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Wednesday, September 27th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Job 5

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

Call now - The expressions used here, as Noyes has well observed, seem to be derived from the law, where the word “call” denotes the language of the complainant, and answer that of the defendant. According to this, the meaning of the words “call now” is, in jus voca: that is, call the Deity to account, or bring an action against him: or more properly, enter into an argument or litigation, as before a tribunal; see the notes at Isaiah 41:1, where similar language occurs.

If there be any that will answer thee - If there is anyone who will respond to thee in such a trial. Noyes renders this, “See if He will answer thee;” that is, “See if the Deity will condescend to enter into a judicial conroversy with thee, and give an account of his dealings toward thee.” Dr. Good renders it, “Which of these can come forward to thee; that is, “Which of these weakly, ephemeral, perishing insects - which of these nothings can render thee any assistance?” The meaning is probably, “Go to trial, if you can find any respondent; if there is any one willing to engage in such a debate; and let the matter be fairly adjudicated and determined. Let an argument be entered into before a competent tribunal, and the considerations pro and con be urged on the point now under consideration.” The desire of Eliphaz was, that there should be a fair investigation, where all that could be said on one side or the other of the question would be urged, and where there would be a decision of the important point in dispute. He evidently felt that Job would be foiled in the argument before whomsoever it should be conducted, and whoever might take up the opposite side; and hence, he says that he could get no one of “the saints” to assist him in the argument. In the expression, “if there be any that will answer thee,” he may mean to intimate that he would find no one who would be willing even to go into an investigation of the subject. The case was so plain, the views of Job were so obviously wrong, the arguments for the opinion of Eliphaz were so obvious, that he doubted whether anyone could be found who would be willing to make it the occasion of a set and formal trial, as if there could be any doubt about it.

And to which of the saints wilt thou turn? - Margin, as in Hebrew “look.” That is, to which of them wilt thou look to be an advocate for such sentiments, or which of them would be willing to go into an argument on so plain a subject? Grotins supposes that Eliphaz, having boasted that he had produced a divine revelation in his favor Job 4:0, now calls upon Job to produce, if he can, something of the same kind in his defense, or to see if there were any of the heavenly spirits who would give a similar revelation in his favor. The word here rendered “saints” (קדשׁים qôdeshı̂ym) means properly those who are sanctified or holy; and it may be either applied to holy men, or to angels. It is generally supposed that it here refers to angels. So Schultens, Rosenmuller, Noyes, Good, and others, understand it. The word is often used in this sense in the Scriptures. So the Septuagint understands it here - ἤ εἴτινα ἀγγέλων ἁγίων ὄψῃ eitina angelōn hagiōn opsē. Such is probably its meaning; and the sense of the passage is, “Call now upon anyone, and you will find none willing to be the advocate of such sentiments as you have urged. No holy beings - human beings or angels - would defend them.” By this, probably, Eliphaz designed to show Job that he differed from all holy being, and that his views were not those of a truly pious man. If he could find no one, either among holy angels or pious men, to be the advocate of his opinions, it followed that he must be in error.

Verse 2

For wrath killeth the foolish man - That is, the wrath of God. The word foolish here is used as synonymous with wicked, because wickedness is supreme folly. The general proposition here is, that the wicked are cut off, and that they are overtaken with heavy calamities in this life. In proof of this, Eliphaz appeals in the following verses to his own observation: The implied inference is, that Job, having had all his possessions taken away, and having been overwhelmed with unspeakably great personal calamities, was to be regarded as having been a great sinner. Some suppose, however, that the word “wrath” here relates to the indignation or the repining of the individual himself, and that the reference is to the fact that such wrath or repining preys upon the spirit, and draws down the divine vengeance. This is the view of Schultens, and of Noyes. But it seems more probable that Eliphaz means to state the proposition, that the wrath of God burns against the wicked, and that the following verses are an illustration of this sentiment, derived from his own observation.

And envy - Margin, “indignation.” Jerome, invidia, envy. Septuagint ζῆλος zēlos. Castellio, severitas ac vehementia. The Hebrew word קנאה qı̂n'âh means jealousy, envy, ardor, zeal. It may be applied to any strong affection of the mind; any fervent, glowing, and burning emotion. Gesenius supposes it means here envy, as excited by the prosperity of others. To me it seems that the connection requires us to understand it of wrath, or indignation, as in Deuteronomy 29:20; Psalms 79:5. As applied to God, it often means his jealousy, or his anger, when the affections of people are placed on other objects than himself; Numbers 25:11; Zephaniah 1:18, et al.

Slayeth the silly one - Good and Noyes render this, “the weak man.” Jerome, parvulum, the little one. The Septuagint, πεπλανημένον peplanēmenon, the erring. Walton, ardelionem, the busy-body. The Hebrew word פתה poteh is from פתה pâthâh, to open, go expand; and hence, the participleis applied to one who opens his lips, or whose mouth is open; that is, a garrulous person, Proverbs 20:19; and also to one who is open-hearted, frank, ingenuous, unsuspicious; and hence, one who is easily influenced by others, or whose heart may be easily enticed. Thus, it comes to mean one who is simple and foolish. In this sense it is used here, to denote one who is so simple and foolish as to be drawn aside by weak arguments and unfounded opinions. I have no doubt that Eliphaz meant, by insinuation, to apply this to Job, as being a weak-minded man, for having allowed the views which he entertained to make such an impression on his mind, and for having expressed himself as he had done. The proposition is general; but it would be easy to undertand how he intended it to be applied.

Verse 3

Taking root - This figure, to denote prosperous and rapid growth, is often used in the Scriptures. Thus, in Psalms 1:3 :

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,

That bringeth forth his fruit in his season.”

So Isaiah 27:6 :

“Those that come out of Jacob shall he cause to take root;

Israel shall blossom and bud,

And shall fill the face of the world with fruit.”

So Psalms 80:9-10 :

“Thou preparedst room before it,

And didst cause it to take deep root,

And it filled the land.

The hills were covered with the shadow of it,

And the boughs thereof were like the goodly cedars.”

But suddenly - Meaning either that calamity came upon him suddenly - as it had upon Job, that is, without any apparent preparation, or that; calamity came before a great while, that is, that this prosperity did not continue. Probably there is an implied reference hereto the case of Job, meaning that he had known just such instances before; and as the case of Job accorded with what he had before seen, he hastened to the conclusion that Job must have been a wicked man.

I cursed his habitation - I had occasion to regard it as accursed; that is, I witnessed the downfall of his fortunes, and pronounced his habitation accursed. I saw that God regarded it as such, and that he had suddenly punished him. This accords with the observation of David, referred to above.

Verse 4

His children are far from safety - That is, this is soon manifest by their being cut off or subjected to calamity. The object of Eliphaz is, to state the result of his own observation, and to show how calamity overtook the wicked though they even prospered for a time. He begins with that which a man would feel most - the calamity which comes upon his children, and says that God would punish him in them. Every word of this would go to the heart of Job; for he could not but feel that it was aimed at him, and that the design was to prove that the calamities that had come upon his children were a proof of his own wickedness and of the divine displeasure. It is remarkable that Job listens to this with the utmost patience. There is no interruption of the speaker; no breaking in upon the argument of his friend; no mark of uneasiness. Oriental politeness required that a speaker should be heard attentively through whatever he might say. See the Introduction, Section 7. Cutting and severe, therefore, as this strain of remark must have been, the sufferer sat meekly and heard it all, and waited for the appropriate time when an answer might be returned.

And they are crushed in the gate - The gate of a city in ancient times was the chief place of concourse, and was the place where public business was usually transacted, and where courts of justice were held; see Genesis 23:10; Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 25:6-7; Ruth 4:1 ff: Psalms 127:5; Proverbs 22:22. The Greeks also held their courts in some public place of business. Hence, the forum, ἀγορά agora, was also a place for fairs. See Jahn’s Archaeology, section 247. Some suppose that the meaning here is, that they were oppressed and trodden down by the concourse in the gate. But the more probable meaning is, that they found no one to advocate their cause; that they were subject to oppression and injustice in judicial decisions, and then when their parent was dead, no one would stand up to vindicate them from respect to his memory. The idea is, that though there might be temporary prosperity, yet that it would not be long before heavy calamities would come upon the children of the wicked.

Verse 5

Whose harvest the hungry eateth up - That is, they are not permitted to enjoy the avails of their own labor. The harvest field is subject to the depredations of others, who contrive to possess themselves of it, and to consume it.

And taketh it even out of the thorns - Or, he seizes it to the very thorns. That is, the famished robber seizes the whole of the harvest. He takes it all away, even to the thistles, and chaff, and cockle, and whatever impure substances there may be growing with the grain. He does not wait to separate the grain from the other substances, but consumes it all. He spares nothing.

And the robber swalloweth up their substance - Noyes renders this, as Gesenius proposes to do, “and a snare gapeth after his substance;” Dr. Good, “and rigidly swoopeth up their substance.” Rosenmuller much better:

Cujusquo facultates oxhauriebant sitibundi, copying exactly the version of Castellio. The Vulgate in a similar manner, Et bibent sitientes divitias ejus - And the thirsty drink up his wealth. The Septuagint, ἐκσιφωνισθείη αὐτῶν ἡ ἰσχύς eksifōnisthein autōn hē ischus - “should their power be absorbed.” The true sense, as I conceive, is, “the thirsty gasp, or pant, after their wealth;” that is, they consume it. The word rendered in our common version “the robber צמים tsammı̂ym is, according to the ancient versions, the same as צמאים tsâmê'ı̂ym, the thirsty, and this sense the parallelism certainly requires. So obvious is this, that it is better to suppose a slight error in the Hebrew text, than to give it the signification of a snare,” as Noyes does, and as Gesenius (Lexicon) proposes. The word rendered “swalloweth up” (שׁאף shâ'aph) means, properly, to breathe hard, to pant, to blow; and then to yawn after, to desire, to absorb; and the sense here is, that the thirsty consume their property. The whole figure is taken from robbers and freebooters; and I have no doubt that Eliphaz meant impliedly to allude to the ease of Job, and to say that he had known just such cases, where, though there was great temporary prosperity, yet before long the children of the man who was prospered, and who professed to be pious, but was not, were crushed, and his property taken away by robbers. It was this similarity of the case of Job to the facts which he had observed, that staggered him so much in regard to his cbaracter.

Verse 6

Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust - Margin, “or iniquity.” The marginal reading here has been inserted from the different meanings attached to the Hebrew word. That word (און 'âven) properly means nothingness, or vanity; then nothingness as to worth, unworthiness, wickedness, iniquity; and then the consequences of iniquity - adversity, calamity, affliction; Psalms 55:4; Proverbs 22:8; Psalms 90:10; Job 15:35. The Septuagint renders it κόπος kopos, “labor,” or “trouble.” The Vulgate, Nihil in terra, sine causa - “there is nothing on the earth without a cause.” The general sense is plain. It is, that afflictions are not to be ascribed to chance, or that they are not without intelligent design. They do not come up like thistles, brambles, and thorns, from the unconscious earth. They have a cause. They are under the direction of God. The object of Eliphaz in the statement is, to show to Job that it was improper to complain, and that he should commit his cause to a God of infinite power and wisdom; Job 5:8 ff. Afflictions, Eliphaz says, could not be avoided. Man was born unto them. He ought to expect them, and when they come, they should be submitted to as ordered by an intelligent, wise, and good Being. This is one true ground of consolation in afflictions. They do not come from the unconscious earth: they do not spring up of themselves. Though it is true that man is born to them, and must expect them, yet it is also true that they are ordered in infinite wisdom, and that they always have a design.

Neither doth trouble spring out of the ground - The Septuagint renders this, “Nor will affliction spring up from the mountains.”

Verse 7

Yet man is born unto trouble - All this is connected with the sentiment in Job 5:8 ff. The meaning is, that “since afflictions are ordered by an intelligent Being, and since man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward, therefore it is wise to commit our cause to God, and not to complain against him.” Margin, or labor. The word here (עמל âmâl) rather means trouble, or affliction, than labor. The sense is, that as certainly as man is born, so sure is it that he will have trouble. It follows from the condition of our being, as certainly as that unconscious objects will follow the laws of their nature - that sparks will ascend. This seems to have a proverbial cast, and was doubtless regarded as a sentiment universally true. It is as true now as it was then; for it is still the great law of our being, that trouble as certainly comes sooner or later, as that material objects obey the laws of nature which God has impressed on them.

As the sparks fly upward - The Hebrew expression here is very beautiful - “as רשׁף בני benēy reshep - the sons of flame fly.” The word used (רשׁף reshep) means flame, lightning; the sons, or children of the flame, are that which it produces; that is, sparks. Gesenius strangely renders it, “sons of the lightning; that is, birds of prey which fly as swift as the lightning.” So Dr. Good, “As the bird-tribes are made to fly upwards.” So Umbreit renders it, Gleichwie die Brut des Raubgeflugels sich hoch in Fluge hebt - “as a flock of birds of prey elevate themselves on the wing.” Noyes adopts the construction of Gesenius; partly on the principle that man would be more likely to be compared to birds, living creatures, than to sparks. There is considerable variety in the interpretation of the passage. The Septuagint renders it, νεοσσοι δε γυπος neossoi de gupos - the young of the vulture. The Chaldee, מזיקי בני benēy mezēyqēy - “the sons of demons.” Syriac “Sons of birds.” Jerome, “Man is born to labor, and the bird to flight” - et avis ad volatum. Schultens renders it, “glittering javelins,” and Arius Montanus, “sons of the live coal.” It seems to me that our common version has expressed the true meaning. But the idea is not essentially varied whichever interpretation is adopted. It is, that as sparks ascend, or as birds fly upward - following the laws of their being - so is trouble the lot of man. It certainly comes; and comes under the direction of a Being who has fixed the laws of the inferior creation. It would be wise for man, therefore, to resign himself to God in the times when those troubles come. He should not sit down and complain at this condition of things, but should submit to it as the law of his being, and should have sufficient confidence in God to believe that he orders it aright.

Verse 8

I would seek unto God - Our translators have omitted here the adversative particle אוּלם 'ûlâm but, yet, nevertheless, and have thus marred the connection. The meaning of Eliphaz, I take to be, “that since affliction is ordered by an intelligent Being, and does not spring out of the ground, therefore he would commit his cause to God, and look to him.” Jerome has well expressed it, Quam ob rem ego deprecabor Dominum. Some have understood this as meaning that Eliphaz himself was in the habit of committing his cause to God, and that he exhorted Job to imitate his example. But the correct sense is that which regards it as counsel given to Job to look to God because afflictions are the result of intelligent design, and because God had shown himself to be worthy of the confidence of people. The latter point Eliphaz proceeds to argue in the following verses.

Verse 9

The labors of astronomers, aided by instruments of remarkable accuracy and power, and by improved methods of observation, are ever adding to our knowledge of the “wonderful things without number” which render the mechanism of the heavens such a spectacle of sublimity. Among the most interesting and beautiful of the celestial phenomena are the star clusters and nebulae. A small number of the star-clusters are bright enough to be distinguished by the naked eye, to which they appear as a faint cloudlike patch of light; but it is only when the telescope is used that their real character becomes known, and they are then seen to be vast conglomerations of stars-connected systems of suns. The greater number are of a rounded and apparently globular form, the stars being densely crowded together in the center; though others are very irregular in shape. Those of a globular form often consist of an astonishingly great number of stars. “Herschel has calculated that many clusters contain 5,000 collected in a space, the apparent dimensions of which are scarcely the tenth part of the surface of the lunar disk.” “The beautiful cluster in Aquarius, which Sir John Herschel’s drawing exhibits as fine luminous dust, when examined through the Earl of Rosse’s powerful reflector, appeared like a magnificent globular cluster, entirely separated into stars. But the most beautiful specimen of this kind is without doubt the splendid cluster in Toucan, quite visible to the naked eye, in the vicinity of the smaller Magellanic cloud, in a region of the southern sky entirely void of stars. The condensation at the center of this cluster is extremely decided; there are three perfectly distinct gradations, and the orange red color of the central agglomeration contrasts wonderfully with the white light of the concentric envelopes.”

It was formerly supposed by many that all nebulae were resolvable into star-clusters, and that it was only the want of instruments of sufficient power that prevented this from being done; but spectrum analysis has now demonstrated what was before conjectured, that although there may be many nebulae that would appear as distinct stars if more powerful instruments were brought to bear upon them, there are others of a different nature, consisting, namely, of glowing masses of gaseous matter. The forms assumed by nebulae are extremely varied, and some of them very remarkable. The round or globular form is very common; others resemble rings, circular or oval; others are conical or fanshaped, resembling the tail of a comet; some consist of spirals, radiating from a common nucleus; while many assume forms so irregular and bizarre as to be difficult to describe. The names given to some of them, such as the Crab Nebula, the Dumb-bell Nebula, the Fish-mouth Nebula (Nebula in Orion, see Plate), sufficiently intimate the striking aspects that they sometimes present.

Many of the nebulae, in which the separate stars could not previously be distinguished, have been resolved by Lord Rosse’s great telescope; while others as seen by it have very different shapes from what less powerful instruments gave them. This is the case with the Dumb-bell Nebula in particular, its form as described and figured by Sir John Herschel being considerably different from that in our engraving, which shows its aspect under Lord Rosse’s telescope. “Two luminous masses symmetrically placed and bound together by a rather short neck, the whole surrounded with a light nebulous envelope of oval form, gave it a very marked appearance of regularity. This aspect was, however, modified by Lord Rosse’s telescope of three feet aperture, and the nebulous masses showed a decided tendency to resolvability. Later still, with the six-feet telescope, numerous stars were observed standing out, however, on a nebulous ground. The general aspect retains its primitive shape, less regular, but striking nevertheless. “With regard to the nebula in Orion we extract the following passage from Guillemin’s “The Heavens,” edited by John N. Lockyer, F. R. A.S., the work from which the above passages are taken: - “Sir John Herschel compares the brightest portion to the head of a monstrous animal, the mouth of which is open, and the nose of which is in the form of a trunk. Hence, its name, the Fish-mouth Nebula. It is at the edge of the opening, in a space free from nebula that the four brightest of the components of θ (th) (a sevenfold star, that is, a connected system of seven stars which appear to the naked eye a single luminous point) are to be found; around, but principally above the trapezium formed by these four stars is a luminous region, with a mottled appearance, which Lord Rosse and Bond have partly resolved. This region is remarkable on account, not only of the brilliancy of its lights, but also of the numerous centers where this light is condensed, and each of which appears to form a stellar cluster.

The rectangular form of the whole is also worthy of attention. The nebulous masses surrounding it, the light of which is much fainter than that of the central region, are lost gradually; according to Bond they assume a spiral form as indicated in the drawing executed by that astronomer” (from which our engraving is taken). Writing soon after Lord Rosse’s observation had resolved the nebula of Orion, Dr. Nichol says: - “The great cluster in Hercules has long dazzled the heart with its splendors; but we have learned now, that among circular and compact galaxies, a class to which the nebulous stars belong, there are multitudes which infinitely surpass it; nay, that schemes of being rise above it, sun becoming nearer to sun, until their skies must be one blaze of light, a throng of burning activities! But far aloft stands Orion, the pre-eminent glory and wonder of the starry universe! - It would seem almost that if all other clusters, hitherto gauged, were collected and compressed into one, they would not surpass this mighty group, in which every wisp, every wrinkle, is a sand heap of stars. There are cases in which, though imagination has quailed, reason may still adventure inquiry, and prolong its speculations; but at times we are brought to a limit across which no human faculty has the strength to penetrate, and where, as if at the very footstool of the secret throne, we can only bend our heads, and silently adore!” “These facts furnish a most impressive commentary upon the words of Eliphaz - which doeth great things and unsearchable, “marvelous things until there be no number” (margin) - and become the more significant from their connection with the constellation of orion, which is more than once mentioned in the book of Job” Job 9:9; Job 38:31.

Verse 10

Who giveth rain upon the earth - In the previous verse, Eliphaz had said, in general, that God did wonderful things - things which are fitted to lead us to put our trust in him. In this and the succeeding verses, he descends to particulars, and specifies those things which show that God is worthy to be confided in. This enunciation continues to Job 5:16, and the general scope is, that the agency of God is seen everywhere; and that his providential dealings are adapted to impress man with elevated ideas of his justice and goodness. Eliphaz begins with the rain, and says that the fact that God sends it upon the earth was fitted to lead man to confide in him. He means, that while the sun, and moon, and seasons have stated times, and are governed by settled laws, the rain seems to be sent directly by God, and is imparted at such times as are best. It is wholly under his control, and furnishes a constant evidence of his benevolence. Without it, every vegetable would dry up, and every animal on the earth would soon die. The word earth here refers probably to the cultivated part of the earth - the fields that are under tillage. Thus, Eichhorn renders it, Angebauten Feldern. On the interest which the phenomena of rain excited among the ancient sages of Idumea, and the laws by which it is produced, see Job 37:6, note; Job 37:15-16, note; Job 38:22-28, note.

And sendeth waters - That is, showers.

Upon the fields - Margin, “out-places.” Hebrew חוצוּת chûtsôt - out of doors, outside, abroad, meaning the fields out of cities and towns. Eichhorn renders it, “the pastures,” auf Triften. The meaning is, that the whole country is watered; and the fact that God gives rain in this manner, is a reason why we should put confidence in him. It shows that he is a benevolent Being, since it contributes so essentially to human life and happiness, and since no other being but God can cause it.

Verse 11

That those which mourn may be exalted to safety - Or rather, they who mourn are exalted to a place of safety, The sense is, that God did this; and that, therefore, there was ground of confidence in him. The word rendered “those which mourn” קדרים qoderı̂ym is from קדר qâdar, to be turbid or foul as a torrent, Job 6:16; hence, to go about in filthy garments, like mourners, to mourn. The general sense of the Hebrew word, as in Arabic, is to be squalid, dark, filthy, dusky, obscure; and hence, it denotes those who are afflicted, which is its sense here. The Septuagint renders it, ἀπολώλοτας apolōlotas, “the lost,” or those who are perished. The sense is plain. God raises up the bowed down, the oppressed, and the afflicted. Eliphaz undoubtedly referred to instances which had come under his own observation, when persons who had been in very depressed circumstances, had been raised up to situations of comfort, honor, and safety: and that in a manner which was a manifest interposition of his Providence. From this he argued that those who were in circumstances of great trial, should put their trust in him. Cases of this kind often occur; and a careful observation of the dealings of God with the afflicted, would undoubtedly furnish materials for an argument like that on which Eliphaz relied in this instance.

Verse 12

He disappointeth the devices of the crafty - He foils them in their schemes, or makes their plans vain. This too was the result of close observation on the part of Eliphaz. He had seen instances where the plans of crafty, designing, and artful people had been defeated, and where the straightforward had been prospered and honored. Such cases led him to believe that God was the friend of virtue, and was worthy of entire confidence.

So that their hands - So that they. The hands are the instruments by which we accomplish our plans.

Their enterprise - Margin, Or, “anything.” Hebrew תשׁיה tûshı̂yâh. This word properly means uprightness from ישׁע yâsha‛; then help, deliverance, Job 6:13; then purpose, undertaking, enterprise, that is, what one wishes to set up or establish. Gesenius. This is its meaning here. Vulgate, “Their hands cannot finish (implere) what they had begun.” Septuagint, “Their hands cannot perform that which is true” - ὰληθές alēthes. The Chaldee Paraphrase refers this to the defeat of the purposes of the Egyptians: “Who made vain the thoughts of the Egyptians, who acted wisely (or cunningly - דחכימו) that they might do evil to Israel, but their hands did not perform the work of their wisdom Job 5:13, who took the wise men of Pharaoh in their own wisdom, and the counsel of their perverse astrologers he made to return upon them.” The general sense is, that artful and designing men - people who work in the dark, and who form secret purposes of evil, are disappointed and foiled. Eliphaz probably had seen instances of this, and he now attributes it to God as rendering him worthy of the confidence of people. It is still true. The crafty and the designing are often foiled in such a manner as to show that it is wholly of God. He exposes their designs in this way, and shows that he is the friend of the sincere and the honest; and in doing this, he shows that he is worthy the confidence of his people.

Verse 13

“For force and rapine in their craftiest neta

Oft their own sons entangle; and the plague Ten-fold recoils.”

It is to be remembered that Eliphaz here speaks of his own observation, and of that as a reason for putting confidence in God. The sentiment is, that he had observed that a straightforward, honest, and upright course, was followed with the divine favor and blessing; but that a man who attempted to carry his plans by intrigue and stratagem, would not be permanently successfu. Sooner or later his cunning would recoil upon himself, and he would experience the disastrous consequences of such a course. It is still true. A man is always sure of ultimate success and prosperity, if he is straightforward and honest. He never can be sure of it, if he attempts to carry his plans by management. Other men may evince as much cunning as himself; and when his net springs, it may include himself as well as those for whom he set it. It will be well for him if it is not made to spring on him, while others escape.

And the counsel of the froward - The design of the perverse. The word here rendered “froward,” נפתלים nı̂pâthalı̂ym, is from פתל pâthal, to twist, to twine, to spin. It then means, to be twisted, crooked, crafty, deceitful. Here it means those who are crooked, artful, designing. Septuagint, πολυπλόκων poluplokōn, the involved - the much-entangled.

Is carried headlong - Hebrew is precipitated, or hastened. There is not time for it to be matured; there is a development of the scheme before it is ripe, and the trick is detected before there is time to put it in execution. Nothing can be more true than this often is now. Something that could not be anticipated develops the design, and brings the dark plot out to mid-day; and God shows that he is the foe of all such schemes.

Verse 14

They meet with darkness in the day-time - Margin, “run into;” compare the notes at Isaiah 59:10. The sense is, that where there is really no obstacle to the accomplishment of an honest plan - any more than there is for a man to walk in the day-time - they become perplexed and embarrassed, as much as a man would be, should sudden darkness come around him at mid-day. The same sentiment occurs in Job 12:25. A life of honesty and uprightness will be attended with prosperity, but a man who attempts to carry his plans by trick and art, will meet with unexpected embarrassments. The sentiment in all these expressions is, that God embarrasses the cunning, the crafty, and the artful, but gives success to those who are upright; and that, therefore, he is worthy of confidence.

Verse 15

But he saveth the poor from the sword - He shows himself to be the friend and protector of the defenseless. The phrase “from the sword, from their mouth,” has been variously interpreted. Dr. Good renders it,

So he saveth the persecutors from their mouth,

And the helpless from the hand of the violent.”


So he saveth the persecuted from their mouth,

The oppressed from the hand of the mighty.”

This rendering is obtained by changing the points in the word מחרב mēchereb, “from the sword,” to מחרב māchĕrāb, making it the Hophal participle from חרב chârab, to make desolate. This was proposed by Capellus, and has been adopted by Durell, Michaelis, Dathe, Doederlein, and others. Rosenmuller pronounces it wholly unauthorized. Jerome renders it, a gladio otis eorum - “from the sword of their mouth.” It seems to me that the whole verse may be literally rendered, “he saveth from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the strong, the poor.” According to this version, the phrase “from their mouth” may either mean from the mouth, i. e. the edge of the sword, using the plural for the singular, or from the mouth of oppressors, using it to represent their violence, and their disposition to devour the poor. The latter is more probably the true interpretation, and there is no need of a ehange in the points in the Hebrew. Thus, interpreted, the sense is, that God preserves the poor from oppression; or, in other words, that he befriends them, and is therefore worthy of confidence. This sentiment accords with what is found everywhere in the Bible.

Verse 16

So the poor hath hope - From the interposition of God. They are not left in a sad and comfortless condition. They are permitted to regard God as their protector and friend, and to look forward to another and a better world. This sentiment accords with all that is elsewhere said in the Scriptures, that the offers of mercy are specially made to the poor, and that they are especially the objects of the divine compassion.

And iniquity stoppeth her mouth - That is, the wicked are confounded when they see all their plans foiled, and find themselves entangled in the snares which they have laid for others. A similar sentiment occurs in Psalms 107:41-42 :

Yet setteth he the poor on high from affliction,

And maketh him families like a flock.

The righteous shall see it and rejoice,

And all iniquity shall stop her mouth.”

It is to be remembered that Eliphaz states this as the result of his own observation, and as clearly demonstrating in his view that there is a superintending and overruling Providence. A careful observation of the course of events would lead undoubtedly to the same conclusion, and this has been embodied in almost every language by some proverbial sentiment. We express it by saying that “honesty is the best policy;” a proverb that is undoubtcdly founded in wisdom. The sentiment is, that if a man wishes long to prosper, he should pursue a straight-forward and an honest course; that cunning, intrigue, underhanded dealing, and mere management, will sooner or later defeat itself, and recoil on the head of him who uses it; and that, therefore, if there were no higher motive than self-interest, a man should be honest, frank, and open. See this argument stated at greater length, and with great beauty, in Psalms 37:0.

Verse 17

Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth - This verse commences a new argument, designed to show that afflictions are followed by so important advantages as to make it proper that we should submit to them without a complaint. The sentiment in this verse, if not expressly quoted, is probably alluded to by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 12:5. The same thought frequently occurs in the Bible: see James 1:12; Proverbs 3:11-12. The sense is plain, that God confers a favor on us when he recalls us from our sins by the corrections of his paternal hand - as a father confers a favor on a child whom he restrains from sin by suitable correction. The way in which this is done, Eliphaz proceeds to state at length. He does it in most beautiful language, and in a manner entirely in accordance with the sentiments which occur elsewhere in the Bible. The word rendered “correcteth” (יכח yâkach) means to argue, convince, reprove, punish, and to judge.

It here refers to any of the modes by which God calls people from their sins, and leads them to walk in the paths of virtue. The word “happy” here, means that the condition of such an one is blessed (אשׁרי 'ēshrēy); Greek μακάριος makarios - not that there is happiness in the suffering. The sense is, that it is a favor when God recalls his friends from their wanderings, and from the error of their ways, rather than to suffer them to go on to ruin. He does me a kindness who shows me a precipice down which I am in danger of falling; he lays me under obligation to him who even with violence saves me from flames which would devour me. Eliphaz undoubtedly means to be understood as implying that Job had been guilty of transgression, and that God had taken this method to recall him from the error of his ways. That he had sinned, and that these calamities had come as a consequence, he seems never once to doubt; yet he supposes that the affliction was meant in kindness, and proceeds to state that if Job would receive it in a proper manner, it might be attended still with important benefits.

Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty - “Do not regret (תמאס tı̂m'ās). Septuagint, μή ἀπανάινου mē apanainou - the means which God is using to admonish you.” There is direct allusion here undoubtedly to the feelings which Job had manifested Job 3:0; and the object of Eliphaz is, to show him that there were important benefits to be derived from affliction which should make him willing to bear it without complaining. Job had exhibited, as Eliphaz thought, a disposition to reject the lessons which afflictions were designed to teach him, and to spurn the admonitions of the Almighty. From that state of mind he would recall him, and would impress on him the truth that there were such advantages to be derived from those afflictions as should make him willing to endure all that was laid upon him without a complaint.

Verse 18

For he maketh sore - That is, he afflicts.

And bindeth up - He heals. The phrase is taken from the custom of binding up a wound; see Isaiah 1:6, note; Isaiah 38:21, note. This was a common mode of healing among the Hebrews; and the practice of medicine appears to have been confined much to external applications. The meaning of this verse is, that afflictions come from God, and that he only can support, comfort, and restore. Health is his gift; and all the consolation which we need, and for which we can look, must come from him.

Verse 19

Ennēmar ceinisse kai ennea bous hiereusen.

An enumeration, in regard to number similar to the one before us, occurs in Proverbs 6:16 :

These six things doth the Lord hate;

Yea, seven are an abomination to him.

There shall no evil touch thee - That is, permanently; for he could not mean that he would not be subjected to calamity at all, since by the very supposition he was a sufferer. But the sense is, that God would save from those calamities.

Verse 20

In famine he shall redeem thee - That is, will deliver thee from death. On the meaning of the word “redeem,” see the notes at Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:3.

From the power of the sword - Margin, as in Hebrew “hands.” That is, he should not be slain by armed men. A mouth is often attributed to the sword in the Scriptures, because it devours; “hands” are attributed to it here, because it is by the hand that we perform an undertaking, and the sword is personified, and represented as acting as a conscious agent; compare Ezekiel 35:5, margin. The meaning is that God would protect those who put their trust in him, in times of calamity and war. Doubtless Eliphaz had seen instances enough of this kind to lead him to this general conclusion, where the pious poor had been protected in a remarkable manner, and where signal deliverances had been vouchsafed to the righteous in danger.

Verse 21

Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue - Margin, Or, “when the tongue scourgeth.” The word rendered “scourge” - שׁוט shôṭ - means properly a whip. It is used of God when he scourges people by calamities and punishments; Isaiah 10:26; Job 9:23. See the use of the verb שׁוּט shûṭ in Job 2:7. Here it is used to denote a slanderous tongue, as being that which inflicts a severe wound upon the reputation and peace of an individual. The idea is, that God would guard the reputation of those who commit themselves to him, and that they shall be secure from slander, “whose breath,” Shakespeare says, “outvenoms all the worms of Nile.”

Neither shalt thou be afraid when destruction cometh - That is, your mind shall be calm in those calamities which threaten destruction. When war rages, when the tempest howls, when the pestilence breathes upon a community, then your mind shall be at peace. A similar thought occurs in Isaiah 26:3 : “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee;” and the same sentiment is beautifully illustrated at length in Psalms 91:0. The Chaldee Paraphrase applies all this to events which had occurred in the history of the Hebrews. Thus, Job 5:20 : “In the famine in Egypt, he redeemed thee from death; and in the war with Amalek, from being slain by the sword;” Job 5:21 : “In the injury inflicted by the tongue of Balaam thou wert hid among the clouds, and thou didst not fear from the desolation of the Midianites when it came;” Job 5:22 : “In the desolation of Sihon, and in the famine of the desert, thou didst laugh; and of the camps of Og, who was like a wild beast of the earth, thou wert not afraid.”

Verse 22

At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh - That is thou shalt be perfectly safe and happy. They shall not come upon thee; and when they approach with threatening aspect, thou shalt smile with conscious security. The word here rendered famine (כפן kâphân) is an unusual word, and differs from that occurring in Job 5:20, רעב râ‛âb. This word is derived from כפן kâphan - to languish, to pine from hunger and thirst. It then means the languid and feeble state which exists where there is a lack of proper nutriment. A sentiment similar to that which is here expressed occurs in Martial, iv. 19, 4. Ridebis ventos line munere tectus, et imbres. “Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.” Wild beasts in new countries are always objects of dread, and in the fastnesses and deserts of Arabia, they were especially so. They abounded there; and one of the highest images of happiness there would be, that there would be perfect safety from them. A similar promise occurs in Psalms 91:13 :

Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder;

The young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under foot.

And a promise similar to this was made by the Savior to his disciples: “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” The sentiment of Eliphaz is, that they who put their trust in God would find protection, and have the consciousness that they were secure wherever they were.

Verse 23

For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field - In the Hebrew, “There shall be a covenant between thee and the stones of the field.” The sense is, they shall not harm thee. They are here spoken of as enemies that were made to be at peace, and that would not annoy or injure. It is to be remembered that this was spoken in Arabia, where rocks and stones abounded, and where traveling, from that cause, was difficult and dangerous. The sense here is, as I understand it, that he would be permitted to make his way in ease and safety. Tindal renders it:

But the castels in the land shall be confederate with thee;

The beastes of the fealde shall give thee peace.

Some have supposed that the meaning is, that the land would be free from stones that rendered it barren, and would be rendered fertile if the favor of God was sought. Shaw, in his Travels, supposes that it refers to the custom of walking over stones, in which the feet are liable to be injured every moment, and that the meaning is, that that danger would be averted by the divine interposition. By others it has been conjectured that the allusion is to a custom which is known as skopelism, of which Egmont and Heyman (Reisen, II. Th. S. 156), give the following account: “that in Arabia, if anyone is living at variance with another he places on his land stones as a warning that no one should dare to plow it, as by doing it he would expose himself to the danger of being punished by him who had placed the stones there.” This custom is also referred to by Ulpian (L. ix. de officio Proconsulis), and in the Greek Pandects, Lib. lx. Tit. xxii. Leg. 9. It may be doubted, however, whether this custom was as early as the time of Job, or was so common then as to make it probable that the allusion is to it. Rosenmuller supposes the meaning to be, “Thy field shall be free from stones, which would render it unfruitful.” Alte u. neue Morgenland, in loc. Other explanations may be seen in Rosenmuller (Commentary), but it seems to me that the view presented above, that traveling would be rendered safe and pleasant, is the true one. Such a promise would be among the rich blessings in a country like Arabia.

Verse 24

And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace - Thy tent - אהלך 'âhelēkāh - showing that it was common then to dwell in tents. The sense is, that when he was away from home he would have confidence that his dwelling was secure, and his family safe. This would be an assurance producing no small degree of consolation in a country abounding in wild beasts and robbers. Such is the nature of the blessing which Eliphaz says the man would have who put his confidence in God, and committed his cause to him. To a certain extent this was, and is, undoubtedly true. A man cannot indeed have miraculous assurance when from home, that his wife and children are still alive, and in health; nor can he be certain that his dwelling is not wrapped in flames, or that it has been preserved from the intrusion of evil-minded men. But he may feel assured that all is under the wise control of God; that whatever occurs will be by his permission and direction, and will tend to ultimate good. He may also, with calmness and peace, commit his home with all that is dear to him to God, and feel that in his hands all is safe.

And thou shalt visit thy habitation - That is, on the return from a journey.

And not sin - This is a very unhappy translation. The true sense is thou shalt not miss thy dwelling; thou shalt not wander away lost, to return no more. The word used here, and which is rendered “sin” in our common version, is חטא châṭâ'. It is true that it is commonly rendered to sin, and that it often has this sense. But it properly means “to miss;” that is, not to hit the mark, spoken of a slinger. Judges 20:16; then to make a false step, to stumble or fall, Proverbs 19:2. It thus accords exactly in sense with the Greek ἁμαρτάνω hamartanō. Here the original sense of the Hebrew word should bo retained, meaning that he would not miss the way to his dwelling; that is, that he would be permitted to return to it in safety. Gesenius, however, renders it, “thou musterest thy pasture (flocks), and missest naught:” that is, nothing is gone; all thy flocks are there. But the more obvious sense, and a sense which the connection demands, is that which refers the whole description to a man who is on a journey, and who is exposed to the dangers of wild beasts, and to the perils of a rough and stony way, but who is permitted to visit his home without missing it or being disappointed. A great variety ofinterpretations have been given of the passage, which may be seen in Rosenmuller and Good. Many suppose it means that he should review his domestic aflfairs, and find all to his mind; or should find that everything was in its place, or was as it should be. It can, not be doubted that the Hebrew word “visit” (פקד pâqad) will bear this interpretation, but that above proposed seems to me best to suit the connection. The margin correctly renders it, err.

Verse 25

Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great - Margin, “much.” That is, thy posterity shall be numerous. This was one of the blessings supposed to be connected with the favor of God; see the notes at Isaiah 53:10.

And thine offspring as the grass of the earth - On the meaning of the word here rendered offspring, see the notes at Isaiah 48:19. Nothing is more common in the Scriptures, than to compare a prosperous and a happy man to a green and flourishing tree; see Psalms 1:3; Psalms 92:12-14. The idea here is, that the righteous would have a numerous and a happy posterity, and that the divine favor to them would bc shown by the blessing of God on their children; compare Psalms 128:1, Psalms 128:3.

Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord,

That walketh in his ways.

Thy wife shall be a fruitful vine by the side of thine house;

Thy children like olive-plants round about thy table.

Verse 26

Thou shalt come to thy grave in full age - That is, thou shalt have long life; thou shalt not be cut down prematurely, nor by any sudden calamity. It is to be remembered that long life was regarded as an eminent blessing in ancient times; see the notes at Isaiah 65:22.

Like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season - Margin, “ascendeth.” As a sheaf of grain is harvested when it is fully ripe. This is a beautiful comparison, and the meaning is obvious. He would not be cut off before his plans were fully matured; before the fruits of righteousness had ripened in his life. He would be taken away when he was ripe for heaven - as the yellow grain is for the harvest. Grain is not cut down when it is green; and the meaning of Eliphaz is, that it is as desirable that man should live to a good old age before he is gathered to his fathers, as it is that grain should be suffered to stand until it is fully ripe.

Verse 27

Lo this - All this that I have said; the truth of all the remarks which I have made.

We have searched it - We have by careful observation of the course of events come to these conclusions. These are our views of the providence of God, and of the principles of his government, as far as we have had the opportunity of observing, and they are well worthy of your attention. The sentiments in these two chapters indicate close and accurate observation; and if we think that the observation was not always wholly accurate, or that the principles were carried further than facts would warrant, or that Eliphaz applied them with somewhat undue severity to the case of Job, we are to remember that this was in the infancy of the world, that they had few historical records, and that they had no written revelation. If they were favored with occasional revelations, as Eliphaz claimed (Job 4:12 ff), yet they were few in number, and at distant intervals, and the divine communications pertained to but few points.

Though it may without impropriety be maintained that some of the views of Eliphaz and his friends were not wholly accurate, yet we may safely ask, Where among the Greek and Roman sages can views of the divine government be found that equal these in correctness, or that are expressed with equal force and beauty? For profound and accurate observation, for beauty of thought and sublimity of expression, the sage of Teman will not fall behind the sages of Athens; and not the least interesting thing in the contemplation of the book of Job, is the comparison which we are almost of necessity compelled to make between the observations on the course of events which were made in Arabia, and those which were made by the philosophers of the ancient pagan world. Is it improper to suppose that one design of this book was to show how far the human mind could go, with the aid of occasional revelations on a few points, in ascertaining the principles of the divine administration, and to demonstrate that, after all, the mind needed a fuller revelation to enable man to comprehend the truths pertaining to the kingdom of God? “Hear it for thy good.” Margin, as in Hebrew “thyself.” These principles are such that they are of importance for you to understand and to apply.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 5". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/job-5.html. 1870.
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