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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Job 11

Verses 1-6

With ואולם , verum enim vero , Zophar introduces his wish that God himself would instruct Job; this would most thoroughly refute his utterances. יתן מי is followed by the infin., then by futt., vid., Ges. §136, 1; כּפלים (only here and Isaiah 40:2) denotes not only that which is twice as great, but generally that which far surpasses something else. The subject of the clause beginning with כּי is היא understood, i.e., divine wisdom: that she is the double with respect to ( ל( ot , as e.g., 1 Kings 10:23) reality ( תושׁיה , as Job 5:12; Job 6:13, essentia , substantia ), i.e., in comparison with Job's specious wisdom and philosophism. Instead of saying: then thou wouldst perceive, Zophar, realizing in his mind that which he has just wished, says imperiously ודע (an imper. consec., or, as Ewald, §345, b, calls it, imper. futuri , similar to Genesis 20:7; 2 Samuel 21:3): thou must then perceive that God has dealt far more leniently with thee than thou hast deserved. The causative השּׁה (in Old Testament only this passage, and Job 39:17) denotes here oblivioni dare , and the מן of מעונך is partitive.

Verses 7-9

The feminine form of expression has reference to the divine wisdom ( Chokma, Job 11:6), and amplifies what is there said of its transcendent reality. Its absoluteness is described by four dimensions, like the absoluteness of the love which devised the plan for man's redemption (Ephesians 3:18). The pronoun היא , with reference to this subject of the sentence, must be supplied. She is as “the heights of heaven” (comp. on subst. pro adj. Job 22:12); what wilt or canst thou do in order to scale that which is high as heaven? In Job 11:9 we have translated according to the reading מדּה with He mappic. This feminine construction is a contraction for מדּתהּ , as Job 5:13, ערמם for ערמתם ; Zechariah 4:2, גלה for גלתה , and more syncopated forms of a like kind (vid., Comm. über den Psalter, i. 225, ii. 172). The reading recorded by the Masora is, however, מדּה with He raph., according to which the word seems to be the accusative used adverbially; nevertheless the separation of this acc. relativus from its regens by the insertion of a word between them (comp. Job 15:10) would make a difficulty here where היא is wanting, and consequently מדה seems to signify mensura ejus whichever way it may be written (since ah raphe is also sometimes a softened form of the suffix, Job 31:22; Ewald, §94, b). The wisdom of God is in its height altogether inaccessible, in its depth fathomless and beyond research, in its length unbounded, in its breadth incomprehensible, stretching out far beyond all human thought.

Verses 10-12

10 When He passes by and arrests

And calls to judgment, who will oppose Him?

11 For He knoweth the men devoid of principle,

And seeth wickedness without observing it.

12 But before an empty head gaineth understanding,

A wild ass would become a man.

In יחלף God is conceived as one who manifests himself by passing to and fro in the powers of nature (in the whirlwind, Isaiah 21:1). Should He meet with one who is guilty, and seize and bring him to judgment, who then ( waw apod.) will turn Him back, i.e., restrain Him? הקהיל is used of bringing to judgment, with reference to the ancient form of trial which was in public, and in which the carrying out of the sentence was partly incumbent on the people (1 Kings 21:9; Ezekiel 16:40; Ezekiel 23:46). One might almost imagine that Zophar looks upon himself and the other two friends as forming such an “assembly:” they cannot justify him in opposition to God, since He accounts him guilty. God's mode of trial is summary, because infallible: He knows altogether שׁוא מתי , people who hypocritically disguise their moral nothingness (on this idea, vid., on Psalms 26:4); and sees (looks through) און (from the root ân, to breathe), otherwise grief, with which one pants, in a moral sense worthlessness, without any trace whatever of worth or substance. He knows and sees this moral wretchedness at once, and need not first of all reflect upon it: non opus habet , as Abenezra has correctly explained, ut diu consideret (comp. the like thought, Job 34:23).

Job 11:12 has been variously misinterpreted. Gesenius in his Handwörterbuch

(Note: Vid., Lexicon, Engl. edition, s.v. לבב Niphal. - Tr.)

translates: but man is empty and void of understanding; but this is contrary to the accentuation, according to which נבוב אישׁ together form the subject. Olshausen translates better: an empty man, on the other hand, is without heart; but the fut. cannot be exactly so used, and if we consider that Piel has never properly a privative meaning, though sometimes a privative idea (as e.g., סקּל , operam consumere in lapidos, scil. ejiciendos ), we must regard a privative Niphal as likewise inadmissible. Stickel translates peculiarly: the man devoid of understanding is enraged against God; but this is opposed to the manifest correlation of נבוב and ילּבב , which does not indicate the antithesis of an empty and sulky person (Böttcher): the former rather signifies empty, and the latter to acquire heart or marrow (Heidenheim, לב יקנה ), so that לב fills up the hollow space. Hirzel's rendering partly bears out the requirement of this correlation: man has understanding like a hollow pate; but this explanation, like that of Gesenius, violates the accentuation, and produces an affected witticism. The explanation which regards Job 11:12 as descriptive of the wholesome effect of the discipline of the divine judgments (comp. Isaiah 26:9) is far better; it does not violate the accent, and moreover is more in accordance with the future form: the empty one becomes discerning thereby, the rough, humane (thus recently Ewald, Heiligst., Schlottm.); but according to this explanation, Job 11:12 is not connected with what immediately precedes, nor is the peculiarity of the expression fully brought out. Hupfeld opens up another way of interpreting the passage when he remarks, nil dicto facilius et simplicius ; he understands Job 11:12 according to Job 11:12: But man is furnished with an empty heart, i.e., receives at his birth an empty undiscerning heart, and man is born as a wild ass's colt, i.e., as stupid and obstinate. This thought is satisfactorily connected with the preceding; but here also נבוב is taken as predicate in violation of the accentuation, nor is justice done to the correlation above referred to, and the whole sentence is referred to the portion of man at his birth, in opposition to the impression conveyed by the use of the fut. Oehler appears to us to have recognised the right sense: But an empty man is as little endowed with sense, as that a wild ass should ever be born as man - be, so to speak, born again and become a man.

(Note: Wetzstein explains: “But a man that barks like a dog (i.e., rages shamelessly) can become sensible, and a young wild ass (i.e., the wildest and roughest creature) be born again as a man (i.e., become gentle and civilised),” from &#נבב נבח , since נבח is the commoner word for “barking” in the Syrian towns and villages, and נבב , on the other hand, is used among those who dwelt in tents. But we must then point it נבּוּב , and the antithesis ילּבב is more favourable the Hebrew meaning, “hollowed out, empty.”)

The waw in ועיר is just like Job 5:7; Job 12:11, and brings into close connection the things that are to be compared, as in the form of emblematic proverbs (vid., Herzog's Real Encyklopädie, xiv. 696): the one will happen not earlier than, and as little as, the other. The Niphal נולד , which in Proverbs 17:17 signifies to become manifest, here borders on the notion of regenerari ; a regeneration would be necessary if the wild ass should become human, - a regeneration which is inconceivable. It is by nature refractory, and especially when young ( ועיר from Arab. ‛âr , fut. i in the signification vagari, huc illuc discurrere , of a young, restless, wild, frisking animal). Just so, says Zophar, the vacuum in an empty man is incapable of being filled up, - a side hit at Job, which rebounds on Zophar himself; for the dogma of the friends, which forms the sole contents of their hollowness, can indeed not fill with brightness and peace a heart that is passing through conflict. The peculiarity of the expression is no longer unintelligible; Zophar is the most impassioned of the three friends.

Verses 13-15

13 But if thou wilt direct thy heart,

And spread out thy hands to Him -

14 If there is evil in thy hand, put it far away,

And let not wickedness dwell in thy tents -

15 Then indeed canst thou lift up thy face without spot,

And shalt be firm without fearing.

The phrase הכין לב signifies neither to raise the heart (Ewald), nor to establish it (Hirz.), but to direct it, i.e., give it the right direction (Psalms 78:8) towards God, 1 Samuel 7:3; 2 Chronicles 20:33; it has an independent meaning, so that there is no need to supply אל־אל , nor take וּפרשׂתּ to be for לפרושׂ (after the construction in 2 Chronicles 30:19). To spread out the hands in prayer is ככּפּים פּרשׂ פּרשׂ ידים is seldom used instead of the more artistic כפים , palmas, h.e. manus supinas . The conditional antecedent clause is immediately followed, Job 11:14, by a similarly conditional parenthetical clause, which inserts the indispensable condition of acceptable prayer; the conclusion might begin with הרהיקהוּ : when thou sendest forth thy heart and spreadest out thy hands to Him, if there is wickedness in thy hand, put it far away; but the antecedent requires a promise for its conclusion, and the more so since the praet. and fut. which follow אם , Job 11:13, have the force of futt. exact.: si disposueris et extenderis , to which the conclusion: put it far away, is not suited, which rather expresses a preliminary condition of acceptable prayer. The conclusion then begins with כּי־אז , then indeed, like Job 8:6; Job 13:19, comp. Job 6:3, with עתּה כּי , now indeed; the causal signification of כי has in both instances passed into the confirmatory (comp. 1 Samuel 14:44; Psalms 118:10-12; Psalms 128:2, and on Genesis 26:22): then verily wilt thou be able to raise thy countenance (without being forced to make any more bitter complaints, as Job 10:15.), without spot, i.e., not: without bodily infirmity, but: without spot of punishable guilt, sceleris et paenae (Rosenmüller). מן here signifies without (Targ. דּלא ), properly: far from, as Job 21:9; 2 Samuel 1:22; Proverbs 20:3. Faultless will he then be able to look up and be firm ( מצּק from יצק , according to Ges. §71), quasi ex aere fusus (1 Kings 7:16), one whom God can no longer get the better of.

Verses 16-20

16 For thou shalt forget thy grief,

Shalt remember it as waters that flow by.

17 And thy path of life shall be brighter than mid-day;

If it be dark, it shall become as morning.

18 And thou shalt take courage, for now there is hope;

And thou shalt search, thou shalt lie down in safety.

19 And thou liest down without any one making thee afraid;

And many shall caress thy cheeks.

20 But the eyes of the wicked languish,

And refuge vanisheth from them,

And their hope is the breathing forth of the soul.

The grief that has been surmounted will then leave no trace in the memory, like water that flows by (not: water that flows away, as Olshausen explains it, which would be differently expressed; comp. Job 20:28 with 2 Samuel 14:14). It is not necessary to change אתּה כּי into עתּה כּי (Hirzel); אתה , as in Job 11:13, strengthens the force of the application of this conclusion of his speech. Life ( חלד , from חלד to glide away, slip, i.e., pass away unnoticed,

(Note: Vid., Hupfeld on Psalms 17:14, and on the other hand Böttcher, infer. §275 s., who, taking חלד in the sense of rooting into, translates: “the mildew springs up more brilliant than mid-day.” But whatever judgment one may form of the primary idea of חלד , this meaning of חלד is too imaginary.)

as αἰών , both life-time, Psalms 39:6, and the world, Psalms 49:2, here in the former sense), at the end of which thou thoughtest thou wert already, and which seemed to thee to run on into dismal darkness, shall be restored to thee ( יקום with Munach on the ult. as Job 31:14, not on the penult.) brighter than noon-day ( מן , more than, i.e., here: brighter than, as e.g., Micah 7:4, more thorny than); and be it ever so dark, it shall become like morning. Such must be the interpretation of תּעפה . It cannot be a substantive, for it has the accent on the penult.; as a substantive it must have been pointed תּעוּפה (after the form &#תּקוּדה תּקוּמה , and the like). It is one of the few examples of the paragogic strengthened voluntative in the third pers., like Psalms 20:4; Isaiah 5:19

(Note: In other instances, as תּרנּה , Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 8:3, and ותּעגּבה , Ezekiel 23:20, the ah is not the cohortative form, but either paragogic without special meaning or (so that the fut. has a double feminine form) as feminine termination, as is evident in Job 22:21, where the ah is combined with the inflection.)

(Ges. §48, 3); the cohortative form of the future is used with or without אם (vid., on Psalms 73:16) in hypothetical antecedent clauses (Ges. §128, 1). Translate therefore: should it become dark (accordingly correctly accented with Rebia mugrasch), from עוּף , to envelope one's self, to darken (whence עפתה , Job 10:22), not: shouldst thou become dark (Schlottm.). The feminine forms are instead of the neuter, like תּמטיר , it rains, Amos 4:7; חשׁכה , it becomes dark, Micah 3:6 (Ges. §137, 2).

The fut. is followed by perff. consecutiva in Job 11:18: And thou shalt take confidence, for there is ground for hope for thee; ישׁ , with the force of real and lasting existence. וחפרתּ is also perf. consec., and is rightly accented as such. If it were to be interpreted et si erubueris pudore tranquille cubabis , it would require the accent on the penult., since it would be a perf. hypotheticum. But although the seeming antithesis of וחפרת and לבטח (comp. Job 6:20) appears to favour this interpretation, it is nevertheless inadmissible, since it introduces a sadness into the promise: granted that thou shouldest be put to shame at this or that prospect; whereas, if חפר be taken in the sense of scrutari , as it is used by our poet (Job 3:21; Job 39:29) (not with Böttch., who comp. Ecclesiastes 5:11, in the signification fodere = to labour in the field, in which meaning it is not common), the tone of sadness is removed, and the accentuation is duly observed: and thou shalt search about (i.e., examine the state of thy household, which is expressed by וּפקדתּ in Job 5:24), thou shalt lay thyself down in peace (i.e., because thou findest everything in a prosperous condition, and hast no anxiety). This felling of security against every harm that may befall one's person or property, gained from trust in God, is expressed ( Job 11:19) under the figure of the peaceful situation of a herd when removed from danger, - a figure which is borrowed from Leviticus 26:6, and is frequently repeated in the prophets (Isaiah 17:2; Zephaniah 3:13). The promises of Zophar culminate in a future exaltation which shall command reverence and inspire trust: et mulcebunt faciem tuam multi. פּני חלּה , to approach any one in humble entreaty, generally used in reference to God; less frequently, as here and Psalms 45:13; Proverbs 19:6, in reference to men in high positions. The end of the wicked, on the other hand, is told in Job 11:20. Zophar here makes use of the choicest expressions of the style of the prophetic psalms: כּלה , otherwise frequently used of those who pine away with longing, here and Job 17:5 of eyes that languish with unsatisfied longing; מנּהם (Aram. מנּהוןּ ), poetic for &#מהם נפשׁ מפּח , after the phrase נפשׁ נפח , he breathes forth his soul (Jeremiah 15:9, comp. Job 31:39). The meaning is not that death is their only hope, but that every expectation remains unfulfilled; giving up the ghost is that whither all their disappointed hopes tend.

That Zophar, in the mind of the poet, is the youngest of the three speakers, may be concluded from his introducing him last of all, although he is the most impetuous. Zophar manifests a still greater inability than the other two to bring Job to a right state of mind. His standpoint is the same as that of the others; like them, he regards the retributive justice of God as the principle on which alone the divine government in the world is exercised, and to which every act of this government is to be attributed, and it may indeed be assumed to be at work even when the relation of circumstances is mysterious and impenetrably dark to us. This limited view which the friends take of the matter readily accounts for the brevity of their speeches in comparison with Job's. This one locus communis is their only theme, which they reiterate constantly in some new and modified form; while the mind of Job is an exhaustless fountain of thought, suggested by the direct experiences of the past. Before the present dispensation of suffering came upon Job, he enjoyed the peace of true godliness, and all his thoughts and feelings were under the control of a consciousness, made certain by his experience, that God makes himself known to those who fear Him. Now, however, his nature, hitherto kept in subjection by divine grace, is let loose in him; the powers of doubt, mistrust, impatience, and despondency have risen up; his inner life is fallen into the anarchy of conflict; his mind, hitherto peaceful and well-disciplined, is become a wild chaotic confusion; and hence his speeches, in comparison with those of the friends, are as roaring cataracts to small confined streams. But in this chaos lie the elements of a new creation; the harsh pertinacity with which the friends maintain their one dogma only tends to give an impulse to it. The new truth, the solution of the mystery, springs from this spiritual battle Job has to fight, from which, although not scathless, he still shall come forth as conqueror.

Is the dogma of the friends, then, so pure a doctrine ( זך לקח ) as that which, according to Zophar's words, Job claims for himself? On Zophar's side it is maintained that God always acts in accordance with justice, and Job maintains that God does not always so act. The maxim of the friends is false in the exclusiveness with which they maintain it; the conclusion to which they are urged gives evidence of the fallacy of the premises: they must condemn Job, and consequently become unjust, in order to rescue the justice of God. Job's maxim, on the other hand, is true; but it is so unconnected as it stands, that it may be turned over any moment and changed into a falsehood. For that God does not act everywhere as the Just One is a truth, but that He sometimes acts unjustly is blasphemy. Between these two Job hangs in suspense. For the stedfast consciousness of his innocence proves to him that God does not always act as the Just One; shall he therefore suppose that God deals unjustly with him? From this blasphemous inversion of his maxim, Job seeks refuge in the absolute power of God, which makes that just which is unjust according to the clearest human consciousness. This is the feeble thread on which Job's piety hangs. Should this be cut, it would be all over with him. The friends do their best to cut it in twain. Zophar's speech is like a sword-thrust at it.

For while Eliphaz and Bildad with cautious gentleness describe suffering more as chastisement than as punishment, Zophar proceeds more boldly, and demands of Job that he should humble himself, as one who has incurred punishment from God. Of sin on Job's part which may have called down the divine judgment, Zophar knows as little as Job himself. But he wishes that God would grant Job some revelation of His infinite wisdom, since he refuses to humble himself. Then he would confess his folly, and see that God not only does not punish him unjustly, but even allows much of his guilt to go unpunished. Job is therefore to turn penitently to God, and to put away that evil which is the cause of his suffering, in order that he may be heard. Then shall his hopeless condition become bright with hope; whereas, on the other hand, the downfall of the wicked is beyond recovery. Ewald aptly remarks that thus even the concluding words of the speeches of the friends are always somewhat equivocal. “Eliphaz just adds a slight caution, Bildad introduces the contrast in a few words, and Zophar adds but a word; all these seem to be as the forerunners of a multitude of similar harsh threatenings, ch. 15, 18, 20.”

What impression will this harsh treatment of Zophar's produce on Job? Job is to humble himself as a sinner who is undergoing the punishment of his sin, though the measure of it is far below the degree of his guilt; and while he does not deny his sinful weaknesses, he is nevertheless convinced that he is righteous, and having as such experienced the favour of God, cannot become an object of punishment. Brentius discriminatingly observes here: Videntur et Sophar et reliqui amici Hiob prorsus ignorare quid sit aut efficiat Evangelion et fides in promissionem Dei; sic argumentantur contra Hiobem, quasi nullus unquam possit coram Deo fide justificari. The language is rather too much in accordance with the light of the New Testament; but it is true that the friends know nothing whatever of the condition of a truly righteous man, over whom the law with its curse, or the retributive justice of God, has no power. The interpretation of affliction in accordance with the recognition of this principle is strange to them; and this is just the issue which is developed by the drama in the case of Job - the idea which comes to light in the working out of the plot. Even Job does not perceive the solution of the mystery, but, in the midst of the conflict, is in a state of ignorance which excites compassion; the ignorance of the friends arising from their shallowness of understanding, on the contrary, creates aversion. When Zophar, therefore, wishes that God would grant Job some revelation of His infinite wisdom, it is indeed true that Job is greatly in need of it; but it is self-deceiving pride which leads Zophar to imagine that he has no need of it himself. For this Wisdom which has decreed the suffering of Job is hidden from his also; and yet he does not treat the suffering of his friend as a divine mystery. He explains it as the working of the retributive justice of God; but since he endeavours thus to explain the mystery, he injures his cause, and if possible injures also the slender thread by which Job's faith hangs. For should Job regard his sufferings as a just divine retribution, he could then no longer believe on God as the Just One.

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Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Job 11". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.