Bible Commentaries
Job 7

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

I Have No Future at All (6:28-7:6)

Job has just called into question not only the truth of Eliphaz’ words but even the motives of the friends (vs. 27). The next section opens with an appeal to them to "look" at him and to "turn." "My vindication," he says, "is in the matter; it is the point at issue." It is as though he were saying, "Stick to the facts in the case." That his presentation is true is stressed by the first line of verse 30, and the second line insists that he is perfectly capable of discerning a calamity when it happens.

The calamity which he begs the friends to consider is vividly described in Job 7:1-6. Job begins with a statement of the generally difficult and unsatisfying lot of men on earth. Man is compared to a soldier (the "hard service" is usually that of a mercenary soldier) and to a hired servant. Life itself does not accord with Eliphaz’ rosy picture. As for Job, he, in common with humanity, is like a slave looking for the respite that evening will bring. But his case is even worse than the lot of man in general. In the place of days of hard labor he has months of emptiness, with no reward or wages; and the night which gives rest to the slave brings him only increased pain. The contrast rises to a bitter climax in verse 4, where he reflects on the fact that, unlike the rest of hardworking mankind, for him the very length of the night is a horror, not a blessing. Verse 5 is a graphic description of his disease which gives no prospect of release. Finally, although he longs for death, he also bewails the fact that life is short at best; it passes with the swiftness of a shuttle crossing the loom; and, at least in his case, it passes without a ray of hope.

Verses 7-21

Therefore I Complain to God (7:7-21)

In an abrupt change of direction, occasioned by verse 6 with its pessimistic conclusion, Job now turns to God himself. One of the most prominent features in this book is the way that Job, time and again, in very depths of his despair, does turn to God. This is all the more significant when we are reminded that in his view God is his antagonist, that his tragedy has come from the hand of God, and that he cannot be at all sure that God even hears, much less cares. Even so, he addresses him, the Unseen, the Author of his distresses. And he addresses him in the main as Friend. True, it is as One who has been a Friend and who is now unaccountably estranged. But still, through all of his agonized protest, there runs the perception that God cannot be entirely against him.

In verse 7 the verb "remember" is in the singular, in contrast with the preceding verbs where Job speaks directly to the friends (for example, Job 6:28). Here it is clear that Job is speaking to God, or at least is crying out in the direction of God. It is God who is called upon to remember that Job’s life is short and hopeless and that in a "breath" he will be gone. In the very moment that God’s eye is upon him — and note that Job somehow recognizes that God’s eye is upon him — Job will die.

Death, which will bring the desired release from pain, will nevertheless mean that communion with God and vindication are now impossible. Sheol will be the end. Man does not return from there; even God does not come there. (For another picture of Sheol see 3:13-19.) For Job there is as yet no hope of vindication in an afterlife. The hopelessness with which man must face the future without some new revealing by God, especially without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, was never more poignantly expressed than in verses 9 and 10. Here, in its emptiness, the Book of Job points to the New Testament for "fulfillment."

Since the future is without hope, Job justifies (vs. 11) the extravagance of his past language and the even more violent protest to come. His question, "Am I the sea?" is, of course, addressed to God. It recalls the common view that the sea was a symbol of cosmic evil and was forcibly restrained by God from breaking out so as to destroy the established order.

In verses 13-16 he returns to a description of his disease and its accompanying mental distress, including nightmares and a settled desire for death. "Rather than my bones" is a reference to his emaciated body. In verse 16 he vacillates between longing for death and longing for temporary relief.

Psalms 8, with its question, "What is man that thou art mindful of him . . . ?" (Psalms 8:4) is a great poem praising God’s provision for man and wondering at the exalted position which man holds in God’s creation. Job 7:17-18 is a deliberate parody of the thought of the Psalm, as Job complains about the constant attentiveness of God and marvels that God gives such minute concern to man as to visit him with pain and to try him "every moment."

There follows a series of ironic questions, betraying Job’s agony, but also showing that he shared to some extent Eliphaz’ view of a remote God. First, he asks how long he must be tormented by God. "Till I swallow my spittle" is apparently a proverbial expression, referring to a brief time. Next he poses the hypothetical case: Even granted that he has sinned (which he does not admit), of what concern is it to God? That he can ask such a question shows that he does not comprehend either the enormity of sin or the true nature of a God of holy love. To sin is indeed to "do" something to God, something so great that a Cross is necessary to deal with it.

But if this flaw appears in Job’s theology, there is also the other, stronger strain of implicit faith. The questions which continue in verses 20 and 21, with their repeated "why’s," emphasize not just Job’s search for meaning in his tragedy, but more especially his pathetic loneliness and his longing for God. This comes to sharpest expression in the last verse, which repeats the fact that he is very near death. He will die, but God will ultimately "seek" him. This conviction that God is one who must finally seek man, who cannot be forever estranged from man, is evidence of the spiritual strength of Job. It is also a powerful witness to the true nature of God made fully known in Jesus Christ, who is God’s search for man. In Job’s case, however, this search will be fruitless, for Job "shall not be." Like a child after punishment, he cries, "I will die, and you will be sorry." Such a cry, although Job does not recognize it, can be addressed only to one whose nature it is to love.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Job 7". "Layman's Bible Commentary".