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Bible Commentaries
Job 29

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

Verse 1

Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,

Job pauses for a reply. None being made, he proceeds to illustrate the mysteriousness of God's dealings, as set forth (Job 28:1-28) by his own case.

Verse 2

Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me;

Preserved me - from calamity.

Verse 3

When his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness;

Candle - when His favour shone on me (note, 18:6; Psalms 18:28). Darkness - by His safeguard I passed secure through dangers. Perhaps alluding to the lights carried before caravans in nightly travels through deserts (Noyes).

Verse 4

As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle;

Youth - rather [ chorep (H2779) autumn], the time of the ripe fruits of my prosperity. The Vulgate, as the English version, applies it to youth, as the Orientalists began their year with autumn, the most temperate season in the East.

Secret - when the intimate friendship of God rested on my tent (Proverbs 3:32; Psalms 31:20; Psalms 25:14, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him;" Genesis 18:17; John 15:15). The Hebrew often means a divan for deliberation.

Verse 5

When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me;

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 6

When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;

Butter - rather, cream-literally, thick milk. Wherever I turned my steps the richest milk and oil flowed in to me abundantly. Image from pastoral life. Literal washing of the feet in milk is not meant, as the second clause shows; margin, with me - i:e., near my path, wherever I walked (Deuteronomy 32:13-14). Olives amidst rocks yield the best oil. Oil in the East is used for food, light, anointing, and medicine.

Verses 7-10

When I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street!

The great influence Job had over young and old, and noblemen.

Through ... street - rather, 'when I went out of my house in the country (see Job 1:1-22, prologue) to the gate, (ascending) up to [ `ªleey (H5921)] (not through, as the English version) the city (which was on elevated ground), and when I prepared my (judicial) seat in the market-place' [ rªchowb (H7339)]. The market-place was the place of judgment, at the gate or propyloea of the city, such as is found in the remains of Nineveh and Persepolis (Isaiah 59:14; Psalms 55:11; Psalms 127:5).

Verse 8 Hid - not literally, but withdrew, stepped backwards, reverentially. The aged, who were already seated, arose and remained standing until Job seated himself. Oriental manners.

Verse 9. (Job 4:2; note, Job 21:5.)

Refrained - stopped in the middle of their speech.

Verse 10. Margin, voice-hid: i:e., hushed (Ezekiel 3:26).

Tongue cleaved ... - i:e., awed by my presence, the emirs or sheikhs were silent.

Verse 11

When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me:

Blessed - extrolled my virtues (Proverbs 31:28). Omit me after heard; whoever heard of me in general, not in the market-place (7-10), praised me. I was praised not only by those who saw me, but also by those who heard of me, and knew me only by report.

Gave witness - to my honourable character. Image from a court of justice (Luke 4:22).

The eye - i:e., face to faces; antithesis to "ear." - i:e., report of me.

Verses 12-17

Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.

The grounds on which Job was praised (Job 29:11) - his helping the afflicted (Psalms 72:12), who cried to him for help, as a judge, or as one possessed of means of charity; Translate, The fatherless, who had none to help him.

Verse 13. So far was I from sending "widows" away empty (Job 22:9), "I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy."

Ready to perish - (Proverbs 31:6).

Verse 14. (Isaiah 61:10; 1 Chronicles 12:18, margin)

Judgment - justice.

Diadem - tiara; rather, turban, head-dress [ tsaaniyp (H6797)] (Umbreit). It, and the full flowing outer mantle or "robe," are the prominent characteristics of an Oriental's grandee or high priests dress (Zechariah 3:5). So Job's righteousness especially, characterized him.

Verse 15. Literally, the blind (Deuteronomy 27:18): lame (2 Samuel 9:13); figuratively, also the spiritual support which the more enlightened gives to those less so (Job 4:3; Hebrews 12:13; Numbers 10:31).

Verse 16. So far was I from "breaking the arms of the fatherless," as Eliphaz asserts (Job 22:9), I was a "father" to such.

The cause which I knew not - rather, of him whom I knew not, the stranger, (Proverbs 29:7; Umbreit; contrast Luke 18:1, etc.) Applicable to almsgiving (Psalms 41:1); but here, primarily, judicial conscientiousness (Job 31:13).

Verse 17. Image from combating with wild beasts (Job 4:11; Psalms 3:7). So compassionate was Job to the oppressed, so terrible to the oppressor!

Jaws - Job broke his power, so that be could do no more hurt, and tore from him the spoil which he had torn from others.

Verse 18

Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand.

I said - in my heart (Psalms 30:6).

In - rather, 'with my nest:' as the second clause refers to long life. Instead of my family dying before me, as now, I In - rather, 'with my nest:' as the second clause refers to long life. Instead of my family dying before me, as now, I shall live so long as to die with them: proverbial for long life. Job did realize his hope (Job 42:16). However, in the bosom of my family gives a good sense. Numbers 24:21; Obadiah 1:4, use "nest" for a secure dwelling.

Sand - (Genesis 22:17; Habakkuk 1:9) [ chowl (H2344)]. But the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and Jewish interpreters favour the translation, 'the phoenix-bird.' "Nest" in the parallel clause supports the reference to a bird. "Sand" for multitude applies to men rather than to years. The myth was, that the phoenix sprang from a nest of myrrh, made by his father before death, and that he then came from Arabia (Job's country) to Heliopolis (the City of the Sun) in Egypt, once in every 500 years and there burnt his father (Herodotus, 2:73). Modern research has shown that this was the Egyptian mode of representing hieroglyphically a particular chronological era or cycle. The death and revival every 500 years, and the reference to the sun implies such a grand cycle commencing afresh from the same point, in relation to the sun, from which the previous one started. Job probably refers to this.

Verse 19

My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.

Literally, opened to the waters: continually irrigated by them. Opposed to Job 17:16. "His roots shall be dried up beneath." Vigorous health.

Verse 20

My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.

My renown, like my bodily health, was continually fresh.

Bow - metaphor from war, for My strength, which gains me 'renown,' was ever renewed (Jeremiah 49:35).

Verse 21

Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.

Job reverts with perculiar pleasure to his former dignity in assemblies (Job 29:7-10).

Verse 22

After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.

Not again - did not contradict me.

Dropped - effected their minds, as the genial rain does the soil on which it gently drops (Amos 7:16; Deuteronomy 32:2; Song of Solomon 4:11).

Verse 23

And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.

Image of Job 29:22 continued. They waited for my salutary counsel, as the dry soil does for the refreshing rain.

Opened ... mouth - panted for; Oriental image (Psalms 119:131). The "early rain" is in autumn and onwards, while the seed is being sown. The "latter rain" is in March, and brings forward the harvest, which ripens in May or June. Between "the early" and "the latter rains," some rain falls, but not in such quantities as those rains. Between March and October no rain falls (Deuteronomy 11:14; James 5:7).

Verse 24

If I laughed on them, they believed it not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down.

When I relaxed from my wonted gravity (a virtue much esteemed in the East), and smiled on them, they could hardly credit it; and yet, notwithstanding my condescension, they did not cast aside reverence in consequence of my cheerfulness of countenance. But the parallelism is better in Umbriet's translation: 'I smiled kindly on those who trusted not' - i:e., in times of danger I cheered those in despondency. 'And they could not cast down (by their despondency) my serenity of counteance' (flowing from trust in God). (Proverbs 16:15; Psalms 104:15.) The opposite phrase (Genesis 4:5-6, "countenance fallen").

Verse 25

I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one that comforteth the mourners.

I chose ... their way - i:e., I willingly went up to their assembly from my country residence (Job 29:7). (Maurer.) 'If I chose to go in their way' - i:e., if their ways pleased me, I then sat there as chief (Umbreit). The English version makes good sense: 'I chose out for them, as their counselor, the way its which they should go.'

In ... army - as a king supreme in the midst of his army.

Comforteth ... mourners. Here, again, Job unconsciously foreshadows Jesus Christ (Isaiah 61:2-3). Job's afflictions, as those of Jesus Christ, were fitting him for the office hereafter (Isaiah 50:4; Hebrews 2:18).


(1) The remembrance of past comforts increases the bitterness of present sufferings. Above all other privations, the believer feels most acutely the withdrawal of the light of God's countenance, and looks back with mournful regrets on the sweet seasons of secret communion and holy intimacy with God which once were his chiefest joy (Job 29:1-5). As the hymn expresses it:

`What peaceful hours I once enjoy'd! How sweet their memory still! But they have left an aching void The world can never fill'

Sometimes this withdrawal of the sensible comforts of religion arises from sinful carelessness of walk and declension in prayer and watchfulness (Song of Solomon 5:2-8). At other times it is regarded, as in Job's case, to be a trial of our faith, and to teach us to trust God even when we cannot see or feel Him In the former case, we need to search ourselves, and to ask God to search us, that we may put away from us whatever in us has displeased Him, and provoked Him to withdraw His Spirit from us. In the latter case we must, like Jesus on the cross, amidst the darkness, when there is no light, "trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon our God."

(2) Riches, honours, and flourishing families soon pass away. Yet so deceitful are earthly things that even the godly are apt to forget how transitory are the best of earth's good things. Therefore, God often cuts by the root, and in the moment when we least expect it, our confident anticipations of security, prosperity, and lengthened "days" (Job 29:18-20), in order to teach us not to make our "nest" here, but to look for the heavenly and enduring home.

(3) Meanwhile, so long as wealth, influence, and rank remain with us, they are to be prized, not so much for their own sake as because they afford valuable opportunities of honouring God and promoting the good of our fellow-men (Job 29:11-13). There is no such exquisite luxury as that of doing good. In the retrospect of his past prosperity, doubtless there was no one circumstance on which Job could look back with such unmingled satisfaction, as upon the generosity which had called forth "the blessing of him that was ready to perish," and which "had caused the widow's heart to sing for joy." Then, also, what a source of pleasure it is to the honourable magistrate, civil officer, and senator, if, in looking back on his conduct in such high positions, he can truly say, "I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was as my mantle and diadem" (Job 29:14). Riches and rank so used, though perishing themselves, leave a beneficent and lasting impression behind them; but if abused for mere earthly ends, pride, vanity, and selfishness, they entail on the possessor an awful weight of condemnation.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 29". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-29.html. 1871-8.
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