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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Job 12

 

 

Verses 1-22

B.—Job’s Reply: Attack upon his friends, whose wisdom and justice he earnestly questions:

Job 12-14

1. Ridicule of the assumed wisdom of the friends, who can give only a very unsatisfactory de scription of the exalted power and wisdom of the Divine activity:

Job 12

1 And Job answered and said,

2 No doubt but ye are the people,

and wisdom shall die with you.

3 But I have understanding as well as you;

I am not inferior to you;

yea, who knoweth not such things as these?

4 I am as one mocked of his neighbor,

who calleth upon God, and He answereth him;

the just, upright man is laughed to scorn!

5 He that is ready to slip with his feet

is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.

6 The tabernacle of robbers prosper,

and they that provoke God are secure;

into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.

7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee,

and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:

8 or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee,

and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.

9 Who knoweth not in all these

that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?

10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing,

and the breath of all mankind.

11 Doth not the ear try words,

and the mouth taste his meat?

12 With the ancient is wisdom;

and in length of days understanding.

13 With Him is wisdom and strength,

He hath counsel and understanding.

14 Behold He breaketh down, and it cannot be built again;

He shutteth up a Prayer of Manasseh, and there can be no opening.

15 Behold, He withholdeth the waters, and they dry up;

also He sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth,

16 With Him is strength and wisdom;

the deceived and the deceiver are His.

17 He leadeth counsellors away spoiled,

and maketh the judges fools.

18 He looseth the bond of kings,

and girdeth their loins with a girdle.

19 He leadeth princes away spoiled,

and overthroweth the mighty.

20 He removeth away the speech of the trusty,

and taketh away the understanding of the aged.

21 He poureth contempt upon princes,

and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.

22 He discovereth deep things out of darkness,

and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.

23 He increaseth the nations and destroyeth them;

He enlargeth the nations, and straighteneth them again.

24 He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth,

and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.

25 They grope in the dark without light,

and He maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.

2. The resolution to betake himself to God, who, in contrast with the harshness and injustice of the friends will assuredly do him justice:

Job 13:1-22

1 Lo, mine eye hath seen all this,

mine ear hath heard and understood it.

2 What ye know, the same do I know also;

I am not inferior unto you.

3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty,

and I desire to reason with God.

4 But ye are forgers of lies,

ye are all physicians of no value.

5 O that ye would altogether hold your peace,

and it should be your wisdom.

6 Hear now my reasoning,

and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.

7 Will ye speak wickedly for God,

and talk deceitfully for Him?

8 Will ye accept His person?

will ye contend for God?

9 Is it good that He should search you out?

or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock Him?

10 He will surely reprove you,

if ye do secretly accept persons.

11 Shall not His excellency make you afraid?

and His dread fall upon you?

12 Your remembrances are like unto ashes,

your bodies to bodies of clay.

13 Hold your peace, let me alone that I may speak,

and let come on me what will.

14 Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth,

and put my life in mine hand?

15 Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him:

but I will maintain mine own ways before Him.

16 He also shall be my salvation:

for a hypocrite shall not come before Him.

17 Hear diligently my speech,

and my declaration with your ears.

18 Behold now, I have ordered my cause;

I know that I shall be justified.

19 Who is he that will plead with me?

for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost.

20 Only do not two things unto me;

then will I not hide myself from Thee.

21 Withdraw Thine hand far from me;

and let not Thy dread make me afraid.

22 Then call Thou, and I will answer:

or let me speak, and answer Thou me!

3. A vindication of himself, addressed to God, beginning with the haughty asseveration of his own innocence, but relapsing into a despondent cheerless description of the brevity, helplessness, and hopelessness of man’s life:

Job 13:23 to Job 14:22

23 How many are mine iniquities and sins?

make me to know my transgression and my sin.

24 Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face,

and holdest me for Thine enemy?

25 Wilt Thou break a leaf driven to and fro?

and wilt Thou pursue the dry stubble?

26 For Thou writest bitter things against me,

and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth.

27 Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks,

and lookest narrowly unto all my paths;

Thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet.

28 And Hebrews, as a rotten thing, consumeth,

as a garment that is moth-eaten.

Job 14

1 Man that is born of a woman,

is of few days, and full of trouble.

2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down;

he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.

3 And dost Thou open Thine eyes upon such an one,

and bringest me into judgment with Thee?

4 Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?

not one!

5 Seeing his days are determined,

the number of his months are with Thee,

Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;

6 turn from him that he may rest,

till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.

7 For there is hope of a tree,

if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,

and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.

8 Though the root thereof wax old in the earth,

and the stock thereof die in the ground;

9 yet through the scent of water it will bud,

and bring forth boughs like a plant.

10 But man dieth, and wasteth away!

yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?

11 As the waters fail from the sea,

and the flood decayeth and drieth up:

12 so man lieth down and riseth not:

till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake,

nor be raised out of their sleep.

13 O that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave,

that thou wouldest keep me secret until Thy wrath be past,

that Thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!

14 If a man die, shall he live again?

all the days of my appointed time will I wait,

till my change come.

15 Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee;

Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine hands.

16 For now Thou numberest my steps;

dost Thou not watch over my sin?

17 My transgression is sealed up in a bag,

and Thou sewest up mine iniquity.

18 And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought,

and the rock is removed out of his place.

19 The waters wear the stones;

Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth;

and Thou destroyest the hope of man.

20 Thou prevailest forever against him, and he passeth;

Thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away.

21 His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not;

and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.

22 But his flesh upon him shall have pain,

and his soul within him shall mourn.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Zophar in Job 11had specially arrayed against Job the wisdom and omniscience of God, in order to convict him partly of ignorance in Divine things, partly of his sinfulness and need of repentance. Job now meets this attack by strongly doubting the wisdom of his friends, or by representing it as being at least exceedingly ordinary and commonplace, being capable neither of worthily comprehending or describing the Divine wisdom and greatness, nor of demonstrating actual sin and guilt on his part. This demonstration of their incompetency, delivered in an ironical tone, accompanied by a description of the wisdom and strength of God far transcending that of Zophar in energy and inspired elevation of thought, forms the first part of his discourse ( Job 12.) This is followed by an emphatic asseveration of his innocence, clothed in the declaration of his purpose to appeal to God, the righteous Judges, and from Him, by means of a formal trial, to which he purposes summoning Him, to obtain testimony in favor of his innocence, which shall effectually dispose of the suspicions of the friends ( Job 13:1-22). As though such a trial had already been instituted, he then turns to God with a solemn assertion of his innocence, but failing to meet with a favorable declaration from God in answer to his appeal, he immediately sinks back into his former discouragement and despair, to which he gives characteristic expression in a long description of the shortness of life, the impotence and helplessness of man as opposed to the Divine omnipotence ( Job 13:23 to Job 14:22). [Davidson characterizes this discourse as “this last and greatest effort of Job”]. Each of these three parts is subdivided into sections which are distinctly separated, Parts I. and II. into two sections each of about equal length; Part III. into five strophes of5 to6 verses each.

2. First Division.—First Section: Sarcasm on the wisdom of Zophar, and the two other speakers, as being quite ordinary and commonplace: Job 12:2-12.

First Strophe: [Sarcasm on the friends ( Job 12:2) changing into angry invective ( Job 12:3), then into bitter complaint of his own lot ( Job 12:4), of the way of the world ( Job 12:5), and of the security of the wicked ( Job 12:6)].

Job 12:2. Of a truth ye are the people.—אַתֶּם עָם, with the logical accent on the first word, signifies not: “ye are people, the right sort of people,” but: “ye are the people, the totality of all people, the race of men;” עָם, therefore as in Isaiah 40:7; Isaiah 42:5. The Cod. Alex. of the LXX. expresses correctly the sense; μὴ ὑμεῖς ἐστέ ἄνθρωποι μόνοι. As to אָמְנָם כִּי, comp. the simple אָמְנָם, Job 9:2.

Job 12:3. I also have a heart as well as you, i.e., I lack understanding no more than you.—לֵבָב therefore as above in Job 8:10; Job 9:4; comp. Job 11:12 [“he also has a heart like them, he is therefore not empty, נבוב,” Del.], and as below in Job 12:24.—I do not stand behind you: lit, “I do not sink down beneath you,” or: “I do not fall away before you;” the מִן in מִכֶּם relates to the stand-point of the friends, from which Job might seem to be a נֹפֵל, one falling below them, meaner than themselves. [Ewald takes מִן in the comparative sense, which however would give an unsuitable rendering, “to fall more than another”].—And to whom are such things not known? Lit, “and with whom is not the like of these things?” viz., the like of your knowledge of Divine things. אֵת, lit. “with,” is used here in the sense of an inward indwelling, as also in Job 14:5 b, and as elsewhere עִם is used: Job 9:35; Job 10:13, etc.

[“Must I become, אֶֽהְיֶה best as exclamation, expressing Job’s sense of indignity: (1) At such treatment from friends; (2) such treatment to such as Hebrews,” (Dav.) see remainder of verse].—I who called to Eloah and found a hearing: lit, “one calling [still in 3 d person] to Eloah, and He heard him,” in apposition to the subject—I—in אֶֽהְיֶה: which is the case also with צַדִּיק תָּמִים, one who is just, godly (pure, blameless), comp. Proverbs 11:5 a, these words being placed with emphasis at the end of the whole exclamation. [Zöckler’s rendering of this clause being: “a mockery (am I);—the just, the godly man!” Noyes and Wemyss render the second member: “I who call upon God that He would answer me” (or “to listen to me”). Noyes objects to the other rendering the use of the present participle. This form, however, is used to denote a continuous fact in Job’s life, and a permanent quality grounded thereon, the Vav. consec. then indicating the Divine result consequent on Job’s conduct and character.—E.].

Job 12:5. For misfortune scorn—according to the opinion of the prosperous: i.e., the prosperous (lit. “the secure,” who lives free from care, comp. Isaiah 33:20) thinks, that contempt is due to the unfortunate. [“It is the ordinary way of the great multitude to over-whelm the unfortunate with contempt, and to give to the tottering still another push.” Dillm.] בּוּז thus = contemptus, as in Job 12:21, and Job 31:34; פִּיד = destruction, ruin, misfortune, as in Job 30:24; Job 31:29; Proverbs 24:22; and עַשְׁתּוֹת (plur. fem. st. constr. from עֶשֶׁת), or, after a form which is better authorized, עַשְׁתּוּת, signifies an opinion, fancy, thought (from עשת, to fashion, used of the mind’s fashioning its thoughts). This is the interpretation adopted by most of the moderns, since the time of Aben Ezra. The rendering of the Targ, Vulg, [E. V.], Levi b. Gerson, and other Rabbis, preferred also by Luther, De Wette, Rosenm. [Noyes, Carey, Rod.], etc., which takes לַפִּיד in the sense of a torch, yields no tolerable sense, at least no such sense as suits the second member (“a torch of contempt” [Luther: “a despised taper”] in the opinion of the prosperous is he who is ready to totter,” or “to whom it is appointed that his feet slip,” etc.) [Against this rendering, found in E. V, may be urged (1) The expression “a despised torch” is meaningless. As Con. suggests “a consumed or expiring torch would be pertinent, but a torch despised is like anything else that is despised.” (2) נָכוֹן is superfluous and insipid. Why “ready to waver?” (3) This rendering presupposes a noun מוֹעֵד, with the meaning vacillatio, wavering, lit. ready for waverings, for which however there is no authority, and which would require here rather the vowel pointing: מָעֳדֵי.—(4) It destroys the rhythm of the verse. See Con, Dillm, Dav. and Delitzsch. E.]. The rendering of Hitzig (Geschichte des Volkes Israel I, 112) is peculiar; לַפִּיד he takes to mean: “a soothing bandage, a cure” (from the root לפד, “to wind, or bind around,” here the sing. corresponding to the plur. found in Judges 4:4, which is not a proper name [Lapidoth], but taken in connection with the preceding אֵשֶׁת signifies: “a mistress of healing bandages”), so that the sense would then be: “Healing is a scorn [is scorned] in the opinion of the prosperous” (?).—Ready (is it, the contempt) for those whose foot wavers.—נָכוֹן, Part. Niph. from כּוּן, hence ἕτοιμος, ready, as in Exodus 34:2. Comp. below Job 15:23, where may also be found “the wavering of the foot” as a figurative expression of falling into misfortune; Psalm 38:17 (16) Ewald (Bibl. Jahrb. IX. p38) would instead of נָכוֹן read נִכָּיוֹן, “a stroke,” and Schultens and Dillmann would assign this same meaning of plaga, percussio to this same form נָכוֹן (from הִכָּה,נָכָה): “a stroke, is due to those whose foot wavers.” As if a new parallelism of thought must of necessity be found between a and b!

Job 12:6. Secure are the tents of the spoilers, lit. to the spoilers; i.e., to powerful tyrants, savage conquerors, and the like. On “tents” comp. Job 5:24; Job 11:14.—יִשְׁלָיוּ is the aramaizing third plur. form of a verb which has for its perf. שָׁלֵו (see Job 3:26), but which derives its imperf. forms from שָׁלָה. Moreover יִשְׁלָיוּ is not merely a pausal form, but stands here removed from the place of the tone: comp. the similar pathetic verbal forms in Psalm 36:9; Psalm 57:2; Psalm 73:2; also Ewald, § 194, a.And securityבַּטֻּחוֹת, plur. et abstr. from בָּטוּחַ (secure, free from care), have they who defy God [“שורדים denotes the sin of these undeservedly prosperous ones against men, מרגזי אל (lit. those who provoke God, who insolently assail Him) their wickedness against God.” Schlott.] they who carry Eloah in their hand: lit, “he who carries,” (לַאֲשֶׁר..... הֵבִיא); from among those who rage against God and defy Him, one is selected as an example, such an one, viz., as “bears God in his hand,” i.e., recognizes no other God than the one he carries in his hand or fist, to whom therefore his fighting weapon is to be his God; comp. Habakkuk 1:11; Habakkuk 1:16; also the “dextra mihi Deus” of Virg. Aen16, 773. [Delitzsch renders הֵבִיא a little more precisely perhaps: “he who causes Eloah to enter into his hand; from which translation it is clear that not the deification of the hand, but of that which is taken into the hand is meant. That which is taken into the hand is not, however, an idol (Abenezra), but the sword; therefore he who thinks after the manner of Lamech, as he takes the iron weapon of attack and defense into his hand, that he needs no other God.” The deification of the weapon which a man wields with the power of his own right hand, and the deification of the power which wields the weapon, as in Hab. l. c. and Micah 2:1, are, however, so nearly identical as descriptive of the character here referred to, that either resolves itself into the other. Conant, who adopts the rendering of E. V.: “he into whose hand God bringeth” (E. V. adds “abundantly”) i.e. whom God prospers, objects that by the other rendering “the thought is expressed very coarsely, as to form, when it might be done in the Hebrew with great felicity.” It is difficult to see, however, how the sentence: “he who takes God in his hand” could be expressed more idiomatically or forcibly than in the words of the passage before us. Wordsworth somewhat differently: “who grasps God in his hand. The wicked, in his impious presumption, imagines that he can take God prisoner and lead Him as a captive by his power.” But this is less natural than the above.—E.]

Second Strophe: [“Return to the thought of Job 12:3—the shallowness of the friends’ wisdom on the Divine. Such knowledge and deeper every one possessed who had eyes and ears. For (1) every creature in earth and sea and air proclaimed it (7–10); and (2) every man of thought and age uttered it in the general ear (11, 12).” Dav.]

Job 12:7. But ask now even the beasts—they can teach thee.—[“וְאוּלָם, recovery from the crushing thought of Job 12:4-6, and strong antithesis to the assumption of the friends.” Dav.] תֹּרֶךָּ, as also יַגֵּד in the second member, voluntative [or, jussive], hence not literally future—“they will teach it to thee”—as commonly rendered. Here the form of address is different from that adopted heretofore in this discourse, being now directed to one only of the friends, viz. to Zophar, to whose eulogy of the absolute wisdom of God ( Job 11:7-9) reference is here made, with the accompanying purpose of presenting a still more copious and elaborate description of the same.

Job 12:8. Or think thoughtfully on the earth: lit. “think on the earth,” i.e. direct thoughtfully thy observation to the earth (which comes under consideration here, as is evident from what follows, as the place where the lower order of animals is found, the רֶמֶשׂ, Genesis 9:2; 1 Kings 5:13), and acquire the instruction which may be derived from her. The rendering of שִׂיחַ as a substantive, in the sense of “shrub” (comp. Job 30:4; Genesis 2:5), is on several grounds untenable; for שִׂיחַ, “shrub” Isaiah, according to those passages, masculine; the use of the preposition לְ instead of the genit, or instead of על or ב before הארץ, would be singular; and the mention of plants in the midst of the animals (beasts, birds, fishes), would be out of place (against Berleb. Bib, Böttcher, Umbreit, etc.).

Job 12:9. Who would not know in all this, etc.—So is בְּכָל־אֵלֶּה to be rendered, giving to בְּ the instrumental sense, not with Hahn—“who knows not concerning all this,” which would yield too flat a sense, and lead us to over look the retrospective reference which is to be looked for to the various kinds of animals already cited. Neither with Ewald [Hengst, Noyes] is it to be taken in the sense of “among all these,” as if the passage contained a reference to a knowledge possessed by all the creatures of God as their Creator, or possibly to the groaning of the creature after the Godhead, as described in Romans 8:18 sq. This partitive rendering of בְּ (which Renan as well as Ewald adopts: “qui ne saît parmi tous ces étres,etc.) is at variance with the context, as well as the position of the words (לֹא יָדַע before בְּכָל־אֵלֶּה).—That the hand of Jehovah hath made this.—זֹאת refers essentially to the same object with כָּל־אֵלֶּה, only that it embraces a still wider circle of contemplation than the latter expression, which refers only to the classes of animals afore-mentioned. It denotes “the totality of that which surrounds us,” the visible universe, the whole world (τὰ βλεπόμενα, Hebrews 11:3); comp. Isaiah 66:2; Jeremiah 14:22; where כָּל־אֵלֶּה is used in this comprehensive signification; so also above in Job 11:8 seq, to which description of the all-embracing greatness of God there is here a manifest reference. Ewald, Dillmann [Conant, Davidson] translate: “that the hand of Jehovah hath done this.” By זֹאת, “this,” Ewald understands “the decreeing of suffering and pain” (of which also the groaning creation would testify); Dillmann refers it to the mighty and wise administration of God among His creatures; both of which explanations are manifestly more remote than the one given above. [“The meaning of the whole strophe is perverted if זֹאת, Isaiah, with Ewald, referred to the ‘destiny of severe suffering and pain.’… Since as a glance at what follows shows, Job further on praises God as the governor of the universe, it may be expected that the reference is here to God as the creator and preserver of the world.… Bildad had appealed to the sayings of the ancients, which have the long experience of the past in their favor, to support the justice of the Divine government; Job here appeals to the absoluteness of the Divine rule over creation.” Delitzsch.]—Apart from the Prologue ( Job 1:21), the name יְהוָה occurs only here in the mouth of Job, for the reason doubtless that the whole expression here used, which recurs again word for word in Isaiah 41:20 ( Isaiah 66:2) was one that was everywhere much used, not unfrequently also among the extra-Israelitish monotheists (and the same is true of the expression יִרְאַת אֲדֹנַי, Job 28:28).

Job 12:10. In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all the bodies of men.—[“Evidently these words are more naturally referred to the act of preservation than to that of creation.” Schlottm.] Observe the distinction between נֶפֶשׁ, the lower principle of life, which fills all animals, and רוּחַ, the godlike personal spirit of man. Otherwise in Ecclesiastes 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:21, where רוּחַ, in a wider sense, is ascribed even to the beasts.

Job 12:11-12. To the knowledge of God which rests on the observation of the external cosmos (notitia Dei naturalis externa s. acquisita), is here added the human wisdom and insight which springs from experience, especially that of the aged, as a second source from which Job might draw (which may be regarded as the equivalent of that which is sometimes called notitia Dei naturalis interna).

Job 12:11. Does not the ear prove sayings, even as [וְadæquationis, as in Job 5:7] the palate tastes food for itself (לֹוDat. commodi). Both comparisons illustrate the power of judicious discrimination possessed by the human spirit, by which it discerns the inner worth of things, especially as it exists in aged persons of large experience. So again later in Elihu’s discourse, Job 34:3. The opinion of Umbreit, Delitzsch, etc., that Job in this verse utters an admonition not to receive without proof the sayings of the ancients, to wit, those of which Bildad had previously spoken, Job 8:10 (“should not the ear prove the sayings?”), lacks proper support. A reference to that remote passage in the discourse of Bildad should have been more clearly indicated than by the accidental circumstance that there as here the word מִלִּין, “sayings, utterances,” is used. Moreover the “aged” who are here mentioned (יְשִׂישִׂים, as in Job 15:10; Job 29:8) are by no means identical with the fathers of former generations, whom Bildad had mentioned there.

Job 12:12. Among the aged is Wisdom of Solomon, and a long life (works, gives) understanding [or lit. “length of days is understanding”]. The verse is related to the preceding as logical consequent to its antecedent: As the ear determines the value of words, or the palate the taste of food, so aged men have been able to acquire for themselves in the course of a long life a true insight into the nature of things, and a truly rational knowledge of the same,—and I have been to school with such men, I have also ventured to draw from this source! This is the meaning of the passage as clearly appears from the context, and it makes it unnecessary to assume: a. with Starke, etc., that Job reckons himself among the aged, and as such sets himself in the fullness of his self-consciousness against, the three friends as being younger than himself (which is distinctly refuted by what we find in Job 5:26; Job 29:8; Job 29:18; Job 15:10); b. with Ewald, to conjecture the loss of a passage after Job 12:12, which would furnish the transition from that verse to Job 12:23; c. with Dillmann, that originally Job 12:12 stood before Job 12:9-10, thus immediately following Job 12:8; d. with Delitzsch, Hengstenberg. etc., that Job 12:23 is to be connected closely and immediately with Job 12:12, so that thus the following order of thought would be expressed: assuredly wisdom is to be found among the aged, but in reality and in full measure it is to be found only with God, etc. [i.e. with Conant, that the verse is to be rendered interrogatively, on the ground that Job would not appeal to tradition in support of his positions; to which Davidson replies that “Job assails tradition only where he has found it false; and here, where he is exposing the vulgarity of the friends’ much-boasted insight, it is quite in place to refer to the facility any one had for coming in contact with such information; and in Job 13:2, where Job recapitulates Job 12:13-25, these two sources of information, sight and hearsay are directly alluded to.”—Besides Delitzsch and Hengstenberg, Schlottmann and Merx connect the verse with the preceding. On the contrary Con, Dav, Dillm, Ren, Good, Wemyss, etc., connect it with the following, and correctly so on account of the strict connection in thought, and especially the resumption of the thought in varying language in Job 12:16.—In answer to the objection of abruptness in the transition if Job 12:13 be detached from the preceding, Davidson says well that “it is quite in place; the whole chapter and speech is abrupt and passionate.”—E.].

First Division: Second Section: An animated description of the exercise of God’s wisdom and power, by way of actual proof that he is by no means wanting in the knowledge of God, which Zophar had denied to him: [It is possible perhaps to exaggerate this idea that Job in the passage following is consciously emulating his opponents. Something there is of this no doubt, but it must not be forgotten that the description here given of the Divine wisdom and omnipotence is an important part of Job’s argument, as tending to show that these attributes so far from being employed by the ends which they had described, are exercised to produce hopeless confusion and ruin in human affairs.—E.].

First double strophe: Job 12:13-18 (consisting of two strophes of 3 verses each).

a. [The theme in its most general statement].

Job 12:13. With Him are wisdom and might, His are counsel and discernment.—The suffixes in עִמּוֹ and לֹו point back to Jehovah, Job 12:9-10, to whom the whole following description to Job 12:25 in general relates. [“With Him, עִמּוֹ, him, doubly, emphatic (a) in opposition to the just mentioned wisdom of men, Job 12:12; (b) with awe-ful omission of Divine name, and significant allusion and intonation in the pronoun.” Dav.]. The verse before us forms as it were the theme of this description, which presents Job’s own personal confession of faith in respect to the nature and wisdom of God. It is therefore neither an expression of the doctrinal views of a “hoary antiquity,” or of the aged sages of Job 12:12 (Umbreit) [Ewald, Schlottm.], nor a statement of that which is alone to be esteemed as genuine Divine Wisdom of Solomon, in antithesis to the more imperfect “wisdom of the aged” (Delitzsch, Hengstenberg). There is to be sure a certain progression of thought from Job 12:11 on: the adaptation to their uses of the organs of hearing and of taste, the wisdom of men of age and experience, and the wisdom of God, transcending all else, and united with the highest power, are related to each other as positive, comparative, and superlative. But there is not the slightest intimation of the thought that the absolute wisdom of God casts into the shade those rudiments of itself which are to be found in the sphere of the creature, or would hold them up as utterly worthless. Rather is what is said of the same in our verse in some measure the fruit, or a specimen of the wisdom of the aged, which Job also claims to possess, as a pupil of such aged men. Comp. below Cocceius, in the Homiletical Remarks on Job 12:10-13. Of the four designations of the absolute Divine intelligence here given, which accord with the language of Isaiah 11:2, and the accumulation of which intensifies the expression to the utmost, חָכְמָה denotes that side of God’s intelligence which “perceives things in the ground of their being, and in the reality of their existence” [“the general word and idea comprehensive of all others,” Dav.]. גְּבוּרָה that “which is able to carry out the plans, purposes, and decisions of this universal wisdom against all hindrance and opposition” [“virtus, גֶּבֶר, vir.” Dav.]; עֵצָה, that “which is never perplexed as to the best way of reaching its purpose;” תְּבוּנָה, that “which can penetrate to the bottom of what is true and false, sound and corrupt, and distinguish between them:” Delitzsch; [עֹז “actively force, passively strength, firmness:” Dav.].

Job 12:14. Lo, He tears down, and it is not built up (again). This is the first example of the irresistible exercise of this absolute might and wisdom of God. Job describes it as directed above all else to the work of tearing down and destroying, because in his recent mournful experiences he had been led to know it on this side of its activity; comp. Job 9:5 seq, where in like manner the mention of the destructive activities of the Divine omnipotence precedes that of its creative and constructive operation. Whether there is a reference to Zophar’s expression ( Job 11:10; so Dillmann) is doubtful. He shuts up a man (lit. “He shuts over a man”), and it cannot be opened. The expression סָגַר עַל, “to shut over any one,” is to be explained from the fact that use was frequently made of pits, perhaps of cisterns, as prisons, or dungeons: comp. Genesis 37:24; Jeremiah 38:6; Lamentations 3:53. Where this species of incarceration is not intended, סָגַר is used either with the accus. or with בְּעַד (comp. Job 3:10; and 1 Samuel 1:6).

Job 12:15. Lo, He restrains the waters, and they dry up ( Isaiah 50:38); He letteth them forth (again), and they overturn the earth. A remarkable parallel in thought to this description of the operation of the Divine omnipotence in the visible creation, now withdrawing and now giving life, but ever mighty in its agency, may be found in Psalm 104:29-30. A reference to Zophar’s comparison of past calamity with vanished waters ( Job 11:16) is scarcely to be recognized.

b. [Resumption of the theme—specially of the Divine wisdom bringing confusion and humiliation on earth’s mightiest].

[“שָׁגַג and שגה here are to be understood not so much in the ethical as in the intellectual sense: if a man thinks himself wise because he is superior to another, and can lead him astray, in comparison with God’s wisdom the deceiver is not greater (in understanding) than the deceived; He has them both in his hand, etc.” Dillm.]

Job 12:17. He leads counsellors away stripped: or “who leads counsellors, etc.”—for from this point on to the end of the description ( Job 12:24) Job speaking of God uses the present participle. The circumstantial accus. שׁוֹלָל, which here and in Job 12:19 is used in connection with מוֹלִיךְ, (and that in the singular, like עָרוֹם, Job 24:7; Job 24:10), is rendered by the ancient versions “captive,” or “chained” (LXX, Targ. on Job 12:19 : αἰχμαλώτους; Targ. on Job 12:17 : catenis vinctos), whereas etymologically the signification “made naked (exutus), violently stripped” is the only one that is authenticated. The word therefore is equivalent to the expression עָרוֹם וְיָחֵף “naked and barefoot,” Isaiah 20:4, not to “barefoot” alone, as Oehler, Hitzig, Dillmann, etc., suppose from comparison with the LXX. in Micah 1:8. Naturally we are to understand the description here to be of counsellors led away stripped as captives taken in war: comp. Is. l. c. and 2 Chronicles 28:15, as also what pertains to יֹעֲצִים, “counsellors” in Job 3:14.—And judges He makes fools. יְהוֹלֵל, as in Isaiah 44:25, to infatuate, to show to be fools. Such an infatuation of judges as would cause the military and political ruin of their country to proceed directly from them (as in the breaking out of great catastrophes over certain kingdoms, e.g. over Egypt, Isaiah 19:17 seq.; over Israel and Judah, 2 Kings 19:26; etc.), is not necessarily to be assumed here (comp. Job 5:20), although catastrophes of that character are here especially prominent in the thought of the speaker.

[Hengstenberg calls attention to the paronomasia of יֶאְסֹר מוֹסַר, and אֵזוֹר].

Second Double Strophe: Job 12:19-25 (divided into one strophe of three, and one of four verses): [The description continued: the agency of the Divine wisdom in confounding the great of earth].

a. [Special classes of leaders brought to shame described].

Job 12:19. He leads priests away spoiled (see on Job 12:17), and those firmly established He overthrows. [כֹּהֲנִים “priests,” not “princes” (E. V.) “In many of the States of antiquity the priests were personages no less important, were indeed even more important and honored than the secular authorities.” Dillm. “The juxtaposition of priests and kings here points to the ancient form of priestly rule, as we encounter the same in the person of Jethro and in part also in Melchizedek.” Schlott.].—All objects are called אֵיתָנִים, “firmly-enduring” [perpetual], which survive the changes of time. Hence the term is applied, e.g., to water which does not become dry (aquæ perennes), or firmly founded rocks ( Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44), or mighty, invincible nations ( Jeremiah 5:15), or, as here, distinguished and influential persons (Vulg, optimates). [סלף, “slip, in Piel, overthrow, aptly antithetic [to איתן.” Dav.].

Job 12:20. He takes away the speech of the most eloquent: lit. of “the trusted,” of those who have been tried as a people’s orators and counsellors; for they are the נֶאֱמָנִים (from אמן, to make firm, trustworthy, not from נָאַם, to speak, as D. Kimchi thinks, who would explain the word diserti, as though it were punctuated נַאֲמָנִים). On b comp. Hosea 4:11; and as regards טעם, “taste, judgment, tact,” see 1 Samuel 25:33.

Job 12:21. He pours contempt on nobles (exactly the same expression as in Psalm 107:40), and looses the girdle of the strong, (אֲפִיקִים lit. “containing of great capacity” [Delitzsch: “to hold together, especially to concentrate strength on anything”] only here and Job 41:7; i.e., He disables them for the contest (by causing the under-garments to hang down loosely, thus proving a hindrance for conflict; comp. Isaiah 5:27; also below Job 38:3; Job 40:7). The translation of Delitzsch is altogether too forced, and by consequence insipid: “He pours contempt on the rulers of the state, and makes loose the belt of the mighty.”

b. [The Divine energy as especially operative among nations].

[This verse must naturally form the prelude to the deeper exercise of power and insight among nations, and its highest generalization, comp16b.” Dav.].—He discovereth deep things out of the darkness, and brings forth to light the shadow of death;i.e., not: “He puts into execution His hidden purposes in the destiny of nations” (Schlottm.), [“for who would call the hidden ground of all appearances in God, צלמוֹת!” Dilllm.], but: “He brings forth into the light all the dark plans and wickedness of men which are hidden in darkness;” comp. 1 Corinthians 4:5 : (φωτίσει τὰ κρυπτὰ τοῠ σκότους κ. τ. λ., and the proverb: “There is nothing spun so fine but all comes to the light;” see also Job 24:13 seq.; Isaiah 29:15; Romans 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:5, etc. [“Deep things out of the darkness, עֲמֻקּוֹת, must mean hidden tendencies and principles, e.g., those running under national life, Job 12:23, naturally more subtle and multiplex than those governing individual manifestation on however elevated a scale) and darkness, and shadow of death, figures ( Job 11:8) descriptive of the profoundest secresy. These secret tendencies in national life and thought—never suspected by men who are silently carried on by them—He detects and overmasters either to check or to fulfil.” David. A truth “which brings joy to the good, but terror to all the children of darkness ( Job 24:13 seq.), and not without threatening significance even to the friends of Job.” Dillmann].

Job 12:23. He makes nations great, and—destroys them; He spreads nations abroad and—causes them to be carried away (or: “carries them away captive,” comp. הִנְחָה, synonymous with הִגְלָה, abducere in servitutem; also 2 Kings 18:11). [Rodwell: “then straitens them: leads them, i.e., back into their former borders”]. Instead of מַשְׂגִּיא the LXX. (πλανῶν) as well as some of the Rabbis read מַשְׁגִּיא, “who infatuates, makes fools.” But the first member of the verse corresponds strictly in sense to the second, on which account the Masoretic reading is to be retained, and to be interpreted of increase in height, even as the parallel שֹׁטֵחַ in b of increase in breadth, or territorial enlargement (not as though it meant a dispersion among other nations, as the Vulg. and Aben Ezra incorrectly interpret this שׁטח). [The לְ in both members, says Schlottmann, is not used Aramaice with the accus, but as sign of the Dat. commodi.]

Job 12:24. He takes away the understanding (לֵב as in Job 12:3) of the chief of the people of the land (עַס־הָאָרֶץ, can certainly signify “the people of the earth, mankind,” [Hirzel], after Isaiah 42:5; for its use in the more limited sense of the people of a land, comp. below Job 15:19). [“We have intentionally translated גוים “nations,” עם people, for גוי is the mass held together by the ties of a common origin, language, and country; עַם, the people bound together by unity of government.” Delitzsch].—And makes them wander in a pathless waste: (לֹא דֶרֶךְ, synonymous with בְּלֹא־ד׳, or with אֵין־ר׳, comp. לֹא אִֹישׁ Job 38:26; and Ewald, § 286, 8). The whole verse, the second member of which recurs verbatim in Psalm 107:40 presents an exact Hebrew equivalent for the Latin proverb: quem Deus perdere vult, prius dementat, a proverb on which the history of many a people and kingdom, from the earliest antiquity down to the present, furnishes an actual commentary that may well make the heart tremble. Concerning the catastrophes of historic nationalities in the most ancient times, which the poet here may not improbably have had before his mind, comp. Introd, § 6, e.

Job 12:25. They grope in darkness without light and He makes them to wander like a drunken man. Comp. Isaiah 19:14, and especially above in Job 5:13-14, a similar description by Eliphaz, which Job here seems desirous of surpassing, in order to prove that he is in no wise inferior to Eliphaz in experimental knowledge of the righteous judgments of God, the infinitely Wise and Mighty One.

4. Second Division: First Section: Resolution to appeal to the judicial decision of God, before which the harsh, unloving disposition of the friends will assuredly not be able to maintain itself, but will be put to shame: Job 13:1-12.

First Strophe: [Impatience with the friends, and the purpose to appeal to God].

Job 13:1. Behold, mine eye hath seen all (that), mine ear hath heard and perceived for itself.—כֹּל here equivalent to כָּל־אֵלֵּה, “all that has been here set forth,” all that has been stated (from Job 12:13 on) in respect to the evidences of the Divine power and wisdom in the life of nature and men. [לָהּ, dativus commodi, or perhaps only dat. ethicus: and has made it intelligible to itself (sibi); בִּין of the apprehension accompanying perception.” Del.].—On Job 13:2 comp. Job 12:3, the second member of which is here repeated word for word.

Job 13:3. But I will speak to the Almighty. אוּלָם, “but nevertheless,” puts that which now follows in emphatic antithesis to the preceding: “notwithstanding that I know all this, I will still,” etc. [“Three feelings lie at the back of this antithesis: (1) The folly of longer speaking to the friends. (2) The irrelevancy of all such knowledge as they paraded, and which Job had in abundance. (3) Antagonism to the prayer of Zophar that God would appear—Job desires nothing more nor better—but I, to the Almighty will I speak.” Dav.]. Observe also the significantly accented אֲנִי, I (ἐγὼ μὲν), which puts the speaker in definite antithesis to those addressed (אַתֶּם, Job 13:4, ὑμεῐς δὲ), as one who will not follow their advice to make penitent confession of his guilt towards God; who will rather plead against God.—I desire to plead with God. הוֹכֵחַ, Inf. absol. as obj. of the verb; comp. Job 9:18; and for the signification of הוכח, “to plead, to vindicate one’s cause against an accusation,” comp. Amos 5:10; Isaiah 29:21; also below Job 13:15, Job 19:5. חפץ, to desire, to be inclined, here essentially as in Job 9:3. יֶחְפָּץ always for יַחְפֹּץ in pause]. That passage ( Job 9:3) certainly stands in some measure in contradiction to this, implying as it does the impossibility of contending with God; it is however a contest of another sort from that which is intended there that he proposes here, a contest not of one arrogantly taking the offensive, but of one driven by necessity to the defensive.

Job 13:4. But ye are (only) forgers of lies.—וְאוּלָם אַתֶּם puts another antithetic sentence alongside of the first which was introduced by אוּלָם ( Job 13:3), without however laying any special stress on אַתֶּם; hence: “and however, but again,” etc.; not: “ye however” (Hirzel).—טֹפְלֵי שֶׁקֶר (from טפל, “to plaster, to smear, to paste together;” comp. טָפֵל, “plaster” Ezekiel 13:10 seq, and Talmudic טְפֵלָה grease) are lit. “daubers of lies,” i.e., inventors of lies, concinnatores s. inventores mendacii; not: “imputers, fasteners of falsehood,” assutores mendacii, as Stickel, Hirzel, Schlottmann, Delitzsch, etc., explain both against philology and the context (neither Job 14:17 nor Psalm 119:69 support this definition); nor again: “deceitful patchers,” sarcinatores falsi, i.e., inanes, idutilis, as Hupfeld explains.—Physicians of no value are ye all.—רֹפְאֵי אֱלִיל are not “patchers” [Con. “botchers”] of vanity,” i.e., such as patch together empty unfounded assertions (Vulg, Ew, Olsh, Dillm.), [Good, Con, Dav.], but in accordance with the universal usage of רפא: “worthless, useless physicians,” medici nihili, miserable quacks, who are incapable of applying to Job’s wounds the right medicine to soothe and heal. [“Job calls their false presuppositions regarding his guilt שֶׁקֶר, their vain attempts at a Theodicy and ‘Theory of Providence’ אֱלִיל.” Dav.].

Job 13:5. Oh that ye would be altogether silent—that would be reckoned to you for wisdom.—Comp. Proverbs 17:28; the Latin proverb: Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses; also the honorable title, “bos mutus,” the mute ox, given to Thomas Aquinas during his student life at Paris, by his fellow-students, as well as by his teacher, Albertus Magnus. The jussive, וּתְהִי, is used in a consecutive sense: “then would it be, prove, pass for;” comp. Ewald, § 347, a, Gesen, § 128, 2.

Job 13:6. Hear now my reproof, and give heed to the charges of my lips.—So correctly Hirzel, Dillm, Del, etc., while several other moderns explain: “Hear my defense [Con, E. V, “reasoning”], and attend to the arguments of my lips.” As if תּוֹכַחַת could signify anything else than ἔλεγγος, correptio (so correctly LXX,, Vulg.—Comp. הוֹכִיחַ in Job 6:25; Job 40:2), and as if רִבוֹת (defectively for רִיבוֹת) could even in one instance sink the meaning of the stern word רִיב, “to strive, to quarrel!” Furthermore it is a long moral reproof and animadversion of the friends which immediately follows, Job 13:7-12. His reply and vindication of himself to God first follows Job 13:13 seq, or indeed properly not before Job 13:17 seq.

Second Strophe: [Scathing rebuke of their dishonesty and presumption in assuming to be God’s advocates ( Job 13:7-9), and warning of the consequences to themselves when God shall rebuke them for their conduct].

Job 13:7. Will ye for God [לְאֵל emphatic] speak that which is wrong, will ye for Him speak deceitfully?—The preposition לְ signifies here “for, in favor of any one,” as also in Job 13:8, Judges 6:31. On עַוְלָה comp. Job 5:16; Job 6:30.

Job 13:8. Will ye show partiality for Him (lit. “lift up His countenance,” i.e. show preference for His person), or will ye take the part of God’s advocates? (lit. “contend for God, comp. רִיב לַבַּעַל, Judges 6:31). These are the two possible ways in which they could “speak in favor of God:” either as clients, dependents, taking His part slavishly, for mercenary ends, or as patrons or advocates, presumptuously and naively taking Him under their protection. [There thus appears a subtle and very effective irony in these questions of Job’s. His charge of partiality is also, as Davidson says, “a master-stroke of argumentation, effectually debarring the friends from any further defense of God in this direction, or almost at all.”—E.].

Job 13:9. Will it be well [for you] when He searches you out (goes to the bottom of you, חקר as in Proverbs 28:11; Psalm 139:23) or can you deceive Him as a man is deceived?viz. in regard to your real disposition and the sentiment of your heart, of which a more searching investigation must reveal to Him that it by no means corresponds to His holy nature and life.—הֵתֵל, Hiph. from תלל (in Imperf. תְּהָתֵלּוּ, with a non-syncopated ה, for תָּתֵלּוּ, Gesen. § 53 [§ 52] Rem7 [Green, § 142, 3]), is lit. “to cause to waver [to hold up anything swaying to and fro], to keep one in suspense, to make sport of any one,” [E. V. “to mock”], hence to deceive; ensnare; comp. Genesis 31:7; Judges 16:10; Jeremiah 9:4.) [Schlott, who renders: “will ye mock him?” explains by quoting from Jarchi: “dicendo: in honorem tuam mendacia nos finximus”].

Job 13:10. Surely He will sorely chastise you ( Job 5:17) if ye are secretly partial:i.e. if ye are actuated not by love of the truth and conscientious conviction, but by selfish interest in your relations with Him, as One who is mightier. That with which Job hereby reproaches them is (as Del. rightly observes) a ζῆλος θεοῦ ἀλλ’ οὐ κατ’ επίγνωσιν, Romans 10:2 (comp. John 16:2), “an advocacy contrary to one’s better knowledge and conscience, in which the end is thought to sanctify the means.”

Job 13:11. Will not His majesty (שְׂאֵת, as in Job 31:23, exaltation, dignity; not “a kindling of wrath,” or “a lifting up for contention,” as Böttch. renders it after the Vulg.) confound you ( Job 3:5), and the dread of Him (פַּחְדּוֹ the dread, the terror which He inspires) fall upon you—then, namely, when He will reveal Himself as your Judge. Job here anticipates what according to Job 42:7 seq. really happened afterwards. [“It is a peculiarity of the author of our book that he drops every now and then hints of how the catastrophe is to turn out, showing unmistakably both the unity of conception and the authorship of the book.” Dav.]

[The rendering of E. V. “your bodies (are like) to bodies of clay,” is evidently taken from the signification “back:” and the whole verse is a reminder of their mortality. But this is much less suited to the language used, less pertinent to the context, and less effective for Job’s purpose than the rendering here given.—E.] For חֹמֶר, mud, potter’s clay, as an emblem of what is frail, easily destroyed, incapable of resistance, comp. Job 38:14; Isaiah 45:9 seq.

Second Division: Second Section: Declaration of his consciousness of innocence as against God in the form of a solemn confession, in which he boldly challenges Him: Job 13:13-22.

First Strophe: [Turning from the friends, he expresses more emphatically than before his purpose to appeal to God, cost what it may at the first, confident of ultimate acquittal. Dillmann says: “It seems that the poet intentionally cut this strophe short, in order by this very brevity to emphasize more strongly the gravity of these thoughts.”]

Job 13:13. In silence leave me alone: lit. “be silent from me” (מִמֶּנִּי), i.e., desist from me, cease from your injurious assaults, and let me be in peace. [According to Schlott. the preposition here is the מן of source or cause: be silent because of the weight of my words; acc. to the above, a constr. prægnans is assumed. Conant, etc., translate: “Keep silence before me.” Barnes thinks it “possible that Job may have perceived in them some disposition to interrupt him in a rude manner in reply to the severe remarks which he had made.” Comp. on Job 6:29. More probably, however, the verse Isaiah, like Job 13:5, an expression of his weariness with their vain platitudes, and unjust accusations, and a demand that they should stand by in silence while he should plead directly with God.—E.]—Then will I speak, or: in order that I may speak. [Conant: “That I now may speak:וַאֲדַבְּרָה־אָֽנִי.” Strong double emphasis in the use of the cohortative future, and the pronoun; the latter emphasizing the first person, the former his strong determination to speak.—E.]—And let come upon me what will.—עבר as in Deuteronomy 24:5. מָה here for מָה שֶׁיַּעֲבֹר, a condensed form of expression similar to וִיהִי מָה, 2 Samuel 18:22; comp. Ewald, § 104, d.

Job 13:14. Wherefore should I take my flesh into my teeth:i.e. be solicitous to save and to preserve my body at any price, like a beast of prey, which drags off its booty with its teeth, and so secures it against other preying animals. This proverbial saying, which does not occur elsewhere, is in itself clear (comp. Jeremiah 38:2). The second member also signifies essentially the same thing: and (wherefore should I) put my soul in my hand:i.e. risk my life, seek to save it by means of a desperate exertion of strength (comp. the same expression in Judges 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21). [This, says Dillmann, is indeed “scarcely the original meaning of the phrase; nor is it to be understood, as commonly explained, that what one has in the hand easily falls out and is lost. The primary meaning is rather: to commit or entrust the life to the hand in order to bear it through, i.e. to make a desperate effort to save it (see Ewald on the passage): such an attempt is indeed dangerous, because if the hand fails, the life is lost, and so the common explanation attaches itself naturally to the phrase, to expose the life to apparent danger. Here, however, the original meaning is altogether suitable, and indeed necessary, because only so do the first and second members agree: why should I make an extreme effort to save my life?”] Such a desperate effort Job would make, in case he should declare himself guilty of the reproaches brought against him. while at the same time he bore no consciousness of guilt within himself. This, however, would not be of the least avail, for according to Job 13:15 a he has nothing more to hope for, he sees before him nothing but certain death from the hand of God. Hence, therefore, his question: “Wherefore should I seek to save my life at any price—I who have nothing more to hope for?” Compared with this interpretation, which is the only one suited to the context, and which is adopted by Umbreit, Ewald, Vaih, Dillm, etc., the many interpretations which vary from it are to be rejected, especially those according to which the second member is not to be regarded as a continuation of the question, but as an assertion—according to Hirzel in the positive form: “and even my life do I risk”—according to Hahn and Delitzsch in the negative: “nay, I even put my life at stake:” in like manner, that of Böttcher: “wherefore should I seek to preserve my life at any price, seeing that I willingly expose it, etc.”

[Wordsworth agrees in this interpretation of the meaning of each member of the verse, but differs from Zöckler, etc., in the application: “The question (he says) is put hypothetically. You may ask me why I am thus bold to desire to expose myself to a trial before God? The reason is because I am sure that I have a good cause; I know that in the end He will do me right. See what follows.”—The Vulg. renders: “Quare lacero carnes meas dentibus meis, et animam meam porto in manibus meis?” Hengstenberg follows this rendering, explaining the first clause of the wrong, the violence which he would do to his moral personality, if by silence he should plead guilty to the accusations of the friends. Schultens, who is followed in substance by Rosenmüller, Good, Wemyss, Bernard, Barnes, Renan, Davidson, Carey, Rodwell, Elzas, regards both members as proverbially expressing the idea of risking life, and the clause עַל־מָה not in its usual interrogative sense, but as equivalent to: “in spite of every thing.” (Schult, super quid, on any account.) מָה is thus a resumption of the מָה in13b. This rendering gives a consistent and forcible sense throughout: Be silent now, and let me alone, and I for my part will assuredly speak, be the consequence what it may: Cost what it may, I will risk it all, I will risk my person and my life: lo, He will slay me, etc., yet in his very presence, etc, (comp. on Job 9:21-22). The objection to this is of course the unusual rendering of עַל־מָה. On the other hand the objection to the interpretation adopted in our comm. is the unusual sense in which we are constrained to take the proverbial expressions of the verse, particularly the latter—“to take the life in the hand”—which according to this interpretation must mean to seek to save the life, whereas in every other instance it means to risk it. It is thus at best a choice between difficulties, or unusual expressions. And it may fairly be queried whether the difficulty in regard to על־מה is not largely obviated by the close connection in which it stands with the מה just preceding.—E.].

Job 13:15. Lo, He will slay me:viz. through my disease, which will certainly bring about my speedy dissolution (comp. Job 6:13; Job 7:6; Job 9:25; Job 10:20). I have no (more) hope; i.e., I do not direct my thoughts to the future, I am not in a state of waiting, expectation (יִחֵל without an obj, præstolari, exactly as in Job 6:11; Job 14:14), and this indeed is so naturally, because for me there is nothing more to wait for, seeing that my condition is hopeless, and my fate long since decided. Song of Solomon, according to the K’thibh is the phrase לאֹ אֲיַחֵל to be explained, while the K’ri, לוֹ א׳ must signify in accordance with the suffix: “until then, viz., until I am slain, I wait” (so substantially Luther), or again: “I wait for Him, that He may slay me” (Delitzsch) [i.e., “I wait what He may do, even to smite with death”]. The context by no means yields the rendering of the Vulg, which also rests on the K’ri; etiam si occiderit me, in ipso (Deo) sperabo [so also E. V, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him”]: an utterance which has acquired a certain celebrity as a favorite sentiment alike of pious Jews and Christians (comp. Delitzsch on the passage), as the funeral text of the Electoress Louise Henriette of Brandenburg, and as the poetic theme of a multitude of popular religious hymns. It scarcely expresses however the meaning here intended by Job, which is far removed from any expression of a hope reaching beyond death.—Only my ways (viz., the innocence of my ways) will I prove in His presence. אַךְ, referring back to the whole preceding sentence, hence the game as “nevertheless, however.” He has already despaired of life, but of one thing he does not despair, freely and openly to prove before God the blamelessness of his life: “physically therefore he can succumb, that he concedes, but morally he cannot” (Del.).

[In favor of the personal sense for הוא, referring it to God, Schlottmann argues that it would scarcely be said of a circumstance in Hebrew that it would be anybody’s salvation: and Davidson objects to the neuter rendering that it originates in a cold conception of Job’s mental agitation, and gives to לִישׁוּעָה a sense feeble almost to imbecility. On the other hand Dillmann argues against the masculine sense that in that case the connection between the first and second members of this verse would be imperfect, and that the contrast between what would thus be said of God in this verse and that which has been said in Job 13:15 would be too violent].

Second Strophe: [“Determination to cite God finally reached, with conditions of pleading before Him.”—Dav.].

Job 13:17. Hear, O hear my declaration.—שִׁמְעוּ שָׁמוֹעָ, a strongly emphasized appeal that they should hear him, essentially the same in signification as Isaiah 6:9, only that here is not intended as there a continued but an attentive hearing for the time being; comp. Job 21:2; Job 37:2.—מִלָּה, here “declaration,” signifies in Arabic confession, religion. Its synonym אַחְוָה in he second member, [and let my utterance sound in your ears], formed from the Hiph. of the verb חוה ( Job 15:17; Psalm 19:3) signifies here (the only place where it occurs in the O. T.) not “brotherly conduct” as in post-biblical Hebrew, but “utterance.” With וְאַחְוָתִי it is better to supply תְּהִי or תָּבוֹא, “let it enter, let it sound in your ears,” than to repeat שִׁמְעוּ from a.

Job 13:18. Behold now I have made ready the cause. עָרַךְ מִשְׁפָּט, causam instruere, as in Job 23:4; comp. the simple עָרַךְ, Job 33:5. On b comp. Job 11:2.

Job 13:19. Who is he that will contend with me?i.e., attempt with success to prove that I am in the wrong. As to the thought compare the parallel passages, Isaiah 1:9; Romans 8:34; and as to the lively interrogative מִי חוּא, Job 4:7.—Then indeed (if any one succeeds in that, in convicting me of wrong) I would be silent and die: then, as one defeated within and without, I would without offering further resistance, let death come upon me as merited punishment. The explicitness and calmness with which he makes this declaration shows how impossible it seems to him that he should be proved guilty, how unalterably firm he stands in the consciousness of his innocence. [E. V, “for now, if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost,” is less simple, and less suited to the connection].

Job 13:20. Only two things do not Thou unto me: these are the same two things which he has already deprecated in Job 9:34 in order that he may successfully achieve his vindication, and Song of Solomon, as it is here expressed in b, not be obliged to hide before God. In Job 13:21 we are told wherein they consist, viz, a, in heavy unremitting calamities and chastisements (“Thy hand remove Thou from me”), כַּף here of the hand which punishes, as previously שֵׁבֶט in Job 9:34); and b, in terror, confusion, and trepidation produced by His majesty; comp. above, Job 13:11.

Job 13:22. Then—if these two alleviations are granted to me—call Thou and I will answer:i.e., summon me then to a criminal trial, or which would be eventually still more advantageous to me: “allow me the first word, let me be the questioner.” Obviously it is in this sense that we are to take b, where הֵשִׁיב, “to reply” (supply דָּבָר) is connected transitively with accus. of the person, as elsewhere עָנָה; comp. Job 20:2; Job 32:14; Job 40:4.

6. Third Division. The vindication of himself to God, with a complaint over the vanity and helplessness of human existence: [“That Job, lifted up by the proud consciousness of innocence, might really fancy for the moment that God would answer his challenge, is not in itself improbable in view of the present temper of his soul, and the entire plan of the poem, according to which such an intercourse of God with men as may be apprehended by the senses lies within the bounds of possibility ( Job 38. seq.), and should not be described (with Schlottm.) as a fanatical thought; although indeed he could not long continue in this fancy; not only the non-appearance of God, but also every consideration of a more particular sort must convince him of the idleness of his wish.” Dillmann. Hence the sudden change of his apology to a lamentation].

First Strophe: Job 13:23-28. Having repeatedly announced his purpose ( Job 13:13 seq, 17 seq.), Job now at length passes directly to the demonstration of his innocence, but at once falls from a tone of confident self-justification into one of sorrowful lamentation, and faint-hearted despair, out of which he does not again emerge during this discourse.

Job 13:23. How many are (then) my iniquities and sins; my wickedness and my sin make known to me!—Inasmuch as חַטָּאת denotes sin or moral aberration in general (occasionally also indeed sins of weakness), עָוֹן transgression or evil-doing of a graver sort, פֶשַׁע however flagrant wickedness, open apostasy from God (comp. Hoffmann, Schriftbew. I, 483seq.), the enumeration which is here given is on the whole neither climactic nor anti-climactic, but alike in a and b the more special and stronger expression precedes, while the more general term follows. Observe still further that the characteristic expression used to denote the smallest and slightest offenses, שְׁגִיאוֹת ( Psalm 19:13) is not introduced here at all. Of such failures of the most insignificant sort Job would indeed be perfectly well aware that he was guilty; comp. above Job 9:2; Job 9:14 seq.

Job 13:24. Wherefore hidest Thou Thy face (a sign of the Divine displeasure, comp. Isaiah 54:8) and regardest me as Thine enemy?—The question is an expression of impatient wonder at the non-appearance of God.

Job 13:25. A driven leaf wilt Thou terrify?הֶעָלֶה with He interrog. like הֶחָכָם, Job 15:2. Comp. Gesenius § 100 [§ 98], 4 [E. V. “wilt thou break a leaf,” etc. And so Bernard: but against usage]. And pursue the dry chaff? The meaning of this troubled plaintive double question is: How canst Thou, who art Almighty and All-sufficient, find Thy pleasure in persecuting and afflicting a weak and miserable creature like me? It is not with reference to the universal frailty of mankind, of which he partook (Hahn), but with special reference to the fearful visitation which had come on him, and he destruction which had begun in his body, that he compares himself to a “driven leaf,” i. e. one that is tossed to and fro by the wind [comp. Leviticus 26:36), and to the dry chaff, which is in like manner blown about (comp. Psalm 1:4, etc.).

Job 13:26. For Thou decreest for me bitter things (or also with consecutive rendering of כִּי: “that Thou decreest,” etc.). מְרֹרוֹת here is equivalent of course to “bitter painful punishments;” and כּתב, lit. to “write,” refers to a written decree announcing a judicial sentence: comp. Job 31:35; Psalm 149:9; Isaiah 10:1.—And makest me to inherit the iniquities of my youth: the sins of my earlier years, long since forgiven and forgotten, by comparison with which as being the half-conscious misbehaviour of childhood, or the manifestations of youthful thoughtlessness ( Psalm 25:7), so severe and fearful a penalty would seem to be needless cruelty. [“He can regard his affliction only as the inheritance of the sins of his youth, since he has no sins of his mature years that would incur wrath to reproach himself with.” Del.—E. Ver. “makest me to possess,” etc., not sufficiently expressive. “His old age inherited the accumulated usury and consequence of youthful sins.” Dav.] “To cause one to inherit anything” is the same as causing him to experience the consequences of anything (here the bad consequences, the punishments); comp. Proverbs 14:18; Psalm 69:37 ( Psalm 69:36); Mark 10:17; 1 Corinthians 6:10, etc.

Job 13:27. And puttest my feet in the block:i. e. treatest me as a prisoner. וְתָשֵׂם, poet. for וַתָּשֶׂם, Ewald, § 443, b. [jussive in form though not in signification; used simply “from the preference of poetry for a short pregnant form.” Del.], comp. Job 15:33; Job 23:9; Job 23:11.—סַד here and Job 33:11 is a wooden block with a contrivance for firmly fastening the feet of a prisoner, the same with the מַהְפֶּכֶת of Jeremiah 20:3, and the ξύλον of Acts 16:24, or ποδοκάκη, or the Roman instruments of torture called cippus, codex or nervus. In times still recent wooden blocks of this kind were in use among the Arabians, as Burckhardt had occasion to observe (Travels, p420). And watchest all my paths:i. e. does not allow me the slightest freedom of motion: comp. Job 7:12; Job 10:14.—Around the roots of my feet Thou dost set bounds:i. e. around the place where I stand, where the soles of my feet are placed (the soles firmly fixed in one point being compared to the roots of a tree), Thou dost make marks, bounds, lines of demarcation, which Thou dost not permit me to cross. This is the simplest and philologically the most suitable definition of the Hithpael הִתְחַקֶּה (from חקה,חק); found only here, in which definitions Gesenius, Ewald (1st Ed.), Schlottm, Hahn, Del, Dillm, [Con, Elz.—and see below the rendering of Hirzel, Noyes, etc.], etc., essentially agree. Not essentially different as to the sense, although philologically not so well authenticated are the explanations of Rosenm, Umbreit [Hengst, Merx], etc.: “Thou drawest a circle around my feet;” of Ewald (2d Ed.): “Thou makest sure of my feet” (comp. Peshito and Vulgate: vestigia pedum meorum considerasti); of Hirzel [Fürst]: “Thou dost make Thyself a trench around the roots of my feet” [others, e. g. Noyes, Renan, Davidson, Rödiger, take חקה in this sense of cutting or digging a trench, but regard the Hithpael as indirectly and not directly reflexive, sibi, not se susculpere—“dost dig a trench for thyself”]; of Raschi, Mercier, etc.: “Thou fastenest Thyself to the soles of my feet.” [E. V, Good, Wem, Bernard, etc.: “Thou brandest (settest a print upon, E. V.) the soles of my feet;” evidently supposing the expression to refer to some process of branding criminals in the feet: for which, however, there is no good authority.]—The three parallel figures contained in the verse all find their actual explanation in the fearful disease, with which Job was visited by God, in consequence of which he was doomed to one place, being unable to move on account of the unshapely swelling of his limbs. [“Mercier has already called attention to the gradation which marks the proofs given in these verses of the Divine anger. (1) God hides His face. (2) He shows Himself an enemy. (3) He issues severe decrees against him. (4) He punishes sins long since passed. (5) He throws him into cruel and narrow imprisonment.” Hengst.]

Job 13:28. Although he (the persecuted one) as rottenness wastes away, as a garment which the moth has eaten (comp. Job 4:19). This forcible description of the weakness and perishableness of his condition is given to emphasize the thought, how unacccountably severe is God’s treatment of him (comp. above Job 13:25). It is introduced by וְהוּא (instead of וַֹאֲנִי) objectivizing the subject, and “giving to the discourse a more general application, valid also for other men,” and at the same time providing a transition to the following Lamentations, referring to human misery in general. [“Thou hast set this enclosure around one who does not grow like a tree, but moulders away moth-eaten like a garment. Job looks at himself ab extra; he will hardly own himself; he hardly recognizes himself, so changed is he by affliction and disease, and he speaks of himself in the third person. How natural and touching is this!” Wordsworth.]

Third Division: Second and Third Strophes: The lament over man’s mortality, frailty and vanity continued: Job 14:1-12.

Second Strophe: [Man’s physical frailty and moral impurity by nature made the ground of a complaint against the severity of God’s treatment, and of an appeal for forbearance.]

[Conant regards the article before צֵל as having a definite signification, “that which marks the passing and declining day.” This, however, would scarcely be in harmony with the verb ברח, which describes rather the fleeting shadow of the cloud, to which the art. would be equally suitable. Merx transposes Job 14:28, of chap7, and inserts it here between Job 14:1-2, thus depriving it of the force and beauty which belong to it as the closing verse of that strophe, and as a transition to this, and at the same time weakening the beauty and pathos of this passage by the accumulation of figures.—E.]

Job 14:3. And upon this one dost Thou keep Thine eye open?viz. in order to watch him, and to punish him for his sins, comp. Psalm 34:17, 16]. אַף, emphatically connecting something new with what has already been given, like our “over and above.” עַל־זֶה, “upon this one,” i. e. upon such an one as he is here described, upon so wretched a creature ( Psalm 103:14). [The pronoun here descriptive, “such an one,” talis, rather than demonstrative. By position the phrase is emphatic. E. V, Conant, etc., render the verb simply “to open,”=so much as open the eyes, so much as look upon him. The rendering given in our commy. “to keep the eye open upon” presupposes a double emphasis, the first and principal one on the pronoun, the second on the verb.—E.]—And me ([אֹֽתִי, emphatic, me] this particularly wretched example of the human race), dost thou bring into judgment before Thee?i. e., to judgment at Thy tribunal, where it is impossible to maintain one’s cause.

[“The Opt. rendering not only denies the possibility (of a morally clean coming out of a morally unclean), but gives utterance to the desire that it was otherwise.” Dav.]. Not one: to wit, “comes forth.” [Not therefore “can bring forth,” as might be inferred from the literal rendering of מִי־יִתֵּן]. Not one pure will ever come forth in the line of development which has once been contaminated by sin; comp. Psalm 51:7, 5]; also the expression אֵין גַּם אֶחָד, Psalm 14:3, which reminds us very closely of this לֹא אֶחָד. Ewald, with whom Dillmann agrees, punctuates לֻא instead of לֹא, and conforms the second member to the first: “Oh that there were one!” for the reason that a wish does not properly contemplate an answer. But a wish which is in itself incapable of realization is equivalent to a question, the answer to which is a strong negation. Moreover the passage is incomparably stronger and more emphatic according to the common rendering, than according to that of Ewald. [“Moreover, why should he desire one such specimen? Plainly, the desire is nothing to the purpose, except as implying that not one such is to be found; and precisely this is asserted in the proper and usual construction of the words.” Con.]. On the relation of this assertion by Job of the universality of human corruption to the earlier affirmation of Eliphaz in Job 4:17 seq, see the Doc. and Eth. Remarks.

Job 14:5-6, (the former the antecedent, the latter the consequent).—If his days are determined (חֲרוּצִים, lit. cut off [decisi], sharply bounded, defined ἀποτόμως; comp. Isaiah 10:22; 1 Kings 20:40), the number of his months with Thee (viz. “is established, firmly fixed;” אִתָּךְ here equivalent to עִמָּךְ, comp. Job 10:13), and Thou hast made [or set] his limit (read חֻקּוֹ with the K’thibh, not the plural with the K’ri, which is here less suitable, there being but one limit, one terminus to this earthly life)—which he cannot pass (lit. “and he passes it not”) [observe that the particle אִם in the first member of the verse extends its influence over all three members]: then look away from him, (שְׁעֵה מֵעָלָיו the opposite of Job 14:3 a; comp. Job 7:19) that he may rest (חדל here as in 1 Samuel 2:5 : “to rest, to keep holiday,” to be released from the רֹגֶז of Job 14:1) that he may enjoy as a hireling his day.—The last member literally reads: “until that (to the degree that—עַד as in Job 8:21; 1 Samuel 2:5; Isaiah 47:7) Hebrews, like a day-laborer, find pleasure in his day,” or, “be satisfied with his day.” This is the meaning of רָצָה with the accus.—(comp. Jeremiah 14:10; Psalm 102:15, and often); not “to satisfy,” in the sense of “to discharge, to make good,” [E. V. to accomplish] as Delitzsch explains it, when he translates: “until he discharges [accomplishes] as a hireling his day.” In favor of this latter rendering indeed, Leviticus 26:34; Leviticus 26:43, and 2 Chronicles 36:21 may be cited; but the sense thence resulting is in each case harsh and artificial. For just why it should be said of a hireling, that he (in death) “makes complete” his days (comp. ἀνταναπληροῦν, Colossians 1:24) is not altogether apparent: the comparison of the שָׂכִיר (comp. Job 7:1) seems superfluous, inconsistent indeed, if we have to do simply with the thought: “until the completion of the days of his life.” [It is difficult to see why the definition adopted by the E. V. and Del. is not perfectly suitable to the connection. The objection to it is that it is not supported by usage, רצה means everywhere “to regard favorably, to take pleasure in.” We are not justified in taking it in any other sense here. But the expression “to enjoy as a hireling his day” is variously understood. Some take יוֹמוֹ here in some specific sense; e. g., the day of his discharge, his last day as a hireling (Bernard); his day of rest (Rodwell); and something similar is suggested by Jerome’s optata dies. But this thought would have been more distinctly expressed.—Others (Hengst, Wordsworth, Noyes, Barnes), explain it as a wish that man may enjoy his life at least as much, with the same freedom from care, as the hireling. But to this there are several objections. (1) רצה would scarcely be used to express this idea, least of all, as here, without any qualification. (2) That Job regarded the day or service of a hireling as a term of hardship, from which deliverance was to be sought rather than as affording any measure of satisfaction to be desired, is evident from the parallel passage in Job 7:1-2. Comp. Job 3:19. (3) He has already expressed the burden of his longing in וְיֶהְדָּל. This clause is rather to be regarded as an amplification of that thought: the rest, the enjoyment which the end of the day’s labor brings.—It is unnatural to suppose that having reached in thought the goal of rest, he would go back to the joyless, even though painless toil preceding it. We are thus led to the explanation that the enjoyment hero spoken of is that which succeeds the labors of the day. The hireling’s real enjoyment of his day comes when the “shadow” of evening ( Job 7:2) brings with it the rest which he covets, and the wages he has earned. In like manner Job desires for man agitated by unrest (רֹגֶז Job 14:1) a respite, however brief, the satisfaction which the end of toil and sorrow would bring. It is not death however that he here prays may come, for that, as the following verses show, is a hopeless condition. And yet the thought of the end of toil suggests at once the thought of death and that hopeless beyond.—E.].

Third Strophe: Job 14:7-12. The hopelessness of man when his earthly life is ended.

Job 14:7. For there is yet hope for the tree. כִּי, “for” introduces the reason for the request preferred in Job 14:6 in behalf of miserable and afflicted man: “look away from him,” etc. [“The predication of hope made very strongly both by יֵשׁ and the accent, the main division of the verse is at hope.” Dav.].—If it be cut down, It shoots up again (viz., the stump left in the ground, comp. Isaiah 6:13), and its sproutיוֹנֶקֶת, the tender young shoot from the root [suckling], LXX. ῥάδαμνος; comp. צh. Job 8:16) faileth not. Carey, Delitzsch, and others, correctly understand the tree of whose vitality and power of perpetual rejuvenescence Job seems more particularly to think here to be the datepalm, which on account of this very quality is called by the Greeks φοίνιξ. It is not so probable that the oak or terebinth [E. V. “teil”] mentioned in the parallel passage in Isaiah 6:13, is intended here.

Job 14:8-9, present not properly “another case,” (Dillmann), but they develop the illustration already presented still further and more forcibly.—If its root becometh old in the ground (הִזְקִין, inchoative Hiph, senescere), and its trunk dieth in the dust (comp. Isaiah 40:24), i. e., if the tree die, not interrupted in its growth by the violent hand of Prayer of Manasseh, while yet young and vigorous, but decaying with age, becoming dry and dead down to the roots.—Through the scent of water (i. e., so soon as it feels the vivifying energy of water; comp. Judges 16:9) [רֵיחַ, may be taken either subjectively of the scenting, or inhalation of water by the tree; or, bettor, of the scent which water brings with it. “When the English army landed in Egypt in1801, Sir Sydney Smith gave the troops the sure sign that wherever date-trees grew there must be water.” Vide R. Wilson’sHistory of the Expedition to Egypt, page18] it sprouts (again; comp. Psalm 92:14) and puts forth boughs (comp. Job 18:16; Job 29:19), like a young plant; or also like a sapling newly planted (LXX.: ὡς νεοφυτον). That this description also is pre-eminently suitable to the palm appears from the fact that, as every oriental knows very well, in every place where this tree grows, water must be very near at hand, generally from the indestructible vitality and luxuriant fulness of this φίλυδρον φυτόν, (comp. Delitzsch on this passage. [“Even when centuries have at last destroyed the palm—says Masius in his beautiful and thoughtful studies of nature—thousands of inextricable fibres of parasites cling about the stem, and delude the traveller with an appearance of life.” Del.]).

Job 14:10-12 present the contrast to the above: the hopelessness of man in death.

Job 14:10. But man dies and is brought down (חָלַשׁ here in the intrans. sense confectum esse, to be prostrated, to be down, whence the usual signification, “to be weak,” is derived: [the Imperf, when transitive, is written יַחְלשׁ; when intransitive, as here, יֶחֱלַשׁ]); man expires (וַיִּגְוַע, Imperf. consec, because the cheerless consequences of death are here further set forth), and where is he?—where does he then go to? what becomes of him? Comp. the similar yearning question in Ecclesiastes 3:21.

Job 14:11. The waters flow away [lit. roll off] out of the sea, and a stream falls and dries up.—This is the protasis of a simile, the apodosis of which is introduced, Job 14:12, by וְSong of Solomon,” as below in Job 14:19, and as above in Job 5:7; Job 11:12 (in which latter passages indeed the figure follows, not precedes, the thing illustrated). Comp. the description, imitative of the present passage, in Isaiah 19:5, describing the drying up of the Nile (נָהָר,יָם) by a Divine judgment—a description which indeed the advocates of a post-Solomonic authorship of our book regard as the original of the passage before us (e.g., Volck, de summa carm. Job sent., p31). [יָם here should be taken of an inland sea or body of water, a sense which the application of the word to the lake of Tiberias, Numbers 34:11; the Euphrates, Isaiah 27:1; the Nile, see above, abundantly justifies. Such a drying up of large bodies of water is no uncommon phenomenon in the torrid regions of the East.—E.]

Job 14:12. So man lies down and rises no more; till the heavens are no more, they awake not.—עַד בִּלְתִּי שָׁמַיִם, until the failure, i. e., the disappearance of the heavens (comp. the exactly equivalent phrase, עַד בְּלִי יָרֵחַ, Psalm 72:7), the same in meaning with לָעַד לְעוֹלָם, Psalm 148:6. For according to the popular conception of the ancient Hebrews, the heavens endure forever: Psalm 89:30, 29]; Jeremiah 31:35. When in Psalm 102:27; Isaiah 51:6; Isaiah 65:17 the heavens are described as waxing old and being changed, this statement does not exclude their eternal existence; for the supposition of a destruction of the universe in the sense of its annihilation is everywhere foreign to the Hebrew Scriptures. The expression before us, “not to awake till the heavens are no more,” is accordingly in any case equivalent to “not to awake for ever” [or “never to awake”], as the third member of the verse also clearly indicates: and are never aroused out of their sleep—they sleep a שְׁנַת עוֹלָם, Jeremiah 51:39; Jeremiah 51:57, an endless sleep of death. [It is assuredly straining the language, and at variance with the connection, and with Job’s present mood, to assume in the expression an implication that when the phenomenal heavens should disappear, man would awake. How far Job’s mind does reach out towards the idea of a resuscitation of humanity will be seen presently. Amid such fluctuations of thought and feeling as characterize his utterances, we are not to look for self-consistency, much less for a careful and exact expression of the highest forms of truth, whether as revealed elsewhere, or even as at times revealed to his own mind.—E.] How unchangeable the cheerless outlook on such an eternal condition of death In Sheol presents itself to Job, is shown by the vividly expressed wish which Immediately follows that God, if it were possible, would cause him again to emerge out of this condition, which, however, he immediately recognizes as a yearning which is absolutely incapable of being realized.

8. Third Division: Fourth and Fifth Strophes: Continuation and conclusion of the description of the hopelessness of man in the prospect of death: Job 14:13-22.

Fourth Strophe: Job 14:13-17 : [If God would only permit a hope of the cessation of His wrath, and of his restoration from Sheol, how joyfully he would endure] until the change should come; but now He punishes without pity his sins.]

Job 14:13. Ah that Thou wouldst hide me (Hiph. as in Exodus 2:3) in the realm of the dead, wouldst keep me secret until Thy wrath should change (comp. the description of such a hiding from God’s wrath in Isaiah 26:20; Psalm 27:5; Psalm 31:21, 20]), wouldst appoint me a set time (a חֹק, see on Job 14:5), and then remember meviz., for good, in order to Revelation -establish me in the fellowship of Thy grace, and cause me to live in the same. This last expression וְתִזְכְּרֵנִי accented with the emphasis of glowing passion, is the culmination of the yearning wish which Job here expresses, from which, however, he immediately recoils again, as from a chimerical idea which has no real foundation.

Job 14:14. If man dies, will he live?i. e., is it possible that he who has once died, will come to life again? The asyndetic introduction of this short but frequent question after the preceding verse, produces a contrast which is all the stronger. No answer to the question follows, because it is self-evident to the reader that it can be answered only in the negative. But strong as is his conviction of the impossibility of a return to life of the dead, equally sweet and gracious is the charm of the thought which dwells on the opposite possibility, which he has just expressed in the form of a wish. [“If a man die, etc., finely natural interpretation of the cold reason and of doubt, striving to banish the beautiful dream and presentiment of a new bodily life with God; but in vain, the spirit tramples down the rising suspicion, and pursues more eagerly the glorious vision.” Dav.] All the days of my warfare would I wait, until my discharge (lit. “my exchange,” comp. Job 10:17) should come.—Job uses the term “warfare” here somewhat differently from Job 7:1 to denote not only the remainder of his toilsome and troublesome days on earth, but “the whole dismal interval between the present and that longed-for goal” in the future when he should be released from Hades; this release is here, in accordance with the figure of military service, designated as an “exchange” or “discharge.” [Hence the “change” here spoken of is not, as the old Jewish expositors, followed by some moderns, have explained it, the change produced by death. The word חֲלִיפָה, however, has here a double significance, which should be appreciated to realize the full beauty of the passage. In addition to its primary and principal meaning as expressing the discharge of the soldier whose term of hard service has expired, it suggests also the “sprouting” anew (יַחֲלִיף, Job 14:7) of the trunks and roots of the tree which has been cut down. The חֲלִיפָה, in a word, which Job yearns for is a release from service which would be at the same time a “springing up” anew from death to life. That this double meaning is not forced, that it is a beautiful and happy stroke of genius, will not seem at all incredible to any one who will carefully trace out our author’s masterly use of words in their various possibilities.—E.]

Job 14:15. Thou wouldst call (to wit, in this discharge [by Ewald and others referred to the forensic call to the final trial, wherein Job confidently hoped to be acquitted; but the connection here indicates rather the call of love, yearning after its object; “the voice of God returning to take His creatures to Himself” (Dav.)—E.], and I would answer Thee (would follow Thy call); Thou wouldst yearn after the work of Thy hands ( Job 10:3); i. e., Thou, as. Creator, wouldst feel an affectionate longing after Thy creature, which Thou hadst hitherto treated harshly, and rejected. “The true character of the relation of love between the Creator and His creature would again assert itself, it would become manifest that wrath is only a waning power ( Isaiah 54:8), and love the true and essential necessity of His being.” Del. [“Job must have had a keen perception of the profound relation between the creature and his Maker in the past, to be able to give utterance to such an imaginative expectation respecting the future.” Schlott.] Although only a “phantasy of hope” (Schlott.), it still furnishes an unconscious prophecy of that which was accomplished in Christ’s descent into Hades for the salvation of the saints of the Old Covenant.

Job 14:16. For now Thou numberest my steps, i. e., for at this time Thou watchest every step and motion, as those of a transgressor, comp. Job 13:27. כִּי עַתָּה, as in Job 6:21, introducing the contrast between a point of time on which the eye fixes in the future, and the sad reality of the present. [כִּי assigns the reason for the wish which forms the contents of Job 14:13-15. It is not necessary, with Hirzel and Schlott, to supply any thing between Job 14:15-16, as, e. g., “Thou dost not yearn for Thy creature now, for,” etc. The construction of Umbreit, etc., which takes כִּי עַתָּה as an emphatic clause,=“indeed now,” is to be rejected.—E.]—And dost not hold Thyself back on account of my sins.—This is the most satisfactory rendering of לֹא תִשְׁמֹר עַל חַטָּאתִי. It is found already in Mercier, (non reservas nec differs peccati mei punitionem), and is of late advocated by Delitzsch [and Wordsworth. It seems to Del. “that the sense intended must be derived from שָׁמַר אַף, which means to keep anger, and consequently to delay the manifestation of it; Amos 1:11.”] Dillmann’s explanation gives the same sense: “Thou dost not pass over my sins;” a rendering, indeed, which rests on an emendation of the text to: לֹא תַעֲבֹר עַל־ח׳, which is favored in some measure by the version of the LXX. Also the rendering advocated by Ewald, Heilig, Schlott. and Hahn: “Thou givest no consideration to my sins” (to ascertain, namely, whether they do in truth deserve to be punished so severely), does not differ very essentially. Other explanations lack satisfactory support: such as those of the Rabbis, which differ widely among themselves: e.g. Raschi’s: “Thou waitest not over my sins, i. e. to punish them;” Ralbag’s: “Thou waitest not for my sins=repentance punishment;” Aben-Ezra’s: “Thou lookest not except on my sins.” The same may be said of the attempt of Rosenm, Hirzel and Welte to render the sentence as an interrogative without הֲ: “Dost Thou not keep watch over my sin?” [So E. V, Conant, Dav, Rod, Gesen, Fürst.—In view of Job 13:27 b, it is not apparent why this rendering should be said to “lack satisfactory support.” The preposition עַל cannot be urged against it, for it harmonizes well with the idea thus expressed; and the interrogative form gives vividness, force and variety to the passage.—E.]

Job 14:17. Sealed up in a bag is my gullt. פִּשְׁעִי, lit. “wickedness,” as in Job 13:23 b, here of the aggregate of Job’s former transgressions (comp. Job 13:26 b), of the sum total, the entire mass of guilty actions committed by him, which, as he must believe, is preserved and sealed up by God with all care as a treasure, to be used against him in his own time; comp. Deuteronomy 32:34; Hosea 13:12. For the figurative expression: “to tie up in a bag,”=to keep in remembrance, comp. Psalm 56:9; 1 Samuel 25:29. Ewald, Hirzel, Renan, incorrectly explain the “guilt sealed in a bag” to be the judicial sentence of condemnation by God already issued against Job, which now only awaits execution; for of the preservation of such penal sentences in a bottle all oriental antiquity knows nothing whatever. [The figure is taken “from the mode of preserving collected articles of value in a sealed bag.” Del.]—And Thou hast devised additions to my transgressions: lit. “and Thou hast still further stitched (to wit, other, new transgressions) on my transgressions; i. e. hast made mine iniquity still greater than it Isaiah, and punished it accordingly more severely than it deserves. This accusation which Job here prefers against God is a bold one; but it is too much to affirm that it is “pure blasphemy” (Dillm.), because the language of Job throughout is simply tropical, and his real thought is that God’s treatment of him is as severe as if, in addition to his actual transgressions, he were burdened with a multitude of such as had been fabricated (comp. Hengstenberg on the passage). Hence the rendering of Ewald: “Thou hast patched up, sewed up my transgression” [E. V, Dillmann, Good, Wemyss, Bernard, Con, Barnes, Dav, Rod.], is equally unnecessary with the similar rendering of Umbreit, Vaih, Böttch.: “and Thou coverest up my sins.” Substantially the right interpretation is given by Rosenmüller, Arnh, Hirz, Welte, Delitzsch, Hengst. [Gesen, Fürst, Noyes, Renan, Words.].

[The main argument in favor of the interpretation adopted here by Zöckler is that טפל means properly not to sew up, but “to sew on, patch on, and gen. to add.” So Delitzsch. But (1): It looks very much like hyper-criticism to decide, from a very limited usage, that a word, the essential meaning of which is to sew, may mean to sew on, but cannot mean to sew up; or, if the essential meaning be to plaster, to patch, that it may mean to patch on to (to add a patch), but not to patch over. (2) The point becomes still weaker in a case where the word is used, as here, in a figurative, not a literal sense. (3) The parallelism favors the meaning to sew, or to patch up. It seems somewhat, incongruous, after representing God as having sealed up transgressions in a bag, to represent Him in the next clause as stitching, patching, or fabricating other sins. On the other hand, the thought of sealing sin in a bag is suitably supplemented by the thought that the bag is not only officially sealed, but carefully sewed together; or if, with Bernard, we explain: “With such care dost Thou store up my iniquities in Thy bag, that if Thou seest the slightest possibility of its giving way in any part, so that some of them might slip out and be lost, Thou immediately stoppest up the hole with a patch.” (4) Admitting that the apparent blasphemy of the expression may be explained away, as above by Zöckler, its admitted audacity still remains. But Job is not now in one of his Titanic moods of defiance. He resembles not so much Prometheus hurling charges against the Tyrant of the skies, as Hamlet, meditating pensively on death and the “undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns,” but with an infinitely purer pathos than is found even in the soliloquy of “the melancholy Dane.” It is but a moment ago ( Job 14:15 b) that he recognized in a strain of inimitable beauty the yearning bent of Creative Love. He is now indeed complaining of the present severity of God’s dealings with him, but the plaintive tenderness of that sentiment still floats over his spirit and lingers in his words, softening them into the tone of a subdued reproachful moan, very different from the bitter outcry of rebellious defiance.—E.]

Fifth Strophe: Job 14:18-22. Conclusion: completing the gloomy delineation of that which in reality awaited Job, in opposition therefore to the yearning desire of his heart.

Job 14:18. But in sooth a falling mountain crumbles away: observe the paronomasia in the original between the participle נוֹפֵל describing הַר and נָבֵל (יִבּוֹל). [וְאוּלָם at the beginning as elsewhere strongly adversative, introducing in opposition to the dream of a possible restoration in the preceding strophe the stern reality, the inexorable and universal law, which dooms everything to destruction. The use of this conjunction here is a strong confirmation of the position maintained in the concluding remarks on Job 14:17 that the sentiment of Job 14:15-17 lingers also around Job 14:16-17, and that accordingly Job 14:17 b cannot be a daring suggestion of the charge of fabricating iniquity against Job.—E.]—And a rock grows old out of its place. עָתַק is rightly rendered: “to grow old, to decay” by the LXX, and among moderns by Hirzel, Umbreit, Vaihinger, Schlottmann. The topical meaning: “to be removed” is indeed admissible, and is supported by the Vulg, Rosenm, Ewald, Hahn, and generally by the majority of moderns. The more pregnant meaning of the passage, however, would be lost by the adoption of this latter rendering, which is simply prosaic in its simplicity.

Job 14:19. In this verse a and b continue the series of figures begun in Job 14:18, which are intended to illustrate the unceasing operation of the Divine penalty or process of destruction decreed for men, whereas c first introduces that which is to be illustrated by means of the וadæquationis (as in Job 5:7; Job 11:12; Job 12:11). Water hollows out stones (comp. the Lat. gutta cavat lapidem);its floods wash away the dust of the earth. תִּשְׁטֹף, fem. sing, referring to the plural סְפִיחֶיהָ, according to Gesenius, § 146 [§ 143] 3, [Green. § 275, 4. The harshness of the construction which is necessitated by taking סָפִיחַ in the sense which belongs to it elsewhere of a self-sown growth, is shown in the rendering of E. V.: “Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth.” Moreover, the limitation—“self-sown”—is against this rendering, which would require rather some more comprehensive term, such as יְבוּל. The fem. suffix in סְפִיחֶיהָ originates in the same principle which determines the fem. form of the verb, and like the latter refers to מַיִם.—E.].—And the hope of mortal man [note the use of אֱנֹושׁ, bringing man into the category of destructible matter.—E.]—Thou destroyest:i. e. just as incessantly and irresistibly as the physical objects here mentioned yield to the gradual processes of destruction in nature, so dost Thou cause man to perish without any hope of being brought to life again, and this too at once, suddenly (הֶאֱבַדְתָּ, Perf, of the accomplished fact. [For the form of the verb see Green, § 112, 3]). The four figures here used are not introduced to exemplify the idea of incessant change ruling in the realm of nature, whereas from man all hope of a change for the better in his lot is taken away (so Hahn, who takes the ו in c in the adversative sense, but they describe the processes of destruction in nature, and more especially in the lower sphere of inorganic nature, as types of the gradual ceaseless extinction to which man succumbs in death. This moreover is not to be understood as though Job contemplated those processes with a view to console himself with the thought that his destruction in death was a natural necessity, (Hirzel), but in order to exhibit as forcibly and thoroughly as possible the absolute hopelessness of his condition in prospect of the dark future which death holds up before him; see Job 14:20-22, which admit of no other than this disconsolate sentiment for Job 14:19 c. [The descending gradation in the series of objects from which the illustrations here are taken is quite noticeable—mountain—rock—stones—dust; and suggests at least the query whether we do not have here something more than four distinct emblems of decay, whether it is not intended to show a succession of stages in the process: the mountains crumbling into rocks, the rocks breaking down from age into stones, the stones wearing away into dust, and the dust being washed by the waters into the abyss; whether accordingly all nature is not thus resolving itself into the dust to which man too at the last returns What hope is there indeed for Prayer of Manasseh, whose “house of clay is crushed like the moth” ( Job 14:19), when the doom even of the everlasting mountains is—dust!—E.].

Job 14:20. Thou overpowerest him forever—then he passeth away.—תקף with accus. if the person is not: “to assail” (Hirzel) [Con. Del.], but as in Job 15:24; Ecclesiastes 4:12, “to overpower,” and לָנֶצַח is not “continually, evermore,” but “forever;” comp. Job 4:20; Job 20:7; Job 23:7.—As to the emphatic וַיַּחֲלֹךְ, “then he passeth away,” Greek βαίνει, ὀίχεται, comp. Job 10:21; also in respect of form the same poet. Imperf. in Job 16:6; Job 16:22; Job 20:25.—Disfiguring his countenance, so Thou sendest him away; i. e., in the struggle of death, or when decay sets in, Thou makest him unlike himself, distortest his features, etc., and so sendest him forth out of this life (שִׁלֵּחַ as in Leviticus 20:23; Jeremiah 28:16; the ו consecut. very nearly as in Psalm 118:27).

Job 14:21. Should his sons be in honor, he knows it not; if they are abased he perceives them not: [ל after בִּין here of the direct object: in Job 13:1 however as dat. ethicus. Del.]. The same contrast between כָּבֵד, to come to honor, and צָעַר, to be insignificant, to sink into contempt, is presented in Jeremiah 30:19; for כָּבֵד comp. also Isaiah 66:5. The mention of the children of the dead man has nothing remarkable about it, since Job is here speaking in general terms of all men, not especially of himself. It is somewhat different in Job 19:17; see however on the passage. The description in the passage before us of the absolute ignorance of the man who is in Sheol of that which takes place in the world above, reminds us of Job 3:13 seq. Comp. in addition Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 (see Comm. on the passage).

Job 14:22. Only his flesh in him feels pain, and his soul in him mourns: i. e., he himself, his nature, being analyzed into its constituent parts of soul and body (comp. Job 17:16), perceives nothing more of the bright life of the upper world; he has only the experience of pain and sorrow which belongs to the joyless, gloomy existence of the inhabitants of Sheol, surrounded by eternal night. The brevity of the expression makes it impossible to decide with certainty whether Job here assumes that man carries with him to Sheol a certain corporeality (a certain residue, kernel, or some reflex of the earthly body), or whether he mentions the “flesh” along with the “soul” because (as is perhaps the case also in Isaiah 66:24; Judith 16:17) he attributes to the decaying body in the grave a certain consciousness of its decay (Dillmann; comp. Delitzsch, who would cast on the departed soul at least “a painful reflection” of that process). The former view, however, is the more probable in view of what is said in Job 19:27 (see below, Doctrinal and Ethical Remarks on Job 19, No3). By means of עָלָיו, “in him,” occurring in both members, the two factors of the nature belonging to the man who has died are emphatically represented as belonging to him, as being his own; the suffixes in בְּשָׂרוֹ and נַפְשׁוֹ are thus in like manner strengthened by this doubled עָלָיו as in Greek the possessive pron. by ἴδιος. It is not probable that אַךְ “only,” is through a hyperbaton to be referred simply to עָלָיו, expressing the thought: “only he himself is henceforth the object of his experiences of pain and mourning, he concerns himself no more about the things of the upper world (Hirzel, Delitzsch), [Noyes, Schlott.]. This rendering is at variance with the position of the words, and with the doubled use of עָלָיו. Dillmann rightly says: “the limiting אַךְ belongs immediately not to the subject, but to the action: he no longer knows and perceives the things of the upper world, he is henceforth only conscious of pain, etc.” Hengstenberg on the contrary arbitrarily explains [and so Wordsworth]: The situation in Job 14:22 is in general not that of the dead, but of one who is on the point of death, of whose flesh (animated as yet by the soul) alone could the sense of pain be predicted (?).

[ Job 14:21-22 are a description of the afterlife in two of its principal aspects. (1) As one of absolute separation from the present, and so of entire unconsciousness and independence in regard to all that belongs to life on earth ( Job 14:21).—(2). As one of self-absorbed misery, the self-absorption being indicated by the repeated עָלָיו, and the double suffixes in each member of Job 14:22. The thought of Job 14:21 leads naturally to that of Job 14:22. The departed knows nothing of the living, nothing of all that befalls those who during life were in the closest union with himself; the consciousness of his own misery fills him.

The description in Job 14:22 of his experience of that misery is more obscure.—עַלmay be rendered—“on account of”: “only on his own account his flesh suffereth pain, etc.” The objection to this is its non-emphatic position, and the separation between it and אַךְ. In any case the suffix יָו refers to the Prayer of Manasseh, not (as Conant, Dav, Ren, Rod.) to “flesh” in a, and to “soul” in b, for in that case נֶפֶשׁ would require עָלֶיהָ. The proper rendering of עָלָיו therefore is “in him” (in = Germ, an; i. e., his flesh and spirit as belonging to him, as that with which he is invested).—But why connect the “flesh” here with the “soul?” The simplest explanation seems to be that the realm of the dead, the under-world, in its broadest extent embraces both the grave, where the body lies, and Hades where the soul goes, as may be seen in Psalm 16:10, where שְׁאוֹל and שַׁחַת are conjoined; and that accordingly by poetic personification, the mouldering flesh is here represented as sharing the aching discontent, the lingering misery of the imprisoned soul. It is no uncommon thing even for us to speak of the comfort, rest, equality, etc., of the grave, as though its occupants might have some consciousness of the same. So on the other hand it would seem that Job here introduces into the resting-place of the body something of that which made the place of the departed soul an object of dread. It may be indeed, as our Comm. suggests above, that the passage reflects some peculiarity in the opinion of antiquity touching the relation of the corporeal and spiritual parts of humanity, after death, but our grounds for affirming this are too precarious.—E.].

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

It is undeniable that Job in this reply to Zophar’s attack, which at the same time closes the first colloquy, shows himself decidedly superior to the three friends not only in acuteness, high poetic flight of thought, and penetrative fiery energy of expression, but also in what may be called doctrinal correctness, or purity. In the latter respect he seems to have made progress in the right direction from the stand-point which he had previously occupied. At least he exhibits in several points a perception of sin which is in some measure more profound and accurate, in so far as Hebrews, notwithstanding that he repeats the emphatic asseveration of his innocence (see especially Job 13:16; Job 13:19), makes mention of his own sins, not simply of those of his opponents. No doubt it is one of his principal aims to criticize sarcastically and severely their one-sided wisdom ( Job 12:2 seq.; Job 13:1 seq.); no doubt he censures with visible satisfaction the one-sided application which they make of their narrow doctrine of retribution, and holds ( Job 13:9) that if God in the exercise of rigid justice, should scrutinize them, the result would be anything but favorable to them! Now, however, more decidedly and explicitly than in his previous apologies, he includes himself also in the universal mass of those who are sinfully corrupt and guilty before God. He several times admits in the last division ( Job 13:23Job 14:22) that by his sin he had furnished the inexorable Divine Judges, if not with valid and sufficient cause at least with occasion for the severe treatment which He had exercised toward him. Here belongs the prayer, addressed to God to show him how much and how grievously he had in truth sinned ( Job 13:23). Here also belongs the supposition which he expresses ( Job 13:26) that possibly it was the “transgressions of his youth” of which he was now called to make supplementary confession; and following thereupon we have his lamentation—which reminds us of David’s penitential prayer ( Psalm 51:7; comp. Psalm 14:3)—concerning the nature of human depravity, which he represents as embracing all, and organically transmitting itself, so that no one is excepted from it ( Job 14:4)—an utterance which agrees in substance with the proposition previously advanced by Eliphaz ( Job 4:17), but which more profoundly authenticates the truth under consideration, so that the Church tradition is perfectly justified in finding in it one of the cardinal sedes doctrinæ on the subject of original sin. Here finally belongs the description, involving another distinct confession of his own sinfulness, in which he shows how God unsparingly punishes his sin, lies in wait, as it were, for it, and carefully notes it in His book (a thought which is favored, by the corresponding Hebrew expression “to seal transgression in a bag”)—nay, more, seems to interest Himself in wilfully enlarging this, His register of sins ( Job 14:16-17). With these several indications of a more profound and comprehensive consciousness of sin, which are indeed still far from signifying a genuine contrite submission beneath God’s righteous discipline, that true penitence which God’s personal interposition at last works in him ( Job 42:2 seq.), there stands immediately connected another evidence of progress in Job’s frame of mind, which is also contained in the closing division of this discourse, especially in the 14 th chapter, which is characterized by wondrous beauty and astonishing power. Job utters here for the first time, if not the hope, at least the yearning desire for a release from the state of death ( Job 14:13-17). He prays that, instead of being shut up in an eternally forlorn separation from God in the gloomy realm of shadows, he may rather be only kept there for a season, until the Divine wrath is ended, and then, when the Creator should remember His creature, to be restored to His fatherly love and compassion. This does not indeed amount to a hope that He would one day be actually released from Hades; it is simply a dream, born of the longing of this sorely tried sufferer, which imagination summons before him as a lovely picture of the future, of which, however, he himself is the next moment assured that it can never be a reality! If we should still call it a hope, we must in any case keep in view the wide interval which separates this forlorn flame of hope, flickering up for once only, and then immediately dying out, from that hope of a resurrection which with incomparably greater confidence is expressed in Job 19:25 seq. At best we can but say, with Ewald; “The hope exists only in imagination, without becoming a certainty, while the speaker, whom it has surprised, only follows out the thought, how beautiful and glorious it would be, were it really so.” This simple germ-hope of a resurrection, however, acquires great significance as a step in the doctrinal and ethical course of thought in our book. For it is the clear radiance of an unconscious prophecy of the future deliverance of spirits out of their prison through Christ’s victory over the powers of darkness ( Matthew 12:40 seq.; Luke 23:43; Ephesians 4:8 seq.; Philippians 2:10 seq.; Colossians 2:15; 1 Peter 3:18 seq.; Revelation 1:18; Hebrews 2:14), which here shines forth in the depths of a soul beclouded by the sorrows of death. On the other side Job expresses so strong a yearning after permanent reconciliation with his Creator, so pure a representation of the nature of the communion of man with God, as a relation which behooves to be of eternal duration, that this very intensity of the religious want and longing of his heart carries with it, in a measure, the pledge that his yearning was not in vain, or that his ἐλπίζειν παρ’ ἐλπίδα would one day be fulfilled. Comp. on the one side what is said by Schlottmann, who (on Job 14:15) rightly emphasizes the thought that “Job must have had a deep experience in the past of the inwardness of the relation between the creature and his Creator, if he was able to give such an expression to it as this dreamy hope of the future;”—on the other side by Delitzsch, who not less strikingly and beautifully points out “how totally different would have been Job’s endurance of suffering, if he had but known that there was really a release from Hades,” and how at the same time in the wish of Job that it might be Song of Solomon, there is revealed “the incipient tendency of the growing hope.” “For,” he continues, “the author of our book confirms us in what one of the old writers says, that the hope of eternal life is a flower which grows on the brink of hell. In the midst of the hell of the feeling of God’s wrath, in which Job is sunk, this flower blooms for him. In its blooming, however, it is not yet a hope, but a longing. And this longing cannot unfold itself into a hope, because no light of promise shines into the night which rules in Job’s soul, and which makes the conflict yet darker than it is in itself.”

2. When we compare Job’s frame of mind, and religious and moral views of the world, as indicated in this discourse, with those expressed in his former discourses, we find these two points of superiority and progress: a more correct insight into sin, and above all, in his relation to the Divine Creator, an inward sense of fellowship blossoming into what is at least a lively longing after eternal union with God. In other respects, however, the present outpouring of his sorely tempted and afflicted heart exhibits retrogression rather than progress. The illusion of a God tyrannically tormenting and hostilely persecuting him has a stronger hold upon him than ever before (see especially Job 13:15 seq.). And this illusion is all the stronger in that, on the one hand, he finds within himself that the witness of his conscience to his innocence is more positive than ever ( Job 13:16; Job 13:19), while on the other hand, he is unable to free himself from the preconceived opinion which influences him equally with the three friends, which admits no other suffering to be possible for men than that of penal retribution for sin (comp. Job 13:23; Job 13:26; Job 14:16 seq.). There arises thus a strange conflict between his conscience, which is comparatively pure, and the gloomy anxieties produced by that preconceived notion, and by the contemplation at the same time of his unspeakable wretchedness—a conflict which, in proportion as he neither can nor will relinquish his own righteousness, urges him to cast suspicion on God’s righteousness, and to accuse Him of merciless severity. This unsolved antinomy produces within him a temper of agonizing gloominess, which in Job 13:13 seq. expresses itself more in presumptuous bluster and Titan-like storming against God’s omnipotence, in Job 14:1 seq. more in a tone of elegiac lamentation and mourning. Immediately connected herewith is the melancholy, deeply tragical character which attaches to his utterances from beginning to end of this discourse. For it has been truly remarked of the passage in Job 12:7 seq, in which, with a view to surpass and eclipse that which had been said in the right direction by his three predecessors, he describes the absolute majesty of God in nature and in the history of humanity, that it is “a night-scene (Nachtgemälde), picturing the catastrophes which God brings to pass among the powers of the world of nature and of humanity;” and that the one-sidedly abstract, negative, repelling, rather than attractive representation of God’s Wisdom of Solomon, is the reflection of the midnight gloom of his own feelings, which permits him to contemplate God essentially only on the side of His majesty, His isolation from the world, and His destructive activity. [“For the wisdom of God, of which he speaks, is not the wisdom that orders the world in which one can confide, and in which one has the surety of seeing every mystery of life sooner or later gloriously solved; but this wisdom is something purely negative. … Of the justice of God he does not speak at all, for in the narrow idea of the friends he cannot recognize its control; and of the love of God he speaks as little as the friends, for as the sight of the Divine love is removed from them by the one-sidedness of their dogma, so is it from him by the feeling of the wrath of God which at present has possession of his whole being. Hegel has called the religion of the Old Testament the religion of sublimity; and it is true that, so long as that manifestation of love, the incarnation of the God head, was not yet realized, God must have relatively transcended the religious consciousness. From the book of Job, however, this view can be brought back to its right limits; for, according to the tendency of the book, neither the idea of God presented by the friends, nor by Job, is the pure undimmed notion of God that belongs to the Old Testament: The friends conceive of God as the absolute One, who acts only according to justice; Job conceives of Him as the absolute One, who acts according to the arbitrariness of His absolute power. According to the idea of the book, the former is dogmatic one-sidedness, the latter the conception of one passing through temptation. The God of the Old Testament consequently rules neither according to justice alone nor according to a ‘sublime whim.’ ” Delitzsch I.: 239, 240].

It has been still further truly remarked that the mournfulness of his lamentations over the hopeless disappearance of man in the eternal night of the grave—in contemplating which he is led to regard the changes which take place in the vegetable kingdom as more comforting and hope-inspiring than the issue of man’s life, with which he can compare only the processes of destruction and the catastrophes of inorganic nature ( Job 14:7 seq, 18 seq.)—has its echo in classical heathenism in such passages as the following from Horace (Od. IV:7, 1):

“Nos ubi decidimus

Quo pins Æneas, quo dives Tullus et Ancus,

Pulvis et umbrasumus.”

Or like this from Homer (Il. VI:146 seq.):

“Like the race of leaves

Is that of humankind. Upon the ground

The winds strew one year’s leaves; the sprouting wood

Puts forth another brood, that shoot and grow

In the spring season. So it is with man;

One generation grows while one decays;”

(Bryant’s Transl.)

Or like this meditation of Simonides (Anthol. Gr. Appendix, 83):

“Nought among men unchangeable endures.

Sublime the truth which he of Chios spoke:

‘Men’s generations are like those of leaves!’

Yet few are they who, having heard the truth

Lodge it within their hearts, for hope abides

With all, and in the breasts of youth is planted.”

Or like this elegy from Moschus (III:106 seq.):

“The meanest herb we trample in the field,

Or in the garden nurture, when its leaf,

At winter’s touch is blasted, and its place

Forgotten, soon its vernal buds renews,

And, from short slumber, wakes to life again.

Man wakes no more!—man valiant, glorious, wise,

When death once chills him, sinks in sleep profound,

A long, unconscious, never-ending sleep.”

(Gisborne.)

Or like that saying of the Arabian panegyrist of Muhamed, Kaabi ben-Sohair:—“Every one born of Woman, let his good fortune last never so long, is at last borne away on the bier, etc.”: or like that still more impressive description in the Jagur Veda: “While the tree that has fallen sprouts again from the root, fresher than before, from what root does mortal man spring forth when he has fallen by the hand of death?”

Finally, it has been rightly shown that besides the tone of mourning and hopeless lamentation which sounds through this discourse, it is also pervaded by a tone of bitterness and grievous irritation on the part of Job. not only against the friends (this being most forcibly expressed in Job 4:7 seq.) but even in a measure against God, especially in those passages where he presumptuously undertakes to argue with Him ( Job 13:13 seq.), and where he even reproaches Him with making fictitious and arbitrary additions to His list of charges, after the manner of the friends when they calumniated him and invented falsehoods against him ( Job 14:17; see on the passage). A singular contrast with this tone of defiant accusations is furnished in the plaintive pleading tone with which he submits the twofold condition on which he is willing to prosecute his controversy with God, to wit, that God would allow a respite for a season from his sufferings, and that He would not terrify and confound him with His majesty ( Job 13:20-22). It is everywhere the terrible idea of a God who deals with men purely according to His arbitrary caprice, not according to the motives of righteousness and a Father’s love, this “phantom which the temptation has presented before his dim vision instead of the true God,”—it is this which drives him to these passionate outbreaks, which in several respects remind us of the attitude of a hero of Greek tragedy towards the fearful might of an inexorable Fate. [“This phantom is still the real God to him, but in other respects in no way differing from the inexorable ruling fate of the Greek tragedy. As in this the hero of the drama seeks to maintain his personal freedom against the mysterious power that is crushing him with an iron arm, so Job, even at the risk of sudden destruction, maintains the steadfast conviction of his innocence in opposition to a God who has devoted him, as an evil-doer, to slow but certain destruction. It is the same battle of freedom against necessity as in the Greek tragedy. Accordingly one is obliged to regard it as an error, arising from simple ignorance, when it has been recently maintained that the boundless oriental imagination is not equal to such a truly exalted task as that of representing in art and poetry the power of the human spirit, and the maintenance of its dignity in the conflict with hostile powers, because a task that can only be accomplished by an imagination formed with a perception of the importance of recognizing ascertained phenomena. In treating this subject, the book of Job not only attains to, but rises far above, the height attained by the Greek tragedy; for on the one hand it brings this conflict before us in all the fearful earnestness of a death-struggle; on the other however it does not leave us to the cheerless delusion that an absolute caprice moulds human destiny. This tragic conflict with the Divine necessity is but the middle, not the beginning nor the end, of the book; for this god of fate is not the real God, but a delusion of Job’s temptation. Human freedom does not succumb, but it comes forth from the battle, which is a refining fire to it as conqueror. The dualism, which the Greek tragedy leaves unexplained, is here cleared up. The book certainly presents much which, from its tragic character, suggests this idea of destiny, but it is not its final aim—it goes far beyond: it does not end in the destruction of its here by fate; but the end is the destruction of the idea of this fate itself.” Delitzsch I:242 sec.].

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

The points of light which these three chapters exhibit in a doctrinal and ethical respect, have a background of gloom, here and there of profound blackness. The homiletic expositor nevertheless finds in them in rich abundance both texts for exhortation and comfort, and themes for didactic edification. Here belongs of course the beautiful passage containing the physico-theological argument for an infinitely powerful and wise Maker and Ruler of the world ( Job 12:7-12)—a passage which in detail indeed exhibits no progressive development, but which does nevertheless present an occasion for such a teleologic advance of thought, in so far as it dwells first on the animal world, then on the realm of human life and its organic functions, in order to produce from both witnesses for a Supreme Wisdom ordering all things. But here still further belongs the description which follows of the Divine majesty and strength which display themselves in the catastrophes of human history ( Job 12:13-25),—a description which may be made the foundation of reflections in the sphere of historical theology, or ethical theology, as well as the physico-theological argument. Here belongs again the passage which follows, in which Job sharply censures the unfriendly judgment and invidious carping of his opponents ( Job 13:1-12)—a passage which reminds us in many respects of New Testament teachings, as e. g. of Matthew 7:1-5, and of Matthew 23:2 seq.—Finally, we may put in this class the lamentation in the closing division, especially in Job 14, over the vanity and perishableness of the life of man on earth, which is compared now to a driven leaf, now to the process of mouldering, or being devoured by the moth, now to a fading flower, or a rock worn away and hollowed out by the waters, together with those passages which are interwoven with this lamentation, in which he glances at the beginning of life, poisoned by sin, and at its dismal outlook in the future appointed for it after death by the Divine justice, which is contemplated by itself, isolated from grace and mercy.—The following extracts from the older and later practical expositors may serve to indicate how these themes may be individually treated.

Job 13:7-10 Brentius: All creatures proclaim the Creator, and cry out in speech that cannot be described: God has made me—as Paul also says ( Romans 1:19; comp. Psalm 19:1 seq.). If any one therefore properly considers the nature of beasts, birds, fishes, he will discover the wonderful wisdom of the Creator (—certain examples of the same being here brought forward, such as the instinct which the deer and the partridge exhibit, the wonderful strength of the little sucking-fish [Echineïs]). Thus by the natures of animals the invisible majesty of God is made visible and manifest. For not only did God create all things, but He also preserves, nourishes and sustains all things: the breath, whether of beasts or of men, is all lodged in His hand.—Cocceius: What all these things severally contribute to the knowledge of the Creator, as it would be a most useful subject of thought, so it is too vast to be here set forth by us. Suffice it that Natural Theology is here established by Job.… When he says “this” (זֹאת, Job 13:9), he doubtless points out individual things. He thus confesses that every single thing was made and is governed by God, not only masses of things, and the universe as a whole, as the Jews dream. In fact individual animals, plants, etc., utter their testimony to the Divine efficiency.… These opinions, either by the light of nature, or the intercourse of the fathers, were transmitted even to the gentiles.—Hengstenberg: In order to make the wisdom of the friends quite contemptible, Job attributes to the animals a knowledge of the Divine omnipotence and Wisdom of Solomon, their existence being an eloquent proof of those attributes, so that they can become teachers of the man who should be so blind and foolish as to fail to know the divine omnipotence and wisdom. That which can be learned from brutes, that as to which we may go to school to them, Job will not be so foolish as not to know, neither will he need to learn it first from his wise friends. …Just as here the animals, so in Psalm 19 the heavens are represented as declaring the glory of God, which is revealed in them. Jehovah, the most profound in significance of the Divine names, here bursts forth suddenly out of its concealment, the lower names of God being in this connection unsatisfactory. Jehovah, Jahveh, the One who Isaiah, the absolute, pure Being, is most appropriately the name by which to designate the First Cause of all existences.

Job 12:11-13. Cocceius: If the mind judges concerning those things which are presented either by signs, such as words, or by themselves, as food to the palate, whether they are true or false, useful or injurious; if by experience (by which many things are seen, heard, examined), by the knowledge of very many things, and of things hidden, and by sagacity it is fitted to make a proper use of things—does it not behoove that God, who gave these things should be omniscient without weakness, nay, with fulness of power, so that all things must obey His nod? For He beholds not, like Prayer of Manasseh, that which belongs to another, but that which is His own. Nevertheless neither is judgment given to man for nought, but so that he may have some power of doing that which is useful, of refusing, or of not accepting that which is hurtful. Much less is God’s wisdom to be exercised apart from omnipotence or sovereignty over all creatures.

Job 12:16 seq. Cramer: Not only true but also false teachers are God’s property; but He uses the latter for punishment ( 2 Thessalonians 2:10), yet in such a way that He knows how to bring forth good out of their ill beginning. The Lord is a great king over all gods; all that the earth produces is in His hand ( Psalm 95:3); even false religions must serve His purposes (comp. Oecolampadius, who remarks on Job 12:16 b: I refer this to ψευδοθρησκείας, or false religions, of which the whole earth is full; he says here, that they come to be by His nod and permission). Such might and majesty He display’s particularly toward the mighty kings of earth, to whom He gives lands and people, and takes them away again, as He wills ( Daniel 4:29).—Zeyss: Rulers, and those who occupy their place, should diligently pray to God that He would keep them from foolish and destructive measures (in diets, council-chambers, in regard to wars, etc.), in order that they may not plunge themselves and their subjects into great distress ( 1 Kings 3:9).

Job 13:14 seq. Brentius: You see from this passage that it is harder to endure the liability and dread of death than death itself. For it is not hard to die, seeing that whether disease precedes or not, death itself is sudden; but to hear in the conscience the sentence of death (soil.—Thou shalt surely die!) this indeed is most hard! This voice no man can hear without despair, unless, on the other hand, the Lord should say to our soul: I am thy salvation!—Wohlfarth: “Earthly things lost—little lost; honor lost—much lost; God lost—all lost!” thus does Job admonish us.

Job 13:23-28. Oecolampadius: See the stages by which the calamities come, swelling one above the other. (1) To begin with, the face is hidden, and friendship is withheld; then (2) enmity is even declared; (3) persecution follows, and that without mercy, or regard for frailty; (4) reproaches and grave accusations are employed, and the memory of past delinquencies is revived; (5) guards are imposed, lest he should escape, and fetters in which he must rot. (Mercier and others, including of late Hengstenberg, have called attention to these same five stages.)—Zeyss (on Job 13:24): Besides the external affliction, internal trials are generally added.—(On Job 13:26): Even the sins of youth God brings to judgment in His own time ( Psalm 25:7). Think of that, young men and women, and flee youthful lusts!

Job 14:1 seq. Brentius: Man’s misery is set forth by the simile of the flower; for bodily beauty and durability can be compared to nothing more suitably than to the flower and the shadow.…Verily with what miseries man is filled, is too well known to need reciting. For nowhere is there any state or condition of men which does not have its own cross and tribulation; and thus all things everywhere are filled with crosses.…The thing to be done, therefore, is not to shun the cross, but to lay hold on Christ, in whom every cross is most easily borne.—Zeyss: Although no man is by nature pure and holy ( Job 14:4), true believers nevertheless possess through Christ a two-fold purity: (1) in respect of their justification; (2) in respect of their sanctification and renewal: Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:7, etc.

Job 14:7 seq. Zeyss: As a tree sprouts up again, so will men, who have been cut down by the axe of death, germinate again out of the grave on the Last Day; John 5:28-29.—Hengstenberg: The prospect of a future life here vanishes away from Job. How indeed could it be otherwise, seeing that he has lost altogether out of his consciousness and experience the true nature of God, on which that hope rests, God’s justice and mercy? In these circumstances the belief in an endless life must of necessity perish within him, for to this faith there was not given until the latter part of the Old Dispensation any firm declaration from God to which it could cling, while before that it existed rather in the form of a longing, a yearning, a hope. Further on, however, [in Job’s history] it again recovers its power.

Job 14:13-17 : See Doctrinal and Ethical Remarks, No1.

Job 14:18 seq. Cramer: Nothing on earth is so firmly established, but it must perish; and they who occupy themselves with the things of earth, must perish in them ( Sirach 14:20 seq.; 1 John 2:16 seq.).—Zeyss: Although mountains, stones and rocks, yea, all that is in the world, are subject to change, God’s word, and the grace therein promised for believers, stand fast forever; Psalm 117:2; Isaiah 54:10.—Vict. Andreæ: Like an armed power the feeling of his present cheerless condition again overpowers Job, and again the feeble spark is extinguished, which had just before ( Job 14:13-17), illumined his soul with so tender a gleam of hope. To his former reflections on nature ( Job 14:7-12) he now opposes the fact, no less true, that even that which is most enduring in nature itself, such as mountains, rocks, and soils, must gradually decay. And so it seems to him now, in accordance with this fact, as though human life also were destined by God only to endless annihilation. Death it is—with its pale features so suddenly disfiguring the human countenance—which again stands in all its horror, and annihilating power, before his despairing soul!

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Job 12:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/job-12.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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