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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Job 15

 

 

Verses 1-35

EXPOSITION

The second colloquy between Job and his friends is, like the first (ch. 3-14.), one in which all of them take part, and the same order of speakers is maintained. Job answers each speaker in turn; Eliphaz at some length (Job 16:1-22; Job 17:1-16.), the other two more briefly. The present chapter contains the second speech of Eliphaz. Compared with the first, it is harsh and violent in tone, assuming Job's guilt, and reproaching him fiercely and rudely. It naturally divides into three portions:

Job 15:1, Job 15:2

Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said, Should a wise man utter vain knowledge! literally, knowledge of wind—knowledge, i.e.' which is vain, idle, inflated, without solidity or substance. Job, as setting up to be "a wise man," should not have indulged in such empty and foolish speaking. It is observable that Eliphaz does not point out what part of Job's discourses he considers objectionable, but condemns the whole of them under this broad and general description, which even he could not have regarded as applicable to more than a portion of what Job had said. And fill his belly with the east wind? The east wind was regarded as the worst of winds. In Palestine it blew from the great Syrian and North Arabian desert, and was of the nature of a sirocco. (On its deleterious effects, see Genesis 41:6, Genesis 41:23; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 17:10; Ezekiel 19:12; Ezekiel 27:26; Hosea 13:15, etc.)

Job 15:3

Should he reason with unprofitable talk! Such, Eliphaz implies, had been Job's talk, altogether idle and unprofitable. A wise man should have abstained from such profitless arguments. They were speeches wherewith he could do no good.

Job 15:4

Yea, thou castest off fear. To Eliphaz, Job's words—his bold expostulations (Job 13:3, Job 13:15, Job 13:22, etc.), his declarations that he knows he will be justified (Job 13:8), and that God will be his Salvation (Job 13:16)—seem to imply that he has cast off altogether the fear of God, and is entirely devoid of reverence. Some of his expressions certainly seem over-bold; but, on the other hand, his sense of God's purity, perfectness, and transcendent power is continually manifest, and should have saved him from the rude reproach here launched against him (comp. Job 9:1-13; Job 12:24 25; Job 13:11, Job 13:21, etc.). And restrainest prayer before God; rather, and hinderest devout meditation before God. Eliphaz means that Job expresses himself in a way so of. fensive to devout souls, that he disturbs their minds and prevents them from indulging in those pious meditations on the Divine goodness which would otherwise occupy them (comp. Psalms 119:97). Thus, according to Eliphaz, Job is not only irreligious himself, but the cause of irreligion in others.

Job 15:5

For thy mouth uttereth thine iniquity. Some render, "Thine iniquity teacheth thy mouth," causing it to utter such profane speeches (Vulgate, Dillmann, Canon Cook, Revised Version); but the translation of the Authorized Version is defensible on grammatical grounds, and yields a good sense, so that no alteration is necessary. And thou choosest the tongue of the crafty; or, the tongue of the subtle (comp. Genesis 3:1, where the epithet assigned to the serpent is the same). Eliphaz probably means to tax Job with cloaking his real impiety under a pretence of religiousness.

Job 15:6

Thine own mouth condemneth thee. So of a greater than Job it was said, "He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death" (Matthew 26:65, Matthew 26:66). Malevolence delights in misunderstanding and misinterpreting the utterances of the righteous. And not I. A weak disclaimer! As if Job's supposed guilt did not depend on the construction put upon his words. Yea, thine own lips testify against thee. Therefore, "what further need of witnesses?"

Job 15:7

Art thou the first man that was born? That is, "Dost thou claim to have the wisdom of that first human intelligence, which, proceeding direct from God (Genesis 1:27), was without fault or flaw—a perfect intelligence, which judged all things aright?" It is not clear that Eliphaz had ever heard of Adam; but he evidently believed in a "first man," from whom all others were descended, and he attributed to this first man a mind and intellect surpassing those of all other men. His question is, of course, rather a scoff than an inquiry. He knows that Job makes no such foolish pretence; but he throws it in his teeth that, from what he has said, men might suppose he took some such view of himself. Or wast thou made before the hills? This is a taunt of the same kind as the previous one, but intensified. Wisdom is the result of experience. Art thou older than all the rest of us—older than the earth itself, than "the everlasting hills"? There were Greeks who claimed to be ethnically προσέληνοι, "older than the moon," but no inhabitant of earth was ever so foolish as to imagine himself individually more ancient than the earth on which he lived.

Job 15:8

Hast thou heard the secret of God? or, Hast thou been a hearer in the secret counsel of God?. No mortal man was ever admitted to the secret counsel of the Most Highest (comp. Romans 11:34). And dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself? or, Dost thou confine (appropriate) wisdom to thyself? i.e. Dost thou suppose that thou art the only wise man in all the world? (comp. Job 12:2, where Job had brought the same charge against his three friends).

Job 15:9

What knowest thou, that we know not? So far as worldly wisdom went, this was probably quite true. Job was not more advanced in knowledge than Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. But he had a keener spiritual insight. He was wiser in the "wisdom which is from above." Perplexed and confused as were his thoughts concerning the Divine government of the universe, they were nearer the truth, more worthy of the Divine nature, than those of his adversaries. In his reply, without claiming any special wisdom, he pours contempt on their pretensions to spiritual understanding (Job 17:4, Job 17:10). What understandest thou, which is not in us? A mere repetition of the first member of the verse in different words.

Job 15:10

With us are both the greyheaded and very aged men. "With us" seems to mean "of our party," or "on our side." Eliphaz claims that all the greybeards of the time, as well as all the ancient men of past times (comp. Job 8:8, and below, Job 8:18), are on his side. and think as he does. Much elder than thy father. Men, i.e.' not merely of the preceding, but of much more distant generations His Latin to be supported by the voice of antiquity was, no doubt, in strict accordance with fact.

Job 15:11

Are the consolations of God small with thee? By "the consolations of God" Eliphaz probably means the hopes which he and his friends had held out, speaking in God's Name, that if Job would humble himself, and confess his guilt, and sue to God for pardon, he would be restored to favour, recover his prosperity, and live to a good old age in tranquil happiness (see Job 5:18-27; Job 8:20-22; Job 11:13-19). He wishes to know if Job thinks lightly of all this, regards it as of small account, will make no effort to obtain the blessings held out to him. This is all reasonable enough from his standpoint, that Job is conscious of secret heinous guilt; but it can make no impression on Job, who is conscious of the reverse. Is there any secret thing with thee? rather, And is the word [of small account that dealeth] gently with thee? Eliphaz considers that his own words and those of his two companions have been soft words, dealing "gently" with Job's refractoriness, and that Job ought to have been impressed by them.

Job 15:12

Why doth thine heart carry thee away? or, Whither doth thine heart carry thee away? i.e. to what a pitch of presumption and audacity do thy proud thoughts carry thee? And what do thy eyes wink at? or, Wherefore do thy eyes roll? The verb used occurs only in this place. Its meaning is very doubtful.

Job 15:13

That thou turnest thy spirit against God. To Eliphaz and his companions, the wild remonstrances of Job, Iris vehement expostulations and despairing outcries, are, one and all, nothing better than indications of a proud and rebellious spirit, that sets itself up against the Almighty, and openly contends with him. They view Job, after the speeches that he has made, as a declared rebel, and no longer regard it as incumbent upon them to use any "gentleness" in their reprimands. And lettest such words go out of thy mouth? It is remarkable that neither Eliphaz nor either of his friends ever points out what particular words of Job they object to and regard as impious, so as to give him the opportunity of defending, explaining, or retracting them. They take refuge in vague generalities, with which it is impossible to grapple. But this vagueness and want of logical accuracy is characteristic of the Oriental nations, who scarcely ever reason cogently or bring matters to a point.

Job 15:14

What is man, that he should be clean? A vain "beating of the air." Eliphaz had asserted the same truth in his first speech, when he said, "Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his Maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he taxeth with folly: how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay' whose foundation is in the dust, which are crushed before the moth?" (Job 4:17-19); and Job had given his full assent to it, when he exclaimed, "I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand" (Job 9:2, Job 9:3). The true question was not whether Job or any other man was" clean," i.e. wholly sinless' but whether Job had sinned so deeply and grievously that his sufferings were the natural and just punishment for his sins. And a mere repetition of the statement that all men were sinful and unclean was off the point—nihil ad rem-altogether futile and superfluous. And he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous? (setup. Job 25:4). The clause is a mere variant of the preceding one.

Job 15:15

Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints; rather, in his holy ones (see the Revised Version). The word "saint" has in course of time come to be so exclusively attached to holy men, that it can no longer be applied, without danger of being misunderstood, to angels. Eliphaz here, as in Job 5:1, speaks not of holy men, but of the holy angels. Without taxing them with sin, he is strongly convinced of their imperfection—their defective wisdom (Job 5:18), weakness, and untrustworthiness. His views are decidedly peculiar, and not borne out by the rest of Scripture. Yea, the heavens are not clean in his sight. The material heavens are probably intended. That limpid liquid blue in which the human eye sees no stain or speck, to the Divine eye is tinged with uncleanness The idea is that neither animate nor inanimate nature contains any form of being that is absolutely without spot or blemish. In God alone is there perfect purity.

Job 15:16

How much more abominable and filthy is man, which drinketh iniquity like water? rather, How much less one that is abominable and impure, a man that drinketh in iniquity, etc.? It cannot be doubted that Job is individually pointed at. Not mankind generally, but a particular man, is intended; and the particular man can be none other than Job. Thus we see how the progress of the controversy has tended to exasperate the disputants, and change the "comforters" from smooth-tongued friends into open enemies and accusers.

Job 15:17

I will show thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare. Eliphaz here introduces, with an elaborate preface (Job 15:17-19) what is either a citation from a book, as Professor Lee thinks, or a studied description by himself of the proceedings and consequent sufferings of the wicked. This description extends from Job 15:20 to the end of the chapter, and is plainly levelled at Job, though it may originally have been intended to apply to some other person or persons.

Job 15:18

Which wise men have told from their fathers, and have not hid it (comp. Job 8:8-10). Whether the words are his own or not, the sentiments, at any rate, Eliphaz declares to have come down to him from remote times. The "wise men" to whom he refers may have been men of the Beni Kedem (Job 1:3). who were noted for their wisdom (1 Kings 4:30), or possibly Egyptians or Babylonians. Books containing moral aphorisms and instructions were certainly composed both in Egypt and in Babyhmia at a very ancient date.

Job 15:19

Unto whom alone the earth was given. The reference is clearly to a very remote time, when men were comparatively few, and lived in quiet possession of their own lands, undisturbed by invasions, wars, or struggles for territory. Professor Lee thinks that the times immediately after, and even those before, the Flood are glanced at; while Schultens regards Eliphaz as alluding to the first settlements of the Joktanidae in Arabia. In either case, the passage tells in favour or, and not against, the antiquity of the Book of Job, since it marks the composer as "living at a time when the memory of an age of patriarchal simplicity was yet fresh in men's minds" (Canon Cook). And no stranger passed among them. Races were not mixed up one with another, and so the purity of primitive doctrine remained undisturbed.

Job 15:20-35

Schultens calls this "a magnificently elaborate oration, crowded with illustrations and metaphors, in which it is shown that the wicked cannot possibly escape being miserable, but that the punishment which they have so richly deserved assuredly awaits them, and is to be inflicted on them, as an example and terror to others, by a holy and just God, because, just as he loves virtue, so he pursues vice with a fierce and deadly hatred".

Job 15:20

The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days. Certainly an over-statement of the truth. With a much nearer approach to the facts of the case, the Psalmist remarked, "I was grieved at the wicked: I do also see the ungodly in such prosperity. For they are in no peril of death, but are lusty and strong. They come in no misfortune like other folk; neither are they plagued like other men" (Psalms 73:3-5). And the number of years is hidden to the oppressor; rather, even the number of years that is laid up for the oppressor. So Merx and the Revised Version. Another possible meaning is, "And a [small] number of years is laid up," etc. If we take the former view, we must regard the clause as exegetical of "all his days."

Job 15:21

A dreadful sound is in his ears; literally, a sound of terrors. Fears of all kinds beset him, lest he should lose his prosperity. Sometimes they seem actually to sound in his ears. Prosper as he may, he feels that in prosperity the destroyer shall one day come upon him. "The destroyer" may be either the destroying angel, or the avenger of blood, or a robber-chief at the head of a band of marauders.

Job 15:22

He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness. He has no hope of recovering his prosperity, when calamity has once stricken him down, since he knows that his calamity is deserved, and feels that it is God's judgment upon him for his sins. And he is waited for of the sword. He feels as if an enemy was lying in wait for him at every turn, with his sword drawn, ready to slay him. Professor Lee compares the words of Cain, "It shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me" (Genesis 4:14).

Job 15:23

He wandereth abroad for bread, saying, Where is it? This, again, might appropriately have been said of Cain, who was "a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth" (Genesis 4:14), and may at times have had difficulty in procuring his daily bread. At any rate, it is the frequent experience of the wicked who lose their ill-gotten gains, and are brought down to abject poverty, and actual want of the necessaries of life. "He wanders abroad to be the food of vultures" is a translation of the passage suggested by some moderns (as Merx), and has the support of the Septuagint, κατατέτακται εῖς σῖτα ψυψίν. But it requires a slight change in the pointing. He knoweth that the day of darkness is nigh at hand. "The day of darkness" is probably the day of his decease: this he "knows," or at any rate, surmises, to be near.

Job 15:24

Trouble and anguish shall make him afraid; they shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle. Eliphaz seems covertly to allude to Job's misfortunes, which came against him with such force, and crushed him as a mighty king crushes his foes in battle.

Job 15:25

For he stretcheth out his hand against God. The wicked man ventures even to threaten the Almighty. So in Eastern legend Nimrod was supposed to have done, and in Greek legend the giants. And strengtheneth himself against the Almighty; rather, behaveth himself proudly. See the Revised Version, and compare Schultens, who renders the Hebrew יתגבּר, by "ferocius et insolentius se gessit."

Job 15:26

He runneth upon him, even on his neck; rather, with his neck. It is not God who runneth upon the wicked man, as our translators seem to have supposed, but the wicked man who rushes furiously against God. Like an infuriated bull, he makes his charge with his neck, i.e. with head lowered and neck stiffened, thinking to carry all before him. Upon the thick bosses of his bucklers; rather, with the thick bosses of his shield' The metaphor of the bull is dropped, and God's enemy represented as charging him like a warrior, with the shield-arm outstretched, and the heavy bosses of the shield pressing him down.

Job 15:27

Because he covereth his face with his fatness. The ground and origin of the wicked man's audacity is his luxurious and intemperate living. In the days of his prosperity he pampered his body, freely indulged all his carnal appetites, and gave himself up to gluttony and gourmandism. This depraved his moral nature, separated between him and God, and finally produced in him the insolence and presumption described in Job 15:25, Job 15:26 And maketh collops of fat on his flanks. The same idea, only very slightly varied, as so often in the second member of a verse.

Job 15:28

And he dwelleth in desolate cities. Blot only was he sensual and gluttenous, but he was covetous and rapacious also. He dwelt in cities which his hand had desolated—in houses which no man inhabiteth—since he had driven their owners from them—and which were ready to become heaps, i.e. were in a ruinous condition.

Job 15:29

He shall not be rich; i.e. he shall not increase, or maintain, his riches. Neither shall his substance continue, His riches shall make themselves wings, and take their departure. Neither shall he prolong the perfection thereof upon the earth; rather, neither shall their possessions be extended upon the earth. (So Rosenmuller, Professor Lee, and Renan.) The transition from the singular to the plural is not unusual, when it is a class, and not an individual, that is really spoken of.

Job 15:30

He shall not depart out of darkness (comp. Job 15:23, where the wicked man is threatened with "a day of darkness"). When the darkness once falls, it shall continue; there shall be no escaping out of it The flame shall dry up his branches; rather, a flame. The "flame" intended seems to be the wrath of God. ' And by the breath of his mouth; i.e. "of God's mouth" (comp. Job 4:9). Shall he go away; or, pass away; i.e. disappear, be consumed, perish.

Job 15:31

Let not him that is deceived trust in vanity; rather, let him not trust in vanity (or, in falsehood)' deceiving himself (see the Revised Version). All the supports and stays of the wicked are vanity—unsubstantial, futile, utterly vain and useless. It is only a man who "deceives himself" that can trust in them. For vanity shall be his recompense. Such as do so trust gain nothing by it; they sow vanity and reap vanity.

Job 15:32

It shall be accomplished before his time. "It [i.e. the recompense] shall be accomplished [or, 'paid in full '] before its time [i.e. before payment is due]." A vague threat, probably intended to signify that death will come upon the wicked man prematurely, before he has lived out halt the days of his natural life. And his branch shall not be green; i.e. he shall wither and fade, like a tree not planted by the waterside (Psalms 1:3).

Job 15:33

He shall shake off his unripe grape as the vine. Blight and untimely cold cause the vine to drop its grapes before they are mature. So the wicked man will be deprived, one by one, of his possessions. And shall cast off his flower as the olive. The olive often sheds its blossoms in vast numbers. "In spring," says Canon Tristram, "one may see the bloom, on the slightest breath of wind, shed like snowflakes, and perishing by millions". According to some commentators, this happens regularly in alternate years.

Job 15:34

For the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate; or, shall be sterile' or barren' like the vine and olive of the preceding verse. The entire company of the wicked shall suffer this punishment. And fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery. God's lightning shall fall from heaven, and burn up the tents (i.e. the habitations) of those who take bribes to pervert justice. It is suggested that Eliphaz intends to accuse Job of the two secret sins of hypocrisy and corruption.

Job 15:35

They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity; rather, as in the margin, iniquity. And their belly prepareth deceit. Internally, i.e. in their inner nature—in their heart, as we should any—they make ready deceits. "The viscera," as Professor Lee observes, "are often made by the Hebrews the seat of thought."

HOMILETICS

Job 15:1-16

Eliphaz to Job: Resumption of the second controversy: 1. An overwhelming indictment.

I. OLD ACCUSATIONS REPEATED.

1. Unprofitable talk. The replies given by Job in the preceding colloquy Eliphaz characterizes as

2. Manifest impiety. Eliphaz had already (Job 4:6) insinuated that Job was devoid of true religion; here he regards the insinuation as substantiated by the conduct of Job himself in three particulars.

3. Astounding presumption. Stung by Job's ridicule of himself and his colleagues (Job 12:2), and forgetful that "a soft answer turneth away wrath," while "grievous words stir up anger' (Proverbs 15:1) Eliphaz retorts, with a keen-edged irony scarcely second to Job's, that no doubt Job was a wise man, a very wise man, in fact the only wise man, since

4. Contemptuous indifference.

5. Passionate rebellion. Job allowed his feelings to get the better of his understanding—his passion to overwhelm his judgment. It is the part of wisdom and the work of grace to restrain angry emotions (Proverbs 29:8; Ephesians 4:26). Uncontrolled excitement leads to sin (Proverbs 29:22). It had hurried Job into vehement expressions against God, which seemed to show an embittered and hostile spirit in

II. OLD THEOLOGY RESTATED. The crowning sin of Job, in the estimation of Eliphaz, was his persistent attempts at self-justification. As if to give this tremendous heresy its final quietus, the solemn Arabian seer once more advances the humbling doctrine of man's universal depravity, which he establishes from a fourfold consideration.

1. Man's constitutional frailty. Man is essentially a frail and diseased creature, enosh (verse 14); and, although physical weakness is not the same thing as moral pollution, yet the former is inconceivable except as the result of the latter.

2. Man's depraved origin. Mortal man is descended from fallen woman, and, as a consequence, inherits her depravity. So Job admitted (Job 14:2), David bewailed (Psalms 51:5), and Christ taught (John 3:6). To this law human history knows of only one exception. Christ, though the Seed of the woman, was untainted by hereditary corruption. Holy in his birth (Luke 1:35), he continued throughout life "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners" (Hebrews 7:26). The moral purity of Jesus was indispensable to his mediator-ship (Hebrews 7:27).

3. Man's inferiority to the angels. Man occupies a lower place in the universe than the angels who inhabit heaven (verse 15). Yet even these bright intelligences appear tarnished in God's sight. How much less, then, can a claim of moral parity be made good for man? If God's hell, less, the standard of all creature excellence, is so absolute that even the heavens with their holy inhabitants are not pure in his sight (verse 15), it is sheer folly to expect that man can establish his moral cleanness before the eyes of the Omniscient One (cf. Job 4:17, Job 4:18, homiletics). On the contrary, man must be entirely abominable in the estimation of a holy God, because wholly corrupt (verse 16), sin being that abominable thing which God hates (Jeremiah 44:4), and which renders everything it infects hateful, because of changing its nature, and making sour, putrid, corrupt, disorganized, what God had at first pronounced fair, orderly, and very good.

4. Man's habitual practice. This the culminating proof of man's total and universal depravity. Wherever man exists he is found to drink up iniquity like water; i.e. to commit sin as regularly, eagerly, abundantly, easily, naturally, as the ox or the horse drinks up water.

Learn:

1. Men often fail to see in themselves the faults they condemn in others,

2. The faculty of speech was given to every man to profit withal.

3. The tongue is badly used when it is employed to either afflict saints or encourage sinners.

4. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

5. Prayer is one of the natural instincts of the human heart.

6. A man's creed is commonly an index to his character.

7. The man who condemns himself need not wonder if he be condemned by others.

8. The older a man grows the wiser should he become.

9. Divine consolation may be, but is not always, administered by man.

10. "Better is he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."

11. The month should never be allowed to go wit. hoot a bridle.

12. The doctrine of man's depravity is very old.

Job 15:4

Restraining prayer.

Of the reasons leading men to either neglect or discontinue the exercise of prayer, these will be found to be the chief.

I. THERE IS NO GOD TO PRAY TO. This the reason of the atheist. But the existence of a supreme First Cause, possessed of intelligence and moral character, is to faith assured by:

1. The intuitions of the human mind, which may sometimes attempt to argue itself out of, but never needs to reason itself into, the belief in a Divine Being.

2. The witness of the creatures, which, by countless instances of special contrivance and design, attest the eternal power and Godhead of their Artificer (Romans 1:20).

3. The intimations of Scripture, which never demonstrate, but always assume, that a God exists, and man knows it. Hence, since there is a Supreme Being, the folly, as well as sin, of withholding from him that tribute of devotion which is his due.

II. THERE IS NO EFFICACY IN PRAYER. The usual objections to the possibility of prayer may be here stated, such as that the whole universe having been placed under the dominion of fixed and invariable law, there can, properly speaking, be no room for the exercise of prayer; that the Bible itself, by representing all things as coming to pass in accordance with a prearranged plan, seems expressly to exclude the idea of prayer; that the multiplicity and even contradictoriness of human interests is so great as to reduce the whole business of praying to an absurdity; and that, as no one pretends to be able to dispense with his own labours even while he prays, it seems hard to know precisely wherein lies the special virtue of devotion. Without replying to these seriatim in this place, it may suffice to observe:

1. The exact import of the assertion that there is no efficacy in prayer, which is that the individual so asserting has been able to place himself precisely where God stands in relation to the universe, to make a survey of the entire compass of created things, to sound the unfathomable depths of the Divine resources, and, as the result of his examination, to announce that prayer cannot be answered; in other words, such a confident dogmatist arrogates to himself the attributes of God.

2. The complete worthlessness of the assertion when set against the testimony of the human consciousness, especially when supported by the evidence of incontrovertible fact that prayer can be, and has been, answered.

III. THE ABSENCE OF A FELT NEED OF PRAYER. This is the reason of the worldling. The things he regards as constituting the summum bonum of existence—wealth, pleasure, fame, power, and such like—seem to belong to a sphere that is not much affected by prayer; while, having never experienced any desire for those spiritual realities comprehended in the gospel, blessing of salvation, viz. the pardon of sin, the renovation of the heart, the spirit of adoption, and so on, he has never deemed it necessary to trouble the King of heaven with supplications for their bestowal. But

IV. THE LACK OF ANSWERS TO PRAYERS. This is the reason of the faithless Christian. And it is undoubtedly hard for a soul to keep on praying when to all appearance the ear of God is deaf. But in such circumstances the petitioner should consider

V. THE WANT OF ANY TRUE RELISH IN PRAYER. This is the reason of the spiritually declining saint. Now

VI. THE INDULGENCE OF KNOWN SIN. This is the reason of the conscious backslider. Nothing so effectually extinguishes the altar-fire of a spiritual devotion as the practice of secret sin.

Job 15:17-35

Eliphaz to Job: 2. More wisdom from the ancients.

I. THE EXCELLENCE OF THIS WISDOM.

1. Old; i.e. derived from a remote antiquity. The traditionary lore about to he cited by Eliphaz had been manufactured by primeval sages, from whom it had been carefully transmittal to the "wise men" who had told it to Eliphaz. The "fathers," "unto whom alone the earth was given," and "among whom no stranger passed," were either patriarchal descendants of Noah prior to the time of Peleg, when the earth was divided (Genesis 10:25), or the early progenitors of the Arabian races.

2. Pure; i.e. unmixed with foreign elements. Whether the ancients were pre-Pelegites or post-, the fact to which Eliphaz calls attention remains unaltered. "Purity of race was from the earliest times considered by the sons of the East as the sign of highest nobility" (Delitzsch). That this isolation of the Arabian fathers would tend to preserve the current of primitive tradition pure and unalloyed, and might even favour the healthy development of independent views, "derived from their own experience and undisturbed by foreign influence," can scarcely be questioned, it would seem also as if in the world's infancy other methods of conserving Divine truth were impracticable. At least Israel was separated from the other nations of the earth in order to serve as a depositary for the gospel promise in order to preserve it till the fulness of the times. Hence she was forbidden to make marriage or other alliances with the nations around for fear of learning their ways. But now the truth of God, under the Christian dispensation, has been revealed with such clearness and fulness of illumination, that it does nor require to be hedged about by safeguards of race, nationality, etc.; though it is still true Christian people that "evil communications corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33).

3. Certain; i.e. verified by experience. In the preceding colloquy Eliphaz had treated Job to wisdom he had learnt in ecstatic vision (Job 4:12); here he lays before him the results of observation through the ordinary channels of information. He does not claim for his approaching utterances the high authority of messages from the spirit-world; still, he guarantees their veracity on the double testimony of eye and ear. What the wise men had reported to his sense of hearing he had taken care to verify by the organ of seeing; so that practically he seems to say, "In the mouth of two witnesses is every word established."

II. THE PURPORT OF THIS WISDOM. Briefly, it is the dogma that a moral order exists in the world, that good always comes to the good, and in particular that evil never fails to overtake the evil.

1. The wicked man's doom. Painted in lurid colours, as consisting mainly in two things.

(a) Self-inflicted. "The wicked man writhes or torments himself" (verse 20). Conscience always is its own avenger. Gagged for a season, it eventually speaks out with greater power because of previous repression. "No man ever offended his own conscience, but first or last it was revenged upon him for it" (South).

(b) Excruciatingly painful, like the pains of parturition. "Conscience is a thousand swords" ('King Richard III.,' act 5. sc. 2). "Methought a legion of foul fiends environed me" (ibid; act 1. sc. 4). "The mind that broods o'er guilty woes is like the scorpion girt by fire" (Byron 'Giaour').

(c) Never ceasing; the anguish of the stricken wretch continuing "all his days." Except in rare instances, this part of Eliphaz's description can scarcely be regarded as literally correct. Yet it teaches that, from one end of life to the other, the wicked man enjoys no security against his guilty fears, which may spring forth upon him at any moment, the exact instant when they shall do so being hidden from his view (verse 20).

(d) Horribly terrifying; filling him with dismal forebodings of evil. The sound of approaching calamity ever ringing in his ears (verse 21), every footfall appears to be that of a destroyer: "How is't with me, when every noise appals me?" ('Macbeth,' act 2. sc. 2); and "The wicked flee when no man pursueth" (Proverbs 28:1). His imagination suggests, even in the midst of prosperity, that the devastator is upon him (verse 21), that every one who finds him shall slay him (Genesis 4:14), that his destruction will be sudden and complete—a fate reserved for unbelievers in the great day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:3). His guilty conscience peopling the dark with assassins causes him to live in constant terror of the sword (verse 22)—"Thus conscience does make cowards of us all" ('Hamlet,' act 3. sc. 1). His feeble spirit agonized by fears of starvation even in the midst of abundance (verse 23), roams abroad in search of bread, saying, "Where is it?" and he becomes a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, like another Cain (Genesis 4:12), and like wicked men generally whose evil hearts are restless as the troubled sea (Isaiah 57:20). His crowding fears of impending calamity so unman him that when trouble and anguish gather round like royal armies prepared for battle, they paralyze him with dread, and render resistance or escape impossible (verse 24).

2. The wicked man's crime.

III. THE APPLICATION OF THIS WISDOM.

1. A wicked insinuation. "Let not him that is deceived" (verse 31), i.e. Job. Eliphaz charges Job with a false confidence in his own integrity. Though not true of Job, it is certain that of many it is not false. Hence the propriety of self-examination as to the grounds on which our assurance rests. If it rest on the Spirit's witness to our faith in Christ, it is good and will never disappoint our expectations; if it is based on any of those "vanities" alluded to by Eliphaz, it is false, and will eventually overwhelm us in despair.

2. An excellent admonition. "Let him not trust in vanity." Everything outside of God and his favour, on which a human soul grounds its confidence of safety, or in which it thinks to find happiness, is vanity—moral excellence, evangelical fervour, general philanthropy, intellectual power, social position, commercial credit, political influence, no less than successful wickedness and unchecked antagonism to God. Yet the human heart is insanely prone to clasp these to its bosom, saying, "Be thou my confidence," instead of trusting in the living God. But to do so is the merest self-deception. For none of these things, nor all of them, can satisfy a human soul. Only God can so occupy the heart as to fill it with happiness and render it secure. God alone is the saint's portion and trust.

3. A fearful prediction. "Vanity," probably in the sense of calamity, "shall be his recompense" (verse 31). And this reward, for which the self-deceived man toils, shall be paid:

Learn:

1. That the true Divider of countries to nations and of lands to individuals is God. A man can receive nothing except it be given him from above.

2. That if the intercourse of peoples and tribes with one another be productive of good, it is by no means unattended with danger. Sinful practices and opinions are more easily adopted than their opposites.

3. That the way of transgressors is commonly as hard to themselves as to their victims. "Evil pursueth sinners."

4. That the fiercest enemy a soul has to encounter is an awakened conscience. It is hard to contend against a foe through whose face God looks.

5. That the biggest coward upon earth is a bragging tyrant who oppresses the weak. Man's moral strength rises in proportion to the meekness with which he can endure, not the cruelty with which he can inflict, wrong.

6. That the man who thinks to conquer God in battle is a fool. The way to victory with God is by faith and prayer, humility and submission.

7. That a fat body may become the grave of a lean soul. The man that would have a prosperous and luxuriant soul must keep the body under.

8. That the best-deceived man on earth is he who trusts in earthly vanities. If he who trusts in his own heart is a fool, what must he be who trusts in unsubstantial nothingness?

9. That wicked men's families are often ruined by their parents. A father should lead his child to heaven by holy deeds, not point him the way to hell by transgression.

10. That the ultimate perdition of ungodly men is sure. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON

Job 15:1-19

Perversity and impenitence rebuked.

In the next six chapters the controversy between Job and his friends takes a new and embittered turn. They muster their forces to put down the daring speaker, who as they deem has challenged the justice of God. They seek to humiliate him as a late-born, itinerant, and passionate man, who has incurred fresh guilt by his impious questionings and blasphemies. Eliphaz gives a terrible representation of the general truth that the wicked man, living for himself alone, must ever be exposed to torment, and his property and condition must ever be insecure, leaving Job to apply all this to himself. In the war of words the hope of reconciliation and mutual understanding is further and further banished. The present chapter (xv.) falls into two divisions: the first containing argument; the second the authoritative utterance of wisdom (verses 2-19, 20-35).

I. ARGUMENT: INTRODUCTION. (Verses 2-6.) Eliphaz, as the oldest and most experienced of the friends, seeks to abash and humiliate Job by raising doubts of his sense and wisdom.

1. The characteristics of unwisdom are indulgence in windy words—in "words from the paunch," the seat of wild and ungovernable passion, as constructed with words that are uttered from the heart (Job 8:10), and are those of experience, sense, and truth; in words that are useless because there are no corresponding deeds. Here is a good test of the value of speech—Has it any tendency to bear fruit in deeds? can it be followed up and expressed in deeds or no? Those words are vain on which we dare not set the stamp and seal of action.

2. Proofs of guilt. These wild speeches are not only idle, but worse, mischievous. The tongue is a powerful agent, either of good or evil. It builds up those who listen in faith and goodness, or loosens the root of piety in the soul. Further, the tongue may be used as the weapon of the crafty—a disingenuous means of defence. And does not this show that Job is utterly corrupt; that, like an unprincipled scoundrel, he would attempt to clear himself by throwing blame on others?

II. HUMILIATING CENSURES. (Verses 7-13.)

1. Ironical rebuke of his assumption Is he the first-born man—older than the hills? Does he stand at the head of mankind, and, therefore, know better than all his fellows? So Ezekiel satirizes the King of Tyre, "Thou stalest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty" (Ezekiel 28:12). The Hindus have a proverb used in the same sense, "Yea, indeed, he is the first man; no wonder that he is so wise." The great Greek sage, on the other hand, being declared the wisest of men, interpreted the oracle as meaning that h-e alone of men knew that he was ignorant. It is better to place one's self on a level with the meanest and the most ignorant than to assume superiority in matters about which all men may reasonably think themselves equally well informed.

2. Expostulation against a bitter temper. It is a temper that will not soften at the word of comfort, as the rock will not melt in the sun. Eliphaz thinks that all his good instruction and consolation have been lavished in vain upon this obdurate heart. The "refusing to be comforted," the obstinate nourishing of grief, is a temper that must be changed, otherwise the mental view cannot become clear and calm. Other signs of temper are pride; the heart carried away by its passionate egotism; the gleaming or rolling eyes (verse 12), and the unbridled wildness of the tongue. These symptoms prove a disease, and that disease is self-will.

III. THE RIGHT OF COMPLAINT AGAINST GOD DENIED. (Verses 14-16.) Here the speaker repeats himself, for he has nothing more deeply impressed upon his own mind than the folly and impatience of complaints from infirm man against the supreme and all-holy One (comp. Job 4:17—5:7).

1. The hereditary taint in man (verse 14).

2. The relative impurity of heavenly beings in the sight of God.

3. Man's choice of sin (this is especially emphatic here).

All these considerations show the impiety of daring to question any action of God. Man has a thirst for sin (verse 16): shall such a creature, from the edge of its muddy pool, lift itself presumingly against Heaven?

IV. DEMAND FOR ATTENTION TO INSTRUCTION. (Verses 17-19.) In this short preface the wisdom of the speaker is described as

coming from a time when foreign opinions and foreign manners had not corrupted the simplicity of ancient truth.—J.

Job 15:20-35

Warnings from the wisdom of experience.

I. THE TERRIBLE TORMENTS OF THE WICKED. (Job 15:20-24.)

1. Lifelong pain. Notwithstanding all appearances of ease and prosperity, the bad man only suffers. The sword seems ever suspended above the tyrant's head. The serpent is ever busy with the tooth of remorse at his heart.

2. Dread fancies throng through every sound into his imagination; he is ever in terror of some sudden doom. He sees a darkness coming upon him from which there is no possibility of escape. In the glance of dread fancy he sees himself already singled out for the fatal sword-stroke. The gaunt shape of famine seems to haunt his steps; from his soft couch and splendid table he looks out into a dark scene, and realizes it as present; he is overcome by anguish and trouble, as a king is borne down amidst the turmoil of battle. Thus conscience makes the guilty man a coward, and the "native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought." "A guilty conscience! I ask no other hell."

II. THE CAUSE OF HIS SUFFERINGS. (Job 15:25-28.)

1. Rebellion against God. This is presented under the powerful figure of a warrior, rushing against his foe, on the field, in headstrong fury. Self-will, leading to contempt of the moral order of God, and this to violent resistance to all moral restraint; here is the genesis and development of sin. See the history of Pharaoh.

2. His selfish life. He lives in luxury, pampering his body till he becomes a gross mass of flesh, full of carnal appetite. In his unsocial ambition and greed he has laid waste flourishing cities rich in men, that he may abide in them alone, as if he could not find place enough for the dwelling of his body, and preferred to live alone amidst wide desolation, rather than peacefully among a multitude of the happy. So in Isaiah 5:8, "Woe to them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!" "He enlargeth his desire as hell, and is as death, and cannot be satisfied, but gathereth unto him all nations, and heapeth unto him all people" (Habakkuk 2:5). "He builds a town with blood, and lays its foundations in iniquity "(Habakkuk 2:12). The picture is one of grasping, insatiable greed and covetousness, which shut a man out from the sympathy of his fellows. Some, however, take Isaiah 5:28 as referring further to an act of disobedience in fixing his dwelling among ruins, cursed by God and forbidden to future habitation.

III. THE INSTABILITY OF THE WICKED. (Isaiah 5:29 -33.) His hopes are disappointed, riches elude him, his accumulations melt away. Unlike the heavy harvest of the waving corn, he is rather like the tree whose roots do not sink deeply into the earth (Isaiah 5:29), so that every outward misfortune becomes in extreme source of danger—all his blossoms and fruits are cast away before the time of gathering! Then, again, the figure of darkness returns, which he only escapes, to fall into the glowing breath of God's anger, which blasts everything that is green and fair in his prospects.

IV. THE VANITY AND FOLLY OF THE WICKED. (Verses 34, 35.) He begins by trusting in vanity, in what is baseless, such as all absence of moral principle; and vanity, according to the moral constitution of the world, must be the end of his schemes. The time of ripeness and harvest must be that of destruction; or like the blossoms of the olive in certain years, which fall off without fruit being formed, his plans never come to maturity. The "brood" of the wicked man is unfruitful; the fire devours his tent. Or like the woman who has falsely conceived, and remains long in deception, but at last perceives with grief the nothingness of her hopes, so with the wicked man (comp. Is. Isaiah 7:14-17; Isaiah 33:11).

LESSONS.

1. Goodness alone has substance, vitality, endurance, fruitfulness.

2. Evil is emptiness; it carries with it self-delusion; its end is disappointment and failure.—J.

HOMILIES BY R. GREEN

Job 15:2, Job 15:3

The wise man speaketh wisdom.

There is a fitness of things, and wisdom becomes the wise man—the man who is either truly wise or who would presume to be wise. Let his words testify to the justness of his profession. Consider—

I. THE INCONGRUITY OF WORDS OF FOLLY PROCEEDING FROM THE LIPS OF THE WISE. All may reasonably hope that he who is tutored with knowledge, and who has accustomed himself to direct his knowledge to good ends, will speak only words of truth and soberness—words trustworthy and useful. For one known to be wise, or professing to be wise, to use words of foolishness is an utter incongruity. The speech is the expression of the soul. Out of the heart the mouth speaketh. The world has need of wisdom—need of its salt—to save it from the corruptions of error and folly. "Should a wise man utter vain knowledge?" It is inconsistent; it is misleading; it is destructive.

II. THE PRECIOUSNESS OF THE WORDS OF HIM WHO TRULY SPEAKETH WISDOM. To assume the position of the teacher, to dare to guide the ignorant, to set up one's self as a ruler in the world of thought, is to assume a position of the highest possible importance. Knowingly or unknowingly, the world is led by the words of its teachers, good or bad. The souls of men are in the hands of the teacher. His words lead to life or death. The bulk of men are ignorant and timid, and therefore under the control of the stronger minds. The world's sad history proves that men, like a flock of sheep, may be led into any path by their teachers. The dry and arid sands will not keep the feet of the sheep from following their leader and shepherd, nor will the rugged and stony ground. The world is led by the ears. How precious, then, to the world are words of true wisdom! Truly the feet of him who publisheth peace, and bringeth good tidings, are beautiful. The world is more indebted to its teachers of wisdom than to its chieftains in valour. Error binds men in chains; but words of wisdom, which are words of truth, set them free.

III. THE TRULY WISE MAN IS HE WHO DOTH NOT "REASON WITH UNPROFITABLE TALK," AND WITH WHOSE SPEECHES IT CANNOT BE SAID, "HE CAN DO NO GOOD." He is truly wise who, with words which he has good reason to believe are wise words, seeks to lead the world in paths of safety—paths of light, joy, and blessing. Let the man be judged by his words, and by his words condemned before the universal bar. Let the world cast its uttermost condemnations on him who by false words leads the unsuspecting fool into the path of peril; but let the world gather its garlands for him who with wise words proves himself to be wise, and leads the feet of men into the way of life. To be able to do good by speech is a great endowment; to be faithful in the use of right speech is to be truly wise, and a wise word is a word of life.—R.G.

Job 15:14-16

Human sinfuless.

Eliphaz accuses Job of his attempt to justify himself, and speaks with great apparent acerbity of spirit. His words are cutting and cruel. He secretly declares Job to be sinful in proportion to his sufferings. He branches into generalities, and affirms the general human sinfulness with the quiet accusation, "All men are sinful; therefore thou art. Sorrow is the punishment of the wicked; therefore thy suffering is proof of thy guilt." Eliphaz's view is imperfect, and needs to be supplemented. Job, in his struggling, cries aloud for that supplement. It is found only in the assurance of the future, and in the fact that, with the future in view, it pleases the Almighty to discipline and prepare men for it. Suffering is seen to be a method of that discipline. Of human sinfulness it is affirmed—

I. IT IS AN INHERENT CONDITION OF HUMAN LIFE. "What is man, that he should be clean? and he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" as though he had said, "It is of the nature of man to be unclean." "That which is born of the flesh is flesh." The human nature derived from the imperfect and unholy is necessarily unholy and imperfect. Evidences of this may be seen in the general observed depravity of man; in the necessity for very powerful influences to check sinfulness; in the constant recognition of the Fall in Holy Scripture; in the difficulty with which even good men preserve their goodness; and in the sad examples of deep degradation in all lands.

II. THIS SINFULNESS IS MOST APPARENT TO THE DIVINE JUDGMENT. Men are not always alive to their own sinfulness. Not apprehending righteousness, they have not an accurate standard by which to judge themselves. But in the Divine view the very angels, who are superior to men, are not pure: "The heavens are not clean in his sight."

III. THIS SINFULNESS EXHIBITS ITSELF IN GREAT IMPURITY OF LIFE AND SPIRIT. Happily there are many exceptions, and we live in brighter, better times than did Job; yet how truly is it still to be said, "How much more abominable and filthy is man!"

IV. THIS SINFULNESS IS ESPECIALLY SHOWN IN AN ACTIVE PREFERENCE OF EVIL BEFORE GOOD. He "drinketh iniquity like water." Eliphaz has been led from general views to single out the sad cases which all may observe, and which bear such painful testimony, that if human life be not checked in its natural tendencies, it degenerates to the worst conditions of evil.

Therefore:

1. Life to be guarded with great care, lest degenerating influences exert destructive power over it.

2. The most potent corrections to be sought; the need of regeneration.

3. The instruction, grace, and sanctification of the Spirit of God to be thankfully received and most carefully cherished.—R.G.

Job 15:20-30

The consequences of evil-doing.

It is impossible that wrong-doing should go wholly unpunished, for were there no positive penal inflictions, the mere natural consequences of wrong-doing would bring inevitable penalties. The words in these verses refer to the present natural consequences of wrong-doing, not to the final penal inflictions which must follow. The evils which the practice of wickedness tends to bring upon the head of the evil-doer, though many may escape, are thus stated.

I. HE ENDURES PAIN ALL HIS DAYS. The reference is probably to inward sufferings, and the anxieties which a course of wrong must cause. But the physical pains are also great. Perhaps most physical pain is the consequence of wrong-doing. Keeping the righteous Law of God by man would free the human life from suffering as truly as it frees the life of the beast or the bird. Broken law, known or unknown, must, in the disturbance it brings, cause pain.

II. Another source of punishment to the evil-doer is in THE CONDEMNATIONS OF CONSCIENCE WHICH HE INCURS. The seat of all true judgment is the conscience. It is the sum of all the soul's powers—the great tribunal before which all actions are brought. There the verdict is passed; there the penalty imposed—"a dreadful sound is in his ears." If the conscience be indurated, the life is so much the more degraded and the punishment the greater.

III. The wicked man suffers in THE FEARS WHICH HE EXPERIENCES. "He knoweth that the day of darkness is ready at his hand." A dark day awaits him, and he knows it. He carries his fear with him wherever he goes. Judgment has been passed upon his evil-doing by his own conscience—by himself. The penalty has been awarded, and he goes about expecting its infliction. The fear of punishment hangs over his head.

IV. ALL THIS DEEPENS INTO A DARK DREAD BY WHICH HE IS HAUNTED. His spirit has no rest. "Trouble and anguish make him afraid.'' They wage war against him and despoil him. They "prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle."

V. Further evils follow in HIS OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES.

1. His dwelling shall be desolate (Job 15:28).

2. His riches fade away. He holds everything by an uncertain tenure.

3. He shall dwell in gloom. "He shall not depart out of darkness."

4. He finally perishes by the breath of God. "By the breath of his mouth shall he go away." This is the portion of the man who "stretcheth out his hand against God." The assured Christian hope is bright, clear, comforting. It changes "the night into day;" it makes the darkness short, because of light; the "grave" is exchanged for the "house" on high; "corruption" puts on incorruption; "the bars of the pit" are burst; and the resting "together in the dust" passes into the "rest in him."—R.G.

HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY

Job 15:4

Restraining prayer.

Eliphaz thinks that Job's wild words are a reproach to religion, and that the effect of them will be to undermine faith and discourage prayer. His is a common alarm of short-sighted, cautious people who think it safest to suppress doubt, and to whom the hasty utterances of a disturbed mind are most dreadful, although the fact is that the cold repetition of narrow and erroneous dogmas is far more hurt[hi to the cause of spiritual religion.

I. THE EVIL OF RESTRAINING PRAYER. However it may be brought about, there cannot be two opinions of the evil of this course of action. It may be said that we need not pray because God knows what we require without our telling him—knows it even better than we know it ourselves. The answer to this excuse or difficulty is that the object of prayer is not to add to God's information, but to commit our needs to him.

1. We lose what God gives in response to prayer. He expects us to entrust ourselves to him. He has bidden us seek his face (Psalms 27:8). Christ has told us to ask, that we may receive (John 16:24). St. James explains that we "have not" sometimes just "because we ask not" (James 4:2).

2. We miss the spiritual blessedness of prayer. The chief good of prayer is not in the gifts it calls down from heaven, but in the very exercise itself. It is a greater blessing than any of the things that it is the means of bringing to us. To be in communion with God is better than to receive any favours from God.

"Prayer is the Christian's vital breath."

Restraining prayer is the soul holding its breath. This must end in death. Even when it is not complete, the stifling of the spiritual activities must result.

II. THE CAUSES OF RESTRAINING PRAYER.

1. Whatever leads to unbelief. This was Eliphaz's thought, though he misapplied it, for he imagined that Job's extravagant utterances would discourage men's faith in religion and in the efficacy of prayer. But the truth is that the dreary formalism, the dismal orthodoxy which clung to antiquity and ignored spiritual instincts, the harsh uncharitableness that killed the spirit of religion while defending the name of it, were the greater hindrances to faith. When faith is thus hindered prayer freezes on our lips.

2. Worldly living. Some men are too busy to find time for prayer. But Luther is repotted to have said he had so much to do that he could not afford less than four hours a day for prayer, regarding prayer as the secret of strength for work. It is possible to be much in prayer, however, without giving a long time to acts of devotion; for prayer is inward and spiritual. It is not the occupation of one's time, but the ensnaring of one's heart with worldly things, that restrains prayer.

3. Sin. The penitent sinner may and will pray, casting himself on the mercy of God. Christ's model of the prayer that is acceptable to God is the cry of the penitent, "God, be merciful to me a sinner." But sin harboured and loved completely crushes the spirit of prayer. No man can really pray who will not renounce his sin. Of course, it is possible to cry out selfishly for some gift from God. But the real prayer, which is communion with God, must be repressed and restrained by sin, because sin is separation from God.—W.F.A.

Job 15:6

A man condemned by his own mouth.

These words have a singular and quite unintentional application as they proceed from one of Job's comforters. Eliphaz means them for his victim, but they rebound on their author. The three friends afford striking instances of men condemned by their own mouths. As we read their pretentious and unsympathetic sentences, we cannot but also read between the lines the self-condemnation of the speakers. The only safe way to use so dangerous a weapon as that which Eliphaz here employs is to turn it against ourselves. Let us each inquire how we may be condemned by our own mouths.

I. BY CONFESSION.

1. The duty. This is the most obvious and direct method of self-condemnation, and it is the most honourable. It is shameful to sin, but it is more shameful to deny our guilt and try to hush up our evil-doing. There is something manly in daring to own one's own wrong deeds. It would be better if we could do it more among men, confessing our faults one to another (James 5:16). It is absolutely necessary that we should do it to God. Confession is the first condition of forgiveness.

2. The difficulty. Now, this confession is by no means so easy as it appears before we have attempted it for ourselves. Not only is there pride to be overcome and the fear of obloquy to be mastered, but the subtle self-deceit of the heart must be conquered. For we are always tempted to plead excuses and extenuating circumstances. Yet no confession is worth anything that keeps hack part of the guilt. Confession must be frank, unreserved, whole-hearted, or it will run into hypocrisy. It is better not to confess our sins at all than to try to make them appear in a good light. The true attitude of penitence is one of utter self-abandonment, one of profound self-abasement.

II. BY ACCUSING OTHERS. Thus Eliphaz thought Job condemned himself by trying to bring a charge against God, and at the same time Eliphaz succeeded m condemning himself by accusing Job. The beam is never so visible in our own eye as when we are attempting to remove the mote from our brother's eye. A censorious spirit brings a person into odious notoriety and invites criticism. He should be well able to stand a searching cross-examination who enters the witness-box against his neighbour. But further, the very spirit of censoriousness is evil, and the exhibition of such a spirit is self-condemnatory. While we condemn our brother for unorthodoxy, our very spirit and action condemn us for want of charity—a much greater fault.

III. BY ALL OUR SPEAKING. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." We cannot be long with a person without some of his true character revealing itself. Men are not such inscrutable enigmas as they flatter themselves with being. The general conversation must reflect the normal tone of the life. Particular deeds of wickedness may be hidden in impenetrable silence, but the evil heart from which they spring cannot be thus hidden. Therefore we are to be judged by every idle word (Matthew 12:36)—not because careless speech is a great sin, but because our unreflecting language reveals our true selves. It is the straw that shows the set of the current.—W.F.A.

Job 15:11

Unappreciated consolations.

Eliphaz is disappointed at the failure of the consolations which he and his two friends intended for the mitigation of Job's sorrows. He coolly assumes that these consolations are from God, and that Job despises their Divine worth. So he asks—Are the consolations of God small things to Job, and the gentle words in which they are conveyed but little appreciated? Let us see how it comes about that consolations are not appreciated. The fault may lie with the consoler or with the sufferer.

I. WHEN THE FAULT IS WITH THE CONSOLER. It is very difficult to offer true consolation. Too often we only chafe the sore which we would soothe, and hurt when we think to heal. Where is the cause of failure?

1. A false assumption. Eliphaz assumes that he and his friends have been bringing to Job the consolations of God, whereas they have been doing nothing of the kind. Their hard doctrine of exact, temporary retribution is not true, and it could not have come from God. Truth is the first requisite in all speech and counsel. It is a common error to confound man's notions with God's truth. Very often the protest which we take to be a rejection of the gospel is only urged against our unworthy presentation of it. The failure of people to receive the truth of Christ is frequently due to the ugly and odious ideas of man with which that truth is confused.

2. A mistaken judgment. Job could not accept the well-meant consolations of the three friends because they implied that he was a great sinner, and called him to repent of what he knew he should not have been credited with doing. The injustice of the charge soured the consolation, and its balm was turned to bitterness. We must learn to understand men if we would help and comfort them.

3. An unsympathetic method. The three friends did not appreciate Job's sufferings; therefore he could not appreciate their consolations. Sympathy is the most essential ingredient of comforting influences. Until we can feel with the sufferer, all our attempts to aid him will be but bungling failures. The Divine Spirit is the great Comforter, because he enters our hearts and lives with intelligence and sympathy.

II. WHEN THE FAULT IS WITH THE SUFFERER.

1. Impenitence It might have been as Eliphaz had supposed, and in some cases it is so, and then the guilty man excludes the Divine consolations by refusing to confess his sins. So long as the sinner declines to admit his guilt he cannot receive God's comfort. The grace of God is sufficient for all the needs of all his children, and yet none of it is effective with his disobedient and unrepentant children.

2. Rebellion. Possibly no great sin has been committed, and no great guilt incurred, and still the attitude of the sufferer towards his God may exclude consolation. He must submit in order to be comforted. Resignation is a condition of Divine consolation. When the wind is opposed to the tide, it tears off the crests of the waves and flings them about in wild spray; whereas when wind and tide flow together, the great rollers run smoothly on to the beach. It is our rebellion against the tide of providence that tears our life and makes its bitterest agony. When we have learnt to say, "Thy will be done," our harmony with God's will smooths down the height of the trouble and prepares for the Divine peace.

3. Unbelief. Until we can trust God his consolation seems small to us. It is not valued till it is tried. Unbelief minimizes grace. According to our faith is the blessing, great or small.—W.F.A.

Job 15:12

Heart-wanderings.

Eliphaz cannot understand Job. He will assume that the sufferer is guilty, and that, when he protests his innocence and refuses the consolations offered on condition of repentance, the patriarch is betrayed by his own heart into turning his spirit against God. As usual, what Eliphaz says, though it is not applicable directly to Job, still in itself contains an important lesson.

I. WE ARE LED BY OUR HEARTS.

1. The inner life. All life flows outward from hidden, deep-seated springs, as the Jordan at Banias bursts out of the cave of Pan beneath Mount Hermon, a full river, whose secret origin is too remote and deep for any man to discover it.

2. The thought. The heart in the Bible stands for the whole inner life, and therefore it includes the thinking faculty. Now, we are governed largely by our ideas of things; not by things as they are, but by things as they appear to us. Therefore we need to think truly.

3. The affections and desires. We are chiefly moved by what we love. The love of sin is the parent of sin. If the heart is betrayed into entertaining low desires, a degraded conduct follows.

II. OUR HEARTS ARE PRONE TO ERR.

1. In weakness. We have not fixed thoughts and affections. The life within is in continuous change and movement. At the same time, its weakness makes it peculiarly liable to be led astray.

2. In sinful inclination. We inherit tendencies to evil. Our own self-chosen conduct creates habits of evil. Thus our heart tends downward. Left to itself, it will go astray and drag us down to ruin. The human heart is ever wandering and rebellious until it has been renewed.

III. THE WANDERING HEART LEADS TO RUIN. We are tempted to neglect the evil on three accounts.

1. That it is internal. Thus it seems to be a secret thing, not concerned with conduct. But as it is the spring of all our conduct, the excuse is a delusion.

2. That it is under our control. The idea is that we can stop before we have gone too far. We are not the slaves of another, we are our own masters. This is also a delusion, for the heart gets out of control.

3. That it only concerns ourselves. It is only our heart that wanders, and our heart is our own possession. This is to assume that we are not accountable to God. But the supreme Judge takes account of the heart as well as of the outward act, and condemns for heart-sins (Matthew 15:19).

IV. THE WANDERING HEART NEEDS TO BE RENEWED. Sin comes from the heart; then sin must be cured in the heart. Clean hands are of little use without a clean heart.

1. Cleansing. The guilt of sin needs to he washed away; the love and desire of sin also need to be pureed out of the heart. This is so difficult a work that only the Creator can do it. "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalms 51:10).

2. Recovery. The wandering heart must be brought back to God. It is not enough that sin is cast out. The love of God must be planted, and the heart must be restored to fellowship with God. These are blessings which come with the reception of Christ into the heart.

3. Preservation. We are bidden to keep our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). But we find the treacherous heart eluding our utmost vigilance, and wandering in spite of all our care. Therefore we have to find safety in obeying a second command, "My son, give me thy heart" (Proverbs 23:26).—W.F.A.

Job 15:14-16

God's holiness and man's sin.

Eliphaz takes up Job's words (Job 14:1-4), but turns them against their author. Job had spoken of inherited frailty as a ground for pity; Eliphaz seizes on it as an accusation of guilt. How dare this puny, imperfect creature, man, boast of his innocence in the sight of the holy God?

I. GOD'S HOLINESS IS INCOMPARABLE. This is an idea which we take for granted. Yet it was not found in most heathen religions. Monotheism is commonly reckoned as the great peculiarity of the Hebrew faith; but a more striking peculiarity is holiness. The neighbouring divinities were just representations of magnified human passions, often more degraded and immoral than men. The revelation of the true God shows that he is not only above all human passion; he is perfect in holiness. We can find no image with which to compare his purity. The mountain is high above the plain, hut mountain and plain are equally low when we think of the stars. Our goodness may mean something among men, but it does not extend to God (Psalms 16:2). Even the very angels veil their faces before him, awed by the majesty of absolute goodness. Yet God's goodness in being absolute is not so because he is infinite. If it were, it would be unfair to complain that we could not approach it. An inch of snow may be as pure as an acre of snow.

II. GOD'S HOLINESS REVEALS MAN'S SIN. We do not know our sin till we see it in the light of God. There are in the farmyard fowls black and white. But when the snow has fallen the white fowls look so no longer, because by the side of the Heaven-sent purity of the snow their plumage is seen to be of a very impure colour. There are men of various character, and some are accounted white-souled saints. But when placed by the side of God's holiness these are the first to confess that their righteousness is as filthy rags. Christ revealed the sin of his age in contrast to his own holiness. We do not own our sinfulness because we do not know God's goodness. It is not the Law, but God's goodness in Christ, that most makes us feel our sin.

III. GOD'S HOLINESS CANNOT ENDURE SIN. Sin may stand uurebuked and unchecked in the world, because all are "tarred with the same brush." Thus there is a dangerous condoning of conventional evil. But this is not possible with God. Holiness and sin are opposed as light and darkness. The thought of God's holiness alone makes men tremble.

Eternal Light, Eternal Light!

How pure the soul must be

When, placed within thy searching sight,

It shrinks not, but with calm delight

Can live and look on thee!"

Therefore God must deal with sin, to banish and destroy it. If the sinner cleaves to his sin he cannot but share in its doom. If, however, he will detach himself from it, it will be destroyed, while he is saved. God hates the sin, not the sinner. Now, God's holy hatred of sin should be regarded by us as a reason for great thankfulness. For the sin he hates is just our most deadly enemy. If he destroys our sin, he saves our soul from its fatal foe. On the other hand, only God can give the purity which is needed for his presence. We may make ourselves seem fair before man. Only God can purify us so that we are fit for his presence, only the blood of Christ can cleanse from all sin (1 John 1:7).—W.F.A.

Job 15:31

Trusting in vanity.

I. THE HABIT OF TRUSTING IN VANITY. The vanity spoken of is any empty ground of trust, like an island of floating weeds on which careless people build their homes, but which will be shattered, with all that is on it, in the first storm.

1. A delusion. We may be persuaded to accept what is not true. Our belief does not give any reality to the delusion; we are then trusting in vanity.

2. Self. We are all too ready to think our own resources greater than they are. Yet every man who trusts to himself supremely is trusting in vanity, for all are sinful, frail, and prone to err.

3. Man. The psalmist warns us against putting our trust in man (Psalms 118:8).

4. A creed. The creed may be true, yet if we trust to that, and not to Christ, we trust in vanity. Faith which saves is not the mental consent to a string of propositions; it is living confidence in a personal Saviour.

5. A Church. We are members of a Church, pro-resting the Christian faith and in communion with the brotherhood of Christians. Yet if our confidence is in the Church rather than in Christ our hope is vain. The Church is the body of those who are being saved; it is not the Saviour.

II. THE FATE OF TRUSTING IN VANITY. "Vanity shall be his recompense." Here, as elsewhere, "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Let us consider the nature and course of this fate.

1. A postponed result. The vanity tempts with a plausible appearance of substantiality, it is not discovered the moment it is trusted. A man may so blind himself as to trust in vanity all his life, and at last die in his delusions. How great and fearful must be the final awakening of such a self-deceiver! There will be enough punishment for some men in the very discovery of the utter vanity of their hopes.

2. A sure result. Every man's future is moulded according to what he relies upon. His fate is determined by his God. If he worships mammon, self, or sin, his condition in the future will be the direct outcome of the present devotion of his heart. This is just a case of natural causation running into the spiritual life.

3. A miserable result. The vanity does not appear to be a very dreadful thing when it is first seen. Yet to possess it for ever as an inheritance is the punishment of its dupe. For when it is found out it must be loathed. Though we may trust in what is unsubstantial, we cannot live upon it. The soul that tries to support itself on lies and pretences will starve as surely as the body which is fed on nothing but air.

4. A merited result. The trust was not in evil, only in vanity. There was no choice of a positively bad or hurtful thing. The worst is vacancy and negation. Yet vacancy and negation are justly recompensed after their kind. The empty soul goes deservedly to outer darkness. We need a positive ground of faith. The only sure ground, the one Foundation, is Jesus Christ, He who trusts the Rock of Ages will not be recompensed with vanity.—W.F.A.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 15:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/job-15.html. 1897.

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