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Bible Commentaries
Job 42

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


Job humbles himself before God, 1-6.

God accepts him; censures his three friends; and commands Job

to offer sacrifices for then, that he might pardon and accept

them, as they had not spoken what was right concerning their

Maker, 7-9.

The Lord turns Job's captivity; and his friends visit him, and

bring him presents, 10, 11.

Job's affluence becomes double to what it was before, 12.

His family is also increased, 13-15.

Having lived one hundred and forty years after his calamities,

he dies, 16, 17.


Verse 2

Verse Job 42:2. I know that thou canst do every thing] Thy power is unlimited; thy wisdom infinite.

Verse 3

Verse Job 42:3. Who is he that hideth counsel — These are the words of Job, and they are a repetition of what Jehovah said, Job 38:2: "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" Job now having heard the Almighty's speech, and having received his reproof, echoes back his words: "Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge Alas, I am the man; I have uttered what I understood not; things too wonderful for me, that I knew not.

God had said, Job 38:3: "Gird up now thy loins like a man; I will demand of thee, and answer thou me." In allusion to this, Job exclaims to his Maker, Job 42:4: "Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will ask of THEE, and declare THOU unto ME." I acknowledge my ignorance; I confess my foolishness and presumption; I am ashamed of my conduct; I lament my imperfections; I implore thy mercy; and beg thee to show me thy will, that I may ever think, speak, and do, what is pleasing in thy sight.

Things too wonderful — I have spoken of thy judgments, which I did not comprehend.

Verse 5

Verse Job 42:5. I have heard of thee — I have now such a discovery of thee as I have never had before. I have only heard of thee by tradition, or from imperfect information; now the eye of my mind clearly perceives thee, and in seeing thee, I see myself; for the light that discovers thy glory and excellence, discovers my meanness and vileness.

Verse 6

Verse Job 42:6. I abhor myself] Compared with thine, my strength is weakness; my wisdom, folly; and my righteousness, impurity.

"I loathe myself when thee I see;

And into nothing fall."

Repent — I am deeply distressed on account of the imaginations of my heart, the words of my tongue, and the acts of my life. I roll myself in the dust, and sprinkle ashes upon my head. Job is now sufficiently humbled at the feet of Jehovah; and having earnestly and piously prayed for instruction, the Lord, in a finishing speech, which appears to be contained in Job 40:1-14, perfects his teaching on the subject of the late controversy, which is concluded with, "When thou canst act like the Almighty," which is, in effect, what the questions and commands amount to in the preceding verses of that chapter, "then will I also confess unto thee, that thy own right hand can save thee." In the fifth verse of the fortieth chapter, Job says, "ONCE have I spoken." This must refer to the declaration above, in the beginning of this chapter, (xlii.) And he goes on to state, Job 40:5: "Yea, TWICE; but I will proceed no farther." This second time is that in which he uses these words: after which he spoke no more; and the Lord concluded with the remaining part of these fourteen verses, viz., from Job 40:7-14, inclusive. Then the thread of the story, in the form of a narration is resumed at Job 42:7.

Verse 7

Verse Job 42:7. After the Lord had spoken these words — Those recorded at Job 40:7-14; he said to Eliphaz, who was the eldest of the three friends, and chief speaker: Ye have not spoken of me - right. Mr. Peters observes, "It will be difficult to find any thing in the speeches of Eliphaz and his companions which should make the difference here supposed, if we set aside the doctrine of a future state; for in this view the others would speak more worthily of God than Job, by endeavouring to vindicate his providence in the exact distribution of good and evil in this life: whereas Job's assertion, Job 9:22, 'This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked,' which is the argument on which he all along insists, would, upon this supposition, be directly charging God that he made no distinction between the good and the bad. But now, take the other life into the account, and the thing will appear in quite a contrary light; and we shall easily see the reason why God approves of the sentiments of Job, and condemns those of his friends. For supposing the friends of Job to argue that the righteous are never afflicted without remedy here, nor the wicked prosperous on the whole in this life, which is a wrong representation of God's providence; and Job to argue, on the other hand, that the righteous are sometimes afflicted here, and that without remedy, but shall be rewarded in the life to come; and that the wicked prosper here, but shall be punished hereafter, which is the true representation of the Divine proceedings; and here is a very apparent difference in the drift of the one's discourse, and of the others'. For Job, in this view, speaks worthily of God, and the rest unworthily. The best moral argument that mankind have ever had to believe in a life to come, is that which Job insists on - that good and evil are, for the most part, dealt out here promiscuously. On the contrary, the topic urged by his friends, and which they push a great deal too far, that God rewards and punishes in this world, tends, in its consequences, like that other opinion which was held by the stoics in after times, that virtue is its own reward, to sap the very foundation of that proof we have, from reason, of another life. No wonder, therefore, that the sentiments of the one are approved, and those of the other condemned."

Verse 8

Verse Job 42:8. Take-seven bullocks and seven rams — From this it appears that Job was considered a priest, not only in his own family but also for others. For his children he offered burnt-offerings, Job 1:5; and now he is to make the same kind of offerings, accompanied with intercession, in behalf of his three friends. This is a full proof of the innocence and integrity of Job: a more decided one could not be given, that the accusations of his friends, and their bitter speeches, were as untrue as they were malevolent. God thus clears his character, and confounds their devices.

Verse 10

Verse Job 42:10. The Lord turned the captivity of Job — The Vulgate has: Dominus quoque conversus est ad poenitentiam Job; "And the LORD turned Job to repentance." The Chaldee: "The WORD of the Lord (מימרא דיי meymera dayai) turned the captivity of Job." There is a remark which these words suggest, which has been rarely, if at all, noticed. It is said that the Lord turned the captivity of Job WHEN HE PRAYED FOR HIS FRIENDS. He had suffered much through the unkindness of these friends; they had criticised his conduct without feeling or mercy; and he had just cause to be irritated against them: and that he had such a feeling towards them, several parts of his discourses sufficiently prove. God was now about to show Job his mercy; but mercy can be shown only to the merciful; Job must forgive his unfeeling friends, if he would be forgiven by the Lord; he directs him, therefore, to pray for them, Job 42:8. He who can pray for another cannot entertain enmity against him: Job did so, and when he prayed for his friends, God turned the captivity of Job. "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."

Some suppose that Job, being miraculously restored, armed his servants and remaining friends, and fell upon those who had spoiled him; and not only recovered his own property, but also spoiled the spoilers, and thus his substance became double what it was before. Of this I do not see any intimation in the sacred text.

Verse 11

Verse Job 42:11. Then came there unto him all his brethren — "Job being restored to his former health and fortunes, the author," says Mr. Heath, "presents us with a striking view of human friendship. His brethren, who, in the time of his affliction, kept at a distance from him; his kinsfolk, who ceased to know him; his familiar friends, who had forgotten him; and his acquaintance, who had made themselves perfect strangers to him; those to whom he had showed kindness, and who yet had ungratefully neglected him, on the return of his prosperity now come and condole with him, desirous of renewing former familiarity; and, according to the custom of the Eastern countries, where there is no approaching a great man without a present, each brings him a kesitah, each a jewel of gold." See Job 42:12.

A piece of money — קשיטה kesitah signifies a lamb; and it is supposed that this piece of money had a lamb stamped on it, as that quantity of gold was generally the current value for a lamb. Genesis 33:19, where the subject is largely considered. The Vulgate, Chaldee, Septuagint, Arabic, and Syriac, have one lamb or sheep; so it appears that they did not understand the kesitah as implying a piece of money of any kind, but a sheep or a lamb.

Earring of gold — Literally, a nose-jewel. The Septuagint translate, τετραδραχμον χρυσου, a tetra-drachm of gold, or golden daric; but by adding καιασημου, unstamped, they intimate that it was four drachms of uncoined gold.

Verse 12

Verse Job 42:12. The Lord blessed the latter end of Job — Was it not in consequence of his friends bringing him a lamb, sheep, or other kind of cattle, and the quantity of gold mentioned, that his stock of sheep was increased so speedily to 14,000, his camels to 6000, his oxen to 2000, and his she-asses to 1000?

Mr. Heath takes the story of the conduct of Job's friends by the worst handle; see Job 42:11. Is it not likely that they themselves were the cause of his sudden accumulation of property? and that they did not visit him, nor seek his familiarity because he was now prosperous; but because they saw that God had turned his captivity, and miraculously healed him? This gave them full proof of his innocence, and they no longer considered him an anathema, or devoted person, whom they should avoid and detest, but one who had been suffering under a strange dispensation of Divine Providence, and who was now no longer a suspicious character, but a favourite of heaven, to whom they should show every possible kindness. They therefore joined hands with God to make the poor man live and their presents were the cause, under God of his restoration to affluence. This takes the subject by the other handle; and I think, as far as the text is concerned, by the right one.

He had fourteen thousand sheep — The reader, by referring to Job 1:3, will perceive that the whole of Job's property was exactly doubled.

Verse 13

Verse Job 42:13. Seven sons and three daughters. — This was the same number as before; and so the Vulgate, Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic read: but the Chaldee doubles the sons, "And he had fourteen sons, and three daughters."

Verse 14

Verse Job 42:14. The name of the first Jemima — ימימה yemimah, days upon days.

Kezia — קציעה ketsiah, cassia, a well-known aromatic plant. And,

Keren-happuch. — קרן הפוך keren happuch, the inverted or flowing horn, cornucopiae, the horn of plenty. The Chaldee will not permit these names to pass without a comment, to show the reason of their imposition: "He called the first Jemimah, because she was as fair as the day; the second Ketsiah, because she was as precious as cassia; the third Keren-happuch, because her face was as splendid as the emerald." Cardmarden's Bible, 1566, has the Hebrew names.

The Vulgate has, "He called the name of one Day, of the second Cassia, and of the third The Horn of Antimony."

The versions in general preserve these names, only the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic translate Jemimah, DAY; and the former for Keren-happuch has Αμαλθαιας κερας, the horn of Amalthea. This refers to an ancient fable. Amalthea was the nurse of Jupiter, and fed him with goat's milk when he was young. The goat having by accident her horn struck off, Jupiter translated the animal to the heavens, and gave her a place among the constellations, which she still holds; and made the horn the emblem of plenty: hence it is always pictured or described as filled with fruits, flowers, and the necessaries and luxuries of life. It is very strange how this fable got into the Septuagint.

Coverdale is singular: The first he called 'Daye', the seconde 'Poverte', the thirde, 'All plenteousnes'.

Verse 15

Verse Job 42:15. Gave them inheritance among their brethren. — This seems to refer to the history of the daughters of Zelophehad, given Numbers 27:1-8, who appear to have been the first who were allowed an inheritance among their brethren.

Verse 16

Verse Job 42:16. After this lived Job a hundred and forty years — How long he had lived before his afflictions, we cannot tell. If we could rely on the Septuagint, all would be plain, who add here, Τα δε παντα ετη εζησεν, διακοσια τεσσαρακοντα; "And all the years that Job lived were two hundred and forty." This makes him one hundred years of age when his trial commenced. Coverdale has, After this lyved Job forty yeares, omitting the hundred. So also in Becke's Bible, 1549. From the age, as marked down in the Hebrew text, we can infer nothing relative to the time when Job lived. See the subscription at the end of the Arabic.

Verse 17

Verse Job 42:17. Job died, being old and full of days. — He had seen life in all its varieties; he had risen higher than all the men of the East, and sunk lower in affliction, poverty, and distress, than any other human being that had existed before, or has lived since. He died when he was satisfied with this life; this the word שבע seba implies. He knew the worst and the best of human life; and in himself the whole history of Providence was exemplified and illustrated, and many of its mysteries unfolded.

We have now seen the end of the life of Job, and the end or design which God had in view by his afflictions and trials, in which he has shown us that he is very pitiful, and of tender mercy, James 5:11; and to discern this end of the Lord should be the object of every person who reads or studies it. Laus in excelsis Deo!

Both in the Arabic and Septuagint there is a considerable and important addition at the end of the seventeenth verse, which extends to many lines; of this, with its variations, I have given a translation in the PREFACE.

At the end of the Syriac version we have the following subscription: -

"The Book of the righteous and renowned Job is finished, and contains 2553 verses."

At the end of the Arabic is the following: -

"It is completed by the assistance of the Most High God. The author of this copy would record that this book has been translated into Arabic from the Syriac language." "Glory be to God, the giver of understanding!" "The Book of Job is completed; and his age was two hundred and forty years." "Praise be to God for ever!"

So closely does the Arabic translator copy the Syriac, that in the Polyglots one Latin version serves for both, with the exception of a few marginal readings at the bottom of the column to show where the Syriac varies.


Number of verses, one thousand and seventy. Middle verse, Job 22:16. Sections, eight.

AT the close of a book I have usually endeavoured to give some account of the author, or of him who was its chief subject. But the Book of Job is so unique in its subject and circumstances, that it is almost impossible to say any thing satisfactorily upon it, except in the way of notes on the text. There has been so much controversy on the person and era of Job, that he has almost been reduced to an ideal being, and the book itself considered rather as a splendid poem on an ethic subject than a real history of the man whose name it bears.

The author, as we have already seen in the preface, is not known. It has been attributed to Job himself; to Elihu, one of his friends; to Moses; to some ancient Hebrew, whose name is unknown; to Solomon; to Isaiah the prophet; and to Ezra the scribe.

The time is involved in equal darkness: before Moses, in the time of the exodus, or a little after; in the days of Solomon; during the Babylonish captivity, or even later; have all been mentioned as probable eras.

How it was originally written, and in what language, have also been questions on which great and learned men have divided. Some think it was originally written in prose, and afterwards reduced to poetry, and the substance of the different speeches being retained, but much added by way of embellishment. Theodore, bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia, a writer of the fourth century, distinguishes between Job and the author of the book that goes under his name, whom he accuses of a vain ostentation of profane sciences; of writing a fabulous and poetical history; of making Job speak things inconsistent with his religion and piety, and more proper to give offense than to edify. As Theodore had only seen the Book of Job in the Greek version, it must be owned that he had too much ground for his severe criticism, as there are in that version several allusions to the mythology of the Greeks, some of which are cursorily mentioned in the notes. Among these may be reckoned the names of constellations in chapters ix. and xxxviii., and the naming one of Job's daughters Keren-happuch, the horn of Amalthea, Job 42:14.

We need not confound the time of Job and the time of the author of the book that goes under his name. Job may have been the same as Jobab, 1 Chronicles 1:35-44, and the fifth in descent from Abraham; while the author or poet, who reduced the memoirs into verse, may have lived as late as the Babylonish captivity.

As to the language, though nervous and elevated, it is rather a compound of dialects than a regular language. Though Hebrew be the basis, yet many of the words, and frequently the idiom, are pure Arabic, and a Chaldee phraseology is in many places apparent.

Whoever was the author, and in whatsoever time it may have been written, the Jewish and Christian Church have ever received it as a canonical book, recommended by the inspiration of the Almighty. It is in many respects an obscure book, because it refers to all the wisdom of the East. If we understood all its allusions, I have little doubt that the best judges would not hesitate to declare it the Idumean Encyclopaedia. It most obviously makes continual references to sciences the most exalted and useful, and to arts the most difficult and ornamental. Of these the notes have produced frequent proofs.

The author was well acquainted with all the wisdom and learning of the ancient world, and of his own times; and as a poet he stands next to David and Isaiah: and as his subjects have been more varied than theirs, he knew well how to avail himself of this circumstance; and has pressed into his service all the influence and beauty of his art, to make the four persons, whom he brings upon the stage, keep up each his proper character, and maintain the opinions which they respectively undertook to defend. "The history," says Calmet, "as to the substance and circumstances, is exactly true. The sentiments, reasons, and arguments of the several persons, are very faithfully expressed; but it is very probable that the terms and turns of expression are the poet's, or the writer's, whosoever he may be."

The authority of this book has been as much acknowledged as its Divine inspiration. The Prophet Ezekiel is the first who quotes it, Ezekiel 14:14-20, where he mentions Job with Noah and Daniel, in such a way as makes his identity equal with theirs; and of their personal existence no one ever doubted.

The Apostle James, James 5:11, mentions him also, and celebrates his patience, and refers so particularly to the termination and happy issue of his trials, as leaves us no room to doubt that he had seen his history, as here stated, in the book that bears his name.

St. Paul seems also to quote him. Compare Romans 2:11, "For there is no respect of persons with God," with Job 34:19, "God accepteth not the person of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of his hands."

1 Timothy 6:7: "For we brought nothing into this world; and it is certain we can carry nothing out." Job 1:21: "Naked came I out of my mother's womb; and naked shall I return thither."

Hebrews 12:5: "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him." Job 5:17: "Happy is the man whom God correcteth; therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty." A similar saying is found Proverbs 3:11, probably all coming from the same source. See the comparisons from the writings of Solomon, in the preface.

Job is to be found in the ancient martyrologies, with the title of prophet, saint, and martyr, and the Greek Church celebrates a festival in his honour on the fifth of May; and the corrupt Churches of Arabia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Russia, and Muscovy, follow it in their worship of Saint Job!

But no Church has proceeded so far both to honour and disgrace this excellent man as the Church of Rome. I shall quote the words of Dom. Calmet, one of the most learned and judicious divines that Church could ever boast of. "The Latins keep his festival on the tenth of May. This, next to the Maccabees, brothers and martyrs, is the first saint to whom the western Church has decreed public and religious honours, and we know not of any saint among the patriarchs and prophets to whom churches have been consecrated, or chapels dedicated in greater number, than to this holy man. We see abundance of them, particularly in Spain and Italy. And he is invoked principally against the leprosy, itch, foul disease, and other distempers which relate to these." See Baillie's Lives of the Saints.

Calmet goes on to say that "there are several reputable commentators who maintain that Job was afflicted with this scandalous disease; among whom are Vatablus, Cyprian, Cisterc. Bolducius, and Pineda, in their commentaries on Job; and Desganges in Epist. Medicin. Hist. De Lue Venerea. The Latin Church invokes Saint Job in diseases of this nature; and lazarettos and hospitals, wherein care is taken of persons who have this scandalous distemper upon them, are for the most part dedicated to him." See Calmet's Dissertation sur la maladie de Job, and his Dictionary, under the article JOB.

The conduct of this Church, relative to this holy man, forms one of the foulest calumnies ever inflicted on the character of either saint or sinner; and to make him the patron of every diseased prostitute and debauchee through the whole extent of the papal dominions and influence, is a conduct the most execrable, and little short of blasphemy against the holiness of God. As to their lazarettos, hospitals, and chapels, dedicated to this eminent man on these scandalous grounds, better raze them from their foundations, carry their materials to an unclean place, or transport them to the valley of the son of Hinnom, and consume them there; and then openly build others dedicated ad fornicantem Jovem, in conjunction with Baal Peor and Ashtaroth, the Priapus and Venus of their predecessors!

If those of that communion should think these reflections severe, let them know that the stroke is heavier than the groan; and let them put away from among them what is a dishonour to God, a disgrace to his saints, and their own ineffable reproach.

Of the disease under which Job laboured, enough has been said in the notes. On this head many writers have run into great extravagance. Bartholinus and Calmet state that he was afflicted with twelve several diseases; the latter specifies them. Pineda enumerates thirty-one or thirty-two; and St. Chrysostom says he was afflicted with all the maladies of which the human body is capable; that he suffered them in their utmost extremities; and, in a word, that on his one body all the maladies of the world were accumulated! How true is the saying, "Over-doing is un-doing!" It is enough to say, that this great man was afflicted in his property, family, body, and soul; and perhaps none, before or since his time, to a greater degree in all these kinds.

On Job's character his own words are the best comment. Were we to believe his mistaken and uncharitable friends, he, by assertion and inuendo, was guilty of almost every species of crime; but every charge of this kind is rebutted by his own defense, and the character given to him by the God whom he worshipped, frees him from even the suspicion of guilt.

His patience, resignation, and submission to the Divine will, are the most prominent parts of his character which are presented to our view. He bore the loss of every thing which a worldly man values without one unsanctified feeling or murmuring word. And it is in this respect that he is recommended to our notice and to our imitation. His wailings relative to the mental agonies through which he passed, do not at all affect this part of his character. He bore the loss of his goods, the total ruin of his extensive and invaluable establishment, and the destruction of his hopes in the awful death of his children, without uttering a reprehensible word, or indulging an irreligious feeling.

If however we carefully examine our translation of this poem, we shall find many things in Job's speeches that appear to be blemishes in his character. Even his own concessions appear to be heavy taxes on the high reputation he has had for patience and humble submission to the Divine will. In several cases these apparent blemishes are so contrasted with declarations of the highest integrity and innocence that they amount nearly to contradictions. Dr. Kennicott has examined this subject closely, and has thought deeply upon it, and strongly asserts that this apparent inconsistency arises from a misapprehension of Job's words in some cases, and mistranslation of them in others.

I shall take a large quotation on this subject from his "Remarks on Select Passages of Scripture." "The integrity or righteousness of Job's character being resolutely maintained by Job himself, and the whole poem turning on the multiplied miseries of a man eminently good, the grand difficulty through the poem seems to be, how these positions can consist with the several passages where Job is now made to own himself a very grievous sinner. This matter, as being of great moment, should be carefully examined.

"In Job 7:20, Job 7:21, he says, 'I have sinned; What shall I do unto thee, O thou Preserver of men? Why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away mine iniquity?'

"In Job 9:20: 'If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: If I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.' Job 9:30, Job 9:31: 'If I wash myself with snow-water, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and my own clothes shall abhor me.' Lastly, in Job 42:6: 'I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.'

"Whereas he says, in Job 10:7, 'Thou knowest that I am not wicked.' Job 13:15: 'I will maintain my own ways before him.' Job 13:18. 'I know that I shall be justified.' Job 23:10: 'He knoweth the way that I take; when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.' Job 23:11: 'My foot hath held his steps; his way have I kept, and not declined.' And lastly, in Job 27:5: 'Till I die I will not remove my integrity from me.' Job 27:6: 'My righteousness I hold fast; I will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.'

"And now if any one, ascribing these contrarieties to Job's inconsistency with himself, should pronounce him right in owning himself a great sinner, and wrong in pleading his own integrity, he will soon see it necessary to infer the contrary. Had Job really been, and owned himself to be, a great sinner, his great sufferings had been then accounted for, agreeably to the maxims of his friends, and all difficulty and dispute had been at an end. But as the whole poem turns on Job's uncommon goodness, and yet uncommon misery, so this goodness or innocence, this righteousness or integrity, is not only insisted upon by Job, but expressly admitted by God himself, both in the beginning of this book and at the end of it. See Job 1:8, Job 1:21; Job 2:3; Job 42:7, Job 42:8.

"That Job did not here plead guilty, or contradict the asseveration of his innocence, appears farther from the subsequent speeches. So Bildad, who spoke next, understood him, Job 8:6. So Zophar understood him, Job 11:4. So Eliphaz, to whom he spoke the former words, understood him likewise, Job 15:13, Job 15:14. And, lastly, Elihu, after hearing all the replies of Job to his friends, tells him, (Job 33:8, Job 33:9,) 'Surely, thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying, I am clean, without transgression; I am innocent, neither is there iniquity in me.'

"If therefore this inconsistency in Job's declaration concerning himself cannot have obtained in this book at first, it must arise from some misrepresentation of the true sense. And as it relates to Job's confession of guilt, expressed in the three chapters, vii., ix., and xlii., on these passages I shall make a few remarks, in hopes of removing one of the greatest general difficulties which now attend this poem.

"As to the first instance, Job appears, at least from our English version of Job 7:20, to be confessing his sins to God, whereas he is really speaking there in reply to Eliphaz; and it is obvious that the same words, applied thus differently, must carry very different ideas. Who does not see the humility and sorrow with which Job would say, 'I have sinned against thee, O God?' and yet see the resentment and force with which he would say to Eliphaz, I have sinned, you say; but, granting this, What is it to YOU? to (or against) thee, O Eliphaz! what crime have I committed? That Job, in other places, repeats ironically, and confutes by quoting the sayings of his friends, will appear hereafter.

"Eliphaz had been attempting to terrify him by the recital of a vision, and the long speech of a spirit, Job 4:12-21. Job in reply, (Job 6:15-27,) complains of the cruel treatment he had begun to experience from his nominal friends, and false brethren; and (Job 7:14) particularly complains that he (Eliphaz) had terrified him with dreams and visions, Job then goes on, (Job 7:17, &c.,) What is a miserable man, like myself, that thou makest so much of him? 1 Samuel 26:24: That thou settest thy heart upon him? that, with such officious affection, thou visitest him every morning, and art trying him every moment? How long will it be till thou depart from me; and leave me at liberty to breathe, and even swallow down my spittle? You say, I must have been a sinner; what then? I have not sinned against THEE. O thou spy upon mankind! Why hast thou set up me as a butt or mark to shoot at? Why am I become a burden unto thee? Why not rather overlook my transgression, and pass by mine iniquity? I am now sinking to the dust; to-morrow, perhaps, I shall be sought in vain.

"As the first part of this difficulty arose from Job's first reply to Eliphaz, the second part of the same difficulty arises from Job's first reply to Bildad, in chap. ix., when Job is now made to say as follows, (Job 9:2, Job 9:4) 'How shouldst thou be just with God? Who hath hardened himself against him and prospered?' Job 9:20: 'If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me;' with many other self-accusatory observations, which have been already quoted from Job 9:28, Job 9:30, Job 9:31. Now this chapter, which in our present version of it is very unintelligible, will perhaps recover its original meaning, and prove beautifully consistent, upon these two principles: That from Job 9:2-24, Job is really exposing his friends, by ironically quoting some of their absurd maxims; and that in Job 9:28, Job 9:31 he is speaking, not to God, but in reply to Bildad.

"Thus, in Job 9:2, 'I know it is so of a truth;' i.e., Verily I perceive that with you the matter stands thus, as, How shall man be just with God; and again, God is omnipotent; which is granted and enlarged upon.

"Job 9:15, Job 9:16 strongly confirm the idea of Job's irony on the maxims of his friends, thus: Whom (God) I am not to answer, you say, even though I were righteous; but I am to make supplication to my Judge. Nay; If I have called to God, and he hath really answered me, I am not to believe that he hath heard my voice, Because, &c. So again, as to Job 9:20-22: If I justify myself, then you say, My own mouth proves me wicked! If I say, I am perfect, then it proves me perverse. And even supposing that I am perfect and upright, yet am I not to know it. In short, my soul loatheth my very life; i.e., I am almost tired to death with such nonsense.

"Whereas the one sole true conclusion is this, which, therefore, I resolutely maintain: 'God destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.' And as to Job 9:28, Job 9:31, the whole embarrassment attending them is removed when we consider them as directed to Bildad; who, by the vehemence of his speech, hath shown that he would continue to insist upon Job's guilt: 'If I wash myself in snow-water, and make my hands ever so clean; yet wilt thou (Bildad) plunge me in the ditch,' &c.

"Let us proceed, therefore, to the third and last part of this general difficulty, which arises at present from Job's confession in Job 42:5, Job 42:6: 'I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.' But repent of what? and why abhor himself? He was at that instant in the very situation he had been earnestly wishing and often praying for: and was it possible for him not to seize that favourable moment? What he had so often wished was, that God would appear, and permit him to ask the reason for his uncommon sufferings. See Job 10:2; Job 13:3, Job 13:18-23; Job 19:7; Job 23:3-10; Job 31:35-37, &c. And now when God does appear, we see that Job, immediately attentive to this matter, resolves to put the question, and declares this resolution: 'Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee.' What now becomes of Job's question? Does he put any? Far, at present, are the next words from any such meaning, at least in our present version; for there the verse expresses nothing but sorrow for sin, which sets the poem at variance with itself. It also loses all sight of the question, for which the poem had been preparing, and which Job himself declares he would now put. Add, that in the first of these two lines the verb does not signify, I abhor myself; that the first hemistich is evidently too short, and that the second is not properly IN dust, but le al, UPON dust and ashes."

"It is therefore submitted to the learned, whether the restoration of two letters, which at the same time that they lengthen the line, will remove the inconsistency, and give the very question here wanted, be not strongly and effectually recommended by the exigence of the place. As על כן al ken, is properly therefore, and על מה al mah (Job 10:2) is wherefore, מה mah was easily dropped before כן ken; it not being recollected that כן ken here is connected, not with the preposition before it, but with the verb after it, and signifies hoc modo. The true reading, therefore, and the true sense I humbly conceive to stand thus:—

Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak;

I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;

But now mine eye seeth thee.

WHEREFORE (על מה) am I thus become loathsome

And scorched up, upon dust and ashes?

"See Job 7:5: 'My flesh is clothed with worms, and clods of dust; my skin is broken (וימאס) and become loathsome.' See also Job 30:30: 'My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burnt with heat;' and Job 2:8; Job 10:2; Job 16:15."

So far Dr. Kennicott in vindication of Job; and the reader will do justice to his learning and ingenuity. Allowing his general positions to be true, he has, in my opinion, pushed his consequences too far. Job certainly was not a grievous sinner, but a most upright man. This point is sufficiently proved; but that he accuses himself of nothing wrong, of no inward evil, is certainly not correct. He thought too highly of himself; he presumed too much on what was without; but when God shone upon his heart, he saw that he was vile, and therefore might most properly loathe himself. There are multitudes who are decent and correct in their outward behaviour, whose hearts may be deceitful and desperately wicked. Even the Pharisees made clean the outside of the cup and platter. Job was a very righteous and upright man: but at the time in question, he was not cleansed from all inward sin. This removes all contradiction from what he asserts, and from what he concedes. With this abatement, Dr. Kennicott's criticism may fairly stand. When a man sees himself in the light of God, he sees what, by his own discernment, wisdom, and reason, he had never seen before. His mind might have been previously deeply imbued with the principles of justice, righteousness, and truth, his whole conduct be regulated by them, and he be conscious to himself that he had not wickedly departed from the laws imposed on him by these principles. But when the light that maketh manifest shines through the inmost recesses of the heart, and vibrates through the soul, then spiritual wickedness becomes evident, and the deceitfulness of the heart is discovered. That light refers every thing to the Divine standard, the holiness of God; and the man's own righteousness in this comparison is found to be imperfection itself, and little short of impurity. Job appears to have been in this state: he thought himself rich and increased in goods, and to have need of nothing; but when God shone in upon his heart, he found himself to be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; and he was now as ready to confess his great vileness, as he was before to assert and vindicate the unimpeachable righteousness of his conduct. Here was no contradiction. His friends attacked him on the ground of his being a bad and wicked man: this charge he repels with indignation, and dared them to the proof. They had nothing to allege but their system and their suspicions: but he who suffers must have sinned. Job, being conscious that this was false as applied to him, knowing his own innocence, boldly requires on their ground to know why God contended with him? God answers for himself; humbles the self-confident yet upright man; shines into his heart, and then he sees that he is vile. When a beam of the solar light is admitted into an apartment we see ten thousand atoms or motes dancing in that beam. These are no particles of light, nor did the light bring them there; they were there before, but there was not light sufficient to make them manifest. Just so when the light of God visits the soul of a sincere man, who has been labouring in all his outward conduct to stand approved of God; he is astonished at his inward impurity, loathes himself, and is ready to think that many devils have suddenly entered into him. No: all the evils thou seest were there before, but thou hadst not light sufficient to make them manifest. Shall it be said after this, that the conduct of Divine Providence cannot be vindicated in suffering an upright man to become a butt for the malice of Satan for so long a time, and for no purpose? The greatest, the most important purposes were accomplished by this trial. Job became a much better man than he ever was before; the dispensations of God's providence were illustrated and justified; Satan's devices unmasked; patience crowned and rewarded; and the Church of God greatly enriched by having bequeathed to it the vast treasury of Divine truth which is found in the BOOK OF JOB.

Corrected for a new edition, March 1st, 1829.—A. C.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 42". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/job-42.html. 1832.
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