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Bible Commentaries
Job 9

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

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

I know it is so - that God does not "pervert justice" (Job 8:3).

But how should a man be just with God? But (even though I be sure of being in the right) how can a mere weak man assert his right (be just) with the omnipotent God? "In thy sight shall no man living be justified" (Psalms 143:2). 'Is mortal man just in the presence of God?' etc. (Remark, Job 4:17). The Gospel answers - "To declare (God's) righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26).

Verse 3

If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.

If he (God) will contend, with him - literally, 'deign to enter into judgment:' 'If it were His good, pleasure [ yachpots (H2654)] to enter into judgment with him' - i:e., to argue with man as to the rights of the question at issue between Him and man.

He cannot answer. He (man) could not and would not dare to answer in defense of his cause to one of the thousand questions of God, from awe of his Majesty. How, then, can man maintain his justice before God? (cf. Job 9:15). This was what, in fact, took place in the end: God asked many questions of Job, to not one of which Job could give an answer, (Job 38:1, etc.)

Verse 4

He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?

He is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Hebrew, 'Wise in heart (understanding)! And mighty in power!' God confounds the ablest arguer by His wisdom, and the mightiest by His power.

Hardened - namely, himself, or his neck (Proverbs 29:1) - i:e., defied God. To 'prosper,' one must fall in with God's arrangements of Providence and grace.

Verse 5

Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.

And they know not - Hebrew for 'suddenly; unexpectedly; before they are aware of it;' "at unawares" (Psalms 35:8) - Hebrew, which he knoweth not of.

Verse 6

Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.

Which shaketh the earth ... pillar's thereof tremble. The earth is regarded, poetically, as resting on pillars, which tremble in an earthquake. "The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it" (Psalms 75:3); "The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard," etc. (Isaiah 24:20). The literal truth as to the earth is given at 26:7 - "He hangeth the earth upon nothing."

Verse 7

Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.

Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not - namely, in an eclipse, or the darkness that accompanies earthquakes (Job 9:6).

Sealeth up - i:e., totally covers, as one would seal up a room, that its contents may not be seen. Sealeth up - i:e., totally covers, as one would seal up a room, that its contents may not be seen.

Verse 8

Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.

Spreadeth out. "He stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in" (Isaiah 40:22; Psalms 104:2). But throughout it is not so much God's creating, as His governing power over nature that is set forth. A storm seems a struggle between Nature and her Lord! Better, therefore, 'Who boweth [ naaTaah (H5186)] the heavens alone,' without help of any other (Maurer). God descends from the bowed-down heaven to the earth - "He bowed the heavens, and came down" (Psalms 18:9). The storm, wherein the clouds descend, suggests this image. In the descent of the vault of heaven, God has come down from His high throne, and walks majestic over the mountain waves (Hebrew, heights), as a conqueror taming their violence. So tread upon. "Thou shalt tread upon their high places" (Deuteronomy 33:29; Amos 4:13); "Jesus walking on the sea" (Matthew 14:26). The Egyptian hieroglyphic for impossibility is a man walking on waves.

Verse 9

Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.

Maketh. Umbreit translates, from the Arabic, covereth up. This accords with the context, which describes His boundless power as controller, rather than as creator. But as "the stars" (Job 9:7) are represented as already sealed up and covered, God would not be said here again to be covered.

Arcturus, [ `Aash (H5906)] - the great bear, which always revolves about the pole, and never sets. The Chaldeans and Arabs early named and grouped in constellations the stars; often traveling, and tending flocks by night, they would naturally do so, especially as the rise and setting of some stars mark the distinction of seasons. Brinkley, presuming the stars here mentioned to be those of Taurus and Scorpio, and that these were the cardinal constellations of spring and autumn in Job's time, calculates, by the precession of equinoxes, the time of Job to be 818 years after the deluge, and 184 before Abraham. So Hales and Ducontant, with a slight variation (Barnes, Introduction-1. Astronomy, Job).

Orion - Hebrew, the fool; in Job 38:31 he appears fettered with "bands." The old legend represented this star as a hero, who presumptuously rebelled against God, and was therefore a fool [ kªciyl (H3685)], and was chimed in the sky as a punishment: for its rising is at the stormy period of the year. He is Nimrod (the exceedingly impious rebel) among the Assyrians; Orion among the Greeks. Sabaism (worship of the heavenly hosts) and hero-worship were blended in his person. He first subverted the patriarchal order of society by substituting a chieftainship based, on conquest (Genesis 10:9-10).

Pleiades, [ Kiymaah (H3598)] - literally, 'the heap of stars:' Arabic, 'knot of stars.' The various names of this Pleiades, [ Kiymaah (H3598)] - literally, 'the heap of stars:' Arabic, 'knot of stars.' The various names of this constellation in the East express the close union of the stars in it - "the seven stars" (Amos 5:8).

Chambers of the south - the unseen regions of the southern hemisphere, with its own set of stars, as distinguished from those just mentioned of the northern. The stars of the southern hemisphere never emerge into our view, but remain hidden as if in secret "chambers." The true structure of the earth is here implied.

Verse 10

Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.

Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. Repeated from Eliphaz (Job 5:9). As much as to say, I know as well as you (Job 5:10-16) Gods stupendous power: but Job dwells chiefly on God's terrible workings, to imply that God uses his power not merely to relieve the wretched, as Eliphaz had said, but to terrify and destroy them.

Verse 11

Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.

Lo, he goeth by me. Not only nature, but man experiences the terrors of God's resistless power.

I see Him not: He passeth on. The image is that of a howling wind - "As the whirlwinds in the South pass through" (Isaiah 21:1). Like it, when it bursts invisibly upon man, so God is felt in the awful effects of his wrath, but is not seen. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and where it goeth: so is ... the Spirit" (John 3:8), Therefore, reasons Job, it is impossible to contend with Him. As the unseen storm sweeps before it irresistibly what it will, so when God removes man's dearest possessions in a moment, man cannot contend with Him, or call Him to account for so doing.

Verse 12

Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?

Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou? If "He taketh away" suddenly and violently, as in my case, all that was dear to me, still a mortal cannot call Him to account. He only takes His own. He is an absolute King. "Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?" (Ecclesiastes 8:4). "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand" (Daniel 4:35).

Verse 13

If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.

If God - or else, 'God will not withdraw His anger' - i:e., so long as a mortal obstinately resists (Umbreit).

The proud helpers - the arrogant, who would help one contending with the Almighty, are of no avail, however mighty, against Him-literally, 'the helpers of pride,' or fierce haughtiness [ `ozªreey (H5826) rahab (H7293)] (the name applied to Egypt, Isaiah 51:9). Maurer shows the connection of the clauses this verse better than Umbreit's view above. God does not suffer Himself to be withdrawn or hindered by any opponent from performing whatever in His anger He has purposed, and so those who in haughty reliance on their might venture to help God's opponents have to bow beneath Him. The "if" in the English version is hot in the Hebrew, and is not needed for the sense.

Verse 14

How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?

How much less shall I - who am weak-seeing that the mighty have to stoop before Him - choose out my words - use a well-chosen speech, in order to reason in contention with Him.

Verse 15

Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.

Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer (Job 10:15). Though I were conscious of no sin, yet I would not dare to say so, but leave it to His judgment and mercy to justify me. "I know nothing by (i:e., against) myself: yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord" (1 Corinthians 4:4).

Verses 16-17

If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.

If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.-For he breaketh me with a tempest. 'I would not believe that He had hearkened (attended) unto my voice, who breaketh [bruiseth, shuwp (H7779)]; but Umbreit takes it breathes violently upon] me (as a tree stript of its leaves) with a tempest.' Probably "If I had called, and He had answered" refers not to the answer to prayer; but, 'If called Him to court (summoned Him to try the question of right at issue between Him and me), and He answered my challenge and submitted to a trial.' So in Job 13:22. 'Call' and 'answer' are judicial terms like our 'plaintiff' and 'defendant.'

Verse 18

He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.

He will not suffer me to take my breath - cf. Job 7:19, "How long wilt thou not-let me alone until I swallow down my spittle."

Verse 19

If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?

If I speak of strength, lo he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead? It is impossible but that Job must be deterred from the thought of a judicial controversy with God, seeing that God, whether the question be concerning might or right, is always superior in power. 'If (the question be) as to the strength of the strong, lo, (saith God, Here I am, What is thy controversy with me?): and if (the question be) as to judgment (justice or right), (He saith), Who shall set me a time to plead.' God herein declares as well that He is ready to meet any adversary who challenges Him to a conflict, as also that none is His superior in power so as to be able to summon Him to a judicial trial (Maurer). God's divine might and sovereignty puts it out of the question for mortal to argue the question of right with Him, in respect to His dealings. The English version seems to me to suit the parallelism better, with this slight change of the inserted words in Italics: 'If the question be one of strength, lo saith God, I am strong: and if it be of judgment, Who, saith God, shall set me a time to plead?' (so "Who is like me? and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand before me?" Jeremiah 49:19). The last words certainly apply better to God than to Job. "Me," in the English version, applies to Job. The "lo," expresses God's swift readiness for battle when challenged.

Verse 20

If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.

If I justify myself. Maurer translates-`If I were just' - i:e., if I had right on my side [ 'etsdaaq (H6663)]. This accords with Job 9:21. So also translate, not as English version, 'If I say I am perfect,' but '(If) I (were) perfect.' it-mine own mouth (Job 15:6). "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant" (Luke 19:22). Or, 'He,' God, 'would prove me perverse.'

Verse 21

Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.

Though I were perfect, yet would not know my soul - literally (here and in Job 9:20), 'I perfect! I should not know my soul! I would despise (disown) my life' - i:e., Though conscious of innocence, I should be compelled, in contending with the infinite God, to ignore my own soul, and despise my past life as if it were guilty (Rosenmuller). Umbreit and Maurer translate, 'I am innocent: I regard (so know means, Genesis 39:6; Psalms 1:6) not my soul, I despise my life" - i:e., I profess my innocence at all costs; even though my life must pay for this avowal I care not. But the English version accords better with Job 9:20, latter clause, and with the acknowledgment of Job, Job 9:30-32.

Verse 22

This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.

One thing - translate 'It is all one; whether perfect or wicked-He destroyeth.' This was the point Job maintained against his friends (Job 4:7, etc.; 8:3,6), that the righteous and wicked alike are afflicted; and that great sufferings here do not prove great guilt (Luke 13:1-5) - "There is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not" (Ecclesiastes 9:2). Maurer and Umbreit explain-`It is all one' to me whether I die or live. 'Therefore I say, He destroyeth the upright and the wicked' alike. "Therefore," then, will mean, 'Because I fear nothing, and it is all one to me what befals me.'

Verse 23

If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.

If - `While (His) scourge (Isaiah 28:15) slays suddenly (both the perfect and the wicked, Job 9:22), He laughs at (disregards and treats as though He laughed at) the trial (calamity) of the innocent.' Umbreit (cf my 'Critical Commentary') takes "the wicked" as the object of "slay suddenly;" and in order to make an antithesis to suddenly, translates the Hebrew for "trial" [macaach], 'pining away' [from [maacam, to melt away]. 'Whilst His scourge slays suddenly (the wicked, Job 9:22), He laughs at the (protracted) pining away of the innocent.' But Job 9:23 requires that the object after "slay suddenly" should be "the perfect and the wicked:" and in Deuteronomy 4:34, and elsewhere, the Hebrew word is used for 'temptation' or 'trial' [from naacaah (H5254), to try].

Verse 24

The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?

The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof - referring to righteous judges, in antithesis to "the wicked," in the parallel first clause. Whereas the wicked oppressor often has the earth given into his hand, the righteous judges are led to execution. Culprits had their faces covered preparatory to execution (Esther 7:8). Or else, "He covereth the faces," etc., means, He causes the righteous judges to cover their faces in sorrow: as David long after (2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4; cf. Jeremiah 14:4). Thus the contrast of the wicked and righteous here answers to that in Job 9:22. Maurer explains it-`The earth is given into the hand of wicked' rulers; nor can just sentences be given by blinded judges: for "He covereth the faces of (i:e., blinds) the Judges thereof," so that they cannot distinguish right from wrong. An additional proof of Job's position, that great calamities are no proof of special guilt.

If not, where, and who - if God be not the cause of these anomalies, where is the cause to be found, and who is he?

Verse 25

Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good.

A post - a courier. In the wide Persian empire such couriers, on dromedaries or on foot, were employed to carry the royal commands to the distant provinces (Esther 3:13; Esther 3:15; Esther 8:14). My days aura a not like the slow caravan, but the fleet post. The days are themselves poetically said to see no good, instead of Job in them (1 Peter 3:10).

Verse 26

They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.

Swift ships, [ 'ªniyowt (H591) 'eebeh (H16)] - rather, canoes of reeds, or papyrus-skiffs, used on the Nile, swift from their lightness - "vessels of bulrushes" (Isaiah 18:2).

Verse 27

If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself:

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 28

I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.

I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent. The apodosis to 27-`If I say, etc., I still am afraid of all my sorrows (returning), because I know that thou wilt (dost) not (by removing my sufferings) hold or declare me innocent. How then can I leave off my heaviness?' Hebrew, 'my face' - i:e., my gloomy countenance.

Verse 29

If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?

If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain? The if is better omitted: I (am treated by God, once for all, as) If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain? The if is better omitted: I (am treated by God, once for all, as) wicked; why then labour I in vain (to disprove His charge). Job submits, not so much because he is convinced that God is right, as because God is powerful, and he weak (Barnes).

Verse 30

If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;

Snow water - thought to be more cleansing than common water, owing to the whiteness of snow. "I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalms 51:7; Isaiah 1:18).

Never so clean - better to answer to the parallelism of the first clause, which expresses the cleansing material. "If I cleanse my hands with lye:" the Arabs used alkali mixed with oil, as soap. "Though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God" (Jeremiah 2:22; Psalms 73:13).

Verse 31

Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 32

For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.

For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.

"Neither may he contend with Him that is mightier than he" (Ecclesiastes 6:10); "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to Him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?" (Isaiah 45:9).

Verse 33

Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

Daysman between us, that might lay his hand upon us both - mediator or umpire [ mowkiyach (H3198), an arbitrator, from yaakach (H3198), to manifest or reprove]. There is no umpire to whose authoritative decision both God and I are equally amenable; an arbitrator, the imposition of whose hand expresses power to adjudicate between the persons. As still in the East, it is the practice for two disputants to refer to a passing stranger, and tell him to lay his hand upon both parties, so as to arbitrate or mediate between them. There might be one on a level with Job, the one party; but Job knew of none on a level with the Almighty, the other party - "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him?" (1 Samuel 2:25). We Christians know of such a Mediator (not however, in the sense umpire), on a level with both, the God-man, Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

Verse 34

Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:

Rod - not here the symbol of punishment, but of power (Umbreit). Job cannot meet God on fair terms, so long as God deals with him on the footing of His Almighty power. But Job 21:9; Job 37:13, margin, favour the view that the rod of correction is meant.

His fear - the fear which He inspires - "The fear of a king" (Proverbs 20:2) - namely, the terror which proceeds from a king.

Verse 35

Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.

It is not so with me - as it now is, God not taking His rod away, I am not on such a footing of equality as to be able without fear to vindicate myself-literally, 'I (am) not so with myself:' which Maurer explains-`I am not so in my mind (so 'in us,' for in our mind, Job 15:9) that I have any occasion to fear.' I am conscious of no guilt to make me fear. Umbreit explains-`But now I am not in possession of my right mind;' now as it is, not from guilt, but from fear of God's omnipotence, Job has lost self-possession, so as not to be able vindicate himself, (Psalms 50:11, margin.) The English version, as explained above, is much the same in the general sense as Umbreit's view, which is preferable to Maurer's. Remarks:

(1) Weak and sinful man can never stand justified in his own righteousness before the Almighty and infinitely holy God. The publican's plea is our safest plea - "God be merciful to me a sinner!" If we would enter into a discussion of right before God, we could not answer Him "one of a thousand" (Job 9:3) queries which He might put to us, and charges which He could bring against us.

(2) Our worst trials are always below what our sins deserve, so that God's mercy beams forth from the darkest cloud; and if, instead of debating with Him as to the justice of His dealings with us, we, in childlike faith, patiently bow to them as right, not because we see the reason of them, but simply because they are His doing, the cloud will in due time clear away, and we shall bless God even for past chastisements.

(3) God's wonderful and unsearchable workings in nature, in the starry heaven, the earth, and the sea, should teach us to be humble, and not to expect we shall understand the reason of all that God doeth.

(4) In the present order of things we often see the upright and the guilty destroyed (Job 9:22-23) by the same scourge: injustice often is stronger than justice, and the wicked rule the earth (Job 9:24). Reason can very imperfectly reconcile this anomaly with the righteousness of God's moral government over the world. But faith remembers this is a fallen world, and seeming anomalies must be expected in such a state; at the same time faith believes that though "clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne" (Psalms 97:2). Moreover, faith looks beyond the present to the future, when the seeming anomalies shall be cleared up, and the people of God shall be blessed for ever (their blessedness being intensified by the retrospect of past sufferings), and the ungodly shall eternally bewail their suicidal folly in following the ways of sin, which, though promising enjoyment for a time, shall at last be found to be ways of misery and death.

(5) What Job longed for, we in the New Testament have, a Daysman or Mediator between us and God, who, as being God, knows all that God's justice demands of us in expiation of our sin, and, as being man, knows our infirmities and needs. He does not, indeed, as umpire, vindicate our cause in the way that Job in his temporary folly wished, by declaring our righteousness (for however sincere and upright in human view we be, like Job, yet "if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves"); but by declaring God's righteousness in Christ for us (Romans 3:24-26; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30), that so we may be not merely pardoned, but "justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." So His "rod" is taken away (Job 9:34), and in the spirit of adoption, "perfect love casteth out fear" (Romans 8:15; 1 John 4:18; Isaiah 12:1-2.)

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/job-9.html. 1871-8.
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