Job sheweth that his complaints are not causeless: he wisheth for death, wherein he is assured of comfort: he reproves his friends for their unkindness.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 6:1. But Job answered and said— Job begins his defence with a modest apology for venting his grief in a manner somewhat unbecoming, and begs that it may be ascribed to the great multitude and sharpness of his afflictions; Job 6:3-7. But as to the advice given him by Eliphaz, to hope for an amendment of his condition, and to address God for that purpose, he tells them that his petition to God should be of a quite different nature; namely, that he would be pleased to cut him off speedily, for that the desperateness of his condition would by no means permit him to hope for any amendment; Job 6:8-13. That he could not, however, help resenting their unkind suspicions of him, that they should think him capable of such great wickedness, but, above all, should imagine him to be so abandoned as to be able to entertain a thought tending to a revolt from the Almighty; which yet they must have done, or Eliphaz would never have dared to make him such a proposition; Job 6:14-20. He saw, therefore, what kind of friends he had to do with: as soon as they perceived him in a remediless condition, they began to treat him with contempt; Job 6:21-27. As to his recovery, however, he tells them that they may set their hearts at ease; for if they would but consider his condition a little more attentively, they might soon be convinced that there was not the least chance of any thing of that nature, as all hopes of life were at an end with him. He begs them, therefore, not to condemn him barely on suspicion, and on the strength of general maxims; but to consider that it was possible he might be innocent of their charges; Job 6:28-30. See Heath.
Job 6:2. Oh that my grief were throughly weighed— Heath, after Schultens, renders this verse, Would to God my impatience were thoroughly weighed, and that they would in like manner poise my calamities in the balances! And the next verse he renders thus: For now are they more in number than the sand of the sea; therefore my words burst forth with vehemence. See Peters, p. 139.
Job 6:4. The terrors of God, &c.— The terrors of the Lord confound me. Houbigant. "This," says one, "is uttered by the patient man, when he would excuse his passion by the terror and agony that he was in. He had patience enough for the oppression and rapine of his enemies, for the unkindness and reproach of his friends, and for the cunning and malice of the devil; but he was so tormented with the sense of God's anger against him, that he could not bear that with temper: the apprehension that all those miseries, of so piercing and destroying a nature in themselves, fell upon him, not only by God's permission, to try and humble him, but proceeded directly from his indignation and resolution to destroy him, almost confounded him. When they appeared no more the arrows of his enemies levelled and shot at his greatness and prosperity, the enterprizes and designs of evil men suborned by the devil against him, but the artillery of God himself discharged upon him in his greatest displeasure and fury, he was able to stand the shock no longer, and thought he had some reason to pour out his complaints and lamentations with a little more earnestness; and that the grief and trouble of his mind might excuse the want of that order, and method, and deliberation, which the ease, and calm condition, and disputing humour of his friends, who were only healthy spectators of what he suffered, reproachfully required from him. Too many want this apprehension of God's anger, and the pious passion which would attend it; and find out a hundred reasons for any affliction which befalls them, in the pride, and envy, and injustice of men, before they resort to the least consideration that they flow from his displeasure towards us; and are so far from being terrified or perplexed with the sense of his anger, that they seem to be of opinion that he cannot be angry at all; otherwise they would use the same providence to prevent it, as we do towards the anger of those whom we think able or willing to do us good or harm."
Job 6:5. Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass, &c.— Grass and fodder here are a figure of abundance and tranquillity, such as the friends of Job enjoyed. To bray and low refer to expressions of grief and uneasiness. Job, therefore, with some smartness, compares his friends to a wild ass exulting in its food, and to an ox perfectly satisfied with grateful pasture; happy themselves, they had not condoled with him in his wretchedness, nor mourned with him, but rather blamed his mourning as importunate clamour, and as if he had behaved himself towards God with insolence and impatience. Schultens.
Job 6:6. Or is there any taste in the white of an egg— Job's indignation being raised, he expresses in metaphor how absurd and how nauseous to him the discourse of Eliphaz had been. Our version of the latter clause seems to be void of all connection with what goes before. Mr. Mudge supposes Job to allude, in the original words, to those medicinal potions which were administered by way of alterative; and, agreeably to his criticism, the clause should be rendered, Is there any relish in the nauseous medicinal draught? See the Observations, p. 128.
Job 6:7. The things that my soul refuseth, &c.— Job, persisting in his allegory, goes on to shew how disagreeable to his stomach the speech of Eliphaz had been, says Schultens, who translates the verse thus: My soul refuseth to touch such things; they are to me as corrupted food.
Job 6:8-9. Oh that I might have my request, &c.— These two verses, as well as the 11th, with many more that might be quoted to the same purpose, are, as Mr. Peters observes, utterly inconsistent with Job's believing that God would restore him to his former happy state.
Job 6:10. Then should I yet have comfort, &c.— So should my cry still be; nay, I would raise it louder in proportion to my sufferings: let him not spare, for I dispute not the will (or words) of the Holy One. See Heath.
Job 6:11. And what is mine end, &c.?— Or, what is mine end, that I should wish it to be deferred? Houbigant.
Job 6:13. Is not my help in me? &c.— Or, because my help is not at hand, is wisdom therefore departed far from me? Houbigant. Heath renders it, Do not I find that I cannot in the least help myself, and that strength is quite driven out of me?
Job 6:14. To him that is afflicted— Should a man who is utterly undone be insulted by his friend? and should he tempt him to forsake the fear of the Almighty? Heath; who observes, that this clause plainly refers to chap. Job 5:1. The words of Eliphaz seem to have sunk very deep into Job's mind, and he resents them extremely.
Job 6:15-20. My brethren have dealt deceitfully— Bishop Lowth observes, that though the metaphor from overflowing waters is very frequent in other sacred writers, yet the author of the book of Job never touches upon it but once or twice throughout the whole poem, and that very slightly, though the subject afforded him frequent opportunities to do so. Indeed, says he, a different face of nature presented itself to him, whoever he was, if, according to the opinion of several learned men, the book was written in some part of Arabia; an opinion rendered more probable by that remarkable comparison in which Job likens his three friends to a deceitful torrent, which is manifestly taken from the dry and sandy places of Arabia, and adorned with many images peculiar to that country.
Job 6:16. Which are blackish— Houbigant reads it, Which, after they have been congealed by the frost, and after, &c.
Job 6:18. The paths of their way are turned aside— Here is a noble climax, a most poetical description of the torrents in hot climates. By extraordinary cold they are frozen over; but the sun no sooner exerts its power than they melt; and they are exhaled by the heat, till the stream, for smallness, is diverted into many channels; it yet lasts a little way, but is soon quite evaporated and lost. Heath.
Job 6:19. The troops of Tema looked— Mr. Heath so translates this verse, as to introduce the speaker using an animated prosopopoeia, or addressing himself to the travellers: Look for them ye troops of Tema, ye travellers of Sheba, expect them earnestly. This gives great life to the poetry, and sets a very beautiful image before the eye: the travellers wasting their time, depending on those torrents for water; but when they come thither, how great the disappointment! They are dried up; Job 6:20. The beginning of the 21st verse should be rendered, so now, ye are nothing. Mr. Peters observes of this simile, that there is not a more apt one in Homer or Milton, nor one more finely wrought up into a picture. See Jeremiah 14:2-3.
Job 6:25. How forcible are right words!— How persuasive are the words of an impartial man! But how shall a man defend himself, whom you have already condemned? The reason is, they had condemned him unheard. Heath.
Job 6:26. Do ye imagine to reprove words— Do you devise speeches to insult me; and the words of him who is desperate, are they as the wind? Heath.
Job 6:27. Yea, ye overwhelm, &c.— Yes, ye overwhelm the destitute, and make a mock at your friend. Heath and Houbigant.
Job 6:29. Return, I pray you; let it not be iniquity— Recollect yourselves, I beseech you; call it not wickedness: nay, consider it yet again; righteousness may be in me. Chappelow.
Job 6:30. Is there iniquity in my tongue, &c.— Must there needs be perversity in my tongue, because my palate cannot relish misery? Heath.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Having heard with patient attention the discourse of Eliphaz, however piercing some of the reflections must appear, Job, far from being convinced by his reasoning, replies with warmth to his arguments.
1. He wishes for a more impartial balance than his censorious friends seemed inclined to afford him; who slighted the weight of those calamities which they did not feel, and blamed him as aggravating his troubles, the heaviness of which words were wanting to express, and the half of which he could not tell, while sighing and tears stopped his utterance, or, as the expression, Job 6:3 may be rendered, therefore my words boil up, through the anguish he felt within. Note; (1.) They who are at ease themselves are often partial judges of the complaints of others. (2.) We recommend that advice to others as easy and obvious, which, if in their case ourselves, we might find exceedingly difficult, if not impracticable.
2. He complains of what they could not see—the inward anguish of his soul. His outward trials were heavy as the sand, and as numerous, but his inward pangs far more deadly. Like poisoned arrows, the wrath of God, which he read in these afflictions, drank up his spirit, and sunk him almost into despair, while what he feared added to what he felt; he saw God marshalling his terrors against him, and who could tell where they would end. Note; (1.) Of all our evils, a sense of God's wrath is most intolerable: a wounded spirit who can bear? (2.) If in the agonies of pain a hasty expression may not be justified, they should at least plead with us in its excuse.
3. He vindicates himself in his complaints; under which to be silent would prove him more insensible than the most stupid animals. Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? or loweth the ox over his fodder?—no; but, when deprived of these, the very beasts will complain. Now all his comforts were perished; the food that in time past he would not have deigned to touch, was become his sorrowful meat, insipid, without a grain of salt, and tasteless as the white of an egg; or more probably he means, that the admonitions and reproof of Eliphaz were as nauseous to him as the bitter morsel that he loathed, and more unsavoury than the most insipid food, being no way suited to his case and condition, and therefore disrelished and rejected. Note; (1.) There is no virtue in insensibility. (2.) When we know not to what straits we may be reduced, it is good betimes to avoid all nicety of diet, which tends only to pamper the appetite, and will add peculiar bitterness in any day of future want.
2nd, The words which Job afterwards delivers, he would certainly wish unsaid; and they deserve all the rebuke of impatience which Eliphaz hath bestowed: so hard it is, when the spirit is ruffled, for a good man to refrain from the speech of perverseness. We have here,
1. Job's impatient wish and prayer for his immediate dissolution; O that I might have my request! as if the boon was wondrous great; and what is this thing he longs for? why, that God would make an end of him, let loose his arm, and by one stroke put a period to his days of misery: a bad wish, and a worse prayer; but God is kinder to us than we are to ourselves, and therefore mercifully refuses to grant our sinful and hasty requests. Note; (1.) However irksome our present state may be, we must not think of ridding ourselves of our troubles, but wait till our change comes. (2.) Through our folly at times, our very prayers are turned into sin.
2. Though he is wrong in his rash desire, he expresses a gracious hope in death; Then should I have comfort, the prospect of its approach should be my joy, and after death I should enter into everlasting felicity. Yea, could I see this wished-for hour, though death approached with all its terrors, I would harden myself in sorrow, and stand unmoved under the shock; and though every boil burst forth into a flame to consume me, let him not spare; so he slay me, I am content to suffer every excruciating pang of torment: surely this also is his infirmity: his faith in the prospect of death is commendable; his defiance of suffering, and hardening himself in sorrow, is blameable. Note, (1.) Death, to a believer, is a consummation devoutly to be wished for; only, though willing to be gone, let him contentedly wait the Lord's leisure. (2.) To harden ourselves against affliction, is to disappoint the design of God's corrections, and would prove not our fortitude but our obstinacy.
3. He produces the reason why he wished to die: I have not concealed the words of the Holy One; far from being conscious of unfaithfulness or hypocrisy, as was suggested, his conscience bore him witness in the Holy Ghost, that he had ever embraced, professed, and propagated, even in the midst of that idolatrous generation, those doctrines of truth which God had revealed to him; and therefore he dared to appear at his bar, unterrified at the fears of judgment, and humbly confident of gracious acceptance. Note; (1.) A good conscience gives boldness in the day of judgment. (2.) The truths that we know and believe, we must profess, own, and seek to inculcate, however such profession and zeal for God may make us obnoxious to the sneers of a wicked world.
4. He rejects the consolations that Eliphaz proposed to him, as what, in his present state, were vain chimeras; what is my strength, that I should hope to see a restoration of my health and vigour? or what is mine end, what purpose would it answer, now all my comforts are gone, that I should prolong my life? Is my strength the strength of stones, or is my flesh brass? to bear up under a weight of troubles so numerous, and insupportably heavy. Note; (1.) Dejected hearts are ready to preach to themselves despair, and refuse to be comforted. (2.) Though our strength is very weakness, yet there is help lent us in one mighty to save, and we can do or suffer all things through Christ strengthening us. (3.) While God is pleased to prolong our lives, we may be assured that he has some end for his own glory to answer, though we may think ourselves useless.
3rdly, Eliphaz, in the name of the rest, had accused him of hypocrisy; with greater evidence he retorts the charge, from their cruel conduct, who, instead of friendly comforters, had turned accusers and tormentors.
1. He pleads his just expectations from them. Pity, at least, he might have expected; and if they could not remove his sorrows, their friendly compassions, in sympathising with his griefs, should have sought at least to alleviate them. Note; The bosom of true friendship is the seat of tenderness. Though relief is not in our power, the kind inquiry, the solicitous attention, the soft look of pity, and the sympathetic tear, speak the desires of the faithful heart.
2. He charges Eliphaz and his abettors with cruel unkindness, and disappointing his just expectations, wherein they showed as much disregard to the fear of God as faithlessness to their friend. Like brooks swoln by the melted snow and ice in winter, their professions in the days of his prosperity were great; but now that the scorching sun is risen, their streams deceitfully disappear. The travellers that before eyed the rolling flood, came, heated with journeying, eager to quench their raging thirst: the troops of Tema and Sheba, the caravans of merchants, expected with earnest solicitude to discover the welcome river, and waited patiently, in hope that there at least they should find water for themselves and fainting camels: but lo! their hope is vanished; no drop remains amid the burning sands; the brook is dry, and terrible disappointment covers them. Such were the friends of Job, failing him when he wanted their kind help, and deceitful as these vanishing streams. For now ye are nothing, afford me not the least relief in my distress: ye see my casting down under these afflictions, and are afraid to patronize my cause, as if these strokes bespoke the judgments of the Almighty; or as if he should burden them for a maintenance, or should infect them with his disease, or offend them with its nauseous smell. Note; (1.) It is a bitter trial to find faithless a friend on whom we depended. (2.) The world is full of disappointments; the more we cease from man, and expect our whole comfort from the friend of sinners, the surer will be our portion. (3.) We shall, sooner or later, find all creature-confidence nothing, yea, less than nothing, and vanity; and when we are thus assured, what folly to place our hope on any thing below!
4thly, Job goes on to vindicate himself, and to upbraid the unkindness of his friends.
1. Reduced as he was, he had not been troublesome to, or importunate with them, either to relieve him out of their abundance, or to vindicate his conduct, or to make reprisals for him on the Sabeans and Chaldeans; and, as he had given them no provocations to use him ill, their accusations were the more aggravated. Note; (1.) The importunity of want often provokes the abuse of the uncharitable. (2.) Though a good man, when God so pleases to reduce him, is not too proud to beg, yet, while he is able to work, or a pittance remains, he will not be burdensome, and will rather decline the proffers of his friends, than weary out their generosity.
2. Though he could not call folly wisdom, he professes himself, however unkindly treated, open to conviction if he had erred, and humbly ready in silence to attend the force of right words; but theirs were neither right nor forcible, nor did their arguing fix on him reproof or conviction: their suppositions were groundless, and their conclusions false. Note; (1.) They are the truly wise, who are open to reason, and are not ashamed to see wherein they have erred. (2.) It is a bad cause that needs abuse to support it; and it weakens a good one, to use heat or ill language. Arguments clothed with kindness, like the razor set in oil, cut deepest with least pain.
3. He urges the cruelty of catching at a passionate word, which in his present desperate situation might drop from him, yet was far from proving him insincere or wicked. In his desolate situation they not only bore him down already as the fatherless overwhelmed with sorrow, but digged a pit for their friend; pretended to come to comfort him, and seemed to labour only to entangle him in his talk, and to watch for a rash expression on which to spend their unkind reproofs. Note; (1.) We must make allowances for a man's situation, and not be severe censurers of every hasty word or wrong step. (2.) To add oppression and insult to the afflictions of the poor, is doubly criminal.
4. He warmly maintains his integrity, to his vindication of which he begs them to give a patient hearing. Be content to stay a moment; look upon me; does my countenance betray the consciousness of shame, or blush of guilt? for it is evident unto you, if I lie; you would soon discover it, if it were so. Return, I pray you, to kinder sentiments of me; or perhaps they rose to depart, and he begs a patient audience: let it not be iniquity; there is no iniquity, none such as they charged him with; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it. In the whole of his cause, and the present controversy, he doubted not but to prove himself blameless of every accusation. Is there iniquity in my tongue? No; I have spoken the truth, &c. Note; (1.) We are bound to give every man a patient hearing. (2.) Truth is a mighty weapon, when wielded by the weakest arm. (3.) They who have a good cause will never shun the light, but court inquiry.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 6". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany