Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Job 40:4

"Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You? I lay my hand on my mouth.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Afflictions and Adversities;   Conviction;   God;   Humility;   Job;   Prayer;   Repentance;   Sin;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Humility;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Leviathan;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - God;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Adore;   Job;   Providence;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Job, the Book of;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Hand;   Job, Book of;   Mouth;   Vile;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Adoration;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for December 14;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Behold, I am vile - I acknowledge my inward defilement. I cannot answer thee.

I will lay mine hand upon my mouth - I cannot excuse myself, and I must be dumb before thee.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/job-40.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Behold, I am vile: what shall I answer thee? - “Instead of being able to argue my cause, and to vindicate myself as I had expected, I now see that I am guilty, and I have nothing to say.” He had argued boldly with his friends. He had, before them, maintained his innocence of the charges which they brought against him, and had supposed that he would be able to maintain the same argument before God. But when the opportunity was given, he felt that he was a poor, weak man; a guilty and miserable offender. It is a very different thing to maintain our cause before God, from what it is to maintain it before people; and though we may attempt to vindicate our own righteousness when we argue with our fellow-creatures, yet when we come to maintain it before God we shall be dumb. On earth, people vindicate themselves; what will they do when they come to stand before God in the judgment?

I will lay mine hand upon my mouth - An expression of silence. Catlin, in his account of the Mandan Indians, says that this is a common custom with them when anything wonderful occurs. Some of them laid their hands on their mouths and remained in this posture by the hour, as an expression of astonishment at the wonders produced by the brush in the art of painting; compare Job 21:5, note; Job 29:9, note.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/job-40.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Behold, I am vile,.... Or "light"F1קלתי "levis sum", Cocceius, Michaelis; "leviter locutus sum", V. L. ; which may have respect either to his words and arguments, which he thought had force in them, but now he saw they had none; or to his works and actions, the integrity of his life, and the uprightness of his ways, which he imagined were weighty and of great importance, but now being weighed in the balances of justice were found wanting; or it may refer to his original meanness and distance from God, being dust and ashes, and nothing in comparison of him; and so the Septuagint version is, "I am nothing"; see Isaiah 40:17; or rather to the original vileness and sinfulness of his nature he had now a sight of, and saw how he had been breaking forth in unbecoming expressions concerning God and his providence: the nature of man is exceeding vile and sinful; his heart desperately wicked; his thoughts, and the imaginations of them, evil, and that continually; his mind and conscience are defiled; his affections inordinate, and his understanding and will sadly depraved; he is vile in soul and body; of all which an enlightened man is convinced, and will acknowledge;

what shall I answer thee? I am not able to answer thee, who am but dust and ashes; what more can I say than to acknowledge my levity, vanity, and vileness? he that talked so big, and in such a blustering manner of answering God, as in Job 13:22; now has nothing to say for himself;

I will lay mine hand upon my mouth; impose silence upon himself, and as it were lay a restraint upon himself from speaking: it looks as if there were some workings in Job's heart; he thought he could say something, and make some reply, but durst not, for fear of offending yet more and more, and therefore curbed it in; see Psalm 39:1.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/job-40.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

Behold, I am r vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.

(r) By which he shows that he repented and desired pardon for his faults.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/job-40.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

I am (too) vile (to reply). It is a very different thing to vindicate ourselves before God, from what it is before men. Job could do the latter, not the former.

lay  …  hand  …  upon  …  mouth — I have no plea to offer (Job 21:5; Judges 18:19).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/job-40.html. 1871-8.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 40:4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.

Ver. 4. Behold, I am vile] Light and little worth; and therefore deserve to be slighted and laid by, as a broken vessel. The humble man vilifies, yea, nullifies, himself before God, as Abraham, Genesis 18:27; as Agur, Proverbs 30:3; as Paul, Ephesians 3:8; as that martyr who cried out, Gehenna sum Domine, Lord, Thou art heaven, but I am hell, &c. Tantillitas nostra, saith Ignatius of himself and his colleagues. Behold, I am an abject, saith Job here, contemptible and inconsiderable. This was well, but not all; an excellent confession, but not full enough: his meanness he acknowledgeth, and that he was no fit match for God; but not his sinfulness, with desire of pardon and deprecation of punishment; God therefore gives him not over so, but sets upon him a second time, Job 40:6, and brings him to it, Job 42:1. There must be some proportion between a man’s sin and his repentance, Ezra 9:1-15, and this God will bring all his Jobs to ere he leave them.

What shall I answer thee?] I am silenced, and set down; I see there is no reasoning against thee; I acknowledge thy greatness so plainly and plentifully demonstrated in the foregoing discourse; and am well pleased that thou shouldest be justified when thou speakest and overcome when thou judgest, Psalms 51:4, Romans 3:4.

I will lay my hand upon my mouth] I that have spoken more freely and boldly than I ought, Et ore patulo multa sine iudicio effutivi, and have opened my mouth more wide than was meet, will henceforth be better advised, and keep my mouth with a bridle, or muzzle, as Psalms 31:1. {See Trapp on "Job 21:5"}

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 40:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-40.html. 1865-1868.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 491

TRUE HUMILIATION

Job 40:4. Behold, I am vile!

THESE are the words of a man whom God had pronounced “perfect and upright.” As a fallen descendant of Adam, he partook of the corruption of our common nature: but as a child of God, he was one of the most eminent of all the human race. It may be thought, indeed, that this confession of his proved him to have been guilty of some enormous crime; but it evinced rather his great advancement in the divine life, and his utter abhorrence of all evil. Doubtless there was just occasion for this acknowledgment, because he had transgressed with his lips in arraigning the conduct of Providence towards him: but, if they were suited to his case, much more are they so to all those who possess not his high attainments.

We shall consider the words as expressing,

I. A discovery then made—

Job had certainly low views of himself upon the whole [Note: Job 9:20; Job 9:30-31.]: yet he had spoken in too unqualified terms in vindication of his own character [Note: Job 10:6-7; Job 16:17.]. Instances of this Elihu had brought to his remembrance [Note: Job 32:2; Job 33:8-12; Job 35:2.]; and God himself testified against him in this respect [Note: Job 38:2; Job 40:2-8.]. Job had repeatedly expressed his wish, that God would admit him, as it were, to a conference; and had expressed his confidence that he could maintain his cause before him [Note: Job 23:1-5; Job 31:35-37.]: but now that God did interpose, he saw how much he had erred, and that all his former confidence was presumption. He now saw,

1. That his conduct had been sinful—

[Being conscious of the integrity of his heart, in relation to the things which his friends had laid to his charge, he had done right in maintaining his innocence before them: but he had erred in maintaining it to the extent he did; he had erred in imagining that he had not merited at God’s hands the calamities inflicted on him; and, above all, in complaining of God as acting unjustly and cruelly towards him. These workings of his heart he now saw to be exceeding sinful, as betraying too high thoughts of himself, and great irreverence towards the God of heaven and earth, “in whose sight the very heavens are not clean, and who chargeth his angels with folly.” This sin therefore he now bitterly bewailed.]

2. That his whole heart was sinful—

[He did not view his conduct as a mere insulated act; but took occasion, from the fruit which had been produced, to examine the root from which it sprang. He now traced the bitter waters to their fountain-head, and discovered thereby the bitterness of the spring from whence they flowed. This was altogether a new discovery to him: he had no conception how desperately wicked his heart was, and that the evils he had committed would have broke forth with ten thousand times greater violence, if they had not been restrained by the grace of God. The rebellion of which he had been guilty now proved indisputably to him, that he was of himself as prone to sin as any of the human race, and that, if he differed from the vilest of mankind, he had nothing to boast of, since he had not made himself to differ, nor did he possess any thing which he had not received as the free gift of God [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:7.]. This is the true way of estimating any individual sin [Note: Psalms 51:3; Psalms 51:5. Mark 7:21; Mark 7:23.] — — — and in this way alone shall we ever attain a just knowledge of ourselves.]

But we must further view his words as expressing,

II. An acknowledgment of the truth then discovered—

“Out of the abundance of his heart his mouth spake.” Feeling his sinfulness, it was an ease, rather than a pain, to him to confess it before God and man. Behold here,

1. The ingenuousness of his confession—

[Here were no excuses made, nor any suggestions offered to extenuate his guilt. He might have pleaded the weight of his sufferings, and the falseness of the accusations brought against him: but he saw that nothing can excuse sin; and that, whatever palliatives may be adduced to lessen its enormity in the sight of man, it is most hateful in the sight of God, and ought to abase us in the dust before him. That his sin on this occasion was an exception to his general conduct, did not at all change, in his estimation, the malignity of it: on the contrary, the enormity of it would appear in proportion to the mercies he had before received, and to the profession of piety he had before maintained.

Now thus it is that we also should acknowledge our vileness before God. Doubtless there may be circumstances which may greatly aggravate our transgressions; and these it will be at all times proper to notice: but it is never wise to look on the side that leads to a palliation of sin: self-love is so rooted in our hearts, that we shall always be in danger of forming too favourable a judgment of ourselves: the humiliation of the publican is that which at all times befits us: nor can we ever be in a more becoming state than when, with Job, we “repent and abhor ourselves in dust and ashes.”]

2. The dispositions with which it was accompanied—

[He submitted to reproof, and acknowledged himself guilty in relation to the very thing that was laid to hit charge. This is a good test of true and genuine repentance. It is easy to acknowledge the sinfulness of our nature; but for a man, after long and strenuously maintaining his integrity, to confess his fault before the very people who have vehemently accused him, is no small attainment: yet did Job confess, that he had repeatedly offended, both in justifying himself, and in condemning God. Moreover, he declared his resolution, with God’s help, to offend no more [Note: ver. 5.]: and by this he manifested beyond a doubt the reality and depth of his repentance. Of what use is that penitence that does not inspire us with a fixed purpose to sin no more? Humiliation without amendment is of no avail: “the repentance which is not to be repented of” produces such an indignation against sin, as will never leave us under the power of it any more [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:10-11.]. May we all bear this in remembrance, and, by the entire change in our conduct, “approve ourselves in all things to be clear in this matter [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:10-11.]!”]

Address—

1. Those who entertain a good opinion of themselves—

[How is it possible that you should be right? Are you better than Job, who is represented by the prophet as one of the most perfect characters that ever existed upon earth [Note: Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20.]? or if you were subjected to the same trials, would you endure them with more patience than he, of whom an Apostle speaks with admiration, saying, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job?” Know, then, that whilst you are indulging a self-righteous, self-complacent spirit, you betray an utter ignorance of your real state and character, and are altogether destitute of true repentance. Moreover, to you the Gospel is of no avail: for, what do you want of a Physician when you are not sick; or what of a Saviour, when you are not lost? O put away from you your Laodicean pride, lest you be rejected by God with indignation and abhorrence [Note: Revelation 3:17-18.]. But if, notwithstanding this warning, you are determined to hold fast your confidence, then think whether “you will be strong in the day that God shall deal with you,” or be able to stand before him as your Accuser and your Judge? Be assured, that if Job could not answer his God in this world, much less will you be able to do it in the world to come.]

2. Those who are humbled under a sense of their vileness—

[We bless God if you have been brought with sincerity of heart to say, “Behold, I am vile.” If you feel your vileness as you ought, then will all the promises of the Gospel appear to you exactly suited to your state, and Christ be truly precious to your souls. Whom does he invite to come unto him, but the weary and heavy laden? What was the end for which he died upon the cross? Was it not to save sinners, even the chief? Yes, verily; “it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation [Note: 1 Timothy 1:15.]” — — — But whilst we would encourage all to come and wash away their sins in the fountain of his blood, we would caution all against turning the grace of God into licentiousness. Many, in acknowledging the depravity of their nature, make it almost an excuse for their sins. Their acknowledgments may be strong; but they are attended with no tenderness of spirit, no deep contrition, no real self-lothing and self-abhorrence. Brethren, above all things guard against such a state as this. Whilst you are ignorant of your vileness there is hope that your eyes may be opened to see it, and your heart be humbled under a sense of it: but to acknowledge it and yet remain obdurate, is a fearful presage of final impenitence, and everlasting ruin [Note: Revelation 16:9; Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21.]. If you would be right, you must stand equally remote from presumption and despondency: your vileness must drive you, not from Christ, but to him; and when you are most confident of your acceptance with him, you must walk softly before him all the days of your life.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Job 40:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/job-40.html. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

I am vile, what am I, a mean and contemptible creature that should presume to contend with my Maker and Judge? I confess my fault and folly.

What shall I answer thee? I neither desire nor am able to dispute with thee. I will for the future bridle my tongue, and instead of contesting with thee, do here humbly and willingly submit myself to thee.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 40:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/job-40.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

JOB’S ANSWER — HIS SELF-HUMILIATION AND CONFESSION, 4, 5.

Job confesses that he is base, and that he has been foolish in his repeated speeches; and, finally, retracting his arrogant challenges of God, covenants with him that he will no longer contend with Deity, 4, 5.

“From the marvellous in nature, Job now divines that which is marvellous in his affliction. His humiliation under the mysteries of nature, is at the same time humiliation under the mystery of affliction; and only now, when he penitently reverses the mystery he has hitherto censured, is it time that its inner glory should be revealed to him. The bud is mature, and can now burst forth in order to disclose the blended colors of its natural beauty.” — Delitzsch.

4.Behold, I am vile — In the sense of mean, despicable: ; a word Job had in part applied to the wicked — “light ( ) is he on the face of the waters.” (Job 24:18.) Job’s sense of shame is quickened. He feels his folly; but is not yet sufficiently sensible of his spiritual deformity. Hence the necessity that God should speak again. The conciseness of the reply points to trouble within; deep conviction is never wordy. It is thus with the cry “God be merciful to me, the sinner.” Luke 18:13. Hand upon my mouth — See Job 21:5; Job 29:9.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-40.html. 1874-1909.

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible

"I lay my hand on my mouth": Job now does what he suggested that his friends do (21:5).

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Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/job-40.html. 1999-2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

I am vile. This is true wisdom. This is "the end of the Lord" (James 5:11), and the "end" of this whole book.

what . . . ? Figure of speech Erotesis. App-6.

lay mine hand, &c. Symbolic of silence and submission.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/job-40.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.

I am (too) vile - to reply. It is a very different thing to vindicate ourselves before God from what it is before men. Job could do the latter, not the former.

Lay ... hand upon ... mouth - I have no plea to offer (Job 21:5; Judges 18:19).

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/job-40.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Behold
42:6; Genesis 18:27; 32:10; 2 Samuel 24:10; 1 Kings 19:4; Ezra 9:6,15; Nehemiah 9:33; Psalms 51:4,5; Isaiah 6:5; 53:6; 64:6; Daniel 9:5,7; Luke 5:8; 15:18,19; 18:13; 1 Timothy 1:15
what
9:31-35; 16:21; 23:4-7; 31:37
I will
21:5; 29:9; Judges 18:19; Psalms 39:9; Proverbs 30:32; Micah 7:16; Habakkuk 2:20; Zechariah 2:13
Reciprocal: Genesis 18:30 - GeneralGenesis 44:16 - What shall we say;  Leviticus 13:12 - cover all;  Leviticus 13:23 - General1 Samuel 7:6 - We have sinned;  2 Samuel 6:22 - in mine;  1 Kings 18:21 - answered;  Job 1:22 - charged God foolishly;  Job 13:2 - GeneralJob 13:15 - but I will;  Job 13:22 - GeneralJob 30:8 - viler;  Job 31:35 - Oh;  Psalm 106:33 - he spake;  Isaiah 43:26 - Put;  Isaiah 52:15 - kings;  Lamentations 1:11 - see;  Lamentations 3:29 - putteth;  Ezekiel 16:63 - and never;  Jonah 4:9 - I do well to be angry;  Zephaniah 1:7 - thy;  Matthew 15:27 - Truth;  Mark 14:31 - he spake;  Romans 6:21 - whereof;  1 Corinthians 4:4 - yet;  Galatians 3:11 - that

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Job 40:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/job-40.html.