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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Job 17

Verses 1-2

1 My breath is corrupt,

My days are extinct,

The graves are ready for me.

2 Truly mockery surrounds me,

And mine eye shall loiter over their disputings.

Hirz., Hlgst., and others, wrongly consider the division of the chapter here to be incorrect. The thought in Job 16:22 is really a concluding thought, like Job 10:20., Job 7:21. Then in Job 17:1 another strain is taken up; and as Job 16:22 is related, as a confirmation, to the request expressed in Job 16:19-21, so Job 17:1, Job 17:2 are related to that expressed in Job 17:3. The connection with the conclusion of Job 16 is none the less close: the thoughts move on somewhat crosswise ( chiastisch). We do not translate with Ewald: “My spirit is destroyed,” because חבּל (here and Isaiah 10:27) signifies not, to be destroyed, but, to be corrupted, disturbed, troubled; not the spirit (after Arab. chbl , usually of disturbance of spirit), but the breath is generally meant, which is become short (Job 7:15) and offensive (Job 19:17), announcing suffocation and decay as no longer far distant. In Job 17:1 the ἅπ. γεγρ. נזעכוׁ is equivalent to נדעכו , found elsewhere. In Job 17:1 קברים is used as if the dead were called, Arab. ssâchib el - kubûr , grave-companions. He is indeed one who is dying, from whom the grave is but a step distant, and still the friends promise him long life if he will only repent! This is the mockery which is with him, i.e., surrounds him, as he affirms, Job 17:1. A secondary verb, התל , is formed from the Hiph. התל (of which we had the non-syncopated form of the fut. in Job 13:9), the Piel of which occurs in 1 Kings 18:27 of Elijah's derision of the priests of Baal, and from this is formed the pluralet. התלים (or, according to another reading, התלּים , with the same doubling of the ל as in מהתלּות , deceitful things, Isaiah 30:10; comp. the same thing in Job 33:7, אראלּם , their lions of God = heroes), which has the meaning foolery, - a meaning questioned by Hirz. without right, - in which the idea of deceit and mockery are united. Gecatilia and Ralbag take it as a part.: mockers; Stick., Wolfson, Hahn: deluded; but the analogy of &#שׁעשׁעים תעלולים , and the like, speaks in favour of taking it as a substantive. אם־לא is affirmative (Ges. §155, 2, f). Ewald renders it as expressive of desire: if only not (Hlgst.: dummodo ne ); but this signification (Ew. §329, b) cannot be supported. On the other hand, it might be intended interrogatively (as Job 30:25): annon illusiones mecum (Rosenm.); but this אם־לא , corresponding to the second member of a disjunctive question, has no right connection in the preceding. We therefore prefer the affirmative meaning, and explain it like Job 22:20; Job 31:36, comp. Job 2:5. Truly what he continually hears, i.e., from the side of the friends, is only false and delusive utterances, which consequently sound to him like jesting and mockery. The suff. in Job 17:2 refers to them. המּרות (with Dag. dirimens, which renders the sound of the word more pathetic, as Job 9:18; Joel 1:17, and in the Hiph. form כנּלתך , Isaiah 33:1), elsewhere generally (Joshua 1:18 only excepted) of rebellion against God, denotes here the contradictory, quarrelsome bearing of the friends, not the dispute in itself (comp. Arab. mry , III. to attack, VI. to contend with another), but coming forward controversially; only to this is תּלן עיני suitable. הלין must not be taken as = הלּין here; Ewald's translation, “only let not mine eye come against their irritation,” forces upon this verb, which always signifies to murmur, γογγύζειν , a meaning foreign to it, and one that does not well suit it here. The voluntative form &#תּלן תּלן (here not the pausal form, as Judges 19:20, comp. 2 Samuel 17:16) quite accords with the sense: mine eye shall linger on their janglings; it shall not look on anything that is cheering, but be held fast by this cheerless spectacle, which increases his bodily suffering and his inward pain. From these comforters, who are become his adversaries, Job turns in supplication to God.

Verses 3-5

3 Lay down now, be bondsman for me with Thyself;

Who else should furnish surety to me?!

4 For Thou hast closed their heart from understanding,

Therefore wilt Thou not give authority to them.

5 He who giveth his friends for spoil,

The eyes of his children shall languish.

It is unnecessary, with Reiske and Olsh., to read ערבני ( pone quaeso arrhabonem meum = pro me ) in order that שׂימה may not stand without an object; שׂימה has this meaning included in it, and the ארבני which follows shows that neither לבך (Ralbag) nor ידך (Carey) is to be supplied; accordingly שׂים here, like Arab. wḍ‛ ( wâḍ‛ ), and in the classics both τιθέναι and ponere , signifies alone the laying down of a pledge. Treated by the friends as a criminal justly undergoing punishment, he seeks his refuge in God, who has set the mark of a horrible disease upon him contrary to his desert, as though he were guilty, and implores Him to confirm the reality of his innocence in some way or other by laying down a pledge for him ( ὑποθήκη ). The further prayer is ערבני , as word of entreaty which occurs also in Hezekiah's psalm, Isaiah 38:14, and Psalms 119:122; ערב seq. acc. signifies, as noted on the latter passage, to furnish surety for any one, and gen. to take the place of a mediator (comp. also on Hebrews 7:22, where ἔγγυος is a synon. of μεσίτης ). Here, however, the significant עמּך is added: furnish security for me with Thyself; elsewhere the form is ל ערב , to furnish security for (Proverbs 6:1), or לפני before, any one, here with עם of the person by whom the security is to be accepted. The thought already expressed in Job 16:21 receives a still stronger expression here: God is conceived of as two persons, on the one side as a judge who treats Job as one deserving of punishment, on the other side as a bondsman who pledges himself for the innocence of the sufferer before the judge, and stands as it were as surety against the future. In the question, Job 17:3, the representation is again somewhat changed: Job appears here as the one to whom surety is given. נתקע , described by expositors as reciprocal, is rather reflexive: to give one's hand (the only instance of the med. form of כּף תּקע ) = to give surety by striking hands, dextera data sponsionem in se recipere (Hlgst.). And לידי is not to be explained after the analogy of the passive, as the usual ל of the agents: who would allow himself to be struck by my hand, i.e., who would accept the surety from me (Wolfson), which is unnatural both in representation and expression; but it is, according to Proverbs 6:1 (vid., Bertheau), intended of the hand of him who receives the stroke of the hand of him who gives the pledge. This is therefore the meaning of the question: who else ( הוּא מי ), if not God himself, should strike (his hand) to my hand, i.e., should furnish to me a pledge (viz., of my innocence) by joining hands? There is none but God alone who can intercede for him, as a guarantee of his innocence before himself and others. This negative answer: None but Thou alone, is established in Job 17:4. God has closed the heart of the friends against understanding, prop. concealed, i.e., He has fixed a curtain, a wall of partition, between their hearts and the right understanding of the matter; He has smitten them with blindness, therefore He will not (since they are suffering from a want of perception which He has ordained, and which is consequently known to Him) allow them to be exalted, i.e., to conquer and triumph. “The exaltation of the friends,” observes Hirzel rightly, “would be, that God should openly justify their assertion of Job's guilt.” Löwenthal translates: therefore art thou not honoured; but it is not pointed &#תּרמם תּתרמם , but תּרמם , whether it be that אתם is to be supplied, or that it is equivalent to תּרממם (Ew. §62, a, who, however, prefers to take is as n. Hithpa. like תּקמם in the unimproved signification: improvement, since he maintains this affords no right idea), according to the analogy of similar verb-forms (Job 31:15; Isaiah 64:6), by a resolving of the two similar consonants which occur together.

The hope thus expressed Job establishes (Job 17:5) by a principle from general experience, that he who offers his friends as spoil for distribution will be punished most severely for the same upon his children: he shall not escape the divine retribution which visits him, upon his own children, for the wrong done to his friends. Almost all modern expositors are agreed in this rendering of לחלק as regards Job 17:5; but חלק must not be translated “lot” (Ewald), which it never means; it signifies a share of spoil, as e.g., Numbers 31:36 (Jerome praedam ), or even with a verbal force: plundering (from חלק , 2 Chronicles 28:21), or even in antithesis to entering into bond for a friend with all that one possesses (Stick., Schlottm.), a dividing (of one's property) = distraining, as a result of the surrender to the creditor, to which the verb הגּיד is appropriate, which would then denote denouncing before a court of justice, as Jeremiah 20:10, not merely proclaiming openly, as Isaiah 3:9. We have translated “spoil,” which admits of all these modifications and excludes none; the general meaning is certainly: one deserts (instead of shielding as an intercessor) his friends and delivers them up; יגּיד with a general subj., as Job 4:2 (if any one attempts), Job 15:3; Job 27:23. With respect to the other half of the verse, Job 17:5, the optative rendering: may they languish (Vaih.), to the adoption of which the old expositors have been misled by parallels like Psalms 109:9., is to be rejected; it is contrary to the character of Job (Job 31:30). We agree with Mercerus: Nequaquam hoc per imprecationem, sed ut consequentis justissimae poenae denunciationem ab Iobo dictum putamus . For v. 5 b is also not to be taken as a circumstantial clause: even if the eyes of his children languish (Ew., Hlgst. Stick., Hahn, Schl.). It is not רעהוּ , but רעים ; and before supposing here a Synallage num. so liable to be misunderstood, one must try to get over the difficulty without it, which is here easy enough. Hence Job is made, in the intended application of the general principle, to allude to his own children, and Ewald really considers him the father of infant children, which, however, as may be seen from the prologue, is nothing but an invention unsupported by the history. Since it is בניו and not בניהם , we refer the suff. to the subj. of יגיד . The Waw of ועיני Mich. calls Waw consecutivum; it, however, rather combines things that are inseparable (certainly as cause and effect, sin and punishment). And it is יגיד , not הגיד , because the perf. would describe the fact as past, while the fut. places us in the midst of this faithless conduct. Job says God cannot possibly allow these, his three friends, the upper hand. One proclaims his friends as spoil (comp. Job 6:27), and the eyes of his children languish (comp. Job 11:20), i.e., he who so faithlessly disowns the claims of affection, is punished for it on that which he holds most dear. But this uncharitableness which he experiences is also a visitation of God. In the next strophe he refers all that he meets with from man to Him as the final cause, but not without a presage of the purpose for which it is designed.

Verses 6-9

By תּפת (translated by Jer. exemplum , and consequently mistaken for מופת ) the older expositors are reminded of the name of the place where the sacrifices were offered to Moloch in the valley of the sons of Hinnom (whence גּיהנּם , γέεννα , hell), since they explain it by “the fire of hell,” but only from want of a right perception; the לפנים standing with it, which nowhere signifies palam, and cannot here (where אהיה , although in the signification ἐγενόμην , follows) signify a multo tempore , shows that תפת here is to be derived from תּוּף , to spit out (as נפת , gum, from נוּף ). This verb certainly cannot be supported in Hebr. and Aram. (since רקק is the commoner word), except two passages in the Talmud ( Nidda 42 a, comp. Sabbath 99 b, and Chethuboth 61 b); but it is confirmed by the Aethiopic and Coptic and an onomatopoetic origin, as the words πτύειν, ψύειν , spuere , Germ. speien , etc., show.

(Note: תוף is related to the Sanskrit root shttı̂v , as τέγη, τρύχους, τρύζω , and the like, to στέγη, στρύχνος, στρύζω , , vid., Kuhn's Zeitschrift, Bd. iv. Abh. i. (the falling away of s before mutes).)

Cognate is the Arabic taffafa , to treat with contempt, and the interjection tuffan , fie upon thee,

(Note: Almost all modern expositors repeat the remark here, that this tuffan is similar in meaning to ῥακά , Matthew 5:22, while they might learn from Lightfoot that it has nothing to do with רק , to spit, but is equivalent to ריקא , κενέ .)

e.g., in the proverb (quoted by Umbreit): ‛aini fihi watuffan ‛aleihi , my eye rests on it wishfully, and yet I feel disgust at it. Therefore לפנים (spitting upon the face) is equivalent to בפנים , Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 25:9 (to spit in the face). In consequence of this deep debasement of the object of scorn and spitting, the brightness and vision of his eye (sense of sight) are become dim (comp. Psalms 6:8; Psalms 31:10) מכּעשׂ (always written with שׂ , not ס , in the book of Job), from grief, and his frames, i.e., bodily frame = members (Jer. membra , Targ. incorrectly: features), are become like a shadow all of them, as fleshless and powerless as a shadow, which is only appearance without substance. His suffering, his miserable form ( זאת ), is of such a kind that the upright are astonished ( שׁמם , to become desolate, silent), and the guiltless (like himself and other innocent sufferers) become excited (here with vexation as in Psalms 37:1, as in Job 31:29 with joy) over the godless (who is none the less prosperous); but the righteous holds firm (without allowing himself to be disconcerted by this anomalous condition of things, though impenetrably mysterious) on his way (the way of good to which he has pledged himself), and the pure of hands ( וּטהר־ as Proverbs 22:11, according to another mode of writing וּטהר־ with Chateph-Kametz under the ט and Gaja under the ו ; comp. Isaiah 54:9, where the form of writing וּמגּער־ umigg o or is well authorized) increases ( יוסיף , of inward increase, as Ecclesiastes 1:18) in strength ( אמץ only here in the book of Job); i.e., far from allowing suffering to draw him from God to the side of the godless, he gathers strength thereby only still more perseveringly to pursue righteousness of life and purity of conduct, since suffering, especially in connection with such experiences as Job now has with the three friends, drives him to God and makes his communion with Him closer and firmer. These words of Job (if we may be allowed the figure) are like a rocket which shoots above the tragic darkness of the book, lighting it up suddenly, although only for a short time. The confession which breaks through in lyric form in Ps 73 here finds expression of a more brief, sententious kind. The point of Eliphaz' reproach (Job 15:4), that Job makes void the fear of God, and depreciates communion with God, is destroyed by this confession, and the assurance of Satan (Job 2:5) is confronted by a fact of experience, which, if it should also become manifest in the case of Job, puts to shame and makes void the hope of the evil spirit.

Verses 10-12

10 But only come again all of you!

I shall not find a wise man among you. -

11 My days are past, My purposes cut off,

The cherished thoughts of my heart, -

12 Ye explain night as day,

Light is near when darkness sets in.

The truly righteous man, even if in the midst of his affliction he should see destruction before him, does not however forsake God. But (nevertheless) ye - he exclaims to the friends, who promise him a long and prosperous life if he will only humble himself as a sinner who is receiving punishment - repeat again and again your hortatory words on penitence! a wise man who might be able to see into my real condition, I shall not find among you. He means that they deceive themselves concerning the actual state of the case before them; for in reality he is meeting death without being deceived, or allowing himself to be deceived, about the matter. His appeal is similar to Job 6:29. Carey translates correctly: Attack me again with another round of arguments, etc. Instead of ואוּלם , as it is written everywhere else (generally when the speech is drawing to a close), we find ואלּם (as the form of writing &#אלם אלּם occurs also in the subst. אוּלם ), perh. in order to harmonize with כּלּם , which is here according to rule instead of כּלּכם , which corresponds more to our form of a vocative clause, just as in 1 Kings 22:28; Micah 1:2 (Ewald, §327, a).

(Note: Comp. my Anekdota zur Gesch. der mittelalterlichen Scholastik unter Juden und Moslemen (1841), S. 380.)

In וּבאוּ תּשׁוּבוּ the jussive and imper. (for the Chethib יבאי , which occurs in some Codd. and editions, is meaningless) are united, the former being occasioned by the arrangement of the words, which is unfavourable to the imper. (comp. Ew. §229); moreover, the first verb gives the adverbial notion iterum, denuo to the second, according to Ges. §142, 3, a.

What follows, Job 17:11, is the confirmation of the fact that there is no wise man among them who might be able to give him efficient solace by a right estimate of the magnitude and undeservedness of his suffering. His life is indeed run out; and the most cherished plans and hopes which he had hedged in and fostered for the future in his heart, he has utterly and long since given up. The plur. (occurring only here) of זמּה , which occurs also sensu malo , signifies projects, as מזמות , Job 21:27; Job 42:2, from זמם , to tie; Aben-Ezra refers to the Arab. zamâm (a thread, band, esp. a rein). These plans which are now become useless, these cherished thoughts, he calls מורשׁי , peculia (from ירשׁ , to take possession of) of his heart. Thus, after Obad. Obadiah 1:17, Gecatilia (in Aben-Ezra) also explains, while, according to Ewald, Beiträge, S. 98, he understands the heart-strings, i.e., the trunks of the arteries (for thus is Arab. nî't to be explained), and consequently, as Ewald himself, and even Farisol, most improbably combines מורשׁ with &#מותר יתר ). Similarly the lxx τὰ ἄρθρα τῆς καρδίας , as though the joints (instead of the valves) of the heart were intended; probably with Middeldorpf, after the Syriac Hexapla, ἄκρα is to be read instead of ἄρθρα ; this, however, rests upon a mistaking of מורשׁי for ראשׁי . While he is now almost dead, and his life-plans of the future are torn away ( נתּקוּ ), the friends turn night into day ( שׂים , as Isaiah 5:20); light is (i.e., according to their opinion) nearer than the face of darkness, i.e., than the darkness which is in reality turned to him, and which is as though it stared at him from the immediate future. Thus Nolde explains it as comparative, but connecting Job 17:12 with ישׂימו , and considering פני (which is impossible by this compar. rendering) as meaningless: lucem magis propinquam quam tenebras . It is however possible that מפני is used the same as in Job 23:17: light is, as they think near before darkness, i.e., while darkness sets in ( ingruentibus tenebris ), according to which we have translated. If we understand Job 23:12 from Job's standpoint, and not from that of the friends, מן קרוב is to be explained according to the Arab. qrı̂b mn , prope abest ab , as the lxx even translates φῶς ἐγγὺς ἀπὸ προσώπου σκότους , which Olympiodorus interprets by ου ̓ μακρὰν σκότους . But by this rendering פני makes the expression, which really needs investigation, only still lamer. Renderings, however, like Renan's Ah! votre lumière resemble aux tenèbres , are removed from all criticism. The subjective rendering, by which Job 17:12 is under the government of ישׂימו , is after all the most natural. That he has darkness before him, while the friends present to him the approach of light on condition of penitence, is the thought that is developed in the next strophe.

Verses 13-16

13 If I hope, it is for Sheפl as my house,

In darkness I make my bed.

14 I cry to corruption: Thou art my father! -

To the worm: Thou art my mother and sister!

15 Where now therefore is my hope?

And my hope, who seeth it?

16 To the bars of Sheפl it descends,

When at the same time there is rest in the dust.

All modern expositors transl.: If I hope (wait) for Sheפl as my house, etc., since they regard Job 17:13. as a hypothetical antecedent clause to Job 17:15, consisting of four members, where the conclusion should begin with ואיּה , and should be indicated by Waw apodosis. There is no objection to this explanation so far as the syntax is concerned, but there will then be weighty thoughts which are also expressed in the form of fresh thoughts, for which independent clauses seem more appropriate, under the government of אם , as if they were presuppositions. The transition from the preceding strophe to this becomes also easier, if we take Job 17:13. as independent clauses from which, in Job 17:15, an inference is drawn, with Waw indicative of the train of thought (Ew. §348). Accordingly, we regard אם־אקוה in Job 17:13 as antecedent (denoted by Dechî, i.e., Tiphcha anterius, just as Psalms 139:8) and ביתי שׁאול as conclusion; the Waw apod. is wanting, as e.g., Job 9:27., and the structure of the sentence is similar to Job 9:19. If I hope, says Job, “Sheôl is my house” = this is the substance of my hope, that Sheôl will be my house. In darkness he has (i.e., in his consciousness, which anticipates that which is before him as near and inevitable) fixed his resting-place (poet. strata, as Psalms 132:3). To corruption and the worm he already cries, father! and, mother! sister! It is, as it seems, that bold figure which is indicated in the Job-like Ps. 88:19 (“my acquaintances are the realms of darkness”), which is here (comp. Job 30:29) worked out; and, differently applied, perhaps Proverbs 7:4 echoes it. Since the fem. רמּה is used as the object addressed by אמי and אחותי , which is besides, on account of its always collective meaning (in distinction from תילעת ), well suited for this double apostrophe, we may assume that the poet will have used a masc. object for אבי ; and there is really no reason against שׁחת here being, with Ramban, Rosenm., Schlottm., Böttcher ( de inferis, §179), derived not from שׁוּח (as נחת , Job 17:16, from נוח ), but from שׁחת (as נחת , Isaiah 30:30, from נחת ), especially since the old versions transl. שׁחת also elsewhere διαφθορά ( putredo ), and thereby prove that both derivations accord with the structure of the language. Now already conscious of his belonging to corruption and the worm as by the closest ties of relationship, he asks: Itaque ubi tandem spes mea?

The accentuation connects אפו to the following word, instead of uniting it with איּה , just as in Isaiah 19:12; Luzzatto (on Isaiah 19:12) considers this as a mistake in the Codd., and certainly the accentuation Judges 9:38 ( איה Kadma, אפוא Mercha) is not according to our model, and even in this passage another arrangement of the accents is found, e.g., in the edition of Brescia.

(Note: This accentuates ואיה with Munach, אפו with Munach, which accords with the matter, instead of which, according to Luzz., since the Athnach -word תקותי consists of three syllables, it should be more correctly accentuated ואיה with Munach, אפו with Dechî. Both, also Munach Munach, are admissible; vid., Bär, Thorath Emeth, S. 43, §7, comp. S. 71, not.)

No other hope, in Job's opinion, but speedy death is before him; no human eye is capable of seeing, i.e., of discovering (so e.g., Hahn), any other hope than just this. Somewhat differently Hirz. and others: and my hope, viz., of my recovery, who will it see in process of fulfilment? Certainly תקותי is in both instances equivalent to a hope which he dared to harbour; and the meaning is, that beside the one hope which he has, and which is a hope only per antiphrasin, there is no room for another hope; there is none such ( Job 17:15), and no one will attain a sight of such, be it visible in the distance or experienced as near at hand ( Job 17:15). The subj. of Job 17:16 is not the hope of recovery which the friends present to him (so e.g., Ew.), but his only real hope: this, avoiding human ken, descends to the lower world, for it is the hope of death, and consequently the death of hope. בּדּי signifies bars, bolts, which Hahn denies, although he says himself that בדים signifies beams of wood among other things; “bolts” is not here intended to imply such as are now used in locks, but the cross bars and beams of wood of any size that serve as a fastening to a door; vectis in exactly the same manner combines the meanings, a carrying-pole and a bar, in which signification בּד is the synon. of בּריח .

(Note: Accordingly we also explain Hosea 11:6 after Lamentations 2:9, and transl.: The sword moveth round in his (Ephraim's) cities, and destroyeth his (Ephraim's) bars (i.e., the bars of his gates), and devoureth round about, because of their counsels.)

The meanings assigned to the word, wastes (Schnurrer and others), bounds (Hahn), clefts (Böttch.), and the like, are fanciful and superfluous. On תּרדנה , instead of תּרד , vid., Caspari on Obad. Obadiah 1:13, Ges. §47, rem. 3. It is sing., not plur. (Böttch.), for Job 17:15 does not speak of two hopes, not even if, as it seems according to the ancient versions, another word of cognate meaning had stood in the place of the second תקותי originally. His hope goes down to the regions of the dead, when altogether there is rest in the dust. This “together, יחד ,” Hahn explains: to me and it, to this hope; but that would be pursuing the figure to an inadmissible length, extending far beyond Job 20:11, and must then be expressed יחד לנוּ . Others (e.g., Hirz., Ew.) explain: if at the same time, i.e., simultaneously with this descent of my hope, there is rest to me in the dust. Considering the use of יחד in itself, it might be explained: if altogether entirely there is rest in the dust; but this meaning integer, totus quantus, the word has elsewhere always in connection with a subj. or obj. to which it is referable, e.g., Job 10:8; Psalms 33:15; and, moreover, it may be rendered also in the like passages by “all together,” as Job 3:18; Job 21:26; Job 40:13, instead of “altogether, entirely.” Since, on the other hand, the signification “at the same time” can at least with probability be supported by Psalms 141:10, and since אם , which is certainly used temporally, brings contemporary things together, we prefer the translation: “when at the same time in the dust there is rest.” The descent of his hope to the bars of Hades is at the same time his own, who hopes for nothing but this. When the death of his hope becomes a reality, then at the same time his turmoil of suffering will pass over to the rest of the grave.

As from the first speech of Eliphaz, so also from this first speech of Job, it may be seen that the controversy takes a fresh turn, which brings it nearer to the maturity of decision. From Eliphaz' speech Job has seen that no assertion of his innocence can avail to convince the friends, and that the more strongly he maintains his innocence, even before God, he only confirms them in the opinion that he is suffering the punishment of his godlessness, which now comes to light, like a wrong that has been hitherto concealed. Job thus perceives that he is incapable of convincing the friends; for whatever he may say only tends to confirm them in the false judgment, which they first of all inferred from their false premises, but now from his own words and conduct. He is accounted by them as one who is punished of God, whom they address as the preachers of repentance; now, however, they address him so that the chief point of their sermon is no longer bright promises descriptive of the glorious future of the penitent, but fearful descriptions of the desolating judgment which comes upon the impenitent sinner. This zealous solicitude for his welfare seems to be clever and to the point, according to their view; it is, however, only a vexatious method of treating their friend's case; it is only roughly and superficially moulded according to the order of redemption, but without an insight into the spiritual experience and condition of him with whom they have here to do. Their prudentia pastoralis is carnal and legal; they know nothing of a righteousness which avails before God, and nothing of a state of grace which frees from the divine vengeance; they know not how to deal with one who is passing through the fierce conflict of temptation, and understand not the mystery of the cross.

Can we wonder, then, that Job is compelled to regard their words as nothing more than רוח דברי , as they regarded his? In the words of Job they miss their certainly compact dogma, in which they believe they possess the philosopher's stone, by means of which all earthly suffering is to be changed into earthly prosperity. Job, however, can find nothing in their words that reminds him of anything he ought to know in his present position, or that teaches him anything respecting it. He is compelled to regard them as מנחמי עמל , who make the burden of his suffering only more grievous, instead of lightening it for him. For their consolation rests upon an unjust judgment of himself, against which his moral consciousness rebels, and upon a one-sided notion of God, which is contradicted by his experience. Their speeches exhibit skill as to their form, but the sympathy of the heart is wanting. Instead of plunging with Job into the profound mystery of God's providence, which appoints such a hard lot for the righteous man to endure, they shake their heads, and think: What a great sinner Job must be, that God should visit him with so severe a punishment! It is the same shaking of the head of which David complains Psalms 22:8 and Psalms 109:25, and which the incomparably righteous One experienced from those who passed by His cross, Matthew 27:39; Mark 15:29. These comparisons give us the opportunity of noting the remarkable coincidence of these pictures of suffering, in outline and expression; the agreement of Job 16:8 with Psalms 109:24, comp. Psalms 109:23 with Job 17:7, puts it beyond a doubt, that there is a mutual relation between Job 16:4 and Psalms 109:25 which is not merely accidental.

By such unjust and uncharitable treatment from the friends, Job's sufferings stand forth before him in increased magnitude. He exceeds himself in the most terrible figures, in order to depict the sudden change which the divine dispensation of suffering has brought upon him. The figures are so terrible, for Job sees behind his sufferings a hostile hideous God as their author; they are the outburst of His anger, His quivering looks, His piercing darts, His shattering missiles. His sufferings are a witness de facto against him, the sufferer; but they are this not merely in themselves, but also in the eyes of the people around him. To the sufferings which he has directly to endure in body and soul there is added, as it were, as their other equally painful part, misconstruction and scorn, which he has to suffer from without. Not only does he experience the wrath of God contrary to the testimony to his righteousness which is consciousness gives him, but also the scoff of the ungodly, who now deridingly triumph over him. Therefore he clothes himself in mourning, and lies with his former majesty in the dust; his face is red with weeping, and his eyes are become almost blind, although there is no wrong in his hand, and his prayer is free from hypocrisy. Who does not here think of the servant of Jehovah, of whom Isaiah, Isaiah 53:9 (in similar words to those which Job uses of himself, Job 16:16), says, that he is buried among the godless על לא־חמס עשׂה ולא מרמה בפיו ? All that Job says here of the scorn that he has to endure by being regarded as one who is punished of God and tormented, agrees exactly with the description of the sufferings of the servant of Jehovah in the Psalms and the second part of Isaiah. Job says: they gape at me with their mouth; and in Psalms 22:8 (comp. Psalms 35:21) it is: all they that see me laugh me to scorn, they open wide the lips, they shake the head. Job says: they smite my cheeks in contempt; and the servant of Jehovah, Isaiah 50:6, is compelled to confess: I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that pluck off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting. Like Job, the servant of Jehovah in the Psalms and in Isaiah II. is delivered over into the hands of the unrighteous, and reckoned among evil-doers, although he is the servant of Jehovah, and knows himself to be Jehovah's servant. The same hope that he expresses in Isaiah 50:8. in the words: he is near who justifieth me, who will condemn me! - the same hope in Job breaks through the night of conflict, with which his direct and indirect suffering has surrounded him.

Just when Job becomes conscious of his doubled affliction in all its heaviness, when he feels himself equally rejected of men as of God, must this hope break forth. For there is only a twofold possibility for a man who thinks God has become his enemy, and that he has not a friend among men: either he sinks into the abyss of despair; or if faith still exists, he struggles upwards through his desertion by God and man to the love that lies deep in the heart of God, which in spite of hostile manifestation cannot abandon the righteous. Whither shall Job turn when God seems to him as an enemy, and when he nevertheless will not renounce God? He can only turn from the hostile God to the God who is differently disposed towards him, and that is equivalent to saying from the imaginary to the real God, to whom faith clings throughout every outward manifestation of wrath and wrathful feeling.

(Note: Compare the prayer of Juda ha-Levi, אברח ממך אליך (Arab. mn-k ''ud l-k), in Kämpf's Nichtandalusische Poesien andalusischer Dichter (1858), ii. 206.)

Since both, however, is one God, who only seems to be other than He is, that bold grasp of faith is the exchange of the phantom-god of the conflict of temptation for the true God. Faith, which in its essence is a perception capable of taking root, seizes the real existence behind the appearance, the heart behind the countenance, that which remains the same behind the change, and defies a thousand contradictions with the saintly Nevertheless: God nevertheless does not belie himself.

Job challenges the earth not to hide his blood; unceasingly without restraint shall the cry of his blood rise up. What he says in Job 16:18 is to be taken not so much as the expression of a desire as of a demand, and better still as a command; for even in case he should succumb to his sufferings, and consequently in the eyes of men die the death of a sinner, his clear consciousness of innocence does not allow him to renounce his claim to a public declaration that he has died guiltless. But to whom shall the blood of the slain cry out? To whom else but God; and yet it is God who has slain him? We see distinctly here how Job's idea of God is lighted up by the prospect of a decisive trial of his cause. The God who abandons Job to death as guilty, and the God who cannot (and though it should be even after death) leave him unvindicated, come forth distinct and separate as darkness from light from the chaos of the conflict of temptation. Since, however, the thought of a vindication after death for Job, which knows only of a seeming life after death, according to the notion that rules him, and which is here not yet broken through, is only the extreme demanded by his moral consciousness, he is compelled to believe in a vindication in this world; and he expresses this faith (Job 16:19) in these words: “Even now, behold, my Witness is in heaven, and One who acknowledgeth me is in the heights.” He pours forth tears to this God that He would decide between God and him, between his friends and him. He longs for this decision now, for he will now soon be gone beyond return. Thus Job becomes here the prophet of the issue of his own course of suffering; and over his relation to Eloah and to the friends, of whom the former abandons him to the sinner's death, and the latter declare him to be guilty, hovers the form of the God of the future, which now breaks through the darkness, from whom Job believingly awaits and implores what the God of the present withholds from him.

(Note: Ewald very truly says: “This is the true turn of the human controversy, which is favoured by the whole course of Job's life, that he, though in the present utterly despairing of all, even God, still holds fast to the eternal hidden God of the future, and with this faith rises wondrously, when to all human appearance it seemed that he must succumb.”)

What Job (Job 16:20.), by reason of that confident “Behold, my Witness is in heaven,” had expressed as the end of his longing, - that God would vindicate him both before Himself, and before the friends and the world, - urges him onward, when he reflects upon his twofold affliction, that he is sick unto death and one who is misjudged even to mockery, to the importunate request: Lay down now (a pledge), be surety for me with Thyself; for who else should strike his hand into mine, i.e., in order to become bondsman to me, that Thou dost not regard me as an unrighteous person? The friends are far from furnishing a guarantee of this; for they, on the contrary, are desirous of persuading him, that, if he would only let his conscience speak, he must regard himself as an unrighteous one, and that he is regarded as such by God. Therefore God cannot give them the victory; on the contrary, he who so uncompassionately abandons his friends, must on his own children experience similar suffering to that which he made heavier for his friend, instead of making it lighter to him. The three have no insight into the affliction of the righteous one; they dispose of him mercilessly, as of spoil or property that has fallen into the hands of the creditor; therefore he cannot hope to obtain justice unless God become surety for him with himself, - a thought so extraordinary and bold, that one cannot wonder that the old expositors were misled by it: God was in Christ, and reconciled the world with Himself, 2 Corinthians 5:19. The God of holy love has reconciled the world with himself, the God of righteous anger, as Job here prays that the God of truth may become surety for him with the God of absolute sovereignty.

When Job then complains of the misconstruction of his character, and tracing it to God, says: He hath made me למשׁל עמים , one is reminded, in connection with this extravagant expression, of complaints of a like tone in the mouth of the true people of Israel, Psalms 44:15, and of the great sufferer, Psalms 69:12. When we further read, that, according to Job's affirmation, the godly are scared at his affliction, the parallel Isaiah 52:14 forces itself upon us, where it is said of the servant of Jehovah, “How were many astonied at thee.” And when, with reference to himself, Job says that the suffering of the righteous must at length prove a gain to him that hath clean hands, who does not call to mind the fact that the glorious issue of the suffering of the servant of Jehovah which the Old Testament evangelist sets before us, - that servant of Jehovah who, once himself a prey to oppression and mocking, now divides the spoil among the mighty, - tends to the reviving, strengthening, and exaltation of Israel? All these parallels cannot and are not intended to prove that the book of Job is an allegorical poem; but they prove that the book of Job stands in the closest connection, both retrospective and prospective, with the literature of Israel; that the poet, by the relation to the passion-psalms stamped on the picture of the affliction of Job, has marked Job, whether consciously or unconsciously, as a typical person; that, by taking up, probably not unintentionally, many national traits, he has made it natural to interpret Job as a Mashal of Israel; and that Isaiah himself confirms this typical relation, by borrowing some Job-like expressions in the figure of the עבד יהוה , who is a personification of the true Israel. The book of Job has proved itself a mirror of consolation for the people, faithful to God, who had cause to complain, as in Ps 44, and a mirror of warning to their scoffers and persecutors, who had neither true sympathy with the miserable state of God's people, nor a true perception of God's dealings. At the same time, however, Job appears in the light which the New Testament history, by the fulfilment of the prophecies of suffering in the Psalms, Isaiah, and also Zechariah, throws upon him, as a type of Him who suffers in like manner, in order that Satan may have his deserts, and thereby by confounded; who also has an affliction to bear which in itself has the nature and form of wrath, but has its motive and end in the love of God; who is just so misjudged and scorned of men, in order at length to be exalted, and to enter in as intercessor for those who despised and rejected Him. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that there remains an infinite distance between the type and antitype, which, however, must be in the very nature of a type, and does not annul the typical relation, which exists only exceptis excipiendis . Who could fail to recognise the involuntary picture of the three friends in the penitent ones of Isaiah 53:1-12, who esteemed the servant of Jehovah as one smitten of God, for whom, however, at last His sacrifice and intercession avail?

Job at last considers his friends as devoid of wisdom, because they try to comfort him with the nearness of light, while darkness is before him; because they give him the hope of a bodily restoration, while he has nothing to expect but death, and earnestly longs for the rest of death. It is surprising that the speech of Job plunges again into complete hopelessness, after he has risen to the prospect of being vindicated in this life. He certainly does not again put forth that prospect, but he does not even venture to hope that it can be realized by a blessing in this life after a seeming curse. It is in this hopelessness that the true greatness of Job's faith becomes manifest. He meets death, and to every appearance so overwhelmed by death, as a sinner, while he is still conscious that he is righteous. Is it not faith in and fidelity to God, then, that, without praying for recovery, he is satisfied with this one thing, that God acknowledges him? The promises of the friends ought to have rested on a different foundation, if he was to have the joy of appropriating them to himself. He feels himself to be inevitably given up as a prey to death, and as from the depth of Hades, into which he is sinking, he stretches out his hands to God, not that He would sustain him in life, but that He would acknowledge him before the world as His. If he is to die even, he desires only that he may not die the death of a criminal. And is this intended at the same time for the rescue of his honour? No, after all, for the honour of God, who cannot possibly destroy as an evil-doer one who is in everything faithful to Him. When, then, the issue of the history is that God acknowledges Job as His servant, and after he is proved and refined by the temptation, preserves to him a doubly rich and prosperous life, Job receives beyond his prayer and comprehension; and after he has learned from his own experience that God brings to Hades and out again, he has for ever conquered all fear of death, and the germs of a hope of a future life, which in the midst of his affliction have broken through his consciousness, can joyously expand. For Job appears to himself as one who is risen from the dead, and is a pledge to himself of the resurrection from the dead.

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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 17". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.