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But now they that are younger than I - Margin, “of fewer days.” It is not probable that Job here refers to his three friends. It is not possible to determine their age with accuracy, but in Job 15:10, they claim that there were with them old and very aged men, much older than the father of Job. Though that place may possibly refer not to themselves but to those who held the same opinions with them, yet none of those who engaged in the discussion, except Ehhu Job 32:6, are represented as young men. They were the contemporaries of Job; men who are ranked as his friends; and men who showed that they had had oppoptunities for long and careful observation. The reference here, therefore, is to the fact that while, in the days of his prosperity, even the aged and the honorable rose up to do him reverence, now he was the object of contempt even by the young and the worthless. The Orientals would feel this much. It was among the chief virtues with them to show respect to the aged, and their sensibilites were especially keen in regard to any indignity shown to them by the young.
Whose fathers I would have disdained - Who are the children of the lowest and most degraded of the community. How deep the calamity to be so fallen as to be the subject of derision by such men!
To have set with the dogs of my flock - To have associated with my dogs in guarding my flock. That is, they were held in less esteem than his dogs. This was the lowest conceivable point of debasement. The Orientals had no language that would express greater contempt of anyone than to call him a dog; compare Deuteronomy 23:18; 1Sa 17:43; 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 3:8; 2 Samuel 9:8; 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Kings 8:13; Note Isaiah 66:3.
Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me - There has been much difference of opinion respecting the meaning of this passage. The general sense is clear. Job means to describe those who were reduced by poverty and want, and who were without respectability or home, and who had no power in any way to affect him. He states that they were so abject and worthless as not to be worth his attention; but even this fact is intended to show how low he was himself reduced, since even the most degraded ranks in life did not show any respect to one who had been honored by princes. The Vulgate renders this, “The strength - virtus - of whose hands is to me as nothing, and they are regarded as unworthy of life.” The Septuagint, “And the strength of their hands what is it to me? Upon whom perfection - συντέλεια sunteleia - has perished.” Coverdale, “The power and strength of their hands might do me no good, and as for their age, it is spent and passed away without any profit.” The literal translation is, “Even the strength of their hands, what is it to me?” The meaning is, that their power was not worth regarding. They were abject, feeble, and reduced by hunger - poor emaciated creatures, who could do him neither good nor evil. Yet this fact did not make him feel less the indignity of being treated by such vagrants with scorn.
In whom old age was perished - Or, rather, in whom vigor, or the power of accomplishing, anything, has ceased. The word כלח kelach, means “completion,” or the act or power of finishing or completing anything. Then it denotes old age - age as “finished” or “completed;” Job 5:26. Here it means the maturity or vigor which would enable a man to complete or accomplish anything, and the idea is, that in these persons this had utterly perished. Reduced by hunger and want, they had no power of effecting anything, and were unworthy of regard. The word used here occurs only in this book in Hebrew Job 5:26; Job 30:2, but is common in Arabic; where it refers to the “wrinkles,” the “wanness,” and the “austere aspect” of the countenance, especially in age. See “Castell’s Lex.”
For want and famine - By hunger and poverty their strength is wholly exhausted, and they are among the miserable outcasts of society. In order to show the depth to which he himself was sunk in public estimation, Job goes into a description of the state of these miserable wretches, and says that he was treated with contempt by the very scum of society, by those who were reduced to the most abject wretchedness, and who wandered in the deserts, subsisting on roots, without clothing, shelter, or home, and who were chased away by the respectable portion of the community as if they were thieves and robbers. The description is one of great power, and presents a sad picture of his own condition.
They were solitary - Margin, or, “dark as the night.” Hebrew גלמוד galmûd. This word properly means “hard,” and is applied to a dry, stony, barren soil. In Arabic it means a hard rock. “Umbreit.” In Job 3:7, it is applied to a night in which none are born. Here it seems to denote a countenance, dry, hard, emaciated with hunger. Jerome renders it, “steriles.” The Septuagint, ἄγονος agonos - “sterile.” Prof. Lee, “Hardly beset.” The meaning is, that they were greatly reduced - or dried up - by hunger and want. So Umbreit renders it, “gantz ausgedorrt - altogether dried up.”
Fleeing into the wilderness - Into the desert or lonely wastes. That is, they “fled” there to obtain, on what the desert produced, a scanty subsistence. Such is the usual explanation of the word rendered “flee” - ערק ‛âraq. But the Vulgate, the Syriac, and the Arabic, render it “gnawinq,” and this is followed by Umbreit, Noyes, Schultens, and Good. According to this the meaning is, that they were “gnawers of the desert;” that is, that they lived by gnawing the roots and shrubs which they found in the desert. This idea is much more expressive, and agrees with the connection. The word occurs in Hebrew only in this verse and in Job 30:17, where it is rendered “My sinews,” but which may more appropriately be rendered “My gnawing pains.” In the Syriac and Arabic the word means to “gnaw,” or “corrode,” as the leading signification, and as the sense of the word cannot be determined by its usage in the Hebrew, it is better to depend on the ancient versions, and on its use in the cognate languages. According to this, the idea is, that they picked up a scanty subsistence as they could find it, by gnawing roots and shrubs in the deserts.
In the former time - Margin, “yesternight.” The Hebrew word (אמשׁ 'emesh) means properly last night; the latter part of the preceding day, and then it is used to denote night or darkness in general. Gesenius supposes that this refers to “the night of desolation,” the pathless desert being strikingly compared by the Orientals with darkness. According to this, the idea is not that they had gone but yesterday into the desert, but that they went into the shades and solitudes of the wilderness, far from the homes of men. The sense then is, “They fled into the night of desolate wastes.”
Desolate and waste - In Hebrew the same word occurs in different forms, designed to give emphasis, and to describe the gloom and solitariness of the desert in the most impressive manner. We should express the same idea by saying that they hid themselves in the “shades” of the wilderness.
Et morsu spoliare nemus.
Biddulph (in the collection of Voyages from the Library of the Earl of Oxford, p. 807), says he had seen many poor people in Syria gather mallows and clover, and when he had asked them what they designed to do with it, they answered that it was for food. They cooked and ate them. Herodotus, viii. 115, says, that the army of Xerxes, after their defeat, when they had consumed all the grain of the inhabitants in Thessaly, “fed on the natural produce of the earth, stripping wild and cultivated trees alike of their bark and leaves, to such an extremity of famine were they come.”
They were driven forth from among men - As vagabonds and outcasts. They were regarded as unfit to live among the civilized and the orderly, and were expelled as nuisances.
(They cried after them as after a thief.) - The inhabitants of the place where they lived drove them out with a loud outcry, as if they were thieves and robbers. A class of persons are here described who were mere vagrants and plunderers, and who were not allowed to dwell in civilized society, and it was one of the highest aggravations of the calamities of Job, that he was now treated with derision by such outcasts.
To dwell in the cliffs of the valleys - The word here rendered “cliffs” (ערוץ ‛ârûts) denotes rather “horror,” or something “horrid,” and the sense here is, that they dwelt in “the horrer of valleys;” that is, in horrid valleys. The idea is that of deep and frightful glens, where wild beasts ranged, far from the abodes of men, and surrounded by frightful wastes. The word rendered “valleys” (נחל nachal) means properly a brook, stream, water-course - what is now called a wady; a place where the winter torrents run, but which is usually dry in summer; see the notes at Job 6:15.
In caves of the earth - Margin, as in Hebrew “holes.” Septuagint “Whose houses are - πρῶγλαι πετρῶν trōglai petrōn - caverns of the rocks;” that is, who are “Troglodytes.” Caves furnished a natural dwelling for the poor and the outcast, and it is well known that it was not uncommon in Egypt, and in the deserts of Arabia, to occupy such caves as a habitation; see Diod. Sic. Lib. iii. xiv. and Strabo, Lib. 16,
And in the rocks - The caverns of the rocks. Dr. Richardson found a large number of such dwellings in the vicinity of Thebes, many of which were large and beautifully formed and sculptured with many curious devices. Mr. Rich, also, saw a large number of such caves not far from Mousal. Residence in Koordistan, vol. ii. p. 94.
Among the bushes - Coverdale, “Upon the dry heath went they about crying.” The Hebrew word is the same which occurs in Job 30:4, and means bushes in general. They were heard in the shrubbery that grew in the desert.
They brayed - ינהקו yinâhaqû. The Vulgate renders this, “They were concealed.” The Septuagint, “Amidst sweet sounds they cry out.” Noyes, “They utter their cries.” The Hebrew word properly means to “bray.” It occurs only here and in Job 6:5, where it is applied to the ass. The sense here is, that the voices of this vagrant and wretched multitude was heard in the desert like the braying of asses.
Under the nettles - Dr. Good, “Under the briers.” Prof. Lee, “Beneath the broom-pea.” Noyes, “Under the thorns.” The Hebrew word חרול chârûl, occurs only here and in Zephaniah 2:9, and Proverbs 24:31, in each of which places it is rendered “nettles.” It is probably derived from חרל = חרר, to burn, to glow, and is given to nettles from the burning or prickling sensation which they produce. Either the word nettles, thistles, or thorns, would sufficiently answer to its derivation. It does not occur in the Arabic. Castell. Umbreit renders it, “unter Dornen - under thorns.”
They were gathered together - Vulgate, “They accounted it a delicacy to be in a thorn-hedge.” The word used here (ספח sâphach) means “to add;” and then to be added or assembled together. The idea is, that they were huddled together quite promiscuously in the wild-growing bushes of the desert. They had no home; no separate habitation. This description is interesting, not only as denoting the depth to which Job had been reduced when he was the object of contempt by such vagrants, but as illustrative of a state of society existing then.
They were children of fools - The word rendered “fools” נבל nâbâl, means,
(1) stupid, foolish; and
(2) abandoned, impious; compare 1 Samuel 25:3, 1 Samuel 25:25.
Here it means the worthless, the refuse of society, the abandoned. They had no respectable parentage. Umbreit, “A brood of infamy.” Coverdale, “Children of fools and villains.”
Children of base men - Margin, as in Hebrew, “men of no name.” They were men of no reputation; whose ancestors had in no way been distinguished; possibly meaning, also, that they herded together as beasts without even a name.
They were viler than the earth - Gesenius renders this, “They are frightened out of the land.” The Hebrew word (כאה) means “to chide, to upbraid,” and then in the niphal “to be chidden away,” or “to be driven off.” The sense is, as an impious and low-born race they were driven out of the land.
And now am I their song - See Job 17:6; compare Psalms 69:12, “I was the song of the drunkards;” Lamentations 3:14, “I was a derision to all my people, and their song all the day.” The sense is, that they made Job and his calamities the subject of low jesting, and treated him with contempt. His name and sufferings would be introduced into their scurrilous songs to give them pith and point, and to show how much they despised him now.
Yea, I am their by-word - See the notes at Job 17:6.
They abhor me - Hebrew, They regard me as abominable.
They flee far from me - Even such an impious and low born race now will have nothing to do with me. They would consider it no honor to be associated with me, but keep as far from me as possible.
And spare not to spit in my face - Margin, “withhold not spittle from.” Noyes renders this “Before my face;” and so Luther Wemyss, Umbreit, and Prof. Lee. The Hebrew may mean either to spit in the face, or to spit “in the presence” of anyone. It is quite immaterial which interpretation is adopted, since in the view of Orientals the one was considered about the same as the other. In their notions of courtesy and urbanity, he commits an insult of the same kind who spits in the presence of another which he would if he spit on him. Are they not right? Should it not be so considered every where? Yet how different their views from the more refined notions of the civilized Occidentals! In America, more than in any other land, are offences of this kind frequent and gross. Of nothing do foreigners complain of us more, or with more justice; and much as we boast of our intelligence and refinement, we should gain much if in this respect we would sit down at the feet of a Bedouin Arab, and incorporate his views into our maxims of politeness.
Because he hath loosed my cord - According to this translation, the reference here is to God, and the sense is, that the reason why he was thus derided and contemned by such a worthless race was, that God had unloosened his cord. That is, God had rendered him incapable of vindicating himself, or of inflicting punishment. The figure, according to this interpretation, is taken from a bow, and Job means to say that his bow was relaxed, his vigor was gone, and they now felt that they might insult him with impunity. But instead of the usual reading in the Hebrew text יתרי yithriy - “my nerve,” another reading יתרוּ yithriv - “his nerve,” is found in the qeri (margin). This reading has been adopted in the text by Jahn, and is regarded as genuine by Rosenmuller, Umbreit, and Noyes. According to this, the meaning is, that the worthless rabble that now treated him with so much contempt, had relaxed all restraint, and they who had hitherto been under some curb, now rushed upon him in the most unbridled manner. They had cast off all restraint arising from respect to his rank, standing, moral worth, and the dread of his power, and now treated him with every kind of indignity.
And afflicted me - By the disrespect and contempt which they have evinced.
They have also let loose the bridle before me - That is, they have cast off all restraint - repeating the idea in the first member of the verse.
Upon my right hand rise the youth - The right hand is the place of honor, and therefore it was felt to be a greater insult that they should occupy even that place. The word rendered “youth” (פרחח pirchach) occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is probably from פרח pârach, “to sprout, germinate, blossom”; and hence, would mean “a progeny,” and would be probably applied to beasts. It is rendered by Jerome, “calamities;” by the Septuagint, “Upon the right hand of the progeny, or brood (βλαστοῦ blastou), they rise,” where Schleusner conjectures that βλαστοι_ blastoi should be read, “On the right hand rise a brood or progeny.” Umbreit renders it, “eine Brut ... a brood.” So Rosenmuller, Noyes, and Schultens. The idea then is, that this rabble rose up, even on his right hand, as a brood of wild animals - a mere rabble that impeded his way.
They push away my feet - Instead of giving place for me, they jostle and crowd me from my path. Once the aged and the honorable rose and stood in my presence, and the youth retired at my coming, but now this worthless rabble crowds along with me, jostles me in my goings, and shows me no manner of respect; compare Job 29:8.
And they raise up against me the ways of their destruction - They raise up against me destructive ways, or ways that tend to destroy me. The figure is taken from an advancing army, that casts up ramparts and other means of attack designed for the destruction of a besieged city. They were, in like manner, constantly making advances against Job, and pressing on him in a manner that was designed to destroy him.
They mar my path - They break up all my plans. Perhaps here, also, the image is taken from war, and Job may represent himself as on a line of march, and he says that this rabble comes and breaks up his path altogether. They break down the bridges, and tear up the way, so that it is impossible to pass along. His plans of life were embarrassed by them, and they were to him a perpetual annoyance.
They set forward my calamity - Luther renders this part of the verse, “It was so easy for them to injure me, that they needed no help.” The literal translation of the Hebrew here would be, “they profit for my ruin;” that is, they bring as it were profit to my ruin; they help it on; they promote it. A similar expression occurs in Zechariah 1:15, “I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the afliction;” that is, they aided in urging it forward. The idea here is, that they hastened his fall. Instead of assisting him in any way, they contributed all they could to bring him down to the dust.
They have no helper - Very various interpretations have been given of this phrase. It may mean, that they had done this alone, without the aid of others; or that they were persons who were held in abhorrence, and whom no one would assist; or that they were worthless and abandoned persons. Schultens has shown that the phrase, “one who has no helper,” is proverbial among the Arabs, and denotes a worthless person, or one of the lowest class. In proof of this, he quotes the Hamasa, which he thus translates, Videmus vos ignobiles, pauperes, quibus nullus ex reliquis hominibus adjutor. See, also, other similar expressions quoted by him from Arabic writings. The idea here then is, probably, that they were so worthless and abandoned that no one would help them - an expression denoting the utmost degradation.
They came upon me as a wide breaking-in of waters - The Hebrew here is simply, “Like a wide breach they came,” and the reference may be, not to an inundation, as our translators supposed, but to an irruption made by a foe through a breach made in a wall. When such a wall fell, or when a breach was made in it, the besieging army would pour in in a tumultuous manner, and cut down all before them; compare Isaiah 30:13. This seems to be the idea here. The enemies of Job poured in upon him as if a breach was made in a wall. Formerly they were restrained by his rank and office, as a besieging army was by lofty walls; but now all these restraints were broken down, and they poured in upon him like a tumultuous army.
In the desolation they rolled themselves upon me - Among the ruins they rolled tumultuous along; or they came pitching and tumbling in with the ruins of the wall. The image is taken from the act of sacking a city, where the besieging army, having made a breach in the wall, would seem to come tumbling into the heart of the city with the ruins of the wall. No time would be wasted, but they would follow suddenly and tumultuously upon the breach, and roll tumultuously along. The Chaldee renders this as if it referred to the rolling and tumultuous waves of the sea, and the Hebrew would admit of such a construction, but the above seems better to accord with the image which Job would be likely to use.
Terrors are turned upon me - As if they were all turned upon him, or made to converge toward him. Everything suited to produce terror seemed to have a direction given it toward him. Umbreit, and some others, however, suppose that God is here referred to, and that the meaning is,” God is turned against me terrors drive as a storm against me.” The Hebrew will bear either construction; but it is more emphatic and impressive to suppose it means that everything adapted to produce terror seemed to be turned against him.
They pursue my soul as the wind - Margin, my principal one. The word “they” here, refers to the terrors. In the original text, the word תרדף tirâdaph agrees with בלהה ballâhâh, terrors understood, for this word is often used as a collective noun, and with a singular verb, or it may agree with אהת כל - “each one of the terrors persecutes me.” There is more difficulty about the word rendered “soul” in the text, and “principal one” in the margin - נדיבה nedı̂ybâh. It properly means willingness, voluntariness, spontaneity; then a free-will offering, a voluntary sacrifice; then largeness, abundance. Rosenmuller renders it, “My vigor.” Noyes, “My prosperity,” and so Coverdale. Jerome, “My desire,” and the Septuagint, “My hope passes away as the wind.” Schultens translates it, “They persecute my generous spirit as the wind.” It seems probable that the word refers to a generous, noble nature; to a large and liberal soul, evincing its magnanimity in acts of generosity and hospitality; and the idea seems to be, that his enemies rushed against that generous nature like a tempest. They wholly disregarded it, and a nature most generous and noble was exposed to the fury of the storm.
And my welfare - Hebrew my salvation; or my safety.
As a cloud - As a cloud vanishes and wholly disappears.
And now my soul is poured out upon me - So in Psalms 42:4, “I pour out my soul in me.” We say that one is dissolved in grief. The language is derived from the fact that the soul in grief seems to lose all firmness or consistence. The Arabs style a fearful person, one who has a watery heart, or whose heart melts away like water. Noyes.
My bones are pierced in me - The bones are often represented in the Scriptures as the seat of acute pain; Psalms 6:2; Psalms 22:14; Psalms 31:10; Psalms 38:3; Psalms 42:10; Proverbs 14:30; compare Job 20:11. The meaning here is, that he had had shooting or piercing pains in the night, which disturbed and prevented his rest. It is mentioned as a special aggravation of his sufferings that they were “in the night” - a time when we expect repose.
And my sinews take no rest - See the word here rendered sinews explained in the note at ver. 3. The word literally means gnawers, and hence, the teeth. The Vulgate renders it, qui me comedunt, non dormiunt, “they who devour me do not slumber.” The Septuagint, νευρά μον neura mou - my sinews, or arteries. Schleusner. Luther, “They who gnaw me.” Coverdale, Sinews. I see no reason to doubt that the teeth or the jaws are meant, and that Job refers to the violent pain in the tooth, among the acutest pains to which the body is subject. The idea is, that every part of the body was diseased and filled with pain.
By the great force of my disease - The words “of my disease” are not in the Hebrew. The usual interpretation of the passage is, that in consequence of the foul and offensive nature of his malady, his garment had become discolored or defiled - changed from being white and clear to filthiness and offensiveness. Some have understood it as referring to the skin, and as denoting that it was so affected with the leprosy, that he could scarcely be recognized. Umbreit supposes it to mean, “Through the omnipotence of God has my white robe of honor been changed into a narrow garment of grief” - trauerkleid. Dr. Good renders it, “From the abundance of the acrimony;” that is, of the fierce or acrimonious humor, “it is changed into a garment for me.” Coverdale, “With all their power have they changed my garment, and girded me therewith, as it were with a coat.” Prof. Lee, “With much violence doth my clothing bind me.”
According to Schultens, it means, “My affliction puts itself on in the form of my clothing;” and the whole passage, that without and within, from the head to the feet, he was entirely diseased. His affliction was his outer garment, and it was his inner garment - his mantle and his tunic. The Hebrew is difficult. The phrase rendered “by the great force,” means, literally, “by the multitude of strength” - and may refer to the strength of disease, or to the strength of God, or to the force with which his garment girded him. The word rendered “is changed” - יתחפשׂ yitchâphaś, is from חפשׂ châphaś, to seek, to search after in the Qal; in the Hithpael, the form used here, to let oneself be sought; to hide oneself; to disguise one’s self; 1 Kings 20:38. According to this, it would mean that his garment was disquised; that is, its appearance was changed by the force of his disease. Gesenius. Jerome renders it, “In their multitude, my garment is consumed; the Septuagint, “With great force he took hold of my garment.” Of these various interpretations, it is impossible to determine which is the correct one. The prevailing interpretation seems to be, that by the strength of his disease his garment was changed in its appearance, so as to become offensive, and yet this is a somewhat feeble sense to give to the passage. Perhaps the explanation of Schultens is the best, “By the greatness of power, pain or disease has become my garment; it girds me about like the mouth of my tunic.” He has shown, by a great variety of instances, that it is common in Arabic poetry to compare pain, sickness, anxiety, etc., to clothing.
It bindeth me about as the collar of my coat - The collar of my tunic, or under garment. This was made like a shirt, to be gathered around the neck, and the idea is, that his disease fitted close to him, and was gathered close around him.
He hath cast me into the mire - That is, God has done it. In this book the name of God is often understood where the speaker seems to avoid it, in order that it may not be needlessly repeated. On the meaning of the expression here, see the notes at Job 9:31.
And I am become like dust and ashes - Either in appearance, or I am regarded as being as worthless as the mire of the streets. Rosenmuller supposes it means, “I am more like a mass of inanimate matter than a living man.”
I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me - This was a complaint which Job often made, that he could not get the ear of God; that his prayer was not regarded, and that he could not get his cause before him; compare Job 13:3, Job 13:19 ff, and Job 27:9.
I stand up - Standing was a common posture of prayer among the ancients; see Hebrews 11:21; 1 Kings 8:14, 1 Kings 8:55; Nehemiah 9:2. The meaning is, that when Job stood up to pray, God did not regard his prayer.
Thou art become cruel to me - Margin, turned to be. This language, applied to God, seems to be harsh and irreverent, and it may well be inquired whether the word cruel does not express an idea which Job did not intend. The Hebrew word אכזר 'akzâr, is from an obsolete root כזר - not found in Hebrew. The Arabic root, nearly the same as this, means to break with violence; to rout as an enemy; then to be enraged. In the Syriac, the primary idea is, that of a soldier, and thence it may refer to such acts of violence as a soldier commonly commits. The word occurs in Hebrew in the following places, and is translated in the following manner. It is rendered “cruel” in Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 30:21; Proverbs 5:9; Proverbs 11:17; Proverbs 12:10; Proverbs 17:11; Proverbs 27:4; Isaiah 13:9; Jeremiah 6:23; Jeremiah 50:42; Jeremiah 30:14; and fierce in Job 41:10. Jerome renders it, mutatus mihi in crudelem - “thou art changed so as to become cruel to me;” the Septuagint renders it, ἀνελεημόως aneleēmonōs - unmerciful; Luther, Du bist mir verwandelt in einem Grausamen - “thou art changed to me into a cruel one;” and so Umbreit, Noyes, and translators generally. Perhaps the word fierce, severe or harsh, would express the idea; still it must be admitted that Job, in the severity of his sufferings, is often betrayed into language which cannot be a model for us, and which we cannot vindicate.
With thy strong hand - Margin, the strength. So the Hebrew. The hand is the instrument by which we accomplish anything; and hence, anything which God does is traced to his hand.
Thou opposest thyselph against me - - תשׂטמני tiśâṭamēniy. The word שׂטם śâṭam, means to lie in wait for anyone; to lay snares; to set a trap; see Job 16:9, where the same word occurs, and where it is rendered “who hateth me,” but where it would be better rendered he pursues, or persecutes me. The meaning is, that God had become his adversary, or had set himself against him. There was a severity in his dealings with him as if he had become a foe.
Thou liftest me up to the wind - The sense here is, that he was lifted up as stubble is by a tempest, and driven mercilessly along. The figure of riding upon the wind or the whirlwind, is common in Oriental writers, and indeed elsewhere. So Milton says,
“They ride the air in whirlwind.”
So Addison, speaking of the angel that executes the commands of the Almighty, says,
“Rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm.”
Coverdale renders this verse, “In times past thou didst set me up on high, as it were above the wind, but now hast thou given me a very sore fall.” Rosenmuller thinks that the image here is not taken from straw or chaff that is driven by the wind, but that the meaning of Job is, that he is lifted up and borne aloft like a cloud. But the image of chaff or straw taken up by the whirlwind and driven about, seems best to accord with the scope of the passage. The idea is, that the tempest of calamity had swept everything away, and had driven him about as a worthless object, until he was wasted away and ruined. It is possible that Job refers in this passage to the sand-storm which occurs sometimes in the deserts of Arabia. The following description of such a storm by Mr. Bruce (vol. 4:pp. 553, 554), will furnish an illustration of the force and sublimity of the passage. It is copied from Taylor’s Fragments, in Calmet’s Dictionary, vol. 3:235: “On the fourteenth,” says Bruce, “at seven in the morning, we left Assa Nagga, our course being due north. At one o’clock we alighted among some acacia trees at Waadiel Halboub, having gone twenty-one miles. We were here at once surprised and terrified by a sight, surely one of the most magnificent in the world. In that vast expanse of desert from west and to northwest of us, we saw a number of prodigious pillars of sand at different distances, at times moving with qreat celerity, at others stalking on with a majestic slowness; at intervals we thought they were coming in a very few minutes to overwhelm us, and small quantities of sand did actually more than once reach us. Again they would retreat so as to be almost out of sight - their tops reaching to the very clouds. There the tops often separated from the bodies; and these, once disjoined, dispersed in the air, and did not appear more.
Sometimes they were broken near the middle, as if struck with a large cannon shot. About noon they began to advance with considerable swiftness upon us, the wind being very strong at north. Eleven of them ranged alongside of us about the distance of three miles. The greatest diameter of the largest appeared to me at that distance as if it would measure two feet. They retired from us with a wind at southeast, leaving an im pression upon my mind to which I can give no name, though surely one ingredient in it was fear, with a considerable deal of wonder and astonishment. It was in vain to think of flying; the swiftest horse, or fastest sailing ship, could be of no use to carry us out of this danger, and the full persuasion of this riveted me as if to the spot where I stood, and let the camels gain on me so much in my state of lameness, that it was with some difficulty I could overtake them.
“The whole of our company were much disheartened, except Idris, and imagined that they were advancing into whirlwinds of moving sand, from which they should never be able to extricate themselves; but before four o’clock in the afternoon these phantoms of the plain had all of them fallen to the ground and disappeared. In the evening we came to Waadi Dimokea, where we passed the night, much disheartened, and our fear more increased, when we found, upon wakening in the morning, that one side was perfectly buried in the sand that the wind had blown above us in the night.
“The sun shining through the pillars, which were thicker, and contained more sand, apparently, than any of the preceding days, seemed to give those nearest us an appearance as if spotted with stars of gold. I do not think at any time they seemed to be nearer than two miles. The most remarkable circumstance was, that the sand seemed to keep in that vast circular space, surrounded by the Nile on our left, in going round by Chaigie toward Dougola, and seldom was observed much to the eastward of a meridian, passing along the Nile through the Magizan, before it takes that turn; whereas the simoom was always on the opposite side of our course, coming upon us from the southeast.
“The same appearance of moving pillars of sand presented themselves to us this day in form and disposition like those we had seen at Waadi Halboub, only they seemed to be more in number, and less in size. They came several times in a direction close upon us, that is, I believe, within less than two miles. They began, immediately after sunrise, like a thick wood, and almost darkened the sun; his rays shining through them for near an hour, gave them an appearance of pillars of fire.”
“If my conjecture,” says Taylor, “be admissible, we now see a magnificence in this imagery, not apparent before: we see how Job’s dignity might be exalted in the air; might rise to great grandeur, importance, and even terror, in the sight of beholders; might ride upon the wind, which bears it about, causing it to advance or to recede; and, after all, when the wind diminishes, might disperse, dissipate, melt this pillar of sand into the undistinguished level of the desert. This comparison seems to be precisely adapted to the mind of an Arab; who must have seen, or have been informed of, similar phenomena in the countries around him.”
And dissolvest my substance - Margin, or wisdom. The word rendered “dissolvest,” means to melt, to flow down, and then to cause to melt, to cause to pine away and perish; Isaiah 64:7. It is applied to a host or army that appears to melt away; 1 Samuel 14:16. It is also applied to one who seems to melt away with fear and terror; Exodus 15:15; Joshua 2:9, Joshua 2:24. Here the meaning probably is, that God caused Job to melt away, as it were, with terrors and alarms. He was like one caught up in a whirlwind, and driven along with the storm, and who, in such circumstances, would be dissolved with fear. The word rendered “substance” (תשׁיה tûshı̂yâh) has been very variously interpreted. The word, as it is written in the text, means help, deliverance, purpose, enterprise, counsel, or understanding; see Job 5:12; Job 6:13; Job 11:6. But by some, and among others. Gesenius, Umbreit, and Noyes, it is supposed that it should be read as a verb, תשוה from שוה - to fear. According to this, the meaning is, “thou terrifiest me.” This agrees better with the connection; is more abrupt and emphatic, and is probably the true interpretation.
For I know that thou wilt bring me to death - This is the language of despair. Occasionally Job seems to have had an assurance that his calamities would pass by, and that God would show himself to be his friend on earth (compare the notes at Job 19:25), and at other times he utters the language of despair. Such would be commonly the case with a good man afflicted as he was, and agitated with alternate hopes and fears. We are not to set these expressions down as contradictions. All that inspiration is responsible for, is the fair record of his feelings; and that he should have alternate hopes and fears is in entire accordance with what occurs when we are afflicted. Here the view of his sorrows appears to have been so overwhelming, that he says he knew they must terminate in death. The phrase “to death” means to the house of the dead, or to the place where the dead are. Umbreit.
And to the house appointed for all living - The grave; compare Hebrews 9:27. That house or home is “appointed” for all. It is not a matter of chance that we come there, but it is because the Great Arbiter of life has so ordained. What an affecting consideration it should be, that such a house is designated for all! A house so dark, so gloomy, so solitary, so repulsive! For all that sit on thrones; for all that move in the halls of music and pleasure; for all that roll along in splendid carriages; for all the beautiful, the happy, the vigorous, the manly; for all in the marts of business, in the low scenes of dissipation, and in the sanctuary of God; for every one who is young, and every one who is aged, this is the home! Here they come at last; and here they lie down in the narrow bed! God’s hand will bring them all there; and there will they lie until his voice summons them to judgment!
Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave - Margin, heap. In our common version this verse conveys no very clear idea, and it is quite evident that our translators despaired of giving it a consistent sense, and attempted merely to translate it literally. The verse has been rendered by every expositor almost in his own way; and though almost no two of them agree, yet it is remarkable that the versions given are all beautiful, and furnish a sense that agrees well with the scope of the passage. The Vulgate renders it, “But not to their consumption wilt thou send forth their hand; and if they fall, thou wilt save them.” The Septuagint,” For O that I could lay violent hands on myself, or beseech another, and he would do it for me Luther renders it, “Yet he shall not stretch out the hand to the charnelhouse, and they shall not cry before his destruction.” Noyes:
“When he stretcheth out his hand, prayer
When he bringeth destruction, vain is the
Cry for help.”
Umbreit renders it:
Nur mog’ er nicht an den zerstorten Haufen
Oder mussen jene selbst in ihrem
“Only if he would not lay his hand upon the
Heaps of the destroyed!
Or must these also cry out in their death?”
According to this interpretation, Job speaks here in bitter irony. “I would gladly die,” says he, “if God would only suffer me to be quiet when I am dead.” He would be willing that the edifice of the body should be taken down, provided the ruins might rest in peace. Rosenmuller gives the same sense as that expressed by Noyes. Amidst this variety of interpretation, it is by no means easy to determine on the true meaning of the passage. The principal difficulty in the exposition lies in the word בעי be‛ı̂y, rendered in the text “in the grave,” and in the margin “heap.” If that word is compounded of the preposition ב be and עי ‛ı̂y, it means literally, “in ruins, or in rubbish” - for so the word עי ‛ı̂y is used in Micah 1:6; Jeremiah 26:18; Micah 3:12; Psalms 79:1; Nehemiah 4:2, Nehemiah 4:10. But Gesenius supposes it to be a single word, from the obsolete root בעה, Chaldee בעא, “to pray, to petition”; and according to this the meaning is, “Yea, prayer is nought when he stretches out his hand; and in his (God’s) destruction, their cry availeth not.”
Prof. Lee understands the word (בעי be‛ı̂y) in the same sense, but gives a somewhat different meaning to the whole passage. According to him the meaning is, “Nevertheless, upon prayer thou wilt not lay thine hand; surely, when he destroyeth, in this alone there is safety.” Schultens accords very nearly in the sentiment expressed by Umbreit, and renders it, “Yet not even in the tomb would he relax his hand, if in its destruction an alleviation were there.” This sentiment is very strong, and borders on impiety, and should not be adopted if it is possible to avoid it. It looks as if Job felt that God was disposed to pursue his animosity even into the regions of the dead, and that he would have pleasure in carrying on the work of destruction and affliction in the ruins of the grave. After the most careful examination which I have been able to give of this difficult passage, it seems probable to me that the following is the correct sense.
Job means to state a general and important principle - that there was rest in the grave. He said he knew that God would bring him down there, but that would be a state of repose. The hand of God producing pain, would not reach there, nor would the sorrows experienced in this world be felt there, provided there had been a praying life. Notwithstanding all his afflictions, therefore, and his certain conviction that he would die, he had unwavering confidence in God. Agreeably to this, the following paraphrase will convey the true sense. “I know that he will bring me to the grave. Nevertheless (אך 'ak), over the ruins (בעי be‛ı̂y) - of my body, the ruins in the grave - “he will not stretch out his hand” - to afflict me there or to pursue those who lie there with calamity and judgment; if in his destruction (בפידו bepı̂ydô) - in the destruction or desolation which God brings upon people - among them (להן lâhên) - among those who are thus consigned to the ruins of the grave - there is prayer (שׁוע shûa‛); if there has been supplication offered to him, or a cry for mercy has gone up before him.” This paraphrase embraces every word of the original; saves the necessity of attempting to change the text, as has been often done, and gives a meaning which accords with the scope of the passage, and with the uniform belief of Job, that God would ultimately vindicate him, and show that he himself was right in his government.
Did not I weep ... - Job here appeals to his former life, and says that it had been a characteristic of his life to manifest compassion to the afflicted and the poor. His object in doing this is, evidently, to show how remarkable it was that he was so much afflicted. “Did I deserve,” the sense is, “such a hard lot? Has it been brought on me by my own fault, or as a punishment for a life where no compassion was shown to others?” So far from it, he says, that his whole life had been distinguished for tender compassion for those in distress and want.
In trouble - Margin, as in Hebrew, hard of day. So we say, “a man has a hard time of it,” or has a hard lot.
When I looked for good - When I supposed that respect would be shown me; or when I looked forward to an honored old age. I expected to be made happy and prosperous through life, as the result of my uprightness and benevolence; but, instead of that, calamity came and swept all my comforts away. He experienced the instability which most people are called to experience, and the divine dealings with him showed that no reliance could be placed on confident plans of happiness in this life.
My bowels boiled - Or rather, My bowels boil - for he refers to his present circumstances, and not to the past. It is clear that by this phrase he designs to describe deep affliction. The bowels, in the Scriptures, are represented as the seat of the affections. By this is meant the upper bowels, or the region of the heart and the lungs. The reason is, that deep emotions of the mind are felt there. The heart beats quick; or it is heavy and pained; or it seems to melt within us in the exercise of pity or compassion; compare the notes at Isaiah 16:11. The idea here is, that the seat of sorrow and of grief was affected by his calamities. Nor was the feeling slight. His emotions he compared with agitated, boiling water. It is possible that there is an allusion here to the inflammatory nature of his disease, producing internal heat and pain; but it is more probable that he refers to the mental anguish which he endured.
The days of affliction prevented me - literally, “have anticipated me” - for so the word prevent was formerly used, and so it is uniformly used in the Bible; see the notes at Job 3:12; compare Psalms 59:10; lxxix. 8; Psalms 88:13; Psalms 119:148; 1 Thessalonians 4:15. There is in the Hebrew word (קדם qâdam) the idea that days of anguish came in an unexpected manner, or that they anticipated the fulfillment of his plans. All his schemes and hopes of life had been anticipated by these overwhelming sorrows.
I went mourning - Or rather, “I go,” in the present tense, for he is now referring to his present calamities, and not to what was past. The word rendered “mourning,” however (קדר qâdar), means here rather to be dark, dingy, tanned. It literally means to be foul or turbid, like a torrent, Job 6:16; then to go about in filthy garments, as they do who mourn, Job 5:11; Jeremiah 14:2; then to be dusky, or of a dark color, or to become dark. Thus, it is applied to the sun and moon becoming dark in an eclipse, or when covered with clouds, Jeremiah 4:28; Joel 2:10; Joel 3:15; Micah 3:6. Here it refers to the fact that, by the mere force of his disease, his skin had become dark and swarthy, though he had not been exposed to the burning rays of the sun. The wrath of God had burned upon him, and he had become black under it. Jerome, however, renders it moerens, mourning. The Septuagint, “I go groaning (στένων stenōn) without restraint, or limit” - ἄνευ φιμοῦ aneu fimou. The Chaldee translates it אוכם, “black.”
Without the sun - Without being exposed to the sun; or without the agency of the sun. Though not exposed, he had become as dark as if he had been a day-laborer exposed to a burning sun.
I stood up - Or, I stand up.
And cried in the congregation - I utter my cries in the congregation, or when surrounded by the assembled people. Once I stood up to counsel them, and they hung upon my lips for advice; now I stand up only to weep over my accumulated calamities. This indicates the great change which had come upon him, and the depth of his sorrows. A man will weep readily in private; but he will be slow to do it, if he can avoid it, when surrounded by a multitude.
I am a brother to dragons - That is, my loud complaints and cries resemble the doleful screams of wild animals, or of the most frightful monsters. The word “brother” is often used in this sense, to denote similarity in any respect. The word “dragons” here (תנין tannı̂yn), denotes properly a sea-monster, a great fish, a crocodile; or the fancied animal with wings called a dragon; see the notes at Isaiah 13:22. Gesenius, Umbreit, and Noyes, render this word here jackals - an animal between a dog and a fox, or a wolf and a fox; an animal that abounds in deserts and solitudes, and that makes a doleful cry in the night. So the Syriac renders it an animal resembling a dog; a wild dog. Castell. This idea agrees with the scope of the passage better than the common reference to a sea-monster or a crocodile. “The Deeb, or Jackal,” says Shaw, “is of a darker color than the fox, and about the same bigness. It yelps every night about the gardens and villages, feeding upon roots, fruit, and carrion.” Travels, p. 247, Ed. Oxford, 1738. That some wild animal, distinguished for a mournful noise, or howl, is meant, is evident; and the passage better agrees with the description of a jackal than the hissing of a serpent or the noise of the crocodile. Bochart supposes that the allusion is to dragons, because they erect their heads, and their jaws are drawn open, and they seem to be complaining against God on account of their humble and miserable condition. Taylor (Concord.) supposes it means jackals or thoes, and refers to the following places where the word may be so used; Psalms 44:19; Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 43:20; Jeremiah 11:11; Jeremiah 10:22; Jeremiah 49:33; Jeremiah 51:37; Lamentations 4:3; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3.
And a companion to owls - Margin, ostriches. The word companion here is used in a sense similar to brother in the other member of the parallelism, to denote resemblance. The Hebrew, here rendered owls, is, literally, daughters of answering, or clamor - יענה בנות benôth ya‛ănâh. The name is given on account of the plaintive and mournful cry which is made. Bochart. Gesenius supposes, however, that it is on account of its greediness and gluttony. The name “daughters of the ostrich.” denotes properly the female ostrich. The phrase is, however, put for the ostrich of both sexes in many places; see Gesenius on the word יענה ya‛ănâh; compare the notes at Isaiah 13:21. For a full examination of the meaning of the phrase, see Bochart, Hieroz. P. ii. L. 2. cap. xiv. pp. 218-231; see also Job 39:13-17. There can be little doubt that the ostrich is here intended, and Job means to say that his mourning resembled the doleful noise made by the ostrich in the lonely desert. Shaw, in his Travels, says that during the night “they (the ostriches) make very doleful and hideous noises; which would sometimes be like the roaring of a lion; at other times it would bear a nearer resemblance to the hoarser voice of other quadrupeds, particularly of the bull and the ox. I have often heard them groan as if they were in the greatest agonies.”
My skin is black upon me; - see Job 30:28. It had become black by the force of the disease.
My bones are burnt with heat - The bones, in the Scriptures, are often represented as the seat of pain. The disease of Job seems to have pervaded the whole body. If it was the elephantiasis (see the notes at Job 2:7-8), these effects would be naturally produced.
My harp also is turned to mourning - What formerly gave cheerful sounds, now gives only notes of plaintiveness and lamentation. The harp was probably an instrument originally designed to give sounds of joy. For a description of it, see the notes at Isaiah 5:12.
And my organ - The form of what is here called the organ, is not certainly known. The word עגב ‛ûgâb is doubtless from עגב ‛âgab, “to breathe, to blow”; and most probably the instrument hero intended was the pipe. For a description of it, see the notes at Isaiah 5:12. This instrument, also, was played, as would appear, on joyous occasions, but Job now says that it was turned to grief. All that had been joyous with him had fled. His honor was taken away; his friends were gone; they who had treated him with reverence now stood at a distance, or treated him with contempt; his health was departed, and his former appearance, indicating a station of affluence, was changed for the dark complexion produced by disease, and the instruments of joyousness now gave forth only notes of sorrow.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 30". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
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