Job begins his answer to Bildad's second speech by an expostulation against the unkindness of his friends, who break him in pieces, and torture him, with their reproaches (verses 1-5). He then once more, and more plainly than on any other occasion, recounts his woes.
Job 19:1, Job 19:2
Then Job answered and said, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? Job is no Stoic. He is not insensible to his friends' attacks. On the contrary, their words sting him, torture him, "break him in pieces," wound his soul in its tenderest part. Bildad's attack had been the cruellest of all, and it drives him to expostulation (verses 2-5) and entreaty (verses 21, 22).
These ten times have ye reproached me. (For the use of the expression "ten times" for "many times." "frequently." see Genesis 31:7, Genesis 31:41; Numbers 14:22; Nehemiah 4:12; Daniel 1:20, etc.) Ye are not ashamed that ye make yourselves strange to me; rather, that ye deal hardly with me (see the Revised Version). The verb used does not occur elsewhere, hut seems to have the meaning of "ill use" or "ill treat".
And be it indeed that I have erred; or, done wrong. Job at no time maintains his impeccability. Sins of infirmity he frequently pleads guilty to, and specially to intemperate speech (see Job 6:26; Job 9:14, Job 9:20, etc.). Mine error remaineth with myself; i.e. "it remains mine; and I suffer the punishment."
If indeed ye will magnify yourselves against me. If you have no sense of justice, and are disinclined to pay any heed to my expostulations; if you intend still to insist on magnifying.yourselves against me, and bringing up against me my "reproach;" then let me make appeal to your pity. Consider my whole condition—how I stand with God, who persecutes me and "destroys" me (Job 19:10); how I stand with my relatives and such other friends as I have beside yourselves, who disclaim and forsake me (Job 19:13-19); and how I am conditioned with respect to my body, emaciated and on the verge of death (Job 19:20); and then, if neither your friendship nor your sense of justice will induce you to abstain from persecuting me, abstain at any rate for pity's sake (Job 19:21). And plead against me my reproach. Job's special "reproach" was that God had laid his hand upon him. This was a manifest fact, and could not be denied. His "comforters" concluded from it that he was a monster of wickedness.
Know now that God hath overthrown me; or, perverted me—"subverted me in my cause" (see Lamentations 3:6). And hath compassed me with his net. Professor Lee thinks that the net, or rather noose, intended by the rare word מצוּד is the lasso, which was certainly employed in war (Herod; 7.85), and probably also in hunting, from ancient times in the East. Bildad had insinuated that Job had fallen into his own snare (Job 18:7-9); Job replies that the snare in which he is taken is from God.
Behold, I cry out of wrong; i.e. "I cry out that I am wronged." I complain that sufferings are inflicted on me that I have not deserved. This has been Job's complaint from the first (Job 3:26; Job 6:29; Job 9:17, Job 9:22; Job 10:3, etc.). But I am not heard; i.e. "I am not listened to—my cry is not answered." I cry aloud, but there is no judgment; or, no decision—"no sentence." All Job's appeals to God have elicited no reply from him. He still keeps silence. Job appears from the first to have anticipated such a theophany as ultimately takes place (ch. 38-41.) and vindicates his character.
He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass (comp. Job 3:25; Job 13:27; Hosea 2:6), and he hath set darkness in my paths. Job complains of the want of light; in his heart he cries, ἐν δὲ φάει καὶ ὄλεσσον. Nothing vexes him so much as his inability to understand why he is afflicted.
He hath stripped me of my glory. The glory which he had in his prosperity; not exactly that of a king, but that of a great sheikh or emir—of one who was on a par with the noblest of those about him (see Job 1:3). And taken the crown from my head. Not an actual crown, which sheikhs do not wear, but a metaphor for dignity or honour.
He hath destroyed me on every side, and I am gone; or, broken me down. Job compares himself to a city, the walls of which are attacked on every side and broken down. His ruin is complete—he perishes. And mine hope hath he removed like a tree; rather, torn up like a tree. Job's "hope" was, no doubt, to lead a tranquil and a godly life, surrounded by his relatives and friends, in favour with God and man, till old age came, and he descended, like a ripe shock of corn (Job 5:26), to the grave. This hope had been "torn up by the roots" when his calamities fell upon him.
He hath also kindled his wrath against me. It is not what has happened to him in the way of affliction and calamity that so much oppresses and crushes the patriarch, as the cause to which he, not unnaturally, ascribes his afflictions, vie. the wrath of God. Participating in the general creed of his time, he believes his sufferings to come direct from God, and to be proofs of God's severe anger against him. He is not, however, prepared on this account to renounce God. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15) is still his inward sustaining thought and guiding principle. And he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies. Job felt himself treated as an enemy of God, and supposed that God must consider him such. He either had no glimpse of the cheering truth, "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6), or he could not imagine that such woes as his were mere chastenings.
His troops come together (comp. Job 16:13, "His archers compass me round about"). It seems to Job that God brings against him a whole army of assailants, who join their forces together and proceed to the attack. Clouds of archers, troops of ravagers, come about him, and fall upon him from every side. And raise up their way against me; rather, and cast up their bank against me. Job still regards himself as a besieged city (see verse 10), and represents his assailants as raising embankments to hem him in, or mounds from which to batter his defences (compare the Assyrian sculptures, passim). And encamp round about my tabernacle; i.e. "my tent," or "my dwelling."
He hath put my brethren far from me. Job had actual "brothers" (Job 42:11), who forsook him and "dealt deceitfully" with him (Job 6:15) during the time of his adversity, but were glad enough to return to him and "eat bread with him" in his later prosperous life. Their alienation from him during the period of his afflictions he here regards as among the trials laid upon him by God. Compare the similar woe of Job's great Antitype (John 5:5, "For neither did his brethren believe on him"). And mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me (comp. Psalms 38:11; Psalms 69:9; Psalms 88:8, Psalms 88:18). The desertion of the afflicted by their fair-weather friends is a standing topic with the poets and moralists of all ages and nations. Job was not singular in this affliction.
My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me (see Psalms 41:9).
They that dwell in mine house, and my maids, count me for a stranger. Even the inmates of his house, male and female, his servants, guards, retainers, handmaids, and the like, looked on him and treated him as if unknown to them. I am an alien in their sight. Nay, not only as if unknown, hut "as an alien," i.e. a foreigner.
I called my servant, and he gave me no answer. Astounding insolence in an Oriental servant or rather slave ( עבד), who should have hung upon his master's words, and striven to anticipate his wishes. I intreated him with my mouth. Begging him probably for some service which was distasteful, and which he declined to render.
My breath is strange to my wife. The breath of a sufferer from elephantiasis has often a fetid odour which is extremely disagreeable. Job's wife, it would seem, held aloof from him on this account, so that he lost the tender offices which a wife is the fittest person to render. Though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body. This translation is scarcely tenable, though no doubt it gives to the words used a most touching and pathetic sense. Translate, and I am loathsome to the children of my mother's wench; i.e. to my brothers and sisters (comp. Job 42:11). It would seem that they also avoided Job's presence, or at any rate any near approach to him. Under the circumstances, this is perhaps not surprising; but Job, in his extreme isolation, felt it keenly.
Yea, young children despised me. (So Rosenmuller, Canon Cook, and the Revised Version.) Others translate, "the vile," or "the perverse" (comp. Job 16:11). But the rendering of the Authorized Version receives support from Job 21:11. The forwardness of rude and ill-trained children to take part against God's saints appears later in the history of Elisha (2 Kings 2:23, 2 Kings 2:24). I arose, and they spake against me; or, when I arise, they speak against me (compare. the Revised Version).
All my inward friends abhorred me; literally, all the men of my counsel; i.e. all those whom I was accustomed to consult, and whose advice I was wont to take, in any difficulty, by keeping aloof, have shown their abhorrence of me. And they whom I loved are turned against me (comp. Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:12-14 : Jeremiah 20:10). The saints of God in all ages, and however differently circumstanced, are assailed by almost the same trials and temptations. Whether it be Job, or David, or Jeremiah, or One greater than any of them, the desertion and unkindness of their nearest and dearest, as the bitterest of all sufferings, is almost sure to be included in their cup, which they must drink to the dregs, if they are to experience to the full "the precious uses of adversity."
My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh. Here the third source of Job's misery is brought forward—his painful and incurable disease. This has brought him to such a pitch of emaciation that his bones seem to adhere to the tightened skin, and the scanty and shrunken muscles, that cover them (comp. Job 33:21 and Lamentations 4:8). Such emaciation of the general frame is quite compatible with the unsightly swelling of certain parts of the body which characterizes elephantiasis. And I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. The expression is, no doubt, proverbial, and signifies "barely escaped;" but its origin is obscure.
Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends. On the enumeration of his various woes, Job's appeal for pity follows. We must not regard it as addressed merely to the three so-called "friends" (Job 2:11) or "comforters" (Job 16:2), Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. It is an appeal to all those who are around him and about him, whose sympathies have been bither to estranged (verses 13-19), but whose regard he does not despair of winning back. Will they not, when they perceive the extremity and variety of his sufferings, be moved to compassion by them, and commiserate him in his day of calamity? For the hand of God hath touched me. To the "comforters" this is no argument. They deem him unworthy of pity on the very ground that he is "smitten of God, and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4); since they hold that, being so smitten, he must have' deserved his calamity. But to unprejudiced persons, not wedded to a theory, such an aggravation of his woe would naturally seem to render him a greater object of pity and compassion.
Why do ye persecute me as God? i.e. Why are ye as hard on me as God himself? If I have offended him, what have I done to offend you? And are not satisfied with my flesh? i.e. "devour my flesh, like wild beasts, and yet are not satisfied."
Oh that my words were written! It is questioned what words of his Job is so anxious to have committed to writing—those that precede the expression of the wish, or those that follow, or both. As there is nothing that is very remarkable in the preceding words, whereas the latter are among the most striking in the book, the general opinion has been that he refers to these last. It is now universally allowed, even by those whose date for Job is the most remote, that books were common long before his time, and so that he might naturally have been familiar with them. Writing is, of course, even anterior to books, and was certainly in use before b.c. 2000. The earliest writing was probably on stone or brick, and was perhaps in every case hieroglyphical. When writing on papyrus, or parchment, or the bark of trees, came into use, a cursive character soon superseded the hieroglyphical, though the latter continued In be employed for religious purposes, and for inscriptions on stone. Oh that they were printed in a book! rather, inscribed, or engraved. The impression of the characters below the surface of the writing material, as in the Babylonian and Assyrian clay-tablets, seems to be pointed at.
That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! A peculiar kind of rock-inscription, of which, so far as I know, no specimens remain, appears to be here alluded to. Job wished the characters of his record to be cut deep into the rock with an iron chisel, and the incision made to be then filled up with lead (compare the mediaeval "brasses").
For I know that my Redeemer liveth. Numerous endeavours have been made to explain away the mysterious import of this verse. First, it is noted that a goel is any one who avenges or ransoms another, and especially that it is "the technical expression for the avenger of blood" so often mentioned in the Old Testament. It is suggested, therefore, that Job's real meaning may be that he expects one of his relatives to arise after his death as the avenger of his blood, and to exact retribution for it. But unless in the case of a violent death at the hands of a man, which was not what Job expected for himself, there could be no avenger of blood. Job has already expressed his desire to have a thirdsman between him and God (Job 9:32-35), which thirdsman can scarcely be other than a Divine Personage. In Job 16:19 be has declared his conviction that" his Witness is in heaven." In Job 16:21 of the same chapter he longs to have an advocate to plead his cause with God. In Job 17:3 he calls upon God to be Surety for him. Therefore, as Dr. Stanley Leathes points out, "he has already recognized God as his Judge, his Umpire, his Advocate, his Witness, and his Surety, in some eases by formal confession of the fact, in others by earnest longing after, and aspiration for, some one to act in that capacity." After all this, it is not taking a very long step in advance to see and acknowledge in God his Goel, or "Redeemer." And that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; rather, and that at the last he shall stand up over my dust. אַחַדון is not "one who comes after me;" but, if a noun, "the last one," as רִאשׁוֹן is "the first one "(Isaiah 44:6); if intended adverbially, "at the last"—i.e, at the end of all things. "At the latter day" is not an improper translation.
And though after my skin worms destroy this body. The supposed ellipsis of "worms" is improbable, as is also that of "body." Translate, and after my skin has been thus destroyed—"thus" meaning, "as you see it before your eyes." Yet in my flesh shall I see God; literally, from my flesh—scarcely, as Renan takes it, "without my flesh," or "away from my flesh"—"prive de ma chair;" but rather, "from the standpoint of my flesh "—"in my body," not "out of my body"—shall I see God. This may be taken merely as a prophecy of the theophany recorded in ch. 38-42. (see especially Job 42:5). But the nexus with verse 25, and the expressions there used—"at the last," and "he shall stand up over my dust"—fully justify the traditional exegesis, which sees in the passage an avowal by Job of his confidence that he will see God "from his body" at the resurrection.
Whom I shall see for myself. Not by proxy, i.e.' or through faith, or in a vision, but really, actually, I shall see him for myself. As Schultens observes, an unmistakable tone of exultation and triumph pervades the passage. And mine eyes shall behold, and not another; i.e. "not the eyes of another." I myself, retaining my personal identity, "the same true living man," shall with my own eyes look on my Redeemer. Though my reins be consumed within me. There is no "though "in the original. The clause is detached and independent, nor is it very easy to trace any connection between it and the rest of the verse. Schultens, however, thinks Job to mean that he is internally consumed by a burning desire to see the sight of which he has spoken. (So also Dr. Stanley Leathes.)
But ye should say, Why persecute we him? rather, if ye shall say' How shall we persecute him? That is to say, "If, after what I have said, ye continue bitter against me, and take counsel together as to the best way of persecuting me, then, seeing the root of the matter (i.e. the essence of piety) is found in me, be ye afraid," etc.
Be ye afraid of the sword; i.e. "the sword of God's justice, which will assuredly smite you if you persecute an innocent man." For wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword; rather, for wrath is among the transgressions of the sward; i e. among the transgressions for which the sword is the fit punishment. It is "wrath" which leads Job's "comforters" to Persecute him. That ye may know there is a judgment; or, so that ye will know there is a judgment' When the blow comes upon them they will recognize that it has come upon them on account of their ill treatment of their friend.
Job to Bildad: 1. A reply, an appeal, a complaint.
I. JOB'S WRATHFUL REPLY TO HIS FRIENDS. Job accuses his three friends of:
1. Irritating words. (Verse 2.) Their solemn addresses and eloquent descriptions were an exquisite torture, harder to endure than the miseries of elephantiasis. The cruel insinuations and unkind reproaches contained in their speeches crushed him more deeply and lacerated him more keenly than all the sharp strokes of evil fortune he had lately suffered. Wounds inflicted by the tongue are worse to heal than those given by the hand. "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword' (Proverbs 12:18); and to "talk to the grief of those whom God has wounded" (Psalms 69:26) is the severest of all kinds of persecution to sustain, as it is the wickedest of all sorts of crimes to commit.
2. Persistent hostility. (Verse 3.) Not once or twice simply had they charged him with being a notorious criminal, but they had harped upon this same string ad nauseam; they had carried their insulting behaviour to the furthest limits; the force of their acrimonious opposition could not further go. Their reproaches had well-nigh broken his great heart; cf. the language of David, who in his sufferings was a type of Messiah (Psalms 69:20).
3. Astounding callousness. (Verse 3.) Job was simply amazed at the cool indifference with which they could behold his sufferings, the unfeeling ease, if not the manifest delight, with which they could hurl their atrocious impeachments against him, and the utter insensibility which they displayed to his piteous appeals—amazed that one who claimed to be a friend of his should so completely show himself to be
"A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch
Incapable of pity, void and empty
From any dram of mercy."
('The Merchant of Venice,' act 4. sc. 1.)
4. Unnecessary cruelty. (Verse 4.) There was no "firm reason to be rendered" why they should thus remorselessly pursue him with their hate. They would not be called upon to expiate any of his unpunished crimes. Their theology and their saintly virtues would combine to shield them from that. Believing, as they did, that "the son shall not hear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son," but that "the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" (Ezekiel 18:20), there was no occasion to dread that any portion of the Divine retribution due to him would recoil on them. Hence they might have spared him any wanton aggravation of his woes. Job's language reminds us
5. Arrogant assumption. In "pleading against him his reproach," i.e. in urging the intolerable miseries he suffered as a proof of his guilt, they were" magnifying themselves against him" (verse 5), i.e. tacitly boasting of their superior goodness. And as much perhaps as by anything in their language, the soul of Job was stung by the solemn Pharisaic aspect which sat upon their marble visages, and the atmosphere of awful sanctity in which they wrapt their holy persons. But true piety is ever meek and humble, never vaunteth herself, and is never puffed up, certainly never gloats over either the sins or the sufferings of others. A good man may magnify the grace of God that is in him (1 Corinthians 15:10), or the office that has been entrusted to him (Romans 11:13), but of himself he ever thinks with lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than himself (Philippians 2:3), whom he regards but as "less than the least of all saints" (Ephesians 3:8), if not as "the chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15).
6. Conspicuous falsehood. Bildad had alleged that Job, by his incorrigible wickedness, had been the author of his own misfortunes, that he had been cast into a net by his own feet (Job 18:8), that his calamity had come upon him as the recompense of his own crime; and to this Job replies with a direct contradiction, insisting that it was God who had flung his net about him, and that, if their theory of retribution was correct, God had wrested his cause and wronged him in so doing (verse 6). That Job's feet were entangled in a net, the testimony of Job's senses proclaimed. That this net had been cast around him by God, the eye of his faith could see. That God could not have done so on account of his wickedness, the inner witness of Job's spirit cried aloud. Hence this theory of the friends, which sometimes lay across his soul like a nightmare, was a blunder, and the allegation of the friends that he was being punished for his iniquity was a lie.
II. JOB'S DOLEFUL COMPLAINT AGAINST GOD.
1. Treating him like a criminal And that in respect of two particulars.
2. Punishing him as a convict. (Verses 8-10.) And that by:
"I had no thought, no feeling—none;
Among the stones I stood a stone,
And was scarce conscious what I wist,
As shrubless crags within the mist," etc.
(Byron, ' Prisoner of Chillon,' 9)
Such a picture is true, not of the saint in the correction-house of affliction (Psalms 34:17), not even of the sinner in the prison-house of condemnation, who is yet a prisoner of hope (Zechariah 9:12), but only of the lost in the dungeon of everlasting death.
3. Counting him for an enemy.
4. Cutting him off from human sympathy. (Verses 13-19.) A pitiful picture of abject degradation, even worse than that which Bildad predicted for the wicked man who should be chased from the world (Job 18:19). Surrounded by kinsmen and relatives, and still attended by wife and servants, he is to one and all an object of supreme contempt.
III. JOB'S PITEOUS APPEAL FOR HIMSELF.
1. A pathetic representation. (Verse 20.) Indicating the ground of Job's appeal. Bodily disease and mental anguish had reduced him to a skeleton, so that his bones appeared through his skin; the second clause, a cruz interpretum (vide Exposition), probably depicting extreme emaciation. His condition may remind us of the value of physical health, of its instability, and of the ease with which it can be made to consume away like a moth (Psalms 39:11).
2. A melting supplication. (Verse 21.) Expressive of the fervent of Job's appeal. It was not much he craved—only pity, and that on two pleas:
"Pluck commiseration of his state
From brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flint"
Much more, then, from those who were united to him by ties of affection (cf. Job 6:14, homiletics).
3. A tender expostulation. (Verse 22.) Were the miseries he was suffering at God's hand not enough to satisfy their insatiable appetites or was God not able to exact retribution for his supposed iniquities, that they must assist him to crush the poor emaciated skeleton who had become his victim? Was it really come to this, that they were less merciful than God; that God's thirst for vengeance, if so be it was that he was being punished, was more easily slaked than theirs? So, alas! it has been found that man's tender mercies are cruel (2 Samuel 24:14), and in particular that when bigots turn persecutors they never cry, "Enough!"
1. There is a limit beyond which even good men are not expected to endure aspersions against their character.
2. It is a shame for professors of religion to indulge in suspicions, or utter slanders, against their brethren.
3. The greatest safeguard a suffering saint has, if also one of his acutest pains, is to connect his afflictions with God.
4. It is better to direct the soul's plaint to God than to utter aloud the soul's complaint against God.
5. The man has fallen low indeed who, besides being deserted by God (or appearing to be so), is also abandoned by man.
6. The woman who forsakes her husband in his hour of sorrow, not only violates her marriage vow, but proves herself unworthy of the honour of wifehood, and brings disgrace upon the name of woman.
7. It is an infinite mercy that God's heart is not so little pitiful as man'&
8. A man's flesh is all that a persecutor can devour.
Job to Bildad: 2. The inscription on the rock; of Job's faith in a redeemer.
I. THE PREFACE TO THE INSCRIPTION; OR, THE FERVENT WISH OF A DYING MAN.
1. The culture of Job's times. The origin of writing is lost in the mists of antiquity. The earliest known mode of writing was by means of a sharp-pointed instrument—stylus, or engraving tool, made of iron or steel. The first materials used for writing on were leaves of trees, skins, linen cloths, metal or wax plates, stone columns or rocks. Egyptian papyrus rolls and cuneiform tablets, dating from periods antecedent to the times of Abraham, have been recovered by the labours of modern archaeologists. Numerous inscriptions of the kind alluded to by Job have been found by Oriental travellers in Arabia. On the smoothed surface of a solid rock at Hish Ghorab at Hadramut, in Southern Arabia, an inscription of ten lines exists, dating, according to some, from the times of the Adites, the most ancient inhabitants of Arabia Felix, Ad the tribe-father having flourished cotemporaneously with the building of the Tower of Babel. The cliffs of the wady Mokatta, on the route of the Israelites, and in the vicinity of the Sinaitic mountains, contain many such inscriptions (on ancient stone inscriptions, see the Exposition). The knowledge of the art of writing at that early period confirms the belief, which other traces of primeval man also suggest, that humanity was not then a babe wrapt in swaddling-clothes, but a vigorous and intelligent adult, already far advanced in civilization.
2. The certainty of Job's knowledge. What Job wished engraven on the rock was no mere probable conjecture, happy guess, philosophical speculation, or even secret aspiration, but a firm and certain personal conviction. If it be inquired how Job arrived at this immovable persuasion, it may be answered
3. The importance of Job's words.
"Oh, but they say, the tongues of dying men
Enforce attention, like deep harmony, etc.
('King Richard II.,' act 2. sc. 1.)
4. The fulfilment of Job's prayer. In a sense, and to an extent undreamt of at the time, has the patriarch's desire been granted. His words have been inscribed in the state records of the King of heaven. They have been engraved by the printing-press in a form more imperishable than could have been derived from the sculptors chisel. They have now been published in well-nigh every language under heaven. One of the latest to receive them was the modern Ethiopic or Abyssiaian, which possesses an affinity to the language which Job spoke. They will now be transmitted to the end of time,
II. THE CONTENTS OF THE INSCRIPTION; OR, THE LOFTY FAITH OF A PROPHETIC SOUL. Up to this point five striking passages appear in the Book of Job. In the first (Job 9:32-35) Job expresses his ardent longing for a Daysman or Mediator who might lay his hand upon both him and God; in the second (Job 13:15, Job 13:16), his confident expectation of acceptance with God, or the strong inward assurance of his salvation; in the third (Job 14:13-15), his deeply seated hope of a resurrection-life beyond the grave and the Hadeau world; in the fourth (Job 16:18-21), his belief in the existence of a heavenly Witness who recognized his sincerity, and his earnest prayer that God might become man's Advocate against himself (God); the fifth, the present passage, seems to gather all the preceding up into one triumphant shout of faith in a living, personal, divinely human Goel, or Redeemer, who should appear in the end of time to vindicate and save Job, and all who, like him, should have died in the faith, by a bodily resurrection from the grave. Analyzed, Job's proposed inscription should contain a declaration of the following sublime truths.
1. The existence of a personal Redeemer. The goel, in the Mosaic code, was the next of kin, whose duty it was to redeem a captive or enslaved relative (Genesis 14:14-16); to buy back his sold or otherwise alienated inheritance (Le 25:25, 26); to avenge The death of a murdered kinsman (Numbers 35:12); to marry his childless widow (Deuteronomy 25:5). Obviously, the office of the goel, or vindicator, existed in pre-Mosaic times, and was doubtless derived from primeval tradition. It was in accordance with the natural instincts of humanity, and was probably sanctioned by God, both at the first and under the Mosaic institutions, to strengthen the ties of natural affection among mankind, and also, perhaps chiefly, to suggest the hope and foreshadow the advent of the already promised Kinsman Avenger (Genesis 3:15). Hence Jehovah, the Deliverer of Israel from Egyptian bondage, was styled their Goel (Psalms 19:14; Psalms 78:35; Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14). Hence the heavenly Witness, to whom Job looked for deliverance from his troubles, vindication of his aspersed character, emancipation from the power of the grave, and protection against his unseen adversary, whether God or Satan, was styled by him his Goel. And so is Christ the believer's Goel, who redeems him from guilt and condemnation (Romans 3:24; Galatians 3:13; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:7; Titus 2:14), delivers him from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14, Hebrews 2:15; Romans 8:23), and shields him from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Nay, of Christ, Job's Redeemer was a type in respect of being
2. The advent of this heavenly Redeemer to the earth.
3. The saint's return to an embodied existence on the earth beside his Redeemer. The phrase, "in my flesh [literally, 'from, or out of, my flesh'] shall I see God" (verse 26), may mean no more than that after Job's "skin" or body was destroyed, i.e. after he had passed into the Hadean world, he would enjoy a spiritual vision of God, and it may readily be granted that such a rendering accords with the prevailing tone and current of Job's theology and Job's mind, neither of which was familiar with the idea of a resurrection-life beyond the unseen world of disembodied spirits. But Job at this moment was raised above the ordinary level of his spiritual consciousness. As already (Job 14:13-15) he had had a glimpse, transient but real, of such a life, so here it returns upon him once again with equal suddenness, but greater brightness—a glimpse of the happy land beyond the tomb, when, recalled to a physical existence on the earth, to which already his heavenly Goal had descended, looking out from his flesh he should see God; as if to emphasize which he adds, "Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" (verse 27)—words which in themselves may not necessarily involve the resurrection of the body, but which, when taken in connection with the other considerations mentioned, tend not a little to confirm that interpretation. What Job only momentarily saw, and withal only dimly understood, has now been completely unveiled and expounded in the gospel, viz. the doctrine of a future resurrection.
4. The saint's beatific vision of God in the person of his Kinsman Redeemer. Job expected to see God in the Hadean world, according to some; on the earth, in the flesh, according to the interpretation just given. Such a vision of God meant for Job exactly what it means for the Christian—salvation, i.e. acceptance before God, protection by God, likeness to God, fellowship with God. In fullest measure such a vision of God will be enjoyed only in the resurrection-life (John 14:3; John 17:24; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 9:28; 1 John 3:2). In measure and degree only second to this will the saint behold God in the intermediate state (Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:23). Even now, in a real though spiritual sense, such a vision is enjoyed by believers (Matthew 5:8).
5. The saint's earnest longing for this future vision of his heavenly Friend. Job describes his reins, i.e. his heart, as pining away or languishing for the coming of this glorious apocalypse. Job's friends had directed him to set his hopes on a return to temporal prosperity—to health, wealth, friends; in return, Job informs them that his soul desired nothing so much as God and his salvation. So the pre-Christian saints longed for the first advent of the Saviour, e.g. Abraham (John 8:56), Jacob (Genesis 49:18), David (Psalms 45:3, Psalms 45:4), Simeon (Luke 2:25), Anna (Luke 2:38). So Christian believers anticipate his second coming (Romans 8:23; Revelation 22:17).
III. THE APPENDIX TO THE INSCRIPTION; OR, THE EARNEST REMONSTRANCE OF A PERSECUTED SAINT. On two grounds Job dissuades his friends from attempting further to prove him guilty.
1. The wickedness of their conduct. Job's language (verse 28) points to the studied and systematic character of their attacks upon his integrity. "But ye say, How shall we persecute him, seeing that the root of the matter [i.e. the ground or occasion of such persecution] is in me?" Thinking they could discern in Job's guilt ample justification for such invective and condemnation as they hurled against him, they wickedly exercised their ingenuity in devising means to punish him, or at least to make him feel their displeasure. Another rendering, "How shall we find o, round of persecution in him?" presents their behaviour in a light extremely odious, recalling the sleepless malignity of Daniel's accusers (DanielDaniel 6:4, Daniel 6:5). To take "the root of the matter" as signifying the fundamental principles of piety is to make their conduct absolutely diabolic, and on a par with that of the scribes and Pharisees towards the Saviour (Matthew 12:14; Matthew 22:15; Luke 11:54; John 8:6).
2. The danger of their conduct. It would inevitably involve them in retribution. "Be ye afraid of the sword" (verse 29), the sword being a symbol of such judicial recompense, an overwhelming retribution, the absence of the article pointing to what is "boundless, endless, terrific'" (Delitzsch), a certain retribution, such crimes as have incurred the vengeance of the sword, literally, the expiations of the sword, ever being, or carrying along with them, wrath, i.e. the glow of the Divine anger, a prophetic retribution, foreshadowing a still more awful punishment in the future world, "that ye may know there is a judgment."
1. The duty of thankfulness to God for the blessings of civilization, especially for the invention of printing.
2. The illuminating power of sorrow, especially to a child of God.
3. The immortality that belongs to great ideas, especially to such as come through inspiration.
4. The sustaining influence of a good hope, especially the hope of a Redeemer.
5. The value of Christ's advents to the world, especially of his second advent in glory.
6. The greater light enjoyed by the gospel Church, especially since the resurrection of the Saviour.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Job feels bitterly hurt by the speeches of Eliphaz and Bildad, and pleads, in face of their harsh constructions, for compassion in his unutterable sufferings. At the same time, he raises himself to bolder confidence in God's help than ever before. He expresses the definite hope that, if not on this side the grave, then on the other side, a justification awaits him by the personal appearance of God.
I. INTRODUCTION: INDIGNANT CENSURE OF HIS FRIENDS AS MALICIOUS SUSPECTERS OF HIS INNOCENCE. (Verses 1-5.) "How long will ye trouble my soul, and crush me with words?" "Ten times," he says, speaking in round numbers, i.e. again and again, have they slandered him by attacks on h-is innocence; they are not ashamed to deafen him with their revilings. It is true, he again confesses (Job 6:24), he has sinned, but his sin remains with him alone; he is answerable to God alone, not to their unfeeling judgment. Is it their desire to magnify themselves—to play the part of great speakers and advocates, and bring home to him his disgrace by ingenious pleas? Vanity and self-conceit are at the bottom of much censoriousness; and Job here lays his finger upon the moral weakness of his self-constituted judges.
II. LAMENT OVER THE SUFFERING CAUSED HIM BY GOD. (Verses 6-12.) God has wronged him, and surrounded him with his nets, as a hunter takes his prey, depriving it of all means of escape (verse 6). The sufferer cries out, "Violence!" but no answer is given; and there is no justice in response to his cry for help (verse 7). His way is fenced in, and darkness is on his paths (verse 8; comp. Job 3:23; Job 13:27; Lamentations 3:7, Lamentations 3:9; Hosea 2:6). God has stripped him of his honour and of his fair esteem in the eyes of men, and taken away the crown from his head (verse 9; comp. Job 29:14; Lamentations 5:16). "Honour ' and the "crown" are two expressions for the same thing (Isaiah 61:10; Isaiah 62:3). God pulls him down on every side, like a building devoted to destruction; roots out the hope of his restoration, like a tree (verse 10). His warlike bands—wounds, pains, and woes of every kind—come on, and make their way against him as against a besieged fortress (verses 11, 12; comp. Job 16:14). All this is a true description of the thoughts of the heart from which Divine help has been withdrawn. It is a sore conflict, none sorer, when the mind is driven in its agony to view God as an end my, treating us unmercifully, willing neither to hear nor to help. Job is tempted to think God unjust; one who promises the forgiveness of sins, yet does not remove the penalty; promises his presence to the suffering, yet seems not to be touched by our woes—nay, even to delight in them. "In so great and glowing flames of hell we must look to Christ alone, who was made in all things like to his brethren, and was tempted, that he might succour them that are tempted" (Brenz).
III. LAMENT OVER THE SUFFERING CAUSED HIM BY MAN. (Verses 13-20.) In such crises we turn to friendship for solace. But to Job this is denied. In six different forms he mentions his kindred and friends, only to complain of their coldness and alienation (verses 13, 14). His domestics, too (verse 15), to whom he had doubtless been a kind master, are become strange to him. His servant does not answer when he calls so that he is obliged to change parts with him, and beg his help as a favour (verse 16) His breath and diseased body make him offensive even to his wife, and sons, or "brethren' (verse 17). The impudent little boys of the street, like those who mocked Elisha (2 Kings 2:23, sqq.), make a butt of him, indulging in sarcastic taunts when he rises to speak (verse 18). His bosom-friends abhor him, and those whom he had loved—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—turn against him as violent opponents (verse 19). His bones cleave to his skin and flesh, can be seen and felt through his emaciated flesh, and only the skin of his teeth, the thin film, has escaped the ravages of his fearful mainly. He can only just speak still, without his mouth being filled with boils and matter, as in the last stage of the disease (verse 20) Friends often fail in the time of sorest distress; they are summer-birds, and pass away when the colder weather sets in. Men are liars, fickle as the wind. Their alienation is ascribed to God, because he has caused the distress; if he had not caused the distress, they would have remained. Here, again, we are reminded that the child of God may be called to be conformed to the image of the Saviour's sufferings. He knew what it was to be deserted by all men, even his dearest disciples and closest adherents. So we are to learn to build no confidence on man, but on the living God alone, whom faith can hold eternally fast.
IV. RISE TO A BLESSED HOPE IN GOD, HIS ONLY REDEEMER AND AVENGER. (Verses 21-27.) This section is introduced by a woeful petition to his friends for compassion, "for the hand of God has touched him," alluding to the disease, which from its fearfulness was regarded as a stroke of God's hand; and is it not the office of friendship to lend its hand to heal or soothe (verse 21)? Why, on the contrary, do they persecute him as God, assuming an authority that is superhuman, and so behaving unnaturally to him? They are not "satisfied with his flesh," continually piercing and ploughing it with the envenomed tooth of slander (verse 22). The appeal seems to be in vain, and he turns once more to God (verse 23, sqq.). Oh that his words were written down, inscribed in a book or roll, that those to come might read the fervent, repeated protestations of his innocence! That they were engraven with an iron pen, or cast with lead, so as to remain an indelible and eternal record! And, so long as there is a God, this wish for the perpetuation of his testimony cannot be in vain. It has been fulfilled. "In a hundred languages of the earth it announces to this day. to all peoples this truth: the good man is not free from sufferings, but in the consciousness of his innocence and in faith in God, providence, and immortality, he finds a consolation which suffers him not to fail; and his waiting for a glorious issue of God's dark leadings will certainly be crowned" (Wohlforth). Verse 25, "And I know that my Redeemer lives." "Redeemer" is probably to be taken, not in the sense of blood-avenger, but in that of restorer of my honour, avenger of my honour; but the two meanings are connected. "And as Last One will he rise upon the dust." God is here viewed as he who will outlive all, especially in contrast to Job, now sinking into death. He will rise, stand up for Job's defence and deliverance, on the dust in which he shall soon be laid. Verse 26, "And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall behold Eloah." He is thinking of the time when he shall be treed from his wretched suffering and lacerated "flesh," and shall see God as a glorified spirit. Verse 27, "Whom I shall behold for myself," i.e. in my own person, "and my eyes shall see, and not a stranger." "My reins be consumed within me," in longing after this glorious view. It is an expression of the desire of the deepest, tenderest part of the man for this high consummation. To discuss the different theological interpretations of this passage does not come within the scope of this part of the Commentary. Perhaps the best is that which steers between two extremes, and is adopted by many eminent expositors of the present day. It is that Job does not here express the hope of a bodily resurrection after death, but of a contemplation of God in the other world in a spiritually glorified state. It is the hope of immortality, rather than that of resurrection, to which he rises, with such clearness and definiteness, above that ancient Israelitish idea of Sheol, which he himself has admitted in earlier discourses. It is a glorious confession of faith—one that, in a fuller sense, may well be that of the catholic Church. And once more the property and power of faith are exhibited in all their lustre. It cleaves to life in the very jaws of death; believes in heaven, even when hell is yawning at its feet; looks to God as the Redeemer even amidst anger and judgment; detects beneath seeming wrath his mercy; sees, under the appearance of the condemner, the Redeemer. Faith is here the "substance of things hoped for" (Hebrews 11:1). The best consolation in the trouble of death is that Christ is risen from the dead, and therefore we shall rise (Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58.). God gives more to his servant, who shows himself inspired by such firm confidence towards him, than he could ask or understand.
V. SOLEMN WARNING TO HIS FRIENDS TO DESIST FROM THEIR ATTACKS. (Verses 28, 29.) "If ye think, How shall we persecute him? and (if ye think) the root of the 'matter is found in me"—that is, if you think the reason fur my sufferings is solely to be found in myself, in my sin—"be afraid of the sword," the avenging sword of God, "fur wrath falls in with the offences of the sword," which may mean either that wrath is a punishment of the sword, or that the punishments of the sword are with wrath—wrath overtakes them. "That ye may know there is a judgment!" They knew this already, and upon this expectation their own warnings had been founded. But Job gives the thought an application to themselves. "That you may know that Gas exercises judgment on all the offences of the sword, which you do not own nor fear in your case, and that he severely punishes them." Thus Job opens that wider view of the future, of that day of discrimination, when the first shall be last, and the last first—the innocent shall be justified, and the hypocrite exposed—which corrects the narrow dogmatism of the friends. God punishes many sins in this life; but many are reserved for the last judgment. Temporal suffering may be escaped, and yet sure punishment may be in store. On the other hand, temporal suffering may be innocently endured, but for the true servant of God there will be final acknowledgment and eternal honour.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
An appeal for pity.
Job is brought lower and lower By the words of those from whom he might have expected a true consolation. He at length declares they "vex" his "soul," and "break" him "in pieces with words" He appeals for freedom. He would be let atone, for, as he had sorrowfully said, "miserable comforters are ye all." The great underlying teaching is the insufficiency of those views of human suffering which find its cause only in judgment upon wrong-doing. Job, the typical sufferer—typical for all future sufferers—undergoes the painfulness of being assailed by helpers who have but a partial and very imperfect view of all the circumstances of his case. And he appeals to them for ease. His cry to them is also a cry to Heaven for relief.
I. His appeal for pity is based ON THE GROUND OF THE WRONGFULNESS OF HIS ACCUSATION. "Behold, I cry out of wrong." His friends have set themselves against him. They have become his judges rather than his consolers or vindicators. They "reproach" him and make themselves "strange" to him; they "magnify" themselves against him. They try to plead his reproach against him. It is the way of the imperfectly instructed human helper, and more and more clearly makes plain the necessity for a voice to be raised on behalf of the sufferer that shall be of one better instructed.
II. But the appeal is urged ON THE GROUND OF THE SEVERITY OF HIS SUFFERINGS Job acknowledges his affliction to be of God, and he most tenderly and touchingly refers to the several features of his suffering. He cries out of wrong; he has no impartial and just hearing. He is encompassed by darkness from which he cannot escape; his honour is beclouded; his substance is destroyed; his hope has perished; he is dealt with as an enemy; his acquaintances are estranged; he is forgotten by his best friends; he is treated with indignity in his own home; he is offensive even to his wife; even young children despise him and speak against him—"they whom I loved are turned against me." Through the severity of his disease he is wasted to a skeleton; his "bone cleaveth" to his "skin." Surely this is a call for pity. Yet professed friends can stand by and argue with such a sufferer, seeking to prove his guiltiness and affirming all this to be the just punishment of his sin.
III. He makes his further appeal to their pity ON THE GROUND OF FRIENDSHIP. "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends!" It is reasonable to expect that professed friends will at least show pity to him for whom they have declared their great friendship.
IV. His final appeal to them is ON THE GROUND OF HIS AFFLICTION BEING THE STROKE OF GOD. "The hand of God hath touched me." Against the Almighty he cannot hope to contend. He is crushed under the Almighty's power. This lowly confession does not abate the calm inward assurance of personal integrity. But the solution of the mysterious Divine ways is wanting. He endeavours to abide in patience. But human sympathy should strengthen the sufferer under the pressure of the Divine hand, and not add to the already excessive weight of his calamities. "Why do ye persecute me as God?"
To whom should a sufferer turn if not to his friends? How obvious the office of friendship at such a time:
1. To sympathize.
2. To seek to ease the burden of the sufferer.
3. To strengthen by kindness and pity.—R.G.
The Divine Vindicator.
Job awaits a final "judgment," of which he reminds his friends (verse 29). At present he is the accused one; and all appearances go to condemn him. True, his "record is on high." He knows that he has held fast his integrity. But he looks forward to a final vindication. He would, therefore, have his words "written," "printed in a book," "graven with an iron pen and lead in the rook for ever." This is the final cry of the consciously upright one. It is the triumph of integrity over false accusation. He can wait for judgment. He has turned his tearful eyes to God, who has delivered him for a time to the ungodly, but who will appear for him yet in due time. It is here that Job makes the noble boast in confidence of a Divine justification. It is one of the grandest utterances of faith. It has become the watchword of hope to succeeding generations. The interpretations of the words have been various. Job may have uttered words the full meaning of which he did not himself wholly perceive. In the Vindicator of his honour he may not have seen the Redeemer of the race; or have guessed that the God in whose redemption he trusted would appear in human flesh to redeem the race from the accuser—to redeem, not Item human condemnation merely, but from the Divine, just condemnation. We have the highest warrant for finding in "Moses and all the prophets," and "in all the Scriptures," references to "things concerning" the Christ (Luke 24:27). The passage is an illustration of this progressive character of the revelation. Buried in the old Scriptures were "the things concerning" the Christ; but it was needful they should be "expounded." Even the prophets did not all know "what the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify." Thus unconsciously Job, with others, ministers to the faith of the world.
I. In Job's avenger, vindicator, or redeemer, is to be seen THE HIDDEN TYPE AND PROMISE OF THE UNIVERSAL REDEEMER. That for which one looked all may look. Not only the Vindicator of the innocent and the upright, but the "Justifier of the ungodly."
II. In the redemption of Job's honour may be hidden THE WORK OF HIM WHO SHALL BRING BACK THE FORFEITED HONOUR AND RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MEN. As the Person, so the work of the Divine Redeemer is here foreshadowed. The next of kin, to whom "the right of redemption belongs," shall restore the alienated possession. He who shall appear for Job shall spear on behalf of the sinful world, shall make intercession for the transgressors, shall vindicate by his own substitutionary offering the "justification" of "the ungodly."
III. In Job's vision of the appearance of his vindicator at the latter day upon the earth is to be seen THE HIDDEN PROMISE OF THE FINAL APPEARANCE OF THE WORLD'S REDEEMER for judgment, vindication, and salvation of him who "shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
IV. In Job's assured final vision of God, after the destruction of his body, lies THE COMFORTING PROMISE OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD; not in a frail body of flesh, liable to be torn, consumed, destroyed, but in "a spiritual body." So the Church in confident hope chants at the side of the tomb. Thus are the germs of the future and final revelation held in the earlier; thus is laid the ground for faith and thankfulness; thus is the suffering one cheered; thus shall patience and faith and untarnished integrity, though afflicted, be vindicated; and thus shall the faith of the justified ungodly find its vindication in him who is the Vindicator, the Saviour, the Redeemer of sinful, suffering man.—R.G.
A final judgment.
There is a judgment always proceeding, to be finally manifested when the ultimate rewards and punishments of human conduct will be assigned. A final judgment is—
I. A UNIVERSAL BELIEF.
II. TESTIFIED BY THE CONSCIENCE.
III. NECESSARY ON ACCOUNT OF THE PRESENT INVOLVED CONDITION OF HUMAN AFFAIRS. Conditions are unequal; wickedness seems to triumph, and the wicked to prosper. The good suffer. The reward of faithful service is not attained. The Divine ways are not justified. Human conduct does not meet with due retribution.
IV. To BE DREADED BY THE UNFAITHFUL. V. ANTICIPATED BY THE RIGHTEOUS.
VI. LIFE TO BE HELD IN THE LIGHT OF A FUTURE JUDGMENT.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The erring soul and its God.
Job replies to the intrusive censures of his friends with the indignation of outraged privacy. Granted that he has erred, as his friends assume, that is his own business, not theirs—it is a matter between himself and God only; they have no occasion to meddle in it.
I. THERE IS A PRIVACY IN RELIGION. Each soul has to deal with God alone. Although we may help one another by sympathy, and although our internal religion must show itself in external conduct, still the roots and inner springs of religion are not for public Investigation. The breach of reserve on the deepest matters of the soul is like an offence against decency. The language of love is sacred, and is reserved for the ears of one only. When love has been wounded by wrong, the error is still a private concern, and one which strangers have no right to interfere with. No doubt there are ways in which our deepest experiences may be made serviceable to others. We ought to confess our faith, for the honour of Christ and for the encouragement of others. Too often a false shame keeps Christians back in this respect. We ought also to confess our faults one to another. But these faults are deeds in which we have injured one another. No one has a right to expose the secret sins of his brother, or to pry into the inner conflicts of his soul. The religion that is turned inside out in the light of day fades or coarsens. The roots that are dragged from their secret dwelling-place and exposed to the sun, wither and perish. The spiritual experience that is bandied by the multitude loses its finer character, if not its very life. We cannot help our brother by destroying his delicacy of feeling. Even if we think him too reserved, though it might be well for him to be more communicative, we cannot be justified in tearing down the veil which he has chosen to wear.
II. THERE MUST BE THE UTMOST OPENNESS WITH GOD IN RELIGION. Here the reserve ceases. Here the most retiring soul must be completely frank. God claims our confidence. To attempt to hide anything from God is foolish, for he knows all our most secret thoughts. But we need to go further, and make our confessions consciously and willingly. The reasons for reserve among men do not apply to our relations with God. As God knows all, so he rightly understands everything. He will never misjudge us. Moreover, his love secures his perfect sympathy with us. Man's prying curiosity subjects the quivering nerves of its victim to a process of vivisection; but God's searching gaze of love and sympathy heals and saves. It is necessary that we should receive this willingly if we are to profit by it. A foolish shyness of God leaves us without the cheering of his presence. It is always a bad thing when one has to say, as a son exclaimed of his lately deceased father whom everybody was praising, "It may be all true; but I cannot say, as I never knew him." It is not our Father's fault if we do not know him. He rewards confidence with an exchange of confidence. Now, our first and most necessary duty is to fling aside all reserve before God, to own that "we have erred and strayed from his ways like lost sheep," to confess ourselves utterly helpless and worthless, and, trusting our emptiness to him, to be ready to welcome tile fulness which he always bestows on his trusting children.—W.F.A.
The cry unheard.
I. IT MAY BE REALLY UNHEARD. That is to say, while of course God knows everything, he may not respond, may not heed. Why?
1. Because the cry is not addressed to the true God. The heathen priests on Mount Carmel screamed, "O Baal, hear us!" from morning till evening. "But there was no voice, nor any that answered" (1 Kings 18:26). Men have their false gods now, i.e. their false ideas of God. A god who ignores sin, a god who is only amiable compliance, is not the true God. One who addresses such a god will not be heard.
2. Because the cry is not true. It is a formal petition, not a heartfelt prayer. The words may be loud, but the soul is silent. Christ says, "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking" (Matthew 6:7).
3. Because the cry is not trustful. We may cry to God in wild despair; the prayer may be wrung out of an agony of the soul; it may be just the expression of a natural instinct; but it may carry with it no real confidence in God. The Divine response is according to our faith.
4. B cause the cry is not accompanied by penitence. If we hold to our sin we cannot be saved from our trouble. While we excuse ourselves before God we make his ear deaf to our call. Nothing so effectually seals the gates of prayer as an impenitent heart.
5. Because the pity sought from God is not given to a brother man. The prayer of the selfish is not heard. Every time we repeat the Lord's Prayer we remind ourselves that our trespasses are forgiven in proportion as we forgive those who trespass against us. This is the one, the only thing in the prayer that Christ selected for emphatic comment, adding, "If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:15).
II. IT MAY BE ONLY APPARENTLY UNHEARD.
1. Because there is no audible response. Our voice goes out into the silence. We strain our ears for one word of reply, but no sound reaches us. Though we spread out our hands and cry aloud, the calm heavens are still and apparently irresponsive. But, then, we are foolish if we expect an answer that shall be audible to our bodily ears, for God is a Spirit. Moreover, if we trust him, we should not think that he does not hear when he does not speak. Silence is not deafness.
2. Because there is no immediate relief. At present all seems as it was before we prayed. Does it not appear as though the cry had been wasted on the air? We have to learn patience. It may be well that the trial should last a little longer. In the end God will deliver his suffering children who trust themselves to him, but he may not give them sudden and immediate relief.
3. Because the response is not what we expected. God will not be dictated to. He will use his own judgment in his reply to us. He may give the very thing we ask for. But if that be not fitting he will reply in some other way. Assuredly he will reply. Therefore we must take a wider view of his action, and be prepared to receive God's response in new and unlooked-for forms. Instead of removing the trouble he may give strength to bear it, Instead of prosperity he may give peace. Then we have no right to think our cry lost and neglected. It is heard.—W.F.A.
The fenced way.
I. GOD HAS A RIGHT TO FENCE UP OUR WAY. Job's complaint is sad, but it does not here indicate an injustice. It is hard to be checked and thwarted. Still God is our Master, and he has a right to choose our inheritance for us, setting us in a large place, or in a narrow way, as he thinks best. When we complain, we forget that our will is not the supreme arbiter of our destiny. If God stops our path we have to remember that we are on his land, and have no right of way across it. When, in his bounty, he sets us free to roam over his domain, this is a favour for which we may well give thanks; it is no privilege that we can demand. The opportunities of life, and our freedom to use them, are given by God; and he who gives may withhold.
II. GOD MAY FENCE UP OUR WAY TO PREVENT US FROM STRAYING. We blunder in the darkness. There are precipices over which we may fall, jungles in which we may become victims to prowling enemies, By-path Meadows that may lead us to Doubting Castle. Therefore God shuts us in. We are annoyed at the restraint, but it is for our soul's preservation. Liberty is not always good. God sees when it may be abused; then in his great mercy he withdraws it. Thus the ambitious man fails to reach the giddy height from which he would soon be flung headlong to ruin. Business does not bring one in the wealth that was expected, for God sees that money is becoming an idol. Mary delights are shut off, and a man looks over the fence with great envy towards them; but God knows that they would be poison and death to him.
III. GOD SOMETIMES FENCES UP OUR WAY FOR DISCIPLINE OR PUNISHMENT. We feel ourselves checked and hindered on every side. Our busy activity is stopped. Even our good designs are frustrated. We find it hard to account for such treatment. Possibly it is just the punishment of our sins. This has come not as direct pain and loss, but as hindrance and failure. We feel like the Egyptians when their chariot-wheels stuck in the bed of the sea. But it may be that the cause lies not so much in sin as in a need of wholesome discipline. Perhaps we can serve God better by patient endurance than by vigorous activity. Then what looks like failure is really the divinely chosen method of success. He fences up our way that we quay learn to serve by waiting.
IV. GOD WHO FENCES UP OUR WAY ALSO OPENS IT. The fence is but a temporary structure—not a wall. God checks us for a season that we may use our liberty, when it is restored, with the more enthusiastic energy. While he is fencing up one way he is opening out a new way. We wonder why we are hindered, but if we would but lift up our eyes we might see another path, leading us to a far more noble and Christ-like service than any the path that has been stopped pointed to. Meanwhile let us not complain that our way is hopelessly fenced up till we are quite brought to a standstill. Our fears are premature. The Norwegian fiord seems to be completely locked in by the mountains, and the ship appears to be making straight for the cliffs till a point is reached which suddenly reveals a new expanse of water. We must proceed with the duty within our power, and then the future will open out as we approach it.—W.F.A.
Touched by the hand of God.
Job appealed to the commiseration of his friends. His was no ordinary trouble coming from external circumstances. The hand of God was upon him. Therefore his case was most pitiable.
I. THE HAND OF GOD MAY HURT. His hand holds his children even in the depths of trouble (Psalms 139:10). It is a creative, sustaining, blessing hand. Yet it may also be used to smite and bruise. The coming of God is not always for the happiness of his children. He must chastise their sin and folly. Then the trouble is irresistible and overwhelming. It is the contemplation of the Divine source of his trouble that makes Job appeal to his friends as from the depths of an unfathomable misery.
II. GREAT EFFECTS ARE PRODUCED BY THE MERE TOUCH OF GOD'S HAND. Job does not say that God's hand had stricken him; he only complains that it had touched him. But that was enough to plunge him into an agony of soul. A touch of the "Traveller unknown" put Jacob's thigh out of joint (Genesis 32:25). God is so strong and great that his slightest action is irresistible, and pregnant with tremendous consequences. But if his touch is so powerful, how terrible must be his wrathful smiting! A man could not exist for one moment if God really roused himself in anger against him.
III. THE TOUCH OF GOD'S HAND SHOULD HOUSE OUR COMPASSION. The trouble is so great that all thoughts of blame should be swallowed up in a deep feeling of sympathy. Job here seems to reverse his previous conduct. Before this he had appealed from the unfairness of man to the justice of God. Now he appeals from the heavy hand of God to the brotherly compassion of a fellow-creature. Even if the contention of the three friends had been well founded, and Job had been the great sinner they assumed him to be, his sufferings were now so severe that all other thoughts should have been swallowed up in commiseration for them. It is only human to feel sympathy with suffering. The censure that hardens itself against the distresses that it regards as the just punishment of sin is harsh and cruel, and unworthy of any disciple of Jesus Christ.
IV. THE HAND THAT HURTS HEALS. Even the touch of chastisement is meant in love, and if it is received in a right spirit, it will be followed by quite another touch. We ought not to be afraid of the hand of God. As it has sheltered us from the first, so it will protect and save us at last. Job was ultimately blessed by the hand of God. We have God with us in Christ, and Christ's hands bear the nail-prints that tell of love unto death. When he touches us it is with a pierced hand. We may feel pain, but he felt more for us, and the record of his suffering is the pledge of the saving grace which he extends to all who truly seek him. When John was dismayed at his vision of the glorified Christ, the Lord laid his hand on him, and that gracious touch of sympathy dispelled his fears (Revelation 1:17). The healing touch of Christ is with us now, and it really conies from the same hand as that which hurts in our trouble. God only hurts to heal.—W.F.A.
Job is supposed to sigh for the very thing that the poet has done for him. His words are written, and they have acquired a permanence and a publicity of which the patriarch could have had no conception.
I. THE DESIRE FOR WRITTEN WORDS. Job is about to set forth a great conviction. He thinks it so important that he would have it recorded in the state chronicle, even chiselled and leaded in the face of the rock, like some great historic inscription.
1. Conviction of truth. Job would not want a lie to be recorded against him for ever. It is natured to desire that the truth which we hold should be maintained.
2. Weight and importance. Many true words are but of limited and temporary interest. The ordinary talk of social intercourse certainly neither needs nor merits a permanent record. It is natural for it to disappear like the successive waves that break on the beach. But weighty words should endure. There are truths the discovery of which is a permanent boon to mankind. These truths should be carefully treasured and transmitted.
3. Craving for justice. Job is concerned with a personal feeling in his desire. If what he says makes no impression on his immediate circle, it may bring conviction to a wider area of less prejudiced persons, or to a later age.
II. THE USE OF WRITTEN WORDS.
1. Distinctness. Job's thought is clearly before us. The Scriptures afford a definite revelation. With written words we are not left to vague surmises. We do not only depend on the inward impulses of the Divine Spirit. The inner light may be very real and precious. But we are in danger of misinterpreting it if we neglect the written Word of the Bible.
2. Permanence. Job's great thought of the future life has permanence by being recorded in Scripture. It is fearful to think how the Christian truth would in all probability have been perverted and lost among the shifting currents of tradition if there had been no "New Testament" in which to preserve it. Now we can go back to the very fountain of the gospel. We can leave all the errors of the ages and take our stand on the pure teaching of Christ and his apostles; or if, as is only reasonable, we believe that the course of Christian thought has contributed to the development of the understanding of truth, still we can test that development, and distinguish it from the degeneration that mocks it, by keeping close to the New Testament. So long as the written words of revelation are in our hands there is a grand security for purity of doctrine.
3. Publicity. Job desired that the great, new truth he was about to utter should go abroad. No doubt his first wish was that it might lead to the justification of his misunderstood character. But much larger consequences follow. When the voice of the prophet is silent, his written word speaks to the ages and spreads far and wide to multitudes that could never have been affected by his personal presence. The Bible is a means of making God's truth widely known. That truth is not for an elect few of the initiated, but for mankind at large. Therefore it is our duty to do what we can to circulate the Divine Word. At the same time, let us not forget to pray for the enlightening Spirit to interpret this written Word to ourselves and to others; "for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (2 Corinthians 3:6).—W.F.A.
The great hope.
These monumental words are what Job desired to be written, noted in a book, "graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever." Certainly few words are more worthy of permanent publicity.
I. THE ASSURANCE OF THE GREAT HOPE. Job says, "I know." He is not vaguely feeling after truth. He has it, and he holds it firmly. How different is this great passage from Job 3:1 In what way can we account for the new triumphant tone of the sufferer? How does Job know that his Redeemer liveth, etc.?
1. By inspiration. This passage bears its own evidence to its Divine origin in its tone and spirit and exalted thought. The patriarch is carried out of himself. He is almost like St. Paul in the third heavens (2 Corinthians 12:2). Yet he is in no wild ecstasy; his tone is one of calm, solemn, glad assurance. The greatest truths of redemption and resurrection are from God.
2. Through the discipline of suffering. Job did not see all this at first. But sorrow has given him a marvellous power of intuition. It has trained him to see the highest truth. Thus God's revelation comes to the prepared soul. Suddenly the black clouds are rent asunder, and the much-suffering man looks right up to the eternal blue, while the very light of God illumines and transfigures his countenance.
II. THE GROUNDS OF THE GREAT HOPE. The living Redeemer. Job has a Goel, an Avenger, who will plead his cause and deliver him from his trouble.
1. Divine. Clearly he is thinking of God. He has no idea of another being who shall be his friend while God remains his persecuting Enemy. He flees from God to God. He knows that, though he cannot understand God's present treatment of him, he will be ultimately delivered if he trusts in God. Although it was not given to Job to see further in this direction, we now know that his great hope and prophecy is fulfilled in Christ, who has come to be the sinner's Goel, the great Redeemer of man.
2. Personal. Job says, "my Redeemer." Each must know Christ for himself. But all may know and own him. Christ not only redeems the innocent by vindicating them—which was what Job expected. We now see that he goes further, and redeems the guilty by saving them even from their sin and doom.
3. Living. The Redeemer lives, though for a while we do not see him, We have a living Saviour.
III. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE GREAT HOPE.
1. A future life. Though some suppose that Job is only thinking of the cure of his diseased skin and flesh, and a vindication of him in health during his earthly life, it is difficult to see how his words could be satisfied with this simple meaning. Taking them as prophetic of a future life when the worm-eaten body is left behind, we have a grand picture of the triumph of hope in Old Testament times. Here is the answer to Job 14:14. There will be a future life when the tabernacle of this body is laid aside.
2. A vision of God. Job had been longing to meet God. His prayer was lost in silence (verse 7). God's hand was only upon him for chastisement. Now he foresees the great apocalypse.
IV. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE GREAT HOPE.
1. Apart from the earthly body. This is no trouble to Job. His body has become a loathsome, tormenting encumbrance. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, neither doth corruption inherit incorruption" (1 Corinthians 15:50).
2. With personal identity. Job would not be content to be dissolved into the universe. The future life is one of personal existence. It must be linked by memory to the present life. Every one who knows Christ as his living Redeemer on earth will enjoy the personal fellowship of God in heaven.—W.F.A.
The root of the matter.
Job's friends think that the explanation of the patriarch's singular experience lies in himself. It is not to be explained by the laws of the universe, by the opposition of a foe, etc.; it is to be explained by Job's own character and conduct. The root of this matter, his affliction, is in Job himself. That, says Job, is their idea, and that Job of course repudiates. The prologue shows that Job was right. The root of the matter was not in him; it was in Satan. The great accuser had originated the whole trouble.
I. WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND A MATTER UNTIL WE DISCOVER THE ROOT OF IT. Job's friends were quite wrong; all their conclusions were invalid, all their accusations were unjust, all their admonitions were irrelevant, because they mistook the root and cause of Job's afflictions. Their conduct is a warning against judging with superficial knowledge. In their assurance of infallibility they inferred the existence of the root when they had not been able to see it. In all branches of knowledge we need to bore down to the root of our subject. The greatest task of science is the search for causes. The mere collection and classification of facts is but the first step. Real science aims at accounting for its facts. So in religion we are not content to receive certain impressions; we want to get behind and beneath them and find their roots. We must find the root of poverty and social trouble before we can understand these evils.
II. IT IS DIFFICULT TO DISCOVER THE ROOT OF A MATTER. The root is underground. It hides itself in darkness. Possibly it runs far for its nourishment, like that of the famous Hampton Court vine, which is said to reach to the river Thames. In human affairs it is very hard to find the roots, because men do not generally expose their inmost thoughts. History searches for causes, but it is a very tentative and precarious science. One historian will see, or thinks he sees, the cause of an event in something of which another denies the existence. We cannot even see the roots of the conduct of our daily acquaintances. In particular this difficulty is increased when there is lack of sympathy. A mean and selfish man can never discover the roots of generous action, and a noble-minded man is slow to suspect the roots of the conduct of a person of lower character. We must beware of the attempts of hot-headed philanthropy to cure evils the roots of which have not yet been discovered. Else we may do more harm than good.
III. THERE ARE EVILS WHICH ARE NOT ROOTED IN THE MAN WHO SUFFERS FROM THEM. This was the truth which Job's friends, blinded by prejudice, could not see. They assumed that the root was in Job, but their assumption was an error. Now, the admission of this idea should not only check hasty judgment; it should encourage faith and teach patience. The roots are much deeper than we suspect. We cannot understand providence, for we cannot see its roots.
IV. THE WORST EVIL IS THAT WHICH HAS ITS ROOT IN THE MAN WHO SUFFERS FROM IT. If Job's friends had been right, his position would have been far more dreadful than it was. Often we must confess to ourselves that we have brought trouble upon our own heads. Our folly or our sin is its primary cause. Then it is wholly our own. It is well to search ourselves and see if the root of the matter be in us. If it is, there is no hope of salvation while it remains there. To cut down the superficial growth will do no good. The deep-seated root will sprout again. Evil must be eradicated from the heart. We want a cure that goes to the root of the matter.
V. THE ROOT OF DIVINE GRACE IS A SURE SOURCE OF DIVINE LIFE, There are good things as well as evil things that have their roots in a man. The root of the better life may be in a man when we do not see it.
1. It is within the individual man. Otherwise the external grace is not his.
2. It may be hidden.
3. The growth above may be checked.
4. Still, if the root of the matter is in the soul, there must be some growth visible in the outer life.—W.F.A.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany