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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Job 4

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,

Then Eliphaz the Temanite — Then, when Job had laid about him in this sort; and, giving his tongue too much liberty to lash out, had uttered words little better than blasphemous and contumelious against God; then Eliphaz, Temanites ille, the first born of Esau, Genesis 36:4 (saith R. Salomon), brought up in the bosom of Isaac, and so inured to revelations from on high. Others think he descended of Teman, nephew to Esau, … A man of great wisdom he was, and of great discourse; one that could speak his mind fitly, and did it freely. He seems to have been the chief of the three for age and authority, and therefore begins; pretending to be moved thereunto by zeal for God’s glory, not a little impaired by Job’s impatience savouring of hypocrisy, and arguing eum ficto fucatoque cordo fuisse, that he had been little better than a dissembler. A causeless and uncharitable charge; enough to have driven him into desperation. The Rabbis speak so well of Job’s three friends, that they used to say in a Proverb ( Bava bathra Perech 1 ), Let a man either get him such friends as Job had, or else get him out of the world (like as Chrysippus was wont to say, Aut mentem, aut restim comparandam ). But Gregory the Great saith, that these three, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, do fitly set forth heretics, who begin to speak smoothly at first, as if they meant no harm to him to whom they speak, but only good, to purchase his benevolous attention, but soon come to speak words which much hurt the hearer, and greatly trouble him, …

Verse 2

[If] we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? but who can withhold himself from speaking?

If we assay to commune with thee — Or may we assay to commune with thee? Art thou in case to be counselled? and will not an essay to this purpose further trouble thy patience and distemper thee? The ear which tasteth words (as the mouth doth meat), if filled with choler, can relish no comfort; and the easiest medicines, or mildest waters, are troublesome to sore eyes (Basil. Orat. 12). Honey causeth pain to exulcerate parts, though in itself it be sweet and medicinal; children, though at other times they like it and lick it in, yet they will not endure to have it come near their lips when they have the cankers (Alex. Aphrod. problem.). Some patients are mad against their medicines; and some hearers rage at a reproof. Eliphaz knew not but that Job might do as much, and that having newly been in a fearful fit of passion, he might fall into another, as Jonah did; the orifice of his corruption being not yet closed up by repentance; hence this preamble by way of friendly insinuation. The like art useth Paul with Philemon, and with the Corinthians often.

But who can withhold himself from speaking? — Who that hath any piety toward God, or pity to his offending friend? We use to say, He that receiveth a courtesy selleth his liberty; but true love will not be tongue tied. Our Saviour’s mouth was not stopped with all the good cheer that Simon the leper made him, Luke 7:36-50 , neither entertained he the Pharisees with fewer menaces than they did him, eftsoons, with messes of meat. Job had been doubtless very friendly to his friends, who yet spare him not; and had they done it aright with the meekness of wisdom they had showed themselves friends indeed there being not a better office or evidence of love than this, Leviticus 19:17 . Friends, as bees, are killed with the honey of flattery, but quickened with the vinegar of reproof, so it be well managed. The eagle, though she loveth her young ones dearly, yet she pricketh and beateth them out of the nest when they are ready for flight.

Verse 3

Behold, thou hast instructed many, and thou hast strengthened the weak hands.

Behold, thou hast instructed manysc. To do each day’s duty with Christian diligence, and to bear each day’s crosses with Christian patience thou hast done it well. But how comes it now to pass, quod dicta factis erubescant, that thy present doings shame thy former sayings? (Tertul.); and that (as it was noted of Demosthenes the orator) thou art better at praising of virtue than at practising of it? Turpe est Doctori, … Should not the physician first heal himself? and ought not the preacher’s word be Spectemur agendo; let our profiting appear to all men, let our lives be a true transcript of our sermons? What a shame was it that Hilary should complain that the people’s ears were holier than the preachers’ hearts, Sanctiores sunt aures plebis quam corda sacerdotum (Hilar.), and that Erasmus, by a true jest, should be told that there was more goodness in his book of the Christian soldier than in his bosom! Eliphaz from this ground would here argue that Job was little better than a hypocrite; a censure overly rigid, it being the easiest thing in the world, as a philosopher observed, to give good counsel, and the hardest thing to take it. Dr Preston, upon his death bed, confessed, that now it came to his own turn, he found it somewhat to do to practise that which he had oft pressed upon others.

And thou hast strengthened the weak hands — Loose and lax, feeble and infirm, through many terrors and troubles: to these thou hast spoken words which have been as sinews to their hands, and as strength to their joints. Job had comforted the feeble minded, or the dispirited, the sick at heart, and sinking under the sense of sin and fear of wrath, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 . This is a harder work than to raise the dead to life, saith Luther; this not one of a thousand can skill of, Job 33:23 . He must have feeding lips and a healing tongue that shall do it. O quam hoc non est omnium! The Christian Romans were able to do it, Romans 15:14 . And holy Job was both able and apt, for he did it to many. True goodness is diffusive of itself, and is therefore compared to the most spreading things; as fire, water, sunlight, …

Verse 4

Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees.

Thy words have upholden him that was falling — So forcible are right words, well timed and fitted to the present necessity, they shore up the tottering, they catch him before be comes to ground, and prevent his fall. This made Latimer bless God that ever he came acquainted with that fellow prisoner of his, that angel of God (as he called him), John Bradford he and Ridley, so long as they lived, upheld Cranmer by their words and letters; who soon after fell, to the grief of the godly party, but rose again by repentance (Mr Clark in his Life). The story is told of Urbanus Regius, a famous Dutch divine, that meeting with Luther at Goburg, be spent a whole day in conference with him about matters of great moment, of which himself writeth, that he never had a more comfortable day in all his life. The earl of Derby’s accusation in the parliament house against Mr Bradford was, that he did more harm (so he called good, evil) by letters and conferences in prison than ever he did when he was abroad by preaching (Acts and Mon.).

Thou hast strengthened the feeble knees — That bend and buckle under a back burden of afflictions: this was to be like unto God, who doth not crush, but cherish the worm Jacob; he doth not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax; he despiseth not the day of small things, nor slighteth the well meant weaknesses of his upright hearted people. Now Job, as a partaker of the Divine nature, resembled God herein, and made it his work to comfort the abject, to strengthen and straighten those that were bowed down with pains and pressures, to be eyes to the blind and feet to the lame, Job 29:15 ; to distribute spiritual alms, which is far the best in many respects, as were easy to instance.

Verse 5

But now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it toucheth thee, and thou art troubled.

But now it is come upon thee — This is a galling. But hitherto Eliphaz had commended Job; now he dasheth all, and draweth a black line over that he had spoken once. To commend a man with a but is a wound instead of a commendation; it sounds like that which is said of Naaman, 2 Kings 5:1 , he was an honourable and a valiant man, but a leper; it sprinkleth black upon white, and so smutteth a man’s good name, which is slander in a high degree.

It is come upon thee — What is come? The evil thou fearedst, by thine own confession, Job 3:25-26 ; or now it is come to thy turn to act what thou hast taught others.

And thou faintest — Thou art down on all four, most shamefully degenerating into a faithless pusillanimity and unbelieving impatience, to the scandal of the weak and scorn of the wicked. Nay, thou art not only in a maze, but in a rage, so that thy reason seems tired as much as thy strength; thou layest about thee like a Hercules furens, a man stark mad. See the word used in this sense, Proverbs 26:18 Genesis 47:13 . mad, fainted

It toucheth thee, and thou art troubled — It toucheth thee, but so tender thou art, and delicate, that a light touch disquieteth thee; like as some men’s flesh, if but razed with a pin, rankleth straight. Invalidum omne natura querulum, saith Seneca, The weaker anything is the more full of complaint.

And thou art troubled — Pitifully put to it, as if utterly undone, because touched a little, Mira vero constantia! Truly amazingly constant! But is this you that were a great teacher, that were so forward and forth putting to press others to a patient and peaceable behaviour under God’s hand? Should not thy words be made visible by thine actions? and thy patient mind be made known to all men, since the Lord is at hand? Hypocrites can talk of duty, as if their tongues did run upon pattens; The plate or shallow dish, usually circular and of silver, on which the bread is laid at the celebration of the Eucharist. they talk by the talent, but act by the ounce, as did those Pharisees, Matthew 23:8 Romans 2:21 , that shamed goodness by seeming good. Eliphaz here reproacheth Job for such a one, as both here and everywhere, he and his two companions are too hot and harsh in their censures passed upon him; which God also giveth them the telling of, Job 42:7-9 .

Verse 6

[Is] not [this] thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?

ls not this thy fear, thy confidence, … — Or thy folly: q.d. Is not thy religion a mere foolery? and hath not thou rather acted religion, played devotion and the fear of God, than been serious therein? This was a most bitter scoff, a cruel shake, and came near his heart. Like as nothing vexed David more than when they laid his religion in his dish, asking, Where is now thy God? So he. By this alteration that affliction hath wrought in thee, thou mayest easily see what thou art, viz. a very painted hypocrite: hard weather shows what health; empty vessels set near the fire, crack quickly. At the parting way every dog followeth his own master. Afflictio virum arguit, … Affliction shows a man, it turns the inside outward, the bottom of the bag upward; bringing that which was at the bottom to the top; as that stick cast into the water made the iron swim, 2 Kings 6:6 . Doth it not appear (saith Eliphaz here) that thou hast been merely mercenary, serving God while he prospered thee; and now kicking against him, because he affiicteth thee? See how near this man cometh, saith Mercer, to that first instigation of Satan, Job 1:9 , in hoc Satanae factus minister, herein acting the devil’s part, though unwittingly, as Peter also did, Matthew 16:22-23 .

The uprightness of thy ways and thy hope?q.d. Thou hast taken to thyself many fair titles, and made a great flaunt, as if there were none such; but what is it all come to? Is it any better than a flask, a foppery, a name, and not a thing? Or if it be a reality, make proof of it. True grace is operative, and will not lie dormant.

Verse 7

Remember, I pray thee, who [ever] perished, being innocent? or where were the righteous cut off?

Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent? — Why? that hath many a one, as the world counteth and calleth perishing: "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart," Isaiah 57:1 . And it was given unto the beast, to make war with the saints, and to overcome them, Revelation 13:7 . So it seemed to be, though so it never was, Revelation 12:11 . The first man that died, died for religion, so early came martyrdom into the world; and John Baptist was put to death in prison without all show of law, right, or reason, as if God had been nothing aware of any such matter, as that martyr phrased it (Acts and Mon.). Indeed, if Eliphaz meant it of perishing eternally, neither Job nor any one else could produce an instance of a godly man so perishing; but for temporal miseries it is sure that never any out of hell have met with more than the most holy and harmless heirs of heaven. See Hebrews 11:1-40 , and you will say so. But the Scriptures, haply, were not written when Eliphaz uttered this speech; howbeit, he might have observed the contrary to what he here seemeth to affirm, appealing to Job’s own experience for proof. And the truth is, if men were so well read as they might in the story of their own lives, they might have a divinity of their own, by noting experiments; such as that ll9th Psalm is in a manner wholly made up of. Remember, saith he here; and the philosopher saith, that experience is nothing else but mulplex memoria, because of the memory of the same thing often done, ariseth experience. Eliphaz, therefore, after that he had given Job his turn to search his experiences, brings forth his own in the next verse.

Verse 8

Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.

Even as I have seen — And therefore can boldly say: for what so sure as sight? See Numbers 11:23 Genesis 34:1-2 . Diligent inspection of a thing, and deep consideration upon it, makes confidence, which is the fruit of experience.

That they plow iniquity, and sow wickedness — Here is ploughing and sowing, a mystical husbandry. Sinners are sore labourers, great painstakers: they plot and plough, they sow and reap, they dig and delve, Proverbs 16:27 , they weave and spin, Isaiah 59:5 , they busy their heads, and beat their brains, as hard students in their black art; they labour even unto lassitude, Jeremiah 9:5 . Hence they are called workers of iniquity (the Vulgate rendereth this text Qui operantur iniquitatem ), and sin is called a work of the flesh. How can those but work hard in digging descents to hell, who have the devil for their task master, who continually spurs them on to a quick despatch of the deeds of darkness? Arant, serunt, occant scelera, as the devil’s hinds and horses, they drudge night and day, turning up all the corruption in their hearts and conveniences in the world, for the effecting of their wicked devices.

And sow wickednessNemo repente fit turpissimus. No one suddenly becomes wicked. Sin goeth on gradually (here is first ploughing, then sowing), wicked men and seducers grow worse and worse, till at length they are even Satanized, 2 Timothy 3:13 ; being transformed into sin’s image, and bereft of all passive power of awaking out of the snare of the devil, being taken alive by him at his pleasure, 2 Timothy 2:26 .

Reap the same — Not the same day it may be, but too soon, to their sorrow, they receive the guerdon of their sin. Sooner or later, it is sure, he that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity, Proverbs 22:8 Jeremiah 4:18 . As everybody hath its shadow, so hath every sin its punishment; and many times the one is so like the other, that a man may safely say, Such a punishment is the product of such a sin, Galatians 6:7 . Men shall reap the same they sow, and good reason. Give them blood to drink, for they are worthy, Revelation 16:6 . God loves to make him a name among men by his art of justicing (as one calleth it) in that most exact way of counterpassion, or retaliation; and Adonibezek hath got him a fame of ingenuity, by acknowledging as much, Judges 1:7 .

Verse 9

By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils are they consumed.

By the blast of God they perish — He puts himself to no great pain to punish them; but blows them away as so many dust heaps; he nods them to destruction, saith the psalmist, Psalms 80:16 ; he can as easily do it as bid it to be done. So Caesar Metellus. If the Lord do but arise, his enemies shall be scattered; and all that hate him fly before him, Psalms 64:1 . If he but put his head out of the windows of heaven, as it were, and say, Who is on my side; who? all the creatures (who for fear of him had hid themselves, as worms wriggle into their holes in time of thunder) shall look out presently, and offer him their service; so that he cannot possibly want a weapon to tame his rebels, or a way to bring the wicked to condign punishment. He is Eloah, as he is here called; that is, The powerful One, the mighty strong God, as Isaiah 9:6 , before whom all nations are as the drop of a bucket, or as the dust of the balance, Isaiah 40:15 ; no more able to stand against him than is the glass bottle against a cannon shot, or downny thistle before a whirlwind. Behold, I will send a blast upon him (saith God concerning Sennacherib, 2 Kings 19:7 ), and so set him going. So, elsewhere, he threateneth to tread down his stoutest enemies as straw is trodden down to the dunghill. Neither shall he much trouble himself in doing this: for he shall only spread forth his hands in the midst of them, "as he that swimmeth, spreadeth forth his hands to swim," …, Isaiah 25:11-12 , to signify that he shall do it with greatest facility. The motion in swimming is easy, not strong; for strong violent strokes in the water would rather sink than support. It is said, that by a look of his out of the pillar of fire and of the cloud he troubled the host of the Egyptians, Exodus 14:24 , and as the rocks repelled the boisterous waves, - Conantia frangere frangunt, so did he the enemies of his people.

By the breath of his nostrils are they consumed — Heb. By the wind of his nostrils. This is the same with the former. Only it is conceived that Eliphaz here alludeth to the manner of the death of Job s children by a mighty wind, so strong as if God himself had breathed it out. By the breath of his mouth he made the world, Psalms 32:6 , and by the same breath can he as soon and as easily unmake it again, as he did in the general deluge, whereunto the Chaldee paraphrast holdeth that Eliphaz here referreth; the remembrance of which standing monument of God’s wrath was fresh and well known when this was spoken.

Verse 10

The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the fierce lion, and the teeth of the young lions, are broken.

The roaring of the lion, … — Lest any should think, saith Mr Caryl, that the blast of God mentioned above carrieth away only straws and feathers, light and weak persons, into perdition, Eliphaz addeth the weightiest and the strongest, "The roaring of a lion," …, q.d. God by his blast can take away or break the strongest, the mightiest lion like men, … Under the shadow of which allusions he closely strikes at Job, who was once a great man, a fierce spoiling lion in the apprehension of his friends, and yet God brought him down. Of tyrants and oppressors compared to lions, and why, see Nahum 2:11-12 Proverbs 28:15 . See Trapp on " Nahum 2:11 " See Trapp on " Nahum 2:12 " See Trapp on " Proverbs 28:15 " The proverb is, The lion is not so fierce as he is painted. But no words can sufficiently set forth the atrocious savagery and cruelty of absurd and wicked men. See that of Nebuchadnezzar graphically described, Jeremiah 51:34 , "He hath devoured me, he hath crushed me, he hath made me an empty vessel, he hath swallowed me up like a dragon, he hath filled his belly with my delicates, he hath cast me out."

The teeth of the young lions are broken — Or, pulled out, that they may no more devour the flesh and drink the blood of God’s poor afflicted, that fell into their strong ones. Thus David had prayed, Psalms 58:6 , and this he had proved: Psalms 3:7 , "Thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly." God with his hard and heavy hand had so boxed and buffeted them, that they spat forth some of their teeth; and for the rest, they might go seek them in their throat; as Dares, that bold champion in Virgil, whom (when he had been soundly beaten by old Entellus) his fellows led away.

Ore reiectantem, ipsosque in sanguine dentes.

A just hand of God upon such as, exercising regimen without righteousness, ravin and rend, as lions greedy for their prey, plucking off the skins of their poor subjects, and pulling out their teeth, Micah 3:2 : as Melancthon telleth of one tyrant, who, to get great sums of money out of his people, used to send for them; and if they refused to answer his demands, he would first knock out one of their teeth, and then another, threatening to leave them toothless.

Verse 11

The old lion perisheth for lack of prey, and the stout lion’s whelps are scattered abroad.

The old lion perishelh for lack of prey — As not being able to hunt and get it. The meaning is (saith one) that men who reign like lions, that their children who equalled them in cruelty, that their wives who surpassed them in insolence, do end their lives tragically, Quotidiana et domestica experimenta hoc docent; all this is true for the most part. Eliphaz speaks of what is usually done, saith another (Mercer), in Psalms 30:1-12 . Or he speaks of what God can easily do at any time; and of what God may justly do at all times. If he suspend this justice, it is for weighty reasons, … Some wicked men God punisheth here, saith Augustine, lest his providence, but not all, lest his patience and promise of judgment, should be called into question.

Verse 12

Now a thing was secretly brought to me, and mine ear received a little thereof.

Now a thing was secretly brought to me — Heb. Was brought to me by stealth, closely and privily, so as others were not aware of it: see Acts 22:9 ; Acts 9:7 . Saul’s companions heard his voice, but not Christ’s. By this vision Eliphaz would convince Job that none are afflicted but those that have well deserved it; since the best are defective and blame worthy, though they should be puriores caelo afflictione facti, as Chrysostom saith, as those good souls were that prayed Peter out of prison, Acts 12:5 . Some are of the opinion, that this vision either came from his phantasy, and so was none; or else, by an illusion from Satan. But Mercer holds it to have been a true vision from God; although Eliphaz abused it in his misapplication thereof to Job, playing the sophister, after a sort, while he quite changeth the state of the question, which at this time was, Whether we ought to judge a man’s life and behaviour by the greatness of those troubles and miseries that he doth suffer? This vision he describeth verbis magnificis et ampullosis: As for me, a thing (or a word) was stolen upon me, or secretly brought to me, … But what so great a secret was this, saith Calvin, that God alone is perfectly righteous, and all men unrighteous in comparison to him? For answer, he calleth it a secret (though it be a plain and evident truth), because few consider it, and improve it to be a humble submission to God, and suffering his judgments. See a like expressmn, Psalms 78:2-3 , …, "I will open my mouth in a parable," which yet was nothing extraordinary, but poetically set out, so Psalms 49:4 . The happy and secure estate of saints in trouble is described, and the contrary; which though an ordinary argument, and often treated, yet is called the great wisdom, the dark saying.

And mine ear received a little thereofNonnihil pauxillum, quippiam, not all that it might, but as much as it could, as being but a narrow mouthed vessel. Vide ut modeste loquatur, saith Mercer; See how modestly the man speaketh, not taking upon him any perfection of knowledge, though he were a man of great understanding; his ear caught somewhat of what was revealed, and but somewhat. The best men, while here, knows only in part; for what reason? We prophesy but in part, 1 Corinthians 13:9 . Such is our weakness and narrow heartedness, that we cannot take in all of all; no, nor any part of all in the full latitude and extent of it. The greatest part of that we know is the least part of that we know not, saith a Father. Hence those modest expressions of some philosophers, and others: This only I know, that nothing I know, said Socrates. I know not so much as this, said another, that I yet know nothing. My greatest knowledge, said Chytreus, is to know that I know nothing. And albeit I am otherwise ignorant, saith another, yet of mine own ignorance I am not ignorant. Not only in most other things am I to seek, saith Austin (Epist. cxix. c. 21), but even in the Scriptures (my chief study, and trade of life) multo plura nescio quam scio, there are many more things hid from me than what I yet understand, John 14:4-5 . Thomas seems to contradict Christ. Austin thus reconcileth it: they did partly know whither Christ went, but dared not once believe that they had any such knowledge; they did not know their own knowledge. The best here can see but God’s back parts, and live, as Moses. Isaiah saw only his train in the temple, and the latter end of that too. Eliphaz’s ear caught only the latter end, as it were, of a sentence, only that which the echo resounded, a particle of the whole that was whispered secretly to him. Howbeit, that he received but a little was not from neglect of the rest, but from inability to receive more or to receive it more perfectly.

Verse 13

In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men,

In thoughts from the visions of the night, … — Or, in thoughts of the visions of the night. It appeareth by this and other circumstances that this vision was no fiction or holy fraud (as some have conceited) to bring Job to a sight of his sin. Let Papists praise their St Dominic for his holy hypocrisy which he taught his disciples to make use of, to bring people the better to a good esteem of the faith and love of virtue. Eliphaz was a better man than to deal in such depths of the devil, and with such deliberate gravity put a lie upon God. He was really plodding, he was in thoughts, the word properly signifieth branches, or boughs of trees, which are many, thick, intertwined, and crossing one another, In the multitude of my perplexed thoughts within me, saith David, thy comforts have refreshed my soul, Psalms 94:19 . The same word is rendered vain thoughts, or wavering cogitations, Psalms 119:113 , such as David’s soul hated. Carnal hearts are exchanges and shops of vain thoughts, stews of unclean thoughts, slaughter houses of cruel and bloody thoughts; a very forge and mint of false, politic, undermining thoughts: but Eliphaz’s thoughts were better busied; his top thoughts, those uppermost branches of his soul, were concerning God, and the things of his kingdom: when other men became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, he had visions of God. In the night season, when dead sleep fell upon others, he slept, but his heart waked, and was free to receive revelations, and to contemplate them; or, perhaps, he was wide awake at that time of night, that he might the better converse with God and his own soul. Abraham had many such sweet visions: Isaac walked out into the fields for the purpose: Jacob met with God in this manner, both at Bethel and at Penuel. Daniel had visions both in the day and in the night: so had Paul, and other apostles. The monks make long relations of revelations and apparitions that they have had. So do the enthusiasts and high attainers; but we are not bound to believe them. Matthew Paris reporteth of Gilbert Foliot, bishop of London, A. D. 1161, that one night musing about the difference between the king and Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, he heard a terrible voice, saying, O Gilberte Foliot, dum revolvis tot et tot, Deus tuus est Ascarot. O Gibert Filiot, then you turn back to much and so much. Your God is Iscariot. He, taking it to be the devil, answered boldly, Mentiris, daemon: Deus meus est Deus Sabaoth. Lying devil my God is the God of Hosts. Aeneas, in Virgil, is said to have his visions and conferences with his deceased friends. Satan loves to imitate God in what he can, that he may deceive with better success; but we have a most sure word of prophecy, and yet a more glorious light of the gospel, Hebrews 1:2 , the promised daystar being risen in our hearts, 2 Peter 1:19 .

Verse 14

Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake.

Fear came on me, and trembling — Fear in the inward man, and trembling in the outward. And this is God’s method still: the more he draweth nigh to any man the more doth rottenness enter into his bones, and he is horribly afraid of God’s judgments, with David; he trembleth at his word, with Josiah, that it may be the more efficacious in his soul. "Let us have grace" (saith the apostle), "whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for even our God also" (and not the God of the Jews only) "is a consuming fire," Hebrews 12:28-29 . Aξιωματικωτατος μεν εστιν ο βασιλευς ημων , saith Basil. Our King will be served like himself, served in state; and although he alloweth us a humble familiarity, yet he expecteth our reverential fear; acquainted he will be with us in our walks of obedience; but yet he takes state upon him in his ordinances, and will be trembled at in the addresses we make unto his majesty; he looks we should bring with us a legal faith and a legal repentance, as well as an evangelical; and that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12 . Terrors and humiliations prepare and posture the heart for revelations; never is it right till a man lie low at God’s feet, putting his mouth in the dust, and crying out, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth: there shall be only fear to make them understand the hearing, Isaiah 28:19 ; fear met Eliphaz, and made way for the heavenly vision.

Which made all my bones to shake — Heb. The multitude of my bones, or the number of my bones, how many soever they be, and they are as many (say the Hebrews) as there are affirmative precepts in the law. These pillars of my body shook sore, and threatened a downfall.

- Gelidusque per ima cucurrit

Ossa tremor. - (Aeneid ii.)

Verse 15

Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up:

Then a spirit passed before my face — Some render it a wind, as a messenger or forerunner of God near at hand, as 1 Kings 19:11 . But better, a good angel in some bodily shape, Psalms 104:4 Luke 24:37 ; for else how could he be seen of Eliphaz, gliding rather than going, as a ship upon the face of the waters?

The hair of my flesh stood upHorripilatus sum. In a fright the heart falleth down, the hair standeth up; the blood hastening to the heart to relieve it, as soldiers do to the castle when all is likely to be lost.

Verse 16

It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image [was] before mine eyes, [there was] silence, and I heard a voice, [saying],

It stood still — As now ready to speak. An ambulatory voice is hardly heard: the heavens, indeed, are walking preachers, but then they utter but these three words (Lib. ii. de Arca, cap. 3), saith Hugo, in all languages, Accipe, Redde, Fuge, that is, Receive mercies, Return duties, Flee offences, and their just punishments.

But I could not discern the form thereof — Heb. the aspect or countenance. He was so frighted, that his eye could not do its office distinctly, to discern the thing that was just before it. It is natural to a man to fear at the sight of an angel: what then will wicked men do at the last day, when the Son of man shall bring all his angels, not leaving one behind him in heaven? Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men: and oh that we could persuade them!

An image was before mine eyes — But I could not tell what to make of it. It is not the will of God that man should represent him by an image, Deuteronomy 4:15-16 . The Jews, after the captivity, were so far from idolatry, that they would not admit a carver or painter into their city. The Turks will not endure any image, no, not upon their coins, because of the second commandment. Varro saith, he that first brought in imagery (and that is thought to be Ninus, king of Babylon), superstitionem auxit, metum dempsit, increased superstition, and took away fear. The wiser heathens held that God was too subtle for sinew or sight to seize upon; and the Greek painters, when they would draw the image of their Jupiter in a table, they were still changing it, but never ending it, saying, that herein they showed him to be a god; for that they might begin to paint, but could not perfect him.

There was silence, and I heard a voice — It was fit there should be silence and sedateness of spirit when a Divine voice was to be heard. Let all the earth keep silence before God, Habakkuk 2:20 . When the seventh seal was opened there was half an hour’s silence in heaven, Revelation 8:1 . What a noise is there in many men’s hearts even while they are hearing what the Lord God speaketh unto them! what bargaining, lawing, projecting, running into another world (as men in dreams do), so that they can tell no more what the preacher said than the man in the moon can! Silence is a good preparative to audience. Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Let the woman (and so the man too) learn in silence. Let by thoughts, swarming and humming in our hearts, like the flies of Egypt, be barred out; let the devil, interrupting us with his suggestions, as the Pythoness did Paul and his companions, be haltered up. Let even good thoughts, if unseasonable and heterogeneal to the work in hand, be turned out of doors; let us say to them, as Hushai did to Ahithophel, Thy counsel is good, but not now. How shall we else hear with attention and affection? how shall we listen as for life, and hearken diligently with much heed? Isaiah 21:7 .

Verse 17

Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?

Shall mortal man — Sorry sinful man, a very mixture and hodge podge of dirt and sin, Miser, aerumnis et peccatis obnoxius.

Be more just than God? — Or, be just rather than God? as Luke 18:14 . This is the matter of the vision; and it is (saith Diodati) a revelation of the doctrine of the free remission of sins, and of the sinner’s justification by grace, through his faith in the promised mediator. But Eliphaz turns it another way, and misapplying it to Job, would there hence evince, that all his present sufferings were the proceeds of his own sin, and so from the process of God’s justice. The truth is, Job had blurted out some words in the former chapter that reflected somewhat upon God: he had also bitterly cursed the day and services of his birth; this latter, if Eliphaz had sharply reproved Job for, he had done him a friendly good office: but he waives that part, et quae desperat nitescere posse, relinquit; the other, of clearing God’s justice, he takes up and presseth it too far, to prove this unsound position: that whosoever is greatly afflicted by God, and for a long time together, that man is to be numbered with the wicked, though no other evidence or witness, appear or speak a word against him; for if he be innocent, how shall God be just that punisheth him? But Eliphaz should have known that afflictions are of two sorts, penal and probational; these latter are not simply for punishment of men’s sins, but for trial and exercise of their graces, to humble them, to prove them, and to do them good at their latter end, Deuteronomy 8:16 . Wait till God have made an end of his work (and we must not judge God’s works, saith Peter Martyr, ante quintum actum, before the fifth act), and we shall see the effect both just and good. This Job had scarcely the patience to do, as appeareth by sundry passages of his; howbeit he ever preserved high and holy thoughts of God, neither at any time questioned his justice and purity, or complained of his dealings with him, and dispensations toward him, as unrighteous, though now and then, through the extremity of his pain, the anguish of his spirit, and the provocation of his friends, some unwary speeches slipped from him.

Shall man be more pure than his maker? — Take man in his prime and pride, in his best estate and utmost strength, when and wherein he is most a man, ááø Vir a viribus, a man of the first magnitude, of the highest elevation (as one fitly phraseth it), both in parts, gifts, and graces; shall he be more pure than his Maker? never think it. Man, compared with his Maker, hath no purity or righteousness at all, no, not so much as a show or shadow of it; just he may be, or pure, by participation from God (saith Austin), but neither just nor pure, in comparison to God: he surpasseth all notion, and surmounteth all creatures, he hath no parallel; so true he is, that all men are liars; so pure, that all men are filthy; so just, that all men are wicked; so incomparably great and glorious, that the angels make their addresses to him with greatest self abasement. For what reason?

Verse 18

Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly:

Lo, he put no trust in his servants, … — Those menial, domestic servants of his, the holy angels that wait upon him, and are at his hand to do his will. Servant is a name of office; and they delight rather to be called angels (that is, messengers) and ministering spirits, than principalities, thrones, dominions, … Now in these God put no trust, he found no such cause to confide in them, because not perfectly sure and loyal to him, further than upheld and assisted by himself. The Vulgate Latin hath it thus, They that serve him are not stable; that is, the good angels are not stable by their own strength, but by God’s stablishing of thereto stand when others fell. Hence, Psalms 68:17 , the angels are called Shinan, as God’s seconds, say some; the nobles of that court, the very next unto him; but others say they are so called from their changeable state, now taken away by Christ, under whom they are as a head of government, of influence, of confirmation, but not of redemption, as we. Christ, as God, giveth them their being, and all their excellencies. As mediator, also, he maketh use of their ministry, for the safe guard and comfort of his people.

And his angels he charged with folly — That is, he spared not the angels that sinned, as St Peter expounds it, 2 Peter 2:4 . Their sin is said to be folly, that is, pride and self confidence. How this folly and madness of theirs (depravity, the Vulgate rendereth it) shows itself, whether in affecting a divinity, or in envy stirred up by the decree of exalting man’s nature above angels in and by Christ, and appointing them to be good men’s guardians, which office they scorned; or whether their pride appeared by transgressing some commandments in particular, not expressed, as Adam’s was, it is hard to say. Sure it is, that they abode not in the truth, that they kept not their station, …; and that the good angels stand, and are out of danger of ever falling, it is of divine grace. Hence, Exodus 25:19 , the cherubims stand upon the mercy seat, and are made of the matter thereof.

Verse 19

How much less [in] them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation [is] in the dust, [which] are crushed before the moth?

How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay — Or how much more (in reference to the latter part of the preceding verse) may God charge men with folly and depravity! And how much more ought he to acknowledge that he cannot subsist nor stand before God’s judgment, as Job 4:17 but only by his gracious pardon and absolution!

That dwell in houses of clayPeriphrasis est hominum, saith Mercer; this is a description of men, as opposed to angels, those inhabitants of heaven, called therefore the angels of heaven, Matthew 24:36 Galatians 1:8 , the courtiers of that heavenly Jerusalem, Hebrews 12:22 , in and with which, it may seem, they were created; as Christ’s soul was in and with his body in the virgin’s womb, the same moment. Hence they are also said to be in heaven, when as men and other things here below are said to be on earth, Matthew 6:10 , on the surface only, as ready to be shaken off, and as having here no continuing city, Hebrews 13:14 , no mansions till they come to heaven, John 14:2 , no settled abode: some huts we have here, rather than houses; clay cottages, earthly tabernacles, το σκηνος , as Paul after Plato calleth men’s bodies, 2 Corinthians 5:1 . And so the most interpreters understand these words of Eliphaz concerning the body of man (rather than of his house he dwells in here, made up of clay and dust a little refined and sublimated by art or nature), which is nothing else but a clod of clay neatly made up. What is man, saith Greg. Nazianzen out of Genesis 2:7 , but Nους και χους , soul and soil, breath and body, a puff of wind the one, a pile of dust the other? no solidity in either, òôø àôø κονις , cinis, ashes Genesis 3:19 ; Genesis 18:21 . Pulvis et umbra sumus, Dust and shadows we are, saith the poet, Her. Od. iv. 7, 16; and Kεραμος ο ανθρωπος , saith the Greek proverb, Man is but an earthen pot. The first man, Adam, was of the earth earthy, 1 Corinthians 15:47 . And no better are the best, quos ex meliore forsan lute finxit Titan, who are made of the finest common mould; but as the finer the metal, the purer the matter of any glass or earthen vessel, the more subject it is to break, so are they to die: for what reason?

Whose foundation is in the dust — The house is but weak, and yet the foundation weaker, terra friabilis, flying, light, unstable, unmoveable, dust that is soon wherried and whirled about with every puff of wind. Hence the apostle calleth man’s body not a house only (in respect of, 1. The comely and orderly workmanship thereof; 2. The soul which inhabiteth it), but a tabernacle, which hath no foundation, and is transportative, 2 Corinthians 5:1 , opposing to it building, which is firm and stable. Hence David, Omnis Adam est totus Abel, saith he. Verily every man in his best estate (when he is best founded and settled on his best bottom, when he is underlaid on all sides, and seems set to live) is altogether vanity, Psalms 39:5 ; Psalms 39:12 . So Psalms 144:4 . Adam is Abel’s equal, or man is like to vanity; what can he be better, when as

Which are crushed before the moth? — He saith not, before the lion, but before the moth. Now what a poor thing is man, that a moth may crush him; that a flee may choke him, as it did Pope Alexander; that a light bruise on his toe may kill him, as it did Aemilius Lepidus (Plin. lib. 7, cap. 53), that a poisoned torch may light him to his long home, as it did the Cardinal of Lorraine! I have known, saith one, death admitted in by a corn on the toe; and enough the hurt were so far off the heart, yet the man died upon it (Purchas). Another I knew, who seeming to have conquered the elements, the wide ocean, wild wilderness, wilder beasts, wildest men, hottest climates; after sixteen years’ absence, returned home, and died of a hurt in his thumb. Mr Terry, a great traveller, telleth of a nobleman in the Great Mogul’s court, who sitting in dalliance with one of his women, had a hair plucked by her from his breast; this little wound, made by that small and unexpected instrument of death, presently festered; and turning to an incurable cancer, killed him (Lawless Liberty, in a Serm. at Paul’s, by Edm. Terry, p. 21). God needs no bigger a lance than a hair to kill an atheist, as this dying man acknowledged. But besides all ill accidents and casualties from without; look how the garment breeds the moth, and then the moth eats the garment; so man’s own distempered body breeds ill burnouts, they diseases, and these breed death, as one well observeth upon this text. It is holden for certain, that in every two years there is such store of ill humours and excrements engendered in the body, that a vessel of one hundred ounces will scarce contain them. Ipsa suis augmentis vita ad detrimenta impellitur, saith Gregory, et inde deficit undo proficere creditur. Life weareth out by the very meat that maintaineth it; and every man hath his bane about him.

Verse 20

They are destroyed from morning to evening: they perish for ever without any regarding [it].

They are destroyed from morning to evening — Heb. They are beaten to pieces, as in a mortar, with one sorrow upon another, till the very breath be beaten out of their bodies at length; and all this from morning to evening, all the day long, or all their life long, which is here set forth (for the brevity of it) by an artificial day, and such also as no man can be sure he shall have twelve hours to his day ( Per totum diem, through the entire day, Drus.), for how many are there whose sun hath set at high noon! in the prime and pride of their days have they been suddenly snatched away by the hand of death; yea, how many see we whose sun setteth in the very rising, so that they are carried from the birth to the burial! Every hour, surely, we all yield somewhat unto death, and a very short cut hath the longest liver of all, from the grave of the womb to the womb of the grave. Eliphaz here seemeth to compare us to those creatures called Ephemerobii, which are young in the morning, middle aged at noon, and dead ere night; they begin and end their lives in a day (Aristot.). Man’s life is a vapour, saith St James, a bubble, say the heathens, a blast, a dream, a shadow, a dream of a shadow, …

They perish for ever — That is, they die once for all. For "if a man die, shall he live again?" Job 14:14 . No such matter. In this war, as there is no discharge, Ecclesiastes 8:8 , so neither is it granted to any man to err twice; therefore Austin said that he would not for the gain of a million worlds be an atheist for half an hour; because he knew not but God might in that time call for him, and cut him off from all time of repentance, acceptation, and grace for ever, since he could die but once only, and after death judgment: every man’s death’s day is his doom’s day, Hebrews 9:27 .

Without any regarding it — Heb. Putting, sc. his heart to it, or laying it upon his heart, as every man living should do, Ecclesiastes 7:2 , but that few or none so do, see Isaiah 57:1 . David did, when hearing of his child’s decease, he said, "I shall go to him," 2 Samuel 12:23 . And Moses, seeing the people’s carcases fall so fast in the wilderness, prayed for himself and the rest, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom," Psalms 90:12 . Every dead corpse is a monitor, a dumb preacher, Etiam muta clamant cadavera. Abel, though dead, speaketh; but how few hearken to him! Dives thought that if one came from the dead to forewarn his brethren, great matters would be done. Petrus Sutorius telleth of one that, preaching a funeral sermon on a religious man, as he calleth him, and giving him large commendations, heard at the same time a voice in the church, Mortuus sum, iudicatus sum, damnatus sum, I am dead, I am judged, I am damned (Pet. Sutor. de Vita Carth.). This very much wrought upon the heart of Bruno, saith he, and occasioned him to found the Carthusian order. Waldus, a French merchant, was so affected with the death of one that died suddenly in his presence, that he thenceforth became a right godly man, and the father of the Waldenses, those ancient Protestants in France, called also, The poor men of Lyons. But oh, the dead lethargy, the spirit of fornication, that hath so besotted the minds of the most, that they can see death, and yet not think of it! They can look into the dark chamber of the grave, and never make the least preparation for it: if for present they be somewhat affected, and have some good impressions, yet they soon vanish; as the water, circled by a stone cast into it, soon returns to its former smoothness; as chickens run under the wings of the hen, while the kite is over them, or in a storm, but soon after get abroad again, and dust themselves in the sun. As Nebuchadnezzar had seen a vision, but it was gone from him; so here, if men at the house of mourning have some good motions, they improve them not to resolutions, or draw not forth their resolutions into executions, …

Verse 21

Doth not their excellency [which is] in them go away? they die, even without wisdom.

Doth not their excellency which is in them go away? — Journeyeth not their excellency with them? so Broughton rendereth it. By their excellence here some understand the soul, called by David his glory. A philosopher said, there was nothing excellent in the world but man, nothing in man but his soul (Favorinus). The Stoics affirmed that the body was not a part of a man, but the instrument, or rather the servant, of the soul. Hence the Latins call the body Corpus, or Corpor (as of old they speak), quasi cordis puer sive famnlus. And Plato saith that that is not the man that is seen of him; but the mind of a man, that is the man ( ουκ εστιν ανθρωπος το ορωμενον ). And in the Job 4:19 man is said to dwell in a house of clay; that is, the soul to inhabit the body. The soul goes away with the name of the whole person; the soul indeed is the man in a moral consideration, and is, therefore, elsewhere called the inward man, and the hidden man of the heart, 2 Corinthians 4:16 1 Peter 3:4 ; the body, compared to it, is but as a clay wall encompassing a treasure, a coarse case to a rich instrument, a leathern sheath to an excellent blade, Daniel 7:15 , or as a mask to a beautiful face. Now at death this excellence of a man departeth, returneth to God that gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7 . "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish," even the most excellent effects of his mind and spirit, as the word signifieth, Psalms 146:4 . And as that, so all other excellencies go away at death, Psalms 39:11 ; Psalms 49:13 ; even the whole goodliness of man, Isaiah 40:6 , whether it be the good things of the mind, as wisdom, science, conscience, judgment; or of the body, as beauty and health; or of fortune, as they call it, as favour and applause, together with plenty of prosperity. No man’s glory goeth down with him into the grave, Psalms 49:16 . Where is now the flourishing beauty and gallantry of Caesar, saith one? his armies and honours, his triumphs and trophies? Where are the rich fool’s great barns? Nebuchadnezzar’s great Babel? Agrippa’s great pomp? … Have not all these made their bed in the dark, leaving their excellence behind them? Are they not, many of them, gone to their place, as a stone to the centre, or as a fool to the stocks?

They die, even without wisdom — Heb. They die, and not with wisdom; they die like so many beasts (but for their pillow and bolster), without any care to lay hold on eternal life; they die as a fool dieth, 2 Samuel 3:33 . Not in wisdom; that is, in abundance of folly, saith Pineda. And this is most men’s case; their wit serves them not in this weighty work of preparing to die; they put far away the thoughts of it, and hence they die tempore non suo, Ecclesiastes 7:17 , when it were better for them to do anything rather than to die. To live with dying thoughts is a high point of heavenly wisdom, Psalms 90:12 Deuteronomy 32:29 . How might one such wise Christian chase a thousand foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men’s soul in perdition and destruction! 1 Timothy 6:4 .

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 4". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/job-4.html. 1865-1868.
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