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A Complaint over Life's Troubles
v. 1. Man that is born of a woman, feeble, frail mortal that he is, is of few days and full of trouble, Psalms 90:10.
v. 2. He cometh forth like a flower and is cut down, coming up quickly, maturing rapidly, and withering as soon; he fleeth also as a shadow and continueth not, as the shadow of a cloud hastens over the landscape in a moment of time. The entire first verse is really the subject of the second, the clauses showing man's frailty, his mortality, and his natural affliction modifying the subject "man. "
v. 3. And dost Thou open Thine eyes upon such an one, watching him only for the sake of punishing him, feeble and frail as he is, and bringest me into judgment with Thee? Job, who considered himself a particularly wretched example of the human race, was placed before the tribunal of God's justice, where he knew that it was impossible for him to maintain his cause.
v. 4. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. It is a deep cry of misery over the universal sinfulness of the human race, which caused the unpitying severity of God to strike them all, and Job in particular. The human race having once been contaminated by sin, not one pure person will ever come forth in the natural line of development; the wrath and punishment of God rests on all mortals.
v. 5. Seeing his days are determined, cut off, sharply bounded, the number of his months are with Thee, also established beforehand by God; Thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass, the term of his earthly life is set, and he cannot change it; this being so, then
v. 6. turn from him that he may rest, have surcease from sorrow and misery, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day, that he at least, while this life lasts, may enjoy it, as a day-laborer finds pleasure in his day, namely, in the rest which the shadow of evening brings after the day's task is finished.
v. 7. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, the stump sending up a new shoot, and that the tender branch thereof, the suckling which is thus growing up, will not cease. The date-palm of the Orient is especially noted for its great vitality in this respect.
v. 8. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, apparently yielding to decay, and the stock thereof die in the ground, the trunk decaying down to the roots,
v. 9. yet through the scent of water it will bud, it will sprout with new life as soon as the rainy season brings the vigor of water, and bring forth boughs like a plant, just like a sapling but recently planted.
v. 10. But man dieth and wasteth away, lying there prostrate; yea, man giveth up the ghost, expiring miserably, without the hope of rejuvenation, and where is he? What becomes of him, of his proud body? Cf Ecclesiastes 3:21.
v. 11. As the waters fail from the sea, literally, "the waters roll off," disappear, out of the sea, and the flood, a stream, decayeth and drieth up, the evaporating of even large bodies of water during the dry season being no uncommon phenomenon in the torrid regions of the Orient,
v. 12. so man lieth down and riseth not, there will be no return for him to this earthly life, till the heavens be no more; they shall not awake nor be raised out of their sleep, they sleep the long sleep of death, which will be terminated only by the great catastrophe at the end of the world. For the ordinary person there is only the dark night of the grave ahead, a poor improvement upon the miserable present. Only the believer has something more and better to hope for.
A Prayer to be Delivered from his Affliction
v. 13. Oh, that Thou wouldest hide me in the grave, secure in the realm of the dead, that Thou wouldest keep me secret, safely hidden, until Thy wrath be past, change once more into kindness, that Thou wouldest appoint me a set time and remember me! Job pleaded to be remembered in mercy, to be reestablished in God's grace. But for him, the reality differs much from this wish.
v. 14. If a man die, shall he live again? It is the voice of suspicion, of skepticism, which desires to banish all hope for the future, the doubt which endeavors to enter the heart of believers from time to time. All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come. The figure is taken from the life of the soldier, who will not abandon his post until he is relieved, discharged, or exchanged. The idea of an eventual deliverance from the realm of death is brought out pretty strongly at this point.
v. 15. Thou shalt call, that is, God would call to him, in granting him the discharge which he hoped for, and I will answer Thee; Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine hands, God would feel an affectionate yearning for Job, the poor, miserable creature, who was now groaning under such great afflictions.
v. 16. For now Thou numberest my steps, at this time God was still watching his every move as that of a transgressor; dost Thou not watch over my sin? So deep was Job's despair that he believed God was still holding back, that He was still keeping anger, that His full manifestation of it had not yet taken place.
v. 17. My transgression is sealed up in a bag, his guilt, or wickedness, was kept in remembrance, and Thou sewest up mine iniquity, literally, "Thou hast stitched on to my transgressions," that is, made Job's iniquity greater than it was in truth, and then punished him accordingly.
v. 18. And surely the mountain falling cometh to naught, it crumbles to pieces under the destroying influence of the elements, and the rock is removed out of his place, growing old and decaying in the same manner.
v. 19. The waters wear the stones, hollowing them out by continual dripping; Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth, the floods of water carry away the fruitful soil very quickly; and Thou destroyest the hope of man, for mortal man also perishes without the slightest hope of being brought back to this life again. The strongest and most substantial things in nature are unable to withstand the destructive power of the elements in the hand of God; how much less will mortal man escape this destruction?
v. 20. Thou prevailest forever against him, overpowering him with His might, and he passeth; Thou changest his countenance, disfiguring him, distorting his features in the agony of death, and sendest him away, forth out of this earthly life.
v. 21. His sons come to honor, or, "should his children be in honor?" and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, abased and disgraced; but he perceiveth it not of them. Man in the realm of death is utterly ignorant of that which takes place on this earth, being affected neither by the good nor by the ill fortune of his surviving relatives.
v. 22. But his flesh upon him shall have pain, feeling pain in the thought of his own misery, and his soul within him shall mourn. Pain is here, by personification, from our feelings while alive, attributed to the flesh and the soul, as if man could feel it in his body when dead. Note that the restoration of the body together with the soul is assumed in this passage, in a final awakening of the dead.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Job 14". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13