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Job 23:1 Then Job answered and said,
Ver. 1. Then Job answered and said ] viz. In defence of his own integrity, against Eliphaz’s calumnies in the foregoing chapter. To make apology to every one that shall traduce us, Plato holdeth to be both base and bootless, Pασιν απολογεισθαι θεραπευτικον (Plat.). But when such a weighty man as Eliphaz shall lay load upon so innocent a man as Job, Quis tulerit? something would be said in way of answer.
Job 23:2 Even to day [is] my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning.
Ver. 2. Even today is my complaint bitter ] q.d. After all mine endeavour to satisfy you, I am still misinterpreted, and accounted by you, my friends, no better than a malcontent and a murmurer against God; albeit my laments do no way equal my torments. True it is that Eliphaz had given him excellent counsel, Job 22:21-22 , &c., but it was to flatter him into the same error that he himself held; viz. that bodily and temporal sufferings are a sure sign of a notorious hypocrite. Hence Job never taketh notice of it in this reply; but begins his apology pathetically and abruptly; and soon falls into an appeal to God, the righteous Judge, who well knew (though his friends would take no notice of it) that he complained not without cause; but the contrary.
My stroke is heavier than my groaning ] Most men’s groaning is greater than their strokes or sufferings. Invalidum omne natura querulum est (Senec.). Some are ever whining and growling; their lips, like rusty hinges, move not without murmuring and mutining, yea, they not only creak, but break, as rotten boughs do, if but a little weight be hung upon them; or as some men’s flesh, which if never so little razed with a pin, it presently rankleth and festereth. Job was none of these; if he groaned, as he did (and will they deny him that ease of his dolour? Expletur lachrymis egeriturque dolor. Ovid), there was very great cause for it, since his pressures were greater than could be expressed by any sighs or words.
Job 23:3 Oh that I knew where I might find him! [that] I might come [even] to his seat!
Ver. 3. Oh that I knew where I might find him! ] That is, God, so oft in his mind and mouth, that his acquaintance might easily know whom he meant. Aph-Hu, even he, 2 Kings 2:4 , as held by some to be one of God’s attributes (Weems). And Mα τον , without mention of Dια , was an ordinary oath in Plato’s mouth, as Suidas recordeth.
That I might come even to his seat! ] His tribunal prepared for him. Venirem usque ad stationem eius (Mercer). Great is the confidence of a good conscience. See Genesis 20:5 1 Peter 3:21 . But yet haec certe omnia audacius dicuntur a misero homuncione, this was too bold a speech for a mortal creature, as God himself (who gave him his wish) will afterwards tell him, Job 38:2 ; Job 40:2 , and contrary to that which he had before resolved on, Job 9:3 . See the like failing in David, Psalms 39:1 ; Psalms 39:3 2 Samuel 6:8-9 . In these examples of so good men we may see how natural it is to us in affliction to rise up against God, as the horse that casteth his rider, and riseth up against him. Hoc a pietate alienum est, quod adversus Deum praefractius, et contumeliosius loquatur quam humilitas fidei ferat (Brent.). This the poets shadowed out in their fiction of the giants conspiring to pull Jove out of heaven. That which may be said in favour of Job herein, is, 1. That Job 23:6 , he professeth to plead with God in God’s strength. 2. That being accused by his friends of such foul offences, he had no other way of clearing himself than by appealing unto God whose most just judgment he acknowledged. 3. That he dared not have spoken thus boldly, but in confidence of his mercy. 4. That he would have his controversy with his friends (and not his whole life) to be exactly examined and judged by God.
Job 23:4 I would order [my] cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.
Ver. 4. I would order my cause before him ] I would not stick to approach to his tribunal, there to plead my cause (not against him, as being the supreme Judge, and not either plaintiff or defendant, but) against your false and wrongful accusations, which undoubtedly I would disprove and confute by many forcible and strong arguments (Beza).
And fill my mouth with arguments ] Heb. Redargutions ( ελεγχος ,) increpations, reprehensions. A good orator will first rightly lay down his cause, state the question, as we call it. 2. Confirm it with reasons. 3. Observe what is said to the contrary, and confute it. Job would do all this if he might have audience; but if to God all this, Job was much mistaken. And so at another time, when in a better mind, he could say, "Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge. If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me," &c., Job 9:15 ; Job 9:20 .
Job 23:5 I would know the words [which] he would answer me, and understand what he would say unto me.
Ver. 5. I would know the words that he would answer me ] q.d. I cannot know your minds, O my friends, nor understand your words, which yet I believe are little to the purpose; but God (I know) will utter his mind plainly, and approve my cause, which you so rashly condemn. Thus John Huss and other martyrs, when they could not have a fair hearing from men, appealed and applied themselves to God, committing their cause to him who judgeth righteously.
Job 23:6 Will he plead against me with [his] great power? No; but he would put [strength] in me.
Ver. 6. Will he plead against me with his great power? ] No; for then you were in a woe-case. For if God’s breath blow us to destruction, as so many dust heaps, Job 4:9 , if he frown us to death, and nod us to destruction, Psalms 80:16 , what shall we think of his Almighty power, which none can abide or avoid? Dittleile est contra eum scribere, qui potest proseribere. It is dangerous dealing with him who hath at his command thirty legions, saith the philosopher to the emperor, who would needs crack an argument with him. And should Job dare to do it with the Lord of hosts, as if stronger than he? The thunder of his power, who can bear? The stoutest men quake before him; and as the worms, when it thundereth, wriggle into the corners of the earth, ready to run, as Caligula did, under any bed or any bench hole.
No; but he would put strength in me ] Sic enim ex fidei πληροφορια persuasus, saith Merlin. Thus was Job persuaded, out of the full assurance of his faith, that God would deal with him as a loving Father, and not as a severe Judge: for who can stand before his wrath, or withstand his will? No man surely can contend with God unless he put strength in him, as he did into Jacob, Genesis 32:24 , whom he upheld with the one hand, as he strove against him with the other. This foregoing wish, therefore, of Job hath an excellent commendation in it of his faith and integrity, yet so as that in some things it is blameworthy. For who can come to God’s seat, since he dwelleth in light unapproachable? neither can any one see God and live, Exodus 34:5-8 . For this boldness, therefore, of his he shall be hereafter sharply reproved; first by Elihu, and then also by God himself, stepping forth as it were from behind the hangings, overhearing him, and saying, Who is this that talks thus? how now? Job 38:2-3 .
Job 23:7 There the righteous might dispute with him; so should I be delivered for ever from my judge.
Ver. 7. There the righteous might dispute with him ] There for then; sc. when God shall put strength into him; the upright or honest man (who draweth near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having his heart sprinkled from an evil conscience by the blood of Jesus Christ, Heb 10:22 ) might dispute with God, but not unless he have that advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the just one, to appear in the presence of God for him, Hebrews 9:24 , as the lawyer appeareth for his client, to put by and non suit all accusations, to plead his cause, and to justify him by the only merit of his righteousness and obedience. All St Paul’s care was to be found in Christ when sought for by the justice of God; not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, Philippians 3:9 ; for sordet in conspectu iudicis, quod fulget in conspectu operantis (Aug.), "that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God," Luke 16:15 . They only may dispute with God, that is, in a humble and laudable manner plead with him, as did Jacob, Genesis 32:24 , and Jeremiah, Jeremiah 12:1 , who partake of Christ’s righteousness imputed and imparted; opposing to the appearances of God’s wrath the firm persuasion of his grace, by the seal of his Spirit, Et O quam hoc non est omnium! This is few men’s happiness.
So should I be delivered for ever from my judge ] Who would quit me by proclamation; and then I should the less care to be condemned by you, my fellow prisoners. I care not for man’s day, since he that judgeth me is the Lord, 1 Corinthians 4:3-4 ; where note what boldness and confidence the upright have in God; neither shall they be herein deceived, as Job was not.
Job 23:8 Behold, I go forward, but he [is] not [there]; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
Ver. 8. Behold, I go forward ] Heb. Eastward, which is reckoned the forepart of the world; because that eye of the world, the sun, riseth there; and every man looketh to the rising sun.
But he is not there ] sc. In that sort, as I desired to find him, Job 23:3 , he is not visible to me; he is too subtile for sinew or sight to seize upon; his judgments also are unsearchable, and his paths past finding out. True it is, that the whole world is nothing else but Deus explicatus, God expounded, a mirror or theatre wherein God may he seen; yea, felt and found out by those who are blind, Acts 17:27 . If a man hear a sermon by night, and in the dark, though he see not the preacher, yet he knows he is there. So Job questioned not God’s omnipresence; but complaineth that himself was benighted, and forsaken of his hopes to be eased of his troubles, outwardly in body, or inwardly in mind; this is the judgment of the flesh, when under affliction.
And backward, but I cannot perceive him ] For indeed he is imperceptible by bodily eyes, neither sitteth he anywhere in this world to decide controversies, as he shall do in the clouds at the last day, when the righteous shall look up, for their redemption draweth nigh, Luke 21:28 , and the wicked shall look on and wail because of him, οψονται κοψονται , Revelation 1:7 , they shall look and lament, yea, be mad for the sight of their eyes which they shall see, as Deuteronomy 28:34 .
Job 23:9 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]:
Ver. 9. On the left hand, where he doth work ] i.e. Northward; where God is said to work; either because that in the north part of heaven are more signs, and of more remarkable influence, than in the south; or else because the northern parts of the world are more inhabited than the southern, because more temperate; and so there is more of God to be seen there in his works, as letters refracted in a glass. Seculum est speculum, quo Deum intueamur.
But I cannot behold him ] See Trapp on " Job 23:8 "
He hideth hlmself on the right hand, &c. ] He worketh not so much in the southern parts of the world; the torrid zone is uninhabitable, &c. Yet the Ethiopian judges were wont to keep the chief seat for him empty when they sat in judgment. And besides, the Habassines, that large region of Nubia, had from the apostles’ time, as it is thought, professed the Christian faith though now it hath again, over one hundred years since, forsaken it, and embraced Mahometanism and idolatry (Alvarez).
That I cannot see him ] See Trapp on " Job 23:8 "
Job 23:10 But he knoweth the way that I take: [when] he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
Ver. 10. But he knoweth the way that I take ] Heb. That is with me. He perfectly understandeth that there is no way of wickedness in me, Psalms 139:24 , no sin that I do favour, allow, and wallow in; but that the way that is called Holy is my delight and endeavour; that I am upright for the main, that my heart is not turned back, neither have my steps declined from his way, Psalms 44:18 . I cannot see him, but he seeth me, and mine uprightness.
When he hath tried me ] sc. With favour, and not with rigour (for then who should abide it? Psa 143:2 ). God promiseth to refine his people, but not as silver, Isaiah 48:10 , that is, not exactly, lest they should be consumed in that fiery trial. This David knew, and therefore prayed, "Examine me, O Lord, and prove me, try my reins and my heart," Psalms 26:2 ; Psalms 139:23 .
I shall come forth as gold ] Which is purged in the fire, shines in the water; as on the other side, clay is scorched in the fire, dissolved in the water.
Job 23:11 My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.
Ver. 11. My foot hath held his steps ] I have followed God step by step, walking as I had him for an example, and pressing his footsteps. This Job speaketh of himself, not as vaunting, but as vindicating and defending his own innocence; and as giving Eliphaz to know, that he had already done, and still continued to do, as he had in the former chapter exhorted him, Job 22:21-22 . Acquaint now thyself with God, &c. That is not now to do, saith Job; for my foot hath held his steps. Be at peace. I am so, saith he, for his way have I kept and not declined. Now, can two walk together, and they not be agreed? Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth. What else have I done, saith Job, when as I have not gone back from the commandment of his lips? Lay up his words in thine heart. This I have done ex instituto, saith he; vel prae demenso, more than my necessary food, have I esteemed the words of his mouth. So exact a pattern of the rule was Job; so consonant to Eliphaz’s good counsel. Plain things will join in every point one with another; not so round and rugged things: so do plain spirits close with holy counsels: not so such as are proud and unmortified. Let these be touched never so gently, nettle like, they will sting you. Deal with them roughly and roundly, they swagger, as that Hebrew did with Moses, saying, Who made thee a man of authority? &c., Exodus 2:14 . Good Job was of another spirit with God, as it is said of Caleb, Numbers 14:24 , and followed him fully; ornavit doctrinam coelestem piis officiis, adorned the heavenly doctrine with his pious office, heavenly doctrine was as the mould, and he as the metal, which takes impression from it in one part as well as another. His constant endeavour was to express God to the world, and to preach forth his virtues or praises by a suitable practice, 1 Peter 2:9 . Gressum eius retinuit pes meus.
His way have I kept, and not declined ] sc. In excess or defect, and therefore I am no such flagitious person as thou, Eliphaz, wouldst make of me.
Job 23:12 Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary [food].
Ver. 12. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips ] i.e. Ab ipsissimo Dei verbo, from the very word of God, that sure cynosura, which he that holdeth straitly to may truly say, Lord, if I be deceived, thou and thy word hath deceived me. But of that there is no danger, since the Scripture is the invariable canon or rule of truth, saith Irenaeus, the cubit of the sanctuary, the touchstone of error, the divine beam, and most exact balance, as Austin and Chrysostom style it, Kανων της αληθειας ακλινης , yea, the very heart and soul of God, as Gregory. And if Job lived before the word was written, yet not before the law of nature and the traditions of the patriarchs; which while they remained uncorrupted, were the commandment also of God’s lips, as having been received from his very mouth; and might far better be called ipsissimum Dei verbum the very word of God itself, than the pope’s pronunciata, which Cardinal Hosius profanely and blasphemously pronounceth to be the very word of God.
I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food ] I have preferred Heb. I have hid, or laid up, as men do precious things, as housekeepers do provision for their family them before my bodily food, my daily bread; and we see what pains men take, what shift they make, Ut bene sit ventri, ut lateri, for food and raiment, and other things requisite to the preservation of this present life. Now Job knew that God’s holy word is ψυχης προφη , as Athanasius calleth it, the soul’s nourishment; and that the promises are pabulum fidei, the food of faith, as another calleth them; that we may better lack bread than that bread of life. Hence he esteemed it more, not only than his dainties or superfluities, but than his substantial food, without which he could not live and subsist; more than his appointed portion (so some render it) set out for him by the Divine providence, which cutteth out to every man his allowance. I would rather be without meat, drink, light, anything, everything, saith one, than that sweet text, "Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden," &c. (Selneccer). I would not for all the world, saith another, than that one verse, John 17:24 ("Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world"), had been left out of the Bible (Mr Baxter’s Saints’ Everlasting Rest, p. 24). And again, There is more worth (saith the same author) in those four chapters, John 14:1-31 ; John 15:1-27 ; John 16:1-33 ; John 17:1-26 , than in all the books in the world besides. Luther said, He would not live in Paradise without the Word; as with the Word it were no hard matter to live even in hell itself (Tom. 4, Oper. Lat. p. 424). Of old they were wont to say, It were better for the Church that the sun should not shine than that Chrysostom should not preach to the people. The Jews in this day will not omit prayers for their food or labour. They divide the day, even the working day, in three parts, the first ad Tephilla, for prayer; the second ad Torn, for the reading of God’s law; and the third ad Malacca, for the works of their calling (Weemsc.). And when they have read one section they begin another, lest they should seem to be weary of their task. Whereas if we read but a chapter (not a quarter so long as one of their sections or paragraphs), Oh what a weariness is it! neither begin we till we have looked over the leaf to see how long it is; so soon sated are we with this heavenly manna.
Job 23:13 But he [is] in one [mind], and who can turn him? and [what] his soul desireth, even [that] he doeth.
Ver. 13. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? ] He is ever like himself, not mutable, inconstant, or various, as men who are (as Tertullian saith of the peacock) all in changeable colours, as often changed as moved. God’s name is, "I am," Exodus 3:14 . And if Pilate could say, What I have written I have written, nothing shall be altered; how much more may the Lord, who is the same yesterday, today, and for ever! His decrees are immutable, his power irresistible. Some think that Job complaineth here of God’s absolute power, and little less than tyrannical, exercised against him, an innocent person. If so, Job was surely much to blame, sith God’s absolute power is never sundered from his justice; and it must be taken for an undoubted truth that his judgments are sometimes secret, but always just.
And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth ] Id est, Cupit ac facit statim; eius voluntas est executio; that is, he desireth and doth it forthwith; his will is present execution. It is his pleasure to lay load of afflictions upon me, but wherefore it is I know not. But Job should have known that as God is a most free agent, so his will is not only recta, (right) but regula; ( the law) neither may any man here presume to reprehend what he cannot comprehend.
Job 23:14 For he performeth [the thing that is] appointed for me: and many such [things are] with him.
Ver. 14. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me ] He hath performed all my necessaries; so Vatablus rendereth it. It is the word that was used for appointed or necessary food, Job 23:12 . Voluntas Dei, necessitas rei, God hath decreed thus to deal with me, and therein I must rest satisfied.
And many such things are with me ] I know not but that there may be many more sufferings yet decreed to come upon me in his secret counsel. Fiat voluntas Domini. Godly people, though they know not many times what the Lord will do and how he will deal with them; yet they always know that he is a merciful Father to them, and will order all for the best. This should content them, and keep them from chatting against God; and from nourishing hard conceits of him, or heavy conceits of themselves, as if wicked because afflicted.
Job 23:15 Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.
Ver. 15. Therefore am I troubled at his presence ] At the consideration of his formidable power and majesty, I am troubled and terrified; troubled at my present calamities, and afraid of fiercer. This verse then seemeth to be a correction of that wish of his above, Job 23:3 , and not unlike that, Job 13:21 , "Withdraw thine hand far from me, and let not thy dread make me afraid. Then call thou, and I will answer," &c.
When I consider, I am afraid of him ] I have always imagined that, as it were weakness to fear a man, so it were madness not to be afraid of God. Let me be accounted timorous rather than temerarious.
Job 23:16 For God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me:
Ver. 16. For God maketh my heart soft ] Methinks I feel it fall asunder in my bosom like drops of water, and dissolved with manifold afflictions, so that I am hardly able to bear up any longer; I am almost done, as we use to speak, and my heart faileth me. How should it do otherwise when God withdraweth from his own the supplies of his Spirit, Philippians 1:19 , that Spirit of power, of love, and of a sound mind, 2Ti 1:7 Acts 20:22 , saith that great apostle, "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit up to Jerusalem," &c. Whereupon Dr Preston gives this good note, The Spirit hemmeth us about, comprehendeth and keepeth us. When a man’s own strength would fall loose, this supernatural strength stayeth and strengtheneth it. Hence that of David, Psalms 138:3 , "In the day when I cried unto thee thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul." So Psalms 27:14 , "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart," which else will melt (as did the hearts of the men of Jericho, Jos 2:11 ), like metal melted with fire, or like ice thawed into water and spilt upon the ground, which cannot be taken up again. And this is the soft heart Job here complaineth of. God had dispirited him, and
The Almighty troubleth me ] sc. With the thoughts of his Almightiness; see Psalms 39:11 ; and with so many miseries growing upon him, Tot malis ingruentibus (Jun.). Now it is not amiss for God’s people thus to be melted and troubled otherwise; for by this means shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit, to take away his sin, Isaiah 37:9-14 .
Job 23:17 Because I was not cut off before the darkness, [neither] hath he covered the darkness from my face.
Ver. 17. Because I was not cut off before the darkness ] i.e. The afflictions that now are upon me. It is a mercy to some to die sometimes, as Josiah, and those righteous ones, Isaiah 57:1 , who were taken away from the evil to come. When God’s glory was to pass by, he put Moses into the hole of the rock; so he sometimes doth his servants, till the glory of his justice hath passed upon others.
Neither hath he covered the darkness from my face ] i.e. He hath neither prevented my troubles by death, as I wished he would have done, Job 3:3 ; Job 3:11-13 , nor yet will he put an end to them by the same means; for, Mors aerumnarum requies (Chaucer’s motto), Death is a rest from trouble. To the tossed soul it is as Mount Ararat was to Noah, where the ark rested; as Michel was to David, a means to shift him out of the way, when Saul sent to slay him; or as the fall of the house was to Samson, an end of all his sorrows and servitude.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 23". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany