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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible
Job 17

 

 


Introduction

JOB 17:1-2

THE CONCLUSION OF JOB'S FIFTH DISCOURSE

DeHoff's excellent summary of this chapter is: "Job's discourse here is broken, and he passes suddenly from one thing to another, as is usual with men in trouble. He pictures himself as a despised man, a man of sorrows, full of misery, abandoned by his friends, and crying to God for mercy."[1] Rowley noted that the triple formation in verse 1 indicates that, "Job was speaking in great emotional strain."[2]

Job 17:1-2


Verse 1-2

JOB REFERS TO HIS FRIENDS AS MOCKERS

"My Spirit is consumed, My days are extinct,

The grave is ready for me.

Surely there are mockers with me,

And mine eye dwelleth upon their provocation."

We like Van Selms' paraphrase of Job 17:1: "I spoke of years just now, but I am all but dead now. I have no spirit left; I cannot do anything."[3]

"Surely there are mockers with me" (Job 17:2). "Job charged his friends with mockery, the penalty of which (Deuteronomy 19:15-21) prescribed that the false accuser would receive the punishment assigned to the crime wrongly alleged."[4] It was perhaps to this that Job alluded in Job 17:5.

"Their provocation" (Job 17:2). This verse is obscure in meaning, as indicated by various renditions: "Mine eye is weary of their contentiousness," or "Mine eyes are wearied by your stream of peevish complaints."[5]


Verses 3-5

AGAIN JOB APPEALS TO GOD FOR VINDICATION

"Give now a pledge, be surety for me with thyself;

Who is there that will strike hands with me?

For thou hast hid their heart from understanding:

Therefore shalt thou not exalt them.

He that denounceth his friends for a prey,

Even the eyes of his children shall fail."

"Be surety for me with thyself" (Job 17:3). The next clause demands a negative answer; and since Job's friends who normally should be his surety are not willing to do so, Job prays that God Himself will be his surety in the day of Judgment. Here again we have that magnificent leap of faith which envisioned God Himself as surety for Job against God Himself in the Judgment. What a marvelous premonition (rather inspiration) of God the Son being Surety for his saints against God the Father's Judgment! As Kline expressed it, "This was Job's prayer for God to establish Job's integrity at the Judgment."[6] " Job 17:3 is clearly Job's appeal for God his Judge to be also God his Witness or Advocate as well."[7]

"For thou hast hid their heart from understanding" (Job 17:4). Job here stated that his friends' blindness was due to God's having blinded them, and therefore they thought Job was guilty. But, since they were most certainly wrong, their error would prevent God's exalting them. Driver complained that the text here is "hopelessly corrupt."[8] Nevertheless, the rendition we have here (American Standard Version) makes excellent sense. Not only will God be unable to exalt Job's mocking friends (serving in this great drama as prime agents of the devil); but they will also incur the penalty pointed out in Job 17:5.

"He that denounceth his friends for a prey" (Job 17:5). It is not clear exactly what particular sin against Job is meant by this; but whatever it was, a severe penalty would overtake them, exactly the same penalty mentioned above in Job 17:2 (Deuteronomy 19:15ff). "This verse (Job 17:5), as translated here, is a threat to Job's friends that their denunciations of him will be punished by the sufferings of their children."[9]


Verses 6-16

CERTAIN OF FINAL VINDICATION; JOB VOWED TO KEEP HIS INTEGRITY

"But he hath made me a byword of the people;

And they spit in my face.

Mine eye is dim also by reason of sorrow,

And all my members are as a shadow.

Upright men shall be astonished at this,

And the innocent shall stir up himself against the godless.

Yet shall the righteous hold on his way,

And he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger.

But as for you all, come on now again;

And I shall not find a wise man among you.

My days are past, my purposes are broken off,

Even the thoughts of my heart.

They change the night into the day:

The light, say they, is near unto the darkness.

If 50took for Sheol as my house;

If I have spread my couch in the darkness;

If I have said to corruption, Thou art my father;

To the worm, Thou art my mother and my sister;

Where then is my hope?

And, as for my hope, who shall see it?

It shall go down to the bars of Sheol,

When once there is rest in the dust."

Job 17:6-9 here are difficult. "It is hard to find a path through the profusion of ideas here."[10]

"All my members are as a shadow" (Job 17:7). Barnes paraphrased this, "I am a mere skeleton; I am emaciated and exhausted by my sufferings."[11]

"Upright men shall be astonished at this" (Job 17:9). "They will be amazed that God has permitted a holy man to suffer such calamity and to be treated in such a manner by his friends."[12]

"Yet shall the righteous hold on their way" (Job 17:9). "As these words stand, they express Job's conviction of final victory."[13] They do even more than that. They constitute Job's pledge, that in spite of his friends' unbelief, in spite of his terrible sufferings, in spite of everything, he will continue in the way of righteousness.

"These words confounded the hopes of Satan to destroy Job's integrity; for they indicate that the righteous (including Job), in spite of the irregular dealings of providence and the slanders of the public (including Job's friends), will persevere more and more in righteousness."[14] "The human spirit here rose to the height of moral grandeur."[15]

The authorship of Job continues to be more and more impossible to attribute to anyone other than to Job himself. No writer during Israel's captivity, or at any other time than that of Job's lifetime, could have revealed the innermost thoughts of Job, as do these chapters. Job himself is the author of this great central section of the book; and his words are most certainly inspired of God.

"But as for you all, come on now again; and I shall not find a wise man among you" (Job 17:10). Rawlinson gave the meaning here as, "A challenge to Job's detractors. `Return, all of you, to your old work of detraction, if you please'; I don't even care."[16] Jamieson interpreted it thus: "Return if you have anything really wise to advance, although I doubt it. As yet, I cannot find one wise man among you all."[17]

"My purposes are broken off" (Job 17:11). No sadder words than these were ever written. "How many unfinished plans are terminated every day! The farmer leaves his plow in the furrow; the lawyer his brief half prepared, the mechanic his work undone, the student his books lying open, the author his writing not finished! How many schemes of wickedness or of benevolence, of fraud or of kindness, or of hatred or mercy are concluded every day by death! Dear reader, soon all your plans, and mine will be forever terminated.[18]

In the concluding verses of this chapter, Job clearly contemplated death, but there is no hint of disrespect for God. "There is a note of acceptance and confidence throughout the passage."[19] Despite his perplexity and suffering, "One finds this growing sense that all is not as it seems, and that one day, at another time, and another place, he will be vindicated."[20]

"When once there is rest in the dust" (Job 17:16). Rowley wrote that this rendition does not conform to the Masoretic text, and recommended the RSV which reads: "Where then is my hope ... Shall we descend together into the dust"?[21]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Job 17:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/job-17.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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