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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Job 10

Verses 1-2

1 My soul is full of disgust with my life,

Therefore I will freely utter my complaint;

I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

2 I will say to Eloah: Condemn me not;

Let me know wherefore Thou contendest with me!

His self-consciousness makes him desire that the possibility of answering for himself might be granted him; and since he is weary of life, and has renounced all claim for its continuance, he will at least give his complaints free course, and pray the Author of his sufferings that He would not permit him to die the death of the wicked, contrary to the testimony of his own conscience. נקטה is equivalent to נקטּה ot tnel , Ezekiel 6:9, after the usual manner of the contraction of double Ayin verbs (Genesis 11:6-Judges :; Isaiah 19:3; Judges 5:5; Ezekiel 41:7; vid., Ges. §67, rem. 11); it may nevertheless be derived directly from נקט , for this secondary verb formed from the Niph. נקט is supported by the Aramaic. In like manner, in Genesis 17:11 perhaps a secondary verb נמל , and certainly in Genesis 9:19 and Isaiah 23:3 a secondary verb נפץ (1 Samuel 13:11), formed from the Niph. נפץ (Genesis 10:18), is to be supposed; for the contraction of the Niphal form נקומה into נקמה is impossible; and the supposition which has been advanced, of a root &#פצץ פוץ in the signification diffundere, dissipare is unnecessary. His soul is disgusted ( fastidio affecta est , or fastidit ) with his life, therefore he will give free course to his plaint (comp. Job 7:11). עלי is not super or de me, but, as Job 30:16, in me; it belongs to the Ego, as an expression of spontaneity: I in myself, since the Ego is the subject, ὑποκείμενον , of his individuality ( Psychol. S. 151f.). The inner man is meant, which has the Ego over or in itself; from this the complaint shall issue forth as a stream without restraint; not, however, a mere gloomy lamentation over his pain, but a supplicatory complaint directed to God respecting the peculiar pang of his suffering, viz., this stroke which seems to come upon him from his Judge ( ריב , seq. acc., as Isaiah 27:8), without his being conscious of that for which he is accounted guilty.

Verses 3-7

3 Doth it please Thee when Thou oppressest,

That Thou rejectest the work of Thy hands,

While Thou shinest upon the counsel of the wicked?

4 Hast Thou eyes of flesh,

Or seest Thou as a mortal seeth?

5 Are Thy days as the days of a mortal,

Or Thy years as man's days,

6 That Thou seekest after my iniquity,

And searchest after my sin?

7 Although Thou knowest that I am not a wicked man,

And there is none that can deliver out of Thy hand.

There are three questions by which Job seeks to exhaust every possible way of accounting for his sufferings as coming from God. These attempts at explanation, however, are at once destroyed, because they proceed upon conceptions which are unworthy of God, and opposed to His nature. Firstly, Whether it gives Him pleasure ( טּוב , agreeable, as Job 13:9) when He oppresses, when He despises, i.e., keeps down forcibly or casts from Him as hateful ( מאס , as Psalms 89:39; Isaiah 54:6) the work of His hand; while, on the contrary, He permits light to shine from above upon the design of the wicked, i.e., favours it? Man is called the יגיע of the divine hands, as though he were elaborated by them, because at his origin (Genesis 2:7), the continuation of which is the development in the womb (Psalms 139:15), he came into existence in a remarkable manner by the directly personal, careful, and, so to speak, skilful working of God. That it is the morally innocent which is here described, may be seen not only from the contrast ( Job 10:3), but also from the fact that he only can be spoken of as oppressed and rejected. Moreover, “the work of Thy hands” involves a negative reply to the question. Such an unloving mood of self-satisfaction is contrary to the bounty and beneficence of that love to which man owes his existence. Secondly, Whether God has eyes of flesh, i.e., of sense, which regard only the outward appearance, without an insight into the inner nature, or whether He sees as mortals see, i.e., judges, κατὰ τῆν σάρκα (John 8:15)? Mercier correctly: num ex facie judicas, ut affectibus ducaris more hominum. This question also supplies its own negative; it is based upon the thought that God lookest on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Thirdly, Whether His life is like to the brevity of man's life, so that He is not able to wait until a man's sin manifests itself, but must institute such a painful course of investigation with him, in order to extort from him as quickly as possible a confession of it? Suffering appears here to be a means of inquisition, which is followed by the final judgment when the guilt is proved. What is added in Job 10:7 puts this supposition aside also as inconceivable. Such a mode of proceeding may be conceived of in a mortal ruler, who, on account of his short-sightedness, seeks to bring about by severe measures that which was at first only conjecture, and who, from the apprehension that he may not witness that vengeance in which he delights, hastens forward the criminal process as much as possible, in order that his victim may not escape him. God, however, to whom belongs absolute knowledge and absolute power, would act thus, although, etc. על , although, notwithstanding (proceeding from the signification, besides, insuper ), as Job 17:16 (Isaiah 53:9), Job 34:6. God knows even from the first that he (Job) will not appear as a guilty person ( רשׁע , as in Job 9:29); and however that may be, He is at all events sure of him, for nothing escapes the hand of God.

That operation of the divine love which is first echoed in “the labour of Thy hands,” is taken up in the following strophe, and, as Job contemplates it, his present lot seems to him quite incomprehensible.

Verses 8-12

8 Thy hands have formed and perfected me

Altogether round about, and Thou hast now swallowed me up!

9 Consider now, that Thou has perfected me as clay,

And wilt Thou turn me again into dust?

10 Hast Thou not poured me out as milk,

And curdled me as curd?

11 With skin and flesh hast Thou clothed me,

And Thou hast intertwined me with bones and sinews;

12 Life and favour Thou hast shown me,

And thy care hath guarded my breath.

The development of the embryo was regarded by the Israelitish Chokma as one of the greatest mysteries (Ecclesiastes 11:5; 2 Macc. 7:22f.). There are two poetical passages which treat explicitly of this mysterious existence: this strophe of the book of Job, and the Psalm by David, Psalms 139:13-Nehemiah : ( Psychol. S. 210). The assertion of Scheuchzer, Hoffmann, and Oetinger, that these passages of Scripture “include, and indeed go beyond, all recent systemata generationis ,” attributes to Scripture a design of imparting instruction, - a purpose which is foreign to it. Scripture nowhere attempts an analysis of the workings of nature, but only traces them back to their final cause. According to the view of Scripture, a creative act similar to the creation of Adam is repeated at the origin of each individual; and the continuation of development according to natural laws is not less the working of God than the creative planting of the very beginning. Thy hands, says Job, have formed ( עצּב , to cut, carve, fashion; cognate are &#חצב קצב , without the accompanying notion of toil, which makes this word specially appropriate, as describing the fashioning of the complicated nature of man) and perfected me. We do not translate: made; for עשׂה stands in the same relation to ברא and יצר as perficere to creare and fingere (Genesis 2:2; Isaiah 43:7). יחד refers to the members of the body collectively, and סביב to the whole form. The perfecting as clay implies three things: the earthiness of the substance, the origin of man without his knowledge and co-operation, and the moulding of the shapeless substance by divine power and wisdom. The primal origin of man, de limo terrae (Job 33:6; Psalms 139:15), is repeated in the womb. The figures which follow (Job 10:10) describe this origin, which being obscure is all the more mysterious, and glorifies the power of God the more. The sperma is likened to milk; the חתּיך (used elsewhere of smelting), which Seb. Schmid rightly explains rem colliquatam fundere et immittere in formam aliquam , refers to the nisus formativus which dwells in it. The embryo which is formed from the sperma is likened to גּבינה , which means in all the Semitic dialects cheese (curd). “As whey” (Ewald, Hahn) is not suitable; whey does not curdle; in making cheese it is allowed to run off from the curdled milk. “As cream” (Schlottm.) is not less incorrect; cream is not lac coagulatum , which the word signifies. The embryo forming itself from the sperma is like milk which is curdled and beaten into shape.

The consecutio temporum , moreover, must be observed here. It is, for example, incorrect to translate, with Ewald: Dost Thou not let me flow away like milk, etc. Job looks back to the beginning of his life; the four clauses, Job 10:10, Job 10:11, under the control of the first two verbs (Job 10:8), which influence the whole strophe, are also retrospective in meaning. The futt. are consequently like synchronous imperff.; as, then, Job 10:12 returns to perff., Job 10:11 describes the development of the embryo to the full-grown infant, on which Grotius remarks: Hic ordo est in genitura: primum pellicula fit, deinde in ea caro, duriora paulatim accedunt , and by Job 10:12, the manifestations of divine goodness, not only in the womb, but from the beginning of life and onwards, are intended. The expression “Life and favour (this combination does not occur elsewhere) hast Thou done to me” is zeugmatic: He has given him life, and sustained that life amidst constant proofs of favour; His care has guarded the spirit ( רוּח ), by which his frame becomes a living and self-conscious being. This grateful retrospect is interspersed with painful reflections, in which Job gives utterance to his feeling of the contrast between the manifestation of the divine goodness which he had hitherto experienced and his present condition. As in Job 10:8., ותּבלּעני , which Hirzel wrongly translates: and wilt now destroy me; it is rather: and hast now swallowed me up, i.e., drawn me down into destruction, as it were brought me to nought; or even, if in the fut. consec., as is frequently the case, the consecutive and not the aorist signification preponderates: and now swallowest me up; and in Job 10:9 (where, though not clear from the syntax, it is clear from the substance that תשׁיבני is not to be understood as an imperfect, like the futt. in Job 10:10.): wilt Thou cause me to become dust again? The same tone is continued in the following strophe. Thus graciously has he been brought into being, and his life sustained, in order that he may come to such a terrible end.

Verses 13-17

יגאה is hypothetical, like וצדקתי , but put in the future form, because referring to a voluntary act (Ewald, §357, b): and if it (the head) would (nevertheless) exalt itself ( גאה , to raise proudly or in joyous self-consciousness), then (without waw apod., which is found in other passages, e.g., Job 22:28) Thou wouldst hunt me like a shachal (vid., Job 4:10), - Job likens God to the lion (as Hosea 5:14; Hosea 13:7), and himself to the prey which the lion pursues-Thou wouldst ever anew show Thyself wonderful at my expense ( תּשׁב , voluntative form, followed by a future with which it is connected adverbially, Ges. §142, 3, b; תּתפּלּא , with â in the last syllable, although not in pause, as Numbers 19:12; Ewald, §141, c.), i.e., wonderful in power, and inventive by ever new forms off suffering, by which I should be compelled to repent this haughtiness. The witnesses ( עדים ) that God continually brings forth afresh against him are his sufferings (vid., Job 16:8), which, while he is conscious of his innocence, declare him to be a sinner; for Job, like the friends, cannot think of suffering and sin otherwise than as connected one with the other: suffering is partly the result of sin, and partly it sets the mark of sin on the man who is no sinner. תּרב ( fut. apoc. Hiph. Ges. §75, rem. 15) is also the voluntative form: Thou wouldst multiply, increase Thy malignity against me. עם , contra , as also in other passages with words denoting strife and war, Job 13:19; Job 23:6; Job 31:13; or where the context implies hostility, Psalms 55:19; Psalms 94:16. The last line is a clause by itself consisting of nouns. וצבא חליפות is considered by all modern expositors as hendiadys , as Mercier translates: impetor variis et sibi succedentibus malorum agminibus ; and צבא is mostly taken collectively. Changes and hosts = hosts continuously dispersing themselves, and always coming on afresh to the attack. But is not this form of expression unnatural? By חליפות Job means the advancing troops, and by צבא the main body of the army, from which they are reinforced; the former stands first, because the thought figuratively expressed in תחדשׁ and תרב is continued (comp. Job 19:12): the enmity of God is manifested against him by ever fresh sufferings, which are added to the one chief affliction. Böttcher calls attention to the fact that all the lines from v. 14 end in î, a rhythm formed by the inflection, which is also continued in v. 18. This repetition of the pronominal suffix gives intensity to the impression that these manifestations of the divine wrath have special reference to himself individually.

Verses 18-22

18 And wherefore hast Thou brought me forth out of the womb?

I should have expired, that no eye had seen me,

19 I should have been as though I had never been,

Carried from the womb to the grave.

20 Are not my days few? then cease

And turn from me, that I may become a little cheerful,

21 Before I go to return no more

Into the land of darkness and of the shadow of death,

22 The land of deep darkness like to midnight,

Of the shadow of death and of confusion,

And which is bright like midnight.

The question Wherefore? Job 10:18, is followed by futt. as modi conditionales (Ges. §127, 5) of that which would and should have happened, if God had not permitted him to be born alive: I should have expired, prop. I ought to have expired, being put back to the time of birth (comp. Job 3:13, where the praet. more objectively expressed what would then have happened). These modi condit . are continued in Job 10:19: I should have been (sc. in the womb) as though I had not been (comp. the short elliptical

(Note: כלא is there = לא כאשׁר , like ללא , Isaiah 65:1 = לא לאשׁר [ vid. Ges. §123, 3], and כּ is used as a conjunction as little as ל (vid., on Psalms 38:14).)

expression, Obadiah 1:16), i.e., as one who had scarcely entered upon existence, and that only of the earliest (as at conception); I should have been carried ( הוּבל , as Job 21:32) from the womb (without seeing the light as one born alive) to the grave. This detestation of his existence passes into the wish, Job 10:20, that God would be pleased at least somewhat to relieve him ere he is swallowed up by the night of Hades. We must neither with the Targ. translate: are not my days few, and vanishing away? nor with Oetinger: will not my fewness of days cease? Both are contrary to the correct accentuation. Olshausen thinks it remarkable that there is not a weaker pausal accent to ימי ; but such a one is really indirectly there, for Munach is here equivalent to Dechî, from which it is formed (vid., the rule in Comm. über den Psalter, ii. 504). Accordingly, Seb. Schmid correctly translates: nonne parum dies mei? ideo cessa. The Keri substitutes the precative form of expression for the optative: cease then, turn away from me then ( imper. consec. with waw of the result, Ewald, §235, a); comp. the precative conclusion to the speech, Job 7:16., but there is no real reason for changing the optative form of the text. ישׁית (voluntative for ישׁת , Job 9:33) may be supplemented by •ידו פניו עיניו פ , or לבו (Job 7:17) (not, however, with Hirz., שׁבטו , after Job 9:34, which is too far-fetched for the usage of the language, or with Böttch., מחנהו , copias suas ); שׁית can however, like שׂים , Job 4:20, signify to turn one's self to, se disponere = to attend to, consequently מן שׁית , to turn the attention from, as מן שׁעה , Job 7:19, Ps. 39:14 (where, as here, ואבליגה follows).

He desires a momentary alleviation of his sufferings and ease before his descent to Hades, which seems so near at hand. He calls Hades the land of darkness and of the shadow of death. צלמות , which occurs for the first time in the Old Testament in Psalms 23:4, is made into a compound from סלמוּת , and is the proper word for the obscurity of the region of the dead, and is accordingly repeated later on. Further, he calls it the land of encircling darkness ( עפתה , defective for עיפתה , from עוף , caligare , and with He parag. intensive for עיפה , in Amos 4:13, who also uses הבליג , Job 5:9, in common with Job), like midnight darkness. אפל cannot mean merely the grey of twilight, it is the entire absence of sunlight, Job 3:6; Job 28:3; Psalms 91:6; comp. ex. Job 10:22, where the Egyptian darkness is called אפלה חשׁך . Böttch. correctly compares אפל and נפל : mersa ad imum h.e. profunda nox (the advancing night). Still further he calls it (the land) of the shadow of death, and devoid of order ( סדרים , ἅπ. λεγ. in the Old Testament, but a common word in the later Hebrew), i.e., where everything is so encompassed by the shadow of death that it seems a chaos, without any visible or distinct outline. It is difficult to determine whether ותּפע is to be referred to ארץ : and which lights ( fut. consec. as the accent on the penult . indicates, the syntax like Job 3:21, Job 3:23; Isaiah 57:3); or is to be taken as neuter: and it shines there (= and where it shines) like midnight darkness. Since ותּפע (from &#יפע ופע , to rise, shine forth; vid., on Psalms 95:4), as also האיר , does not occur elsewhere as neuter, we prefer, with Hirzel, to refer it to ארץ ot , as being more certain. Moreover, אפל is here evidently the intensest darkness, ipsum medullitium umbrae mortis ejusque intensissimum , as Oetinger expresses it. That which is there called light, i.e., the faintest degree of darkness, is like the midnight of this world; “not light, but darkness visible,” as Milton says of hell.

The maxim of the friends is: God does not pervert right, i.e., He deals justly in all that He does. They conclude from this, that no man, no sufferer, dare justify himself: it is his duty to humble himself under the just hand of God. Job assents to all this, but his assent is mere sarcasm at what they say. He admits that everything that God does is right, and must be acknowledged as right; not, however, because it is right in itself, but because it is the act of the absolute God, against whom no protest uttered by the creature, though with the clearest conviction of innocence, can avail. Job separates goodness from God, and regards that which is part of His very being as a produce of His arbitrary will. What God says and does must be true and right, even if it be not true and right in itself. The God represented by the friends is a God of absolute justice; the God of Job is a God of absolute power. The former deals according to the objective rule of right; the latter according to a freedom which, because removed from all moral restraint, is pure caprice.

How is it that Job entertains such a cheerless view of the matter? The friends, by the strong view which they have taken up, urge him into another extreme. On their part, they imagine that in the justice of God they have a principle which is sufficient to account for all the misfortunes of mankind, and Job's in particular. They maintain, with respect to mankind in general (Eliphaz by an example from his own observation, and Bildad by calling to his aid the wisdom of the ancients), that the ungodly, though prosperous for a time, come to a fearful end; with respect to Job, that his affliction is a just chastisement from God, although designed for his good. Against the one assertion Job's own experience of life rebels; against the other his consciousness rises up with indignation. Job's observation is really as correct as that of the friends; for the history of the past and of the present furnishes as many illustrations of judgments which have suddenly come upon the godless in the height of their prosperity, as of general visitations in which the innocent have suffered with the guilty, by whom these judgments have been incurred. But with regard to his misfortune, Job cannot and ought not to look at it from the standpoint of the divine justice. For the proposition, which we will give in the words of Brentius, quidquid post fidei justificationem pio acciderit, innocenti accidit , is applicable to our present subject.

If, then, Job's suffering were not so severe, and his faith so powerfully shaken, he would comfort himself with the thought that the divine ways are unsearchable; since, on the one hand, he cannot deny the many traces of the justice of the divine government in the world (he does not deny them even here), and on the other hand, is perplexed by the equally numerous incongruities of human destiny with the divine justice. (This thought is rendered more consolatory to us by the revelation which we possess of the future life; although even in the later Old Testament times the last judgment is referred to as the adjustment of all these incongruities; vid., the conclusion of Ecclesiastes.) His own lot might have remained always inexplicable to him, without his being obliged on that account to lose the consciousness of the divine love, and that faith like Asaph's, which, as Luther says, struggles towards God through wrath and disfavour, as through thorns, yea, even through spears and swords.

Job is passing through conflict and temptation. He does not perceive the divine motive and purpose of his suffering, nor has he that firm and unshaken faith which will keep him from mistaken views of God, although His dispensations are an enigma to him; but, as his first speech (ch. 3) shows, he is tormented by thoughts which form part of the conflict of temptation. The image of the gracious God is hidden from him, he feels only the working of the divine wrath, and asks, Wherefore doth God give light to the suffering ones? - a question which must not greatly surprise us, for, as Luther says, “There has never been any one so holy that he has not been tormented with this quare , quare , Wherefore? wherefore should it be so?” And when the friends, who know as little as Job himself about the right solution of this mystery, censure him for his inquiry, and think that in the propositions: man has no righteousness which he can maintain before God, and God does not pervert the right, they have found the key to the mystery, the conflict becomes fiercer for Job, because the justice of God furnishes him with no satisfactory explanation of his own lot, or of the afflictions of mankind generally. The justice of God, which the friends consider to be sufficient to explain everything that befalls man, Job can only regard as the right of the Supreme Being; and while it appears to the friends that every act of God is controlled by His justice, it seems to Job that whatever God does must be right, by virtue of His absolute power.

This principle, devoid of consolation, drives Job to the utterances so unworthy of him, that, in spite of his conviction of his innocence, he must appear guilty before God, because he must be speechless before His terrible majesty, - that if, however, God would only for once so meet him that he could fearlessly address Him, he would know well enough how to defend himself (ch. 9). After these utterances of his feeling, from which all consciousness of the divine love is absent, he puts forth the touching prayer: Condemn me not without letting me know why Thou dost condemn me! (Job 10:1-Judges :).

As he looks back, he is obliged to praise God, as his Creator and Preserver, for what He has hitherto done for him (Job 10:8-2 Kings :); but as he thinks of his present condition, he sees that from the very beginning God designed to vent His wrath upon him, to mark his infirmities, and to deprive him of all joy in the consciousness of his innocence (Job 10:13-Esther :). He is therefore compelled to regard God as his enemy, and this thought overpowers the remembrance of the divine goodness. If, however, God were his enemy, he might well ask, Wherefore then have I come into being? And while he writhes as a worm crushed beneath the almighty power of God, he prays that God would let him alone for a season ere he passes away into the land of darkness, whence there is no return (Job 10:18-Song of Solomon :).

Brentius remarks that this speech of Job contains inferni blasphemias , and explains them thus: non enim in tanto judicii horrore Deum patrem, sed carnificem sentit ; but also adds, that in passages like Job 10:8-2 Kings : faith raises its head even in the midst of judgment; for when he praises the mercies of God, he does so spiritu fidei , and these he would not acknowledge were there not a fidei scintilla still remaining. This is true. The groundwork of Job's faith remains even in the fiercest conflict of temptation, and is continually manifest; we should be unable to understand the book unless we could see this fidei scintilla , the extinction of which would be the accomplishment of Satan's design against him, glimmering everywhere through the speeches of Job. The unworthy thoughts he entertains of God, which Brentius calls inferni blasphemias , are nowhere indulged to such a length that Job charges God with being his enemy, although he fancies Him to be an enraged foe. In spite of the imagined enmity of God against him, Job nowhere goes so far as to declare enmity on his part against God, so far as אלהים ברך . He does not turn away from God, but inclines to Him in prayer. His soul is filled with adoration of God, and with reverence of His power and majesty; he can clearly discern God's marvellous works in nature and among men, and His creative power and gracious providence, the workings of which he has himself experienced. But that mystery, which the friends have made still more mysterious, has cast a dark cloud over his vision, so that he can no longer behold the loving countenance of God. His faith is unable to disperse this cloud, and so he sees but one side of the divine character - His Almightiness. Since he consequently looks upon God as the Almighty and the Wrathful One, his felling alternately manifests itself under two equally tragical phases. At one time he exalts himself in his consciousness of the justice of his cause, to sink back again before the majesty of God, to whom he must nevertheless succumb; at another time his feeling of self-confidence is overpowered by the severity of his suffering, and he betakes himself to importunate supplication.

It is true that Job, so long as he regards his sufferings as a dispensation of divine judgment, is as unjust towards God as he believes God to be unjust towards him; but if we bear in mind that this state of conflict and temptation does not preclude the idea of a temporal withdrawal of faith, and that, as Baumgarten ( Pentat. i. 209) aptly expresses it, the profound secret of prayer is this, that man can prevail with the Divine Being, then we shall understand that this dark cloud need only be removed, and Job again stands before the God of love as His saint.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 10". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.