corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Job 4



Verse 1

In reply to Sommer, who in his excellent biblische Abhandlungen , 1846, considers the octastich as the extreme limit of the compass of the strophe, it is sufficient to refer to the Syriac strophe-system. It is, however, certainly an impossibility that, as Ewald ( Jahrb . ix. 37) remarks with reference to the first speech of Jehovah, Job 38-39, the strophes can sometimes extend to a length of 12 lines = Masoretic verses, consequently consist of 24 στίχοι and more. Then Eliphaz the Temanite began, and said:

Verses 2-5

2 If one attempts a word with thee, will it grieve thee?

And still to restrain himself from words, who is able?

3 Behold, thou hast instructed many,

And the weak hands thou hast strengthened.

4 The stumbling turned to thy words,

And the sinking knees thou hast strengthened.

5 But now it cometh to thee, thou art grieved;

Now it toucheth thee, thou despondest.

The question with which Eliphaz beings, is certainly one of those in which the tone of interrogation falls on the second of the paratactically connected sentences: Wilt thou, if we speak to thee, feel it unbearable? Similar examples are Job 4:21; Numbers 16:22; Jeremiah 8:4; and with interrogative Wherefore? Isaiah 5:4; Isaiah 50:2 : comp. the similar paratactic union of sentences, Job 2:10; Job 3:11 . The question arises here, whether נסּה is an Aramaic form of writing for נשּׂא (as the Masora in distinction from Deuteronomy 4:34 takes it), and also either future, Wilt thou, if we raise, i.e., utter, etc.; or passive, as Ewald formerly,

(Note: In the second edition, comp. Jahrb . ix. 37, he explains it otherwise: “If we attempt a word with thee, will it be grievous to thee quod aegre feras ?” But that, however, must be נסּה ; the form נסּה can only be third pers . Piel: If any one attempts, etc., which, according to Ewald's construction, gives no suitable rendering.)

If a word is raised, i.e., uttered, דּבר נשׂא , like משׁל נשׂא , Job 27:1; or whether it is third pers. Piel, with the signification, attempt, tentare , Ecclesiastes 7:23. The last is to be preferred, because more admissible and also more expressive. נסּה followed by the fut. is a hypothetic praet., Supposing that, etc., wilt thou, etc., as e.g., Job 23:10. מלּין is the Aramaic plur . of מלּה , which is more frequent in the book of Job than the Hebrew plur . מלּים . The futt., Job 4:3., because following the perf., are like imperfects in the western languages: the expression is like Isaiah 35:3. In עתּה כּי , Job 4:5, כּי has a temporal signification, Now when, Ges. §155, 1, e , ( b ).

Verses 6-11

6 Is not thy piety thy confidence,

Thy Hope? And the uprightness of thy ways?

7 Think now: who ever perished, being innocent?!

And where have the righteous been cut off?!

8 As often as I saw, those who ploughed evil

And sowed sorrow, - they reaped the same.

9 By the breath of Eloah they perished,

By the breath of His anger they vanished away.

10 The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the shachal,

And the teeth of the young lions, are rooted out.

11 The lion wanders about for want of prey,

And the lioness' whelps are scattered.

In Job 4:6 all recent expositors take the last waw as waw apodosis: And thy hope, is not even this the integrity of thy way? According to our punctuation, there is no occasion for supposing such an application of the waw apodosis, which is an error in a clause consisting only of substantives, and is not supported by the examples, Job 15:17; Job 23:12; 2 Samuel 22:41.

(Note: We will not, however, dispute the possibility, for at least in Arabic one can say, zı̂d f - hkı̂m Zeid, he is wise. Grammarians remark that Arab. zı̂d in this instance is like a hypothetical sentence: If any one asks, etc. 2 Samuel 15:34 is similar.)

תקותך is the permutative of the ambiguous כסלתך , which, from כּסל , to be fat, signifies both the awkwardness of stupidity and the boldness of confidence. The addition of הוּא to מי , Job 4:7, like Job 13:19; Job 17:3, makes the question more earnest: quis tandem , like זה מי , quisnam (Ges. §122, 2). In Job 4:8, כּאשׁר is not comparative, but temporal, and yet so that it unites, as usual, what stands in close connection with, and follows directly upon, the preceding: When, so as, as often as I had seen those who planned and worked out evil (comp. Proverbs 22:8), I also saw that they reaped it. That the ungodly, and they alone, perish, is shown in Job 4:10. under the simile of the lions. The Hebrew, like the oriental languages in general, is rich in names for lions; the reason of which is, that the lion-tribe, although now become rarer in Asia, and of which only a solitary one is found here and there in the valley of the Nile, was more numerous in the early times, and spread over a wider area.

(Note: Vid., Schmarda, Geographische Verbreitung der Thiere , i. 210, where, among other things, we read: The lion in Asia is driven back at almost all points, and also in Africa has been greatly diminished; for hundreds of lions and panthers were used in the Roman amphitheatres, whilst at the present time it would be impossible to procure so large a number.)

שׁחל , which the old expositors often understood as the panther, is perhaps the maneless lion, which is still found on the lower Euphrates and Tigris. נתע = נתץ , Psalms 58:7, evellere , elidere , by zeugma, applies to the voice also. All recent expositors translate Job 4:11 init. wrongly: the lion perishes. The participle אבד is a stereotype expression for wandering about viewless and helpless (Deuteronomy 26:5; Isaiah 27:13; Psalms 119:176, and freq.). The part., otherwise remarkable here, has its origin in this usage of the language. The parallelism is like Psalms 92:10.

Verses 12-16

12 And a word reached me stealthily,

And my ear heard a whisper thereof.

13 In the play of thought, in visions of the night,

When deep sleep falleth on men,

14 Fear came upon me, and trembling;

And it caused the multitude of my bones to quake with fear.

15 And a breathing passed over my face;

16 It stood there, and I discerned not its appearance:

An image was before my eyes;

A gentle murmur, and I heard a voice.

The fut. יגגּב , like Judges 2:1; Psalms 80:9, is ruled by the following fut. consec.: ad me furtim delatum est (not deferebatur ). Eliphaz does not say אלי ויגנּב (although he means a single occurrence), because he desires, with pathos, to put himself prominent. That the word came to him so secretly, and that he heard only as it were a whisper ( שׁמץ , according to Arnheim, in distinction from שׁמע , denotes a faint, indistinct impression on the ear), is designed to show the value of such a solemn communication, and to arouse curiosity. Instead of the prosaic ממּנוּ , we find here the poetic pausal-form מנהוּ expanded from מנּוּ , after the form מנּי , Job 21:16; Psalms 18:23. מן is partitive: I heard only a whisper, murmur; the word was too sacred and holy to come loudly and directly to his ear. It happened, as he lay in the deep sleep of night, in the midst of the confusion of thought resulting from nightly dreams. שׂעפּים (from שׂעיף , branched) are thoughts proceeding like branches from the heart as their root, and intertwining themselves; the מן which follows refers to the cause: there were all manner of dreams which occasioned the thoughts, and to which they referred (comp. Job 33:15); תּרדּמה , in distinction from שׁנה , sleep, and תּנוּמה , slumber, is the deep sleep related to death and ecstasy, in which man sinks back from outward life into the remotest ground of his inner life. In Job 4:14, קראני , from קרא = קרה , to meet (Ges. §75, 22), is equivalent to קרני (not קרני , as Hirz., first edition, wrongly points it; comp. Genesis 44:29). The subject of הפחיד is the undiscerned ghostlike something. Eliphaz was stretched upon his bed when רוּח , a breath of wind, passed ( חלף( dessap , similar to Isaiah 21:1) over his face. The wind is the element by means of which the spirit-existence is made manifest; comp. 1 Kings 19:12, where Jehovah appears in a gentle whispering of the wind, and Acts 2:2, where the descent of the Holy Spirit is made known by a mighty rushing. רוּח , πνεῦμα , Sanscrit âtma , signifies both the immaterial spirit and the air, which is proportionately the most immaterial of material things.

(Note: On wind and spirit, vid., Windischmann, Die Philosophie im Fortgang der Weltgesch . S. 1331ff.)

His hair bristled up, even every hair of his body; סמּר , not causative, but intensive of Kal . יעמד has also the ghostlike appearance as subject. Eliphaz could not discern its outline, only a תמוּנה , imago quaedam (the most ethereal word for form, Numbers 12:8; Psalms 17:15, of μορφή or δόξα of God), was before his eyes, and he heard, as it were proceeding from it, רקל דּממה , i.e., per hendiadyn : a voice, which spoke to him in a gentle, whispering tone, as follows:

Verses 17-21

17 Is a mortal just before Eloah,

Or a man pure before his Maker?

18 Behold, He trusteth not His servants!

And His angels He chargeth with imperfection.

19 How much more those who dwell in houses of clay,

They are crushed as though they were moths.

20 From morning until evening, - so are they broken in pieces:

Unobserved they perish for ever.

21 Is it not so: the cord of their tent in them is torn away,

So they die, and not in wisdom?

The question arises whether מן is comparative: prae Deo , on which Mercier with penetration remarks: justior sit oportet qui immerito affligitur quam qui immerito affligit ; or causal: a Deo, h.e., ita ut a Deo justificetur . All modern expositors rightly decide on the latter. Hahn justly maintains that עם and בּעיני are found in a similar connection in other places; and Job 32:2 is perhaps not to be explained in any other way, at least that does not restrict the present passage. By the servants of God, none but the angels, mentioned in the following line of the verse, are intended. שׂים with בּ signifies imputare ( 1 Samuel 22:15); in Job 24:12 (comp. Job 1:22) we read תּפלה , absurditatem (which Hupf. wishes to restore even here), joined with the verb in this signification. The form תּהלה is certainly not to be taken as stultitia from the verb הלל ; the half vowel, and still less the absence of the Dagesh , will not allow this. תּרן (Olsh. §213, c ), itself uncertain in its etymology, presents no available analogy. The form points to a Lamedh-He verb, as תּרמה from רמה , so perhaps from הלה , Niph . נהלא , remotus , Micah 4:7 : being distant, being behind the perfect, difference; or even from הלה (Targ. הלא , Pa . הלּי ) = לאה , weakness, want of strength.

(Note: Schnurrer compares the Arabic wahila , which signifies to be relaxed, forgetful, to err, to neglect. Ewald, considering the ת as radical, compares the Arabic dll , to err, and tâl , med . wau , to be dizzy, unconscious; but neither from והל nor from תּהל can the substantival form be sustained.)

Both significations will do, for it is not meant that the good spirits positively sin, as if sin were a natural necessary consequence of their creatureship and finite existence, but that even the holiness of the good spirits is never equal to the absolute holiness of God, and that this deficiency is still greater in spirit-corporeal man, who has earthiness as the basis of his original nature. At the same time, it is presupposed that the distance between God and created earth is disproportionately greater than between God and created spirit, since matter is destined to be exalted to the nature of the spirit, but also brings the spirit into the danger of being degraded to its own level.

Job 4:19

אף signifies, like כּי אף , quanto minus , or quanto magis , according as a negative or positive sentence precedes: since Job 4:18 is positive, we translate it here quanto magis , as 2 Samuel 16:11. Men are called dwellers in clay houses: the house of clay is their φθαρτὸν σῶμα , as being taken de limo terrae (Job 33:6; comp. Wis. 9:15); it is a fragile habitation, formed of inferior materials, and destined to destruction. The explanation which follows - those whose יסוד , i.e., foundation of existence, is in dust - shows still more clearly that the poet has Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:19, in his mind. It crushes them (subject, everything that operates destructively on the life of man) לפני־עשׁ , i.e., not: sooner than the moth is crushed (Hahn), or more rapidly than a moth destroys (Oehler, Fries), or even appointed to the moth for destruction (Schlottm.); but לפני signifies, as Job 3:24 (cf. 1 Samuel 1:16), ad instar : as easily as a moth is crushed. They last only from morning until evening: they are broken in pieces ( הכּת , from כּתת , for הוּכת ); they are therefore as ephemerae. They perish for ever, without any one taking it to heart ( suppl . על־לב , Isaiah 42:25; Isaiah 57:1), or directing the heart towards it, animum advertit ( suppl . לב , Job 1:8).

In Job 4:21 the soul is compared to the cord of a tent, which stretches out and holds up the body as a tent, like Ecclesiastes 12:6, with a silver cord, which holds the lamp hanging from the covering of the tent. Olshausen is inclined to read יתדם , their tent-pole, instead of יתרם , and at any rate thinks the accompanying בּם superfluous and awkward. But (1) the comparison used here of the soul, and of the life sustained by it, corresponds to its comparison elsewhere with a thread or weft, of which death is the cutting through or loosing (Job 6:9; Job 27:8; Isaiah 38:12); (12) בּם is neither superfluous nor awkward, since it is intended to say, that their duration of life falls in all at once like a tent when that which in them ( בם ) corresponds to the cord of a tent (i.e., the נפשׁ ) is drawn away from it. The relation of the members of the sentence in Job 4:21 is just the same as in Job 4:2 : Will they not die when it is torn away, etc. They then die off in lack of wisdom, i.e., without having acted in accordance with the perishableness of their nature and their distance from God; therefore, rightly considered: unprepared and suddenly, comp. Job 36:12; Proverbs 5:23. Oehler, correctly: without having been made wiser by the afflictions of God. The utterance of the Spirit, the compass of which is unmistakeably manifest by the strophic division, ends here. Eliphaz now, with reference to it, turns to Job.


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

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

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology