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Bible Commentaries
Job 29

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary


Job’s Final Testimony (29:1-31:40)

In the present arrangement of the Book of Job, which must represent substantially the author’s original intent, the orderly arrangement of the conversation between Job and his three friends is brought to a close with a summary speech by Job, framed in rather calm language, as Job makes his case. And in these chapters it is clear that it is precisely a legal case that he is making. From midway in the book Job is represented as in search of a courtroom and a court session in which man might present a legitimate case against the Almighty. At the same time the conviction has grown on him, and doubtless on the reader, that no such courtroom or session is available to man. God does not provide "times" when he may be arraigned, and he does not answer to man’s subpoenas.

It is, therefore, all the more striking that in the end, with this disheartening truth in full view — as it is, for instance, in chapter 28 — Job still makes his case and enters his complaint. These chapters are remarkably like the closing speech of a skilled lawyer, summing up the evidence, presenting the facts, reinforcing the legitimacy of the plea. That it is all done against the background of a seemingly empty courtroom gives greater nobility to the proceedings. Job’s words echo in the emptiness. As far as he can tell there is no judge on the bench, no jury in the box, no audience in the room. And still he must make the case. He climbs, as it were, into the witness stand, and becomes complainant, lawyer, witness, jury, and judge, declaring, testifying to, and pronouncing on his own innocence.

Verses 1-25

The Evidence of the Past (29:1-25)

The basis of Job’s complaint is the same that we find throughout the discussion; it is the fundamental fact, accepted in the Prologue, that he is "a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil" (1:8). In chapter 29 that fact is elaborated and established in a passage of great beauty and power.

In reflection on his past Job draws the picture of a life that was prosperous and happy — but prosperous and happy because it was rooted in friendship with God and expressed itself in piety and justice. Job is not merely bewailing the departure of bygone days — he is rather agonizing once more over the loss of God’s blessing and, therefore, of God.

His earlier life is described first of all as one in direct and confident relationship to God. Those were days when God "watched over" him (vs. 2), when the "lamp" of God was over him, a familiar symbol of God’s presence and direction (vs. 3), when the "friendship" or perhaps better the "secret" of God was his (vs. 4), in fact, when the Almighty was himself with him (vs. 5a).

The commonly expected results of such a relationship are then reviewed. These include the presence of his children (vs. 5b), wealth (vs. 6), and general respect among the leaders of the people (vss. 7-10). The "gate" is of course the place where legal and community matters were settled, so that these verses give the picture of Job as a leader among leaders, one who is respected by all groups — young and old, princes and nobles. This is, again, elaboration of the suggestion in the Prologue that Job "was the greatest of all the people of the east" (Job 1:3).

Verses 11-20 carry the thought still further in examining the character of the man who enjoyed such extraordinary blessings and respect. Here is the amplification of what is meant when Job is said to be "blameless and upright" (Job 1:8). He was so regarded because of his actions, which gave evidence of his inner probity and rectitude. In this picture he stands as the ideal of Old Testament righteousness, a man of ethical dealings, with particular concern for those who had no strength in themselves. His concern and help went out to the poor, the fatherless, the widow, the blind, the lame, and the stranger. Against the unrighteous who preyed upon such unfortunates Job stood as their strong defender.

As such Job could naturally be confident of two things. One was his own righteousness, which became his glory and his pride (vs. 14). That, for all its greatness, it was measured against a narrow standard of human affairs does not yet appear to him. The second confidence was that he would reach a comfortable and ripe old age (vss. 18-20). (There is a possibility that the second line of verse 18 should read "and I shall multiply my days as the phoenix," a translation that would afford a better parallel to the first line.) In the place of both confidences he has now only despair and uncertainty.

As a closing and climactic detail in this picture of his former state of righteousness and blessedness, Job turns back to the respect in which he was once held (vss. 21-25). Some interpreters feel that these lines are out of place, and that they must originally have come earlier, for example, between verses 10 and 11. To place them elsewhere would, however, ruin the strong dramatic contrast they achieve in their present position as a preparation for chapter 30. It is not impossible, moreover, that the author, with different ideas of logical development from ours, intended just such a climax.

Although there are some difficulties in the translation of these verses, especially verse 24, the sense of the passage is clear. It presents Job as an honored speaker and leader. His decisions were final (vs. 22) and were always sought (vs. 23). He was not just a speaker, but was also skilled in leading the group.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 29". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/job-29.html.
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