rod of God upon them. So Asaph, “They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men” (Psa_73:5). The chastening rod of God does not seem to smite them.