How long will ye vex my soul? - Perhaps designing to reply to the taunting speech of Bildad; Job 18:2. “He” had asked “how long it would be ere Job would make an end of empty talk?” “Job” asks, in reply, “how long” they would torture and afflict his soul? Or whether there was on hope that this would ever come to an end!
And break me in pieces - Crush me, or bruise me - like breaking any thing in a mortar, or breaking rocks by repeated blows of the hammer. “Noyes.” He says they had crushed him, as if by repeated blows.
These ten times - Many times; the word “ten” being used as we often say, “ten a dozen” or “twenty,” to denote many; see Genesis 31:7, “And your father hath changed my wages “ten times.” Leviticus 26:26, “and when I have broken your staff of bread, “ten women” shall bake your bread, in one oven;” compare Numbers 14:22; Nehemiah 4:6.
You are not ashamed that you make yourselves strange to me - Margin, “harden yourselves strange to me.” Margin, “harden yourselves against me.” Gesenius, and after him Noyes, renders this, “Shameless ye stun me.” Wemyss, “Are ye not ashamed to treat me thus cruelly? The word used here (הכר hâkar ) occurs no no where else, and hence, it is difficult to determine its meaning. The Vulgate renders it, “oppressing me.” The Septuagint, “and you are not ashamed to press upon me.” - ἐπίκεισθέ υοι epikeisthe moi Schultens has gone into an extended examination of its meaning, and supposes that the primary idea is that of being “stiff,” or “rigid.” The word in Arabic, he says, means to be “stupid with wonder.” It is applied, he supposes, to those who are “stiff or rigid” with stupor; and then to those who have a stony heart and an iron an iron fore-head - and who can look on the suffering without feeling or compassion. This sense accords well with the connection here. Gesenius, however, supposes that the primary idea is that of beating or pounding; and hence, of stunning by repeated blows. In either case the sense would be substantially the same - that of “stunning.” The idea given by our translators of making themselves “strange” was derived from the supposition that the word might be formed from נכר nâkar - to be strange, foreign; to estrange, alienate, etc. For a more full examination of the word, the reader may consult Schultens, or Rosenmuller “in loco.”
And be it indeed that I have erred - Admitting that I have erred, it is my own concern. You have a right to reproach and revile me in this manner.
Mine error abideth with myself - I must abide the consequences of the error.” The design of this seems to be to reprove what he regarded as an improper and meddlesome interference with his concerns. Or it may be an expression of a willingness to bear all the consequences himself. He was willing to meet all the fair results of his own conduct.
If, indeed, ye will magnify yourselves against me - This is connected with the next verse. The sense is, “all these calamities came from God. He has brought them upon me in a sudden and mysterious manner. In these circumstances you ought to have pity upon me; Job 19:21. Instead of magnifying yourselves against me, setting yourselves up as censors and judges, overwhelming me with reproaches and filling my mind with pain and anguish, you ought to show to me the sympathy of a friend.” The phrase, “magnify yourselves,” refers to the fact that they had assumed a tone of superiority and an authoritative manner, instead of showing the compassion due to a friend in affliction.
And plead against me my reproach - My calamities as a cause of reproach. You urge them as a proof of the displeasure of God, and you join in reproaching me as a hypocrite. Instead of this, you should have shown compassion to me as a man whom God had greatly afflicted.
Know now that God - Understand the case; and in order that they might, he goes into an extended description of the calamities which God had brought upon him. He wished them to be “fully” apprised of all that he had suffered at the hand of God.
Hath overthrown me - The word used here (עות ‛âvath ) means to bend, to make crooked or curved; then to distort, prevert: them to overturn, to destroy; Isaiah 24:1; Lamentations 3:9. The meaning here is, that he had been in a state of prosperity, but that God had completely “reversed” everything.
And hath compassed me with his net - Has sprung his net upon me as a hunter does, and I am caught. Perhaps there may be an allusion here to what Bildad said in Job 18:8 ff, that the wicked would be taken in his own snares. Instead of that, Job says that “God” had sprung the snare upon him - for reasons which he could not understand, but in such a manner as should move the compassion of his friends.
Behold, I cry out of wrong - Margin, or “violence.” The Hebrew word (חמס châmâs ) means properly violence. The violence referred to is that which was brought upon him by God. It is, indeed, harsh language; but it is not quite sure that he means to complain of God for doing him injustice. God had dealt with him in a severe or violent manner, is the meaning, and he had cried unto him for relief, but had cried in vain.
No judgment - No justice. The meaning is, that he could obtain justice from no one God would not interpose to remove the calamities which he had brought upon him, and his friends would do no justice to his motives and character.
He hath fenced up my way - This figure is taken from a traveler, whose way is obstructed by trees, rocks, or fences, so that he cannot get along, and Job says it was so with him. He was traveling along in a peaceful manner on the journey of life, and all at once obstructions were put in his path, so that he could not go farther. This does not refer, particularly, to his spiritual condition, if it does at all. It is descriptive of the obstruction of his plans, rather than of spiritual darkness or distress.
And he hath set darkness in my paths - So that I cannot see - as if all around the traveler should become suddenly dark, so that he could not discern his way. The “language” here would well express the spiritual darkness which the friends of God sometimes experience, though it is by no means certain that Job referred to that. All the dealings of God are to them mysterious, and there is no light in the soul - and they are ready to sink down in despair.
He hath stripped me of my glory - Everything which I had that contributed to my respectability and honor, he has taken away. My property, my health, my family, the esteem of my friend - all is gone.
And taken the crown from my head - The crown is an emblem of honor and dignity - and Job says that God had removed all that contributed to his - and Job says that God had removed all that contributed to his former dignity; compare Proverbs 4:9; Proverbs 17:6; Ezekiel 16:12; Lamentations 5:16.
He hath destroyed me on every side - He has left me nothing. The word which is used here is that which is commonly applied to which is used here is that which is commonly applied to destroying cities, towns, and houses. “Rosenmuller.”
And I am gone - That is, I am near death. I cannot recover myself.
And mine hope hath he removed like a tree - A tree, which is plucked up by the roots, and which does not grow again. That is, his hopes of life and happiness, of an honored old age, and of a continuance of his prosperity, had been wholly destroyed. This does not refer to his “religious” hope - as the word hope is often used now - but to his desire of future comfort and prosperity in this life. It does not appear but that his religious hope, arising from confidence in God, remainned unaffected.
He hath also kindled his wrath - He is angry. Wrath in the Scriptures is usually represented as burning or inflamed - because like fire it destroys everything before it.
And he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies - He treats me as he would an enemy. The same complaint he elsewhere makes; see Job 13:24; perhaps also in Job 16:9. We are not to understand Job here as admitting that “he” was an enemy of God. He constantly maintained that he was not, but he was constrained to admit that God “treated him” as if he were his enemy, and he could not account for it. “On this ground,” therefore, he now maintains that his friends ought to show him compassion, instead of trying to prove that he “was” an enemy of God; they ought to pity a man who was so strangely and mysteriously afflicted, instead of increasing his sorrows by endeavoring to demonstrate that he was a man of eminent wickedness.
His troops - The calamities which he had sent, and which are here represented as “armies” or “soldiers” to accomplish his work. It is not probable that he refers here to the bands of the Chaldeans and the Sabeans, that had robbed him of his property, but to the calamities that had come upon him, “as if” they were bands of robbers.
And raise up their way - As and army that is about to lay siege to a city, or that is marching to attack it, casts up a way of access to it, and thus obtains every facility to take it; see Isaiah 40:3, note; Isaiah 57:14, note.
And encamp round about my tabernacle - In the manner of an army besieging a city. Often an army is encamped in this manner for months or even years, in order to reduce the city by famine.
My tabernacle - My tent; my dwelling.
He hath put my brethren - This is a new source of afflication that he had not adverted to before, that God had caused all his children to be estranged from him - a calamity which he regarded as the crown of all his woes. The word rendered “my brethren” (אחי 'âchāy ) means means properly “my brothers” - but whether he means literally his brothers, or whether he designs it to be taken in a figuratie sense as denoting his intimate friends, or those of the same rank in life or calling, it is impossible now to determine.
And mine acquaintance - My friends - on whom I relied in time of calamity.
And verily estranged - They have forgotten me, and treat me as a stranger. What an accurate description is this of what often occurs! In prosperity a man will be surrounded by friends; but as soon as his prosperity is stripped away, and he is overwhelmed with calamity, they withdraw, and leave him to suffer alone. Proud of his acquaintance before, they now pass him by as a stranger, or treat him with cold civility, and when he “needs” their friendship, they are gone.
My kinsfolk have failed - My neighbors (קרובי qârôbāy ), those who were near to me. It may refer to “nearness” of affinity, friendship, or residence. The essential idea is that of “nearness” - whether by blood, affection, or vicinity. In Psalm 38:11, it denotes near friends.
And my familiar friends - Those who knew me - מידעי myudā‛ay The allusion is to those who were “intimately” acquainted with him, or who were his bosom friends.
They that dwell in mine house - The trials came to his very dwelling, and produced a sad estrangement there. The word used here גרי gārēy from גוּר gûr means properly those who “sojourn” in a house for a little time. It may refer to guests, strangers, servants, clients, or tenants. The essential idea is, that they were not “permanent” residents, though for a time they were inmates of the family. Jerome renders the place, “Inquilini domus meoe - the tenants of my house.” The Septuagint, Γείτονες οἰχιάς Geitones oikias - neighbors. Schultens supposes it means “clients,” or those who were taken under the protection of a great man. He quotes from the Arabian poets to show that the word is used in that sense, and particularly a passage from the “Hamasa,” which he thus translates:
Descendite sub alas meas, alasque gentis meae.
Ut sim praesidium vobis quum pugna con seritur.
Namque testamento injunxit mihi pater, ut reciperem vos hospites.
Omnemque oppressorem a vobis propulsarem.
There can be no doubt that Job refers to “dependents,” but whether in the capacity of servants, tenants, or clients, it is not easy to determine, and is not material. Dr. Good renders it “sojourners,” and this is a correct rendering of the word. This would be clearly the sense if the corresponding member of the parallelism were not “maids.” or female servants. “That” requires us to understand here persons who were “somehow” engaged in the service of Job. Perhaps his clients, or those who came for protection, were under obligation to some sort of service as the return of his patronage.
And my maids - Female domestics. The Chaldee, however, renders this לחינתי - “my concubines;” but the correct reference is to female female servants.
I am an alien - That is, to them. They cease to treat me as the head of the family.
I called my servant - He lost all respect for me, and paid me no attention.
I entreated him - I ceased to expect “obedience,” and tried to see what “persuasion” would do. I ceased to be master in my own house.
My breath is strange to my wife - Schultens renders this, “my breath is loathsome to my wife,” and so also Noyes. Wemyss translates it, “my own wife turns aside from my breath.” Dr Good, “my breath is scattered away by my wife.” The literal meaning is, “my breath is “strange” (זרה zârâh ) to my wife;” and the idea is, that there had been such a change in him from his disease, that his breath was not that which she had been accustomed to breathe without offence, and that she now turned away from it as if it were the breath of a stranger. Jerome renders it, “Halitum meum exhorruit uxor mea - my wife abhors my breath.” It may be worthy of remark here, that but “one” wife of Job is mentioned - a remarkable fact, as he probably lived in an age when polygamy was common.
I entreated her - I appealed to her by all that was tender in the domestic relation, but in vain. From this it would seem that even his wife had regarded him as an object of divine displeasure and had also left him to suffer alone.
For the children‘s sake of mine own body - Margin, “my belly.” There is consideralbe variety in the interpretation of this passage. The word rendered “my own body” (בטני beṭenı̂y ) means literally, “my belly or womb;” and Noyes, Gesenius, and some others, suppose it means the children of his own mother! But assuredly this was scarcely an appeal that Job would be likely to make to his wife in such circumstances. There can be no impropriety in supposing that Job referred to himself, and that the word is used somewhat in the same sense as the word “loins” is in Genesis 35:11; Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5; 1 Kings 8:19. Thus, understood, it would refer to his own children, and the appeal to his wife was founded on the relation which they had sustainded to them. Though they were now dead, he referred to their former united attachment to them, to the common affliction which they had experienced in their loss; and in view of all their former love to them, and all the sorrow which they had experienced in their death, he made an appeal to his wife to show him kindness, but in vain. Jerome renders this, “Orabam filios uteri mei.” The Septuagint, not understanding it, and trying to “make” sense of it, introduced a statement which is undoubtedly false, though Rosenmuller accords with it. “I called affectionately ( κολακεύων kolakeuōn ) the sons of my concubines” - υἵους παλλακίδων μου huious pallakidōn mou But the whole meaning is evidently that he made a solemn and tender appeal to his wife, in view of all the joys and sorrows which they had experience as the united head of a family of now no more. What would reach the heart of an estranged wife, if such an appeal would not?
Yea, young children - Margin, or “the wicked.” This difference between the text and the margin arises from the ambiguity of the original word - עוילים ‛ăvı̂ylı̂ym The word עויל ‛ăvı̂yl (whence our word “evil”) means sometimes the wicked, or the ungodly, as in Job 16:11. It may also mean a child, or suckling, (from עוּל ‛ûl - to give milk, to suckle, 1 Samuel 7:7-10; Genesis 22:13: Isaiah 40:11; compare Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 65:20,) and is doubtless used in this sense here. Jerome, however, renders it “stulti - fools.” The Septuagint, strangely enough, “They renounced me forever.” Dr. Good renders it, “Even the dependents.” So Schultens, Etiam clientes egentissimi - “even the most needy clients.” But the reference is probably to children who are represented as withholding from him the respect which was due to age.
I arose, and they spake against me - “When I rise up, instead of regarding and treating me with respect, they make me an object of contempt and sport.” Compare the account of the respect which had formerly been shown him in Job 29:8.
All my inward friends - Margin, “the men of my secret.” The meaning is those, who were admitted to the intimacy of friendship or who were permitted to be acquainted with his secret thoughts, purposes, and plans. The word uses here (סוד sôd ) denotes properly “a couch, cushions, pillow,” on which one reclines; then a “divan,” a circle of persons sitting together for consultation or conversation; and hence, it refers to those who are sitting together in intimate counsel, (see Job 15:8, note; Job 29:4, note) and then familiar conversation, intimacy. Here the phrase “men of my intimacy” (סודי sôdı̂y ) denotes those who were admitted to intimate friendship. All such persons had now forsaken him, and turned against him.
My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh - The meaning of this probably is, “my skin and flesh are dried up so that the bone seems adhere to the skin, and so tht the form of the bone becomes visible.” It is designed to denote a state of great emaciation, and describes an effect which we often see.
And I am escaped with the skin of my teeth - A very difficult expression, and which has greatly perplexed commentators, and on whose meaning they are by no means agreed. Dr. Good renders it, “and in the skin of my teeth am I dissolved;” but what that means is as difficult of explanation as the original. Noyes, “and I have scarcely escaped with the skin of my teeth.” Herde, (as translated by Marsh,) “and scarcely the skin in my teeth have I brought away as a spoil.” He says that “the figure is taken from the prey which wild beasts carry in their teeth; his skin is his poor and wretched body, which alone he had escaped with. His friends are represented as carnivorous animals which gnaw upon his skin, upon the poor remnant of life;” but the Hebrew will not bear this construction. Poole observes, quaintly enough, that it means, “I am scarcely sound and whole and free from sores in any part of my skin, except that of my jaws, which holdeth and covereth the roots of my teeth. This being, as divers observe, the devil‘s policy, to leave his mouth untouched, that be might more freely express his mind, and vent his blasphemies against God, which he supposed sharp pain would force him to do.” Schultens has mentioned four different interpretations given to the phrase, none of which seems to be perfectly satisfactory. They are the following:
(1) That it means that the skin “about” the teeth alone was preserved, or the gums and the lips, so that he had the power of speaking, though every other part was wasted away, and this exposition is given, accompanied with the suggestion that his faculty of speech was preserved entire by Satan, in order that he might be “able” to utter the language of complaint and blasphemy against God.
(2) That he was emaciated and exhausted completely, “except” the skin about his teeth, that is, his lips, and that by them he was kept alive; that if it were not for them he could not breathe, but must soon expire.
(3) That the teeth themselves had fallen out by the force of disease, and that nothing was left but the gums. This opinion Schultens himself adopts. The image, be says, is taken from pugilists, whose teeth are knocked out by each other; and the meaning he supposes to be, that Job had been treated by his disease in the same manner. So violent had it been that he had lost all his teeth and nothing was left but his gums.
(4) A fourth opinion is, that the reference is to the “enamel” of the teeth, and that the meaning is, that such was the force and extent of his afflictions that all his teeth became hollow and were decayed, leaving only the enamel. It is difficult to determine the true sense amidst a multitude of learned conjectures; but probably the most simple and easy interpretation is the best. It may mean that he was “almost” consumed. Disease had preyed upon his frame until he was wasted away. Nothing was left but his lips, or his gums; he was just able to speak, and that was all. So Jerome renders it, delicta sunt tantummodo labia circa dentes meos. Luther renders it, und kann meine Zahne mit der Haut nicht bedecken - “and I cannot cover my teeth with the skin;” that is, with the lips.
Have pity on me - A tender, pathetic cry for sympathy. “God has afflicted me, and stripped me of all my comforts, and I am left a poor, distressed, forsaken man. I make my appeal to you, my friends, and entreat you to have pity; to sympathize with me, and to sustain me by the words of consolation.” One would have supposed that these words would have gone to the heart, and that we should hear no more of their bitter reproofs. But far otherwise was the fact.
The hand of God hath touched me - Hath smitten me; or is heavy upon me. The meaning is, that he had been subjected to great calamities by God, and that it was right to appeal now to his friends, and to expect their sympathy and compassion. On the usual meaning of the word here rendered, “hath touched” (נגעה nâga‛âh from נגע nâga‛ ), see the notes at Isaiah 53:4.
Why do ye persecute me as God? - As God has done. That is, without giving me any reason for it; accusing me of crimes without proof, and condeming me without mitigation. That there is here an improper reflection on God, will be apparent to all. It accords with what Job frequently expresses where he speaks of him as judging him severly, and is on of the instances which prove that he was not entirely perfect.
And are not satisfied with my flesh - That is, are not contented that my “body” is subjected to inexpressible torment, and is wholly wasting away, but add to this the torment of the soul. Why is it not enough that my “body” is thus tormented without adding the severer tortures of the mind?
Oh that my words were now written! - Margin, as in Hebrew, “Who will give;” a common mode of expressing desire among the Hebrews. This expression of desire introduces one of the most important passages in the book of Job. It is the language of a man who felt that injustice was done by his friends, and that he was not likely to have justice done him by that generation. He was charged with hypocrisy; his motives were called in question; his solemn appeals, and his arguments to assert his innocence, were disregarded; and in this state of mind he expresses the earnest wish that his expressions might be permanently recorded, and go down to far distant times. He desired that what he had said might be preserved, that future ages might be able to judge between him and his accusers, and to know the justice of his cause. The desire thus expressed has been granted, and a more permanent record bas been made than if, in accordance with his request, his sentiments had been engraved on lead or stone.
Oh that they were printed! - It is clear that this expression may convey wholly an erroneous idea. The art of “printing” was then unknown; and the passage has no allusion to that art. The original word (חקק châqaq ) means properly, to cut in, to hew; then to cut - e. g. a sepulchre in a rock, Isaiah 22:16; then to cut, or engrave letters on a tablet of lead or stone, Isaiah 30:8; Ezekiel 4:1; and generally it implies the notion of engraving, or inscribing on a plate with an engraving tool. Anciently books were made of materials which allowed of this mode of making a record. Stone would probably be the first material; and then plates of metal, leaves, bark, skins, etc. The notion of engraving, however, is the proper idea here.
In a book - - בספר besêpher The word ספר drow sêpher is derived from ספר sâphar In Arabic the kindred word shafar means to scratch, to scrape; and hence, to engrave, write, record - and the idea was originally that ofinsculping or engraving on a stone. Hence, the word comes to denote a book, of any materials, or made in any form. Pliny, speaking of the materials of ancient books, says, Olim in palmarum foliis scriptitatum, et libris quarundam arborum; postea publira monumenta plumbeis voluminibus, mox et privata lintels confici coepta aut ceris. Lib. xiii. 11. “At first men wrote on the leaves of the palm, or the bark of certain trees; but afterward public documents were preserved in leaden volumes (or rolls), and those of a private nature on wax or linen.” “Montfaucon purchased at Rome, in 1699, an ancient book entirely composed of lead. It was about four inches long, and three inches wide: and not only were the two pieces that formed the cover, and the leaves, six in number, of lead, but also the stick inserted through the rings to hold the leaves together, as well as the hinges and nails. It contained Egyptian Gnostic figures and unintelligible writing. Brass, as more durable, was used for the inscriptions designed to last the longest, such as treaties, laws, and alliances. These public documents were, however, usually written on large tablets. The style for writing on brass and other hard substances was sometimes tipped with diamond.”
The meaning of the word here is evidently a record made on stone or lead - for so the following verses indicate. The art of writing or engraving was known in the time of Job; but I do not know that there is evidence that the art of writing on leaves, bark, or vellum was yet understood. As books in the form in which they are now were then unknown; as there is no evidence that at that time anything like volumes or rolls were possessed; as the records were probably preserved on tablets of stone or lead; and as the entire description here pertains to something that was engraved; and as this sense is conveyed by the Arabic verb from which the word ספר sêpher book, is derived, the word tablet, or some kindred word, will better express the sense of the original than book - and I have, therefore, used it in the translation.
Assyrian records are found generally in stone or clay; and the latter being more easily and speedily engraven with a triangular instrument, was more frequently employed.
(1) An Assyrian terra-cotta cylinder from Khorsabad contains the annals of the reign of Sargon. It is dated about 721 B.C.
(2) A hexagonal terra cotta cylinder from Koyunjik contains the annals of the first eight years of the reign of Sennacherib (702 to 694 B.C.), with an account of the expedition against Hezekiah.
(3) The inscription shows Assyrian scribes making notes of prisoners, heads of slain, spoils, etc. It comes from Koyunjik.
That they were graven - Cut in, or sculptured - as is done on stones. That they might become thus a permanent record.
With an iron pen - A stylus, or an engraving tool - for so the word (עט ‛êṭ ) means. The instrument formerly used for writing or engraying was a small, sharp-pointed piece of iron or steel, that was employed to mark on lead or stone - somewhat in the form of small graying tools now. When the writing was on wax, the instrument was made with a flat head, that it could be obliterated by pressing it on or passing it over the wax.
The reason why Job mentions the iron pen here is, that he wished a perment record. He did not desire one made with paint or chalk, but one which would convey his sentiments down to future times.
And lead - That is, either engraved on lead, or more probably with lead. It was customary to cut the letters deep in stone, and then to fill fill them up with lead, so that the record became more permanent. This I take to be the meaning here. The Hebrew will scarcely allow of the supposition that Job meant that the records should be made on plates of lead - though such plates were used early, but perhaps not until after the time of Job.
In the rock - It was common, at an early period, to make inscriptions on the smooth surface of a rock. Perhaps the first thai were made were on stones, which were placed as way marks, or monuments over the dead - as we now make such inscriptions on grave-stones. Then it became common to record any memorable transaction - as a battle - on stones or rocks; and perhaps, also, sententious and apothegmatical remarks were recorded in this manner, to admonish travelers, or to transmit them to posterity. Numerous inscriptions of this kind are found by travelers in the East, on tombs, and on rocks in the desert. All that can be appropriate here is a notice of such early inscriptions of that kind in Arabia, as would render it probable that they existed in the time of Job, or such as indicate great antiquity. Happily we are at no loss for such inscriptions on rocks in the country where Job lived.
The Wady Mokatta, the cliffs of which bear these inscriptions, is a valley entering Wady Sheikh, and bordering the upper regions of the Sinai mountains. It extends for about three hours‘ march, and in most places its rocks present abrupt cliffs, twenty or thirty feet high. From these cliffs large masses have separated, and lie at the bottom of the valley. The cliffs and rocks are thickly covered with inscriptions, which are continued at intervals of a few hundred paces only, for at least the distance of two hours and a half. Burckhardt, in his travels from Akaba to Cairo, by Mount Sinai, observed many inscriptions on the rocks, part of which he has copied. See his Travels in Syria, Lond. Ed. pp. 506,581,582,606,613,614. Pococke, who also visited the regions of Mount Sinai in 1777, has given a description of the inscriptions which he saw on the rocks at Mount Sinai. Vol. i. 148, be says,” There are on many of the rocks, both near these mountains and in the road, a great many inscriptions in an ancient character; many of them I copied, and observed that most of them were not cut, but stained, making the granite of a lighter color, and where the stone had scaled, I could see the stain had sunk into the stone.”
Numerous specimens of these inscriptions may be seen in Pococke, vol. i. p. 148. These inscriptions were also observed by Robinson and Smith, and are described by them in Biblical Researches, vol. i. 108,118,119,123,161,167. They are first mentioned by Cosmas, about 535 a.d. He supposed them to be the work of the ancient Hebrews, and says that certain Jews, who had read them, explained them to him as noting “the journey of such an one, out of such a tribe, in such a year and month.” They have also been noticed by many early travelers, as Neitzschitz, p. 149; Moncongs, i. p. 245; and also by Niebuhr in his Reisebeschr. i. p. 250. The copies of them given by Pococke and Niebuhr are said to be very imperfect; those by Seetzen are better, and those made by Burckhardt are tolerably accurate. Rob. Bib. Research. i. 553. A large number of them have been copied and published by Mr. Grey, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, vol. iii. pt. 1, Lond. 1832; consisting of one hundred and seventy-seven in the unknown character, nine in Greek, and one in Latin. These inscriptions, which so long excited the curiosity of travelers, have been recently deciphered (in the year 1839) by Professor Beer, of the University of Leipzig. He had turned his attention to them in the year 1833, but without success.
In the year 1839 his attention was again turned to them, and after several months of the most persevering application, he succeeded in making out the alphabet, and was enabled to read all the inscriptions which have been copied, with a good degree of accuracy. According to the results of this examination, the characters of the Sinaitic inscriptions belong to a distinct and independent alphabet. Some of the letters are wholly unique; the others have more or less affinity with the Palmyrene, and particularly with the Estrangelo and the Cufic. They are written from right to left. The contempts of the inscriptions, so far as examined, consist only of proper names, preceded by a word which is usually שׁלם shâlôm peace, though occasionally some other word is used. In one or two instances the name is followed by a sentence which has not yet been deciphered. The names are those common in Arabic. It is a remarkable fact that not one Jewish or Christian name has been found.
The question, as to the writers of these inscriptions, receives very little light from their contents. A word at the end of some of them may be so read as to affirm that they were pilgrims, and this opinion Professor Beer adopts; but this is not certain. That the writers were Christians, seems apparent from many of the crosses connected with the inscriptions. The age, also, of the inscriptions, receives no light from their conents, as no date has yet been read. Beer supposes that the greater part of them could not have been written earlier than the fourth century. Little light, therefore, is cast upon the question who wrote them; what was their design; in what age they were written, or who were the pilgrims who wrote them. See Rob. Bib. Research. i. 552-556. That there were such records in the time of Job, is probable.
For I know that my Redeemer liveth - There are few passages in the Bible which have excited more attention than this, or in respect to which the opinions of expositors have been more divided. The importance of the passage Job 19:25-27 has contributed much to the anxiety to understand its meaning - since, if it refers to the Messiah, it is one of the most valuable of all the testimonials now remaining of the early faith on that subject. The importance of the passage will justify a somewhat more extended examination of its meaning than it is customary to give in a commentary of a single passage of Scripture; and I shall
(1.) Give the views entertained of it by the translators of the ancient and some of the modern versions;
(2.) Investigate the meaning of the words and phrases which occur in it; and
(3.) State the arguments, pro and con, for its supposed reference to the Messiah.
The Vulgate renders it, “For I know that my Redeemer - Redemptor meus - lives, and that in the last day I shall rise from the earth; and again, I shall be enveloped - circumdabor - with my skin, and in my flesh shall I see my God. Whom I myself shall see, and my eyes shall behold, and not another - this, my hope, is laid up in my bosom.” The Septuagint translate it, “For I know that he is Eternal who is about to deliver me - ὁ ἐκλύειν με μέλλων ho ekluein me mellōn - to raise again upon earth this skin of mine, which draws up these things - τὸ ἀναντλοῦν ταῦτα to anantloun tauta (the meaning of which, I believe, no one has ever been able to divine.) For from the Lord these things have happened to me of which I alone am conscious, which my eye has seen, and not another, and which have all been done to me in my bosom.” Thompson‘s trans. in part. The Syriac is in the main a simple and correct rendering of the Hebrew. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and in the consummation he will be revealed upon the earth, and after my skin I shall bless myself in these things, and after my flesh. If my eyes shall see God, I shall see light.” The Chaldee accords with our version, except in one phrase. “And afterward my skin shall be inflated, (משכי אתפת ) - then in my flesh shall I see God.” It will be seen that some perplexity was felt by the authors of the ancient versions in regard to the passage. Much more has been felt by expositors. Some notices of the views of the moderns, in regard to particular words and phrases, will be given in the exposition.
I know - I am certain. On that point Job desires to express the utmost confidence. His friends might accuse him of hypocrisy - they might charge him with lack of piety, and he might not be able to refute all that they said; but in the position referred to here he would remain fixed, and with this firm confidence he would support his soul. It was this which he wished to have recorded in the eternal rocks, that the record might go down to future times. If after ages should be made acquainted with his name and his sufferings - if they should hear of the charges brought against him and of the accusations of impiety which had been so harshly and unfeelingly urged, he wished that this testimony might be recorded, to show that he had unwavering confidence in God. He wished this eternal record to be made, to show that he was not a rejecter of truth; that he was not an enemy of God; that he had a firm confidence that God would yet come forth to vindicate him, and would stand up as his friend. It was a testimony worthy of being held in everlasting remembrance, and one which has had, and will have, a permanency much greater than he anticipated.
That my Redeemer - This important word has been variously translated. Rosenmuller and Schultens render it, vindicem; Dr. Good, Redeemer; Noyes and Wemyss, vindicator; Herder, avenger, Luther, Erloser- Redeemer; Chaldee and Syriac, Redeemer. The Hebrew word, גאל go'al is from גאל gā'al “to redeem, to ransom.” It is applied to the redemption of a farm sold, by paying back the price, Leviticus 25:25; Rth 4:4, Rth 4:6 ; to anything consecrated to God that is redeemed by paying its value, Leviticus 27:13, and to a slave that is ransomed, Leviticus 25:48-49. The word גאל go'el is applied to one who redeems a field, Leviticus 25:26; and is often applied to God, who had redeemed his people from bondage, Exodus 6:6; Isaiah 43:1. See the notes at Isaiah 43:1; and on the general meaning of the word, see the notes at Job 3:5. Among the Hebrews, the גאל go'el occupied an important place, as a blood-avenger, or a vindicator of violated rights.
See Numbers 35:12, Numbers 35:19, Numbers 35:21, Numbers 35:24-25, Numbers 35:27; Deuteronomy 19:6-12; Rth 4:1, Rth 4:6,Rth 4:8 ; Joshua 20:3. The word גאל go'el is rendered kinsman, Rth 4:1, Rth 4:3,Rth 4:6, Rth 4:8 ; near kinsman, Rth 3:9, Rth 3:12 ; avenger, Numbers 35:12; Joshua 20:3; Redeemer, Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14; Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 54:8; Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16; kin, Leviticus 25:25, et al. Moses found the office of the גאל go'el or avenger, already instituted, (see Michaelis‘s Commentary on laws of Moses, section cxxxvi.) and he adopted it into his code of laws. It would seem, therefore, not improbable that it prevailed in the adjacent countries in the time of Job, or that there may have been a reference to this office in the place before us. The גאל go'el is first introduced in the laws of Moses, as having a right to redeem a mortgaged field, Leviticus 25:25-26; and then as buying a right, as kinsman, to the restoration of anything which had been iniquitously acquired, Numbers 5:8.
Then he is often referred to in the writings of Moses as the blood-avenger, or the kinsman of one who was slain, who would have a right to pursue the murderer, and to take vengeance on him, and whose duty it would be to do it. This right of a near relative to pursues murderer, and to take vengeance, seems to have been one that was early conceded every where. It was so understood among the American Indians, and probably prevails in all countries before there are settled laws for the trial and punishment of the guilty. It was a right, however, which was liable to great abuse. Passion would take the place of reason, the innocent would be suspected, and the man who had slain another in self-defense was as likely to be pursued and slain as he who had been guilty of willful murder. To guard against this, in the unsettled state of jurisprudence, Moses appointed cities of refuge, where the man-slayer might flee until he could bare a fair opportunity of trial.
It was impossible to put an end at once to the office of the גאל go'el The kinsman, the near relative, would feel himself called on to pursue the murderer; but the man-slayer might flee into a sacred city, and remain until he had a fair trial; see Deuteronomy 19:6-7. It was a humane arrangement to appoint cities of refuge, where the man who had slain another might be secure until he had an opportunity of trial - an arrangement which eminently showed the wisdom of Moses. On the rights and duties of the גאל go'el the reader may consult Michaelis‘s Com. on the laws of Moses, art. 136,137. His essential office was that of a vindicator - one who took up the cause of a friend, whether that friend was murdered, or was oppressed, or was wronged in any way. Usually, perhaps always, this pertained to the nearest male kin, and was instituted for the aid of the defenceless and the wronged.
In times long subsequent, a somewhat similar feeling gave rise to the institution of chivalry, and the voluntary defenee of the innocent and oppressed. It cannot now be determined whether Job in this passage has reference to the office of the גאל go'el as it was afterward understood, or whether it existed in his time. It seems probable that the office would exist at the earliest periods of the world, and that in the rudest stages of society the nearest of kin would feel himself called on to vindicate the wrong done to one of the feebler members of his family. The word properly denotes, therefore, either vindicator, or redeemer; and so far as the term is concerned, it may refer either to God, as an avenger of the innocent, or to the future Redeemer - the Messiah. The meaning of this word would be met, should it be understood as referring to God, coming forth in a public manner to vindicate the cause of Job against all the charges and accusations of his professed friends; or to God, who would appear as his vindicator at the resurrection; or to the future Messiah - the Redeemer of the body and the soul. No argument in favor of either of these interpretations can be derived from the use of the word.
Liveth - Is alive - חי chay Septuagint, immortal - ἀένναός aennaos He seems now to have forsaken me as if he were dead, but my faith is unwavering in him as a living vindicator. A similar expression occurs in Job 16:19. “My witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.” It is a declaration of entire confidence in God, and will beautifully convey the emotions of the sincere believer in all ages. He may be afflicted with disease, or the loss of property, or be forsaken by his friends, or persecuted by his foes, but if he can look up to heaven and say, “I know that my Redeemer live‘s,” he will have peace.
And that he shall stand - He will stand up, as one does who undertakes the cause of another. Jerome has rendered this as though it referred to Job,” And in the last day I shall rise from the earth” - de terra surrecturus sum - as if it referred to the resurrection of the body. But this is not in accordance with the Hebrew, דקוּם deqûm - “he shall stand.” There is clearly no necessary reference in this word to the resurrection. The simple meaning is, “he shall appear, or manifest himself, as the vindicator of my cause.”
At the latter day - The word “day” here is supplied by the translators. The Hebrew is, יאחרין ye'achăryôn - and after, afterward, hereafter, at length. The word literally means, hinder, hinder part - opposite to foremost, former. It is applied to the Mediterranean sea, as being behind when the eye of the geographer was supposed to be turned to the East; (see the notes at Job 18:20;) then it means after, later, applied to a generation or age. Psalm 48:14, to a day - to future times - (אחרין יום yôm 'achăryôn ), Proverbs 31:25; Isaiah 30:8. All that this word necessarily expresses here is, that at some future period this would occur. It does not determine when it would be. The language would apply to any future time, and might refer to file coming of the Redeemer, to the resurrection, or to some subsequent period in the life of Job. The meaning is, that however long he was to suffer, however protracted his calamities were, and were likely to be, be had the utmost confidence that God would at length, or at some future time, come forth to vindicate him. The phrase, “the latter day,” has now acquired a kind of technical meaning, by which we naturally refer it to the day of judgment. But there is no evidence that it has any such reference here. On the general meaning of phrases of this kind, however, the reader may consult my notes at Isaiah 2:2.
Upon the earth - Hebrew על־עפר ‛al ‛âphâr - upon the dust. Why the word dust is used, instead of ארץ 'erets earth, is unknown. It may be because the word dust is emphatic, as being contrasted with heaven, the residence of the Deity. Noyes. What kited of an appearance God would assume when he should thus come forth, or how he would manifest himself as the vindicator and Redeemer of Job, he does not intimate, and conjecture would be useless. The words do not necessarily imply any visible manifestation - though such a manifestation would not be forbidden by the fair construction of the passage. I say, they do not necessarily imply it; see Psalm 12:5, “For the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, (Hebrew: stand up - אקוּם 'āqûm saith the Lord.” Psalm 44:26, “arise (Hebrew קוּמה qûmāh - stand up) for our help.” Whether this refers to any visible manifestation in behalf of Job is to be determined in other words than by the mere meaning of this word.
And though - Margin, Or, after I shall awake, though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh shall I see God. This verse has given not less perplexity than the preceding. Noyes renders it,
And though with this skin this body be wasted away,
Yet in my flesh shall I see God.
Dr. Good renders it,
And, after the disease hath destroyed my skin,
That in my flesh I shall see God.
Rosenmuller explains it, “And when after my skin (scil. is consumed and destroyed) they consume (scil. those corroding, or consuming, that is, it is corroded, or broken into fragments) this, that is, this structure of my bones - my body (which he does not mention, because it was so wasted away that it did not deserve to be called a body) - yet without my flesh - with my whole body consumed, shall I see God.” He translates it,
Et quum post cutem meam hoc fuerit consumptum,
Tamen absque carne mea videbo Deum.
The Hebrew is literally, “and after my skin.” Gesenius translates it, “After they shall have destroyed my skin, this shall happen - that I will see God.” Herder renders it,
Though they tear and devour this my skin,
Yet in my living body shall I see God.
The fair and obvious meaning, I think, is that which is conveyed by our translation. Disease had attacked his skin. It was covered with ulcers, and was fast consuming; compare Job 2:8; Job 7:5. This process of corruption and decay he had reason to expect would go on until all would be consumed. But if it did, he would hold fast his confidence in God. He would believe that he would come forth as his vindicator, and he would still put his trust in him.
Worms - This word is supplied by our translators. There is not a semblance of it in the original. That is, simply, “they destroy;” where the verb is used impersonally, meaning that it would be destroyed; The agent by which this would be done is not specified. The word rendered “destroy” נקפו nâqaphû from נקף nâqaph means “to cut, to strike, to cut down” (compare the notes at Job 1:5, for the general meaning of the word), and here means to destroy; that is, that the work of destruction might go on until the frame should be wholly wasted away. It is not quite certain that the word here would convey the idea that he expected to die. It may mean that he would become entirely emaciated, and all his flesh be gone. There is nothing, however, in the word to show that he did not expect to die - and perhaps that would be the most obvious and proper interpretation.
This body - The word body is also supplied by the translators. The Hebrew is simply זאת zô'th - this. Perhaps he pointed to his body - for there can be no doubt that his body or flesh is intended. Rosenmuller supposes that he did not mention it, because it was so emaciated that it did not deserve to be called a body.
Yet in my flesh - Hebrew “From my flesh” - מבשׂרי mı̂bâśârı̂y Herder renders this, “In my living body.” Rosenmuller, absque carne mea - “without my flesh;” and explains it as meaning, “my whole body being consumed, I shall see God.” The literal meaning is, “from, or out of, my flesh shall I see God.” It does not mean in his flesh, which would have been expressed by the preposition ב (b ) - but there is the notion that from or out of his flesh he would see him; that is, clearly, as Rosenmuller has expressed it, tho‘ my body be consumed, and I have no flesh, I shall see him. Disease might carry its fearful ravages through all his frame, until it utterly wasted away, yet; he had confidence that he would see his vindicator and Redeemer on the earth. It cannot be proved that this refers to the resurrection of that body, and indeed the natural interpretation is against it. It is, rather, that though without a body, or though his body should all waste away, he would see God as his vindicator. He would not always be left overwhelmed in this manner with calamities and reproaches. He would be permitted to see God coming forth as his Goal or Avenger, and manifesting himself as his friend. Calmly, therefore, he would bear these reproaches and trials, and see his frame waste away, for it would not always be so - God would yet undertake and vindicate his cause.
Shall I see God - He would be permitted to behold him as his friend and avenger. What was the nature of the vision which he anticipated, it is not possible to determine with certainty. If he expected that God would appear in some remarkable manner to judge the world and to vindicate the cause of the oppressed; or that he would come forth in a special manner to vindicate his cause; or if he looked to a general resurrection, and to the trial on that day, the language would apply to either of these events.
Whom I shall see for myself - It will not come to be by mere report. I shall not merely hear of the decision of God in my favor, but I shall myself behold him. He will at length come forth, and I shall be permitted to see him, and shall have the delightful assurance that he settles this controversy in my favor, and declares that I am his friend. Job was thus permitted to see God Job 42:5, and hear his voice in his favor. He spake to him from the whirlwind Job 38:1, and pronounced the sentence in his favor which he had desired.
And not another - Margin, a stranger. So in the Hebrew. The meaning is, that his own eyes would be permitted to see him. He would have the satisfaction of seeing God himself, and of hearing the sentence in his favor. That expectation he deemed worthy of a permanent record, and wished it transmitted to future times, that in his darkest days and severest trials - when God overwhelmed him, and man forsook him, he still firmly maintained his confidence in God, and his belief that he would come forth to vindicate his cause.
Though my reins - The margin renders this, “my reins within me are consumed with earnest desire for that day.” Noyes translates it, “For this my soul panteth within me.” Herder,
I shall see him as my deliverer,
Mine eyes shall behold him, as mine,
For whom my heart so long fainted.
So Wemyss, “My reins faint with desire of his arrival.” Jerome renders it (Vulgate), reposita est hoec spes mea in sinu meo - “this, my hope, is laid up in my bosom.” The Septuagint, “All which things have been done - συντετέλεσται suntetelestai - in my bosom,” but what they understood by this it is difficult to say. The word rendered “reins” כליה kı̂lyâh - or in the plural כליות kı̂lyôth - in which form only it is found), means properly the reins, or the kidneys Job 16:13. and then comes to denote the inward parts, and then the seat of the desires and affections, because in strong emotions the inward parts are affected. We speak of the heart as the seat of the affections, but with no more propriety than the Hebrews did of the upper viscera in general, or of the reins. In the Scriptures the heart and the reins are united as the seat of the affections. Thus, Jeremiah 11:20, God “trieth the reins and the heart;” Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 20:12; Psalm 7:10. I see no reason why the word here may not be used to denote the viscera in general, and that the idea may be, that he felt that his disease was invading the seat of life, and his body, in all its parts, was wasting away. Our word vitals, perhaps, expresses the idea.
Be consumed - Gesenius renders this, “Pine away.” So Noyes, Wemyss, and some others. But the proper meaning of the word is, to consume, to be wasted, to be destroyed. The word כלה kâlâh strictly means to finish, complete, render entire; and thence has the notion of completion or finishing - whether by making a thing perfect, or by destroying it. It is used with reference to the eyes that fail or waste away with weeping, Lamentations 2:11, or to the spirit or heart. as fainting with grief and sorrow. Psalm 84:3; Psalm 143:7; Psalm 69:4. It is used often in the sense of destroying. Jeremiah 16:4; Ezra 5:13; Psalm 39:11; Isaiah 27:10; Isaiah 49:4; Genesis 41:30; Jeremiah 14:12; et soepe al. This, I think, is the meaning here. Job affirms that his whole frame, external and internal, was wasting away, yet he had confidence that he would see God.
Within me - Margin, in my bosom. So the Hebrew. The word bosom is used here as we use the word chest - and is not improperly rendered “within me.” In view of this exposition of the words, I would translate the whole passage as follows:
For I know that my Avenger liveth,
And that hereafter he shall stand upon the earth;
And though after my skin this (flesh) shall be destroyed,
Yet even without my flesh shall I see God:
Whom I shall see for myself,
And mine eyes shall behold, and not another,
Though my vitals are wasting away within me.
It has already been observed, that very various views have been entertained of this important passage of Scripture. The great question has been, whether it refers to the Messiah, and to the resurrection of the dead, or to an expectation which Job had that God would come forth as his vindicator in some such way as he is declared afterward to have done. It may be proper, therefore. to give a summary of the arguments by which these opinions would be defended. I have not found many arguments stated for the former opinion, though the belief is held by many, but they would be probably such as the following: -
I. Arguments which would be adduced to show that the passage refers to the Messiah and to the future resurrection of the dead.
(1) The language which is used is such as would appropriately describe such events. This is undoubted, though more so in our translation than in the original; but the original would appropriately express such an expectation.
(2) The impression which it would make on the mass of readers, and particularly those of plain, sober sense, who had no theory to defend. It is probably a fact, that the great body of the readers of the Bible suppose that it has such a reference. It is usually a very strong presumptive proof of the correctness of an interpretation of Scripture when this can be alleged in its favor, though it is not an infallible guide.
(3) The probability that some knowledge of the Messiah would prevail in Arabia in the time of Job. This must be admitted, though it cannot be certainly demonstrated; compare Numbers 24:17. The amount of this is, that it could not be regarded as so improbable that any such knowledge would prevail as to demonstrate certainly that this could not be referred to the Messiah.
(4) The probability that there would be found in this book some allusion to the Redeemer - the great hope of the ancient saints, and the burden of the Old Testament But this is not conclusive or very weighty, for there are several of the books of the Old Testament which contain no distinct allusion to him.
(5) The pertinency of such a view to the case, and its adaptedness to give to Job the kind of consolation which he needed. There can be no doubt of the truth of this; but the question is, not what would have imparted consolation, but what knowledge he actually had. There are many of the doctrines of the Christian religion which would have been eminently fitted to give comfort in such circumstances to a man in affliction, which it would be exceedingly unreasonable to expect to find in the book of Job, and which it is certain were wholly unknown to him and his friends.
(6) The importance which he himself attached to his declaration, and the solemnity of the manner in which he introduced it. His profession of faith on the subject he wished to have engraved in the eternal rocks. he wished it transmitted to future times. He wished a permanent record to be made, that succeeding ages might read it, and see the ground of his confidence and his hope. This, to my mind, is the strongest argument which has occurred in favor of the opinion that the passage refers to the Redeemer and to the resurrection. These are all the considerations which have occurred to me, or which I have found stated, which would go to sustain the position that the passage referred to the resurrection. Some of them have weight; but the prevailing opinion, that the passage has such a reference. will be found to be sustained, probably, more by the feelings of piety than by solid argument and sound exegesis. It is favored, doubtless, by our common version, and there can be no doubt that the translators supposed that it had such a reference.
II. On the other hand, weighty considerations are urged to show that the passage does not refer to the Messiah, and to the resurrection of the dead. They are such as the following:
(1) The language, fairly interpreted and translated, does not necessarily imply this. It is admitted that our translators had this belief, and without doing intentional or actual violence to the passage, or designing to make a forced translation, they have allowed their feelings to give a complexion to their language which the original does not necessarily convey. Hence, the word “Redeemer,” which is now used technically to denote the Messiah, is employed, though the original “may,” and commonly “does,” have a much more general signification; and hence, the phrase “at the latter day,” also a technical phrase, occurs, though the original means no more than “afterward” or “after this;” and hence, they have employed the phrase “in my flesh,” though the original means no more than “though my flesh be all wasted away.” The following I believe to express fairly the meaning of the Hebrew:” I know that my deliverer, or avenger, lives, and that he will yet appear in some public manner on the earth; and though after the destruction of my skin, the process of corruption shall go on until “all” my flesh shall be destroyed, yet when my flesh is entirely wasted away, I shall see God; I shall have the happiness of seeing him for myself, and beholding him with my own eyes, even though my very vitals shall be consumed. He will come and vindicate me and my cause. I have such confidence in his justice, that I do not doubt that he will yet show himself to be the friend of him who puts his trust in him.”
(2) It is inconsistent with the argument, and the whole scope and connection of the book, to suppose that this refers to the Messiah and to the resurrection of the body after death. The book of Job is strictly an “argument” - a train of clear, consecutive reasoning. It discusses a great inquiry about the doctrines of divine Providence and the divine dealings with people. The three friends of Job maintained that God deals with men strictly according to their character in this life - that eminent wickedness is attended with eminent suffering; and that when people experience any great calamity, it is proof of eminent wickedness. All this they meant to apply to Job, and all this Job denied. Yet he was perplexed and confounded. He did not know what to do with the “facts” in the case; but still he felt embarrassed. All that he could say was, that God would “yet” come forth and show himself to be the friend of those who loved him and that though they suffered now, yet he had confidence that be would appear for their relief.
Now, had they possessed the knowledge of the doctrine of the “resurrection of the dead,” it would have ended the whole debate. it would not only have met all the difficulties of Job, but we should have found him perpetually recurring to it - placing it in every variety of form - appealing to it as relieving his embarrassments, and as demanding an answer from his friends. But, on the supposition that this refers to the resurrection, it is remarkable that the passage here stands alone. Job never adverted to it before, but allowed himself to be greatly embarrassed for the lack of just such an argument, and he never refers to it again. He goes on to argue again “as if” he believed no such doctrine. He does not ask his friends to notice this: he expresses no surprise that they should pass by, in entire neglect, an argument which “must have been seen” to be decisive of the controversy. It is equally unaccountable that his friends should not have noticed it.
If the doctrine of the resurrection was true, it settled the case. It rendered all their arguments worthless, and would have met the case just as we meet similar cases now. It was incumbent on them to show that there was no evidence of the truth of any such doctrine as the resurrection, and that this could not be urged to meet their arguments. Yet they never allude to so important and unanswerable an argument, and evidently did not suppose that Job referred to any such event. It is equally remarkable that neither Elihu nor God himself, in the close of the book, make any such allusion, or refer to the doctrine of the resurrection at all, as meeting the difficulties of the case. In the argument with which the Almighty is represented as closing the book, the whole thing is resolved into a matter of “sovereignty,” and people are required to submit because God is great, and is inscrutable in his ways - not because the dead will be raised, and the inequalities of the present life will be recompensed in a future state. The doctrine of a “resurrection” - a great and glorious doctrine, such as, if once suggested, could not have escaped the profound attention of these sages - would have solved the whole difficulty; and yet, confessedly, it is never alluded to by them - never introduced - never examined - never admitted or rejected - never becomes a matter of inquiry, and is never referred to by God himself as settling the matter - never occurs in the book in any form, unless it be in this. This is wholly unaccountable on the supposition that this refers to the resurrection.
(3) The interpretation which refers this to the resurrection of the dead, is inconsistent with numerous passages where Job expresses a contrary belief. Of this nature are the following: Job 7:9,” As the cloud is consumed, and vanisheth away, so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more;” Job 7:21, “I shall sleep in the dust thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be;” see Job 10:21-22, “I go whence I shall not return - to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death; a land of darkness as darkness itself;” Job 14:7, Job 14:9, Job 14:11-12,” For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. But man dieth, and wasteth away; yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up, so man lieth down and riseth not; until the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.”
Job 16:22, “when a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.” These passages all imply that when he should die, he would not appear again on the earth. This is not such language as one would use who believed in the resurrection of the dead. It is true, that in the discourses of Job, various and sometimes apparently contradictory feelings are expressed. He was a severe sufferer; and under strong conflicting emotions he sometimes expressed himself in a manner which he at other times regrets, and gives vent to feelings which, on mature reflection, he confesses to have been wrong. But how is it “possible” to believe that a man, in his circumstances, would ever deny the doctrine of the resurrection if he held it? How could he forget it? How could he throw out a remark that “seemed” to imply a doubt of it? If he had known of this, it would have been a sheet-anchor to his soul in all the storms of adversity - an unanswerable argument to all that his friends advanced - atopic of consolation which he could never have lost sight of, much less denied. He would have clung to that hope as the refuge of his soul, and not for one moment would he have denied it, or expressed a doubt of its truth.
(4) I may urge as a distinct argument what has before been hinted at, that this is not referred to as a topic of consolation by either of the friends of Job, by Elihu, or by God himself. Had it been a doctrine of those times, his friends would have understood it, and it would have reversed all their theology. Had it been understood by Elihu, he would have urged it as a reason for resignation in affliction. Had God designed that it should be known in that age, no more favorable opportunity could be conceived for the purpose than at the end of the arguments in this book. What a flood of light would it have thrown on the design of afflictions! How effectually would it have rebuked the arguments of the friends of Job! And how clear is it, therefore, that God did not “intend” that it should then be revealed to man, but meant that it should be reserved for a more advanced state of the world, and particularly that it should be reserved as the grand doctrine of the Christian revelation.
(5) A fifth consideration is, that on the supposition that it refers to the resurrection, it would be inconsistent with the views which prevailed in the age when Job is supposed to have lived. It is wholly in advance of that age. It makes little difference in regard to this whether we suppose him to have lived in the time of Abraham, Jacob, or Moses, or even at a later period - such a supposition would be equally at variance with the revelations which had then been given. The clear doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, is one of the unique doctrines of Christianity - one of the last truths of revelation, and is one of the glorious truths which seem to have been reserved for the Redeemer himself to make known to man. There are, indeed, obscure traces of it in the Old Testament. Occasionally we meet with a hint on the subject that was sufficient to excite the hopes of the ancient saints, and to lead them to suppose that more glorious truths were in reserve to be communicated by the Messiah. But those hints occur at distant intervals; are obscure in their character, and perhaps if all in the Old Testament were collected, they would not be sufficient to convey any very intelligible view of the resurrection of the dead.
But on the supposition that the passage before us refers to that doctrine, we have here one of the most clear and full revelations on the subject, laid far back in the early ages of the world, originating in Arabia, and entirely in advance of the prevailing views of the age, and of all that had been communicated by the Spirit of inspiration to the generations then living. It is admitted, indeed, that it was “possible” for the Holy Spirit to communicate that truth in its fulness and completeness to an Arabian sage; but it is not the way in which revelation, in other respects, has been imparted. It has been done “gradually.” Obscure intimations are given at first - they are increased from time to time - the light becomes clearer, until some prophet discloses the whole truth, and the doctrine stands complete before us. Such a course we should expect to find in regard to the doctrine of the resurrection, and such is exactly the course pursued, unless “this” passage teaches what was in fact the highest revelation made by the Messiah.
(6) All which the words and phrases fairly convey, and all which the argument demands, is fully met by the supposition that it refers to some such event as is recorded in the close of the book. God appeared in a manner corresponding to the meaning of the words here upon the earth. He came as the Vindicator, the Redeemer, the גאל gō'el of Job. He vindicated his cause, rebuked his friends, expressed his approbation of the sentiments of Job, and blessed him again with returning prosperity and plenty. The disease of the patriarch may have advanced, as he supposed it would. His flesh may have wasted away, but his confidence in God was not misplaced, and he came forth as his vindicator and friend. It was a noble expression of faith on the part of Job; it showed that he “had” confidence in God, and that in the midst of his trials he truly relied on him; and it was a sentiment worthy to be engraved in the eternal rock, and to be transmitted to future times.
It was an invaluable lesson to sufferers, showing them that confidence could, and should be placed in God in the severest trials. So far as I can see, all that is fairly implied in the passage, when properly interpreted, is fully met by the events recorded in the close of the book. Such an interpretation meets the exigency of the case, accords with the strain of the argument and with the result, and is the most simple and natural that has been proposed. These considerations are so weighty in my mind that they have conducted me to a conclusion, contrary I confess to what I had “hoped” to have reached, that this passage has no reference to the Messiah and the doctrine of the resurrection. We do not “need” it - for all the truths respecting the Messiah and the resurrection which we need, are fully revealed elsewhere; and though this is an exquisitely beautiful passage, and piety would love to retain the belief that it refers to the resurrection of the dead, yet “truth” is to be preferred to indulgence of the wishes and desires of the heart, however amiable or pious, and the “desire” to find certain doctrines in the Bible should yield to what we are constrained to believe the Spirit of inspiration actually taught.
I confess that I have never been so pained at any conclusion to which I have come in the interpretation of the Bible, as in the case before us. I would like to have found a distinct prophecy of the Messiah in this ancient and venerable book. I would like to have found the faith of this eminent saint sustained by such a faith in his future advent and incarnation. I would like to have found evidence that this expectation had become incorporated in the piety of the early nations, and was found in Arabia. I would like to have found traces of the early belief of the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead sustaining the souls of the patriarchs then, as it does ours now, in trial. But I cannot. Yet I can regard it as a most beautiful and triumphant expression of confidence in God, and as wholly worthy to be engraved, as Job desired it might be, in the solid rock forever, that the passing traveler might see and read it; or as worthy of that more permanent record which it has received by being “printed in a book” - by an art unknown then, and sent down to the end of the world to be read and admired in all generations.
The opinion which has now been expressed, it is not necessary to say, has been held by a large number of the most distinguished critics. Grotius says that the Jews never applied it to the Messiah and the resurrection. The same opinion is held by Grotius himself, by Warburton, Rosenmuller, Le Clerc, Patrick, Kennicott, Dalthe, and Jahn. Calvin seems to be doubtful - sometimes giving it an interpretation similar to that suggested above, and then pursuing his remarks as if it referred to the Messiah. Most of the fathers, and a large portion of modern critics, it is to be admitted, suppose that it refers to the Messiah, and to the future resurrection.
But ye should say - Noyes renders this, “Since ye say, ‹How may we persecute him, and find grounds of accusation against him?‘” Dr. Good,
Then shall ye say, “How did we persecute him?”
When the root of the matter is disclosed in me.
The Vulgate, “Why now do ye say, let us persecute him, and find ground of accusation - “radicem verbi ” against him?” The Septuagint, “If you also say, What shall we say against him? and what ground of accusation - ῥίζαν λόγου rizan logou - shall we find in him?” Rosenmuller renders it, “When you say, let us persecute him, and see what ground of accusation we can find in him, then fear the sword.” Most critics concur in such an interpretation as implies that they had sought a ground of accusation against him, and that they would have occasion to fear the divine displeasure on account of it. It seems to me, however, that our translators have given substantially the fair sense of the Hebrew. A slight variation would, perhaps, better express the idea: “For you will yet say, Why did we persecute him? The root of the matter was found in him - and since this will be the case, fear now that justice will overtake you for it, for vengeance will not always slumber when a friend of God is wronged.”
Seeing the root of the matter - Margin, “and” what “root of matter is found in me.” The word rendered “matter” (דבר dâbâr ), “word or thing.” means, properly, word or thing - and may refer to “any” thing. Here it is used in one of the two opposite senses, “piety” or “guilt” - as being “the thing” under consideration. The interpretation to be adopted must depend on the view taken of the other words of the sentence. To me it seems that it denotes piety, and that the idea is, that the root of true piety was in him, or that he was not a hypocrite. The word root is so common as to need no explanation. It is used sometimes to denote the “bottom,” or the lowest part of anything - as e. g., the foot (see Job 13:27, “margin”), the bottom of the mountains Job 28:9, or of the sea, Job 36:30, “margin.” Here it means the foundation, support, or source - as the root is of a tree; and the sense, I suppose, is, that he was not a dead trunk, but he was like a tree that had a root, and consequently support and life. Many critics, however, among whom is Gesenius, suppose that it means that the root of the controversy, that is, the ground of strife, was in “him,” or that he was the cause of the whole dispute.
Be ye afraid of the sword - Of the sword of justice, of the wrath of God. In taking such views, and using such language, you ought to dread the vengeance of God, for he will punish the guilty.
For wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword - The word “bringeth” is supplied by the translators, and as it seems to me improperly. The idea is, that wrath or anger such as they had manifested, was proper for punishment; that such malice as they had shown was a crime that God would not suffer to escape unpunished. They had, therefore, everything to dread. Literally, it is, “for wrath the iniquities of the sword;” that is, wrath is a crime for the sword.
That ye may know that there is a judgment - That there is justice; that God punishes injuries done to the character, and that he will come forth to vindicate his friends. Probably Job anticipated that when God should come forth to vindicate “him,” he would inflict exemplary punishment on “them;” and that this would be not only by words, but by some heavy judgment, such as he had himself experienced. The vindication of the just is commonly attended with the punishment of the unjust; the salvation of the friends of God is connected with the destruction of his foes. Job seems to have anticipated this in the case of himself and his friends; it will certainly occur in the great day when the affairs of this world shall be wound up in the decisions of the final judgment. See Matthew 25.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany