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Bible Commentaries

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Job 17


His miserable life; false friends; their punishment, Job 17:1-5.

His contempt, and sorrow, Job 17:6,Job 17:7.

The righteous should be established, Job 17:8,Job 17:9;

but he was given over to death, Job 17:11-16.

Verse 1

My breath is corrupt, i.e. it stinks, as it doth in dying persons. Or, my spirit is corrupted, or spent, or lost, i.e. my vital spirits and natural powers are wasted; my soul is ready to leave the body.

My days are extinct; the lamp of my life is wasted, and upon the point of going out, and that in a snuff.

The graves, i.e. the grave; the plural number being put for the singular, as sepulchres, 2 Chronicles 21:20, cities, Judges 12:7, asses, Zechariah 9:9, are put for one of each of these.

Are ready for me; open their mouths as ready to receive me. The sense and scope of this verse is the same with the former.

Verse 2

Do not my friends, instead of comforting, mock and abuse me, as if I had made use of religion only as a cloak to my wickedness? Heb. If there be not mockers with me, understand, let God do so or so to me. It is a form of an oath, which is defectively expressed, after the manner of the Hebrews. Assuredly I am in the midst of cruel mockers, which is a sore aggravation of my affliction. Thus he returns to what he had said Job 16:20, and intimates the necessity and justice of his following appeal, which otherwise might be thought too bold.

Mine eye; either,

1. The eyes of my body. Do they not continue to provoke me to my face? Or rather,

2. The eye of my mind. Their provoking scoffs and reproaches do not only molest me in the day-time, when they are with me, but lodge with me in the night, and are continually in my thoughts, and break my sleep, and disturb me in dreams. And therefore if I be a little disordered, I may be excused.

Verse 3

He turneth his speech either to Eliphaz, who spoke last; or rather to God, as is evident from the matter and scope of the words, and from the next verse. These words contain either,

1. A humble desire to God that he would appoint him a surety, who should undertake for his friends; that they should refer the cause in difference between them to God or to some other person, who should determine the matter in God’s name, and according to God’s will; or that God would be his Surety, or appoint him a surety who should maintain his righteous cause against his opposers; for so this phrase is oft used, as Psalms 119:121,Psalms 119:122; Isaiah 38:14. And some expound this, as they did Job 16:21, of Christ Jesus, who was called our Surety, Hebrews 7:22; appoint, I pray thee, my Surety (i.e. Christ, who is now) with thee, to plead my cause. Or rather,

2. An appeal from God unto God, or a kind of challenge or desire of debating his cause with God; which, though it savoureth of too much boldness and irreverence to God, yet seeing Job expresseth the same desire almost in the same manner, Job 9:33,Job 9:34, and is sharply reproved by God for contending with him, Job 40:2, I know no inconvenience of ascribing the same thing to him here. So the sense is, Because I am not able to deal with thee immediately, considering the dread of thy majesty, my only desire is, that thou wouldst deal with me upon fair and equal terms, as if thou wert a man like myself, and appoint some man who shall in thy name and stead determine the time and place for the trial of my cause with thee. And this suits well enough with the two following verses, because his friends were without understanding, Job 17:4, and partial, Job 17:5; therefore he desires to cease discoursing with them, and to debate his cause with God, who was just and impartial, and also would be favourable to him.

Strike hands with me, i.e. agree and promise, or be surety to me; whereof that was the usual gesture, Proverbs 6:1,Proverbs 6:2; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 22:26.

Verse 4

Thou hast blinded the minds of my friends, that they can not see those truths which are most plain and evident to all men of sense and experience; therefore I desire a more wise and able judge.

Therefore shalt thou not exalt them, i.e. thou wilt not give them the victory over me in this contest, but wilt give sentence for me, and discharge them, and make them ashamed of their confidence in affirming falsehoods of thee, and punish them severely for their miscarriage. It is a usual figure, whereby much more is understood than is expressed.

Verse 5

Hereby Job chargeth them, either,

1. With flattering him with vain hopes, and promises of the return of his former prosperity, when he knew that his case was desperate. Or,

2. With flattering and befriending God, and giving a partial sentence out of respect to him; for which he reproved and condemned them before, Job 13:7-9, where see the notes. Some render the words thus, He that uttereth or declareth his mind or thoughts (as this word signifies, Psalms 139:2,Psalms 139:17) with flattery, or to flatter or deceive another.

The eyes of his children shall fail; he shall be severely punished, not only in his person, but even in his children, whose eyes shall fail with vain expectations of relief and deliverance out of those calamities which shall come upon them for this sin of their parents.

Verse 6

He, i.e. God, who is oft designed by this pronoun in this book.

A by-word, or proverb, or common talk. My calamities are so great and prodigious, that they fill all people with discourse, and are become proverbial to express extreme miseries. Compare Numbers 21:27,Numbers 21:28; Deuteronomy 28:37.

And, or but, or although, as this particle is oft used.

Aforetime; so he aggravateth his present misery by the mention of his former prosperity. Or, to their faces, or openly. They do not only reproach me behind my back, but revile and mock me, and make a sport of my calamities, even to my face. I was as a tabret, i.e. I was the people’s delight and darling, and matter of their praise, and entertained by them with applauses, and as it were with instruments of music. Or,

I am as a tabret, i.e. matter of sport and merriment to them.

Verse 7

By reason of sorrow; through excessive weeping and decay of spirits, which cause a dimness in the sight.

All my members are as a shadow; my body is so consumed, and my colour so wan and ghastly, that I look more like a ghost, or a shadow, than like a man.

Verse 8

Wise and good men, when they shall see and consider my calamities, will not be so forward to censure and condemn me as you are, but will rather stand and wonder at the depth and mysteriousness of God’s counsels and judgments, which fall so heavily upon innocent men, while the worst of men prosper.

And the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite: but, or yet, (notwithstanding all these sufferings of good men and the astonishment which they cause,)

innocent (or religious persons shall be so far from joining their opinions, and counsels, and interests, with

hypocrites, or profane men, who thence take occasion to censure the afflicted person, and to reproach, and condemn, and desert the profession and practice of godliness, that they) will stir up themselves against them in holy indignation, and will oppose their wicked courses, and will prefer afflicted piety before prosperous iniquity.

Verse 9

Shall hold on his way, i.e. shall persist in that good way into which he hath entered, and not be turned from it by any afflictions which may befall himself or any other good men, nor by any contempt or reproach cast upon them by the ungodly by reason thereof.

He that hath clean hands, i.e. whose life and the course of his actions is holy and righteous; which is a sign that his heart also is pure and perfect.

Shall be stronger and stronger; shall not be shaken and discouraged by the grievous afflictions of the godly, nor by the bitter censures and reproaches of hypocrites or wicked men, cast upon them for that cause; but will be continued thereby, and made more constant and resolute in cleaving to God, and his ways and people, in spite of all difficulties and miseries.

Verse 10

Return, and come now, i.e. come now again, (as this phrase is oft used,) and renew the debate, as I see you are prepared and resolved to do, and I am ready to receive you. Or, return into yourselves, and consider my cause again; peradventure your second thoughts may be wiser.

One wise man, to wit, in this matter. None of you speak like wise or good men, but like rash and heady persons; you censure me as a rotten hypocrite, and misjudge of God’s ways, and condemn the generation of God’s children upon frivolous grounds.

Verse 11

My days; the days of my life. I am a lost and dying man, and therefore the hopes you give me of the bettering of my condition are vain and groundless.

My purposes; or, my designs, or

thoughts, to wit, which I had in my prosperous days, concerning myself and children, and the continuance of my happiness.

The thoughts of my heart, Heb. the possessions of my heart, i.e. those thoughts which in a great measure possessed my heart, which were most natural, and familiar, and delightful to me. All my thoughts, and designs, and hopes are disappointed, and come to nothing.

Verse 12

They; either,

1. My friends. Or,

2. My sorrows, of which he is here speaking. Or,

3. My thoughts, last mentioned. Possibly these words may be joined with them thus, The thoughts of my heart change the night into day.

Change the night into day; they do so incessantly pursue and disturb me, that I can no more rest and sleep in the dark and silent nights, than in the midst of the light and tumults of the day. Or,

they change the day into night, Heb. they put the night for or instead of (as the Hebrew lamed is elsewhere used) the day, i.e. they make the day as sad and dark as the night to me. So it seems best to agree with the following branch of the verse.

The light is short, i.e. the day-light, which ofttimes gives some little comfort and refreshment to men in misery, seems to be gone and fled as soon as it is begun.

Because of darkness, i.e. because of my grievous pains and torments, which follow me by day as well as by night.

Verse 13

If I wait; if I should give way to those hopes of my deliverance and restoration which you suggest to me.

The grave is mine house: I should be sadly disappointed; for I am upon the borders of the grave, which is the only house appointed for me, instead of that goodly house which you promise to me here upon condition of my repentance.

I have made my bed in darkness; I expect no other rest but in the dark grave, for which therefore I prepare myself.

Verse 14

To corruption, Heb. to the pit of corruption, the grave.

Thou art my father; I am near akin to time, as being taken out of thee; and thou wilt receive and embrace me, and keep me in thy house, as parents do their children.

Thou art my mother, and my sister; because of the same original, and the most strict and intimate union and conjunction between me and the worms.

Verse 15

Where is now my hope? and what then is become of that hope which you advised me to entertain?

My hope, i.e. the fulfilling of my hope, or the happiness which you would have me expect; hope being put for the thing hoped for, as Proverbs 13:12; 1 Corinthians 9:10.

Who shall see it? no man shall see it: it shall never be.

Verse 16

They; either,

1. They that would see my hope, they must go into the grave to behold it. Or rather,

2. My hopes; of which he spoke in the singular number, Job 17:15, which he here changeth into the plural, as is very usual in these poetical books.

To the bars of the pit, i.e. into the closest and innermost parts of the pit: my hopes are dying, and will be buried in my grave.

When our rest together is in the dust: so the sense is, when those spectators, together with myself, shall be in our graves. Heb. seeing that (as this Hebrew particle im oft signifies; or, certainly, as it is used Numbers 17:13; Job 6:13, and elsewhere) our rest shall be together in the dust, i.e. I and my hopes shall be buried together.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Job 17". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.