Suffer me a little; give me thy patient attention but a little longer; and I
will show thee that I have not said all that can be said to justify God’s proceedings against thee.
From afar, i.e. from remote times, and places, and things. I will not confine my discourse to thy particular case, but will justify God by declaring his great and glorious works of creation and providence, both in the heaven and earth, and the manner of his dealing with men in other parts and ages of the world; for these are the chief heads of the following discourse, and therefore the best comment upon this general expression.
I will acknowledge that which is true, that God is righteous. He adds the words,
my Maker, either,
1. As an argument or evidence of God’s righteousness; partly, because it is not likely that God should be unjust to his own creatures, since even men are not only just, but kind, to their own works and relations; and partly, because the work of creation gave unto God an absolute right and power to dispose of Job as he saw fit, as the potter hath power over the clay, Romans 9:21, and therefore there was no foundation for unrighteousness, nor any temptation upon God to do it; and partly, because man’s Maker must needs be a being of all possible perfection, and therefore one of perfect righteousness. Or,
2. As a motive or obligation upon him to plead God’s cause. I do not engage myself in this controversy out of a pragmatical or contentious humour, nor out of any prejudice or ill-will to thee, but merely from the sense of my duty to my blessed Creator. Withal he reflects upon Job as guilty of great folly and ingratitude in contending with him, in or by whom he lived, and moved, and had his being.
I will not speak any thing against my own conscience, nor against truth, either to flatter God, or to vex thee, as thou supposest thy other friends have done, Job 13:7, and elsewhere.
He that is perfect in knowledge is with thee. This is meant either,
1. Of God. Thou hast to do with a God of perfect knowledge, by whom all Shy words and actions. are weighed; and therefore hast need to be more wary and circumspect in thy expressions and behaviour. Or rather,
2. Of himself, as the former part of the verse is. And he speaketh of himself in the third person, for modesty’s sake. He speaks not of absolute, but of comparative perfection. And whatsoever perfection of knowledge he had, he doth not ascribe it to himself, but to God’s Spirit, Job 32:8. And the meaning may be this, Thou hast not to do with a novice, but with one who hath accurately considered, and through God’s grace doth fully understand, these matters; therefore hearken to me. But the word rendered
perfect signifieth also sincere, or upright, or right. And this may seem best to agree with the former clause, wherein he saith that he would not speak what he knew to be false; and now he adds, that he was and would be upright in the use of his knowledge, or in the delivery of his opinion in this matter, and not be biassed by any passion or prejudice, either to speak otherwise than he thought, or to judge otherwise than he should.
His greatness doth not make him (as it doth men) to scorn, or despise, or oppress the meanest. Though he may do what he pleaseth, and none can hinder him, yet he will not use it to do any man wrong, as Job seemed to insinuate, Job 10:3 19:7 23:13. His strength is guided by wisdom, and therefore cannot be employed to do any thing unbecoming God, or unjust to his creatures; for either of these is folly. Or,
in strength, or virtue of heart; for the and is not in the Hebrew. So the sense is, He is truly magnanimous, of a great and generous mind or heart, and therefore not unrighteous; for all injustice proceeds from littleness or weakness of heart. Truly great souls scorn unjust actions.
He preserveth not the life of the wicked, to wit, for ever; but will in his due time forsake them, and give them up to the destroyer. Or, he doth not or will not preserve, is put for he will certainly and dreadfully destroy, by the figure called meiosis, used Proverbs 17:21, and oft elsewhere.
Giveth right to the poor; he doth uphold, and he certainly will in his time deliver, his poor oppressed ones from all their oppressors.
He never ceaseth to care for and watch over
the righteous, no, not when they are afflicted or persecuted, when he may seem to neglect them. Though they may be oppressed for a time, yet ofttimes he not only delivers them, but also raiseth them to the highest honour and happiness in this life; compare 1 Samuel 2:8 Psalms 113:7,8; and their felicity is more stable and permanent than that of the wicked. Having mentioned the cause, that God did establish them; he now mentions the effect, that they are or continue to be exalted; they are not cast down from their dignity, as the wicked commonly are.
If through the vicissitude of worldly affairs, and the righteous judgment of God upon them for their sins, they be brought from their throne into a prison, as sometimes hath been done.
Their work, i.e. their evil works, as the next clause explains and limits it. By these afflictions he brings them to a sight of their sins and to repentance, which is the way and means of their recovery.
That they have exceeded; that they have greatly sinned by abusing their power and prosperity; which even good men are too prone to do.
i.e. He enableth and inclineth them to hearken to what God speaks by the rod, who would not hear in the time of their prosperity; like them Jeremiah 22:21.
To discipline; or, to instruction, i.e. to receive instruction; or, to chastening, i.e. to hear the rod, and who hath appointed it, as is said, Micah 6:9.
Commandeth, either by his word or Spirit accompanying the affliction, and discovering the mind and will of God in this dispensation.
That they return from iniquity, which is the chief cause of their calamity.
If they obey God’s admonition and command.
They shall spend their days in prosperity; they shall be restored to their farmer prosperity, and shall live and die in it. This he speaks according to the tenor of God’s promises, especially in the Old Testament state of the church, and according to the common course and method of God’s providence, which Elihu and other good men had observed.
Their years in pleasures; abounding in worldly comforts, and being enabled by God to rejoice in them, which is God’s gift, Ecclesiastes 3:13, and delighting themselves in God’s love and favour to them.
If they; the righteous, spoken of Job 35:7, opposed to the hypocrites here following, Job 35:13; for even good men may sometimes be disobedient to Divine admonitions, and may suffer deeply, yea, even death itself, for their folly: see 1 Corinthians 11:30.
Without knowledge; in or for their ignorance, or inadvertency, or folly. Or, because they are without knowledge; because they are foolish, or brutish, and will not learn the lessons which God so plainly teacheth them.
The hypocrites in heart; such as are truly void of that piety which they profess; whereby he either secretly insinuates that Job was such a one; or gives him this occasion to search himself whether he were not so; or rather, admonisheth him not to carry himself like such a one, as he had hitherto done, and for which he reproved him, Job 34:8.
Heap up wrath, i.e. by their impious and obstinate carriage in all conditions, they treasure up God’s wrath against themselves.
They cry not unto God for help. They live in the gross neglect of God and of prayer.
When he bindeth them, to wit, with the cords of affliction, expressed Job 34:8, which is mentioned as an aggravation of their wickedness; because even wicked men, if not profligately bad, will seek God in time of affliction, Hosea 5:15. Withal he secretly reflects upon Job as one that behaved himself like a wicked man, because though he cried out of God in way of complaint, yet he did not cry unto him by humble supplication.
They die in youth; they provoke God to cut them off before their time. Heb. Their soul (i.e. they themselves) shall die in youth. Their life is; or, their life shall die or be extinct; which verb is understood out of the former clause, after the manner of the Hebrews.
The unclean; or, the filthy, or whoremongers, or sodomites; to whose destruction (which happened not long before this time) he may seem to allude. The sense is, they shall die by some dreadful and exemplary stroke of Divine vengeance.
i.e. Causeth them to hear, and understand, and do the will of God; hearing being oft put for obeying. And this latter clause seems to be added, to intimate that he will not deliver all afflicted persons, but only those whose ears he openeth to receive his counsels.
In oppression, i.e. in the time of their oppression. Or, by oppression or tribulation, as the means of opening their ears and hearts.
Even so, if thou hadst opened thine ear to God’s counsels, and humbled thyself under his correcting hand, and sued to God for mercy,
would he have removed thee; as this verb is used, 2 Chronicles 18:31. Or, allured, or enticed, or persuaded thee, as the word properly signifies; which possibly may here be emphatical, and may imply, as that Job had by his sins brought himself into these straits, so that God would have brought him out of them by the usual and regular way, to wit, by persuading him to turn from his sins, and humbly and earnestly to cry to God for mercy, which if he had complied with, God would have delivered him.
Out of the strait, Heb. out of the mouth or jaws of tribulation; which like a wild beast was read to swallow him up.
Into a broad place, i.e. into a state of ease and freedom.
Thy table; thy dishes, or the food in them.
The judgment; or, the cause, or sentence, as the word most properly signifieth. Thou hast fully pleaded their cause, and justified the hard and reproachful speeches which wicked men in their rage utter against God, condemning God and justifying themselves.
Judgment and justice take hold on thee; or, therefore (which is oft understood) the sentence and judgment (or, the judicial sentence, to wit, of the wicked now mentioned) shall take hold on thee. Thou hast maintained their cause against God, and God shall pass against thee their sentence, or the sentence of condemnation due to such wicked men.
Because there is wrath, to wit, conceived by God against thee. Because by thy pleading the cause of the wicked, thou hast deserved that God should give sentence against thee, as was now said, and hast provoked God’s wrath against thee; therefore look to thyself, and reconcile thyself to God by true repentance whilst thou mayst, and before sentence be executed upon thee.
Beware: this is not in the Hebrew, but is necessarily to be understood to make up the sense, and is oft understood in the like cases, and that before this Hebrew particle pen, as Genesis 3:22 11:4 42:4 Isaiah 36:8. See the like also Matthew 25:9 Acts 5:39.
With his stroke; properly, with the stroke of his hand or foot. It is an allusion to men, who oft express their anger by clapping their hands, or stamping with their feet.
Then a great ransom cannot deliver thee; for if once God’s wrath take hold of thee, and sentence be executed upon thee before thou dost repent and humble thyself to thy judge, neither riches, nor friends, no, nor any person or thing in heaven and earth, can redeem thee; no ransom or price will be accepted for thee.
If thou couldst recover thy lost wealth or strength, or thy friends would employ theirs on thy behalf, neither could the one ransom thee, nor the other rescue thee.
Desire not the night; either,
1. Properly, that in it thou mayst find some ease or rest, as men usually do. But this Job did not much desire, for he complains that his nights were as restless as his days. Or rather,
2. Metaphorically, the night of death, which is called the night both in Scripture, as John 9:4, and in other writers; and which Job had oft and earnestly desired, and even thirsted after, as this verb notes. See Job 7:15. And this seems best to agree with the foregoing counsel, Job 36:18, beware lest he take thee away with his stroke; for then, saith he, thou art irrecoverably lost and gone; and therefore take heed of thy foolish and oft-repeated desire of death, lest God inflict it upon thee in great anger. When; or, by which; which words are oft understood in divers texts of Scripture. People; even whole nations and bodies of people, which are all God’s creatures as well as thou, and yet are not spared by him, but cut off in wrath, and many of them sent from one death to another; take heed therefore thou be not added to the number.
Are cut off, Heb. are made to ascend, i.e. to vanish, or perish, or die, as this verb is oft used, as Job 18:16 Psalms 102:24.
In their place; in their several places where they are; or suddenly, before they can remove out of the place where the hand and stroke of God finds them; or in the place where they are settled and surrounded with all manner of comforts, and supports, and friends, all which could not prevent their being cut off. Possibly this phrase may allude to that expression of Job’s, Job 29:18, I shall die in my nest.
Regard not iniquity, or, look not to it, to wit, with an approving or coveting eye, as this word is used, Proverbs 23:31. Thou hast chosen rather to quarrel with God, and censure his judgments, than humbly and quietly to submit to them, and to wait upon God by faith and prayer for deliverance in his time and way.
God exalteth; or, is high, or exalted; the active verb being taken intransitively; which is not unusual in the Hebrew tongue. This is a proper argument to force the foregoing counsels. God is omnipotent; and therefore can with great facility either punish thee far worse, if thou be obstinate and refractory; or deliver thee, if thou dost repent and return to him.
Who teacheth like him? he is also infinitely wise as well as powerful; and as none can work like him, so none can teach like him. Therefore do not presume to teach him how to govern the world, or to order thy affairs; but know that whatsoever he doth with thee, or with any other men, is best to be done. And therefore be willing to learn from him. Learn obedience by the things which thou sufferest from him; and do not follow thy own fancies or affections, but use the methods which God hath taught thee to get out of thy troubles, by submission, and prayer, and repentance. The words may be rendered, what lord is like him? For the word moreb in the Chaldee dialect signifies a lord. This translation suits with the former clause of this verse; but ours agrees well enough with that, and is confirmed by the following verse.
His way, wherein he would walk, i.e. what courses and methods he should use in the administration of human affairs. If he had a superior Lord who gave him laws for his actions, he might be accountable to him, and questionable for what he did; but he is supreme, absolute, and uncontrollable, who hath no law to regulate him but his own holy nature and blessed will. And therefore how rash, and impudent, and absurd a thing is it for any man to censure his proceedings!
Thou hast wrought iniquity; thou hast swerved from the law and rule given to thee.
Remember; call to mind this thy duty, and take this matter into thy more serious thoughts, and it will prevent thy horrible mistakes and miscarriages.
That; so this Hebrew particle is used here, Job 36:10 3:12.
His work; or, his works, the singular number being put for the plural, every work which he doth; do not condemn any of his providential works towards thee or others, but adore and glorify them, as done with admirable wisdom, and justice, and faithfulness.
Which men behold, to wit, with admiration and astonishment; which by their greatness and glory draw the eyes and minds of all men towards them; which deserve to be entertained with adoration and reverence of all men, not with censure and reproach.
May see it, to wit, his work, last mentioned. The power, and wisdom, and greatness of God is so manifest in all his works, that all who are not blind or stupid must needs see and acknowledge it.
Man may behold it afar off; the works of God are so great and conspicuous, that they may be seen at a great distance; whereas little things cannot be seen, unless we be near them. This translation and interpretation seems better to agree with the context than that which is more common, man doth behold it (i.e. God’s work or works)
afar off, i.e. they see them darkly and imperfectly, as things at a great distance, but not clearly and plainly, as things near at hand; and therefore they are so apt to mistake them, and misjudge of them.
God is great; infinite in majesty, and power, and wisdom, and all perfections, and therefore just in all his ways. We
know him not, to wit, perfectly. Though we see something of him in his works, as was now said, yet we see and know but little of him in comparison of that which is in him. He is incomprehensibly great in his essence and in his works, and therefore be not so rash, O Job, as to censure those ways of God which thou canst not fully understand. He is from everlasting to everlasting, eternal, as in his being, so in all his counsels; which therefore must be infinitely wise, and above the comprehension of short-lived men.
Having affirmed that God’s works are incomprehensibly great and glorious, he now enters upon the proof of it; and he proveth it from the most common and visible works of nature and providence, which if thoroughly considered, are full of wonder, and past the reach of the greatest philosophers, who indeed speak of them only by guess, and by their innumerable disputations about them discover their ignorance in them. And hence he leaves it to Job to consider how incomparably more deep and unconceivable the secret counsels and judgments of God must needs be, and therefore how foolish and presumptuous a thing it was for him to judge and censure them.
He maketh small the drops of water, i.e. he orders matters so wisely and graciously, that the waters which are in the clouds do not fall down at once in spouts, or rivers, or seas; which would be both unprofitable and pernicious to the earth, and to mankind; but by degrees, and in drops; which is best for men’s safety and comfort, and for the refreshment of the earth. And this he observes as a wonderful work of God, without whose providence herein those waters might constantly or commonly fall in spouts, as sometimes part of them hath done.
They; either the waters, last mentioned; or the clouds, as it is expressed in the next verse; or the active verb is used impersonally, which is frequent in the Hebrew language, they pour down rain, for the rain is poured down.
Pour down; or, melt or dissolve; which word is borrowed from metallists, who dissolve metals with fire, and then pour them forth by degrees and in parcels; as the clouds are dissolved, and then poured forth in drops, as was now expressed.
According to the vapour thereof, i.e. according to the proportion of vapours which the heat of the sun hath drawn up from the earth or sea into the clouds. Or,
into the vapour thereof. So it notes that great work of God, by which the rain is first made of vapours, and afterwards resolved into vapours, or into the matter of succeeding vapours, by a constant rotation and reciprocation.
In such plenty as the necessities of the earth require; which also is a wonderful work of God.
Of the clouds; or rather, of a cloud, as it is in the Hebrew; whence it comes to pass that a small cloud, no bigger than a man’s hand, doth suddenly spread over the whole heavens: how the clouds come to be suddenly gathered together, and so condensed as to bring forth thunder and lightning, which here follows.
The noise of his tabernacle, i.e. the thunder produced in the clouds, which are oft called God’s tent or tabernacle, as Psalms 18:1 104:3, because there he ofttimes seems to dwell, and gives forth tokens of his powerful and glorious presence in those mighty works of thundering and lightning, wherewith men are frequently astonished and affrighted.
His light, i.e. the lightning; of which the whole context speaks, which is fitly called God’s light, as it is called God’s lightning, Psalms 144:6, because God only can light it.
Upon it, i.e. upon the cloud, which is in a manner the candlestick in which God sets up this light.
Covereth the bottom of the sea; the lightning spreads far and wide over all the parts of the sea, and pierceth deep, reaching even to the bottom of it, and spreading itself upon it, and so covering it like a gay and glorious garment, suddenly cast over and covering the body of a man or woman; or as God is said to cover himself with light as with a garment, Psalms 104:2.
By thunder and lightning he manifests his displeasure and executes his judgments against ungodly people or countries.
He giveth meat in abundance; or, and (which conjunction is oft understood) he giveth meat, &c., i.e. by the selfsame clouds he punisheth wicked men by thunder and lightning, and provideth for others by those plentiful showers which accompany them.
With clouds; with thick and black clouds spread over the whole heavens, as it is in times of great thunders and lightnings. Heb. With hands; either the clouds are so called for their resemblance to hands, 1 Kings 18:4,1, as being hollow and spread abroad; or the meaning is, that God covereth the light as it were by the hollow of his hand, as a man sometimes covers the light of a candle.
The light; either the lightning, or rather the sun, which is fitly called light, Job 31:26 Psalms 136:7, as being the fountain of light.
Commandeth it not to shine; or, giveth a charge concerning it, to wit, that it shall be covered; or, forbiddeth it, as this Hebrew word, joined with this proposition, usually signifies, as Genesis 2:17 28:6 1 Kings 2:43 11:11, and elsewhere, i.e. hindereth it, as it were by an express command or prohibition, from its usual and proper work, to wit, from shining.
That cometh betwixt; which God interposeth as a veil between the sun and earth; by which he doth, as it were, deliver his command or prohibition to the sun, that he should not shine.
The noise thereof, to wit. of or within the black or thick cloud, spoken of Job 36:32. Or, his, i.e. God’s, noise, to wit, the thunder, which is called God’s voice, Psalms 29:4,5.
Showeth concerning it, to wit, the rain, which is the principal subject of these verses, of which he speaketh expressly Job 36:27,28; and of its companions, the clouds, and thunder and lightning, in all the following verses. The sense is, The thunder gives notice of the approaching rain. And as the thunder, so also the cattle, showeth (which verb is, understood out of the foregoing clause, after the manner) concerning the vapour, i.e. concerning the coming of the rain; but he puts vapour for the rain, because divers cattle are very sagacious in this matter, and do not only perceive the rain when it is ready to fall, but foresee it at some distance by the vapours, which are drawn up by the sun in great abundance, and by divers motions and actions, give men timely notice of it, as hath been observed not only by husbandmen, but also by learned authors.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 36". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany