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Bible Commentaries
Job 23

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Then Job answered and said,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 2

Even to day is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.

Today - implying, perhaps that the debate was carried on through more days than one (see 'Introduction').

Bitter - (Job 7:11; Job 10:1). Bitter - (Job 7:11; Job 10:1).

My stroke - the hand of God on me (margin; Job 19:21; Psalms 32:4).

Heavier than - is so heavy that I cannot relieve myself adequately by groaning.

Verse 3

Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!

The same wish as in Job 13:3 (contrast Hebrews 10:19-22, "Having ... boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water").

Seat. The idea in the Hebrew is a well-prepared throne [ tªkuwnaatow (H8499), from kuwn (H3559), to fit] (Psalms 9:7).

Verse 4

I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.

Order - state methodically (Job 13:3; Job 13:18; Isaiah 43:26).

Fill ... - I would have abundance of arguments to adduce.

Verse 5

I would know the words which he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.

He - emphatic: it matters little what man may say of me, if only I know what God judges of me.

Verse 6

Will he plead against me with his great power? No; but he would put strength in me.

An objection suggests itself while he utters the wish (Job 23:5). Do I hereby wish that He should plead against me with His omnipotence? Far from it (Job 9:19; Job 9:34; Job 13:21; Job 30:18).

Strength - so as to prevail with Him: a in Jacob's case, when lamed, and unable, therefore, to wrestle any longer in his own strength, he hung on the angel of the Lord with his whole weight, and, strengthened by the strength which God put in him, he prevailed (Hosea 12:3-4). Umbreit and Maurer translate as in Job 4:20 (I only wish that He) 'would attend to me'-literally, turn (His attention) to me [ leeb (H3820) yaasiym (H7760) biy (H871a) being understood]: i:e., give me a patient hearing, as an ordinary judge, not using. His omnipotence, but only His divine knowledge of my innocence. I prefer the English version:

(1) Because the Hebrew [bª-] is "in" rather than 'to;'

(2) Because "strength" or 'power' is more naturally supplied from the former clause than 'attention' or 'heart.'

Verse 7

There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.

There - rather, Then: if God would 'attend' to me (Job 23:6).

Righteous - i:e., the result of my dispute would be, He would acknowledge ME as righteous. Job means, by "the righteous," himself, then recognized as such by God.

Delivered - from suspicion of guilt on the part of my Judge.

Verse 8

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:

But I wish in vain. For "behold," etc. Forward ... backward - rather, 'to the east, to the west.' The Hebrew geographers faced the east - i:e., sunrise: not the north, as we do. So 'before' means east: 'behind,' west (so the Hindus). 'Para,' before-east: 'Apara,' behind-west: 'Daschina,' the right hand-south: 'Bama,' left-north. A similar reference to sunrise appears in the name Asia, sunrise: Europe, sunset: pure Babylonian names, as Rawlinson shows.

Verse 9

On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:

Rather, 'To the north.'

Work. God's glorious works are especially seen toward the northern region of the sky by one in the northern hemisphere. The antithesis is between God working, and yet not being beheld: as in Job 9:11, between "He goeth by," and "I see Him not." The parallelism to the second clause leads Umbreit to translate, doth hide himself; but then the antithesis to behold would be lost; and the Hebrew [ `aasaah (H6213)] means rather, as the English version, "doth work;" literally, 'In His working.'

Right hand - `in the south.'

Hideth - appropriately of the unexplored south, then regarded as uninhabitable through heat (see Job 34:29).

Verse 10

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

But - correcting himself for the wish that his cause should be known before God. The omniscient One already knoweth the way that is with me (my inward principles: his outward way, or course of acts, is mentioned in Job 23:11. So in me, Job 4:21); though, for some inscrutable cause, He as yet hides Himself (Job 23:8-9).

When - let Him only but try my cause, I shall, etc.

Verse 11

My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.

Held - fast by His steps. The law is in the Old Testament poetry regarded as a way, God going before us as our guide, in whose footsteps we must tread (Psalms 17:5).

Declined - (Psalms 125:5).

Verse 12

Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.

Esteemed - rather, laid up-namely, as a treasure found (Matthew 13:44; Psalms 119:11) [ tsaapantiy (H6845)]: alluding to the words of Eliphaz (Job 22:22), There was no need to tell me so; I have done so already (Jeremiah 15:16).

Necessary - `appointed portion' (of food: as in Proverbs 30:8). Umbreit and Maurer translate, 'More than my law' [ chuqiy (H2706)]; my own will, in antithesis to 'the words of His mouth' (John 6:38). How difficult it is for man to prefer Gods laws to those of his own will! Probably, under the general term, 'what is appointed to me' (the same Hebrew is in Job 23:14), all that ministers to the appetites of the body and carnal will is included.

Verse 13

But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.

In one mind - notwithstanding my innocence, He is unaltered in His purpose of proving me guilty.

Who can turn him? - (Job 9:12).

Soul - His will (Psalms 115:3). God's sovereignty. He has one great purpose; nothing is haphazard; everything has its proper place with a view to His purpose.

Verse 14

For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.

Many such - He has yet many, more such ills in store for me, though hidden in His breast (Job 10:13).

Verse 15

Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.

God's decrees, impossible to be resisted, and leaving us in the dark as to what may come next, are calculated to fill the mind with holy awe (Barnes).

Verse 16

For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:

Soft - faint. Hath melted my courage. Here again Job's language is that of Jesus Christ (Psalms 22:14, "My heart is like wax: it is melted in the midst of my bowels").

Verse 17

Because I was not cut off before the darkness, neither hath he covered the darkness from my face.

Because I was not taken away by death from the evil to come (literally, from before the face of the darkness, Isaiah 57:1). Alluding to the words of Eliphaz (Job 22:11, "darkness" - i:e., calamity. "Cut off;" rather, in the Arabic sense, brought to the land of silence [ nitsmatiy (H6789)]: my sad complaint hushed in death (Umbreit). "Darkness," in the second clause, not the same Hebrew word as in the first, cloud, obscurity. Instead of 'covering the cloud (of evil) from my face,' He "covers" me with it (Job 22:11).


(1) How light are our trials, for the most part, as compared with those under which Job "groaned" (Job 23:1); and, on the other hand, how much fuller and clearer are our spiritual privileges and consolations than his! What he sighed for we possess-boldness of access to the throne of God (Job 23:3-5). Moreover, we have not to plead our own cause, as Job unwisely desired to be permitted to do. Our Advocate with the Father, our "great High Priest, that is, passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God" (Hebrews 4:14). undertakes our case, and pleads with all-prevailing efficacy for us, who believe and come unto the Father by Him.

(2) When our spirits fail while God contends with us, He graciously keeps us from sinking by putting His strength in us (Job 23:6). Our greatest wisdom in such cases is, like the wrestling patriarch Jacob, to hang with our whole weight on Him: so shall His strength be made perfect in our weakness. The best 'arguments' we can 'fill our mouth with' are God's promises in His Word (Job 23:4), which He delights to be "put in remembrance" of, as though He needed to be reminded of them (Isaiah 43:26).

(3) There are times in the experience of every believer when God seems to withdraw Himself, so that His child, as it were, gropes after Him in the dark, but is unable to attain to the sense of His comfortable presence. At such times the believer must wait in faith and patience, remembering that God "knows his way," and that when God has fully tried him, and removed the dross from him in the fiery ordeal of affliction, he shall "come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

(4) God's words are the spiritual food of every true saint (Job 23:12). The disciple of Christ, like his Master, feels that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). As God is a sovereign, who performs whatsoever He appoints, so that none can turn Him (Job 23:13-14), the believer refers all things to the good pleasure of His will, and waits in assured hope that God is faithful to his promises, and that, though "weeping may endure for a night, joy cometh in the morning" (Psalms 30:5).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 23". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-23.html. 1871-8.
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