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Transition to the Unravelment. Chaps. 27-31.
JOB TRIUMPHANT. HIS FINAL ADDRESS TO HIS FRIENDS. Chaps. 27, 28.
1. Job waits for an answer. The friends are silenced. He is now master of the field. The mists that surrounded his opponents had served to magnify them and their cause. Job now stands forth in the clear sunlight of truth, alone and conqueror. He confirms his integrity by the most solemn appeal to God and his conscience. No one, he says, could maintain such hope in the sight of death, such trust in God’s help, such joyous confidence in him, and be conscious of such guilt as they had charged. (Job 27:8-10.) Now that he has driven his friends from their extreme positions, he reviews the ground he has gained, and brings out into stronger relief some principles he himself had advanced, at least in theory, one of which was that the prosperity of the wicked was apparent, and could not endure, (Job 21:16; Job 21:21, etc.,) but which, in the heat of the controversy, had not received their proper attention. (See note on Job 27:13.) His argument throughout had assumed a future adjustment of wrong and sin, (Job 27:8.) But this is not sufficient. The doctrine of future awards lacks substantial basis if there be no retributive government of the wicked in this life.
Parable Mashal: a discourse conveying important truth in language concise and to a high degree poetical. Balaam took up his parable. Numbers 23:1. “The introduction of the ultimatum, as mashal, reminds one of ‘ the proverb ( el-methel,) seals it,’ in the mouth of the Arab, since in common life it is customary to use a pithy saying as the final proof at the conclusion of a speech.” Delitzsch. The phrase Job “continued to take up his parable,” serves to mark the pause that must have ensued upon the close of his reply to Bildad, while he waited in vain to hear from the discomfited Zophar.
Section first JOB’S RENEWED ASSEVERATION OF HIS INNOCENCE IS CONFIRMED UNDER THE SANCTIONS OF AN OATH, Job 27:2-10. Hengstenberg and Hitzig divide the section into two strophes.
a. The oath of his innocence he takes with the full consciousness of its gravity, and with a determination to maintain it against all gainsayers, Job 27:2-6.
2. As God liveth Literally, living is God, that is, “by the living God,” an Arabic and Hebrew form of oath. Raschi cites from Rabbi Joshua, that Job must have served God from love, because no one swears by the life of a king unless he loves the king. Compare Psalms 63:11, and Isaiah 48:1.
My judgment, etc. My right. God has not only rejected his cause, but embittered his soul. This cry of wrong demonstrates that Job is still far from fitted to undo the twisted knot of his sufferings and rise erect in true manhood, renewed through sorrow; while it most admirably paves the way for Elihu.
3. All the while, etc. Dillmann, Hitzig, and the Speaker’s Commentary, read, for whole even yet is my breath in me; that is, notwithstanding his weight of sorrow he feels himself “sound, capable of knowing and holding what is true and right;” in a condition not unlike that essential to the making of a will, “being in sound mind.” The Authorized Version, which is approved by Gesenius, Furst, and Hengstenberg, makes quite as good sense. As long as he lives he will adhere to what he is about to swear. Umbreit makes this verse a part of the oath.
Spirit (or breath) of God An allusion to the Mosaical account of man’s creation. Genesis 2:7.
4. My lips Literally, If my lips. The oath introduced by the usual form אם , im, commences with this verse: He will speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
5. God forbid Literally, Far be it from me, μη γενοιτο , (Romans 6:2,) to concede that you are right in the impeachment of my righteousness, and thus to compromise the truth. Hitzig supposes “God” to be the subject of the textual form חלילה , in 2 Samuel 23:17, and follows frequent renderings of the word in the Septuagint, and its cognate meaning in the Arabic, by translating it, “God be gracious to me, if,” etc.
Mine integrity Among the heaviest strokes that fell upon Job were the cruel aspersions against his integrity.
6. My heart shall not reproach My heart reproaches not one of my days. (Hitzig.) Job’s heart, rendered by Luther “conscience,” was, like the apostle’s, “void of offence.” “Friends” had charged him with secret sins as the source of his woes. He assures them, in the language of the Septuagint, “I am not conscious of having done wrong, ατοπα .” See sermon of Sydney Smith in loc., on “The Reproaches of the Heart.”
b. As an incidental confirmation of his righteousness, Job adduces his triumphant religious experience, and reasons that he who possesses such, cannot be as the wicked, Job 27:7-10.
7. Let mine enemy be, etc. Rather, Mine enemy must appear as the wicked, etc. The sentiments his antagonists have expressed are such as are held by the wicked. They who counsel to acts of hypocrisy as these had done, should be regarded as wicked. There is here no imprecation. It is simply the announcement of an important truth: he who consciously antagonizes truth must be himself accounted as untrue.
8. For Job appeals to the want of religious experience on the part of the ungodly to show that he cannot be accounted such.
Gained (unjustly) Thus the Syriac, Chaldee, Vulgate, Arnheim, Gesenius, Furst, etc. The exhaustive comment of Tayler Lewis abundantly shows that Zockler, (in Lange,) Dillmann, etc., are wrong in reading כי יבצע , “When he cutteth off.” The transition from the prime meaning of batsa’h, “break off,” “plunder” (for gain,) to its secondary meaning “gain,” is easy and natural. The construction of Zockler, etc., mixes the metaphor, and demands, contrary to Hebrew usage, the same subject for two successive verbs, each preceded by כי ; also it destroys the parallelism. The resemblance between the text and the profound question of Christ (Mark 8:36) is worthy of note.
Taketh away Literally, Draweth out, as a sword from its sheath, as in Daniel 7:15, (see margin,) where the body is called a sheath. The Talmud, the Hindu, and the Roman, (Pliny,) use the same metaphor. The Hindu Vedanta says, “The soul is in the body as in a sheath.” COLEBROOK, Misc. Essays, 1:372. Gesenius ( Thes., 855) cites a philosopher who, being despised by Alexander on account of his ugliness, responded: “The body is nothing but the sheath of a sword in which the soul is concealed.” While the figure of the text painfully expresses the resistance of the soul against its severance from the body, (compare Genesis 35:18,) it assumes a separate existence for the soul. To speak of hope for a man after his death, unless the soul be conscious, would be a palpable absurdity. The passage is among the many of this book that take for granted the conscious existence of the wicked after death, and by implication the immortality of all.
10. Delight himself Same as in Job 22:26. If the ungodly have no such experience as his own, Job would have his friends infer that he must be righteous.
Always Hebrew, In all time. Delight in God manifests itself in habitual communion with him. The question of Job is an unconscious exponent of his own unceasing life of prayer.
Section second A CALM AND FORMAL STATEMENT OF JOB’S VIEWS CONCERNING THE LOT OF THE WICKED IN THIS, AND THEIR DOOM IN THE NEXT, LIFE, Job 27:11-23.
Introductory strophe a Experience has given man wisdom which should guard him against error in the interpretation of the mind and ways of God. With a noble feeling of conciliation he takes for his text the statement of the friends concerning the wicked, Job 27:11-13.
11. By the Concerning. Literally, in.
Hand of God The mystery of the divine government, which he proceeds to unfold in this and the subsequent chapters.
That which is with the Almighty His dealings. Compare Job 12:16; Job 15:9; and see note on Job 22:14.
12. Ye yourselves have seen it The facts he is about to adduce are in keeping with their views. Job has, indeed, several times intimated, what he now expresses, that the prosperity of the wicked is not uninterrupted.
Altogether vain Literally, Vain in vanity, or vain even to vanity. Their folly partly consisted in making false use of the truth. The words they spoke coined themselves into a corresponding state of the heart, a truth forcibly implied in the verb הבל , “to speak vainly,” (Gesenius,) “to be vain,” (Furst.) “Hollow opinions hollow out the man.” “They followed vanity and became vain.” 2 Kings 17:15.
13. In chapters 21 and 24 Job had, in glowing terms, portrayed the prosperity of the wicked; he now (Job 27:13-23) guards his statement by conceding that wickedness is punished, though not uniformly. His argument before seemed to deny punishment in this present life. Now that he has silenced his adversaries he desires to leave the argument in a condition more satisfactory, lest the wicked be emboldened to sin without restraint. He employs against the friends the very terms they had used, gathering them up like so many weapons, which in their disastrous defeat they had left on the field, Job 20:29. Delitzsch suggests “that Job holds up the end of the evildoer before the friends that they may infer from it that he is not an evildoer, whereas the friends held it up before Job that he might infer from it that he is an evildoer.” A.B. Davidson and others regard “the passage in question as a kind of summary by Job of the views of the friends on providence, which views he characterizes as הבל , (Job 27:12,) “utter vanity,” and quite insufficient to explain the facts. Having run over these views (Job 27:13-23) he proceeds to controvert them.” Such an estimate is, however, erroneous, since Job distinctly declares (Job 27:11-12) his determination to set forth his own views. The speech stands forth in its rugged grandeur, self-declaratory of its Jobesque origin, and is in itself a refutation of those who would sacrilegiously ascribe it to the feeblest of the three, the passionate, parrot-like Zophar.
Portion… heritage The passage is taken almost verbatim from Zophar; Job 20:29.
Strophe b Having fully established his main position, that the virtuous may suffer, for instance as in his case, (2-10,) Job proceeds to give in detail the sufferings of a portion of the wicked in this present life. In admitting the sufferings of some of the wicked, he magnanimously proffers a ground of conciliation, with an implied condition that the friends should also admit the sufferings of the righteous, which they in the obstinacy of silence fail to do, Job 27:14-18.
14. His children Calamity hangs over his home also; his children perish, too, some by war and some by famine. Job’s glowing description of a godless family in Job 21:8, he now qualifies by declaring their doom. It is painfully natural that desolate Job should first speak of the children of the wicked.
15. Buried in death Or, by death. They who escape war and famine shall fall by some fell pestilence that precludes even a burial. Death himself shall administer the last sad rites no funeral cortege, save wild beasts from the desert no dirge; even their “widows shall not weep,” “corruption alone shall be their tomb.” A startling personification. Comp. Jeremiah 16:4. The pestilence, in the Middle Ages, was called black death. The reader will recall painful allusions to the death of Job’s children which stained the speeches of the friends.
His widows shall not weep Comp. Jeremiah 22:18. The plural form “widows” points to polygamy as a common practice of Job’s times, and consequently to a remote age for the writing of this book.
16. Raiment as the clay As with Elizabeth, queen of England, the wardrobe of the rich in the East represented often untold sums of wealth.
18. His house as a moth The house that the moth builds rises on the ruin of the garment where it dwells. “By means of their maxillae these little larvae shear down the surface of various substances, and, uniting the particles by means of their glutinous silk, they thus form protecting habitations.” Encyclo. Brit., 9:217. So frail is the house that if the garment be shaken it perishes. See Job 4:19. As a booth A frail and temporary shed erected for the use of those set to watch over vineyards and orchards.
Strophe c Suddenly and with violence he dies, the scorn of nature and of man, rejected and shot at by God himself, Job 27:19-23.
19. The rich… lie down He lieth down rich. Though the wicked man be rich at his death, he shall not be gathered; an obscure phrase, the meaning of which our translators have given correctly when they have made it of signification similar to Genesis 25:8 “Abraham was gathered to his people.” Since Abraham was buried in a land of strangers, and with Sarah only, the expression cannot signify mere burial with the dead, but rather pre-supposes continued conscious existence, and implies probably the communion of the dead. Compare Genesis 15:15; Genesis 25:8; Genesis 25:17; Genesis 35:29; Genesis 49:29-33; Numbers 20:24, etc. The rendering of Ewald, Hirtzel, etc., follows the Septuagint, “he doeth it no more,” that is, “he lies down for the last time,” but is hardly justified by the form of the verb, which is passive. The trivial reading of Umbreit, based upon a different pointing, “and nothing is robbed from him,” Hitzig strangely enough accepts.
He openeth his eyes So sudden and unexpected is his death: it is but a glance, an opening of the eye, and he is no more. Or it may express the surprise of the guilty soul when it awakens to consciousness in the unseen world. Luke 16:23.
20. As waters Suddenly, violently, continuously. “One terror after another, without intermission, as waters mix together in a flood.” Rabbi Levi. “That man, then,” says Plato, “who discovers in his own life much iniquity, and, like children, constantly starts in his sleep, is full of terrors, and lives on with scarce a hope of the future.” See, further, his “Republic,” b. 1, ch. 5.
21. The east wind A storm brought on by an east wind is generally very destructive on account of its strong gusts, and it will even uproot the largest trees. (Wetzstein.) This wind, according to “The Hamasa,” is usually most violent at night. See Job 15:2.
22. He would fain flee Literally, Fleeing he flees. Hither and thither he flees before God’s hand, but in vain.
23. Men shall clap It or he, used collectively. In the opinion of some, the storm is personified and represented as acting after the manner of men when they condemn and hiss a public character. The text properly supplies the word men. The accumulation of the terminations emo and omo (says Delitzsch) gives a tone of thunder and a gloomy impress to this conclusion of the description of judgment, as those terminations frequently occur in the book of Psalms, where moral depravity is mourned and divine judgment threatened.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 27". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25