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Monday, May 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Job 17

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Now follow short ejaculatory clauses in which “Job chants his own requiem,” (Delitzsch,) reminding the reader of the requiem chanted by Mozart shortly before his death.

My breath is corrupt Literally, My life ( rouahh) is destroyed. Some still read as in the text.

The graves The Arabians, according to Schultens, frequently use “graves” for the grave. Around the sides of the tomb of the ancient Hebrew there were cells for the reception of sarcophagi containing the bodies of the dead. To such cells Job may refer.

Verses 1-2

First strophe God, the witness of the innocent blood which his own wrath hath shed, cannot but plead with God for justice, though man, the victim, be in the article of death. Job 16:18 - Job 17:2.

Job’s faith again appeals from God as he seems, to God as he must be.

Verse 2

2. Mockers Surely mockers are with me, and on their quarrelling mine eye dwells. Notwithstanding the grave is all that remains for Job, (Job 17:1,) his quasi friends mock him with promissory illusions of long life, and embitter his existence with janglings night and day so that his eye can rest on nothing else.

Continue Hebrew, Pass the night.

Verse 3

Second strophe That God alone will, or can, guarantee the righteous adjudication of Job’s cause, is evident from the blind and unprincipled conduct of his representative friends; and that God should do this is urged by Job’s own outrageous sufferings, and by the injury that would otherwise result to the cause of virtue. HIS PRAYER STILL IS FOR A MEDIATOR, Job 17:3-9.

3. Lay down שׂימה . “A pledge” is evidently understood; some kind of security like that which binds a bargain. The clause reads, Lay down, ( a pledge,) I pray.

Put me in a surety Better, Be thou my surety with thee. ערב , harab, signifies to pledge one’s self for another, and by implication protect or deliver. Comp. Genesis 43:9; Psalms 119:122; Isaiah 38:14; ( undertake for me.) In Job 16:21, Job speaks of God in a twofold character: also here, “as a judge and He who gives security before the judge.” Olshausen. The security became liable for his client’s debts in case he failed. Strike hands, etc. The custom of ratifying compacts by the joining or striking together of hands prevailed quite universally in ancient times. Proverbs 6:1. The “surety” struck hands with the party he represented, “for Solomon warns his son against giving his hand to a stranger, that is, against being surety for a person unknown.” MICHAELIS, Laws of Moses, 2:323. Ewald takes an erroneous view, that “the debtor and surety gave the hand to the creditor,” ( Alt., S. 165,) whereas the surety joined hands with the debtor. (Dillmann, etc.) Job’s prayer, “Be thou my surety with thee,” is urged by the momentous consideration, Who is he? who can be my surety if not thou? If man have hope at all, it must come from the Godhead. Christ, the Son of God, strikes hands with man, assumes his nature, becomes his surety. The prayer of Job became wonderfully prophetic.

Verse 4

4. For None but God can “undertake” for him! His purblind friends certainly cannot.

Not exalt them above me. Thou wilt not let them prevail.

Verse 5

5. He… friends The common reading is, He who betrays friends for a spoil.

Flattery Hhelck, signifies a share of spoil. The spoil which the treacherous gain proves a curse to their children. Hitzig unites the verse with the preceding, thus: Exalt not “him who invites friends to a feast ( tsum Theilen) while the eyes of his children fail.” Comp. Job 11:20. He is profuse in his hospitality, while his children have nothing to eat. Job’s friends rejoice in a superabundance of wisdom for others, but have none for themselves. The well-timed thrust for which though he had to overleap the lists of continuous thought Job was always ready, assorts well with the preceding verse. The verse, however, looks like a proverbial saying whose exact meaning has been lost.

Verse 6

6. Aforetime I was as a tabret Literally, I am become a spitting upon the face; that is, one into whose face they (the people) spit.

Tabret Hebrew, topheth. Its meaning is determined by kindred dialects for instance, the Arabic taffafa, to spit with contempt. The valley of Topheth was a valley of abomination. Job’s treatment in this respect resembled that of his divine antitype.

Verse 7

7. Eye also is dim Dimness of the eye is a figure frequently employed in Scripture to indicate the effects of grief, or of advanced age. As a shadow. See note Job 8:9.

Verse 8

8. The hypocrite The impure. To the righteous, the permitted sufferings of the just man at the hands of the unjust present a dark feature of the divine economy. The Church in all ages has been baptized with blood. All life of appreciable worth begins and matures through suffering, and the higher spiritual life is not excepted. According to the value of the life is the fierceness of the sorrow that accompanies it into being a thought that holds good with respect to the highest saints in heaven.

(Revelation 7:13-15.) The divine will that spares not the Son of God, subjects to kindred suffering those in whom he is most deeply interested.

Verse 9

9. Hold on Lay fast hold of.

Clean hands The hand was no less the symbol of human action than of power and strength: clean hands represented purity of action.

Be stronger and stronger Margin, Shall add strength. A pure life is a source of strength to man’s entire being. Body, mind, soul, all testify to its reflex influence. Laws of habit unite with laws of grace to assure the good man that he shall ever “renew his strength.” (Isaiah 40:31.) Affliction facilitates soul-growth. God makes it the touchstone of spiritual strength. The fierce blast either uproots or strengthens the tree. The storm passes by, and the pious soul has struck deeper its roots into that which is eternal. “It is said of the Lacedemonian republic, that whereas all other States were undone by war, Sparta alone grew rich and was bettered by it; and we may say, that whereas all hypocrites and worldly men are undone by affliction, true believers thrive under it.” (KITTO, Bib. Illus. in loc.)

Verse 10

10. Return… now “The friends of Job, irritated by his vehement words, threaten to retire.” Renan. He challenges his retreating friends to continue the argument, at least to hear what he has to say, in the meantime reminding them of the little understanding they have thus far displayed. (Job 17:4.)

For Nevertheless.

Verses 10-16


The main thought of the elegy is the destruction of all hope for this life. This, as Ewald intimates, leads Job to look for justice beyond death; to seek in another life the fruitage of faith, hope, and charity. Job evidently reasons up to an eternal and immutable justice, from the framework of his moral being, which now resounds with testimonies to the purity of his conscience, inspiring him with the conviction that God would be his surety. This enables Job to triumph over sheol.

Verse 11

11. My days are past The want of wisdom Job has just spoken of, the friends have shown in their glowing promises of future worldly bliss provided he will repent; that, too, while he has both feet in the grave. The thought serves as a transition to the elegy renewed in this verse.

Thoughts מורשׁי , possessions, or treasures. Zockler calls them the wards, or nurslings, of the heart. The term comprehends thought, hope, purpose, affection all the furniture of the soul.

Verse 12

12. Night into day Literally, they put night for the day That is, day hath become night to me. ישׂימו , is used impersonally. Conant’s rendering, “Night is joined to day.” is not sustained.

The light is short. Among the various readings is that of Hahn and Zockler: “Light is near in the presence of darkness:” that is, such is the representation made by the friends when really there is nothing but darkness. Dillmann and Ewald make מן a comparative, nearer than a feeble and inconsequential thought. The reading of Hengstenberg, the light is near to darkness, which substantially agrees with that of Evans, is decidedly to be preferred. The light of my life is near the darkness of death. The Latin language, like the Arabic, has a similar construction to express “nearness from” prope abesse a. The full development of this thought, says Wordsworth, (following the first reading above,) is found in the sublime speech of the Christian martyr Saint Ignatius, on the eve of suffering, to his friends who persuaded him to sue for a prolongation of life: “My birth is at hand. O, my friends, do not hinder me from living. Do not desire that I should die. Let me have a sight of that pure light. Let me have a sunset to the world, that I may have a sunrise to God.”

Verse 13

13. If I wait Lo, I wait my abode, ( sheol.)

House The ancient Egyptians designated the tomb as their house. (See note Job 3:15.)

Made my bed Spread my couch. Aristobulus saw in the tomb of Cyrus a golden couch, a table with cups, a golden coffin, and a large quantity of garments ornamented with precious stones. ( Strabo, xv, chap. Job 3:7.)

Verse 14

14. Said Called. The thought of his mouldering body suggested a family likeness to the corruption of the grave.

My father The Oriental languages abound in like comparisons. The Arabians call Satan the father of bitterness; a husband, the father of a woman; rain, the father of life; the stomach, mother of food; the via lactea, mother of heaven; wine, mother of evils; and death, the mother of vultures. ( Golius’ Lex.) Among the touching incidents connected with the burial of a Bedawi is an address of the friends to the deceased as he lies in the grave. “When the twain Green Angels shall question and examine thee, say, ‘The feaster makes merry, the wolf prowls, and man’s lot is still the same; but I have done with all these things. The sidr-tree is thy aunt, and the palm-tree thy mother.’” PALMER, Dessert of the Exodus, 1:94. Diodorus, Archbishop of Cappadocia, requested that one word should be inscribed on his tombstone acarus which means a worm and it was done. (VICTOR HUGO, Les Miserables.)

Verse 16

16. They Better, It shall go down to the bars of sheol. The verb is not plural, but a poetical form of the singular. Its subject is, the hope of renewed prosperity with which Job’s friends had flattered him. Bars is preferable to solitudes, as rendered by Furst and Schnurrer, and is used figuratively for the gates of sheol; (Job 38:17; Psalms 9:13; Psalms 107:18; Isaiah 38:10.) The shadowy bars kept the gates, so that those who entered could not return. The Iliad (23:74) calls sheol “the house of wide gates,” whose width pointed to the multitudes who were constantly entering.

Rest… in the dust Literally, when together there is rest in the dust. Furst would render Rest “descent,” with the meaning, “Yea, we shall descend together into the dust;” that is, my hope and I shall be buried together. Among the many proposed readings of this clause, that of the Authorized Version is to be preferred.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/job-17.html. 1874-1909.
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