Adam Clarke Commentary
Job complains of the cruelty of his friends, Job 19:1-5. Pathetically laments his sufferings, Job 19:6-12. Complains of his being forsaken by all his domestics, friends, relatives, and even his wife, Job 19:13-19. Details his sufferings in an affecting manner, calls upon his friends to pity him, and earnestly wishes that his speeches may be recorded, Job 19:20-24. Expresses his hope in a future resurrection, Job 19:25-27. And warns his persecutors to desist, lest they fall under God‘s judgments, Job 19:28, Job 19:29.
How long will ye vex my soul - Every thing that was irritating, vexatious, and opprobrious, his friends had recourse to, in order to support their own system, and overwhelm him. Not one of them seems to have been touched with a feeling of tenderness towards him, nor does a kind expression drop at any time from their lips! They were called friends; but this term, in reference to them, must be taken in the sense of cold-blooded acquaintances. However, there are many in the world that go under the sacred name of friends, who, in times of difficulty, act a similar part. Job‘s friends have been, by the general consent of posterity, consigned to endless infamy. May all those who follow their steps be equally enrolled in the annals of bad fame!
These ten times - The exact arithmetical number is not to be regarded; ten times being put for many times, as we have already seen. See particularly the note on Genesis 31:7 (note).
Ye make yourselves strange to me - When I was in affluence and prosperity, ye were my intimates, and appeared to rejoice in my happiness; but now ye scarcely know me, or ye profess to consider me a wicked man because I am in adversity. Of this you had no suspicion when I was in prosperity! Circumstances change men‘s minds.
And be it indeed that I have erred - Suppose indeed that I have been mistaken in any thing, that in the simplicity of my heart I have gone astray, and that this matter remains with myself, (for most certainly there is no public stain on my life), you must grant that this error, whatsoever it is, has hurt no person except myself. Why then do ye treat me as a person whose life has been a general blot, and whose example must be a public curse?
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, Romans 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.
I cry out of wrong - I complain of violence and of injustice; but no one comes to my help.
He hath fenced up my way - This may allude to the mode of hunting the elephant, described at the conclusion of the preceding chapter; or to the operations of an invading army. See under Job 19:11 (note).
He hath stripped me of my glory - I am reduced to such circumstances, that I have lost all my honor and respect.
Mine hope hath he removed like a tree - There is no more hope of my restoration to affluence, authority, and respect, than there is that a tree shall grow and flourish, whose roots are extracted from the earth. I am pulled up by the roots, withered, and gone.
And he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies - From the seventh to the thirteenth verse there seems to be an allusion to a hostile invasion, battles, sieges, etc.
1.A neighboring chief, without provocation, invades his neighbor‘s territories, and none of his friends will come to his help. “I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard,” Job 19:7.
2.The foe has seized on all the passes, and he is hemmed up. “He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass,” Job 19:8.
7.Not receiving any assistance from friends or neighbors, he abandons all hope of being able to keep the field, escapes with the utmost difficulty, and is despised and neglected by his friends and domestics because he has been unfortunate. “I am escaped with the skin of my teeth,” Job 19:20. “My kinsfolk have failed-all my intimate friends abhorred me,” Job 19:14-19.
My kinsfolk have failed - Literally, departed: they have all left my house, now there is no more hope of gain.
They that dwell in mine house - In this and the following verses the disregard and contempt usually shown to men who have fallen from affluence and authority into poverty and dependence, are very forcibly described: formerly reverenced by all, now esteemed by none. Pity to those who have fallen into adversity is rarely shown; the rich have many friends, and to him who appears to be gaining worldly substance much court is paid; for many worship the rising sun, who think little of that which is gone down. Some are even reproached with that eminence which they have lost, though not culpable for the loss. A bishop, perhaps Bale, of Ossory, being obliged to leave his country and fly for his life, in the days of bloody Queen Mary, and who never regained his bishopric, was met one morning by one like those whom Job describes, who, intending to be witty at the expense of the venerable prelate, accosted him thus: “Good morrow, Bishop quondam.” To which the bishop smartly replied, “Adieu, Knave semper.”
Though I entreated for the children‘s sake of mine own body - This may imply no more than adjuring her by the tenderest ties, by their affectionate intercourse, and consequently by the children which had been the seals of their mutual affection, though these children were no more. But the mention of his children in this place may intimate that he had still some remaining; that there might have been young ones, who, not being of a proper age to attend the festival of their elder brothers and sisters, escaped that sad catastrophe. The Septuagint have, Προσεκαλουμην δε κολακευων υἰους παλλακιδων μου , “I affectionately entreated the children of my concubines.” But there is no ground in the Hebrew text for such a strange exceptionable rendering. Coverdale has, I am fayne to speake fayre to the children of myne own body.
My inward friends - Those who were my greatest intimates.
My bone cleaveth to my skin - My flesh is entirely wasted away, and nothing but skin and bone left.
I am escaped with the skin of my teeth - I have had the most narrow escape. If I still live, it is a thing to be wondered at, my sufferings and privations have been so great. To escape with the skin of the teeth seems to have been a proverbial expression, signifying great difficulty. I had as narrow an escape from death, as the thickness of the enamel on the teeth. I was within a hair‘s breadth of destruction; see on Job 19:11 (note).
Have pity upon me - The iteration here strongly indicates the depth of his distress, and that his spirit was worn down with the length and severity of his suffering.
Why do ye persecute me as God - Are not the afflictions which God sends enough? Do ye not see that I have as much as I can bear? When the papists were burning Dr. Taylor at Oxford, while wrapped in the flames, one of the true sons of the Church took a stick out of the faggots, and threw it at his head, and split open his face. To whom he calmly said, Man, why this wrong? Do not I suffer enough?
And are not satisfied with my flesh? - Will ye persecute my soul, while God is persecuting my body? Is it not enough that my body is destroyed? Why then labor to torment my mind?
O that my words were now written! - Job introduces the important subject which follows in a manner unusually solemn; and he certainly considers the words which he was about to utter of great moment, and therefore wishes them to be recorded in every possible way. All the modes of writing then in use he appears to refer to. As to printing, that should be out of the question, as no such art was then discovered, nor for nearly two thousand years after. Our translators have made a strange mistake by rendering the verb יחקו (yuchaku), printed, when they should have used described, traced out. O that my words were fairly traced out in a book! It is necessary to make this remark, because superficial readers have imagined that the art of printing existed in Job‘s time, and that it was not a discovery of the fifteenth century of the Christian era: whereas there is no proof that it ever existed in the world before a.d. 1440, or thereabouts, for the first printed book with a date is a psalter printed by John Fust, in 1457, and the first Bible with a date is that by the same artist in 1460. Three kinds of writing Job alludes to, as being practiced in his time:
1.Writing in a book, formed either of the leaves of the papyrus, already described, (see on Job 8:11 (note)), or on a sort of linen cloth. A roll of this kind, with unknown characters, I have seen taken out of the envelopments of an Egyptian mummy. Denon, in his travels in Egypt, gives an account of a book of this kind, with an engraved facsimile, taken also out of an Egyptian mummy.
2.Cutting with an iron stile on plates of lead.
3.Engraving on large stones or rocks, many of which are still found in different parts of Arabia.
To the present day the leaves of the palm tree are used in the East instead of paper, and a stile of brass, silver, iron, etc., with a steel point, serves for a pen. By this instrument the letters are cut or engraved on the substance of the leaf, and afterwards some black colouring matter is rubbed in, in order to make the letters apparent. This was probably the oldest mode of writing, and it continues among the Cingalese to the present day. It is worthy of remark that Pliny (Hist. Nat., lib. xiii., c. 11) mentions most of these methods of writing, and states that the leaves of the palm tree were used before other substances were invented. After showing that paper was not used before the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great, he proceeds: In palmarum foliis primo scriptitatum; deinde quarundam arborum libris: postea publica monumenta plumbeis voluminibus, mox et privata linteis confici caepta, aut ceris. “At first men wrote on palm tree leaves, and afterwards on the bark or rind of other trees. In process of time, public monuments were written on rolls of lead, and those of a private nature on linen books, or tables covered with wax.” Pausanias, lib. xii., c. 31, giving an account of the Boeotians, who dwelt near fount Helicon, states the following fact: -
Iron pen and lead - Some suppose that the meaning of this place is this: the iron pen is the chisel by which the letters were to be deeply cut in the stone or rock; and the lead was melted into those cavities in order to preserve the engraving distinct. But this is not so natural a supposition as what is stated above; that Job refers to the different kinds of writing or perpetuating public events, used in his time: and the quotations from Pliny and Pausanias confirm the opinion already expressed.
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; (Leviticus 25:25; Numbers 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 Psalm 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.
And though after my skin worms destroy this body - My skin, which is now almost all that remains of my former self, except the bones; see Job 19:20. They destroy this - not body. נקפו זאת (nikkephu zoth), they - diseases and affliction, destroy This wretched composition of misery and corruption.
Yet in my flesh shall I see God - Either, I shall arise from the dead, have a renewed body and see him with eyes of flesh and blood, though what I have now shall shortly moulder into dust, or, I shall see him in the flesh; my Kinsman, who shall partake of my flesh and blood, in order that he may ransom the lost inheritance.
Whom I shall see for myself - Have a personal interest in the resurrection, as I shall have in the Redeemer.
And mine eyes shall behold - That very person who shall be the resurrection, as he is the life.
And not another - ולא זר (velo zar), and not a stranger, one who has no relation to human nature; but גאלי (goali), my redeeming Kinsman.
Though my reins be consumed within me - Though I am now apparently on the brink of death, the thread of life being spun out to extreme tenuity. This, on the mode of interpretation which I have assumed, appears to be the meaning of this passage. The words may have a somewhat different colouring put on them; but the basis of the interpretation will be the same. I shall conclude with the version of Coverdale: -
But ye should say - Or, Then ye shall say.
Why persecute we him - Or, as Mr. Good, How did we persecute him! Alas! we are now convinced that we did wrong.
Seeing the root of the matter - A pure practice, and a sound hope, resting on the solid ground of sound faith, received from God himself. Instead of בי (bi), in Me, בי (bo), in Him, is the reading of more than one hundred of Kennicott‘s and De Rossi‘s MSS., and in several of the versions. Seeing the root of the matter is found in Him.
Be ye afraid of the sword - Of God‘s judgments.
For wrath bringeth - Such anger as ye have displayed against me, God will certainly resent and punish.
That ye may know there is a judgment - That ye may know that God will judge the world; and that the unequal distribution of riches and poverty, afflictions and health, in the present life, is a proof that there must be a future judgment, where evil shall be punished and virtue rewarded.
Job 19:25 For I know that my Vindicator liveth,
Kennicott‘s Remarks on Select Passages of Scripture, p. 165.
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