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, 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.
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.
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:
Και μοι μολιβδον εδεικνυσαν, ενθα ἡ πηγη, τα πολλα ὑπο του χρονου λελυμασμενον, εγγεγραπται γαρ αυτῳ τα εργα ;
"They showed me a leaden table near to the fountain, all which his works (Hesiod's) were written; but a great part had perished by the injuries of time."
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.
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. זאת נקפו 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 - זר ולא 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: -
For I am sure that my Redeemer liveth;
And that I shal ryse out of the earth in the latter daye;
That I shal be clothed againe with this skynne
And se God in my flesh.
Yee, I myself shal beholde him,
Not with other, but with these same eyes.
My reins are consumed within me, when ye saye,
Why do not we persecute him?
We have founde an occasion against him.
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.
It would not be fair, after all the discussion of the preceding verses in reference to the two grand opinions and modes of interpretation instituted by learned men, not to inform the reader that a third method of solving all difficulties has been proposed, viz., that Job refers to a Divine conviction which he had just then received, that God would appear in the most evident manner to vindicate his innocence, and give the fullest proofs to his friends and to the world that his afflictions had not been sent as a scourge for his iniquities. Dr. Kennicott was the proposer of this third mode of solving these difficulties, and I shall give his method in his own words. "These five verses, though they contain but twelve lines, have occasioned controversies without number, as to the general meaning of Job in this place, whether he here expressed his firm belief of a resurrection to happiness after death, or of a restoration to prosperity during the remainder of his life. "Each of these positions has found powerful as well as numerous advocates; and the short issue of the whole seems to be, that each party has confuted the opposite opinion, yet without establishing its own. For how could Job here express his conviction of a reverse of things in this world, and of a restoration to temporal prosperity, at the very time when he strongly asserts that his miseries would soon be terminated by death? See Job 6:11; Job 7:21; Job 17:11-15; Job 19:10, and particularly in Job 7:7; : O remember that my life is wind; mine eye shall no more see good. "Still less could Job here express a hope full of immortality, which sense cannot be extorted from the words without every violence. And as the possession of such belief is not to be reconciled with Job's so bitterly cursing the day of his birth in Job 3:1-3, so the declaration of such belief would have solved at once the whole difficulty in dispute. "But if neither of the preceding and opposite opinions can be admitted, if the words are not meant to express Job's belief either of a restoration or of a resurrection, what then are we to do? It does not appear to me that any other interpretation has yet been proposed by the learned; yet I will now venture to offer a third interpretation, different from both the former, and which, whilst it is free from the preceding difficulties, does not seem liable to equal objections. "The conviction, then, which I suppose Job to express here, is this: That though his dissolution was hastening on amidst the unjust accusations of his pretended friends, and the cruel insults of his hostile relations; and though, whilst he was thus singularly oppressed with anguish of mind, he was also tortured with pains of body, torn by sores and ulcers from head to foot, and sitting upon dust and ashes; yet still, out of that miserable body, in his flesh thus stripped of skin, and nearly dropping into the grave, He Should See God, who would appear in his favor, and vindicate The Integrity of his character. This opinion may perhaps be fairly and fully supported by the sense of the words themselves, by the context, and by the following remarks. "We read in Job 2:7, that Job was smitten with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown; and Job 2:8, 'He sat down among the ashes.' In Job 7:5, Job says, 'My flesh is clothed with worms, and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.' In Job 16:19; : 'Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.' Then come the words of Job, Job 19:25-29. And then, in opposition to what Job had just said, that God would soon appear to vindicate him, and that even his accusing friends would acquit him, Zophar says, Job 20:27, that 'the heaven would reveal his iniquity, and the earth would rise up against him.' Lastly, this opinion concerning Job's words, as to God's vindication of him, is confirmed strongly at the end of the book, which records the conclusion of Job's history. His firm hope is here supposed to be that, before his death, he should, with his bodily eyes, see God appearing and vindicating his character. And from the conclusion we learn that God did thus appear: Now, says Job, mine eye seeth thee. And then did God most effectually and for ever brighten the glory of Job's fame, by four times calling him His Servant; and, as his anger was kindled against Job's friends, by speaking to them in the following words: 'Ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath. Go to my servant Job, - and my servant Job shall pray for you, - in that ye have not spoken of me the thing which is right, like my servant Job,' Job 40:7, Job 40:8." Dr. K. then gives the common version, and proposes the following as a new version: -
Job 19:25; For I know that my Vindicator liveth, And he at last shall arise over this dust.
Job 19:26; And after that mine adversaries have mangled me thus, Even in my flesh shall I see God.
Job 19:27; Whom I shall see on my side; And mine eyes shall behold, but not estranged from me: All this have I made up in mine bosom.
Job 19:28; Verily ye shall say, Why have we persecuted him; Seeing the truth of the matter is found with him?
Job 19:29; Tremble for yourselves at the face of the sword; For the sword waxeth hot against iniquities: Therefore be assured that judgment will take place.
Kennicott's Remarks on Select Passages of Scripture, p. 165.
There is something very plausible in this plan of Dr. Kennicott; and in the conflicting opinions relative to the meaning of this celebrated and much controverted passage, no doubt some will be found who will adopt it as a middle course. The theory, however, is better than some of the arguments by which it is supported. Yet had I not been led, by the evidence mentioned before, to the conclusion there drawn, I should probably have adopted Dr. K.'s opinion with some modification: but as to his new version, it is what I am persuaded the Hebrew text can never bear. It is even too loose a paraphrase of the original, as indeed are most of the new versions of this passage. Dr. Kennicott says, that such a confidence as those cause Job to express, who make him speak concerning the future resurrection, ill comports with his cursing so bitterly the day of his birth, etc. But this objection has little if any strength, when we consider that it is not at all probable that Job had this confidence any time before the moment in which he uttered it: it was then a direct revelation, nothing of which he ever had before, else he had never dropped those words of impatience and irritation which we find in several of his speeches. And this may be safely inferred from the consideration, that after this time no such words escaped his lips: he bears the rest of his sufferings with great patience and fortitude; and seems to look forward with steady hope to that day in which all tears shall be wiped away from off all faces, and it be fully proved that the Judge of all the earth has done right.
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