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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Job 4


Eliphaz speaketh, though it will grieve Job, Job 4:1,Job 4:2.

Job had instructed and strengthened others in their sorrows, but now fainted himself, Job 4:3-5. Eliphaz reproacheth him with his confidence in his uprightness, which he now suspecteth; for that God’s judgments were not against the righteous, but the wicked, Job 4:6-11.

His fearful visions, Job 4:12-16.

The righteousness of God; the angels charged with folly; the vanity of man, Job 4:17-21.

Verse 2

Wilt thou be grieved? or, (without a note of interrogation,) thou wilt be grieved. Our words will undoubtedly vex thee, and not comfort thee, as we intended and desired to do. We must not use words of comfort, but of sharp reproof, which will be irksome to thee; and this makes me desire to be silent, if it were possible.

Who can withhold himself from speaking, when he hears such unreasonable and ungodly words coming from such a person as thou art, whereby thou dost accuse thy Maker, and reproach his providence, and contemn his blessings? No man who hath any respect to God, or love to thee, can forbear reproving thee.

Verse 3

Thou hast instructed many; teaching them those lessons which thou hast not learned, and wilt not practise, to wit, patiently to bear afflictions, and to submit to God’s will and providence in all things, which thou most shamefully refusest to do.

Thou hast strengthened the weak hands, by administering supports and comforts and counsels to such as were unable to bear their burdens, or to do their duty.

Verse 4

Him that was falling; ready to sink under their pressures, or to fall from God, or into sin, (as that word is used, 1 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 6:2, and elsewhere,) through despondency and distrust of God’s providence and promise, or through impatience.

The feeble knees; such as were weak-hearted, and fainting under their trials. See Isaiah 35:3; Daniel 5:6; Hebrews 12:12.

Verse 5

Now it is come, i.e. the evil which thou didst fear, Job 3:25, and which was come upon those whom thou didst so comfort.

Thou faintest; thou allowest in thyself what thou wouldst not bear in others. What in them was a vice, in thee, it seems, is become a virtue. Thou art wise for others, but not for thyself; a good physician to cure others, but not thyself; quick-sighted to see the faults of others, but blind to thine own.

It toucheth thee; it is now come to be thine own case.

Verse 6

So the sense is, We now plainly see what was the nature and complexion of thy fear of God, thy confidence in him, the uprightness of thy ways, and thy hope in God’s mercy, which thou didst make show and boast of, and for which thou wast become so famous. Thy present carriage discovereth to thyself and others that it was but mere talk and appearance, and there was nothing sound and sincere in it. In thy prosperity it was easy to make a splendid profession of religion; but men are best known by affliction, and this now showeth of what metal thou art made; for now thou dost cast off thy fear of God, and all thy confidence and hope in him, and hast let go that integrity of thy ways which hitherto thou didst seem to hold fast; whereas true piety is uniform, and constant, and stedfast in all varieties of conditions, and under all trials and temptations. But this translation removes the and from its proper place, and changeth the order of the words, which is this in the Hebrew, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways, which words may be restored to their own order, and with that variation our translation may stand, and this seems to be the true sense. And so here are four distinct questions, Is not this thy fear? Is not this thy confidence? Is not this thy hope? Is not this the uprightness of thy ways? But others make only two questions, and render the words either thus, Is not (or rather, was not) thy fear (of God) thy confidence? and the uprightness of thy ways thy hope? i.e. Did not thy fear of God, and the integrity of thy life, of which thou didst make such eminent profession, proceed only from the love of thyself, and of this present world? and from thy confidence and hope that God would bless and prosper thee for it? For now when God withdraws his favour and blessings from thee, thy religion is vanished, and thou hast cast off all fear and reverence of God, as thy impious speeches show. Or thus, Would not thy fear be thy confidence, and the uprightness of thy ways thy hope? i.e. If thou hadst indeed that fear and integrity to which thou pretendest, it would give thee good ground of hope and confidence in the midst of all thy distresses, and thou wouldst not so faint and sink under thy calamities, as now thou dost, for want of a solid foundation of true piety. But both these translations, besides other inconveniences, stumble at the same stone, and pervert the order of the words in the Hebrew text, of which see before; which is not to be allowed without some kind of necessity, which is not in this case.

Verse 7

Give me one example hereof out of all thy experience or reading.

Who ever perished, i.e. was so utterly undone, as thou art, so miserably afflicted by such unparalleled and various judgments from God and men, all conspiring against thee?

Being innocent; who had not by his wickedness provoked so merciful a God to do that which is so unusual, and in some sort unpleasing to himself. Therefore thou art guilty of some great, though secret, crimes, and thy sin hath now found thee out, and hath brought down these stupendous plagues upon thee.

Where were the righteous cut off by the sickle of Divine vengeance before his time, which is like to be thy case? His judgment herein was rash and false, but not without some appearance of truth; for God had made many promises, not only of spiritual and eternal, but also of temporal, blessings, to all that should faithfully serve and obey him, which accordingly he did from time to time confer upon them, as we see by the examples of Noah, Lot, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and doubtless many others which had lived in or before their days. And this was God’s usual method under all the times of the Old Testament, as we see by the people of Israel, who were generally either in a happy and flourishing, or in an afflicted and miserable, state, according to their obedience to God, or their apostacy from him. And therefore it is not strange that they fell into this mistake. But allowing for this mistake, and the consequence of it, his uncharitable opinion of Job, the method which he useth with Job is commendable, and to be imitated by others in their dealing with persons in sickness or affliction; for he doth not flatter him in his sins, nor immediately and unseasonably apply comforts to him, but endeavours to convince him of his sins, and to bring him to repentance, as the only regular way to his remedy.

Verse 8

As thou hast never seen any example of a righteous man cut off, so on the contrary I have seen many examples of wicked men cut off for their wickedness. Or, As far as I have observed; or, But as I have seen or experienced.

They that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness; they that designedly and industriously work wickedness, first plotting and preparing themselves for it, and then continuing to pursue and execute it, as husbandmen first plough up and prepare the ground, and then cast in the seed. Compare Proverbs 22:8; Hosea 10:13.

Reap the same, i.e. iniquity, or such trouble or injury (for so also the Hebrew word avert signifies) as they cause to others. Or, the fruit of their iniquity, the just recompence and punishment of it, which is oft called sin or iniquity, as Genesis 4:7; Numbers 12:2; Numbers 16:26; Numbers 32:23. Compare Galatians 6:7,Galatians 6:8.

Verse 9

By the blast of God, to wit, of his nostrils, as it here follows, i.e. by his anger, which in men shows itself in the nostrils, by hot and frequent breathings there, and therefore by an anthropopathy is ascribed to God; by a secret, and oft undiscerned, but mighty and powerful, judgment of God, by which they are blasted and blown away as chaff by the wind, as the phrase is, Psalms 1:0.

Verse 10

The voice of the fierce lion; understand vanisheth, or perisheth, out of Job 4:9; or, is restrained, or suppressed, as may be gathered out of the following branch of this verse.

The teeth of the young lions are broken; which is true literally; the lions when taken having most commonly their teeth broken, as ancient and modern writers relate. But this is here mystically meant of wicked and powerful tyrants, who are oft and fitly compared to lions, Ezekiel 32:2; Ezekiel 38:13; 2 Timothy 4:17, who though for a time they persecute and oppress other men, yet in due time they are restrained, and broken, and crushed in pieces by the mighty power of God appearing against them in some eminent judgments. Possibly he may secretly accuse Job, or his children, or both, that being persons of great wealth and power in those parts, they had wickedly abused it to ruin their neighbours, and therefore were justly cut off.

Verse 11

The old lion perisheth for lack of prey; because they cannot go abroad to seek it, and their young ones either cannot find or do not bring it to them. See Psalms 49:14,Psalms 49:15; Psalms 119:10.

Are scattered abroad; gone from their dens several ways to hunt for prey, and can find none.

Verse 12

Now, Heb. and, or moreover, I will further convince thee by a vision which I had relating to such matters as these. That here follows a relation of a vision is apparent from the punctual description of all its circumstances. To think as some do, that this was but a fiction and artifice which Eliphaz used, that his words might have more authority with Job, or that this was a diabolical delusion, seems to be both uncharitable and unreasonable, partly because Eliphaz, though under a mistake concerning Job’s case, was doubtless a wise and good man, and therefore would not needlessly make himself a liar for Job’s conviction; and partly from the matter of this vision, which is no way suitable to the nature or designs of the devil, but holy and agreeable to the Divine majesty and purity, and useful for men’s instruction, and humiliation, and reformation. It was therefore a Divine vision, which in that age and state of the church, before the Holy Scriptures were written, was the usual way of God’s discovery of his mind to those that sought to him.

A thing, Heb. a word, to wit, from God, as Proverbs 13:13, a doctrine or message.

Was secretly brought to me, Heb. was stolen, or brought by stealth into me, i.e. privately and secretly, as the word of God used to come to the prophets, being spoken in their ear, as it was to Samuel, 1 Samuel 9:15; and the like to Moses, so as Pharaoh, though present, could not hear nor observe it, Exodus 11:1, with a low and still voice, a secret whisper. This is opposed to the more public delivery of God’s word by the prophets to the people, which was done by crying aloud, Isaiah 48:1.

Mine ear received, i.e. I heard.

A little thereof, or, a parcel thereof, i.e. of God’s word; not of that particular word which God had now delivered to Eliphaz, which doubtless God would so speak, that he to whom he directed his speech might hear it all, and Eliphaz certainly would be as careful not to lose a syllable of it; but a parcel of God’s word in general, which this indeed was. And withal, this may be a modest and humble expression, arising from a deep sense of his own infirmity, and the small measure of his knowledge of Divine things, whereof he knew only some little fragments and parcels, as Paul said, We know but in part, 1 Corinthians 13:9. As if he had said, Many, I doubt not, have more familiar acquaintance with God, and more full revelations from God, than I can pretend to, but a little of that treasure God hath been pleased to impart to me.

Verse 13

In thoughts; in the midst of my thoughts, or by reason of my thoughts, my perplexing thoughts. the word properly signifies a branch, and thence a thought, as 1 Kings 18:21, which proceeds from the mind as branches from a tree, and a perplexing thought, which is entangled like the branches of a tree. These thoughts were the occasion of the following fear.

From the visions of the night: this may belong either to the thoughts last mentioned, or to the fear following; both which did arise

from the visions of the night, i.e. from the great importance and the terribleness of such visions, whereof probably he had had former experience, and now had an expectation of another of them, which God had raised and wrought in him, to prepare him the better for the reception of it. Visions differed from dreams herein, that God imparted his mind to a man in dreams when he was asleep but in visions when they were awake. And these visions sometimes happened by day, as Luke 1:22 Acts 10:17; Acts 26:19, but most frequently by night, whence we read of vision or visions of the night, as Genesis 46:2; Job 20:8; Job 33:15. And such this was, which made it the more terrible.

When deep sleep falleth on men; in the dead of the night, when men usually are in a deep sleep; though Eliphaz was not now asleep, as appears from the nature of a vision, and from the following words.

Verse 14

Fear came upon me; either caused by the apparition following; or sent by God to humble him, and to prepare him for the more diligent attention to, reverent reception of; and ready compliance with, the Divine message.

Verse 15

Then, Heb. and, or for, as this particle is oft used. So this was the reason of the foregoing thoughts and fear.

A spirit; an angel in some visible shape, otherwise he could not have discerned it, nor would have been affrighted at it.

The hair of my flesh, i.e. of my body, as flesh is taken, Genesis 2:24; Psalms 16:9; Psalms 119:120.

Stood up, through that excessive horror caused by so glorious, unusual, and terrible a presence; which God used to excite in men upon such occasions, to convince them that it was not a vain imagination or illusion, but a real vision and revelation, and that from God.

Verse 16

It stood still; having passed by him to and again he made a stand, as one that had some business with him, and addressed himself to speak to him.

I could not discern the form thereof; to wit, exactly and distinctly, so as to know what or who it was.

An image was before mine eyes; I saw some corporal or visible resemblance, though in a confused manner.

There was silence: the spirit, which possibly had made some noise with his motion, now standing still made no noise; all other persons and things about me were silent, and I also kept in my voice and breath as much as I could, that I might distinctly hear what I perceived the spirit was speaking to me. In the Hebrew the words run thus, silence and a voice (i.e. a silent, or still, or low voice, by a very common figure, called hendiadis) I heard.

Verse 17

The sense is, Thou, O Job, dost presumptuously accuse God for dealing harshly and unrighteously with thee, in sending thee into the world upon such hard terms, and punishing all innocent and righteous man with such unparalleled severity; but consider things calmly within thyself; if God and thou come to a trial before any equal judge, canst thou think that thou wilt go away justified, and the great God shall be condemned? No righteous man will punish another without cause, or more than he deserves; and therefore if God do so with thee, as thy words imply, he is less just than a man; which is blasphemous and absurd to imagine.

Shall a man; a great and mighty man, as this word signifies, a man eminent for wisdom, or justice, or power, or any other perfections, such as thou art thought by thyself or others to be; who therefore might expect more favour than a poor miserable and contemptible man, which the word enosch, used in the former branch, signifies. So he anticipates this objection which Job might make.

Be more pure than his Maker? an unanswerable argument against Job. He made thee, and that for himself and his own glory, and therefore hath an unquestionable right to deal with thee, and dispose of thee, the work of his hands, as he sees fit. Woe to him that striveth with his maker! Isaiah 45:9. Besides, he made man just and pure; if any man have any thing of justice or purity in him, it is derived from God, the undoubted and only fountain of it; and therefore it must necessarily be in God in a far more eminent degree.

Verse 18

Behold; this deserves thy serious consideration. These and the following words seem to be the words of Eliphaz, explaining the former vision, and applying it to Job’s case, and enforcing it by further arguments.

In his servants, i.e. in his angels, as appears both by the next words of this verse, where they are called by way of explication and restriction his angels; and by the next verse, where men are opposed to them. They are called his servants by way of eminency, that general name being here appropriated to the chief of the kind, as is very usual in all authors in like cases; and withal, to intimate that sovereign dominion which the great God hath over the glorious angels, and much more over men, by virtue whereof he hath an unquestionable authority to treat them according to his good pleasure. And these God is said to put no trust in, because he could not be confident that they, if left to themselves, and destitute of the succours of his power and grace, would continue to be loyal, and faithful, and serviceable to him, and would not revolt from him, as some of their brethren had done. And for this cause God was pleased, after some time of trial, to give some special and further grace, either by Christ or otherwise, whereby they should be infallibly confirmed in the state of grace and felicity.

His angels he charged with folly, or, with vanity, i.e. he discerned folly and vanity in the angelical natures when he had first made them; which although he saw and pronounced them, no less than the visible creatures, Genesis 1:0, to be very good in themselves, and free from the least degree or tincture of sin; yet, comparing them with himself, and considering them in themselves alone, he saw something of folly and vanity in their very natures, because they were creatures, and therefore subject to manifold changes; and, among others, to fall from God, or into sin, as it appeared by the sad experience of some of them. Seeing therefore the angels, which so far exceed mankind in wisdom, and strength, and purity, and justice, and all other perfections, do fall incomparably short of God in these things, it is most absurd, as well as impious, to think that man is more just or pure than God, as was said, Job 4:17, and as thou, O Job, seemest to surmise. Others, nor (Heb. and not; the negative particle being repeated out of the former branch of the verse, as it is Psalms 9:18; Proverbs 17:26, and elsewhere) in his angels, in whom (both which particles are frequently understood, as hath been proved before) he put light, or splendour, to wit, singular wisdom and purity, beyond what he put in man.

Verse 19

How much less, understand, doth he put trust in them, &c.! Or, How much more, understand, doth he charge folly on them, &c.! Either of these supplements are natural and easy, being fetched out of the former verse, and necessary to make the sense complete. The sense is, What strange presumption then is it, for a foolish and mortal man to pretend to a higher privilege than the angels do, to make himself more just than God, or to exalt himself above or against God, as thou dost! On them, i.e. on men, as it follows, who, though they have immortal spirits, yet those spirits dwell in mortal bodies, which are great debasements, and clogs, and encumbrances, and snares to them; and which are here called

houses, ( because they are the receptacles of the soul, and the places of its settled and continual abode,) and

houses of clay, and earthly houses, 2 Corinthians 5:1; partly because they were made of clay, or earth, Genesis 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:47; and partly to note their great frailty and mutability; whereas the angels are free spirits, unconfined to such carcasses, and dwell in celestial, and glorious, and everlasting mansions.

Whose foundation is in the dust; whose very foundation, no less than the rest of the building, is

in the dust; who as they dwell in dust and clay, so they had their foundation or original from it, and they must return to it, Ecclesiastes 12:7; and, as to their bodies, lie down and sleep in it, Daniel 12:2, as in his long home, Ecclesiastes 12:5, and the only continuing city which he hath in this world.

Which are crushed, Heb. they crush them, i.e. they are or will be crushed; the active verb used impersonally, as it is Job 7:3; Job 24:20; Proverbs 6:30; Luke 12:20.

Before the moth, i.e. sooner than a moth is crushed, which is easily done by a gentle touch of the finger. An hyperbolical expression. So the Hebrew word liphne, commonly signifying place, doth here note time, as it is used Genesis 27:7; Genesis 29:26; Genesis 36:31. Or, at the face, or appearance, of a moth. No creature is so weak and contemptible but one time or other it may have the body of man in its power, as the worms, the moths’ cousin-germans, have in the grave. But he instanceth in a moth rather than a worm, because it is the weaker of the two, and because it better agrees with the similitude of a house, in which moths commonly are more frequent, and powerful, and mischievous than worms. How then canst thou think, O Job, to contend with thy Maker, that must become a prey to such small and impotent creatures?

Verse 20

From morning to evening; either,

1. Speedily, between morning and evening, like the grass; they flourish in the morning, and in the evening are cut off, Psalms 90:5,Psalms 90:6. Or rather,

2. All the day long, as the phrase is, 2 Corinthians 11:25. There is not a moment wherein man is not sinking and drawing on towards death and corruption.

For ever; as to human appearance and the course of nature, as many such like passages are to be understood in this book; or in reference to this present. and worldly life, which when once lost is never recovered, Job 16:22; Psalms 39:13.

Without any regarding it, Heb. without putting the heart to it; the word heart being understood there, as also Job 23:6; Job 34:23; Isaiah 41:20, as may appear by comparing 1 Samuel 9:20; 2 Samuel 18:3; Isaiah 41:22; Isaiah 57:1, where the same phrase is used, and the word heart expressed. The meaning is either,

1. Yet few or no men that survive them lay it to heart as they should do. Or,

2. They perish beside the expectation of all men, when both themselves and others thought their mountain was so strong that it could not be removed. Or rather,

3. This is so common a thing for all men, though never so high and great, to perish in this manner, that no man heeds it, but passeth it by as a general accident not worthy of observation. Otherwise, no man procuring or furthering it, Heb. without any man’s putting the hand to it, i.e. they perish of themselves, without any violent hand.

Verse 21

Whatsoever is really or by common estimation excellent in men, all their natural, and moral, and civil accomplishments, as high birth, great riches, power, and wisdom, &c.; these are so far from preserving men from perishing, as one would think they should do, that they perish themselves, together with those houses of clay in which they are lodged.

Which is in them go away; or, go away (i.e. die and perish, as that phrase is oft used as Genesis 15:15; Joshua 23:14; Job 10:21; Psalms 58:9; Ecclesiastes 12:5; Matthew 26:21) with, (as beth is oft used) them; it doth not survive them.

Without wisdom: either,

1. Like fools. Wise men and fools die alike, Ecclesiastes 2:16. Or,

2. They never attain to perfect wisdom, to that wisdom which man once had, much less to that wisdom which is in God, which Job conceiveth he hath; otherwise he would not so boldly censure the counsels and works of God as unrighteous or unreasonable, because his human and narrow capacity cannot fully understand them. Moreover, as folly is oft put for unrighteousness and wickedness, so is wisdom for justice and goodness; which is so known, that it is needless to prove it; and so by wisdom here may be meant that perfect justice and purity which Job arrogated to himself, and which Eliphaz here denies to all men, Job 4:17, &c.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 4". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.