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Bible Commentaries
Job 30

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


Job’s Monologue, (continued.)

SECOND PART, chap. 30.

This last lament of Job deepens the plot of sorrow, but ripens it for solution. That Job should once have been honoured by the most honoured of men, now imbitters the cup which the most despicable press to his lips. Such was the systematic and cruel treatment that he received from the brutish rabble, (Troglodytes,) who lived in waddies and holes of the earth, that he compares himself to a fortified city besieged and carried by storm. God had raised him to the sky, and caused him to ride on the wind as in a chariot, that he might hurl him deeper into the abyss. It is to be remarked that though his cry of despair had failed to move God or man, (Job 30:20; Job 30:28,) he calmly holds fast to his integrity and faith, and awaits the final stroke. Somewhat similar extreme and sudden reverses of fortune are still frequent in the East. Layard, in his Nineveh, (vol. 1:49,) describes the fate of Mohammed Pasha, who was suddenly ejected from the governorship of Mosul. A dragoman found him in a dilapidated chamber, into which the rain penetrated without hinderance. “Thus it is,” said he, “with God’s creatures. Yesterday these dogs were kissing my feet; to-day, every one and every thing falls on me even the rain.”

This monologue is divided into four strophes, the last three of which commence with the same particle, ועתה , and now, (Job 30:1; Job 30:9; Job 30:16,) one of the evidences of strophic arrangement of the book.


Verse 1

First strophe Formerly a prince among nobles, Job is now grossly maltreated by hordes of pariahs, whose mode of life links them with beasts rather than with men, Job 30:1-8.

1. The dogs In the East the dog serves as a symbol for every kind of uncleanness, (Revelation 22:15,) and is universally abhorred. The scoffers Job speaks of were not fit to associate with dogs. Mohammed says, “Angels will enter no house where are dogs and pictures.” In his annals, Sardanapalus speaks of a captive king, “With the dogs I placed him, and I caused him to be chained.” Column 8:29.

Verse 2

2. Old age Equivalent to manly vigour, the maturity of strength. These wretches are so eaten out by vice, or worn away by want and wretchedness, that all hope of old age has perished.

Verse 3

3. Solitary Similar to Job 3:7, (which see;) barren, emaciated, hard like the rock.

Fleeing into Literally, gnawing the wilderness. The scantness of their livelihood appears from Job 30:4.

Former time The prime import of this word, אמשׁ , is darkness, or yesternight, as in margin; others insist upon “the yesterday of waste and desolation.” The language denotes extreme desolation.

Verse 4

4. Mallows Probably the sea purslain or orach, a kind of bramble without thorns, of an exceedingly bitter and saltish taste, whence the Hebrew name, like our word salad, from sal, salt. Athenaeus speaks of the poor of his day as “eating purslain, and gathering such like bad things.”

Juniper Hebrew, rothem, is a broom shrub, common in the desert of Syria, and grows to the height of eight or ten feet, furnishing a shade, though slight, yet eagerly sought for by the traveller. It was under this plant Elijah took shelter. Its roots are so bitter as to be eaten only by the extremely poor.

Verse 5

5. Driven forth from among men If they dared to show themselves among men they were hooted back to their own bestial homes.

Verse 6

6. Clefts of the valleys Literally, Horror of the gorges. Dwelling in valleys, Umbreit says, is in the East a mark of poverty and wretchedness.

Caves Hhorim, as in the margin, holes of the earth, whence the word Horites, those who dwell in holes and caves the aborigines of Idumaea. (Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:22.) See note Job 24:2. The treatment that they and their ancestors had received at the hand of their conquerors led them to improve every opportunity of revenge, as is evident from their persecution of Job, whom misfortune had thrown into their power. Then, too, fallen human nature takes pleasure in maltreating those who have fallen from a higher plane to that of a lower one. Wolves devour a wolf when no longer capable of self-defence.

Verse 7

7. Brayed Their inarticulate notes sounded like those of the ass, Job 24:5. Herodotus (iv, 183) compares the language of the Troglodyte Ethiopian to the screech of the night-owl. The bray which Job deftly imputes to this human rabble tells the genus to which, in his estimate, they belong.

Nettles Denoted probably some kind of thistle or thorn, (Rosenmuller;) according to others, some species of wild mustard.

They were gathered together The Arabic seems to justify Taylor Lewis (compare Gesenius, Thes., s.v.) in rendering יספחו , herd together like beasts. In illustration of meaning, consult Herodotus 1:216, and Larcher’s “Notes on Herodotus,” vol. i, page 196.

Verse 8

8. They were viler than the earth Rather, They are beaten out of the land. Our aborigines furnish a parallel case.

Verse 9

Second strophe These human outcasts are led on to such brutal usage of Job by the treatment he had received at the hands of God, who had himself set the example, by letting loose his horde of calamities against his servant, Job 30:9-15.

9. Their song (of derision) See Job 17:6. Nothing can give us of the West an idea of the shocking and indecent scurrilities Orientals put into their satirical, or, rather, abusive songs. (Kitto.)

Verse 10

10. Spit in my face Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 25:9; see also Job 17:6. Some improperly understand the grossly insulting act in this case to have been before, not into, the face. In the East, however, spitting in the presence of another is regarded as an outrage nearly as great as to spit upon him.

Verse 11

11. Loosed my cord My girdle, (Furst;) bowstring, (Dillmann;) the well-known symbol of power, or, as in Job 4:21, the cord, (Delitzsch,) like that of a tent that keeps the soul in the body. In either view God had humbled him. He forbears to mention Deity by name. They also have cast off the bridle; that is, all restraint, perhaps all sense of shame. The antitheis is obvious.

Verse 12

12. Right hand The place of vantage. This was the position of the accuser in court. (Zechariah 3:1.) Evil has the vantage ground here: in heaven, Christ standeth at the right hand of God.

The youth An expression of contempt “offspring of beasts,” (Gesenius,) “brats.”

Against me the ways As in Job 19:12, he compares himself to a place besieged, a favourite figure of Job, and one which he expands in the following two verses.

Verse 13

13. They mar my path In the process of the siege they break up his paths, that is, the paths that lead to him; they “set forward his calamity.” make his destruction more certain.

They have no helper This ambiguous expression is probably a proverbial one for “the friendless” and “the helpless.” “They are too vile to have an ally.” Schultens gives several illustrations of such Oriental use: for instance, “We behold you ignoble, poor, without a helper among the rest of men.” Zockler’s interpretation, “they need no other help,” and that of Hitzig, “they do it without gain to themselves,” are sufficiently self condemned.

Verse 14

14. A wide breaking in A wide breach. See “breach upon breach,” Job 16:14. By a figure common in the Scriptures, (like that of “cup” for its contents,) breach stands for the inrushing soldiers.

In the desolation Literally, Beneath the crash they roll on. (Delitzsch.) A vivid description of the storming of a fortress: the walls crash as the infuriated soldiery rush through the breach. Hitzig agrees with the English version except in the second clause, which he renders “like a plunging stream they roll on.”

Verse 15

15. My soul Literally, My honour. Genesis 49:6. In recognition of the soul as the nobler part of man.

As a cloud Arabian writers frequently compare hopes and promises that are not fulfilled to a cloud full of promise, speedily dispersed by the wind.

Verse 16

Third strophe In his extreme distress Job cries in vain to a God who casts him into the mire and coldly stares upon him, or lifts him up upon the stormy wind that he may dissolve him in the crash of the storm, and thus make more conspicuous and startling the divine determination to destroy. 16-23. Compare Job 29:2-5.

16. Poured out upon me We say of the heart, “it dissolves in grief,” an effect of grief recognised in other languages.

Verse 17

17. My bones are pierced According to many, night is here personified, thus: The night pierces my bones. Night intensifies pain and sorrow. Job attributes to night, as an agent, the work done in the night. See note Job 3:3. Herder calls Job the brother of Ossian in personification.

In me Literally, From upon me. So that they (the bones) are detached from him. It is possible that Job was already maimed by this “maiming disease.” See note Job 2:7, and below Job 30:30. Sinews Same as in Job 30:3, gnawers, that is, the gnawing disease or gnawing pains; possibly worms, the maggots in his ulcers, Job 7:5.

Verse 18

18. Garment changed Figuratively, for skin which by “great (divine) power” is marred, disfigured so that he could scarcely be recognized; “the whole body being enveloped with a kind of elephantine hide formed by innumerable incrustations from the ulcerated surface.” Clarke. Of a madman a Persian poet says, He was clothed as with a vest, with the wounds of ulceration. (Sir W. Jones, 1:224.)

Coat Tunic; a closely fitting undergarment resembling in form and use a shirt, and made either of wool, cotton, or linen.

Verse 19

19. As in Job 9:31. Like dust and ashes In elephantiasis the skin is at first intensely red, and afterward black.

Verse 20

20. Hear Rather, answer. Regardest me (omit not) Job takes the reverential attitude of a suppliant, and God looks upon him calmly and pitilessly.

Verse 21

21. Harsh and unjustifiable charges against God, which Elihu justly reproves, Job 33:10.

Verse 22

22. The wind; thou causest me to ride upon This figure is common in Oriental writers. “In Arabic they say of one who hurries rapidly by that he rides upon the wings of the wind.” Delitzsch. Comp. Psalms 102:10.

Dissolvest my substance Rather, according to the Kethib, Dissolvest me in the tempest; more literally, the crash of a tempest.

Verse 23

23. Appointed מועד , according to Dr. Clarke and most moderns, means assembly; here with beth, the house of assembly, the involuntary rendezvous of all of woman born. Comp. Job 3:18-19. The idea of a gathering of the dead “to the fathers,” or “to their people,” appears frequently in the oldest of the Scriptures. Note on Job 27:19. “All such language must have come from some idea of death, or sheol, being a place of waiting for something to come after it.” T. Lewis. See Excursus III, page 73.

Verse 24

Fourth strophe God’s insensibility to Job’s prayers may have arisen from the general principle that prayers can be of no avail when once the doom of destruction shall have gone forth. The sympathy Job had ever extended to those in distress led him to expect divine succour, but in vain, since naught now remains to him but lamentation and death. Job 30:24-31.

24. Howbeit אךְ , yea. Schultens enumerates eighteen interpretations of this difficult verse. Those most worthy of consideration turn upon the meaning of בעי , which, if taken as one word, signifies prayer; if compounded, it means to the grave or in destruction. Gesenius, ( Thes., 222,) Rosenmuller, Conant, Renan, Lewis, etc., render, essentially, yea, there is no prayer where he (God) stretches out the hand; when he (God) destroys, vain is the cry for help. Literally, it reads. “If in his destruction (that of which God is author) one cries,” what then? of what avail? which is, says Dr. T. Lewis, an aposiopesis, (like that of Luke 13:9, if it bear fruit!! or the quos ego!! of Virgil,) a figure common to passionate language, in which the speaker leaves the hearer to supply a conclusion which he himself is loath to express. Comp. Psalms 94:9; Iliad, 1:26. Renan renders it, “ of what use to protest against his blows.” If instead of taking, with Jerome and Kimchi, להן , as euphonical for a masculine plural, it be read adverbially “ on this account,” (Furst,) the sense is not materially changed. The noun שׁוע , cry, corresponds to the תשׁוע of Job 24:12, “The soul of the wounded crieth out.” On the other hand, in view of the context, Ewald, Hirtzel, Dillmann, etc., translate less correctly, yet in destruction doth one not stretch out the hand? In his calamity doth he not complain thereof? Dr. Clarke gives no translation, but seems disposed to follow Bede and most of the Latins in regarding it as “a consolatory reflection, as if he had said, though I suffer here, I shall not suffer hereafter… his displeasure shall not proceed beyond the grave.”

Verse 25

25. Him that was in trouble Literally, the hard of day. Job seems to intimate that the sympathizer with men has reason to expect divine sympathy. Psalms 41:1-3. And yet the sympathy he has freely poured forth for others is withheld from him by God and man. Like Jeremiah and our Saviour. Job was pre-eminent in sympathy. The touching pathos of this appeal must commend itself to each heart.

Verse 27

27. Bowels According to the Oriental ideas, the seat of deep and noble feelings and emotions. Barnes thinks Job means “the upper bowels, or the region of the heart and the lungs.” In Isaiah 16:11, deep feeling for others calls forth from within responsive notes, like those of the harp touched by the plectrum. South Sea Islanders “call compassion a bleating of the bowels.” Forster.

Prevented Have overtaken.

Verse 28

28. Mourning without the sun I go blackened, but not by the heat of the sun. The blackness of his skin is due, not to the sun, but to his disease. Elephantiasis passes current as “the black leprosy.”

Congregation Probably the indiscriminate assemblage of the people, naturally drawn together at first by the tidings of his misfortunes. This seems to have been previous to the seven days of mourning; the utter breaking down of Job is painfully indicated by this cry of despair.

Verse 29

29. Brother See note, Job 17:14. By his cry he has become a brother to dragons, (Hebrew, tannim,) rather, jackals, whose howl is a wailing like that of a child. It begins with the setting of the sun and continues all night. Dr. Thomson speaks of a concert of jackals as the most frightful noise he ever heard. ( Land and Book, 1:113.)

Owls Literally, daughters of the ostrich. The cry of the ostrich is hideous, sometimes resembling the roar of a lion; then again, the hoarse voice of the bull. “I have often heard them groan as if they were in the greatest agonies.” Dr. Shaw, (comp. Micah 1:8.) Shakspeare borrows the imagery of this verse,

though I go alone,

Like to a lonely dragon, that his fen Makes feared.

Coriolanus, iv, sc. 1.

Verse 30

30. Upon me Literally, from upon me. Job now describes an advanced stage of the elephantiasis, in which the skin peels and hangs down in black flakes, and the limbs perish and fall off, the bones having been destroyed by the ulceration. Job 30:17.

Verse 31

31. Harp… to mourning See note, Job 21:12. Among the Hindus, when a person is in trouble, his instrument is also considered to be in trouble, (Roberts.)

Thus closes the second part of the soliloquy, (monologue,) Job’s last sorrowful lament. “What a delicate touch of the poet is it that he makes this lament die away so melodiously! One hears the prolonged vibration of its elegiac strains. The festive and joyous music is hushed; the only tones are tones of sadness and lament, mesto flebile.” Delitzsch.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 30". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/job-30.html. 1874-1909.
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