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Job 6:1-30. and 7. contain Job's reply to Eliphaz. In Job 6:1-30. he confines himself to three points:
(1) a justification of his "grief"—i.e. of his vexation and impatience (Job 6:1-7);
(2) a declaration that the destruction with which he has been threatened (Job 4:9-11, Job 4:21; Job 5:2), is exactly the thing which he most longs for (Job 6:8-13); and
(3) a retort upon his friends, whom he regards as having all spoken by the mouth of Eliphaz, and whom he reproaches with their want of sympathy (Job 6:14-23), and with the weakness of their arguments (Job 6:24-30).
Job 6:1, Job 6:2
But Job answered and said, Oh that my grief were throughly weighed! rather, my anger, or my vexation—the same word as that used by Eliphaz when reproaching Job, in Job 5:2. Job wishes that, before men blame him, they would calmly weigh the force of his feelings and expressions against the weight of the calamity which oppresses him. His words may seem too strong and too violent; but are they more than a just counterpoise to the extreme character of his afflictions? The weighing of words and thoughts was an essential element in the Egyptian conception of the judgment, where Thoth held the balance, and in the one scale were placed the merits of the deceased, in the other the image of Ma, or Truth, and his fate was determined by the side to which the balance inclined. And my calamity laid in the balances together. My calamity placed in one scale, and my vexation in the other, and so weighed, each against each.
For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea (comp. Proverbs 27:3, "A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both;" see also Ecclesiasticus 22:15). Therefore my words are swallowed up; rather, as in the Revised Version, therefore have my words been rash. Job here excuses without justifying himself. The excessive character of his sufferings has, he declares, forced him to utter rash and violent words, as these wherein he cursed his day and wished that he had never been born (Job 3:1, Job 3:3-11). Some allowance ought to be made for rash speech uttered under such circumstances.
For the arrows of the Almighty are wlthin me (comp. Psalms 38:2, "For thine arrows stick fast in me"). So Shakespeare speaks of "the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" for calamities generally. The metaphor is a very common one (see Deuteronomy 32:23, Deuteronomy 32:42; Psalms 7:13; Psalms 21:12; Psalms 45:5; Lamentations 3:13, Lamentations 3:14). The poison whereof. Poisoned arrows, such as are now employed by the savage tribes of Central Africa, were common in antiquity, though seldom used by civilized nations. Ovid declares that the Scythians of his time made use of them ('Tristia,' 1, 2). Drinketh up my spirit; rather, my spirit drinketh up. Job's spirit absorbs the poison that festers in his wounds, and therefore loses control over itself. This is his apology for his vehemence; he is well-nigh distraught. He adds, The terrors of God do set themselves in array against me. Besides actual pains and sufferings, he is assailed by fears. God's terrors, i.e. all the other evils that he has at his disposal, are drawn up against him, as it were, in battle array, and still further agitate and distract his soul. What further troubles may not God bring upon him?
Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? literally, over grass; i.e. when he has grass under his feet, and has consequently no cause of complaint. Job means to say that his own complainings are as natural and instinctive as these of animals (On the species of wild asses known to Job, see the comment on Job 39:5.) Or loweth the ox over his fodder? The lowing of the ox, like the braying of the wild ass, is a complaint—a sign of distress and discomfort.
Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or, that which is insipid. Many critics suppose that in this and the following verse Job reproaches Eliphaz with the insipidity of his remarks, and declares that his soul refuses to touch such loathsome food. Others regard him as still speaking in his own defence, and justifying his expressions of disgust by the nauseous character of the food which had been put before him; i.e. of the treatment which he has received. Either explanation produces good sense; but perhaps the former is the more natural. Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? So our Revisers; and so Dillmann and Canon Cook. Professor Lee suggests "the whey of cheese" for "the white of an egg;" others, "the juice of purslaine." We have certainly no other evidence that eggs were eaten in primitive times.
The things that my soul refuse to touch are as my sorrowful meat; rather, as in the Revised Version, my soul refuseth to touch them; they are as loathsome meat to me. The doubt remains whether Job is speaking of the arguments of Eliphaz, or of the series of afflictions which have befallen him. Either explanation is possible.
Oh that I might have my request! Here the second point is taken up. Eliphaz has threatened Job with death, representing it as the last and most terrible of punishments (Job 4:9, Job 4:20, Job 4:21; Job 5:2). Job's reply is that there is nothing he desires so much as death. His primary wish would have been never to have been born (Job 3:3-10); next to that, he would have desired an early death—the earlier the more acceptable (Job 3:11-19). As both these have been denied him, what he now desires, and earnestly asks for, is a speedy demise. It is not as yet clear what he thinks death to be, or whether he has any hope beyond the grave. Putting aside all such considerations, he here simply balances death against such a life as he now leads, and must expect to lead, since his disease is incurable, and decides in favour of death. It is not only his desire, but his "request" to God, that death may come to him quickly. And that God would grant me the thing that I long for; literally, my expectation' or wish. The idea of taking his own life does not seem to have occurred to Job, as it would to a Greek (Plato, 'Phaedo,' § 16) or a Roman (Pithy, 'Epist.,' 1.12). He is too genuine a child of nature, too simple and unsophisticated, for such a thought to occur, and, if it occurred, would be too religious to entertain it for a moment. Like Aristotle, he would feel the act to be cowardly (Aristotle, 'Eth. Nic.,' 5; sub fin.); and, like Plato (l.s.c.), he would view it as rebellion against the will of God.
Even that it would please God to destroy me; or, to crush me (Revised Version)—"to break me in pieces" (Lee). That he would let loose his hand; or, put forth his hand—stretch it out against me threateningly." And cut me off. "Cut me off bit by bit" (Lee); comp. Isaiah 38:12, where the same word is used of a weaver, who cuts the threads of his loom one by one, until the whole is liberated and comes away.
Then should I yet have comfort. First, the comfort that the end was come, and that he would be spared further sufferings; and further, the still greater comfort that he had endured to the end, and not. denied nor renounced his trust in religion and in all the "words of the Holy One." Professor Lee sees here "the recognition of a future life, expressed in words as plain and obvious as possible". But to us it seems that, if the idea is present at all, it is covered up, latent; only so far implied as it may be said to be implied in all willingness to die, since it may be argued that even the most wretched life possible would be preferred by any man to no life at all, and so that when men are content to die they must be expecting, whether consciously or not, a life beyond the grave, and be sustained by that expectation. Yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; rather, yea, I would exult in anguish that did not spare. However great the pain that accompanied his death, Job would rejoice and exult in it, since by it his death was to be accomplished. For I have not concealed the words of the Holy One; rather, for I have not denied' or renounced. It would be a part of Job's satisfaction in dying that he had not let go his integrity. Rather he had held it fast, and not renounced or abandoned his trust in God and in religion. "The words of the Holy One are the commands of God, however made known to man" (Canon Cook).
What is my strength, that I should hope? Eliphaz had suggested that Job might recover and be restored to his former prosperity (Job 5:18-26). Job rejects this suggestion. His strength is brought too low; it is not conceivable that he should be restored, he cannot entertain any such hope. And what is mine end, that I should prolong my life? rather, that I should stretch out my spirit. Job cannot look forward to such an "end" as Eliphaz prophesies for him; therefore he cannot bring himself to wait on with patience.
Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass? It would require a man to have a body of brass, and strength like that of rocks, for him to be able to endure the ravages of such a disease, and yet to recover from it. Job cannot pretend to either.
Is not my help in me? rather, Is it not that I have no help in me? (Revised Version). Job feels that, instead of having exceptional strength of constitution to enable him to bear up against his exhausting malady, he is absolutely without strength. All his vital power is used up. There is no help in him. And is wisdom driven quite from me? rather, Is not soundness driven quite from me? Tushiyah seems to mean here "strength of constitution"—that internal soundness which resists the inroads of disease, and sometimes triumphs over the most serious maladies. Whatever reserve of this kind he may have possessed by nature, it is now, Job feels, altogether lost and gone from him.
To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend. Job begins here the third head of his reply to Eliphaz, in which he attacks him and his companions. The first duty of a comforter is to compassionate his afflicted friend, to condole with him, and show his sympathy with his sufferings. This is what every one looks for and expects as a matter of course. But Job has looked in vain. He has received no pity, no sympathy. Nothing has been offered him but arguments. And what arguments! How do they touch the point? How are they anything more than a venting of the speaker's own self-righteousness? Let them fairly consider his case, and point out to him where he has been blamable. But he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty; rather, even though he forsake the fear of the Almighty, or else might he forsake the fear of the Almighty. Job certainly does not mean to admit that he has renounced the fear of God, and become an apostate from religion; but only to assert, either, that, even had he done so, his friends ought still to have shown him kindness, or else that their not showing him kindness is the very way to drive him to apostasy.
My brethren; i.e. "my three friends," Eliphaz, who has spoken; Bildad and Zophar, who by their silence have shown their agreement with him. Have dealt deceitfully as a brook; i.e. "a winter torrent"—a "wady," to use the modern Arab expression. These watercourses are characteristic of Palestine and the adjacent regions. "During the winter months," says Dr. Cunningham Geikie, "they are often foaming rivers; but in the hot summer, when they would be of priceless value, their dry bed is generally the road from one point to another. The water rushes over the sheets of rock as it would from the roof of a house, and converging, as it descends, into minor streams in the higher wadies, these sweep on to a common channel in some central valley, and, thus united, swell in an incredibly short time into a deep, troubled, roaring flood, which fills the whole bottom of the wady with an irresistible torrent … The streams from Lebanon, and also from the high mountains of the Hauran. send down great floods of dark and troubled waters in spring, when the ice and snow of their summits are melted; but they dry up under the heat of summer, and the track of the torrent, with its chaos of boulders, stones, and gravel, seems as if it had not known a stream for ages. So Job's friends had in former times seemed as if they would be true to him for ever; but their friendship had vanished, like the rush of the torrent that had passed away". And as the stream of brooks they pass away; or, the channel; i.e. the wady itself. Canon Cook well says on this, "The simile is remarkably complete. When little needed, the torrent overflows; when needed, it disappears. In winter it does not fertilize; in summer it is dried up. Nor is it merely useless; it deceives, alluring the traveller by the appearance of verdure, promising refreshment, and giving none."
Which are blackish by reason of the ice. Job seems to have seen wadys where, in the winter-time, the water was actually frozen into hard black ice. This scarcely occurs now in the countries bordering on Palestine; but may have occurred in the region where Job dwelt, formerly. "Dark, turbid water" can scarcely be intended. And wherein the snow is hid. Some suppose melted snow to be meant; but the deep wadies in the Hauran and elsewhere would easily conceal snowdrifts.
What time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place (see the passage quoted from Dr. Geikie in the comment on Job 6:15).
The paths of their way are turned aside; rather, as in the Revised Version, the caravans that travel by the way of them turn aside. It seems impossible that the streams can be intended, since their paths are never "turned aside"—they simply shrink, fail, and dry up. But nothing is commoner than for caravans short of water to go out of their way in order to reach a wady, where they expect to be able to replenish their water-skins. If they are disappointed, if the wady is dry, they may be brought into great straits, and may even possibly perish. (For a probable instance, where dependence on a wady would, but for a miracle, have led to a great disaster, see 2 Kings 3:9-20.) They go to nothing, and perish; rather, they go up into the waste, and perish. Having vainly sought water in the dry wady, they ascend out of it, and enter the broad waste of the desert, where they too often miserably perish.
The troops of Tema looked. The Tema were an Arab tribe descended from Ishmael (Genesis 25:15). They are generally conjoined with Dedan (Isaiah 21:13,Isaiah 21:14; Jeremiah 25:23), another Arab tribe, noted for carry-lug on a caravan trade. Both tribes probably wandered, and occupied at different periods different portions of the desert. The name, Tema, may linger in the modern city and district of Tayma on the confines of Syria, and upon the pilgrim-route between Damascus and Mecca. The "troops of Tema" probably looked for the "caravans" of Job 6:18 to arrive in their country; but they looked in vain. The desert had swallowed them up. The companies of Sheba waited for them. (On "Sheba," see the comment upon Job 1:15.)
They were confounded because they had hoped. Shame and confusion of face came upon them in consequence of their vain hope. In the same way, Job implies, he is ashamed of having looked for compassion and kindness from his friends. He should have been wiser and have known better. They came thither, and were ashamed. They not only hoped, but acted on their hope-let it turn them aside from their way (verse 18) and bring them to ruin.
For now ye are nothing. Like the dried-up torrents, the comforters had come to nought; were wholly useless and unprofitable. Another reading gives the sense, "Ye are like to them"—"ye comforters," i.e; "are like the winter torrents, and have misled me, as they misled the caravans." Ye see my casting down, and are afraid. Here Job penetrates to the motive which had produced the conduct of his friends. They had come with good intentions, meaning to comfort and console him; but when they came, and saw what a wreck he was, how utterly "broken up" and ruined, they began to be afraid of showing too much friendliness. They thought him an object of the Divine vengeance, and feared lest, if they showed him sympathy, they might involve themselves in his punishment.
Did I say, Bring unto me? The meaning is probably—If this be the ease, if ye are afraid of helping me, why have ye come? Did I ask for your aid? No. I neither requested you to bring me anything for myself, nor to make a present to any one on my behalf; much less did I call upon you to deliver me out of the hand of my enemies, to chastize the Chaldeans and the men of Sheba (Job 1:15, Job 1:17), and recoverse from them my property. No; I asked nothing at all of you; but when you came voluntarily, I did expect your pity (Job 6:14). Or, Give a reward for me of your substance? i.e. give a present on my behalf to some influential person, who might thereupon take up my cause and befriend me. There is no need of supposing a "bribe" to be meant.
Or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand? rather, from the hand of the violent man. Or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty? literally, of the oppressor (see the Revised Version). Job had not called on his friends to do any of these things. He had not worn out their patience by asking now for this, and now for that. But he had expected their compassion, and this was denied him.
Teach me, and I will hold my tongue. Job is willing to be taught, if his friends have any instruction to give. He is willing to be reproved. But not in such sort as he has been reproved by Eliphas. His words were not "words of uprightness." Cause me to understand wherein I have erred. Point out, that is, in what my assumed guilt consists. You maintain that my afflictions are deserved. Point out what in my conduct has deserved them. I am quite ready to be convinced.
How forcible are right words! literally, words of uprightness. Such words have a force that none can resist. If the charges made by Eliphaz had been right and true, and his arguments sound and just, then Job must have yielded to them, have confessed himself guilty, and bowed down with shame before his judges. But they had had no such constraining power. Therefore they were not "words of uprightness." But what doth your arguing reprove? literally, What doth your reproving reprove? That is—What exactly is it that ye think to be wrong in me? At what is your invective aimed?
Do ye imagine to reprove words? or, Do ye propose? "Is it your intention?" Am I to understand that you blame nothing in my conduct, but only the words that I have spoken? i.e. the words recorded in Job 3:1-26. And the speeshes of one that is desperate, which are as wind; or, whereas the speehes of one that is desperate are but as wind; literally, for the wind—spoken to the wind, for the wind to take hold of them and bear them away. Therefore not worth a reproof.
Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless; rather, on the fatherless would ye east lots (comp. Joel 3:3; Obadiah 1:11; Nahum 3:10). Job means to say they are so pitiless that they would cast lots for the children of an insolvent debtor condemned to become slaves at his death (see 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:5). And ye dig a pit for your friend; or, ye would make merchandise of your friend' as in the Revised Version. Job does not speak of what his friends had done, but of what he deems them capable of doing.
Now therefore be content, look upon me; rather, be pleased to look upon me. Professor Lee translates, "Look favorably upon me." But this addition is unnecessary. What Job desires is that his friends would look him straight in the face. Then they would not be able to doubt him. They would see that he was telling the truth. For it is evident unto you if I lie; rather, it will be evident unto you, etc. Others render the passage, "For surely I shall not lie to your face" (Schultens, Canon Cook, Revised Version).
Return, I pray you; i.e. "go back upon my case: reconsider it." And then, Let it not be iniquity; or, let there be no iniquity; i.e. let no injustice be done me. Yea, return again, my righteousness is in it If my cause be well considered, it will be seen that I am in no way blameworthy.
Is there iniquity in my tongue? (see Job 6:26). Job now justifies his words, which previously he had admitted to have been "rash" (verse 3). Perhaps he intends to distinguish between rashness and actual wickedness. Cannot my taste discern perverse things? i.e. I see no perversity or wickedness in what I have said. If there were any, I think I should discern it The reasoning is somewhat dangerous, since men are not infallible judges, not being unprejudiced judges, in their own case. Job's ultimate verdict on himself is that he has "uttered that which he understood not" (Job 42:3)—wherefore he "abhors himself, and repents in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6).
Job to Eliphaz: 1. Apologies and prayers.
I. A DESPERATE MAN'S DEFENCE.
1. Job's calamities surveyed.
(1) Their weight. Heavier than the sand of the seas. Employed elsewhere to depict what is innumerable (Genesis 22:17; Psalms 78:27) and immeasurable (1 Kings 4:29; Jeremiah 33:22), the sand upon the seashore is here selected to set forth the notion of incomparable weight (Proverbs 27:3). Like the ocean beach stretching away measureless and oppressive, the sorrow of the patriarch was intolerably burdensome. Scripture designates as burdens afflictions and temporal calamities of all sorts, whether of individuals (Psalms 55:22; 2 Kings 9:25) or of nations (Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1). Yet more crushing and intolerable even than these is the burden laid by sin upon awakened and sensitive souls (Psalms 38:4).
(2) Their intensity. Likened to the wounds of poisoned arrows, with a multitude of which Job describes himself as transfixed, not in body only, but in spirit too. Arrows are put in Scripture for afflictions, calamities, judgments, which, like them, are often swift (Zechariah 9:14), unexpected (Psalms 91:5), sharp (Psalms 45:5), difficult to be removed (Psalms 38:1, Psalms 38:2), and deadly, especially when sent in wrath (Deuteronomy 32:42).
(3) Their effect. Exhausting; the venom shot into Job's veins setting them on fire, corrupting his blood, inflaming his flesh, enfeebling his spirit, and generally producing a sensation of constantly increasing weakness; terrifying, inspiring his trembling heart with ghostly alarms and paralyzing fears, which seemed to gather round him like a troop of pale spectres from the outlying posts of God's dominions, and to marshal themselves like a sable host against him; nauseating, causing his soul to revolt against them as the stomach turns sickly at the sight of loathsome food.
(4) Their origin. From God. This was the principal aggravation of the patriarch's misery. So long as a sufferer can see God's face, the heaviest load of calamity will not crush him; but when God's favour appears to be withdrawn, the spirit sinks like lead in the mighty waters (Job 9:13).
2. Job's grief justified.
(1) Compared with his calamities, it was not extravagant. His heated words (verse 3) had not been disproportioned to the misery which had given them expression. Not balancing the two things his friend had unjustly accused him of—impatience and rage. Weighed together, the overwhelming character of his sorrow would "swallow up" his words as a wholly inadequate utterance of his grief. That Eliphaz failed to estimate accurately the intensity of Job's sufferings was natural, since no man can put himself exactly in another's place, and only the heart that suffers can know its own bitterness (Proverbs 14:10). Yet charity should have moved him to judge with leniency, and speak with tenderness of, a grief whose cause he did not comprehend. At the same time, it is hardly doubtful that Job's misery did not warrant the appalling outburst of Job 3:1-26.; but men at all times (and especially in affliction) are readier to excuse themselves than others.
(2) Considered in itself, it was not unnatural. It was not without cause. Even the senseless ass and the stupid ox were wise enough to hold their tongues when placed in circumstances of asinine and bovine felicity; i.e. when they had plenty of food; and surely he had as much discernment as these irrational creatures, and could distinguish whether he was miserable or happy, and cry out or be silent accordingly. Then having a cause, it was likewise irrepressible, it being as impossible for him not to complain as it was for a person to eat what was unsavoury or tasteless without making wry faces and giving vent to his displeasure.
II. A MISERABLE MAN'S PRAYER.
1. Job's urgent request. "Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!" (verse 8)—that thing being death (cf. Job 3:21). Job longed for death as a release from his sufferings (Job 3:13); Elijah, under a sense of weariness and disappointment (1 Kings 19:4); Jonah, in a fit of rage and self-conceit (Jonah 4:8); St. Paul, through ardent longing for heaven (Philippians 1:23); Christ, through vehement desire after man's salvation (Luke 12:50).
2. Job's pitiful entreaty. "Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off" (verse 9). That Job does not think of taking his own life, although often strongly tempted to do so by his peculiar malady (Job 7:15, Job 7:16), although death was the paramount desire of his heart, and although he professed himself free from anxiety about the future, was a proof, not only of Job's regard for the sanctity of life, and of his clear recognition of God's proprietorship in that life, but also of his own moral integrity, and of the intensity with which he still shrank from the perpetration of known sin.
3. Job's melancholy plea. "Then should I yet have comfort" (verse 10). The mere anticipation of a speedy dissolution would not only cause him to forget his misery, it would thrill him with extreme delight; yea, if God would but assure him that every stroke was hastening his end, he would bear without a murmur the most unsparing affliction that might be laid upon him.
4. Job's twofold motive.
(1) No fear of death. "For I have not concealed the words of the Holy One" (verse 10). Had Job been apprehensive of meeting God, he would not so earnestly have longed, or so vehemently entreated, to be removed. The only thing that could have damped his exultation in the prospect of death would have been uncertainty about his future. But of this he was devoid, since he had not concealed, i.e. had not denied or neglected, but openly has practised, the words of the Holy One.
(2) No hope of life. "What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?" (verse 11). It was impossible that his strength, which was not that of stones or of brass (verse 12) could hold out much longer, and therefore idle in Eliphaz to speak, or him to think, of restoration. Nay, supposing he should recover, it could only be for so short a period that it was not worth while fostering expectation of it. But in point of fact, all natural power of rallying had departed from him, and nought remained that could be matured into health again (verse 13). Job clearly judged in this matter on the principles of sense and reason, forgetting that all things were possible with God, that God can raise a feeble man up from the very brink of the grave (Isaiah 38:10-20), ay, even from the dead (contrast the faith of Abraham, Romans 4:19; Hebrews 11:19), and that God delights to perfect his strength in human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
1. Though religion requires sufferers to submit to God's chastisements, it does not oblige them to yield to man's unjust accusations. Job sinned not in replying to Eliphaz.
2. It is extremely hard to hold the balance evenly between the soul's calamities and the heart's griefs, whether in ourselves or others. Job blamed Eliphaz for not justly weighing his sufferings and his sorrow, while practically Eliphaz censured Job for a like offence.
3. Though it is a sore trial to a good man in affliction to miss the sympathy of friends, it is incomparably more painful and distressing to lone the sense of God's favour, not to speak of experiencing the frowns of God's anger. Shaddai's arrows and Eloah's terrors were infinitely harder for Job to bear than Eliphaz's insinuations.
4. The best of men are "poore sillie creatures' when God presseth them with judgments, quite incompetent to bear the shock of outward calamity unless God shall hold them up. Job's standing upright in the midst of such a tempest of tribulation as swept around him was a proof, not of man's strength, but of God's grace.
5. It is no sin to long for death, provided we wait God's time for its coming. Job, though urgent for release from his sufferings, would not be released by any hand but God's.
6. The best way to overcome the fear of death is to have a comfortable outlook into the future. Job was not afraid of dying, because not afraid of meeting God.
7. The best preparation for both death and eternity is not to conceal from our vision, but to hide within our hearts, the words of the Holy One.
Job to Eliphaz: 2. Reproofs and retorts.
I. UNKINDNESS REPROVED. The behaviour of Eliphaz (and his friends) was:
1. Unnatural. Compassion for a suffering fellow-creature, much more for a friend, was a dictate of humanity (verse 14). The condition of Job pre-eminently claimed pitiful consideration. He was not only melting away, bodily and mentally, but spiritually he was in danger of "forsaking the fear of the Almighty," i.e. losing his hold on God, on God's love and favour towards himself, and, as a consequence, on his integrity before and confidence in God (of. Psalms 38:6; Psalms 69:2). The withholding of sympathy from one in his condition was a deplorable dereliction of duty and a manifest token of unfeeling barbarity.
2. Inconsistent. Besides being a dictate of nature, the law of kindness is one of the plainest precepts of religion (Le Job 19:18; Zechariah 7:9; Luke 10:37; Romans 12:10-15; James 1:27), and its fulfilment one of the surest marks of moral and spiritual perfection (Psalms 112:4; Proverbs 31:26; Romans 13:8; Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:12). The absence, therefore, of pity on the part of Eliphaz and his friends argued them destitute of genuine religion, or, according to another reading of the clause, showed them to be "forsaking the fear of Shaddai."
3. Injurious. A third interpretation understands Job to say that Eliphaz's lack of sympathy had rendered it more difficult for him, Job, to believe in the kindness of his heavenly Friend—was, in fact, enough to cause him to forsake the fear of the Almighty. Earthly relationships were undoubtedly designed to be helpful for the right understanding of God's relationship towards men; a father's love to be an emblem of that of the Divine Father (Deuteronomy 8:5; Psalms 103:13; Matthew 7:11); a friend's pity to interpret that of the Elder Brother (Proverbs 18:24). Hence the responsibility of so fulfilling these relationships that men shall be assisted rather than hindered on their heavenward way.
4. Disappointing. Eliphaz and his friends had deceived Job like a brook (verse 15), like the dried-up water of a mountain wady. The image, applied by Job to his brethren (verse 21) consists of four parts.
(1) The winter torrent, noisy and full, turbid and swollen by thick blocks of floating ice and fast-falling flakes of snow, rushing down the precipitous ravine, and attracting by its loud roar and white foam the attention of desert travellers as they pass (verse 16),—an emblem of the loud and profuse protestations of friendship which were made by Eliphaz and his companions at a time when Job did not require them, and which gave promise of long continuance, like the waters of the brook.
(2) The dry river-bed in summer-time, from which the streams have vanished, leaving only heaps of shingle or piles of boulders (verse 17),—an emblem of the quickness and completeness with which the loud-mouthed protestations of Job's friends had disappeared, having gone to nothing, like the winter torrent, the hot sun that had shrivelled them up being Job's deplorable and ghastly condition (verse 21).
(3) The desert caravans turning aside in search of the water they had formerly observed, being still attracted by the unusual brightness and verdure of the wadys (verses 18, 19),—an emblem of the eagerness and confidence with which Job had anticipated sympathy and succour from his friends.
(4) The consternation of the travellers, going up into the waste and perishing, being confounded at the miserable disappointment of their sanguine expectations, and ashamed that they had put their trust in what was so proverbially treacherous (verse 20),—an emblem of the utter collapse of Job's hope and expectation from the coming of his friends.
5. Unreasonable. Job had not asked them for any great evidence of friendship, neither to relieve his sufferings by charitable gifts, nor to repair his losses by munificent contributions from their personal property, nor to restore his ruined fortunes by recovering them from the Chaldeans and Sabeans, as Abram delivered Lot and his goods from the hands of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:14). Simply he had craved their sympathy—a small enough boon, which would not have much impoverished them; and yet even that they had withheld. Jonathan dealt otherwise with David (1 Samuel 23:16).
II. INSINUATION REPELLED. The imputation which underlay the whole harangue of Eliphaz, Job resented as:
1. Unproved. "Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred." A perfectly reasonable demand, since conviction should always precede condemnation. So Christ challenged his countrymen first to convince him of sin (John 8:46). And it is manifestly absurd to expect that men will listen to admonitions who are unconscious of having committed faults. Even God does not exhort to repentance without having first demonstrated man's guilt. The first function of the Holy Spirit is to convince the world of sin (John 16:8). Job's language also indicative of an honest and ingenuous mind. Willingness to be taught is a sign of humility and a token of sincerity. "A man that is willing to be taught is in a better condition than many who are able to teach. It argues a holier temper of the heart to be willing to be taught than to be able to teach. And it is far worse to be unwilling to learn than not to be knowing" (Caryl).
2. Ungenerous. While words of uprightness, i.e. honest speech, plain dealing, even reproof when necessary, had a force which Job could not resist, a pertinency he could not challenge, and a pungency he could not fail to feel and acknowledge, their language had been wholly mean and contemptible, fastening as it did on the despairing utterances of a poor wretch half-crazed with grief, which common consent allows should be regarded as wind, or given to the wind, as idle, meaningless, shifting, and therefore not to be too closely criticized, far less made the basis of a charge of guilt. And Job's contention was substantially correct. Words thrown off in a hasty moment, under the influence of strong passion, are not always a perfectly safe and reliable index to the character of the soul, at least when judged by man. God alone is competent to estimate man's moral and spiritual condition by his words (Matthew 12:37). All others should be guided by charity in interpreting the speech of agonized men (1 Corinthians 13:5).
3. Heartless. The men who could so make him an offender for a word were in Job's estimation capable of any baseness, such pitiless and inhuman ruffians as would "enslave an orphan for his father's debt, and then cast lots whose he should be" (Cox), or barter their dearest friend for pelf. Probably Job overstrained the case against Eliphaz and his companions; but men have perpetrated the villainies described, as e.g. the brethren of Joseph (Genesis 37:28) and Judas (Matthew 26:15).
4. Untrue. Job requests his friends to look into his face and say whether he did not carry the refutation of their slanders in his countenance (verse 28). The face is commonly a mirror to the soul. The glory of a pure soul shines through the face, illuminating, refining, etherealizing it; just as the moral gloom that enshrouds s wicked soul leaves its impress on the countenance, rendering its features coarse, brutal, sordid, revolting. There are faces that proclaim the depravity of the soul within as certainly as there are noble countenances that bear their own certificate of truth, sincerity, moral honesty, and spiritual refinement.
5. Unfair. The friends had started with a prejudice against Job, and, as a consequence, their decision had not been impartial. Accordingly, he invites them to renew their investigation, but on other principles and presuppositions: "Return, I pray you; let there be no unfairness, and my righteousness will be found to stand" (verse 29).
6. Insulting. Their insinuation practically charged Job with being a moral imbecile, who had no capacity to discriminate between right and wrong—an assumption he resented with the utmost vigour (verse 30), maintaining that, as surely as his palate could distinguish meats, his moral sense could discern right and wrong in the matter of his sufferings, and generally in the providential government of the world of which he next proceeds to speak. The capacity to distinguish between right and wrong is the highest function of intelligence, and is as certainly capable of perversion and obscuration through wilful ignorance and sin as susceptible of education and refinement through Christian instruction and practical holiness.
1. The duty of sympathizing with the suffering and sorrowful. Nature prompts to it; religion enjoins it; humanity claims it; the afflicted expect Job 2:2. The danger of putting stumbling-blocks in the way, to either keep men or withdraw men from the fear of God.
3. The folly of trusting in either princes or men's sons, seeing that man's goodness is commonly (except where grace intervenes)as transient as his greatness.
4. The painfulness of being deceived by any, but especially by those we trust.
5. The certain disappointment of those who lock to failing brooks for the water of eternal life.
6. The wickedness of censuring for sins that have been neither proved nor admitted.
7. The liability of man to error, and the only sure and certain pathway to truth, viz. a spirit of humble docility.
8. Truth is less dependent on argumentation than men are apt to suppose, being generally its own best witness.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
The sufferer's self-justification.
(Job 6:1-30; Job 7:1-21.) We have seen that Eliphaz's counsels, though well-meant, were ill-timed. They were right words' but not fitly spoken as to person, time, and place. They cause the poor sufferer to wince afresh instead of soothing his pain. The tumult of his spirit is now aggravated into a very tempest of woe. The human spirit is a thing of moods. We have watched the marvellous changes that pass over the surface of a lake beneath a tempestuous sky. And such are the rapid changes of pain that now pass over the mind of Job, relieved here and there by flashes of calmer reflection, of faith and hope. The picture is instructive, teaching us how feeble and unstable a thing is the human mind, and how deeply it needs to look out from itself for a sure support in the Eternal. Let us briefly take note of these moods. Not without profit shall we try to understand them if we thereby cultivate that deeper sympathy with our brethren in adversity which Job seemed to demand at the hand of his friends in vain.
I. THE EXPERIENCE OF THE IMMENSITY OF SUFFERING. (Verses 1-14.) There are times when every nerve of the sensitive organization seems to be turned into a channel of pain; when the creature, instead of basking in the brilliant ether of unbounded joy, is submerged in a boundless ocean of misery. "All thy waves and billows have gone over me." It is with this feeling that Job exclaims, "Would that a term, a measure, a weight, might be applied to my sufferings!" A day, an hour, of such woe seems as an eternity!
II. THE FEAR OF SINNING WITH THE TONGUE. Verse 3, which appears to mean, "Therefore my words idly bubbled," like the impatient cries and reproaches of little children against the parents whom they level But this is the only definite sin of which Job is conscious. And he prays that he may be delivered from it in this trying hour. So said the psalmist, "I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue." Let Christians imitate this example. Let them bridle their tongues with holy reverence, and cast upon them as a spell the prayer of Jesus in the garden.
"Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Forgive them when they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise!"
III. THE NATURE AND ORIGIN OF HIS SUFFERINGS TRACED TO GOD. (Verse 4.) It is his arrows which have fastened themselves with poisonous inflammation in his breast; his host of terrors that have beleaguered his soul. Though in such extreme moments it is hard to reconcile our sufferings with the goodness of God, it is well to hold firmly to the clue of Divine causation. That which has not come causelessly will not causelessly remain. This is the one crevice through which light steals into the dungeon: "God is in all I suffer."
IV. APOLOGY FOR HIS COMPLAINTS. (Verses 5-7.) They are true to nature. God has given to all animals their natural voice of pleasure and of pain. And these voices express natural tastes and repugnances. The ox and the ass are silent at the well-filled stall. It is only when unsavoury food is offered that we hear the cries of complaint. And what an unsavoury mess is this which his friends would place before him, in their rigid application to him of the doctrine that his suffering witnesses his guilt!
V. DEATH CRAVED AS A BOON. (Verses 8-13.) The very thought of it excites a frantic joy. Whereas Eliphaz had spoken of deliverance from death as one of the privileges of the blessed man, and of its lingering approach in a happy old age, Job would crave a speedy dismissal as the last boon which he feels entitled, in a clear conscience, to ask of God I "I have not denied the words of the Holy One; I shall not pass, an impenitent, rejected soul; grant me this last, this speedy favour, to die!" If such a state of mind excites our keenest pity, what shall we think of the condition of those Buddhists or pessimists among the heathen and ourselves, who have built a doctrine upon this horror-stricken mood, and teach that the highest good for man is absorption in some Nirvana of dreamless, unconscious nothingness? Truly, the gospel of Christ is the only remedy for these melancholy aberrations. M. Naville says that the impassioned earnestness of Lacroix, the great Indian missionary, which he had listened to in earlier years, was only fully understood by him when subsequent study had acquainted him with the gloomy beliefs of the Oriental world.
VI. CONFESSION OF UTTER WEAKNESS AND DESPONDENCY. (Verses 11-13.) He has neither strength nor patience to look forward to the end which is to reward endurance. Sooner or later death must be the end; and why not sooner rather than later? But weakness cannot wring from his tortured breast the confession of a guilt which conscience refuses to own. He has not denied the words of the Holy One. His heart has been true to God. This consciousness is still a kind of strength in weakness, and enables him to ask this last boon at God's hands—a speedy death.—J.
The illusions of friendship.
Oh, how sweet and blessed at this hour would the ministries of true friendship be! Job, in the shipwreck of fortune and of health, is like a poor swimmer clinging to a spar or fragment of rock with ebbing strength, looking vainly for the lifeboat, and the strong, rescuing arms of friends and saviours. Instead of this, his friends stand aloof, and lecture and lesson him on the supposed folly which has steered his bark upon the breakers. Here we see in one glance the greatest danger to which a human soul can be exposed, and the greatest service one human being can render another.
I. THE GREATEST HUMAN PERIL. What is it? The loss of life? Not in the common sense of those words. For the loss of life in this world is not necessarily the loss of the soul. The loss of worldly goods? Still less; for a man's life consisteth not in these. The loss of family, of reputation, of health? All these may be repaired; but the loss of God is irreparable. The mangled tree may sprout again, and send forth vigorous suckers from its root; but how if that root itself be extirpated from its holding? It is the horror in the prospect of losing reverence, trust—of losing God—that now looms upon the patriarch's soul. We need only refer to the twenty-second psalm—to those words quoted by our Saviour in the agony on the cross—to remind ourselves of the fearfulness of this last trial to every godly soul,
II. THE GREATEST HUMAN MINISTRY. It is to do something to save a sinking brother from such a fate. A cheerful faith is infectious. A noble courage will thrill in the vibrations of sympathy to another's soul. And this is, then, the best office our friends can discharge for us in our greatest troubles. Let them remind us by their words, their prayers, their looks, their tones, of God. Let them not throw a new burden upon our drooping consciousness by reminding us of what we are or are not, but relieve us by telling us of what he is and ever will be—the Refuge and Strength of them that seek him. And this may be a fitting place to speak generally of—
III. THE QUALITIES OF FRIENDSHIP. By a beautiful image Job describes the failure of friendship. An unfaithful or unintelligent friend is like a brook swollen with snow and rain in spring-time, but dried in its channel under the scorching heat of summer. The poet says of one who has been lost to his sorrowing companions by death—
"He is gone from the mountain,
He is lost to the forest,
Like a summer-dried fountain,
When our need was the sorest!"
The pathos of those words is, alas I applicable to living but absent or unsympathetic friends. There is nothing more beautiful or more useful in all the world than true friendship. Perhaps as "all other things seem to be symbols of love, so love is the highest symbol of friendship." But for the service of friendship there must be:
1. Constant affection. The equal flow of a deep river, not the intermittent gushings of a fickle fountain.
2. Habitual sympathy. We must feel with our friend so long as he is our friend. There are crimes which will break up this holy tie. Connivance at guilt can be no part of this sacred covenant. But so long as I can call my friend my friend, I must bear with his infirmities, "not make them greater than they are." How unhappy the knack of seeing all that can be said against our friend, with blindness to all that can be urged in his favour! We dread the coming of these "candid friends," so called. If there are unpleasant truths, let him hear them from another's lips than ours. Let not the troubles of those we own by this sacred name be made occasions for airing the conceit of our superior wisdom, or indulging a vein of moralizing, but for unlocking all the treasures of our heart.
3. Lively imagination. Want of imagination, or, in other words, dulness and stupidity, is a great defect for general social intercourse. Men quarrel and fly asunder because they do not understand one another. They do not use the faculty of imagination to "put themselves in another's place." And what may hinder general intercourse may be a fatal bar to friendship. "I am not understood:" what commoner complaint? Yet what is this high faculty given us for, but that, under the guidance of Christian love, we may identity another heart with our own, appropriate all its sorrowful experiences, and think and speak and feel towards others, as well as do unto them, as we would they should do unto us? But these demands for an ideal friendship are not, after all, to be satisfied by frail human nature. Let us, then, think:
4. These qualities of friendship can be only fully found in God. The Divine Friend!—he whose unfailing, self-replenished love alone is equal to supply the thirst of our hearts, whose sympathy is that of One who knows us better than we know ourselves; who numbers our hairs, and gathers our tears into his bottle; who needs to exercise no imagination in order to realize our condition, because he knows! O God! greater than our hearts, whose knowledge is the measure of thy sympathy, whose sympathy is fed from the eternal well-spring of thy love; God manifested in Jesus Christ; thou only art the Friend of our sorrow, the Sustainer of our help.
LESSONS. May we listen with humble obedience to the voice which says to us, "Henceforth I call you friends"! As life wears, and many shallow torrents of earthly kindness are dried, may we experience more profoundly thy never-wasting fulness!—J.
Friendship: its rights and its disclaimers.
In his agonized yearning for sympathy and tenderness, Job further appeals to the conscience and memory of his friends, seeking to put an end to this lacerating contention, and to be reconciled to them in peace.
I. DISCLAIMERS. True friendship disclaims the right to be exacting. We have no right to lay a tax on the property, or time, or energy of those whom we desire to grapple to us as with hooks of steel. All must be spontaneous, voluntary, free, in the mutual offices of friendship. There are a few noble hearts, indeed, with whom every benefit is a reason for another. Shakespeare has drawn the sublime picture of such a one in his 'Merchant of Venice,' who stops not short at the loan of goods, but pledges his very flesh for his friend. But the counterpart is not to be found in actual life. God is he who alone invites our largest asking, wearies not of our urgency, giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not. The life laid down for us is the pledge that we cannot claim too much from him. The gospel does not fail to point us to the frailty of human nature, even in its noblest moods, in order to set in contrast the illustrious sacrifices of Christ for us. Job had not asked for gifts of substance from his friends to redeem him from durance, or for any other purpose. He had been wiser than to kill the tender plant of mutual good will by unseasonable exactions. And let us read ourselves the lesson that nothing will more surely or speedily break our happiest ties than to allow the hand we offer in affection to be put forth to buy, to traffic, to exact.
II. CLAIMS. But we have great rights and privileges in friendship. These the patriarch insists upon now. He has a right to good words, which are worth much and cost little. He has a right, so long as he is regarded as a friend, to have the truth of his own statements accepted. He has a right to confidence. In distress he is entitled to tenderness, compassion, and efficient guidance by those whose minds are calm and unimpaired by woe. And above all, perhaps, just now, the right of self-defence is most precious, which these advisers seem obstinately to deny. How often is this tragedy enacted! We condemn good men, honest hearts, unheard; we refuse them a fair hearing. They do not easily explain themselves, or we, with our preoccupations and prejudices, are slow to understand. There may be greater ability to defend one's self against the accusations of bitter foes than against the misconceptions of intimate friends. In fact, this is one of those severe trials in relation to our equals of which a recent preacher has so finely discoursed (Mozley, 'University Sermons ').
III. SELF-DEFENCE. Against what fault or sin are these monotonous and harsh reproofs directed? Is it against Job's evil deeds? But they are not specified, and Job denies that they have been done. There is no keener injustice than vague attacks on a man without specification of the exact nature of the charges. Is it the present language of Job? True, hasty words may have escaped him; he fears it; but is the language of health and joy to be tested by the same measures, weighed in the same scales, with that which pain and intense distress extort from the lips? Job knows his heart has not been unfaithful to his God, whatever cries of agony and despair have been berne upon the wind. The whole section thus contains a pathetic appeal to the human conscience for human love; and it teaches us indirectly, bur. with great feeling, the duties of friendly ministry to others in their distress.
1. Calm guidance, healthy suggestions for the morbid intelligence.
2. The "sweetness" (verse 25) of right words of tender sympathy.
3. Abstinence from argument in such circumstances which only irritates and never soothes.
4. Considerate listening to explanations.
5. Hearty acceptance of honest self-vindications. In all these particulars we have bright examples set us by our blessed Saviour, who never broke the bruised reed nor quenched the smoking flax. By such methods of ministry we are to earn and prove the holy name of friend to our brethren, and lead men to believe that God has angels of blessing in human shape passing about the worn paths of misery in this world.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
A true estimate of grief under the severities of affliction.
Even the strong man cries for help and release. Job, in his extreme sufferings, desires that a fair judgment may be formed of them and of his complaint. Put this into one seals, and them into the other, and behold which of them is the lighter. Thus he describes them—
I. THE INSUFFERABLE WEIGHT OF HIS AFFLICTION. It is as the unknown weight of the sand of the seashore. Affliction is truly as the pressure of a great weight upon the frail body. The idea of patience is gained from bearing up under a load. Heavy is the load, indeed, under which this servant of the Lord is bowed down. It is not to be estimated. No onlooker can determine it. Therefore should judgment be withheld when from the life of the sufferer there escapes the sigh of complaint. He only knows his sufferings; and he may know that his cry does not fully represent them. The untouched observer but hears the cry, and cannot put that into comparison with a pain that he feels not, and the measure of which pain the cry is supposed to represent. How shall a just judgment, therefore, be given?
II. THE KEENNESS OF THE PANG OF HIS SUFFERINGS. They pierce as doth an arrow; and are as poisoned arrows; and as arrows shot forth by no feeble arm, but by the Almighty. They penetrate to the inner spirit. The strength of their burning poison drinks up—burns up his spirit. He does not encounter a feeble foe. "The terrors of God set themselves in array" against him. Is it wonderful that his words are hasty? Is there not a cause? "Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass?"
III. THE ABHORRENT CHARACTER OF THE THINGS WITH WHICH HE HAS TO DO. "That which my soul refused"—from which I turned away in disgust—I am compelled to take as my daily bread. Yea, that which should give me comfort, even my refreshing food, is loathsome to me. Sadly does he thus represent the nature of the foul disease that cleaveth to him. The onlookers are pained, hut they taste it not. To him it is as his food.
IV. HE FURTHER DESCRIBES HIS SUFFERING CONDITION AS SO SAD THAT HE LONGS FOR DEATH. "That it would please God to destroy me!" How low is life reduced when there seems to be no release but in the gravel Worn to the earth, this sufferer cries for an end to be put to his pains. He has not strength to bear up patiently under the weight of them. He cannot desire prolonged life; for what shall the end of it be? Weary, indeed, is that spirit that craves rest in the tomb. Job feels himself so utterly powerless, that continued endurance is impossible to him. He little knew that he could survive all—that he could yet pass through all, and bear honour to God, and perceive in the end the testimony of the Divine approbation. To him it was true, and he would prove it, though the words had not fallen on his ear, "With man it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible." Job's history, therefore, illustrates the sufficiency of the Divine grace to sustain men beneath the uttermost pressure of sorrow.—R.G.
The claims of the suffering on the pity of friends.
Job's friends come to condole with him. They are staggered by the severity of his sufferings, and remain silenced before him. When they open their lips they seem not only to try to account for the affliction, but they also appear to be anxious to justify their own inability to comfort their suffering friend. Their words add to Job's heavy affliction instead of lightening his burden, and he cries out in his bitterness, "To him that is afflicted pity should be showed from his friend." To whom should the suffering one turn if not to end? We see at once, in such circumstances, a friend's duty and a friend's demand.
I. A FRIEND'S DUTY.
1. The true office of friendship is to enter fully into the circumstances of the friend; not to be indifferent to them, and therefore ignorant. True affection will inquire gently, wisely, and with care into the state, and the need, and the sorrow, and the hopes of the object of its attachment. Not for meddlesome curiosity, but from loving interest the friend's heart will open to take in the tale of sorrow, even the words of complaint.
2. True friendship will lovingly sympathize. The eager pleading of the casual beggar strikes upon the closed ear of the stranger. No chord of pitiful sympathy vibrates, and no hand of help is outstretched. But to the appeals of friendship the heart opens; warm sympathy is stirred. The fluttering spirit finds rest on the besom of a friend. It is a duty one friend owes to another to show the utmost pitifulness of spirit—a pitifulness that should ripen to loving sympathy. No hardening of the heart, no refusal to be patient, no selfishness, can be found in the breast of the true friend.
3. True friendship will be ready with its help, springing forth with spontaneous eagerness to aid and comfort. It is possible for the friend to stick closer than a brother; and he shows the true spirit of a friend who, feeling perfectly at one with his loved companion, renders willing help to him.
4. The friendship which stimulates to pitiful and loving help in need rejoices also in the joy, the prosperity, and well-being of him to whom it cleaves. The two lives are one. David and Jonathan illustrate this, and happily a thousand examples are around us daily. He that findeth a true friend findeth a precious possession—a prize whose worth cannot be estimated.
II. FOR THIS LOVING SYMPATHY AND PITIFUL HELPFULNESS EVERY ONE MAY MAKE HIS JUST AND REASONABLE DEMAND ON HIS FRIEND. Friendship has its duties of fidelity, of kindness, and help; of confidence, trust, and good will. It has also its claims. It is a silent, mutual compact—each preparing to give that which it demands of the other; each expecting that which it knows it can bestow. It is the supreme satisfaction of true friendship that either of its members may turn to other in the confident, unquestioning assurance of meeting with true sympathy, with an open hand and a warm heart. For this friendship looks, and this it is justified in expecting. A faithful friend's love faileth not; for "a friend loveth always." Even his very "wounds" are "faithful." Happy he who has found a friend in whom he can place the whole faith of his heart; and who is ready to reciprocate the same full, thorough, and trustworthy affection!
1. The wisdom of seeking a friend.
2. The law: "He that would have friends must show himself friendly."—R.G.
The power of right words; or, complaining stayed by instruction.
Job has hitherto met with no comfort from those who came "to mourn with him, and to comfort him." From the inutility of their powerless words he turns aside with the bitter reflection on his lips, "How forcible are right words!" Words charged with truth, with great views of things, with tender sympathy, heal and guide and comfort the perplexed and saddened soul; while the words of false friends pierce as goads. Truth at all times is worthy of trust. The spirit, worn and weary, may rest in it and find peace. Consider the power of truth—the force of right Words—
I. IN RESOLVING THE ENTANGLEMENTS OF ERROR. Truth is the right, the straight, line which reveals and thereby condemns the crooked departures. Its own clear, calm utterance resolves the confusion of tortuous commingled error. It is by the simple statement of truth that the wrong of error is discovered and rebuked. Loudness of denunciation cannot contradict error, or unravel it, or expose it. Nor will mere logical demonstration; noise will not destroy darkness; nor will the gloom be illuminated by proving it to be darkness. But the quiet shining of the lamp will scatter the shades of black night. So truth in its own simplicity and realness effectually and alone disperses the gloom and guides the feet of the wanderer through the tangled path of error. Such words Job had not yet found. But the good Teacher was not far away; and finally Job was led to the open plain and the clear light and the straight way.
II. RIGHT WORDS ARE FORCIBLE IN THE PRESENCE OF DEEP SORROW. So Job thought. It was for such words he pined. He longed for the teaching that would bring him comfort, and not for the accusations that would make his burden heavier and his heart sadder. There is a deep truth relating to all human affliction. Looked at only as a derangement of human happiness, it is devoid of that completeness of view that would constitute it a truthful one. But looked at as a Divine correction, a discipline, a sharp warning or departure from law, and a just punishment for such departure; and looked at as under the control of the Almighty Father, it is seen to be invested with a momentous character, and to be. inflicted for the wisest and best purposes. Right words on it bring the mind to peace. They are forcible to counsel and to comfort; to warn of danger, to guide to safety, to console in suffering. Happy the sufferer who has an interpreter at band, who with right words can unveil the mystery, and make clear the ways of God to man!
III. RIGHT WORDS ARE FORCIBLE IN THE ADJUSTMENT OF DISTURBED RELATIONS OF LIFE. They are wise words and kind. Even enemies are overcome by them. The right word is a word in harmony with the truth. Spoken with lips that speak truth habitually, and from a heart where truth finds its home, they carry conviction. They win the ear and the confidence of the listener. They have a force peculiar to themselves. They command. They are strong and cannot be shaken. They pierce, as doth an arrow, when they are words of condemnation founded on truth; and they comfort, and heal, and restore, and readjust, when they are spoken in kindness. The wise man searches for right words, and, having found them, speaks them in all simplicity. And the seeker after truth, or rest, or comfort welcomes them. They bear help on their wings, and are as reviving as the beams of the morning.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Scales for misery.
At length Job has an opportunity to reply to his friend's harangue, and he at once touches on its weak point by implication. Eliphaz has not been sufficiently sympathetic; he has not duly appreciated Job's "abysmal and boundless misery." His wise precepts may apply to some extent to the afflictions of ordinary men, but they are vitiated by his failure to enter into the abnormal distresses of Job. The cursing of his day, which has been wrung out of Job by very anguish of soul, is misjudged by his censor, because the awful depth of that anguish is not appreciated. Therefore Job longs for some scales by which his misery may be weighed, that the lack of appreciation by Eliphaz may be corrected.
I. THE SUFFERER NATURALLY DESIRES AN APPRECIATION OF HIS SUFFERINGS,
1. That he may be understood. You cannot understand a man till you know how be feels. Words are more than descriptions of hare facts; they may be utterances of the heart. To comprehend their import we must enter into the feelings of the speaker. We should study the needs and troubles of those whom we desire to understand in order to help them.
2. That he may be fairly judged. Eliphaz had made the most galling charges against Job, partly because he was utterly below understanding the afflicted man's overwhelming grief. We are unjust with those who are incomprehensible to us. Christ's executioners did not know him, and he prayed, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). The mob that yelled at him and hounded him to death had not the least conception of his Gethsemane agony.
3. That he may receive sympathy. Sympathy helps us to understand one another. But without some preliminary knowledge we can have no kind of sympathy. Ignorant, well-meant attempts at sympathy hurt rather than heal, and chafe the very wounds they are intended to soothe.
II. IT IS NOT EASY TO FIND SCALES IN WHICH SUFFERING CAN BE WEIGHED. Where shall we look for a standard of measurement? We cannot judge by outside tokens of grief; for some are reserved and self-restrained, while others are demonstrative in their abandonment to grief. We cannot judge by the measure of the events that have caused the suffering; for some feel the same calamity much more keenly than it would be felt by others. Each sufferer is tempted to think that his troubles surpass all others. We can only understand a man in so far as we can succeed in putting ourselves in his place. But only Christ can do this perfectly. His incarnation is a guarantee of his complete comprehension of human sin and sorrow; so that the sufferer who is misapprehended by his most intimate earthly friends may be assured of the perfect sympathy of his Saviour. Moreover, with his own thoughts the sufferer might measure his grief in a way which would help him to apprize it more justly than by wild conjectures. Suppose he measured it against his blessings: is it so vastly greater? Or suppose he weighed it with his deserts: is it so immensely heavier? Or suppose he compared it with what Christ suffered for him: is there really any comparison between the Christian's roughest cross and the awful cross of his Saviour?—W.F.A.
The arrows of the Almighty.
The first thought that occurs to Job when he attempts to describe his trouble to his misjudging friend is that that trouble has been produced by shafts from heaven. Here is the exceeding bitterness of his grief. He regards his calamities as more than natural mischances; such a terrible conjunction of disasters points to a superhuman source. Thus Job is Scourged by his faith. His theism adds an agony which the materialist would not feel.
I. THE TERROR OF THE ARROWS OF THE ALMIGHTY.
1. They are impelled by an irresistible power. They are shot by "El Shaddai." God in his power is conceived of as the Source of the troubles. But none can resist the might of God. No wonder Job is prostrate in despair. It is useless for him to stand up against his adversary. The shield of faith may "quench all the fiery darts of the wicked" (Ephesians 6:16); but no shield can keep off the piercing arrows of the Almighty If God is against us, we are utterly undone.
2. They come from the Source of light and blessing. God had been showering blessings on the head of the patriarch, who had learnt to honour him as his Benefactor. It was hard, indeed, to find his great Friend turned into a Foe. This fact made the wounds pain as with deadly venom. It is fearful to think that our Father in heaven is shooting wrath against his children. No arrows are so keen as the arrows of love.
3. They penetrate to the heart. Earthly calamities strike the outer life. We may have ramparts and bastions that keep them off from our true self. But God's arrows penetrate to the citadel of the soul He reaches the heart whenever he smites. We can bear outside distresses so long as we keep up a stout heart; but the wounds of the inner man are deadly.
II. THE MISAPPREHENSION OF THE ARROWS OF THE ALMIGHTY.
1. The error of ascribing to God what he has not sent. Job thinks that God is his Adversary, but the prologue shows that the adversary is Satan. Of the Satanic cause of his trouble Job has not the least conception. He ascribes it all to God. Thus he is mistaken, unjust, and needlessly dismayed. If he had but known that he was suffering from the arrows of Satan, he would have been more courageous and hopeful. May we not be in error in ascribing to God what he never sends? The evil state of society causes many troubles to the poor, which God does not wish them to suffer from- We cannot charge him with the terrible wrongs of a corrupt civilization which darken the slums of great cities. Our worst woes come from the devil within—from our own heart of sin.
2. When God does smite, his purpose is good. Job was so far right that God had some hand in his sufferings, for God had permitted Satan to go to the great length in tormenting Job that he had now reached.
(1) There is a smiting to heal Grievous chastisement is a discipline of love. We think that the arrow poisons us; what it really brings is a needed astringent.
(2) There must be a smiting of judgment. God cannot suffer his rebellious creatures to sin with impunity. Though Job had not felt them, God has terrible arrows of judgment for the impenitent. It is well if we learn the lesson of the milder wounds of chastisement before those terrors burst over us.—W.F.A.
Job 6:5, Job 6:6
Satisfaction and discontent.
Job proceeds to show the reasonableness of his grief, and with it the unreasonableness of his censor's accusations. Eliphaz had been wasting his eloquence on the assumption that Job's outburst of despairing grief was uncalled for; or, at all events, he had not appreciated the tremendous distress of which it was the result. He regarded the effect as preposterous, because he had not seen the greatness of the cause.
I. THE SATISFIED ARE NOT DISCONTENTED. We have illustrations of this fact in nature. Among the wild animals ("the wild ass"), and also among the domesticated ("the ox"), we see that sufficiency produces content. If the wild ass brays, or if the ox lows, something is amiss. Supply them with all they need, and they will be quiet and contented. If, therefore, Job is not. at rest, something must be amiss with him.
1. The discontent of society makes it evident that some want is unsupplied. Men do not rebel for the sake of rebellion. Political and social upheavals have their sources in some disorganized condition of the body politic. If all were satisfied, quiet would reign universally.
2. The discontent of the soul proves that the soul is not satisfied. Man has deeper needs than the animals. The wild ass and the tame ox can be satisfied, while man is still possessed by a "Divine discontent." This very restlessness is a sign of his higher nature. His thirst reveals the depths from which it springs. Man is
"Poor in abundance, famish'd at a feast,
because "man shall not live by bread alone" (Matthew 4:4).
II. THE UNSATISFIED MUST BE DISCONTENTED. This is more than the reverse side of the previous statement. It carries with it the idea that the dissatisfaction cannot be stifled, must be met, if it is to be set at rest. The truth is illustrated from natural things. Unsavoury food cannot be made savoury without the salt, the needed condiment. That which is naturally tasteless, like the white of an egg, cannot be made to have delicious flavours by any conjuring process, unless the thing itself is changed or receives additions. So no jugglery will remove the dissatisfaction of society or of the soul. We cannot make the world at rest by wishing it to be peaceful, or by declaring it to be quiet. A theory of order is not order, nor is a doctrine of optimism a quietus for the world's distresses. The bitter cry of the outcast will not be allayed because some philosophers believe themselves to be living in "the best of possible worlds." We do not make peace by calling, "Peace, peace!" when there is no peace. To preach to souls of rest and satisfaction is not to bestow those desired boons. It is as much a mockery to tell miserable men to be contented without supplying their wants, as to tell the hungry and naked to be fed and clothed while we do nothing to furnish them with what they lack. Any lulling of discontent without curing its cause is false and unhealthy. It is like putting a weight on the safety-valve. It is no better than the morphia that allays the symptoms of the disease it cannot cure. The discontent should go on till it finds its remedy in a true satisfaction.
1. Christ gives this for society in the kingdom of heaven; if we followed out his teaching in the world the wants of society would be satisfied.
2. He gives it for the soul in his body and blood, and the life eternal that comes from fellowship with him.—W.F.A.
Job 6:8, Job 6:9
The prayer of despair.
This is an awful prayer. Job longs for death, and prays God to crush him. Then there will be an end to his agonies. He has rejected his wife's temptation to suicide (Job 2:9); but he begs that God will take his life.
I. IT IS WELL TO BRING THE DESPAIR OF THE SOUL TO GOD. The despair is not utter and complete if it has not stifled the fountains of prayer. When it can be said of any one, "Behold, he prayeth," all hope is not yet gone. Although for the time being he had lost sight of it, still there is a point on which hope for better days may lay hold. When all things seem to be rushing to ruin, and there is no other outlook for the soul, the outlook to heaven is still open. If we can do nothing else, the way is still before us to cast our burden upon the Lord. Though the very prayer be one of horror and despair, like Job's, still it is a prayer. There is the saving element. The Soul is looking up to God. It is not quite alone in its desolation.
II. GOD UNDERSTANDS THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR. He is not like Job's purblind censor Eliphaz, who judged in ignorance and wounded when he thought to heal. The breaches of conventional propriety in religion, which shock the more precise sort of piety, are not thus misapprehended by God. He views all with a large eye of charity, with a penetrating discernment of sympathy. The wild utterance that only scandalizes the superficial hearer moves the compassion of the Father of spirits. He knows from what depths of agony it has been forced, and he pardons the extravagance of it in pity for its misery.
III. THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR IS FOOLISH AND SHORT-SIGHTED. These two words "prayer" and "despair," are quite incongruous. The one should utterly banish the other. If we quite understood the meaning and power of prayer, despair would be impossible. For prayer implies that God has not forgotten us; or why should one pray to heedless ears? When we carry our grief to God we bring it to Almighty Love, and such a haven must be more congenial to hope than to despair.
IV. GOD REFUSES TO ANSWER THE PRAYER OF DESPAIR, There are prayers which God will not answer, and that, not because he is inexorable, but because he is merciful; and as the mother is too kind to give her infant the flaming candles for which it cries, God is too good to bestow on his foolish children the evil things which they sometimes crave from his hand. Thus the very refusal to respond to the prayer is a result, not of disregarding it, but of giving to it more than that superficial attention which would have been enough for an unquestioning response. God sifts and weighs our prayers. We cannot present them as cheques on the bank of heaven, expecting immediate payment, exactly according to the measure of what we have set down in them. God is far better than our prayers. He exceeds our fears even when we beg him to act according to them. His sane mind corrects the wild fancies of our haste and passion. Therefore we need not shrink from the utmost freedom in prayer. God will not deal with us according to our words, but according to his love and our faith.—W.F.A.
The redeeming power of sympathy.
Job tells his friend that he has gone to work in a wrong way, and one which might have had most disastrous results, the opposite of those he aimed at. Eliphaz honestly intended to bring Job to God in contrite submission, but his harsh and unwise conduct was only calculated to drive the troubled man from God in wild despair. He should have chosen the "more excellent way' of sympathy.
I. THE SECRET OF THE REDEEMING POWER OF SYMPATHY.
1. By giving strength to endure. The soul that stands alone may sink down to despair. But "two are better than one." As we help to bear one another's burdens, we lift the crushing load that drives to rebellion.
2. By softening the heart. The danger of. great calamity is that it will smite the heart to hardness. The most fatal effect is produced when all traces of suffering are passed, because the very faculty of feeling is frozen to death. Now, hero sympathy has a saving efficacy. The tears that are sealed up in solitude burst forth at the sight of a friend's tears.
3. By revealing the love of God. There is danger lest great trouble should make men doubt God's love, and even come to regard all love as a pretence and a delusion. The world then seems very black and cruel. But a brother's kindness begins to dispel the error. It shows that the world is not wholly hard and cruel and selfish. This kindness is but a spark from the great fire of God's love. From the sympathy of our brother we are led up to the sympathy of our Father, out of which it springs. If there were more human charity in the world there would be more faith in God. Atheism is a product of the despair which sympathy would cure.
II. THE EXERCISE OF THE REDEEMING POWER OF SYMPATHY,
1. In God. Our sympathy is but a copy of God's sympathy. His method is to save by love. His goodness leads us to repentance. While we scold, God pities; while we blame, he forgives; while we reject, he invites. He saves the sinner by loving him.
2. In Christ. Christ's great redemption is a work of sympathy:
(1) In its origin. It was sympathy that led to the advent of Christ. This was the ruling principle of his life on earth. This, too, brought him to the cross. He could not save himself, because he would not abandon his sinful, sorrowing brethren.
(2) In its application. Christ saves men now individually through his sympathy. We have first to see that he understands us, loves us, feels with us. Then he lays hold of us and lifts us up.
3. In men. We, too, have to save by our sympathy. The old method of repression, rebuke, and repudiation has failed miserably; its fruits are only hatred and despair. It is time we resorted to God's method, to Christ's method. We must understand men if we would help them, feel with them if we would restore them. So long as we will not show sympathy with our brethren in their trouble and temptation, we cannot save them from their sin and despair. Lowell says—
"Far better is it to speak
One simple word, which now and then
Shall waken their free nature in the weak
And friendless sons of men."
The force of right words.
Job is not so unreasonable as he appears to his friends. He will admit the force of truth and reason. Only he considers the arguments he has heard false and fallacious.
I. REASONABLE MEN RECOGNIZE THE FORCE OF RIGHT WORDS. Words may be like arrows that pierce, like swords that divide, like hammers that crush; or they may be like seeds that grow and bear fruit, like loaves of bread to feed the hungry, and streams of living water flowing by the dusty highway, from which all thirsty souls may drink. Thus they are more than mere sounds. They are expressions of thought. God's words come with power. All right Words are forcible. But there are empty words that fall without any weight, and vapid words that are dissipated in the air without effect. It is not the number, the volume, or the noise, of the words that gives them force, but the rightness of them. We must, therefore, inquire wherein this rightness resides.
1. In truth. False words may seem to carry great weight. But in the end all lies fail. The truth, simply told, has a force which no rhetoric can equal.
2. In adaptability. There are truths which are not suitable for the occasion on which they are spoken. This was the case with many of the remarks which Eliphaz had made, which were right enough in themselves, but which did not apply to Job. They lost force by being irrelevant.
3. In moral weight. The justice of what we say adds weight to it. The most forcible words are those that find their way to our conscience. Others may be luminous; these words flame out with startling vividness.
4. In sympathy. Truth spoken in love comes with double force.
II. IT IS FOOLISH TO DISREGARD THE FORCE OF RIGHT WORDS.
1. In the speaker. This was the Temanite's mistake. He was not sufficiently considerate of the rightness of what he said. He meant well, but he spoilt all by this grievous error. We need to weigh our words. They may have many excellent qualities—clearness, grace, apparent vigour—yet if they are not right words they will fail. The Christian teacher needs to test and correct his words by standing close to the fountain of truth and right in the Holy Scriptures, and by keeping his heart pure and sympathetic. Otherwise all his eloquence will be barren, or even poisonous as mephitic vapours.
2. In the hearer. It is excessively foolish to disregard words as though they were merely "sound and fury, signifying nothing." They are the chariots in which thoughts ride; and if we would but open our gates to receive them, we might find those thoughts most welcome guests. Even if the words are unpopular or painful, we should be foolish to disregard them when we know them to be right. For truth does not cease to be truth by being rejected. Many unpalatable ideas are most medicinal. And many words, rejected at first, when once they are received, prove to be as the very bread of life. The words of the everlasting gospel are right words, which we may reject at our peril; which we may receive for our salvation.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29