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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Job 27



Verses 1-7

1 Then Job continued to take up his proverb, and said:

2 As God liveth, who hath deprived me of my right,

And the Almighty, who hath sorely saddened my soul -

3 For still all my breath is in me,

And the breath of Eloah in my nostrils -

4 My lips do not speak what is false,

And my tongue uttereth not deceit!

5 Far be it from me, to grant that you are in the right:

Till I die I will not remove my innocence from me.

6 My righteousness I hold fast, and let it not go:

My heart reproacheth not any of my days.

7 Mine enemy must appear as an evil-doer,

And he who riseth up against me as unrighteous.

The friends are silent, Job remains master of the discourse, and his continued speech is introduced as a continued שׂאת משׁלו (after the analogy of the phrase נשׂא קול ), as in Numbers 23:7 and further on, the oracles of Balaam. משׁל is speech of a more elevated tone and more figurative character; here, as frequently, the unaffected outgrowth of an elevated solemn mood. The introduction of the ultimatum, as משׁל , 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.

Job begins with an asseveration of his truthfulness (i.e., the agreement of his confession with his consciousness) by the life of God. From this oath, which in the form bi - hajât allâh has become later on a common formula of assurance, R. Joshua, in his tractate Sota , infers that Job served God from love to Him, for we only swear by the life of that which we honour and love; it is more natural to conclude that the God by whom on the one hand, he believes himself to be so unjustly treated, still appears to him, on the other hand, to be the highest manifestation of truth. The interjectional clause: living is God! is equivalent to, as true as God liveth. That which is affirmed is not what immediately follows: He has set aside my right, and the Almighty has sorely grieved my soul (Raschi); but הסיר משׁפטי and המר נפשׁי are attributive clauses, by which what is denied in the form of an oath introduced by אם (as Genesis 42:15; 1 Samuel 14:45; 2 Samuel 11:11, Ges. §155, 2, f ) is contained in Job 27:4; his special reference to the false semblance of an evil-doer shows that semblance which suffering casts upon him, but which he constantly repudiates as surely not lying, as that God liveth. Among moderns, Schlottm. (comp. Ges. §150, 3), like most of the old expositors, translates: so long as my breath is in me, lips shall speak no wrong, so that Job 27:3 and Job 27:4 together contain what is affirmed. By (1) כּי indeed sometimes introduces that which shall happen as affirmed by oath, Jeremiah 22:5; Jeremiah 49:13; but here that which shall not take place is affirmed, which would be introduced first in a general form by כּי explic. s. recitativum , then according to its special negative contents by אם , - a construction which is perhaps possible according to syntax, but it is nevertheless perplexing; (2) it may perhaps be thought that “the whole continuance of my breath in me” is conceived as accusative and adverbial, and is equivalent to, so long as my breath may remain in me ( כל עוד , as long as ever, like the Arab. cullama , as often as ever); but the usage of the language does not favour this explanation, for 2 Samuel 1:9, נפשׁי בי כל־עוד , signifies my whole soul (my full life) is still in me; and we have a third instance of this prominently placed כל per hypallagen in Hosea 14:3, עון כל־תשׂא , omnem auferas iniquitatem , Ew. §289, a (comp. Ges. §114, rem. 1). Accordingly, with Ew., Hirz., Hahn, and most modern expositors, we take Job 27:3 as a parenthetical confirmatory clause, by which Job gives the ground of his solemn affirmation that he is still in possession of his full consciousness, and cannot help feeling and expressing the contradiction between his lot of suffering, which brand shim as an evil-doer, and his moral integrity. The נשׁמתי which precedes the רוח signifies, according to the prevailing usage of the language, the intellectual, and therefore self-conscious, soul of man ( Psychol . S. 76f.). This is in man and in his nostrils, inasmuch as the breath which passes in and out by these is the outward and visible form of its being, which is in every respect the condition of life ( ib. S. 82f.). The suff. of נשׁמתי is unaccented; on account of the word which follows being a monosyllable, the tone has retreated ( נסוג אחור , to use a technical grammatical expression), as e.g., also in Job 19:25; Job 20:2; Psalms 22:20. Because he lives, and, living, cannot deny his own existence, he swears that his own testimony, which is suspected by the friends, and on account of which they charge him with falsehood, is perfect truth.

Job 27:4 is not to be translated: “my lips shall never speak what is false;” for it is not a resolve which Job thus strongly makes, after the manner of a vow, but the agreement of his confession, which he has now so frequently made, and which remains unalterable, with the abiding fact. Far be from me - he continues in Job 27:5 - to admit that you are right ( חלילה לּי with unaccented ah , not of the fem., comp. Job 34:10, but of direction: for a profanation to me, i.e., let it be profane to me, Ew. §329, a , Arab. hâshâ li , in the like sense); until I expire (prop.: sink together), I will not put my innocence ( תּמּה , perfection, in the sense of purity of character) away from me, i.e., I will not cease from asserting it. I will hold fast (as ever) my righteousness, and leave it not, i.e., let it not go or fall away; my heart does not reproach even one of my days. מיּמי is virtually an obj. in a partitive sense: mon coeur ne me reproche pas un seul de mes jours (Renan). The heart is used here as the seat of the conscience, which is the knowledge possessed by the heart, by which it excuses or accuses a man ( Psychol . S. 134); חרף (whence חרף , the season in which the fruits are gathered) signifies carpere , to pluck = to pinch, lash, inveigh against. Jos. Kimchi and Ralbag explain: my heart draws not back) from the confession of my innocence) my whole life long (as Maimonides explains נחרפת , Leviticus 19:20, of the female slave who is inclined to, i.e., stands near to, the position of a free woman), by comparison with the Arabic inḥarafa , deflectere ; it is not, however, Arab. ḥrf , but chrf , decerpere , that is to be compared in the tropical sense of the prevailing usage of the Hebrew specified. The old expositors were all misled by the misunderstood partitive מימי , which they translated ex (= inde a ) diebus meis . There is in Job 27:7 no ground for taking יהי , with Hahn, as a strong affirmative, as supposed in Job 18:12, and not as expressive of desire; but the meaning is not: let my opponents be evil-doers, I at least am not one (Hirz.). The voluntative expresses far more emotion: the relation must be reversed; he who will brand me as an evil-doer, must by that very act brand himself as such, inasmuch as the מרשׁיע of a צדיק really shows himself to be a רשׁע , and by recklessly judging the righteous, is bringing down upon himself a like well-merited judgment. The כּ is the so-called Caph veritatis, since כּ , instar , signifies not only similarity, but also quality. Instead of קימי , the less manageable, primitive form, which the poet used in Job 22:20 (comp. p. 483), and beside which קם ( קום , 2 Kings 16:7) does not occur in the book, we here find the more usual form מתקוממי (comp. Job 20:27).

(Note: In Beduin the enemy is called qômâni (vid., supra , on Job 24:12, p. 505), a denominative from qôm , Arab. qawm , war, feud; but qôm has also the signification of a collective of qômâni , and one can also say: entum wa - ijânâ qôm , you and we are enemies, and bênâtna qôm , there is war between us. - Wetzst.)

The description of the misfortune of the ungodly which now follows, beginning with כי , requires no connecting thought, as for instance: My enemy must be accounted as ungodly, on account of his hostility; I abhor ungodliness, for, etc.; but that he who regards him as a רשׁע is himself a רשׁע , Job shows from the fact of the רשׁע having no hope in death, whilst, when dying, he can give no confident hope of a divine vindication of his innocence.

Verses 8-12

8 For what is the hope of the godless, when He cutteth off,

When Eloah taketh away his soul?

9 Will God hear his cry

When distress cometh upon him?

10 Or can he delight himself in the Almighty,

Can he call upon Eloah at all times?

11 I will teach you concerning the hand of God,

I will not conceal the dealings of the Almighty.

12 Behold, ye have all seen it,

Why then do ye cherish foolish notions?

In comparing himself with the רשׁע , Job is conscious that he has a God who does not leave him unheard, in whom he delights himself, and to whom he can at all times draw near; as, in fact, Job's fellowship with God rests upon the freedom of the most intimate confidence. He is not one of the godless; for what is the hope of one who is estranged from God, when he comes to die? He has no God on whom his hope might establish itself, to whom it could cling. The old expositors err in many ways respecting Job 27:8, by taking בצע , abscindere (root בץ ), in the sense of ( opes ) corradere (thus also more recently Rosenm. after the Targ., Syr., and Jer.), and referring ישׁל to שׁלה in the signification tranquillum esse (thus even Blumenfeld after Ralbag and others). נפשׁו is the object to both verbs, and בצע נפשׁ , abscindere animam , to cut off the thread of life, is to be explained according to Job 6:9; Isaiah 38:12. שׁלח נפשׁ , extrahere animam (from שׁלה , whence שׁליח Arab. salan , the after-birth, cogn. שׁלל . Arab. sll , נשׁל Arab. nsl , nṯl , nšl ), is of similar signification, according to another figure, wince the body is conceived of as the sheath ( נדנה , Daniel 7:15) of the soul

(Note: On the similar idea of the body, as the kosha (sheath) of the soul, among the Hindus, vid., Psychol. S. 227.)

(comp. Arab. sll in the universal signification evaginare ensem ). The fut. apoc. Kal ישׁל (= ישׁל ) is therefore in meaning equivalent to the intrans. ישּׁל , Deuteronomy 28:40 (according to Ew. §235, c , obtained from this by change of vowel), decidere; and Schnurrer's supposition that ישׁל , like the Arab. ysl , is equivalent to ישׁאל (when God demands it), or such a violent correction as De Lagarde's

(Note: Anm. zur griech. Uebers. der Proverbien (1863), S. VI.f., where the first reason given for this improvement of the text is this, that the usual explanation, according to which ישׁל and יבצע have the same subj. and obj. standing after the verb, is altogether contrary to Semitic usage. But this assertion is groundless, as might be supposed from the very beginning. Thus, e.g., the same obj. is found after two verbs in Job 20:19, and the same subj. and obj. in Nehemiah 3:20.)

(when he is in distress יצק , when one demeans his soul with a curse ישּׁאל בּאלה ), is unnecessary.

The ungodly man, Job goes on to say, has no God to hear his cry when distress comes upon him; he cannot delight himself ( יתענּג , pausal form of יתענג , the primary form of יתענג ) in the Almighty; he cannot call upon Eloah at any time (i.e., in the manifold circumstances of life under which we are called to feel the dependence of our nature). Torn away from God, he cannot be heard, he cannot indeed pray and find any consolation in God. It is most clearly manifest here, since Job compares his condition of suffering with that of a חנף , what comfort, what power of endurance, yea, what spiritual joy in the midst of suffering ( התענג , as Job 22:26; Psalms 37:4, Psalms 37:11; Isaiah 55:2; Isaiah 58:13), which must all remain unknown to the ungodly, he can draw from his fellowship with God; and seizing the very root of the distinction between the man who fears God and one who is utterly godless, his view of the outward appearance of the misfortune of both becomes changed; and after having allowed himself hitherto to be driven from one extreme to another by the friends, as the heat of the controversy gradually cools down, and as, regaining his independence, he stands before them as their teacher, he now experiences the truth of docendo discimu s in rich abundance. I will instruct you, says he, in the hand, i.e., the mode of action, of God ( בּ just as in Psalms 25:8, Psalms 25:12; Psalms 32:8; Proverbs 4:11, of the province and subject of instruction); I will not conceal עם־שׁדּי אשׁר , i.e., according to the sense of the passage: what are the principles upon which He acts; for that which is with ( אם ) any one is the matter of his consciousness and volition (vid., on Job 23:10).

Job 27:12 is of the greatest importance in the right interpretation of what follows from Job 27:13 onwards. The instruction which Job desires to impart to the friends has reference to the lot of the evil-doer; and when he says: Behold, ye yourselves have beheld (learnt) it all, - in connection with which it is to be observed that אתּם כּלּכם does not signify merely vos omnes , but vosmet ipsi omnes , - he grants to them what he appeared hitherto to deny, that the lot of the evil-doer, certainly in the rule, although not without exceptions, is such as they have said. The application, however, which they have made of this abiding fact of experience, as and remains all the more false: Wherefore then ( זה makes the question sharper) are ye vain (blinded) in vanity (self-delusion), viz., in reference to me, who do not so completely bear about the characteristic marks of a רשׁע ? The verb הבל signifies to think and act vainly (without ground or connection), 2 Kings 17:15 (comp. ἐματαιώθησαν , Romans 1:21); the combination הבל הבל is not to be judged of according to Ges. §138, rem. 1, as it is also by Ew. §281, a , but הבל may also be taken as the representative of the gerund, as e.g., עריה , Habakkuk 3:9.

In the following strophe (Job 27:13) Job now begins as Zophar (Job 20:29) concluded. He gives back to the friends the doctrine they have fully imparted to him. They have held the lot of the evil-doer before him as a mirror, that he may behold himself in it and be astounded; he holds it before them, that they may perceive how not only his bearing under suffering, but also the form of his affliction, is of a totally different kind.

Verses 13-18

13 This is the lot of the wicked man with God,

And the heritage of the violent which they receive from the Almighty:

14 If his children multiply, it is for the sword,

And his offspring have not bread enough.

15 His survivors shall be buried by the pestilence,

And his widows shall not weep.

16 If he heapeth silver together as dust,

And prepareth garments for himself as mire:

17 He prepareth it, and the righteous clothe themselves,

And the innocent divide the silver among themselves.

18 He hath built as a moth his house,

And as a hut that a watchman setteth up.

We have already had the combination אדם רשׁע for אישׁ רשׁע in Job 20:29; it is a favourite expression in Proverbs, and reminds one of ἄνθρωπος ὁδίτης in Homer, and ἄνθρωπος σπείρωϚ, ἐχθρός, ἔμπορος , in the parables Matt 13. Psik ( Pasek ) stands under רשׁע , to separate the wicked man and God, as in Proverbs 15:29 (Norzi). למו , exclusively peculiar to the book of Job in the Old Testament (here and Job 29:21; Job 38:40; Job 40:4), is ל rendered capable of an independent position by means of מו = מה , Arab. mâ . The sword, famine, and pestilence are the three punishing powers by which the evil-doer's posterity, however numerous it may be, is blotted out; these three, חרב , רעב , and מות , appear also side by side in Jeremiah 15:2; מות , instead of ממותי , diris mortibus , is (as also Jeremiah 18:21) equivalent to דּבר in the same trio, Jeremiah 14:12; the plague is personified (as when it is called by an Arabian poet umm el - farit , the mother of death), and Vavassor correctly observes: Mors illos sua sepeliet, nihil praeterea honoris supremi consecuturos . Böttcher ( de inferis , §72) asserts that במות can only signify pestilentiae tempore , or better, ipso mortis momento ; but since בּ occurs by the passive elsewhere in the sense of ab or per , e.g., Numbers 36:2; Hosea 14:4, it can also by נקבר denote the efficient cause. Olshausen's correction במות לא יקברו , they will not be buried when dead (Jeremiah 16:4), is still less required; “to be buried by the pestilence” is equivalent to, not to be interred with the usual solemnities, but to be buried as hastily as possible.

Job 27:15 (common to our poet and the psalm of Asaph, 78:64, which likewise belongs to the Salomonic age) is also to be correspondingly interpreted: the women that he leaves behind do not celebrate the usual mourning rites (comp. Genesis 23:2), because the decreed punishment which, stroke after stroke, deprives them of husbands and children, prevents all observance of the customs of mourning, and because the shock stifles the feeling of pity. The treasure in gold which his avarice has heaped up, and in garments which his love of display has gathered together, come into the possession of the righteous and the innocent, who are spared when these three powers of judgment sweep away the evil-doer and his family. Dust and dirt (i.e., of the streets, חוצות ) are, as in Zechariah 9:3, the emblem of a great abundance that depreciates even that which is valuable. The house of the ungodly man, though a palace, is, as the fate of the fabric shows, as brittle and perishable a thing, and can be as easily destroyed, as the fine spinning of a moth, עשׁ (according to the Jewish proverb, the brother of the סס ), or even the small case which it makes from remnants of gnawed articles, and drags about with it; it is like a light hut, perhaps for the watchman of a vineyard (Isaiah 1:8), which is put together only for the season during which the grapes are ripening.

(Note: The watchman's hut, for the protection of the vineyards and melon and maize fields against thieves, herds, or wild beasts, is now called either ‛arı̂she and mantara ( מנטרה ) if it is only slightly put together from branches of trees, or chême ( הימה ) if it is built up high in order that the watcher may see a great distance. The chême is the more frequent; at harvest it stands in the midst of the threshing-floors ( bejâdir ) of a district, and it is constructed in the following manner: - Four poles ( ‛awâmı̂d ) are set up so as to form the corners of a square, the sides of which are about eight feet in length. Eight feet above the ground, four cross pieces of wood ( 'awârid ) are tightly bound to these with cords, on which planks, if they are to be had, are laid. Here is the watcher's bed, which consists of a litter. Six or seven feet above this, cross-beams are again bound to the four poles, on which boughs, or reeds ( qasab ), or a mat ( hası̂ra , חצירה ) forms a roof ( sath , שׂטח ), from which the chême has its name; for the Piel -forms ערּשׁ , חיּם , and שׂטּח signify, “to be stretched over anything after the manner of a roof.” Between the roof and the bed, three sides of the che=me are hung round with a mat, or with reeds or straws ( qashsh , קשׁ ) bound together, in order both to keep off the cold night-winds, and also to keep the thieves in ignorance as to the number of the watchers. A small ladder, sullem ( סלּם ), frequently leads to the bed-chamber. The space between the ground and this chamber is closed only on the west side to keep off the hot afternoon sun, for through the day the watcher sits below with his dog, upon the ground. Here is also his place of reception, if any passers-by visit him; for, like the village shepherd, the field-watcher has the right of showing a humble hospitality to any acquaintances. When the fruits have been gathered in, the chême is removed. The field-watchman is now called nâtûr (Arab. nâṭûr ), and the verb is natar , נטר , “to keep watch,” instead of which the quadriliteral nôtar , נוטר (from the plur. Arab. nwâṭı̂r , “the watchers”), has also been formed. In one part of Syria all these forms are written with צ (d) instead of ט fo da , and pronounced accordingly. The נצר in this passage is similarly related to the נטר in Song of Solomon 1:6; Song of Solomon 8:11-12. - Wetzst.)

Verses 19-23

19 He lieth down rich, and doeth it not again,

He openeth his eyes and-is no more.

20 Terrors take hold of him as a flood;

By night a tempest stealeth him away.

21 The east wind lifteth him up, that he departeth,

And hurleth him forth from his place.

22 God casteth upon him without sparing,

Before His hand he fleeth utterly away.

23 They clap their hands at him,

And hiss him away from his place.

The pointing of the text ולא יאסף is explained by Schnurr., Umbr., and Stick.: He goes rich to bed and nothing is taken as yet, he opens his eyes and nothing more is there; but if this were the thought intended, it ought at least to have been ואין נאסף , since לא signifies non , not nihil; and Stickel's translation, “while nothing is carried away,” makes the fut. instead of the praet., which was to be expected, none the more tolerable; also אסף can indeed signify to gather hastily together, to take away (e.g., Isaiah 33:4), when the connection favours it, but not here, where the first impression is that רשׁע is the subj. both to ולא יאסף and to ואיננו . Böttcher's translation, “He lieth down rich and cannot be displaced,” gives the words a meaning that is ridiculed by the usage of the language. On the other hand, ולא יאסף can signify: and he is not conveyed away (comp. e.g., Jeremiah 8:2; Ezekiel 29:5; but not Isaiah 57:1, where it signifies to be swept away, and also not Numbers 20:26, where it signifies to be gathered to the fathers), and is probably intended to be explained after the pointing that we have, as Rosenm. and even Ralbag explain it: “he is not conveyed away; one opens his eyes and he is not;” or even as Schlottm.: “he is not conveyed away; in one moment he still looks about him, in the next he is no more;” but the relation of the two parts of the verse in this interpretation is unsatisfactory, and the preceding strophe has already referred to his not being buried. Since, therefore, only an unsuitable, and what is more, a badly-expressed thought, is gained by this reading, it may be that the expression should be regarded with Hahn as interrogative: is he not swept away? This, however, is only a makeshift, and therefore we must see whether it may not perhaps be susceptible of another pointing. Jerome transl.: dives cum dormierit, nihil secum auferet ; the thought is not bad, but מאוּמה is wanting, and לא alone does not signify nihil . Better lxx (Ital., Syr.): πλούσιος κοιμηθήσεται καὶ ου ̓ προσθήσει . This translation follows the form of reading יאסף = יוסיף , gives a suitable sense, places both parts of the verse in the right relation, and accords with the style of the poet (vid., Job 20:9; Job 40:5); and accordingly, with Ew., Hirz., and Hlgst., we decide in favour of this reading: he lieth down to sleep rich, and he doeth it no more, since in the night he is removed from life and also from riches by sudden death; or also: in the morning he openeth his eyes without imagining it is the last time, for, overwhelmed by sudden death, he closes them for ever. Job 27:20 and Job 27:20 are attached crosswise ( chiastisch ) to this picture of sudden destruction, be it by night or by day: the terrors of death seize him ( sing. fem. with a plur. subj. following it, according to Ges. §146, 3) like a flood (comp. the floods of Belial, Psalms 18:5), by night a whirlwind ( גּנבתּוּ סוּפה , as Job 21:18) carrieth him away. The Syriac and Arabic versions add, as a sort of interpolation: as a fluttering (large white) night-moth, - an addition which no one can consider beautiful.

Job 27:21 extends the figure of the whirlwind. In Hebrew, even when the narrative has reference to Egyptian matters (Genesis 41:23), the קדים which comes from the Arabian desert is the destructive, devastating, and parching wind κατ ̓ εξοχὴν .

(Note: In Syria and Arabia the east wind is no longer called qadı̂m , but exclusively sharqı̂ja , i.e., the wind that blows from the rising of the sun ( sharq ). This wind rarely prevails in summer, occurring then only two or three days a month on an average; it is more frequent in the winter and early spring, when, if it continues long, the tender vegetation is parched up, and a year of famine follows, whence in the Lebanon it is called semûm ( שׂמוּם ), which in the present day denotes the “poisonous wind” (= nesme musimme ), but originally, by alliance with the Hebr. שׁמם , denoted the “devastating wind.” The east wind is dry; it excites the blood, contracts the chest, causes restlessness and anxiety, and sleepless nights or evil dreams. Both man and beast feel weak and sickly while it prevails. Hence that which is unpleasant and revolting in life is compared to the east wind. Thus a maid in Hauran, at the sight of one of my Damascus travelling companions, whose excessive ugliness struck her, cried: billâh , nahâr el - jôm aqshar (Arab. 'qšr ), wagahetni (Arab. w - jhṫnı̂ ) sharqı̂ja , “by God, it is an unhealthy day to-day: an east wind blew upon me.” And in a festive dance song of the Merg district, these words occur:

wa rudd lı̂ hômet hodênik

seb‛ lejâlı̂ bi - ‛olı̂ja wa berd

wa sherd wa sharqı̂ja ...

And grant me again to slumber on thy bosom,

Seven nights in an upper chamber,

And (I will then endure) cold, drifting snow, and east wind.”

During the harvest, so long as the east wind lasts, the corn that is already threshed and lying on the threshing-floors cannot be winnowed; a gentle, moderate draught is required for this process, such as is only obtained by a west or south wind. The north wind is much too strong, and the east wind is characterized by constant gusts, which, as the Hauranites say, “ jôchotû tibn wa - habb , carried away chaff and corn.” When the wind shifts from the west to the east, a whirlwind ( zôba‛a , זובעה ) not unfrequently arises, which often in summer does much harm to the threshing-floors and to the cut corn that is lying in swaths (unless it is weighted with stones). Storms are rare during an east wind; they come mostly with a west wind (never with a south or north wind). But if an east wind does bring a storm, it is generally very destructive, on account of its strong gusts; and it will even uproot the largest trees. - Wetzst.)

וילך signifies peribit ( ut pereat ), as Job 14:20; Job 19:10. שׂער (comp. סערה , O storm-chased one) is connected with the accus. of the person pursued, as in Psalms 58:10. The subj. of וישׁלך , Job 27:22, is God, and the verb stands without an obj.: to cast at any one (shoot), as Numbers 35:22 (for the figure, comp. Job 16:13); lxx correctly: ἐπιῤῥίψει (whereas Job 18:7, σφάλαι = ותכשׁילהו ). The gerundive with יברח lays stress upon the idea of the exertion of flight: whithersoever he may flee before the hand of God, every attempt is in vain. The suff. êmo , Job 27:22 , both according to the syntax and the matter, may be taken as the plural suff.; but the fact that כּפּימו can be equivalent to כּפּיו (comp. Psalms 11:7), עלימו to עליו (comp. Job 20:23; Job 22:2), as למו is equivalent to לו ot tn (vid., Isaiah 44:15; Isaiah 53:8), is established, and there is no reason why the same may not be the case here. The accumulation of the terminations êmo and ômo gives a tone of thunder and a gloomy impress to this conclusion of the description of judgment, as these terminations frequently occur in the book of Psalms, where moral depravity is mourned and divine judgment threatened (e.g., in Psalms 17:1-15; 49; 58:1-59:17; 73). The clapping of hands ( שׂפק כּפּים = ספק , Lamentations 2:15, comp. תּקע , Nahum 3:19) is a token of malignant joy, and hissing ( שׁרק , Zephaniah 2:15; Jeremiah 49:17) a token of scorn. The expression in Job 27:23 is a pregnant one. Clapping of hands and hissing accompany the evil-doer when merited punishment overtakes him, and chases him forth from the place which he hitherto occupied (comp. Job 8:18).

Earlier expositors have thought it exceedingly remarkable that Job, in Job 27:13-23, should agree with the assertions of the three friends concerning the destiny of the ungodly and his descendants, while he has previously opposed them on this point, Job 12:6, Job 12:21, Job 12:24. Kennicott thinks the confusion is cleared away by regarding Job 26:2-27:12 as Job's answer to the third speech of Bildad, Job 27:13. as the third speech of Zophar, and Job 28:1 (to which the superscription Job 27:1 belongs) as Job's reply thereto; but this reply begins with כּי , and is specially appropriate as a striking repartee to the speech of Zophar. Stuhlmann (1804) makes this third speech of Zophar begin with Job 27:11, and imagines a gap between Job 27:10 and Job 27:11; but who then are the persons whom Zophar addresses by “you”? The three everywhere address themselves to Job, while here Zophar, contrary to custom, would address himself not to him, but, according to Stuhlmann's exposition, to the others with reference to Job. Job 28 Stuhlmann removes and places after Job 25:1-6 as a continuation of Bildad's speech; Zophar's speech therefore remains unanswered, and Zophar may thank this critic not only for allowing him another opportunity of speaking, but also for allowing him the last word. Bernstein (Keil-Tzschirner's Analekten , Bd. i. St. 3) removes the contradiction into which Job seems to fall respecting himself in a more thorough manner, by rejecting the division Job 27:7-28:28, which is certainly indissolubly connected as a whole, as a later interpolation; but there is no difference of language and poetic spirit here betraying an interpolator; and had there been one, even he ought indeed to have proceeded on the assumption that such an insertion should be appropriate to Job's mouth, so that the task of proving its relative fitness, from his standpoint at least, remains. Hosse (1849) goes still further: he puts Job 27:10; Job 31:35-37; Job 38:1, etc., together, and leaves out all that comes between these passages. There is then no transition whatever from the entanglement to the unravelment. Job's final reply, Job 27:1, with the monologue Job 29:1, in which even a feeble perception must recognise one of the most essential and most beautiful portions of the dramatic whole, forms this transition.

Eichhorn (in his translation of Job, 1824), who formerly ( Allgem. Bibliothek der bibl. Lit. Bd. 2) inclined to Kennicott's view, and Böckel (2nd edition, 1804) seek another explanation of the difficulty, by supposing that in Job 27:13-23 Job reproduces the view of the friends. But in Job 27:11 Job announces the setting forth of his own view; and the supposition that with זה חלק אדם רשׁע he does not begin the enunciation of his own view, but that of his opponents, is refuted by the consideration that there is nothing by which he indicates this, and that he would not enter so earnestly into the description if it were not the feeling of his heart. Feeling the worthlessness of these attempted solutions, De Wette ( Einleitung , §288), with his customary spirit of criticism with which he depreciates the sacred writers, turns against the poet himself. Certainly, says he, the division Job 27:11-28:28 is inappropriate and self-contradictory in the mouth of Job; but this wan to clearness, not to say inconsistency, must be brought against the poet, who, despite his utmost endeavour, has not been able to liberate himself altogether from the influence of the common doctrine of retribution.

This judgment is erroneous and unjust. Umbreit (2nd edition, S. 261 [Clark's edition, 1836, ii. 122]) correctly remarks, that “without this apparent contradiction in Job's speeches, the interchange of words would have been endless;” in other words: had Job's standpoint been absolutely immoveable, the controversy could not possibly have come to a well-adjusted decision, which the poet must have planned, and which he also really brings about, by causing his hero still to retain an imperturbable consciousness of his innocence, but also allowing his irritation to subside, and his extreme harshness to become moderated. The latter, in reference to the final destiny of the godless, is already indicated in Job 24, but is still more apparent here in Job 27, and indeed in the following line of thought: ”As truly as God lives, who afflicts me, the innocent one, I will not incur the guilt of lying, by allowing myself to be persuaded against my conscience to regard myself as an evil-doer. I am not an evil-doer, but my enemy who regards me and treats me as such must be accounted wicked; for how unlike the hopelessness and estrangement from God, in which the evil-doer dies, is my hope and entreaty in the midst of the heaviest affliction! Yea, indeed, the fate of the evil-doer is a different one from mine. I will teach it you; ye have all, indeed, observed it for yourselves, and nevertheless ye cherish such vain thoughts concerning me.” What is peculiar in the description that then follows - a description agreeing in its substance with that of the three, and similar in its form - is therefore this, that Job holds up the end of the evil-doer before the friends, that form it they may infer that he is not an evil-doer, whereas the friends held it up before Job that he might infer from it that he is an evil-doer, and only by a penitent acknowledgment of this can he escape the extreme of the punishment he has merited. Thus in Job 27:1 Job turns their own weapon against the friends.

But does he not, by doing so, fall into contradiction with himself? Yes; and yet not so. The Job who has become calmer here comes into contradiction with the impassioned Job who had, without modification, placed the exceptional cases in opposition to the exclusive assertion that the evil-doer comes to a fearful end, which the friends advance, as if it were the rule that the prosperity of the evil-doer continues uninterrupted to the very end of his days. But Job does not come into collision with his true view. For how could he deny that in the rule the retributive justice of God is manifest in the cast of the evil-doer! We can only perceive his true opinion when we compare the views he here expresses with his earlier extreme antitheses: hitherto, in the heat of the controversy, he has opposed that which the friends onesidedly maintained by the direct opposite; now he has got upon the right track of thought, in which the fate of the evil-doer presents itself to him from another and hitherto mistaken side, - a phase which is also but imperfectly appreciated in Job 24; so that now at last he involuntarily does justice to what truth there is in the assertion of his opponent. Nevertheless, it is not Job's intention to correct himself here, and to make an admission to the friends which has hitherto been refused. Hirzel's explanation of this part inclines too much to this erroneous standpoint. On the contrary, our rendering accords with that of Ewald, who observes (S. 252f. 2nd edition, 1854) that Job here maintains in his own favour, and against them, what the friends directed against him, since the hope of not experiencing such an evil-doer's fate becomes strong in him: “Job is here on the right track for more confidently anticipating his own rescue, or, what is the same thing, the impossibility of his perishing just as if he were an evil-doer.” Moreover, how well designed is it that the description Job 27:23. is put into Job's mouth! While the poet allows the friends designedly to interweave lines taken from Job's misfortunes into their descriptions of the evil-doer's fate, in Job's description not one single line is found which coincides with his own lot, whether with that which he has already experience, or even with that which his faith presents to him as in prospect. And although the heavy lot which has befallen him looks like the punitive suffering of the evil-doer, he cannot acknowledge it as such, and even denies its bearing the marks of such a character, since even in the midst of affliction he clings to God, and confidently hopes for His vindication. With this rendering of Job 27:13. all doubts of its genuineness, which is indeed admitted by all modern expositors, vanish; and, far from charging the poet with inconsistency, one is led to admire the undiminished skill with which he brings the idea of the drama by concealed ways to its goal.

But the question still comes up, whether Job 28:1, opening with כּי , does not militate against this genuineness. Hirzel and others observe, that this כי introduces the confirmation of Job 27:12 : ”But wherefore then do ye cherish such vain imaginations concerning me? For human sagacity and perseverance can accomplish much, but the depths of divine wisdom are impenetrable to man.” But how is it possible that the כי , Job 28:1, should introduce the confirmation of Job 27:12 , passing over Job 27:13? If it cannot be explained in any other way, it appears that Job 27:13 must be rejected. There is the same difficulty in comprehending it by supplying some suppressed thought, as e.g., Ewald explains it: For , as there may also be much in the divine dealings that is dark, etc.; and Hahn: Because evil-doers perish according to their desert, it does not necessarily follow that every one who perishes is an evil-doer, and that every prosperous person is godly, for - the wisdom of God is unsearchable. This mode of explanation, which supposes, between the close of Job 27:1 and the beginning of Job 28:1, what is not found there, is manifestly forced; and in comparison with it, it would be preferable, with Stickel, to translate כי “because,” and take Job 28:1-2 as the antecedent to Job 28:3. Then after Job 27:1 a dash might be made; but this dash would indicate an ugly blank, which would be no honour to the poet. Schlottmann explains it more satisfactorily. He takes Job 27:13. as a warning addressed to the friends, lest they bring down upon themselves, by their unjust judgment, the evil-doer's punishment which they have so often proclaimed. If this rendering of Job 27:13. were correct, the description of the fate of the evil-doer would be influenced by an underlying thought, to which the following statement of the exalted nature of the divine wisdom would be suitably connected as a confirmation. We cannot, however, consider this rendering as correct. The picture ought to have been differently drawn, if it had been designed to serve as a warning to the friends.

It has a different design. Job depicts the revelation of the divine justice which is exhibited in the issue of the life of the evil doer, to teach the friends that they judge him and his lot falsely. To this description of punishment, which is intended thus and not otherwise, Job 28:1 with its confirmatory כי must be rightly connected. If this were not feasible, one would be disposed, with Pareau, to alter the position of Job 28:1, as if it were removed from its right place, and put it after Job 26:1. But we are cautioned against such a violent measure, by the consideration that it is not evident from Job 26:1 why the course of thought in Job 28:1, which begins with כי , should assume the exact form in which we find it; whereas, on the other hand, it was said in Job 27:1 that the ungodly heaps up silver, כסף , like dust, but that the innocent who live to see his fall divide this silver, כסף , among themselves; so that when in Job 28:1 it continues: כי ישׁ לכסף מוצא , there is a connection of thought for which the way has been previously prepared.

If we further take into consideration the fact of Job 28:1 being only an amplification of the one closing thought to which everything tends, viz., that the fear of God is man's true wisdom, then Job 28:1, also in reference to this its special point, is suitably attached to the description of the evil-doer's fate, Job 27:13 The miserable end of the ungodly is confirmed by this, that the wisdom of man, which he has despised, consists in the fear of God; and Job thereby at the same time attains the special aim of his teaching, which is announced at Job 27:11 by אורה אתכם ביד־אל : viz., he has at the same time proved that he who retains the fear of God in the midst of his sufferings, though those sufferings are an insoluble mystery, cannot be a רשׁע . This design of the conformation, and that connection of thought, which should be well noted, prove that Job 28:1 stands in its original position. And if we ponder the fact, that Job has depicted the ungodly as a covetous rich man who is snatched away by sudden death from his immense possession of silver and other costly treasures, we see that Job 28:1 confirms the preceding picture of punitive judgment in the following manner: silver and other precious metals come out of the earth, but wisdom, whose value exceeds all these earthly treasures, is to be found nowhere within the province of the creature; God alone possesses it, and from God alone it comes; and so as man can and is to attain to it, it consists in the fear of the Lord, and the forsaking of evil. This is the close connection of Job 28:1 with what immediately precedes, which most expositors since Schultens have missed, by transferring the central point to the unsearchableness of the divine wisdom which rules in the world; whereas Bouiller correctly observes that the whole of Job 28:1 treats not so much of the wisdom of God as of the wisdom of man, which God, the sole possessor of wisdom, imparts to him: omnibus divitiis, fluxis et evanidis illis possessio praeponderat sapientiae, quae in pio Dei cultu et fuga mali est posita . The view of von Hofmann ( Schriftbeweis , i. 96, 2nd edit.) accords with this: ”If Job 28:1, where a confirmatory or explanatory כי forms the transition, is taken together with Job 28:12, where another part of the speech is introduced with a Waw , and finally with Job 28:28, where this is rounded off, as forming the unity of one thought: it thus proves that the final destruction of the godless, who is happy and prosperous in worldly things, is explained by the fact that man can obtain every kind of hidden riches by his own exertion and courage, but not the wisdom which is not indigenous to this outward world, but is known to God alone, and is to be learned from Him only; and the teaching concerning it is: behold, the fear of God, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Before we now pass on to the detailed exposition of Job 28:1, we may perhaps here, without anticipating, put the question. Whence has the poet obtained the knowledge of the different modes of mining operations which is displayed in Job 28:1, and which has every appearance of being the result of personal observation? Since, as we have often remarked already, he is well acquainted with Egypt, it is most natural that he derived this his knowledge from Egypt and the Sinaitic peninsula. The ruins of mines found there show that the Sinaitic peninsula has been worked as a mining district from the earliest times. The first of these mining districts is the Wadi Nasb, where Lepsius ( Briefe , S. 338) found traces of old smelting-places, and where also Graul and his companions, having their attention drawn to it by Wilkinson's work, searched for the remains of a mine, and found at least traces of copper slag, but could see nothing more ( Reise , ii. 202). E. Rüppell explored the spot at the desire of the Viceroy Mehemed Ali, and Russegger with less successful result (vid., the particular sin Ritter's Erdkunde, xiv. 784-788).

(Note: The valley is not called Wadi nahas (Copper valley), which is only a supposition of Rüppell, but Wadi nasb, Arab. naṣb , which, according to Reinaud, signifies valley of statues of columns. Thirty hours' journey from Suez, says a connoisseur in the Historisch-politische Blätter, 1863, S. 802f., lies the Wadi nesb [a pronunciation which assumes the form of writing Arab. nsb ]; it is rare that the ore is so easy to get, and found in such abundance, for the blocks containing the copper are in many places 200 feet in diameter, and the ore is almost in a pure state. The mineral (the black earth containing the copper) abounds in the metal ... . Besides this, iron-ore, manganese, carbonate of lead, and also the exceeding precious cinnabar, have been discovered on Sinai.)

A second mining district is denoted by the ruins of a temple of Hathor , on the steep terrace of the rising ground Sarbut ( Serâbît ) el-châdim, which stretches out into a spacious valley. This field of ruins, with its many lofty columns within the still recognisable area of a temple, and round about it, gives the impression of a large burying-ground, and it is described and represented as such by Carsten Niebuhr ( Reise , 235, Tafel xliv.). In February 1854, Graul ( Reise , ii. 203) and Tischendorf spent a short time upon this eminence of the desert, which is hard to climb, and abounds in monuments. It produced a strong impression upon us - says the latter ( Aus dem heiligen Lande, S. 35) - as we tarried in the midst of the grotesque forms of these monuments, while the setting sun cast its deep red gleam over the wild terrific-looking copper rocks that lay around in their varied shades, now light, now dark. That these copper rocks were worked in ancient days, is proved by the large black heaps of slag which Lepsius ( Briefe , S. 338) discovered to the east and west of the temple. Moreover, in the inscriptions Hathor bears the by-name “Queen of Mafkat ,” i.e., the copper country ( mafka , copper, with the feminine post-positive article t). It even bears this name on the monuments in the Wadi maghâra, one of the side-gorges of the Wadi mucatteb (i.e., the Written Valley, valley full of inscriptions). These signs of another ancient mining colony belong almost entirely to the earliest Egyptian antiquity, while those on Sarbut el-châdim extend back only to Amenemha III, consequently to the last dynasty of the old kingdom. Even the second king of the fifth dynasty, Snefru , and indeed his predecessor (according to Lepsius, his successor) Chufu - that Che'ops who built the largest pyramid - appear here as conquerors of foreign peoples, and the mountainous district dedicated to Hathor is also called Mafka.t . The remains of a mine, discovered by J. Wilson, at the eastern end of the north side of the Wady mucatteb, also belongs to this copper country: they lie near the road, but in back gorges; there is a very high wall of rock of granite or porphyry, which is penetrated by dark seams of metal, which have been worked out from above downwards, thus forming artificial caverns, pits, and shafts; and it may be inferred that the yield of ore was very abundant, and, from the simplicity of the manner of working, that it is of very great antiquity. This art of mining thus laid open, as Ritter says,

(Note: In the essay on the Sinaitic peninsula in Piper's Ev. Jahrbuch, 1852. The mining district that J. Wilson saw (1843-44) is not one that was unknown up to that time, but one of the places of the Wadi maghâra recognised as favouring the ancient Egyptian system of excavation.)

furnishes the most important explanation of Job's remarkable description of mining operations.

As to Egypt itself, it has but few places where iron-ore was obtained, and it was not very plentiful, as iron occurs much more rarely than bronze on the tombs, although Wilkinson has observed important copper mines almost as extensive as the copper country of Sinai: we only, however, possess more exact information concerning the gold mines on the borders of Upper Egypt. Agatharchides mentions them in his Periplus; and Diodorus (iii. 11ff.) gives a minute description of them, from which it is evident that mining in those days was much the same as it was with us about a hundred years ago: we recognise in it the day and night relays, the structure of shafts, the crushing and washing apparatus, and the smelting-place.

(Note: Thus Klemm, Allgem. Cultur-Geschichte, v. 304.)

There are the gold mines of Nubia, the name of which signifies the gold country, for NOYB is the old Egyptian name for gold. From the time of Sethoshi I, the father of Sesostris , we still possess the plan of a gold mine, which Birch ( Upon a historical tablet of Rameses II of the XIX dynasty, relating to the gold mines of Aethiopia ) has first of all correctly determined. Moreover, on monuments of all ages frequent mention is made of other metals (silver, iron, lead), as of precious stones, with which e.g., harps were ornamented; the diamond can also be traced. In the Papyrus Prisse, which Chabas has worked up under the title Le plus ancien livre du monde, Phtha-hotep, the author of this moral tractate, iv. 14, says: ”Esteem my good word more highly than the (green) emerald, which is found by slaves under the pebbles.”

(Note: According to a contribution from Prof. Lauth of Munich.)

The emerald-hills near Berenice produced the emerald.

But if the scene of the book of Job is to be sought in Idumaea proper (Gebal) or in Hauran, there were certainly mines that were nearer than the Egyptian. In Phunon ( Phinon ), between Petra and Zoar, there were pits from which copper ( χαλκοῦ μέταλλα , aeris metalla ) was obtained even to the time of Moses, as may be inferred from the fact of Moses having erected the brazen serpent there (Numbers 21:9., comp. 33:42f.), and whither, during the persecutions of the Christians in the time of the emperors, many witnesses for the faith were banished, that they might fall victims to the destructive labour of pit life (Athanasius extravagantly says: ἔνθα καὶ φονεῦς καταδικαζόμενος ὀλίγας ἡμέρας μόγις δύναται ζῆσαι ).

(Note: Vid., Genesis , S. 512; Ritter, Erdkunde , xiv. 125-127; as also my Kirchliches Chronikon des peträischen Arabiens in the Luth. Zeitschr. 1840, S. 133.)

But Edrîsi also knew of gold and silver mines in the mountains of Edom, the 'Gebel esh-Sherâ (Arab. 'l - šrât ), i.e., חר שׂעיר . According to the Onomasticon , דּי זהב , Deuteronomy 1:1 (lxx καταχρύσεα ), indicates such gold mines in Arabia Petraea; and Jerome (under Cata ta chrysea )

(Note: Opp. ed. Vallarsi, iii. 183. The text of Eusebius is to be amended according to that of Jerome; vid., Ugolini, Thes . vol. v. col. cxix.f. What Ritter says, Erdkunde , xiv. 127, is disfigured by mischievous mistakes.)

observes on that passage: sed et metallo aeris Phaeno, quod nostro tempore corruit, montes venarum auri plenos olim fuisse vicinos existimant . Eupolemus' account (in Euseb. praep. ix. 30) of an island Aurfee', rich in gold, in the Red Sea, does not belong here; for by the red sea, ἐρυθρὰ θάλασσα ,

(Note: On the meaning of this appellation, vid., Genesis , S. 630.)

it is not the Arabian Gulf that is meant; and the reference of the name of the range of hills Telûl ed-dhahab in ancient Gilead to gold mines rests only on hearsay up to the present time. But it is all the more worthy of mention that traces of former copper mines are still found on the Lebanon (vid., Knobel on Deuteronomy 8:9); that Edrîsi (Syria, ed. Rosenm. p. 12) was acquainted with the existence of a rich iron mine near Beirut; and that, even in the present day, the Jews who dwell in Deir el-kamar, on the Lebanon, work the iron on leases, and especially forge horse-shoes from it, which are sent all over Palestine.

(Note: Schwarz, Das h. Land (1852), S. 323. The Egyptian monuments mention a district by the name of Asj , which paid native iron as tribute; vid., Brugsch, Geogr. der Nachbarländer Aegyptens, S. 52.)

The poet of the book of Job might therefore have learned mining in its diversified modes of operation from his own observation, both in the kingdom of Egypt, which he had doubtless visited, and also in Arabia Petraea and in the Lebanon districts, so as to be able to put a description of them into the mouth of his hero. It is unnecessary, with Stickel, to give the preference to the mining of Arabia proper, where iron and lead are still obtained, and where, according to ancient testimony, even gold is said to have been worked at one time. “Since he places his hero in the country east of Jordan, the poet may in Job 28:2 have thought chiefly of the mines of the Iron mountain ( τὸ σιδηροῦν καλοῦμενον ὄρος , Jos. Bell . iv. 8, 2), which is also called the 'cross mountain,' el - mi‛râd , because it runs from west to east, while the Gebel 'Aglûn stretches from north to south. It lies between the gorges of the Wâdî Zerkâ and Wâdî 'Arabûn , begins at the mouths of the two Wâdîs in the Ghôr , and ends in the east with a precipitous descent towards the town of Gerash , which from its height, and being seen from afar, is called the Negde ( נגדּח ). The ancient worked-out iron mines lie on the south declivity of the mountain south-west of the village of Burmâ , and about six miles from the level bed of the Wâdî Zerkâ . The material is a brittle, red, brown, and violet sandstone, which has a strong addition of iron. It also contains here and there a large number of small shells, where it is then considerably harder. Of these ancient mines, some which were known in Syria under the name of the 'rose mines,' ma‛âdin el - ward , were worked by Ibrahim Pasha from 1835 till 1839; but when, in 1840, Syria reverted to Turkey, this mining, which had been carried on with great success, because there was an abundance of wood for the smelting furnaces, ceased. A large forest, without a proprietor, covers the back and the whole north side of this mountain down to the bed of the Wâdî 'Arabûn; and as no tree has been cut down in it for centuries, the thicket, with the fallen and decaying stems, gives one an idea of a primeval forest. We passed through the forest from Kefrengi to Burmâ in June 1860. Except North Gilead, in which the Iron mountain is situated, no other province of Basan admits of a mine; they are exclusively volcanic, their mountains are slag, lava, and basalt; and probably the last-mentioned kind of stone owes its name to the word Basa'ltis, the secondary form of Basa'ltis (= Basan ).” - Wetzst.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 27:4". 1854-1889.

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