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Bible Commentaries
Job 9

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2484. B.C. 1520.

Job’s answer: man cannot stand in judgment with God, because of God’s justice, wisdom, power, and sovereignty, Job 9:1-13 . Job condemns himself, as not able to contend with God, Job 9:14-21 . Shows that we cannot judge of men by their outward condition, Job 9:22-24 . And complains of the greatness of his troubles, and the loss he was at what to say or do, Job 9:25-35 .

Verse 1

Job 9:1. Then Job answered and said “In reply to Bildad, Job begins with hinting, that their opinions seemed a little to clash; Eliphaz had insisted, from revelation, that the common failings of men were a sufficient justification of providence, even in the most afflicting dispensations. Bildad says, if he were pure and upright, God would interpose in his behalf. Job replies, that all this is very true; but the difficulty is, to be thus pure and upright: ‘for I am not exempt from the common failings of men: if, therefore, they are sufficient to account for the great calamities which have befallen me, I am still without a remedy. As to God’s power and wisdom, I am as thoroughly convinced, and can give as many instances of it as you; and, therefore, I know it is in vain for me to contend with him, Job 9:2-13. I have nothing left but to acknowledge my own vileness, and to make my supplication to him, Job 9:14-19. But yet, as to any heinous crimes, beyond the common infirmities of human nature, these I disclaim; and let the event be what it will, I will rather part with my life than accuse myself wrongfully. And whereas you affirm, that affliction is an infallible mark of guilt, you quite mistake the matter; for afflictions are indifferently assigned to be the portion of the innocent and the guilty. God, indeed, sometimes in his anger destroys the wicked; but, doth he not as frequently afflict the innocent? The dispensations of providence, in this world, are frequently such, that, were it not that God now and then lets loose his fury against them, one would be almost tempted to imagine the rule of this world was delivered over into the hands of wicked men, Job 9:21-24. As for my own part, my days are almost come to an end: it is therefore labour lost for me to plead the cause of my innocence: besides, that in the sight of God I must appear all vileness; so that it is not for such a one as me to pretend to put myself on a level with him. And, even though I were able to do so, there is no one that hath sufficient authority to judge between us, Job 9:25-33. Yet, were it his pleasure to grant me a little respite, I could say a great deal in my own vindication; but, as matters stand, I dare not; for which reason my life is a burden to me, and my desire is, it may speedily come to an end, chap. 10. Job 9:1, to the end. I would, however, expostulate a little with the Almighty.’ And here he enters into the most beautiful and tender pleading which heart can conceive; ending, as before, with a prayer, that his sufferings and life might soon come to a period; and that God would grant him some little respite before his departure hence.” Heath and Dodd.

Verse 2

Job 9:2. I know it is so of a truth Namely, as you say, that God must be just and righteous; that purity and uprightness are qualities belonging to him; that he cannot possibly be biased or prejudiced in judging and determining the state and condition of mankind. I am likewise satisfied, that the time we have to live here is too short to compass any considerable points of knowledge; and that, whenever he pleases, he can exercise his power so as to change our exalted mirth to most bitter weeping, our highest joy to the most abject sorrow: can bring the most insolent offender to shame, and dispossess the wicked of his strongest and most magnificent situation. But how Hebrew, And how, should man Enosh, weak, frail man, imperfect as he is, be just with God? Be justified, or clear himself in God’s account. I know that no man is absolutely holy and righteous, if God be severe to mark what is amiss in him.

Verse 3

Job 9:3. If he will contend with him If God be pleased to contend with man, namely, in judgment, or to debate, or plead with him; he cannot answer him one of a thousand One accusation among a thousand which God might produce against him. So far would he be from being able to maintain his own innocence against God, if God should set himself against him as his adversary.

Verse 4

Job 9:4. He is wise in heart He is infinitely wise, and searcheth all men’s hearts and ways, and discovers a multitude of sins, which men’s short-sighted eyes cannot see; and therefore can charge them with innumerable evils, of which they thought themselves innocent, and sees far more malignity than men can discern in their sins. Mighty in strength So that, whether men contend with God by wisdom or by strength, God will be conqueror. Who hath hardened himself, &c. Obstinately contended with him. The devil promised himself that Job, in the day of his affliction, would curse and speak ill of God. But, instead of that, he sets himself to honour God and speak highly of him. As ill pained as he is, and as much as he is taken up with his own miseries, when he has occasion to mention the wisdom and power of God, he forgets his complaints, and expatiates, with a flood of eloquence, on that glorious subject.

Verses 5-6

Job 9:5-6. Which removeth the mountains He proceeds to give particular evidences of the divine power and wisdom, which he mentioned Job 9:4. And they That is, the mountains, to which he figuratively ascribes sense and knowledge; know not He removes them suddenly and unexpectedly ere they are aware of it. Which overturneth them in his anger In token of his displeasure with men, that lived upon or near them. Which shaketh the earth Great portions of it by earthquakes, or by removing islands. And the pillars thereof tremble The deep and inward parts of it, which, like pillars, support those parts which appear to our view.

Verse 7

Job 9:7. Who commandeth the sun, and it riseth not Nor are the heavens less subject to his power; for neither sun nor stars can shine if he forbid them. “Bishop Warburton supposes, that this alludes to the miraculous history of the people of God, such as the Egyptian darkness, and the stopping the sun’s course by Joshua. But surely there is no necessity, from the words themselves, to suppose any allusion of this kind, or, indeed, any thing miraculous, since God, by throwing a thick cloud over the sun and stars, can and does obscure them when he pleases.” Dodd. And things in the Scriptures are often said to be or not to be, when they appear or disappear; of which some instances have been given in the former part of this work, and we shall have more hereafter in their proper places. Thus it is that the Chaldee Paraphrast understands the passage. And sealeth up the stars That is, covereth and shutteth them up, that they may not shine, as in dark and dismal tempests, like that mentioned Acts 27:20, when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days.

Verse 8

Job 9:8. Which alone That is, by his own single power, without any other help. Spreadeth out the heavens He spread them out like a curtain, Psalms 104:2, when he first created them, and he, in a manner, spreads them again every day; that is, keeps them spread for the comfort and benefit of this lower world, and does not roll and fold them up as he will do in due time. Or, as the same Hebrew word, נשׂה , natah, is rendered, Psalms 18:9, boweth down the heavens; and so it is a further description of a black and tempestuous season, wherein the heavens seem to be brought down nearer to the earth. And treadeth upon the waves of the sea That is, represseth and ruleth them, when they rage and are tempestuous: for treading upon any thing signifies, in the Scriptures, exercising power and dominion over it.

Verse 9

Job 9:9. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, &c. Who ordereth and disposeth them, as the word making is sometimes used in the Scriptures; governeth their rising and setting, and all their influences. These he names as constellations of greatest eminence; but under them he seems to comprehend all the stars, which, as they were created by God, so are under his government. Arcturus is a northern constellation, near that called the Bear. Orion is a more southerly constellation, that rises to us in December. The Pleiades is a constellation not far from Orion, which we call the Seven Stars. By the chambers (or inmost chambers, as the word signifies) of the south, he seems to understand those stars and constellations which are toward the southern pole, which are called inward chambers, because they are for the most part hid and shut up from these parts of the world.

Verse 10

Job 9:10. Which doeth great things, &c. Job here says the same that Eliphaz had said Job 5:9, and in the original, in the very same words, with design to show his full agreement with him, touching the divine perfections.

Verse 11

Job 9:11. Lo he goeth by me Or besides, or before me, in my presence; that is, he worketh by his providence in ways of mercy or judgment. And I see him not I see the effects, but I cannot understand the causes or grounds of his actions, for they are incomprehensible to me, or any other man: for though Job speaks only in his own person, yet he means to affirm it of all men, that such is the weakness of their understandings that they cannot search out God’s counsels and ways. The operations of second causes are commonly obvious to our senses; but, though God works by those causes, we see him not, nor can our finite minds fathom his counsels, apprehend his motions, or comprehend the measures he takes. He passeth on also He goeth from place to place; from one action to another. But I perceive him not He passes and acts invisibly and undiscerned.

Verse 12

Job 9:12. Behold, he taketh away If he determine to take away from any man his children, or servants, or estate, who is able to restrain him from doing it? Or, who dare presume to reprove him for it? And, therefore, far be it from me to quarrel with God, whereof you untruly accuse me.

Verse 13

Job 9:13. If God will not withdraw his anger There is nothing in the Hebrew for if. The words, literally rendered, are, God will not withdraw his anger; or, continuing the interrogation, used twice in the preceding verse, which Chappelow thinks ought to be continued, Will not God withdraw? &c.; the consequence that follows is then quite natural and just; the proud helpers do ( then) stoop under him Those who undertake to uphold and defend one another against him fall, and are crushed by him; that is, his majesty is so dreadful that nothing can resist it, but every thing must submit that dares to oppose it. They are fitly called proud helpers, because it is a most proud, insolent, and presumptuous act to oppose themselves to the Lord God Almighty, and to his counsels and proceedings; or, helpers of pride, as it is in the Hebrew, because they give assistance to those who carry themselves proudly and stoutly toward God, under his correcting hand.

Verses 14-15

Job 9:14-15. How much less shall I answer him Since no creature can resist his power, and no man can comprehend his counsels and ways, how can I contend with him; answer his allegations and arguments produced against me? Whom though I were righteous Though I had a most just cause, and were not conscious to myself of any sin; yet would I not answer That is, I durst not undertake to plead my cause against, or maintain my integrity before him, because he knows me better than I know myself, and because I am wholly in his hands and at his mercy. But I would make supplication to my judge That he would judge favourably of me and my cause, and not according to the rigour of his justice.

Verse 16

Job 9:16. If I had called That is, prayed, as the word קראתי , karati, commonly means, namely, unto my judge for a favourable sentence, as he had just said; and he had answered me Had given me what I asked; yet would I not believe, &c. So weak and imperfect are my best prayers; and, I am so infinitely below him, so obnoxious to him, and still so full of the tokens of his displeasure, that I would not believe he had done it because I had asked him; or, that it was owing to my prayers, but that he had bestowed the favour purely for his name’s sake. Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase is, “If I had made supplication, and he had granted my desire, I would not think my prayer had done the business.”

Verse 17

Job 9:17 . For he breaketh me with a tempest As with a tempest; that is, unexpectedly, violently, and irrecoverably. This is the reason of his forementioned diffidence, that even when God seemed to answer his supplication in words, yet the course of his actions toward him was of a quite contrary nature and tendency. And multiplieth my wounds without cause He does not mean, simply without any desert of his, as if he had been free from all sin, and perfectly innocent and holy, the contrary to which he oft declares; but without any special cause of such singular afflictions; without any peculiar and extraordinary guilt, such as his friends charged him with.

Verse 18

Job 9:18. He will not suffer me to take my breath My pains and miseries are continual, and I have not so much as a breathing time free from them; but filleth me with bitterness My afflictions are not only long and uninterrupted, but also exceeding sharp and violent, contrary to the common course of God’s providence. Houbigant’s version of this and the two preceding verses shows their connection admirably well, and, according to Bishop Lowth, gives us the true sense of the passage. “But, if I should call that he might answer me, I could not easily believe that he would hear my voice; since he hath broken me with a tempest, and inflicted many wounds upon me without cause; nor hath given me space to take my breath, so hath he filled me with bitterness.”

Verse 19

Job 9:19. If I speak of strength If my cause were to be decided by power; he is strong Infinitely stronger than I; and if of judgment If I would contend with him in a way of right; who shall set, &c. There is no superior judge that can summon him and me together. Heath thus explains the words: “If I think to right myself by force, it is vain; for he is stronger than I: if I choose to decide our dispute by law, who hath authority to call us before him?”

Verse 20

Job 9:20. If I justify myself If I plead against God my own righteousness and innocence; my own mouth shall condemn me God is so infinitely wise, and just, and holy, that he will find sufficient matter of condemnation from my own words, though spoken with all possible care and circumspection; or he will discover so much imperfection in me, of which I was not aware, that I shall be compelled to join with him in condemning myself. If I say, I am perfect The words, I say, are not in the Hebrew, but seem to be properly supplied to complete the sense. The meaning is, If I were perfect in my own opinion, if I thought myself completely righteous and faultless; it shall prove me perverse That is, my own mouth shall prove, as he had just said; or he, that is, God shall, who is easily understood from the former verses, where he is often mentioned.

Verse 21

Job 9:21. Though I were perfect, &c. Hebrew, תם אני , tam ani, the perfect I, would not know my soul Namely, myself as the word נפשׁ , nephesh, is rendered, Esther 4:13; or, my heart, or spirit. That is, my thinking myself perfect, or completely innocent and faultless, would be an evidence that I did not know myself. Or, the meaning of the verse is, Were I to be tried by infinite justice, however perfect I may now think myself, I should then be astonished at finding how little I knew myself, and what a multitude of faults God had taken notice of, which I had not perceived in myself; so that, when they were set before me, I should no longer insist upon, nor trust to, the integrity, either of my soul and heart, or of my life, so as any longer to attempt to justify myself before the pure eyes of the all- seeing God; but I would condemn myself and despise my life; would put no value upon it, nor be in any care about prolonging it, while it is loaded with these miseries. And, therefore, I abhor the thoughts of contending with my Maker, whereof you accuse me.

Verses 22-23

Job 9:22-23. This one thing In the other things which you have spoken of, God’s greatness, power, and justice, I do not contend with you; but this one thing I do, and must affirm against you. Therefore I said it I did not utter it rashly, but upon deep consideration. He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked God sends afflictions promiscuously upon good and bad men. If the scourge slay suddenly If some common judgment come upon a people, which destroys both good and bad: or if God inflict some grievous and unexpected stroke upon a holy person. He will laugh at the trial of the innocent God will be pleased to see how the same, or a similar scourge, which is the perdition of the wicked, is only the trial of the integrity, faith, and patience of the innocent, that is, of his own people, and a means of their further purification and improvement.

Verse 24

Job 9:24. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked Hebrew, רשׁע , rashang, of the wicked man. The possession and dominion of a large portion of it are frequently given, by the great Lord and Proprietor of all, in the course of his providence, into the power of a wicked man. He covereth the faces of the judges thereof The wicked man, by his power, or by gifts, corrupts the officers of justice, and thereby blinds their eyes, that they cannot discern between truth and falsehood, justice and unrighteousness. Thus Bishop Patrick: “So false is your discourse,” (the discourse of Job’s friends,) “that we see the government of the earth given into the hands of a wicked prince, who blinds the eyes of his judges.” The bishop conjectures Job meant some noted tyrant then living in those parts, whose great wickedness and great prosperity were well known, both to Job and his friends. Many commentators, however, think, that Job’s words are not to be considered as referring to any particular man, but as asserting this general truth, that as good men are often scourged, (Job 9:23,) so the wicked are often advanced to great riches and power in the world. And they understand the next clause, He covereth the faces of the judges thereof, as intended of God’s blinding the eyes of the rulers and magistrates, that is, suffering them to be blinded, by withdrawing abused light and grace, and means of information, in which only sense can God be ever said to blind the minds of any. Indeed, as a learned writer justly observes, this expression, He covereth the faces, &c, means the same in Scripture phrase, as, The faces of the judges are covered, which, indeed, is the literal version of both the Syriac and Arabic interpreters. Thus, την ψυχην σου απαιτουσιν , (Luke 12:20,) which is literally, They shall require thy soul of thee, is properly rendered, Thy soul shall be required, &c. The meaning, however, of the phrase of covering the faces of the judges, is understood by many, not of blinding their eyes, but of concealing their persons in obscurity. Thus Henry interprets the passage: “God, in his providence, advanceth wicked men, while he covers the faces of those who are fit to be judges, who are wise and good, and qualified for government, and buries them alive in obscurity; perhaps suffers them to be run down and condemned, and to have their faces covered as criminals, by those wicked ones, into whose hands the earth is given. We daily see this done; if it be not God that doth it, where, and who is he that doth it? To whom can it be ascribed, but to him that rules in the kingdoms of men, and gives them to whom he will?” Daniel 4:32.

Verse 25

Job 9:25. Now my days The days of my life; are swifter than a post Who rides upon swift horses; they see no good I enjoy no good in them; seeing being often put for experiencing either good or evil. Thus Job now exemplifies in himself what he had said of the calamities which God frequently inflicts on good men.

Verse 26

Job 9:26. As the swift ships Hebrew, ships of desire; that is, such as are longed for, and long to be at their destined port, and crowd all the sail they can for that purpose. Or, as in the Chaldee paraphrase, ships loaded, pretiosis, with things of value; and are therefore named swift ships, because the more valuable the effects are, the more haste is made to return home for readier sale. The Hebrew may also be translated, ships of pleasure, which sail more swiftly than ships of burden. As the eagle that hasteth to the prey Which generally flies most swiftly when hungry, and in sight of his prey. See here how swift the motion of time is! It is always upon the wing, hastening to its period. What little need have we of pastimes! What great need to redeem time, which runs out, runs on so fast toward eternity! And how vain are the enjoyments of time, which we may be deprived of, even while time continues. Our day may be longer than our sunshine: and when that is gone, it is as if it had never been.

Verses 27-28

Job 9:27-28. If I say, I will forget my complaints, &c. If I resolve within myself that I will cease complaining, and endeavour to take comfort. I am afraid of all my sorrows Or, of my pains and griefs: I find all such endeavours vain; for if my griefs be suspended for a time, yet my fears continue. I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent I plainly perceive that thou, O God, (to whom he makes a sudden address, as he does also Job 9:31,) wilt not clear my innocence by removing those afflictions which make them judge me guilty of some great crime. Words proceeding from despair and impatience.

Verse 29

Job 9:29. If I be wicked, &c. The Hebrew, אנכי ארשׁע anochi ershang, is, I am, or, I shall be wicked, or guilty, without any supposition. That is, Whether I be holy or wicked, if I dispute with thee I shall be found guilty; or, I shall be treated as guilty; I shall not be acquitted, or exempted from punishment. Why then labour I in vain? Since my friends will still continue to think and treat me as wicked, and thou wilt still continue to afflict me with the calamities and miseries which gave them occasion to think so, why should I use any efforts to clear myself, and vindicate my innocence? Why should I speak in a cause that is already prejudged? Or, why should I comfort myself with vain hopes of deliverance? With men it is often labour in vain for the most innocent to go about to clear themselves: they will be adjudged guilty, though the evidence be ever so plain for them. But it is not so in our dealings with God, who is the patron of oppressed innocence, and to whom it was never in vain to commit a righteous cause.

Verses 30-31

Job 9:30-31. If I wash myself with snow-water, &c. If I clear myself from all imputations, and fully prove my innocence before men; yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch That is, in miry and puddle water, whereby I shall become most filthy. As Job’s washing himself is to be understood only of his clearing himself judicially, and showing that he was innocent of the things laid to his charge, so God’s plunging him, &c., is not to be understood of his making him sinful and guilty, but of his proving him to be so, notwithstanding all the professions and evidences of his purity before men. And mine own clothes shall abhor me I shall be so filthy, that my own clothes, if they had any sense in them, would abhor to touch me. Job saw that his afflictions, coming from the hand of God, were the things that blackened him in the eyes of his friends, and caused them to think him a wicked man; and therefore, on that account, as well as because of the pain and torment they gave him, he complained of them, and of the continuance of them. Observe, reader, if we be ever so industrious to justify ourselves before men, and to preserve our credit with them; if we keep our hands ever so clean from the pollutions of gross sin; yet God, who knows our hearts, can charge us with so much secret iniquity, and internal depravity, as must for ever cut us off from all hopes of ever being able to justify ourselves before him. Paul, while a Pharisee, had made his hands, as he thought, very clean, but when the commandment came, and discovered to him that his inward parts were very wickedness, he found himself plunged in the ditch.

Verses 32-33

Job 9:32-33. For he is not a man as I am But one infinitely superior to me in majesty and power, wisdom and justice. That I should answer him That I should presume to debate my cause with him, or answer his allegations against me. That we should come together in judgment Face to face, to plead upon equal terms. Neither is there any days-man Or, umpire; that might lay his hand upon us both Order and govern us in pleading, and oblige us to stand to his decision. The laying the hand on both parties implies a coercive power to enforce the execution of his decrees. This no one could have over the Almighty: it was in vain, therefore, to contend with him. Our Lord Jesus Christ is now the blessed daysman, who has mediated between heaven and earth, has laid his hand upon us both: to him the Father hath committed all judgment. But this was not made so clear then as it is now by the gospel, which leaves no room for such a complaint as this.

Verses 34-35

Job 9:34-35. Let not his fear terrify me The fear and dread of his majesty and justice. Let him not deal with me according to his perfect justice, but according to his grace and clemency. Then would I speak, and not fear I would speak freely for myself, being freed from that dread, which takes away my spirit and courage. But it is not so with me I am not free from his terror, and therefore cannot plead my cause with him.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 9". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/job-9.html. 1857.
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