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The contrast is now completed. Having drawn the portrait of himself as he was, rich, honoured, blessed with children, flourishing, in favour with both God and man, Job now presents himself to us as he is, despised of men (verses 1-10), afflicted of God (verse 11), a prey to vague terrors (verse 15), tortured with bodily pains (verses 17, 18), cast off by God (verses 19, 20), with nothing but death to look for (verses 23-31). The chapter is the most touching in the whole book.
But now they that are younger than I have me in derision. As Job had been speaking last of the honour in which he was once held, he beans his contrast by chewing how at present he is disgraced and derided. Men who are outcasts and solitary themselves, poor dwellers in caves (verse 6), who have much ado to keep body and soul together (verses 3, 4), and not men only' but youths, mere boys, scoff at him, make him a song and a byword (verse 9). nay, "spare not to spit in his face" (verse 10). There seem to have been in his vicinity weak and debased tribes, generally contemned and looked down upon, regarded as thieves (verse 5) by their neighbours, and considered to be of base and vile origin (verse 8), who saw in Job's calamities a rare opportunity for insulting and triumphing over a member of the superior race which had crushed them, and thus tasting, to a certain extent, the sweetness of revenge. Whose fathers I would have disdained (rather, I disdained) to have set with the dogs of my flock. Job had not thought their fathers worthy of employing even as the lowest class of herdsmen, those reckoned on a par with the sheep-dogs.
Yes, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me? Men, who had no such strength in their hands as to yield an employer any profit—poor, weak creatures, in whom old age (rather, manly vigour) was perished. An effete race seems to be pointed at, without strength or stamina, nerveless, spiritless, "destined to early decay and premature death;" but how they had sunk into such a condition is not apparent. Too often such remanents are merely tribes physically weak, whom more powerful ones have starved and stunted, driving them into the least productive regions, and in every way making life hard for them.
For want and famine they were solitary; rather, they were gaunt (see the Revised Version). Compare the descriptions given to us of the native races of Central Africa by Sir S. Baker, Speke, Grant, Stanley, and others. Fleeing into the wilderness; rather, gnawing the wilderness; i.e. feeding on such dry and sapless roots and fruits as the wilderness produces. In former time desolate and waste; or, on the eve of wasteness and desolation.
Who cut up mallows by the bushes. One of the plants on which they feed is the malluch, not really a "mallow," but probably the Atriplex halimus, which is "a shrub from four to five feet high, with many thick branches; the leaves are rather sour to the taste; the flowers are purple, and very small; it grows on the sea-coast in Greece, Arabia, Syria, etc; and belongs to the natural order Chenopodiace". And juniper roots for their meat. Most moderns regard the rothen as the Genista monosperma, which is a kind of broom. It is a leguminous plant, having a white flower. and grows plentifully in the Sinaitic desert, in Palestine, Syria, and Arabia. The root is very bitter, and would only be used as food under extreme pressure, but the fruit is readily eaten by sheep, and the roots would, no doubt, yield some nourishment.
They were driven forth from among men. Weak races retreat before strong ones, who occupy their lands, and whose will they do not dare to dispute. They are not intentionally "driven out," for the strong raecs would gladly make them their drudges; but they retire into the most inaccessible regions, as the primitive population has done in India and elsewhere. They cried after them as after a thief. Outcast tribes naturally, and almost necessarily, become robber-tribes. Deprived of their productive lands, and driven into rocky deserts, want makes them thieves and marauders. Then those who have made them what they are vilify and decry them.
To dwell in the cliffs of. the valleys; of in the clefts (Revised Version). Western Asia is full of rocky regions, seamed with deep gorges and clefts, the walls of which rise abruptly or in terraces, and are themselves pierced with caves and cracks. The tract about Petra is, perhaps, the most remarkable of these regions; hut there are many others which closely resemble it. These places afford refuges to weak and outcast tribes, who hide in them, either in caves of the earth, or in the rocks. The Greeks called these unfortunates "Troglodytes", the Hebrews "Horim," from חוֹר "a hole."
Among the bushes they brayed. The sounds which came from their mouths sounded to Job less like articulate speech than like the braying of asses. Compare what Herodotus says of his Troglodytes: "Their language is unlike that of any other people; it sounds like the screeching of bats." Under the nettles (or, wild vetches) they were gathered together; rather, huddled together.
They were children of fools. The physical degeneracy whereof Job has been speaking is accompanied in most instances by extreme mental incapacity. Some of the degraded races cannot count beyond four or five; others have not more than two or three hundred words in their vocabulary. They are all of low intellect, though occasionally extremely artful and cunning. Yea, children of base men; literally, children of no name. Their race had never made for itself any name, but was unknown and insignificant. They were viler than the earth; rather, they were scourged out of the land. This must not be understood literally. It is a rhetorical repetition of what had been already said in verse 5. The expression may be compared with the tale in Herodotus, that when the Scythian slaves rebelled and took up arms, the Scythians scourged them into subjection (Herod; 4.3, 4).
And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword (see above, Job 17:6; and comp. Psalms 69:12).
They abhor me, they flee far from me; rather, they abhor me, they stoat aloof from me (see the Revised Version). And spare not to spit in my face. This has generally been taken literally, as it seems to have been by the LXX. But it, perhaps, means no more than that they did not refrain from spitting in Job's presence.
Because he hath loosed my cord. "He," in this passage, can only be God; and thus Job turns here to some extent from his human persecutors to his great Afflicter, the Almighty. God has "loosened his cord," i.e. has relaxed his vital fibre, taken away his strength, reduced him to helplessness. Hence, and hence only, do the persecutors dare to crowd around him and insult him. And afflicted me. God has afflicted him with blow after blow—with impoverishment (Job 1:14-17), with bereavement (Job 1:18, Job 1:19), with a sore malady (Job 2:7). They have also let loose the bridle before me. This has given his persecutors the courage to east aside all restraint, and lead him with insult after insult (verses 1, 9, 10).
Upon my right hand rise the youth; literally, the brood; i.e. the rabble—a crowd of half-grown youths and boys, such as collects in almost any town to hoot and insult a respectable person who is in trouble and helpless. In the East such gatherings are very common and exceedingly annoying. They push away my feet; i.e. they try to throw me down as I walk. They raise up against me the ways of their destruction. They place obstacles in my way, impede my steps, thwart me in every way that they find possible.
They mar my path; i.e. interfere with and frustrate whatever I am bent on doing. They set forward my calamity, Professor Lee translates, "They profit by my ruin." They have no helper. If the text is sound, we must understand, "They do all this, they dare all this, even though they have no powerful men to aid them." But it is suspected that there is some corruption in the passage, and that the original gave the sense which is found in the Vulgate," There is none to help me."
They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters; i.e. with a force like that of water when it has burst through a bank or dam. In the desolation they relied themselves upon me. Like the waves of the sea, which follow one after another.
Terrors are turned upon me Job seems to pass here from his human persecutors to his internal sufferings of mind and body. "Terrors' take hold upon him. He experiences in his sleep horrible dreams and visions (see Job 7:14), and even in his waking hours he is haunted by fears. The "terrors of God do set themselves in array against him" (Job 6:4). God seems to him as One that watches, and "tries him every moment" (Job 7:18), seeking occasion against him, and never leaving him an instant's peace (Job 7:19). These terrors, he says, pursue my soul as the wind; literally, pursue mine honour, or my dignity. They flutter the calm composure that befits a godly man, disturb it, shake it, and for a time at any rate, cause terrors and shrinkings of soul. Under these circumstances, my welfare passeth away as a cloud. It is not only my happiness, but my real welfare, that is gone. Body and soul are equally in suffering—the one shaken with fears and disturbed with doubts and apprehensions; the other smitten with a sore disease, so that there is no soundness in it.
And now my soul is poured out upon me (comp. Psalms 42:4). My very soul seems to be gone out of me. "I faint and swoon away, because of my fears" (Lee). The days of affliction have taken hold upon me. All my prosperity is gone, and I am come to "the days of affliction." These "take hold on me," and, as it were, possess me.
My bones are pierced in me in the night season. In Elephantiasis anaesthetics' says Dr. Erasmus Wilson, "when the integument is insensible, there are deep-seated burning pains, sometimes of a bone or joint, and sometimes of the vertebral column. These pains are greatest at night; they prevent sleep, and give rise to restless,less and frightful dreams". And my sinews take no rest; rather, my gnawings, or my gnawing pains (see the Revised Version; and comp. Job 30:3, where the same word is properly rendered by "gnawing [the wilderness]").
By the great force of my disease is my garment changed; or, disfigured. The purulent discharge from his ulcers disfigured and made filthy his garment, which stiffened as the discharge dried, and clung to his frame. It bindeth me about as the collar of my coat. The whole garment clung to his body as closely as it is usual for a mall's collar, or "neck-hole" (Professor Lee), to cling about his throat.
He (i.e. God) hath cast me into the mire. "The mire" here is the lowest depth of misery and degradation (comp. Psalms 40:2; Psalms 69:2, Psalms 69:14). Job feels himself cast into it by God, but nevertheless does not forsake him nor cease to call upon him (verses 20-23). And I am become like dust and ashes; i.e. unclean, impure, offensive to my fellow-men, an object of dislike and disdain.
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me. It is the worst of all calamities to be God-forsaken, as Job believed himself to be, because he had no immediate answer to his prayers. The bitterest cry upon the cross was "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" But no good man is ever really God-forsaken, and no rightful and earnest prayers are ever really unheard. Job "had need of patience" (Hebrews 10:36), patient as he was (James 5:11). He should have trusted God more, and complained less. I stand up, and thou regardest me not; rather, I stand up, as the manner of the Jews usually was in prayer (Luke 18:11), and thou lookest at me (see the Revised Version). Job's complaint is that, when he stands up and stretches out his hands to God in prayer, God simply looks on, does nothing, gives him no help.
Thou art become cruel to me; literally, thou art turned to be cruel to me. In other words, "Thou art changed to me, and art become cruel to me." Job never forgets that for long years God was gracious and kind to him, "made him and fashioned him together round about," "clothed him with skin and flesh, and fenced him with bones and sinews," "granted him life and favour, and by his visitation preserved his spirit" (Job 10:9-12); but the recollection brings, perhaps, as much of pain. as of pleasure with it. One of our poets says—
"Joy's recollection is no longer joy;
But sorrow's memory is a sorrow still."
At any rate, the contrast between past joy and present suffering adds a pang to tile latter. With thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me; literally, with the might of thy hand dost thou persecute me (see the Revised Version). "Haec noster irreverentius" (Schultens); comp. Job 19:6-13.
Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou tensest me to ride upon it; i.e. thou makest me to be storm-tossed. I am as it were a straw caught up by a whirlwind, and borne hither and thither in the wide regions of space, unknowing whither I go. I am treated as I have described the wicked man to be treated (Job 27:20, Job 27:21). And dissolvest my substance. "Dissolvest me entirely" (Professor Lee); dissolvest me in the storms (Revised Version).
For I know that thou wilt bring me to death. Job has all along expressed his conviction that he has nothing to look for but death. He feels within himself the seeds of a mortal malady; for such, practically, was elephantiasis in Job's time. He is devoid of any expectation of recovery. Death must come upon him, he thinks, ere long; and then God will bring him to the house appointed for all living. This, as he has already explained (Job 10:21, Job 10:22), is "the land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness." It is a melancholy prospect; but we must regard it as cheered by the hope of an ultimate resurrection, such as seems indicated, if not absolutely proclaimed, in Job 19:25-27 (see the comment on that passage).
Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave, though they cry in his destruction. This is one of the most obscure passages in the entire Book of Job, and scarcely any two independent commentators understand it alike. To give all the different renderings, and discuss them, would be an almost endless task, and one over-wearisome to the reader. It will, per-Imps, suffice to select the one which to the present writer appears the most satisfactory. This is the rendering of Professor Stanley Leathes, who suggests the following: "Howbeit God will not put forth his hand to bring a man to death and the grave, when there is earnest prayer for them, not even when he himself hath caused the calamity." The same writer further explains the passage as follows: "I know that thou wilt dissolve and destroy me, and bring me to the grave (verse 23), though thou wilt not do so when I pray to thee to release me by death from my sufferings. Thou wilt surely do so [some time or other], but not in my time, or according to my will, but only in thine own appointed time, and as thou seest fit."
Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? i.e. do I claim a sympathy which I do not deserve? When men wept and entreated me, did not I do my best to give them the aid which they requested? Did not I weep for them, and intercede with God for them? Was not my soul grieved for the poor? (comp. Job 29:12-17; Job 31:16-22).
When I looked for flood, then evil came unto me. Job was "looking for good," expecting fully the continuance of his great wealth and prosperity, when the sudden shock of calamity fell upon him It was wholly unexpected, and therefore the harder to bear. And when I waited for light, there came darkness. This may refer to periods, after his calamities began, when he had hopes that his prayers would be answered, and a rest or pause, an interval of repose, be granted him (Job 9:34; Job 10:20), but when his hopes were disappointed, and the darkness closed in upon him thicker and murkier than ever.
My bowels boiled, and rested not; rather, boil and rest not (see the Revised Version). It is his present condition of which Job speaks from verse 27 to verse 31. His "entrails," i.e. his whole innermost nature, is disturbed, tormented, thrown into confusion. The days of affliction prevented me; rather, are come upon me (comp. verse 16).
Job 30:28, Job 30:29
I went mourning without the sun; rather, I go about blackened, but not by the sun. Grief and suffering, according to Oriental notions, blackened the face (see Lamentations 4:8; Lamentations 5:10; Psalms 119:83; and below, Psalms 119:30). I stood up, and I cried in the congregation; rather, I stand up in the assembly' and cry for help (see the Revised Version). Job feels this as the most pitiable feature in his ease. He is broken down; he can no longer endure. At first he could sit in silence for seven days (Job 2:13); now he is reduced to uttering complaints and lamentations. He is a brother, not to dragons, but to jackals. His laments are like the long melancholy cries that those animals emit during the silence of the night, so well known to Eastern travellers. He adds further that he is a companion, not to owls, but to ostriches; which, like jackals, have a melancholy cry.
My skin is black upon me (see the comment on Job 30:28, Job 30:29, ad init.), and my bones are burned with heat. The "burning pains" in the bones, which characterize at least one form of elephantiasis, have been already mentioned (see the comment on Job 30:17). In ordinary elephantiasis there is often "intense pain in the lumbar region and groin," which the patient might think to be in his bones.
My harp also is turned to mourning. The result of all is that Job's harp is laid aside, either literally or figuratively. Its music is replaced by the sound of mourning (see verses 28, 29). And my organ (or rather, my pipe) into the voice of them that weep. The pipe also is no longer sounded in his presence; he hears only the voice of weeping and lamentation. Thus appropriately ends the long dirge in which he has bewailed his miserable fare.
Job's second parable: 2. A lamentation over fallen greatness.
I. THE CHARACTER OF JOB'S DERIDERS.
1. Juniors in respect of age. (Verse 1.) These were not the young princes of the city (Job 29:8), by whom he had formerly been held in reverential regard, but "the young good-for-nothing vagabonds of a miserable class of men" (Delitzsch) dwelling in the neighbourhood. Job's inferiors in point of years, they should have treated him with honour and respect (Leviticus 19:32), especially when they beheld his intense wretchedness and misery. That they failed to accord him such veneration as was due to seniority in age, and much more that they made him the butt of their contemptuous derision, was not only an express violation of the dictates of nature and religion, but a special mark of depravity in themselves, as well as a certain index to the social and moral degradation of the race to which they belonged. The good qualities of an advancing and the bad qualities of a retrograding people, infallibly discover themselves in the moral characteristics of the youthful portion of the community.
2. Base in respect of ancestry. (Verses 1, 8.) The foregoing inference from the ribald behaviour of the younger men Job confirms by describing them as "children of fools, yea, children of base men," literally, "of men without a name," and as men "whose sires" he "would have disdained to set with the dogs of his flock." It is doubtful if Job does not in this and other expressions of this passage (verses 1-8) repay the contempt of his scornful assailants with fourfold liberality, thereby failing to evince that meekness in resenting injuries which good men should study to display, and perpetrating the same offence which he imputes to others, as well as talking about his fellow-men (God's creatures and God's children no less than himself) in a way that was scarcely excusable even in a patriarchal sage. Nevertheless, what he purposes to convey through the medium of his heated, if also poetic, language is that his revilers were the offspring of a vile, worthless, degraded, brutalized race, who had well-nigh sunk to the level of the beasts that perish.
3. Worthless in respect of service. (Verse 2.) Like their fathers whom Job would have disdained to rank with the dogs of his flock, i.e. whom he regarded as not worthy of being compared to these wise and faithful animals who watched his sheep, they (i.e. these younger vagabonds) were idle and effeminate triflers, lazy, worthless rascals, as little able to work as willing, the ethnic deterioration they were undergoing revealing itself in enervated physical constitutions no less than in depraved moral dispositions. The truth here enunciated with regard to nations and communities is also true of individuals, that sin, vice, immorality, has a tendency to impair the bodily strength, mental vigour, and moral power of such as yield to its fatal fascinations.
4. Furnished in respect of food. (Verses 3, 4.) Strangely blending pity with scorn, Job informs us that in great part the feebleness of those wretched creatures, who "could bring nothing to perfection" (Cox), and were not worth employing to do the work of a shepherd's dog, was due to the difficulty they had in finding nourishment. Lean and haggard, benumbed from want and hunger, they literally gnawed the desert, picking up such scanty sustenance as the barren steppe afforded, plucking mallows in the thicket, i.e. "the salt-wort from off the stalk" (Fry), the salt-wort, or sea-purslain,- being a tall shrubby, plant which thrives in the desert as well as on the coast, "the buds and young leaves of which" also "are gathered and eaten by the poor" (Delitzsch); and taking the roots of broom for their bread, the broom abounding in the deserts and sandy places of Egypt and Arabia, and growing to a height sufficient to afford shelter to a person sitting down. A melancholy picture of destitution, which has its counterpart not only among expiring races, effete desert tribes, and wretched Troglodytes, but also in many a centre of modern civilization. It is hardly questionable that in the lower strata of society in our large cities there are thousands for whom the physical conditions of life are as severe as those just depicted by the Poet.
5. Outcasts in respect of society. (Verse 5.) In consequence of their pilfering and marauding habits, they were banished forth from the pale of the organized community Nay, when it happened that they ventured near the precincts of civilized life, they at once became the objects of a hue and cry, men hallooing after them as they did after a thief, and chasing them away to their own miserable haunts of poverty and vice. It is clear they were the criminal classes of patriarchal times, and were regarded with much the same abhorrence as the pariahs of modern society, who wage war against all constituted authority, prey upon the industry of the virtuous and law-abiding, and as a consequence live in a perpetual state of social ostracism.
6. Troglodytes in respect of habitation. (Verse 6.) Driven beyond the pale of civilized society, they were compelled "to dwell in the cliffs of the valleys," literally, "in the horror of glens," i.e. in dismal and gloomy gorges, like the Horites (or cave-men) of Mount Seir (Genesis 14:6), betaking themselves for shelter to the caves of the earth and the holes in the rocks. According to modern scientific theory, they would exemplify man in the earliest or lowest stage of his development; according to the testimony of revelation, the Troglodytes would attest man's degeneracy from a primeval standard of perfection. And so persistent is this downward tendency in man apart from Divine grace, that almost every civilized community has its social and moral Troglodytes, who dwell in dismal valleys—its wretched outcasts, children of sin and shame, whose lurking-places are dens of infamy and haunts of vice.
7. Dehumanized in respect of nature. (Verse 7.) Having previously (Job 24:5) described these evicted aborigines as leading a gregarious life, like wild asses roaming the desert under the guidance of a leader (Job 39:5), Job recurs to the comparison to indicate, not the eager ferocity with which they scour the steppe for fodder, but how near to the brutes they have been brought by their misery, representing them as huddling themselves together under the bushes, and croaking out, in unintelligible jargon like the brayings of an ass, a doleful lamentation over their miserable condition. Herodotus compares the language of the Troglodyte Ethiopians to the screeching of bats. The speech of savage races is mostly composed of "growling gutturals and sharp clicks" (Cox). As a nation advances in civilization its tongue purifies and refines. Like the cave-men of Western Asia and Ethiopia, the moral Troglodytes of society have a jargon of their own; e.g. the language of thieves.
II. THE BEHAVIOUR OF JOB'S DERIDERS.
1. Mockery and contempt. (Verses 1, 9, 10.) Physically and morally degraded, this worthless rabble of marauders, half men and half beasts, having fallen in with Job in their wanderings, were so little touched by sympathy for his misfortunes, that they turned his miseries into merry jests, and made bywords of his groans. It is a special mark of depravity when youth mocks at age (2 Kings 2:3) and laughs at affliction. The experience of Job was reproduced in the eases of David (Psalms 35:15; Psalms 69:12), Jeremiah (Lamentations 3:14, Lamentations 3:63), and Christ (Matthew 27:43; Luke 23:35).
2. Insult and outrage. (Verse 10.) They gave open and undisguised expression to the abhorrence with which they regarded him, by fleeing far from him, or standing at a distance, and making their remarks upon him. If they ventured to come near him it was either to spit in his presence, "the greatest insult to an Oriental" (Carey), or perhaps to spit in his face (cf. Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 25:9), thus carrying their contempt and scorn to the lowest depth of indignity. Job had fallen low indeed to be thus outraged by the vilest dregs of society; but not lower than did Christ, who was similarly treated by the rabble of Judaea (Matthew 26:67; Matthew 27:30), as long before it bad been predicted that he should be (Isaiah 1:6). No doubt in all this Job's sufferings were typical of Christ's.
3. Hostility and violence. (Verses 12-15.) Not content with words and gestures, the young vagabonds proceeded to acts of open violence. Having found the poor fallen prince groaning in wretchedness and misery upon the ash-heap outside his house, they abstained not from direct hostility. Like a crowd of witnesses starting up on his right hand, they overwhelmed him with accusations; like an army of assailants thrusting his feet away, they disputed with him every inch of ground, compelling him to retire ever further and further back; pressing on like a tumultuous besieging host, they cast up their ways of destruction, i.e. their military causeways, against him, tearing down his path so as to render escape impossible, breaking in upon him as through a wide breach, and causing him to flee in terror before their irresistible approach, so that his nobility was dispersed like the wind, and his prosperity swept away like a cloud.
III. THE MOTIVE JOB'S DERIDERS.
1. Not Job's unkindness. It was true that these insolent vagabonds, with their fathers, had been summarily evicted from their pristine settlements—had been compelled, not without cruel oppression and intolerable hardship, to retire before the superior race who had dislodged them; it may also be that of that conquering Arab tribe Job was a conspicuous member, and might on that account be held responsible for the indignities and wrongs that had been heaped upon the wretched aborigines; but, in point of fact, Job disclaims having taken part in those ruthless acts of tyranny which caused the poor of the land to slink away and hide themselves, naked and shivering, in the dens and caves of the earth, in the holes and crevices of the rocks (Job 24:4-8), and rather indicates that he regarded their sorrowful lot with compassion, even while, with disgust and aversion, he shrank from any contact with themselves. But:
2. Their own wickedness. They simply saw that he, whom they once knew as a powerful prince, was overtaken by evil fortune, and they turned upon him accordingly. That they traced Job's calamities, as Job himself did, to the hand of God (verse 11), was unlikely. Yet the result was the same. God, according to Job—according to them, fate—had unloosed iris bow and sent a shaft through the heart of this imperious autocrat, or had loosened the cord which upheld the tent of his hitherto vigorous body, and had laid him prostrate beneath a loathsome and painful disease; and so they, casting off restraint, assailed him with unbridled arrogance, acting out, in these early times, the familiar story of the kicking ass and the dead lion,
"But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there,
And none so poor to do him reverence."
('Julius Caesar,' Acts 3:0. sc. 2.)
1. The certainty that man may decade himself beneath the level of the beasts.
2. The right of society to protect itself against the lawless and depraved.
3. The tendency of all wickedness to lead to misery even on earth.
4. The infallibility with which moral depravity perpetuates itself.
5. The instability which attends all human greatness.
6. The length to which wicked men will go in persecuting and oppressing others when God grants permission.
7. The inevitable approach of a nation's doom when its youth has become corrupt and depraved.
Job's second parable: 3. A sorrowful survey of present misery.
I. JOB'S BODILY AFFLICTION.
1. Overpowering. It was no trifling ailment that wrung from the heart of this fallen great man the exquisitely plaintive lament of the present section. The malady which had struck its fangs into his vitals was one that made his bowels boil, and rest not (verse 27); that caused his heart to melt like wax in the midst of his bowels (Psalms 22:14); yea, that dissolved his soul in tears (verse 16). Most men have reason to be thankful that the afflictions they are called to endure are not absolutely intolerable; for which the praise is due to God's mercy alone. Yet not unless the soul is suitably affected by the ills that assail the body do these latter bring forth their designed results, the peaceable fruits of righteousness. The case of Job suggests that through the union and sympathy of soul and body man possesses an almost infinite capacity for suffering pain; while the fact that pain may minister to man's improvement is a testimony to man's superiority over the creatures.
2. Sudden. This was one of the circumstances that rendered Job's affliction so unmanning. It had sprung upon him unawares, apprehending him, and holding him fast as a detective might do a criminal (verse 16), at the very moment when he had been saying to himself, "I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply my days as the sand" ( Job 29:18), and offering congratulations to himself on the apparently permanent as well as inexhaustible sources of his wealth, and on the palpably stable and unfading character of his glory.
3. Wasting. A second circumstance which tended to dissolve the soul of Job as he reflected on his physical trouble was the revolting character of the disease by which he had been overtaken. According to one view, Job by a strong poetic figure personifies the night (verse 17; cf. Job 3:2) as a wild beast, which had leapt upon him in the darkness, and rent him limb from limb—the allusion being to the terrible nature of the Lepra Arabica, which "feeds on the bones and destroys the body in such a manner that single limbs are completely detached" (Delitzsch). To this, also, the wasting character of the disease (verse 18) is believed by the just-named commentator to refer.
4. Unsightly. An additional source of grief to the patriarch in thinking over his malady was the disfigurement of his person which it had occasioned. "By its great strength the garment (of his skin) was changed" (Gesenius), probably through frequent purulent discharge, or through the foul incrustations which covered his body; his skin also had become black, and was peeling off from his emaciated skeleton, while his bones within him were being consumed by a parching heat (verse 30). It is a special cross when God, through disease, readers a man of displeasing aspect to his fellows.
5. Incessant. The pain which Job suffered was seemingly continuous and without interruption. Already frequently insisted on in previous discourses (Job 3:24; Job 7:3, Job 7:4, Job 7:13, Job 7:15; Job 10:20, etc.), it is here presented in a fresh series of images, Job describing his sinews as taking no rest (verse 17), literally, "my gnawers," meaning either his tormenting pains (Gesenius), or the gnawing worms formed in his ulcers (Delitzsch), "rest not," and speaking of his disease as binding him fast, and sticking closely to him like the collar of his coat (verse 18), and finally adding that his bowels, as the seat of pain, boiled and rested not (verse 27).
6. Manifold. In this his last lament Job confines not his attention to the one point of his bodily ailment, but makes a survey of the whole course of his affliction—from the day when, bereft of his family and possessions, he went about the streets as a mourner, arrayed in sackcloth, without the sun (verse 28), i.e. in such a state of grief and dejection that even the gladdening sunshine failed to give him pleasure, to that moment when he had become as "a brother to dragons and a companion to owls" (verse 29).
7. Degrading. By reason of this terrible disease he had been cast into the mire, and had become like dust and ashes (cf. Job 16:15, Job 16:16); nay, lower even than that, he had been reduced to the level of jackals and ostriches, creatures whose dolorous howlings fill men with shuddering and dejection.
II. JOB'S MENTAL ANGUISH. The thought which most keenly lacerated Job's bosom was the fixed and immovable idea which had fastened on his soul, that the God whom he had loved and served had become to him a changed God, who treated him with unsparing cruelty (verse 21). Of this the proof to Job's mind lay in several considerations.
1. That God was the real Author of Job's sufferings. It was he and no other who had cast Job into the mire (verse 19). In a very real sense this was true, since Job's malignant and unsleeping adversary could have had no power over him, except it had been given him from above; but in the sense which Job meant it was a hideous misconception, Satan and not God having been the enemy who had touched his bones and his flesh. Saints should be careful not to impute to God the blame of what he only permits.
2. That God remained deaf to Job's entreaties. "I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me;" i.e. lookest fixedly at me (verse 20), meeting my earnest reverential upward glance with a stare of stony indifference, if not of hostile intent (cf. verse 24). A fearful perversion of the truth which Job's prolonged misery cannot justify. God is the enemy of no man who does not first make himself an enemy of God. "The face of God is set against them that do evil;" but "God's eyes are ever towards the righteous" with looks of love and benignant compassion. Even when he forbears to help, and seems to be deaf to the good man's supplications, he hears and pities. If God answers not, it is in love rather than in hate. Whatever befalls a saint he should hold fast by the unchanging and unfaltering love of the Divine Father. Believers under the gospel should find this easier to do than Job did.
3. That God was insensible to Job's feebleness. With the strength of his omnipotent arm he Appeared to be making war upon one who was insignificant and frail, heedless of the agonies he inflicted or the terrors he inspired, lifting up his victim upon the fierce hurricane of tribulation, causing him to drive along before its howling blasts and to vanish in the crashing of the storm, as a thin cloud is caught by the whirling tempest, "blown with restless violence found about the pendent world," and finally dispersed by the violent agitation it endures (verses 21, 22).
4. That God had fixedly resolved on Job's destruction. In Job's anguish-laden mind it was a foregone conclusion that God had determined to pursue him to the grave, to bring him down to the dust of death; to shut him up in the house of assembly for all living (verse 23). Job's conception of the grave was sublimely true. It was and is "the great involuntary rendezvous of all who live in this world." Job's belief that God would eventually conduct him thither was likewise correct. "It is appointed unto all men once to die." Job's apprehension that his immediate dissolution was decreed was wrong. The times of all are in the hand of God; and it is not given to any to anticipate with certainty the day and the hour of departure from this sublunary scene. So also was Job's inference erroneous that prayer was unavailing when God had determined on a creature's destruction (verse 24). It was not so in the case of Hezekiah, to whom God, in answer to his fervent supplication, added fifteen years (2 Kings 20:1-7; Isaiah 38:1-5). But even should God decline to move the shadow on the dial backward, it is still not in vain for dying men to call aloud to him in prayer, inasmuch as he can help them by his grace to meet that which by his hand he will not avert.
5. That God took no account of Job's philanthropies. Job had wept for him that was in trouble or whose day was hard, and his soul had been grieved for the needy (Job 29:12, Job 29:13). Yet God was to all appearance indifferent. This, however, was only another misconception on the part of Job. The Almighty notes with loving eye every kind deed performed by his servants on earth, and will reward even a ernst of bread or a cup of cold water given in his name to a poor one. Only the time of recompense will be hereafter. Hence no one is entitled to expect, like Job, that his good actions shall be rewarded here. "Do good, hoping for nothing again," is the maxim prescribed to Christ's followers. Acted upon, it will save them from the disappointment which almost crushed the soul of Job (verse 26).
1. The absolute impossibility of avoiding days of suffering.
2. The ease with which God can remove happiness from the lot of man.
3. The inability of any one to sustain the burden of affliction without Divine help.
4. The foolishness of glorying in either strength or beauty, since both can at a word be transformed into dust and ashes.
5. The extreme danger of allowing affliction to pervert the mind's views of God.
6. The error of supposing that God can regard any creature, much less any child of his own, with hate.
7. The propriety of frequently considering where life's journey terminates.
8. The certainty that death cannot be turned aside by either piety or prayers.
9. The evil case of him who can find no enjoyment in Heaven's mercies.
10. The sinfulness of giving free course to one's complaint, especially against God, in the time of affliction.
11. The inevitable tendency of trouble to deteriorate and debase those whom it does not exalt and refine.
12. The possibility of one who thinks himself a brother of jackals and companion of ostriches becoming a son of God and fellow of the angels.
13. The certainty that for all saints mourning will yet be turned into joy.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The troubles of the present.
In contrast to the happy past of honour and respect on which he has been so wistfully dwelling in the previous chapter, Job sees himself now exposed to the scorn and contempt of the meanest of mankind; while a flood of miseries from the hand of God passes over him. From this last chapter we have learned the honour and authority with which it sometimes pleases God to crown the pious and the faithful. From the present we see how at other times he crucifies and puts them to the proof. They must be tried on "the right hand and on the left" (2 Corinthians 6:7; comp. Philippians 4:12). We are reminded, too, of the transiency of all worldly good. The heavens and the earth shall perish; how much more the glory, power, and happiness of the flesh (Isaiah 40:1-31.)!
I. THE CONTEMPT OF MEN. (Verses 1-10.) The young men, who were wont to rise in his presence, laugh him to scorn; youths whose fathers, the lowest of mankind—thievish, faithless, and worthier, a—were of leas value than the watch-dogs of his flock (verse 1). Themselves, the young men had been of no service to him; they had failed of the full strength of manhood; dried up with want and hunger, they had derived their scanty subsistence from the desolate and barren steppe (verses 2, 3); plucking up the salt herbs and bushes and juniper roots for food (verse 4). These wretches led the life of pariahs; driven forth from the society of men, the hunt-cry was raised after them as after thieves. Their place of dwelling was in horrid ravines and caves and rocks (verses 5, 6). Their wild shouts were heard in the bush; they lay and formed their plots of robbery among the nettles (verse 7). Sons of fools and base men, they were scourged out of the land (verse 8). A fearful picture of the dregs of human life! Perhaps those Troglodytes (comp. Job 24:4 :) were the Horites, the original inhabitants of the mountainous country of Seir, conquered by the Edomites (Genesis 36:6-8; Deuteronomy 2:12, Deuteronomy 2:22). Of these degraded beings Job has now become the scoffing-song, the derisive byword (verse 9). They show towards him every mark of abhorrence, retreating from him, or only drawing near to spit in his face with the silent coarse language of contumely and disgust (verse 10; comp. Matthew 26:67; Matthew 27:30). Had Job in any way brought this treatment upon himself from the vilest of mankind? Certainly there is nothing in the story which leads us to cast the blame of haughty or heartless conduct upon the hero. Still, it is ever true that we reap as we sow; but the sower and the reaper may be different persons. The cruel measure meted out to these unfortunates is now measured to the innocent Job. It is not in human nature to requite love with hatred or to give loathing in return for kindness. The responsibility of society for its outcasts is a deep lesson which we have only begun in modern times to learn. All men, however fallen and low, must be treated as the creatures of God. If we treat them as wild beasts, we can but expect the wild-beast return. Said Rabbi Ben Azar, "Despise not any man, and spurn not anything. For there is no man that hath not his hour, nor is there anything that hath not its place." Says our own Wordsworth—
"He who feels contempt
For any living thing, hath faculties
That he hath never used, and thought with him
Is in its infancy."
"Be assured That least of all can aught that ever owned
The heaven-regarding eye and front sublime
Which man is born to, sink, howe'er depressed,
So low as to be scorned without a sin,
Without offence to God, cast out of view."
"Condescend to men of low estate." Gentleness and compassion to our inferiors is one of the chief lessons of our holy religion.
II. ABANDONMENT TO MISERY BY GOD. (Verses 11-15.) Health and happiness are ours when God holds us by his hand; sickness, languor, and mental misery when he loosens his grasp. Job's nerves are relaxed. The war-bands of the Almighty have loosed the bridle; angels and messengers of ill, diseases and plagues, hunt the unhappy sufferer down (verse 11). This dark throng seems to rise up at his right hand—the place of the accuser (Psalms 109:6)—and to push away his feet, driving him into a narrow space, laying open before him their ways of destruction, heaping up against him besieging ramparts, thus tearing down his own path, his formerly undisputed way of life. They help forward his ruin, needing no assistance from others in the pernicious work (verses 12, 13). On comes this terrible besieging host, as through a wide breach in the wall of life—rolls on with loud roar, while the defences fall into ruin (verse 14). Terrors turn against him, sudden horrors of death (comp. Job 18:11, Job 18:14; Job 27:20) hunting after his honour—the honour depicted in Job 29:20, seq. His happiness, in consequence of these violent assaults, passes away suddenly and tracklessly as a cloud from the face of heaven (Job 29:15; comp. Job 7:9; Isaiah 44:22). If God lays his hand upon the body or outward happiness of his children, there will seldom be release without inward conflict, anguish, fear, and terror. It is with such persons as with St. Paul; without is conflict, and within is fear (2 Corinthians 7:5).
III. INCONCEIVABLE INWARD DISTRESS. (Job 29:16-23.) His soul is melted and poured out within him; his frame is dissolved in tears. Days of pain hold him in their grip, refuse to depart and leave him in peace (Job 29:16). The night racks and pierces his bones, and allows his sinews no rest (Job 29:17). By the fearful power of God he is so withered up that his garment hangs loose about him, wraps him like the collar of a coat, nowhere fitting his body (Job 29:18). God has cast him upon the ash-heap—a sign of the deepest humiliation (Job 16:15)—till his skin resembles dust and ashes in its hue (Job 29:19). In this nerveless condition prayer itself seems unable to stir its loftiest, most hopeful energies. He can but cry, grievously and in supplication, but without the hope of being heard. "I stand, and thou lookest fixedly at me"—no sign of attention in thy glance, of favour in thine eye (Job 29:20). The aspect of the almighty Father, seen through the medium of intense suffering, becomes one of cruelty and horror (Job 29:21). Lifting him upon the storm-wind as upon a chariot, God causes him to be carried away, and dissolved as it were in the yeasty surging of the storm (Job 29:22). He knows that God is carrying him to death, the place of assembly for all the living (Job 29:23).
IV. FAILURE OF ALL HIS HOPES. (Job 29:24 -31.) According to human calculation, he must despair of life. But can the unhappy man be blamed if he stretches out his hand for help amidst the ruin of his fall, and sends forth his cry as he passes into destruction? Is not this a law for all living creatures (Job 29:24)? Did not Job show compassion in all the misfortunes of others, and has he not, therefore, a right to complain, and expect compassion in his own (verse 25)? All the suffering of Job is condemned in the thought that, after the happiness of former days had bred hopes of the like future, he was visited by the deepest misery, and cast into the lowest distress (verses 26-31). The light of former days glances upon him again, and so his address reverts to its beginning (Job 29:1-25.). Hoping for good, there ensued evil (Isaiah 59:9; Jeremiah 14:19); waiting for the light, deeper darkness came on. There is an inward seething of the mind. Days of affliction have fallen upon him. He goes darkened, without the glow of the sun; his swarthy appearance is due to another cause—he is smeared with dust and ashes. He stands in the assembly, giving loud vent to his lamentation amidst the mourning company who surround him. A "brother to the jackals, a comrade of the ostriches," these desert creatures of the loud and plaintive cry, is be. His black skin parts and falls from him; his bones are parched by a consuming heat. And then, in one beautiful poetic touch, the whole description of his woe is summed up, "My harp became mourning, and my shalm mournful tones." But he will yet learn to tune his harp again to gladness and praise. Now, however, his melancholy haunts him; and not one kindly glance pierces the gloom of his dark thoughts to give him comfort. But despair of self has never led Job to despair of God. There is still, therefore, a glimmering spark of hope amidst this wild storm. He carries in his hand a bud which will yet unfold into a flower. This is no example of the fatal sorrow of the world, but of the life-giving power of the sorrow that is after God (compare Robertson's sermon on the 'Power of Sorrow,' vol. 2.).—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
A sorrowful contrast.
Job's condition has become one of sorrowfulness, the humiliation of which stands in direct contrast to his former state. He graphically expresses it in a few words: "But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock." The picture of sorrowful humiliation, standing in contrast, to previous honour, wealth, and power, is very striking. It is a typical example, showing to what depths the loftiest may be reduced. The details are as follows.
I. THE CONTEMPTUOUS TREATMENT OF MEAN AND UNWORTHY MEN. "They were children of fools, yea, children of base men: they were viler than the earth. And now am i their song, yes, I am their byword. They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my race.' It requires the utmost strength of righteous principle, and the most complete self-command and self-restraint, to endure such treatment without violent outbreaks of passion.
II. GREAT MENTAL AFFLICTION. "Terrors are turned upon me;" "My soul is poured out in me."
III. GREAT BODILY PAIN. a My bones are pierced in me in the night season: and my sinews take no rest."
IV. APPARENT INDIFFERENCE OF GOD TO HIS PRAYER. Saddest hour of all the sad hours of the human life is that when the one unfailing Helper closes his ear. The lowest depth of sorrow reached by the Man of sorrows found expression in "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
V. To this is added THE FEAR THAT GOD HIMSELF TURNS HIS HAND AGAINST HIM. "Thou art become cruel to me.' His afflictions appear to him as Divine judgments; yet he knoweth not why he is afflicted.
VI. THE GLOOMY APPREHENSION THAT ALL WILL END IN DEATH. "Thou wilt bring me to death." No brightness in the afar-off cheers the sufferer. There is no prospect of light at eventide.
VII. To all is added THE SITTER PAINFULNESS OF EXCLUSION. He is an outcast. There is no help for him in man. "I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls." Bitter, indeed, is the cup mixed of such ingredients. Strong the heart that can thus suffer and not break.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The fall from honour to contempt.
I. MISFORTUNE BRINGS CONTEMPT, Job has just been reciting the honours of his happier days. With the loss of prosperity has come the loss of those honours. He who was slavishly flattered in wealth and success is cruelly scorned in the time of adversity. This is monstrously unjust, and Job feels it to be so. Nevertheless, it is only true to life. Men do judge by the outward appearance. Therefore any who experience in some proportion what Job experienced need not be taken by surprise. The judgment of the world is of little worth. The good opinion of men may shift like a weathercock. We need to look for a higher, more sure and true and lasting glory than that of man's honour.
II. PRIDE PREPARES FOR CONTEMPT. There is a note of pride in verse 1, "Whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock." A relic of aristocratic hauteur creeps out in this utterance of the humiliated patriarch. If we treat men like dogs, we may expect that, when they get the chalice to do so, they will turn on us like dogs. They may cower and cringe when we are strong, but they waft be eager to snap at us when our time of weakness comes.
III. MEAN NATURES JUDGE SUPERFICIALLY. As Job describes them, the miserable creatures who turned upon him were the very dregs of the populace. They were outlaws and thieves and worthless people who had been driven to mountain-caves—idlers and degraded beings who grubbed up weeds to live on. Plainly these men are to be distinguished from the poor whose only defect is their want of means. Yet among them may have been some of those who in his more prosperous days blessed Job for helping them when they were ready to perish (see Job 29:13). Ingratitude is only too common among all men, and we cannot be surprised at finding it in persons of low and brutal habits.
IV. IT IS PAINFUL TO SUFFER FROM CONTEMPT. In his prosperity Job would have despised the opinion of those who now vex him with their insults. Yet he could never have been complacent under contempt. It has been well said that the greatest man in the world would receive some discomfort if he came to know that the meanest creature on earth despised him from the bottom of his heart. The pride that is quite indifferent to the good or ill opinion of others is not a virtue. Humility will set some value on the favour of the lowest. If we have a spirit of brotherliness we cannot but desire to live on good terms with all our neighbours.
V. IT IS POSSIBLE TO TURN FROM THE CONTEMPT OF MAN TO THE APPROVAL OF GOD. The Christian should learn to bear contempt, since Christ bore it. He was "despised and rejected of men" (Isaiah 53:3). Like Job, he was insulted and spat upon. Yet we feel that all the insults with which he was loaded did not really humiliate him. On the contrary, he never appears to us so dignified as when "he opened not his mouth" in the midst of contumely and outrage. In that awful scene of the night before the crucifixion, it is the enemies of Christ who appear to us as lowered and degraded. Now we know that the cross was the ground of Christ's highest glory. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him" (Philippians 2:9). The Church crowned the memories of her martyrs with honour. Despised, suffering Christians may learn to possess their souls in patience if they are walking in the light of God's countenance.—W.F.A.
The thraldom of affliction.
Job is not only passing through the waters of affliction; he feels that he is laid hold of and overpowered by his troubles. Let us see what this condition involves—the stale of thraldom and its effects.
I. THE STATE OF THRALDOM. This simply results from the fact that the affliction has mounted to such a height that it has overpowered the sufferer.
1. The trouble cannot be thrown off. There are troubles from which we can escape. Often we can beat down our adverse circumstances. We can face our enemy and defeat him. But other troubles cannot be driven back. When the enemy comes in like a flood, no human effort can stem the torrent.
2. The distress cannot be calmly endured. Milder troubles may be simply borne in patience. We cannot drive them away, but we can learn to treat them as inevitable. There is a strength that is born of adversity. The oak grows sturdy in contending with the storm. The muscles of the wrestler are strong as iron. But distress may reach a point beyond which it cannot be mastered. Patience is broken down.
3. The affliction absorbs the whole life. The pain rises to such a height that it dominates consciousness and excludes all other thoughts. The man is simply possessed by his agony. Huge waves of anguish roll over his whole being and drown every other feeling. The sufferer is then nothing but a victim, Action is lost in fearful pain. The martyr is stretched on the rack. His torturer has deprived him of all energy and freedom.
II. THE EFFECTS OF THIS CONDITION. Such a state of thraldom must be an evil. It is destructive of personal effort. It excludes all service of love and submission of patience. And yet it may be a means to a good end.
1. It should be a wholesome chastisement. For the time being it is grievous. In its acutest stage it may not allow us to learn its less,ms. But when it begins to abate its fury, and we have some calmness with which to look back upon it, we may see that the storm has cleared the air and swept away a mass of unwholesome rubbish.
2. It should be a motive to drive us to God. Such a tremendous affliction requires the only perfect refuge for the distressed. So long as we can bear our troubles we are tempted to trust to our own strength; but the miserable collapse, the utter break-down, the humiliating thraldom, prove our helplessness and our need of One who is mightier than we are. Now, the very possibility of such overwhelming troubles is a reason why we should seek the refuge of God's grace. It is hard to find the haven when the tempest is raving around us. We need to be fortified beforehand by the indwelling strength of God.
3. It should make us sympathetic with others. If we have escaped from the thraldom, it is our part to help those who are in it. We know its terrors and its despair.
4. It should lead us to make the best use of prosperous times. Then we can learn the way of Divine strength. Martyrs have triumphed where weaker men have been in bondage. The life of unselfish service, loyalty, and faith is a life of freedom. God will not permit such a life to be utterly enthralled by affliction. That awful late is the doom of the lost.—W.F.A.
Charging God with cruelty.
At the first onset of his afflictions it could be said of the patriarch, "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly" (Job 1:22). But the aggravation of his troubles, followed by the vexatious advice of his friends, has since then more than once forced unwise words from his lips, and now he is directly charging God with becoming cruel to him.
I. GOD'S ACTION MAY APPEAR CRUEL TO MAN. God permits or inflicts pain. When man cries for relief, relief does not come—at least in the way expected. It is not easy to see why the suffering is sent. To us it seems unnecessary. We think we could have done our duty better without it. There appears to be an iron fate bearing down upon us regardless of our needs, or deserts, or helplessness. This is brought home to us with peculiar poignancy, under the most trying circumstances.
1. An accumulation of troubles. One man has more than his share of them. Blow follows blow. The fallen is crushed. Tender wounds are chafed. This was Job's experience.
2. The suffering of the innocent. Bad men are seen to be flourishing while good men are in distress. This looks like indifference to moral claims.
3. The overthrow of the useful. Job had been a most helpful man in his time; his downfall meant the cessation of his kind services for many people in trouble. We see valuable lives cut off or made useless, while mischievous people thrive and grow fat.
4. The refusal to deliver. Job had not been proud, unbelieving, self-contained. He had prayed. But God appeared not to hear or regard him (verse 20).
II. GOD IS NEVER CRUEL TO MAN. Job was now charging God foolishly. We have to judge of a man's character by his deeds till we know him. Then, if we become fully assured that he is good, we reverse the process, and estimate any dubious-looking conduct by the clear character of the man In the same way, after we have come to know that God is a true Father, that his nature is love, our wisest course is not to fling off our faith, and charge God with cruelty when he deals with us in what looks to us like a harsh manner. He cannot be false to his nature. But our eyes are dim; our sight is short; our self-centred experience perverts our judgment. We have to learn to trust the constant character of God when we cannot understand his present conduct.
III. NARROW RELIGIOUS VIEWS LEAD TO UNJUST CHARGES AGAINST GOD. Job's three friends were to a large extent responsible for the patriarch's condition of mind, in which he was driven to charge God with cruelty. They had set up an impossible rule, and the evident falsehood of it had driven Job to desperation. A harsh orthodoxy is responsible for very much unbelief. Self-elected advocates of God have thus a good deal of mischief to answer for. In attempting to defend the Divine government some of these people have presented it in a very ugly light. Whilst they have been dinning their formal precepts into men's ears on what they regard as the authority of revelation, they have been rousing a spirit of revolt, till what is most Divine in man, his conscience, has risen up and protested against their dogmas. From the days of Job till our own time theology has too often darkened the world's idea of God. If we turn from man to God himself, we shall discover that he is better than his advocates represent him to be. When it is our duty to speak of religion, let us be careful not to fall into the error of Job's friends, and generate hard thoughts of God by narrow, un-Christ-like teachings.—W.F.A.
The house of death.
Job expects nothing better than death, which he regards as "the house appointed for all living," or rather as the house for the meeting of all living.
I. THE JOURNEY OF LIFE ENDS IS THE HOUSE OF DEATH. The living are marching to death. In a striking passage of 'The City of God,' St. Augustine, following Seneca, describes how we are always dying, because from the first moment of life we are drawing nearer to death. We cannot stay our chariot-wheels. The river will not cease to flow, and it is bearing us on to the ocean of death. It is difficult for the young and strong to take in the idea that they will not live for ever, and we come upon the thought of death with something of a shock. But this only means that we cannot see the end of the road while it winds through pleasant scenery that distracts our attention from the more distant prospect.
II. THE HOUSE OF DEATH IS IN DARK CONTRAST WITH THE JOURNEY OF LIFE. It is the living who are destined to enter this dreadful house. Here is one of the greatest possible contrasts—life and death; here is one of the most tremendous transitions—from life to death. All our revolutions on earth are as nothing compared with this tremendous change. Death is only the end and cessation of life, while all other experiences, even the greatest and most upsetting, are but modifications of the life which we still retain. It is not wonderful, then, that this dark house of death has strongly affected the imagination of men. The surprising thing is that so many should be indifferent to it.
III. THE HOUSE OF DEATH IS FOR EVERY LIVING MAN. No truism is more hackneyed than the assertion that all men are mortal. Here is a commonplace which cannot be gainsayed, yet its very evident character should emphasize its significance. Death is the great leveller. In life we go many ways; at last we all go the same way. Now some pass through palace gates and others through dungeon-portals; at the end all must go through the same narrow door. Should not this commonness of destiny help to bring all mortals nearer together in life?
IV. THE HOUSE OF DEATH IS A PLACE OF MEETING. It is described by Job as a house of assemblage. Multitudes are gathered there. They who depart thither go to "join the majority." There dwell many whom we have known on earth, some whom we have loved. Much mystery surrounds the house of death; but it cannot be an utterly strange place if so many who have been near to us on earth are awaiting us there. The joy of reunion should scatter the darkness of death. Every dear one lost to earth makes for us more of a home in the Unseen.
V. THE HOUSE OF DEATH LEADS TO THE REALM OF LIFE FOR ALL WHO SLEEP IN CHRIST. It is no gloomy prison. It is but a dark ante-chamber to a realm of light and blessedness. Indeed, death is not an abode, but a passage. We have no reason for thinking that death is a lasting condition in the case of those whose souls do not die in sin; for the impenitent, indeed, it is a fearful doom of darkness. But for such as have the new life of Christ in them death may be but the momentary act of dying. Certainly it is not their eternal condition. We talk of the blessed dead; we should think of the glorified living, born into the deathless state of heavenly bliss.—W.F.A.
Job was disappointed in meeting with fearful evils when he was looking for good. Disappointment such as his is rare; yet in some form it is the frequent experience of all of us. Let us consider the significance of disappointment.
I. DISAPPOINTMENT IS ONE OF THE INEVITABLE TRIALS OF LIFE. We should not be overwhelmed with despair when we meet with it. It is part of the common lot of man, part of the common fate of nature. How many blossoms of spring fall to the ground frost-bitten and fruitless! How many hopes of men are but "castles in Spain"! If all we had dreamed of attaining bad become ours, earth would not be the world we know, but some rare paradise.
II. DISAPPOINTMENT AGGRAVATES TROUBLE. Its inevitability does not draw its sting. To be expecting good and yet to meet with ill is doubly distressing. It gives a shock like that which is experienced in coming upon a descending step where one was preparing to take an ascending step. All sense of security is lost, and a painful surprise is felt. Feeling is just experienced in the transition from one condition to another, and the violence of the transition intensifies the sensation. When the eye is adjusted to see a bright light, the gloom of a dark place is all the deeper. The sanguine suffer from pangs of distress which duller natures are not prepared to experience.
III. DISAPPOINTMENT SPRINGS FROM IGNORANCE. There must have been an error somewhere. Either we judged by mere appearances, or we trusted too much to the desires of our own hearts. God can never be disappointed, for God knows all and sees the end from the beginning. Hence his patience and long-suffering. It is well to see that God who thus knows everything is supremely blessed. No disillusions can dispel his perfect joy. Therefore not evil and pain, but good and gladness, must be ultimately supreme in the universe.
IV. DISAPPOINTMENT IS A WHOLESOME DISCIPLINE. God suffers us to be disappointed that we may profit by the painful experience. Sometimes we have been trusting to an unworthy hope; then it is best that the idol should be shattered. If any earthly hope has been idolized, the loss of it may be good, driving us to our true God. It is possible, however, to be the worse for disappointment, which may embitter the soul and lead to misanthropy and despair. We need a stout faith to stand up against the blows of unexpected trouble.
V. DISAPPOINTMENT WILL NEVER DESTROY THE TRUE CHRISTIAN HOPE. Earthly hopes may vanish in smoke, but the hope in Christ is sure. Even this may be lost sight of as the beacon-light is obscured by the driving storm; but it is not extinguished. For our Christian hope rests on the eternal constancy of God, and it concerns not fading and fragile earthly things, but the everlasting verities of heaven. Browning describes the man whose heart and life are strong against disappointment—
"One who never turned his back,
but marched breast forward;
Never doubted clouds would break;
Never dreamed, though right were worsted,
wrong would triumph
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better,
Sleep to wake."
The harp turned to mourning.
This is disappointing and incongruous. The harp is not like the pipes used at Oriental funerals for lamentation. It is an instrument for joyous music. Yet Job's harp is turned to mourning.
I. MAN HAS A NATURAL FACULTY OF JOY. Job had his harp, or that in him of which the harp was symbolical. Some people are of a more melancholy disposition than others, but nobody is so constituted as to be incapable of experiencing gladness. We rightly regard settled melancholy as a form of insanity. Joy is not only our heritage; it is a needful thing. The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).
II. THE SAD WERE ONCE JOYOUS. Job's harp is tuned to mourning. Then its use had to be perverted before it could be thought of as an instrument of lamentation. It was then put to a new, unwonted employment. This implies that it had been familiarly known as a joyous instrument. In sorrow we do not sufficiently consider how much gladness we have had in life, or, if we look back on the brighter scenes of the past, too often this is simply in order to contrast them with the present, and so to deepen our feeling of distress. But it would be more fair and grateful for us to view our lives in their entirety, and to recognize how much gladness they have contained as a ground for thankfulness to God.
III. LIFE IS MARKED BY ALTERNATIVE EXPERIENCES. Few lives are without a gleam of sunshine, and no lives are without some shadow of sorrow. The one form of experience passes over to the other—often with a shock of surprise. We are all too easily accustomed to settle down in the present form of experience, as though it were destined to be permanent. But the wisest course is to take the vicissitudes of life, not as unnatural convulsions, as revolutions against the order of nature; but, like the changing seasons, as occurring i, the ordered and regular course of events.
IV. IT IS POSSIBLE TO HAVE MUSIC IN SADNESS. Job does not describe himself as like those captives of Babylon who hung their harps upon the willows (Psalms 137:2). His harp is sounding still, but the music must agree with the feelings of the time, and gaiety must give place to plaintive notes. Therefore the tune is in a minor key. Still there is melody. The Book of Job, which deals largely with sorrow, is a poem—it is composed in musical language. Sorrow is a great inspiration of poetry. How much music would be lost if all the harmonies that have come from sad subjects were struck out! If, then, sorrow can inspire song and music, it is natural to conclude chat suitable song and music should console sorrow. Feeble souls wail in discordant despair, but strong souls harmonize their griefs with their whole nature; and though they may not perceive it at the time, when they reflect in after-days they hear the echo of a solemn music in the memory of their painful experience. When the angel of sorrow takes up the harp and sweeps the strings, strange, awful, thrilling notes sound forth, far richer and deeper than any that leap and dance at the touch of gladness. The Divine mystery of sorrow that gathers about the cross of Christ is not harsh, but musical with the sweetness of eternal love.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 30". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14