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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Job 9

 

 

Verses 1-24

Job 9:1-24 is Job's answer to the position taken up by Bildad, viz. that the Almighty cannot judge falsely (Job 8:3). In Job 2 accepts the general principle that God judges according to merit. But of what use is this? Man has no chance of asserting his righteousness before God, of putting in his claim to reward. There is no equality between the Judge and the person judged. If man wishes to maintain an argument with God (Job 9:3 mg.) God can ask him a thousand questions that will baffle him. God is all-wise and almighty: who can withstand Him? (Job 9:4). He is almighty (Job 9:5 f). There follows a series of illustrations of His almightiness. He overthrows the mountains in His anger (Job 9:6). He shakes the earth (Job 9:6).

Job 9:5-6 together describe an earthquake. The earth is conceived as a house with pillars. These are the mountains, which support the sky (Job 26:11). Their roots, however, are deep below the surface of the earth in the water under the earth (Proverbs 8:25). "An earthquake is for the ancients something different something more violent than with us, since they conceive the whole earth to be moved from its fixed place and from its foundations" (Duhm).

Job 9:7 continues the examples of the Divine omnipotence. When He wills, He blots sun and stars out of the sky. The reference is to eclipses, obscurations, etc. The stars are sealed up in the place where God keeps them, and whence at His will He brings them forth to shine in the heavens (Isaiah 40:26). Further illustrations of God's power are contained in Job 9:8 f.

Job 9:10, which sums up the whole, is quoted from the speech of Eliphaz (Job 5:9). But how differently are the words used? Eliphaz regards the Divine omnipotence as a reason why man should humble himself before God, Job as a reason why it is impossible for man to maintain his right before Him.

Job 9:11 passes on to the thought of God's mysterious invisibility. This makes His omnipotence all the more dread. He is no judge, but an absolutely arbitrary Sovereign (Job 9:14). If the primeval monsters of Chaos could not stand before God, how much less a mere man (Job 9:13 f.).

Rahab is here, like the dragon in Isaiah 51:9, a name for Tiamat, the original Chaos, who was conquered by God at the creation (Genesis 1:2*). Her helpers are the brood of monsters who assisted her in the terrible conflict, but were also crushed by God. How impossible, then, is it for Job to maintain his cause against God (Job 9:14)? Even if he were innocent, he could not confront Him, but would have to cast himself upon His mercy (Job 9:15). There is no chance of even getting God to listen to a human plea (Job 9:16).

Job 9:17 f. is a description of how God acts when He comes to judgment; at the same time Job is describing God's present treatment of him. He regards himself even now as engaged in a contest with God.

Job 9:19 is difficult to translate with certainty, but the sense is clear. "If one speaks of the strength of the mighty, lo, here am I (saith He)! and if of judgment, who will set me a time (saith He)." This describes the overmastering strength and absolute sovereignty of God, which gives man no chance. Job, therefore, though innocent, feels that under the constraint of the Divine presence he could not assert his innocence (Job 9:20). He therefore does so now; let God slay him for his audacity if He will (Job 9:21). It is all one to him whether he live or die. "The poet exhibits great wealth in the psychology of the moods. Fear of death, desire for it, contempt of life, longing for a continuance of peaceful existence, all alternate throughout Job's speeches, always with a psychological basis—and in themselves a proof that the poet is a born dramatist" (Duhm).

Job proceeds to deny that there is any moral order in the universe. God sends the pestilence and cares nothing that the innocent die as well as the wicked (Job 9:23). He gives over the world to oppressors. He blinds the judges so that they cannot tell right from wrong (the verse probably reflects the feeling of the Jews under Persian oppression). "If it be not he, who then is it?" asks Job. Observe that the poet recognises no Satan like the Volksbuch, no laws of the universe, like us. He is an absolute monotheist, and traces everything that happens directly to God. The problem of God's dealings is thereby made very intense.

Job 9:5. Syr. reads "he knows it not." Probably this was the original reading (Duhm, Peake). God uproots the mountains without even noticing it; it is nothing to His almighty strength.

Job 9:9. The identification of the constellations, other than Orion, is only probable (Amos 5:8*). What the chambers of the south are is uncertain.

Job 9:16. Duhm reads, after LXX, "If I called He would not answer me, I cannot believe that He would hearken to my voice." This is perhaps better than the text.


Verses 25-35

Job 9:25-35. Job again takes up his complaint, but in a quieter tone, so that he is able to imagine after all a way in which he might maintain his cause before God. He complains first of the shortness of his life. His time runs swiftly as a runner, as the light papyrus boats used on the Nile, as an eagle in its flight (Job 9:25 f.). If he should resolve to brighten up and treat his misery as a bad dream, what use? God will again put him on the rack. (We may associate Job's quieter moods with temporary relief from paroxysms of pain, which he knows full well, however, to be only temporary). All purifications are useless (Job 9:30 f.). God and he cannot come together on equal terms. If only there were an umpire between them, who could lay his hand upon both disputants, and enforce his decision upon them (Job 9:33). Or if God would cease smiting him with pain, and lay aside His terrifying majesty (Job 9:34). Then Job would speak without fear (Job 9:35).

We may view the cry for a daysman, for God with His majesty laid aside, as an instinctive prophecy of the Incarnation, though the poet has no such thing in his mind. Cf. David in Browning's Saul:

"'Tis the weakness in strength that I cry for, my flesh that I seek

In the Godhead."

Duhm finely points out the psychological truth, that he only can believe God to be his enemy, who seeks Him as his friend. Job's invectives, he further says, are very like those of a modern pessimist: yet they impress us very differently, because they spring from a heart that needs God.

Job 9:30. In both cases mg. is better than text. Lye is potash, used for cleansing purposes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Job 9:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/job-9.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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