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Bible Commentaries
Job 9

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

JOB’S SECOND REPLY. Chaps. 9, 10.

1. Job answered He admits that man cannot answer for his sins before God. The mighty Monarch over nature and man, unseen and irresistibly accomplishes his implacable will, overpowering even “the helpers of Rahab.” Blinded and staggering, Job can neither see nor grasp aught but an absolute God, with whom power overtops every other attribute. He dares not appear before such a Being, since his own arm would be impotent, and all attempts at self-justification would be perverted into his own condemnation. Thoughts of the triumphant wicked, and the sufferings of the righteous, sweep him away into defiant, if not blasphemous, charges against God and yet there is not altogether a defection of the soul, for in the midst of his despair he recounts in the spirit of faith the mercies and love of the Lord in his creative and preserving care. Job 10:8-12. His despair is intensified by the thought that no daysman between God and man had yet appeared competent to meet the emergencies of evil. Chapter 10. Having nothing more to hope for in life, he boldly calls in question the eternal and all powerful One, who, having the wicked in safe custody, needs not to make such speedy and painful inquisition for human iniquity. Sinking in the quicksands of doubt, he finds some solace in the thought that the divine Artificer cannot destroy the work of his own hand. In faith and strength of heart Job has advanced but little beyond the despair of his first great lamentation. Chap. 3. This is evinced by his condensed repetition, in Job 9:18-19, of a part of the lamentation, (Job 9:11-16.) “Do we not see in these two chapters (9, 10) how the human heart is indeed tossed hither and thither between the proudest presumption and the most pusillanimous despair?” Andrea.

Verse 2


Strophe a Job ironically grants the propositions of his antagonists, but only as NON SEQUITURS. In almost the same breath they have insisted that “God rewards the just,” and that “none are just before God,” thus apparently contradicting themselves. Taking advantage of their discomfiture he redoubles his blows, plying them with the most momentous questions man can ask, Job 9:2-4.

2. Man ( אנושׁ , a mortal) be just with God, ( אל , the Strong) The key to the subsequent glowing description of the terror-working God (5-11) is found in this antithesis of mortal man to an omnipotent God. Prayers and oblations, temples and altars, sacrifices and self-tortures, lustral waters and bleeding victims, bear witness to a universal consciousness of sin and guilt to man’s abiding sense that he is not acceptable to his God; moreover, that the wrath of that God has gone forth against him, and must by some means be appeased. Whence that sense? By what means did it so deeply ingrain itself in man’s nature? It antedates all other merely human knowledge, and points, as with a wand, to certain deep, underlying, and congenital facts of a fallen nature everywhere recognized in Scripture. The only religion which proffers a satisfactory answer to the questions of Job is that which alone gives peace with God. Romans 5:1.

Verse 3

3. One of a thousand Referring either to questions with which God, in case of argument, might ply the soul, (as in chap. 38,) or more probably to the sins which that soul has committed. It is an overwhelming thought, that in the sight of God the sins of the individual are reckoned by the thousand, for not one of which can he give account.

Verse 4

4. Hardened against Bidden defiance, or braved him. Prospered ישׁלם , remained uninjured; that is, unpunished. (Furst.) All opposition to God is not only futile, but dangerous.

Verse 5

Strophes b and c, three verses each Job, having once conceived the power of God, becomes fascinated by the very tremendousness of it; the invincible might of his and man’s adversary charms his eye, and compels him to gaze and shudder, and run over it, feature after feature, unable to withdraw his look from it, (Davidson,) Job 9:5-10.

5. And they know not A Hebraism for suddenly, in a moment. Tyndale thus renders it: “He translate the the mountaynes or ever they be aware.” The unjustifiable translation of the Targum, “They know not that He hath overturned them in his wrath,” is adopted by the Vulgate, Ewald, etc. Chalmers pronounces this description of God’s power one of the finest sketches of natural theology to be found in Scripture, and, of course, far excelling all that any uninspired writer of antiquity has left behind him.

Verse 6

6. Pillars thereof Job speaks after the popular notion of the day, of the earth as resting on pillars, as we still speak of the rising of the sun. That he had a correct knowledge of the spherical form of the earth, is evident from Job 26:7, where see note. Dillmann explains the pillars, by the roots of the mountains, which sustained the earth as their summits did the heavens: Jerome, that they figuratively represent its stability.

Verse 7

7. Commandeth Rather, speaketh. God has but to speak to the sun, and it shall cease to rise. The rising of the sun and the shining of the stars, day and night, alike depend upon Him.

Sealeth up the stars An set expressive of their total covering; for who would dare to break the seal of God? (Umbreit.) Job may mean the disappearance of stars an astronomical event that may have been noted at a very early day. Schultens explains the entire verse by the flood; Warburton by the plague of darkness in Egypt; and others by the staying of the sun in its course at the command of Joshua. The text, however, speaks of the general exercise of the power of God. God can, if he will, reverse the action of nature as easily as overrule it.

Verse 8

8. Alone Creation is solely the work of God. This gives him sole proprietorship. In argument the word “alone” tells against Job.

Spreadeth out נשׂה . Hitzig and Umbreit render, bendeth, (the arch of the sky,) an act which God, and he alone, still perpetuates.

Waves of the sea Literally, heights, the highest waves. The Egyptian hieroglyphic for the impossible, was a man walking on water. God’s footsteps tread the heights of the sea a sublime conception, which, like the whole description of God’s works, selects outstanding points, “illuminating only with a single ray the heaven-reaching heights of the divine power.” Some argue a strophic arrangement of the book from the article placed before a participle at the beginning of each verse in strophe b, while the participles in strophe c, similarly situated, dispense with it. From the fifth verse to the eleventh, the verbs in the present tense indicate that God’s work of creation, as well as of providence, is ever going on.

Verse 9

9. Arcturus עשׁ , hash. Furst derives it from housh, to group together. Probably the constellation of the Great Bear, ( Ursa Major,) which the Jews of Bagdad and the Arabs of the Persian Gulf still call by the name of Ash. In the days of Homer it was called the wagon, or wain, from its fancied resemblance to a wagon with its three horses in line a notion still preserved in England in the name it bears of Charles’ wain, (wagon.) The Romans called its seven bright stars the septentriones the seven ploughing oxen an idea we still keep in our name, THE PLOUGH. Of these seven stars, constituting the plough, two ( α and β ) are known as the pointers, from their use in pointing out the pole star.

Orion כסיל , kesil; the strong one; (Furst;) the foolish, (Gesenius.) This cluster of stars was conceived to be a giant walking along the vault of heaven. The Arabs thus designate it. Other Orientals appear to have regarded the constellation as an impious giant fastened to the sky. According to the Persian mythology, this giant was Nimrod, the founder of Babylon, whose name they gave to this constellation. (See GESENIUS, Thesaurus, 2:701.) Some suppose these traditions look back to the revolt of the angels, and embody the supposed fate of their leader. “Orion stands far aloft, the pre-eminent glory and wonder of the starry universe. Judged by the only criterion applicable, it is perhaps so remote that its light does not reach us in less than fifty or sixty thousand years; and as, at the same time, it occupies so large an apparent portion of the heavens, how stupendous must be the extent of the nebula! It would seem almost that if all other clusters hitherto gaged were collected and compressed into one, they would not surpass this mighty group, in which every wisp, every winkle, is a SAND HEAP of stars.” NICHOL, Architecture of the Heavens, p. 147. Pleiades כימה , kimah, a little crowd, or group. (Furst.) The Arabs give this constellation a name signifying knot of stars, because of the number of closely united stars. In like manner the idea of close union appears in the various names this strikingly beautiful constellation bears among all eastern nations. The name ordinarily given to it of “the seven stars,” is recognized by Ovid, who says,

Quae septem dici, sex tamen esse solent.

Fasti, 4:1 70.

indicating, though they were called seven, there were but six. The Greek mythology hands us down touching legends over this supposed lost star. According to some, it had been smitten by lightning; according to others, the seventh hid herself from shame that she alone had married a mortal, while her sisters were the wives of different deities. The Persian poets compare the seven stars to a bouquet formed of jewels. Hafiz says, “The heavens bear up thy poems the pearly rosette of the Pleiades as the seal of immortality.” Beigel. Dr. Good thus renders a citation from Hafiz:

Now the bright Pleiades the concave gem,

As lucid pearls the garment’s glittering hem.

See Job 38:31. Chambers of the south That is, the veiled regions of the southern hemisphere. (Furst.) The constellations mentioned are chiefly to be seen in the northern hemisphere, and, therefore, the poet adds a reference to “stars which never come into our view, but which lie hid, as it were, in chambers and secret recesses.” Schultens.

Verse 11

Strophe d After the extended description of the divine Omnipotence, the short, hasty glance which in this strophe is cast on miserable, mortal man makes an impression so much the more pointed. Job 9:11-12. (Schlottmann.)

11. An important disclosure of the spiritual nature of Deity.

Passeth on Glideth, or sweepeth, by. The mysterious חל , hhalaph, used by Job in Job 4:15, of a spirit; in Job 14:7, of growth in nature; and in Job 11:10 of the solemn march of God to judgment. The word is happily adapted to express the unseen movements of nature and of nature’s God. See also Job 9:26.

Verse 12

12. He taketh away There is nothing that declares man’s impotency more than his powerlessness to save his loved ones from death. Job regards the work of death as the work of God.

Verse 13


Strophe a A fortiori application to Job himself; the mightiest bend beneath His almightiness, much more suffering Job, notwithstanding his case be urgent and just, Job 9:13-16.

13. If God will not withdraw, etc. God withdraws not his anger: literally, Does not cause it to return. The if vitiates the sense. “He takes his anger not back till it has accomplished its work.” Dillmann. His anger is irresistible.

Proud helpers Literally, Helpers of Rahab, tumultuous helpers. (Furst.) The Septuagint renders it, “Sea monsters under heaven.” Rahab was the poetical name for Egypt. Egypt, in the later books of the Bible, typified tumultuous violence, and was called sea monster and leviathan. Psalms 87:4; Psalms 89:10; Isaiah 30:7; Isaiah 51:9, etc. Olshausen suggests that Rahab’s helpers may be the hosts of Egypt overwhelmed in the sea. Ewald, Hirtzel, and others conjecture, (but without ground, though seemingly justified by the Septuagint,) that Job had in mind some legend of a sea monster that revolted against heaven, and was subdued with all his helpers, and chained to the sky in the form of a constellation either the Balena, Bellua, or Pistrix, to each of which there is some similar tradition attached. The Babylonian legends abound in allusions to the great dragon, Tiamat, who was finally destroyed by the god Bel. “And the gods, her helpers, who went beside her, trembled, feared, and broke up themselves.” GEO. SMITH’S Chaldean Account of Genesis, p. 98. For the supposed connexion between turbuhtu, the place or den of the monster, and Rahab, see Ibid., p. 90. The view of Schmidt and Dr. Tayler Lewis accords with the Introduction and several passages of the book, to wit, that Rahab may mean Satan, of whom Job seems to have had some idea as his great enemy. The argument of Job shows that he speaks of infinitely powerful beings, (which is the idea of the Vulgate, qui portant orbem;) but whether from among the gigantic creations of the primitive world, either land or sea, or from the fallen magnates of the superhuman world, does not so readily appear. See note on Job 26:12.

Verse 14

14. How… shall I answer him In the Hebrew the “I” is emphatic; such as I.

Verse 15

15. Righteous In the right, used in a forensic sense.

Verse 16

16. If I had called From Job 9:12-15 he supposes the case that God would take the initiative in summoning to trial; now, that he himself would: Should I summon him, and he answer me, I would hardly believe my senses that there could be such condescension and sense of justice!

Verse 17

Strophe b In the ravings of his despair, (see Job 6:3,) Job declares his sufferings to be a tangible proof that God may be almighty but not just, Job 9:17-20.

17. Breaketh me שׁו , same as in Genesis 3:15, bruise; the word also signifies “rub in pieces” destroy. “He who would crush me in a tempest, and multiply my wounds without cause, will not suffer me to take my breath, but would surfeit me with bitterness.”

Verse 18

18. Take my breath So incessant is the sorrow with which God visits him. See Job 7:19.

Verse 19

19. If… of strength Many moderns see in the abrupt and startling הנה , behold! and מי יועידני , who will cite me! the responses of Deity, and read, If it be a question of the strength of the strong. God replies, Behold, (me,) here I am. And if of right, God again replies, Who will cite me? Compare Jeremiah 49:19. Davidson regards the whole verse as words of God, and remarks: The sufferer imagines for a moment that he had cited his great adversary; his citation is attended with unexpected success. God appears appears in a whirlwind, dashing his challenger about, (17 a,) multiplying his plagues, (17 b,) filling him with the bitterest pains, (18.) coming in magnificence, and rioting in the jubilant consciousness of omnipotence, as if to say, I have been cited, challenged. Was it to a trial of strength? here I am! To a trial at law? who will venture to implead me?

Verse 20

20. I…

perfect תם אני . Were I to declare myself innocent, it (my mouth, though some make “God” the subject of the verb) should show (literally, make) me perverse, “betray me.” Renan sees in this a bold hyperbole. “If Job plead against God, his own mouth would betray him and say the contrary of what he intended.”

Verse 21

Strophe c The consciousness of his innocence not only leads him to self-assertion, but to a most violent arraignment of God as an unjust judge. The arraignment involves a twofold count the destruction of the innocent and guilty together, and the consignment of the world into the hands of the wicked, Job 9:21-24.

21. I [ am ] perfect Innocent. Hebrew same as above. What he had hesitated in the preceding verse to speak, from fear of the divine power, Job will now declare at all hazards. This is one of the many extraordinary revulsions of feeling in this book, to be accounted for only by extreme agony of soul and body. Job asserts his innocence recklessly and defiantly. “I know not my soul,” he says; I value it not. or, I care not for it; (similar use of verb “know” to Genesis 39:6:) “I despise my life.” Others, (Conant and Lewis,) with less reason, take the expression “I perfect” to be used hypothetically, in the same manner as in the preceding verse. Job would not esteem himself “perfect,” because of his vivid knowledge of his own soul, or because of true humility, which may be regarded as an inseparable element of perfection.

Verse 22

22. This is one thing It is all one, “a matter of indifference whether I live or die.” Dillmann. The Chaldee rendering, “There is one and the same measure,” Wordsworth thus follows: “There is one and the same thing to the wicked and righteous;” but this would tautologically anticipate the same thought in the next clause. “It is all one,” Job cries; I have nothing more to hope or fear; therefore I will say it (out with it) the good and the wicked are involved in the same doom. HE destroys; (God, whom he names not,) thus giving terrific emphasis to the question in Job 9:24. Job 9:23-24; Job 9:23-24 give the specifications under this charge.

Verse 23

23. Jerome remarks that “in the whole book Job says nothing more bitter than this” a volcanic outbreak of unspeakable misery.

He will laugh Schultens and others read, it will laugh, referring to the scourge. Though the figure be not too bold for poetry, the text is better.

Verse 24

24. “In this second illustration there is an advance in the thought, in so far as here a part, at least, of the wicked are excepted from the general ruin: nay, appear even as threatening the same to the pious.” Schlottmann.

Covereth the faces Criminals had their faces covered prior to execution. Esther 7:8. A like custom prevailed among the Greeks and Romans. (Quintus Curtius, 6:8; Livy, 1:26.) God, Job might say, treats the judges, who are presumed to be the best of men, as malefactors, as in my case. The Chaldee paraphrase, however, furnishes a better meaning: “He hideth justice from the face of the judges thereof,” so that they cannot distinguish right from wrong, and, therefore, judge unjustly. Unjust judges, like wicked kings, are sent for the punishment of men. In illustration, Drusius cites Menander: “Every wife is from God: the good from God, benevolent; the bad from God, angry.”

If not, where, and who is he If (it is) not (so) now, who then does it? If God be not the author of this state of affairs, who, then, is?

Verse 25

Second section, in strophes of four, three, and four verses JOB’S CASE A PRE-EMINENT ILLUSTRATION OF THIS MORAL CONFUSION, Job 9:25-35.

Strophe a The premature destruction of his life, and his intolerable burden of sorrows, show God’s estimate of him to be that of an evil-doer, Job 9:25-28.

25. A post A courier. In eastern countries messages are transmitted by couriers, who, having at their command relays of horses, dromedaries, or men, travel with almost incredible speed. Comp. Esther 8:10. “Nothing mortal travels so fast as Persian messengers. The entire plan is a Persian invention.” Herodotus. See further, 8, 98. Strabo tells us (xv, chap 2, 10) that the orders for the execution of Parmenio were conveyed a distance of over eight hundred and fifty miles in eleven days.

Click image for full-size version

Verse 26

26. Passed away as Literally, Glide along with. חלפו . See note on Job 9:11. The poet, in a figure finely conceived, links his passing days with the gliding of a river, whose silent, insensible current serves only to hasten the motion of the frail, swift craft its bosom bears. The frailty of the skiff Job speaks of images well the frail voyager of life, as he, too, glides among the stream of time.

Swift ships אבה , ebeh, reed, or papyrus. Light in their structure, skiffs made of papyrus shot along the Nile with great swiftness. Compare Isaiah 18:2. Heliodorus ( AEthiop., 10:460) speaks of such boats as having been exceedingly swift. Plutarch describes Isis going in search of the body of Osiris in a bark made of papyrus. The text illustrates the swiftness of time by figures drawn from objects that in Job’s days were swiftest on land, in the water, and in the air. The reader will mark the gradation.

Verse 27

27. Heaviness, etc. Literally, Face, dark looks.

Comfort myself Look cheerful. The original expresses the brightening up of the countenance by an exquisite metaphor taken from the lighting up of the sky when the clouds are lifted. Psalms 39:13.

Verse 29

Strophe b Job is divinely judged to be guilty; all efforts to free himself from guilt will therefore be futile, Job 9:29-31.

29. If I be wicked I, I am to be held guilty. Literally, I shall be guilty.

Omit if. There is no escape from the divine determination.

Verse 30

30. A specimen of abortive labour. Snow water was regarded by the ancients as possessed of peculiarly cleansing power. Thus Petronius, (in Satyr:) “We reclined at table, the boys having poured snow water upon our hands.” In the fable of Lockman, the black man rubs his body with snow in order to make it white. Mohammed prays, “Lord, wash me from my sins, white with water, snow, and ice.”

Never so clean Literally, Clean with lye. בור , bor, was a vegetable salt, obtained from the ashes of the kali, a plant still found in Arabia. Our word, alkali, (Arabic,) the kali, is derived from this plant. Comp. Jeremiah 2:22. Among the earliest prayers of the Vedas we find the recognition of man’s moral defilement: “Purifying waters cleanse from me whatever is impure or criminal; every evil I have done by violence, by imprecations, by injustice.” Rig Veda, 1:38. (See HARDWICK, Chrisi and Other Masters, 1:183.)

Verse 31

31. Truly man’s defilement must be great if so be, after he has cleansed himself with the best detergents of his day, God’s purity would cast him, the naked one, into a slimy pit, so that his own clothes should conceive a horror of him “start back in terror at the idea of being put on and defiled by such a horrible creature.” Schlottmann. See sermon by Dr. Chalmers, (Job 9:30-33,) on an estimate of the morality that is without godliness.

Verse 33

Strophe c The cause of Job’s inability to make out his innocency is not his guilt, but the character and conditions of his accuser , to wit, his omnipotence and unamenableness to human dealing and treatment. (Davidson,) Job 9:32-35.

33. Neither is there any daysman See Excursus IV, page 90; also sermon by Dr. Chalmers, on “Necessity of a Mediator between God and Man.”

Verse 35

35. But it is not so with me For not so am I with myself. “I am not myself,” (Vulgate;) that is, “I have no command of myself.” Hitzig and Umbreit render it, “For so I know not myself.” The margin, which is literal, comes nearer to the meaning. Job cannot appear for himself before God. The divine terror is such that he would not be able to speak. Hence the need of some one to mediate with God for him. Or it may possibly give the reason why the rod should be taken away that he is “not conscious of the” great “guilt” (thus the Septuagint) which only could have brought upon him so great calamity. This would impliedly account for the difficult word so in the text.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/job-9.html. 1874-1909.
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