FIRST PART, chap. 29.
1.Some interval may have elapsed since the close of the tribute to wisdom, during which fond memory had dwelt upon years of prosperity and bliss, recalling the care and friendship of God, domestic joys, and the highest love and veneration of his people. But the remembrance of these, instead of lighting up the present, according to a strange law of the mind, served rather to deepen the gloom. He feels that his present wretched condition is but an instance of the mysteriousness of God’s ways which he adduces in elucidation of the preceding chapter, and thus “continues his parable.” Job seemingly intimates that he thought his righteousness a claim upon God; and that he thence postulated a kind of right to temporal prosperity: which sentiment would have been in keeping with the temporal idea of religion prevailing in ancient times — an idea that led to the trial of Job. But now he rises to the mature conception that God’s favour is in itself a sufficient reward, and that this is the greatest of blessings to be desired — an important stage in the transition to the unravelment of the entanglement. While apparently unconscious of the presence of the friends, in the kindest and most courteous spirit he refutes some of their cruel charges, and displays the noblest traits of character. “The commemoration of former blessings,” says the Oriental proverb, cited by Ali Hazin, “is the possession of the wretched.”
First division — JOB’S RETROSPECTIVE VIEW OF LONG CONTINUED PROSPERITY, — A PROSPERITY ARISING FROM COMMUNION WITH GOD AND WELL DOING TO MEN, chap. 29.
First strophe — The most endearing fellowship with God was crowned with the unstinted bounty of Providence, and with the profound esteem and affection of Job’s fellow-men, Job 29:2-10.
2.When God preserved me — In all Job’s thoughts God is foremost. Five times in these few verses (2-5) does Job, in diversified expression, refer to the presence and fellowship of God as his highest blessing, and the fountain of all good. As the lifting up of the heave-offering pointed to God in the heavens, so should all human undertakings begin with him.
3.When his candle shined — Literally, When he, his lamp, shone above my head. The glory of a providential God, under a figure of marked beauty, is represented as taking the place of the lamp which Orientals are accustomed to suspend, often from the ceiling, in every occupied apartment. Thus the light shone the live-long night upon the heads of those who slept below on the floors or divans. (Note, Job 18:6.) Ecclesiastes 12:6 figures existence under the image of a golden lamp, (bowl,) suspended from the ceiling by a silver cord, upon the breaking of which life ceases. (DELITZSCH, Bib. Psych., 269.) The second clause of the verse may contain, as Kitto supposes, an allusion to the torches or cressets carried aloft in the night marches of large caravans.
4.Youth — Literally, autumn, “the days of my maturity,” (Gesenius,) that period of life in which the fruits of earliest labours ripen.
The secret of God — Hebrew, sodh, same as in Job 19:19; a seat, couch, or cushion, upon which one reclines, says Kitto; also a circle of friends in consultation. The word, according to Hupfield on Psalms 25:14, is probably derived from an Arabic root meaning “secret and confidential converse.” So close and familiar was his intercourse with heaven, that Job looked upon God as a constant guest and bosom friend; a partner in his life, thoughts, joys, and griefs, ready to communicate even the secret of the divine heart. Comp. Genesis 18:17; John 14:23.
5.My children about me — Next to the blessing of God’s presence was that of the children. Compare Psalms 127:3; Psalms 128:3.
6.When I washed, etc. — Rather, when my steps were bathed in cream.
Butter — Milk, probably curdled; according to others, cream. See note Job 20:17. So plentiful is butter in the East, that it is considered at Kerak, says Burckhardt, an unpardonable meanness to sell butter, or to exchange it for any necessary or convenience of life.’ “Seller of butter” is the most insulting epithet that can be applied to a man of Kerak. — Syria, p. 385.
The rock — In ancient times oil-presses, with their floors, gutters, troughs, and cisterns, were all hewn out of solid rock, and thus it literally poured out rivers of oil. — THOMSON, Land and Book, 1:71. Umbreit understands the expression figuratively; instead of water, their usual outflow, the rocks poured forth oil. The great lawgiver, when about to die, said of Asher, “He shall dip his foot in oil,” (Deuteronomy 33:24,) and the rabbis say, “In Asher oil flows like a river.”
Me — By or near me.
Blessings were so near and abundant that they flowed along his path like a stream.
7.Through — Up to the city. Cities, together with their acropolis, were in ancient towns usually built on heights, thus securing better defence, and perhaps greater probability of health. It would seem that Job’s residence was in the country, and that he made stated visits to the city for the transaction of business as Emir. The place of business was either in the gateway of the city, which was vaulted, shady, and cool, (see note, Job 5:4,) or in the STREET, the broad way, probably a kind of market-place, not far from the gate. Thomson speaks of his seeing in certain places — Joppa, for example — the kadi and his court sitting at the entrance of the gate, hearing and adjudicating all sorts of cases in the audience of all that went in and out.
8.Hid themselves — Evidently pointing to a primitive and Arcadian state of society.
Stood up — Remained standing. An elegant description, exhibiting most correctly the great reverence and respect which were paid, even by the old and decrepit, to the holy man as he passed along the streets or when he sat in public. They not only rose, which in men so old and infirm was a great mark of distinction, but they continued to do it, though the attempt was so difficult. — Lowth.
9.Hand on their mouth — Plutarch; speaking of a similar gesture, calls it a symbol of profound silence. See note, Job 21:5.
10.Tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth — The cleaving of the tongue to the palate is an Oriental figure for dead silence.
Second strophe — This prosperity rested on the solid basis is of benevolence, philanthropy, and righteousness, which had become habitual with him, as if incorporated into his very nature, Job 29:11-17.
11.It blessed me — His character, as a public functionary, not only commanded the reverence of the aged and the great, but the esteem and affection of all. The friend of God is the friend of man.
12.A most courteous reply to the cruel calumnies of Eliphaz, Job 22:6-9.
14.And it clothed me — , to put on, clothe; the same word in both clauses of the sentence. The righteousness he put on renewed and transformed his being into its own pure nature: — It (righteousness) put on me. “Job means to say, without and within was I righteous.” — Hahn. The same word is used of the Spirit of Jehovah when he makes man the organ for the manifestation of his power. Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18. On the other hand, sin is like the burning garment of Nessus — it changes man’s entire nature into its own miserable likeness.
Diadem — Tiara or turban. This consisted of costly cloths, wound around the head. According to Niebuhr, the head-dress worn by Arabians of fashion is both complicated and imposing. “They wear fifteen caps, one over another, some of which are indeed of linen, but the rest of thick cloth or cotton. That which covers all the rest is usually richly embroidered with gold, and has always some sentence of the Koran embroidered upon it.” See farther, Travels, 2:233.
Judgment — Integrity is comely attire for the entire man. Job carries forward to a climax the beautiful figure in the first clause, of clothing and adornment for the soul. (Comp. Isaiah 11:5; Isaiah 51:9; Isaiah 59:17.) Spotless integrity was his royal robe, , (see note, Job 1:20,) and a diadem or crown for his brow.
16.The Hebrew for father to the poor, gives a paronomasia, a beauty frequent in Job, just as if we should say, a carer for the careful ones. See note, Job 3:25.
Which — Or, of him I knew not. He was not indifferent to the commonest claims of humanity. With no thought of gain he made the stranger his client.
17.I brake the jaws of the wicked — Gentle and compassionate to the oppressed, he was a thunderbolt to the oppressor. He broke the jaws of these ravenous beasts, and thus crushed their power to do injury; from their very teeth he tore their prey. The word for jaw may also be rendered eye teeth, protruding, says Schultens, like those of a wild boar.
Third strophe — He had reason, therefore, to expect that such prosperity would last; that his years would be those of a patriarch, and that the time would never come when the esteem of his fellow-men should be abated; a thought he reverently dwells upon, (compare Job 29:7-10.) spurred by the sense of his present degradation, Job 29:18-25.
18.In my nest — The figure is one of peace and security, taken, as Schultens thinks, from the eagles, who build in the highest rocks. Job 39:27-28; Obadiah 1:4. As the sand — (See note, Job 6:3.) The translators of the Septuagint, led, perhaps, by the fact that the palm-tree is the hieroglyph for the year, and an image of long life, render this word, , hhol, “the trunk of the palm-tree,” see Job 14:7. The rabbins, the Talmud, Dillmann, Zockler, (in Lange,) Hitzig, and others, understand the word to denote the fabled bird called the phenix, which, from the most ancient times, (Herodotus, 2:73,) has stood as the type of immortality. Among the fabulous versions of its death the one most popularly received is, that the phenix, every five hundred years, built a nest of cassia and myrrh, in which it burned itself, only to reappear with renewed life and youth. The Talmud states that Eve gave the fruit of the forbidden tree to all the animals, and that all of them ate save the phenix, an abstinence which accounts for its wondrous gift of immortality. Authorities equally great favour the Authorized Version, (sand,) among whom are Schultens and Gesenius; also Renan, who does not even notice the Jewish notion, which Conant properly calls a “foolish conceit;” and Cook, (Speaker’s Commentary,) who scouts the learned etymologies linked with the subject. The idea of the phenix, Hahn says, owes its existence solely to the friendly design on the part of Job’s commentators to provide his NEST with a bird.
19.This and the following verse are a continuation of the pleasing thoughts and flattering hopes of Job, as expressed in Job 29:18. The verbs are all future. Thus my root shall be open to the waters, and the dew shall lie all night in my branch.
20.By glory he means honour with God and man. The bow, the principal weapon of the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, and Hebrews, was a recognised symbol of strength and dignity.
Renewed — The same word as in Job 14:7; “sprout again.” The dead bow should revive, a figure expressive of renewed life and vigour.
21.Kept silence at my counsel — Not unlike “the long silence” that followed upon one of the masterly arguments of Socrates. — Phaedo, 76.
22.Speech dropped — Rain is frequently used as a metaphor for pleasing and gentle discourse. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain.” (Deuteronomy 32:2.) Thus Milton, “Though his tongue dropt manna.”
23.The latter rain — Falls in the months of March and April, and is quite indispensable for the ripening of vegetation.
24.Believed it not — They could not believe that he would condescend so much as to smile upon them. According to others, “I smiled upon them,” to infuse confidence, when “they believed not” — were despairing.
Light of my countenance — A figure common to the Scriptures founded upon emotional expression through the face. Anger darkens, benignity and grace light up, the countenance. To cast down its light, then, would be to disturb its serenity, or cause sadness.
25.I chose out their way — I proved their way. Hitzig.
Way — The Hebrew, means, also, “usage,” “conduct,” “mode of life,” Job 23:11; Psalms 5:8; Psalms 27:11. Job was a controlling power among his people, either to the choosing out their way, (Exodus 18:20,) or to the testing, reproving, and censuring their mode of life; not actually a king, but enjoying all the dignity and prerogatives of a prince, even that highest royalty, the solace of the sorrowing, “a reminder for the three who did not really, but only in pretence, comfort the wretched.” — Ewald.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 29". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany