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JOB’S REPLY TO ZOPHAR—CONTINUED
I. Job re-asserts his knowledge of the Divine procedure as not inferior to that of his friends (Job 13:1-2).
“Lo, mine eye,” &c. Right in certain circumstances to maintain one’s own knowledge, but without vain glory (2 Corinthians 11:6; Ephesians 3:4). Three things suggested in the words of Job as necessary to the
Acquisition of knowledge
1. Observation. “Mine eye hath seen all this.” Important to make a right use of one’s eyes. God’s works both of creation and providence to be carefully observed. To observe God’s works and ways is both a part of wisdom and the means of increasing it (Psalms 107:43). A mark of the ungodly and a cause of their destruction, not to regard the works of the Lord nor the operation of His hand (Psalms 28:5; Isaiah 5:12). Often the best knowledge that which is obtained by careful personal observation. “Come and see,” a common phrase in the Jewish schools, and frequently repeated in the New Testament (John 1:0; Revelation 6:0). Better to see for ourselves than to hear from others. The eyes, as well as the ears, are the purveyors for the mind.
2. Attention to the instruction of others. “Mine ear hath heard.” Moral and religious instruction at that time mostly oral. Consisted mainly in the recitation of proverbial maxims or truths delivered in short sentences. Such frequently quoted by Job and his friends. Reference made here to such. Each individual’s own personal observation necessarily limited. The testimony of others required to supplement our own observation. The privilege and duty of one to avail himself of the testimony and conclusions of another. Since the invention of printing, the extension of education, the employment of steam, and the removal of the taxes on knowledge,—the testimony and instruction of others now addressed nearly as much to the eye as to the ear. Reading now greatly takes the place of hearing, as the means of obtaining knowledge.
3. Reflection. “Hath understood (or considered) it.” Reflection an appropriating and assimilating process. Turns to account what is observed, read, or heard. Reading and hearing are with a view to reflection, as food is taken into the mouth only with a view to its being digested in the stomach. Food only serves the purpose of nutrition when properly masticated and digested. The eye and the ear collect the materials for the mind to work upon. Reading, as Bacon says, makes a full man; but reflection makes an intelligent, a growing, and a sure man. The want of consideration the characteristic of the way-side hearers. The reason of the Word of God, when heard, not entering the heart, and so of its being caught away by the enemy (Matthew 13:19).
II. His desire and resolution to address himself to God (Job 13:3).
“Surely, (or ‘however’) I would (or will) speak to the Almighty; and I desire to reason (or debate the case) with God.” Observe—
1. Great comfort to a believer in being able to take his case to God. Many things may be poured into God’s ear which may not be uttered to man’s. Our comfort that in every controversy an appeal may be made from man to God. The heart in trouble eased by pouring itself out to our Father in heaven. The best way to dispose of difficulties and perplexities is to take them at once to God. Better to take our case to God than to man, as—
(1) He is better acquainted with it, and can make no mistake about it;
(2) Will give a more just decision, being neither influenced by passion nor prejudice;
(3) Will shew more tenderness and sympathy in dealing with it.
2. God’s great condescension in allowing a creature to reason with Him. His desire that we should do so (Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 41:21; Isaiah 43:26). Our privilege to plead with Him, not to justify ourselves as righteous, but to be justified by Him as sinners. In the Gospel, God permits us to plead with Him for justification and acceptance on the ground of a better righteousness than our own. His invitation (Isaiah 1:18); David’s resolution (Psalms 71:16); Paul’s triumph (Romans 8:33-34).
III. Vehement retort from his friends (Job 13:4).
“But ye are forgers of lies (or, ‘stitchers up of falsehood,’ ‘disappointing surgeons,’ or ‘framers of false arguments,’), ye are all physicians of no value” (or, ‘of nothingness,’ or ‘idol physicians,’ as Zechariah 11:17). They had come professedly to bind up their friend’s wounds, and heal his diseased mind. In doing this they had only employed false and futile arguments. Had applied useless remedies, and misapplied good ones. Had set out on the false principle that great sufferings prove great sins, and that temporal prosperity must always accompany true piety. Had therefore concluded that Job must be both a transgressor and a hypocrite. Had consequently employed arguments to bring him to humiliation, repentance, and prayer. Among other arguments, had held out to him the promise of deliverance from trouble and restoration to prosperity. Observe—
1. Much wisdom required in ministering to a mind diseased. Care to be taken to employ only solid considerations and sound arguments. Only truth will satisfy and heal a troubled spirit. Preachers to beware of “daubing with untempered mortar.”
2. Scripture truth, rightly applied, the only medicine for sin-sick souls. Scripture written that through patience and comfort from it we might have hope (Romans 15:4). Paul’s direction to Christian mourners: “Comfort one another with these words,”—the truths he had just stated (1 Thessalonians 4:18).
3. The honour and corresponding responsibility of being made a physician of souls. Requires—
(1) Study and knowledge of cases;
(2) Knowledge of the requisite remedies;
(3) Skill in applying them;
(4) Sympathy with the sufferer. Christ the Great Physician of souls, and an example to all others. The best thing the preacher can do is to direct the Christian mourner and the sin-sick soul to Him (1 Corinthians 2:2).
VI. Keen remonstrance and reproof (Job 13:5-13).
1. Begs his friends only to refrain from speaking altogether (Job 13:5). “O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.”—Job 13:13. “Hold your peace, and let me alone.” Application of the maxim in Proverbs 17:28. Silence may not only give the appearance of wisdom, but is often wisdom itself. The part of a wise man either not to speak, or to speak to the purpose. Our speech to be “with grace, seasoned with salt.”
2. Bespeaks their attention to his reasoning and reproof (Job 13:6). “Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.” A duty owed to a brother both to prove and reprove—to prove error and reprove sin in him (Leviticus 19:17; Proverbs 9:8).
3. Shews their sin in acting as they had done. Their sin—
(1) In dissembling and using false arguments, while pretending to defend God and His procedure (Job 13:7). “Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him”—(speaking differently from what their consciences believed, in order to please God and uphold his cause). To make God appear just in afflicting Job, they, contrary to their convictions, wished to make him out a guilty transgressor. Observe—(i.) God needs no false doctrine or unsound reasoning to defend Him or His doings.—(ii.) God’s cause needs no sinful compromises or questionable measures to uphold it. Neither the wrath nor the wrong-doing of man “worketh the righteousness of God.”—
(2) In giving partial judgment for God, and presuming to make themselves His patrons, as if he needed either their favour or defence (Job 13:8). “Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?” Good men to be God’s witnesses, but not His patrons or advocates. A sin in His sight to judge, not according to the merits of the case, but the quality of the parties. Partiality in reference to men an injustice, in reference to God an insult. God’s cause to be defended not with favour and partiality, but with truth and justice. Favour and acceptance of persons in judgment so obnoxious to God that He accounts it a sin, even when in reference to Himself. Only a blind, false, and superstitious regard to religion defends it with anything but truth and honesty.—
3. In condemning what they secretly believed to be right, or maintaining with their lips what they did not believe in their hearts (Job 13:9). “Is it good (or will it be for your advantage) that he search you out (examine and expose your secret motives?) Or as one man mocketh another, do ye so so mock him? He will surely reprove you, if you do secretly accept persons. Shall not His excellency make you afraid (of acting thus hypocritically), and His dread fall upon you?” (or, ‘is it not His majesty that makes you afraid [of speaking according to your convictions] and does not the dread of him overwhelm you?’ [so as to act hypocritically in the matter]. Their condemnation of Job not from conviction of his guilt but from fear of God’s displeasure, and the desire to appear on His side. Observe—(i.) All dissimulation hateful to the God of truth. Believers so to act as willing to bear the scrutiny of Him whose eyes are as a flame of fire. (ii.) Fearful mockery of God to cloak our want of charity to man with a pretended zeal for God. (iii.) Necessary in maintaining the cause of religion, to examine our motives and the means we employ in doing so. A good cause may be defended from evil motives, and a bad cause may be upheld under the appearance of piety. A sin to act from slavish fear of the Almighty, rather than from conviction and a regard to truth.
4. Declares the worthlessness of his friends’ authorities and maxims with reference to the case in hand (Job 13:12). “Your remembrances are like ashes (or, ‘your memorial sayings are proverbs of ashes,’—worthless, and easily scattered by the wind); your bodies to bodies of clay” (or, “your towers, or defences,”—i.e., your arguments and maxims—are “towers of mud,”—as opposed to those of stone, without strength or solidity, and easily thrown down). Probably a proverbial phrase for weak and worthless arguments. The reference to the quotations from the ancients in his friends’ speeches. These called “remembrances,” or “memorial sayings,” as intended to be carried in the memory, and so kept ready for use. Particularly numerous among the Arabs, and taking the place of laws. Abundant in the speeches of Job and his friends, especially of the latter. Great part of Oriental wisdom and learning consisted in the knowledge and ready recitation of these traditional maxims. Their value to be decided on their respective merits. Not to be regarded as in themselves inspired productions. Probably neither their authors nor reciters inspired men. As much wisdom required in the application as in the composition of them. “A parable in the mouth of fools” proverbially worthless and injurious (Proverbs 26:7; Proverbs 26:9). In the case of Job’s friends the fault chiefly in the application. The maxims themselves generally good, according to the views prevalent at the period. Care to be taken by preachers and others—
(1) That quotations, especially those from Scripture, are correctly applied;
(2) That the arguments they employ are solid ones—not “defences of mud.”
V. His Resolution to plead his cause with God at whatever risk (Job 13:13).
“Let me alone, that I (or I myself) may speak (viz. to God), and let come on me what will.” (Job 13:14).—“Wherefore do I (or, ‘come what may,’—repeated from previous verse,—‘I will) take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand.” A proverbial expression for “expose myself,” viz., to the threatened peril of suffering for presumption in pleading his cause with God. The attempt considered by his friends as most daring and perilous. Faith and a good conscience are courageous, even in reference to God Himself (1 John 3:21). The righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1). “Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful.” Job’s case with God that of Esther with the king: “I will go, and if I perish I perish” (Esther 4:16). Abraham’s case in pleading for Sodom: “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes (Genesis 18:27. Necessity and love make men courageous.—Job 13:15. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him (or, ‘behold, he will slay me,’ or let Him slay me, I will not expect’ [anything else]—the Hebrew words for ‘not’ and ‘in him,’ the same in sound); but I will maintain (or, ‘only I will prove and argue’) my ways before Him.” The antithesis between the third and the first and second clauses, rather than between the second and the first. Observe—
1. The boldness of Job’s faith and conscious integrity here rises to its highest pitch. Though with only death before him as the result, he will still maintain his integrity, even at the tribunal of the Almighty. THE HEAT AND TURNING POINT OF THE CONFLICT BETWEEN GOD AND SATAN IN THESE WORDS. Satan’s charge,—Job will give up all, even his religion, to save his life. Thus it will be shown that God has not a sincere disinterested servant in the world; that all religion is mere selfishness and time-serving policy. God will thus be stripped of His honour in the universe. For Job to have given up his integrity and acknowledged he was not the man he had appeared, would have given the victory into Satan’s hand. Job would have been condemned out of his own mouth. Fear would have made him a liar, and to save his life he would have thrown away his religion. This the aim of Satan, and the tendency of all the arguments of his friends, cunningly suggested by himself. JOB PREFERS TO DIE, and Satan is defeated. Glorious triumph of faith and a good conscience! Many a believer, like Job, the battle-field between God and Satan. As he maintains faith and a good conscience, God is honoured and Satan put to shame.
2. Job persuaded that though his during might end in death, it would ultimately prove his deliverance (Job 13:16). “He also (or, ‘even this’) shall be my salvation; for an hypocrite [as Job’s friends charged him with being] shall not come before him.” The fact of his appealing to God in the face of such peril, a proof of his innocence. “The foolish shall not stand in His presence” (Psalms 5:5). The righteous Judge would acquit him of the charges of his friends, and of any sin as the cause of his suffering. Even should death ensue, a deliverance awaited him beyond death. His innocence would be vindicated, which with him was salvation. The day would come when this would be done before an assembled universe (ch. Job 19:25). The believer’s case always safe in God’s hands (2 Timothy 1:16.).
VI. Job requests his friends’ attention to his pleading, and predicts his success (Job 13:17).
“Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration [in reference to my innocence] with your ears. Behold now, I have ordered my cause (—have already set in order my pleading as a general draws up his forces for battle); I know that I shall be justified” (—shall gain the cause and be pronounced righteous by my Judge). Job actually justified by God as he expected, though not till he had humbled himself and repented in dust and ashes (ch. Job 42:6). Observe—
(1) The boldness and assurance of a good conscience before a righteous tribunal.—
(2) Job’s language that of Christ himself, and of the believer trusting as a sinner in Christ’s merits (Isaiah 50:7-9; Romans 8:32-34). Job, in the circumstances, rightly trusted to his innocence and integrity as the ground of his justification by God. Men, as sinners, have not to plead their own righteousness as the ground of their acceptance, but that of the Surety provided for them by God Himself. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather that is risen again.” Christ’s name and title, The Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). This also the righteousness of Job, viewed as in common with others a sinner before God (ch. Job 40:4; Job 42:6). Job upright in his life as a true servant of God, and so justified by his own righteousness before men; Job a sinner in himself in the eye of the Divine law, and so justified by the righteousness of his Surety before God.
VII. Introduction to the pleading (Job 13:19-22).
1. Challenges any opponent in the controversy (Job 13:19). “Who is he that will plead with me?” Defies any to shew that he is guilty of any crime deserving such unusual treatment. Similar challenge by God’s righteous Servant (Isaiah 50:8); and by the Apostle in reference to believers (Romans 8:32).
2. Expresses his intense desire to plead his cause before God, whatever the result. “For now if I hold my tongue, I shall give up the ghost” (or, “for now [if he can make good his cause against me and prove me guilty] I will hold my tongue and die”).
3. Begs only to be freed from restraint in pleading (Job 13:20). “Only do not two things unto me, then will I not hide myself from thee.” These two things specified—
(1) The removal or lightening of his present suffering; “Withdraw thine hand far from me” (Job 13:21).
(2) The withholding the overwhelming terror of his majesty; “and let not thy dread make me afraid.” The result of this request being granted,—“Then call thou (as plaintiff in the case), and I will answer (as defendant); or let me speak (as plaintiff), and answer thou me [the complaints that I have to make].” His wish either that God would accuse and give him an opportunity of answering for himself; or allow him to present his complaint as suffering without any known cause. No small presumption in the eyes of the friends for Job to wish either of these. The language only to be excused in the peculiar circumstances of the case. No sinner’s part either to complain against God, or to answer His charges. Ultimately Job is taught to give up the place both of plaintiff and defendant. Observe—
1. Job’s difficulties in pleading his cause were—God’s hand upon him, and God’s dread over him. God’s hand easily made too heavy for any creature to bear. If so heavy on a saint, what must it be on a sinner? “If these things are done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” If God’s dread be overwhelming to a saint in a world of mercy, what will it be to the sinner in a world of doom? Good so to realise God’s terror now, as to escape it hereafter.
2. The difficulties removed, Job would plead with God and not hide himself from Him. Natural for fallen men to seek to hide themselves from God. Adam’s first act after the Fall was to sew fig-leaves together to hide his own nakedness; his second, to hide himself from God among the trees. Peter’s language to Christ the natural expression of conscious guilt in presence of Divine majesty: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. Christ the true hiding-place of a sinner provided by God himself. Hidden by faith in the clefts of that Rock, the sinner can behold the majesty of God without dread.
VIII. Job pleads with God (Job 13:23-28).
1. Asks to be shewn his sins which are the cause of his suffering (Job 13:23). “How many are mine iniquities and my sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin. Wherefore hidest thou thy face,” &c. This not a confession of sin, but a desire to have it shown. Asked more in the spirit of self-justification than of humility. Job unconscious of such sin as to merit such suffering, yet willing to know it. First, as to the mumber of his sins, then any particular transgression that has entailed such chastisement. Three different kinds of offences indicated—
(1) Iniquities, or perverse deviations from the Divine law;
(2) Sins, or failures in duty;
(3) Transgression, or the most heinous kind of sin, involving rebellion and wilful breach of the law of God. Though not the cause of his sufferings, yet Job’s offences immensely more numerous than he was aware of. Like Paul, had lived in all good conscience; yet secret unknown sins might still exist. David’s acknowledgement—“Innumerable evils have compassed me about—mine iniquities are more than the hairs of my head” (Psalms 40:12). God’s testimony in regard to fallen man before the Flood, “Every imagination of the thought of his heart is only evil continually;” after the Flood, “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 6:5; Genesis 8:21). Man’s natural heart a poisonous upas tree and a corrupt spring. The fruit necessarily partakes of the nature of the tree; the streams, of that of the spring. Sin, in consequence of its effects on the soul, usually not known. Like the fish that discolours the water by its own secretion, and so escapes its pursuer. Important prayer (Psalms 19:12; Psalms 26:2; Psalms 139:23). Job ultimately made to know his transgression and his sin (ch. Job 42:6). The discovery of the Divine glory is at the same time a discovery of our own sin. The result of Job’s trouble, as of all sanctified affliction. Knowledge of sin necessary to the knowledge of salvation. “The whole have no need of the physician.” Sense of sin needful to sense of the blood that was shed for its remission.
2. Pleads his present condition.
(1) As forsaken by God. “Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy?” (Job 13:24). This the most painful element in his sufferings. So with David (Psalms 13:1; Psalms 22:1), and with David’s Lord (Matthew 27:48). Implies previous enjoyment of His presence and favour (ch. Job 29:3-5). Only those who have known the sweetness of God’s fellowship can realise the greatness of its loss. Intolerable to a child of God to be regarded and treated as an enemy.
(2) As feeble and afflicted. “Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?” Touching images of frailty and prostration—a leaf driven to and fro by the wind, and dry stubble, worthless and ready to take fire. Seemed unbecoming the Divine majesty to pursue so feeble a creature with so much severity. Job’s sufferings already of some continuance. Had consisted in successive blows, increasing in severity, without mitigagation or suspension.—To the eye of sense God’s dealings often unnatural and unlike Himself. Hereafter seen to be all holy, and wise, and good, infinitely becoming His Divine Majesty and character. Winter with its gloom, as necessary and as much a part of nature’s economy, as summer with its glow. “God is His own interpreter,” &c. Contrast with Job’s pleading what the Saviour actually does (Psalms 42:3).
3. Complains of the Divine treatment (Job 13:26-28).—
(1) That God visited upon him the sins of his youth. “Thou writest bitter things against me (—decreest bitter sufferings for me as the punishment of my offences), and makest me to possess (Heb. ‘inherit’) the iniquities of my youth (—to suffer the punishment of sins long passed, committed in the season of thoughtlessness, and then passed over).” Job entirely in the dark in egard to God’s present dealings and the cause of his sufferings. God’s part in them was to prove Job to be his faithful servant, in opposition to Satan’s allegations. Believers unable to judge correctly of God’s dealings from appearances. “Blind unbelief is sure to err,” &c. Satan’s object to get Job and every child of God to think as hardly of God as possible. God might visit the sins of youth on our riper years. Such sins deserving punishment, and requiring to be repented of in order to be forgiven. David remembered them, and besought God not to do so (Psalms 25:7). “Foolishness bound up in the heart of a child.” The thoughts of man’s heart evil from his youth. The natural effects of youthful sins sometimes experienced in maturer years. Job, conscious at least of youthful sins, supposes he must now be suffering the punishment of them. Yet Job’s youth eminently virtuous and pious (ch. Job 31:1; Job 31:18). The sins of youth as well as of manhood atoned for by a Saviour’s blood (Isaiah 53:6). The bitterness of sin’s punishment experienced by the Divine Surety on the cross (Matthew 27:24).—
(2) That he was treated ignominiously as the vilest criminal (Job 13:27). “Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks.” These a kind of clog, or fetter. Often a public, always a painful and ignominious punishment, and the severest restraint on personal liberty. Inflicted on Jeremiah in the gate, or most public place of the city (Jeremiah 20:2); and on Paul and Silas in the dungeon at Phillippi (Acts 16:24). Job’s case appeared to him to resemble this.—“And lookest narrowly into all my paths”—either with the view of punishing, or of preventing escape. Job appeared to be watched as by a spy, or guarded as by a sentinel. Similar thought, ch. Job 7:12; Job 7:20. His temptation common to believers. “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense.” God’s true character and dealings described by the prophet (Micah 7:18-19).—“Thou settest a print upon the heels of my feet”—either—(a) as tracking his steps with a view to punishment; or (b) as marking him as a criminal or runaway slave with branded feet; or (c) as hemming in his path and forbidding escape. The flesh mistakes friends for foes. In the battle of Alma men fighting in the dark fired on their own countrymen. Satan’s doings often mistaken for God’s, and God mistaken for a foe.—
(3) That his lot was to pine away and perish (Job 13:28). “And he as a rotten thing consumeth (or, ‘and the same,’ viz., the same unhappy culprit, meaning himself—a poetical and tragical change of the person, as better indicating his sense of his vile condition), as a garment that is moth-eaten.” The humbling comparison of himself to worm-eaten wood, or to moth-eaten clothes, suggested by his bodily condition. The latter a common poetical figure for gradual but sure destruction. Applied to the body under disease (Psalms 39:11); to men in general (Isaiah 50:9). The present verse closely connected with the following chapter, and forming a point of transition to it. Job’s condition as frail and dying a plea with God for pity and forbearance. The plea remembered in regard to Israel (Psalms 78:39); in regard to men in general (Psalms 103:13-14; Isaiah 57:16). God’s mercy pities men’s persons while his justice punishes their sins. Hence the gracious provision of a Substitute (Isaiah 53:6).
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 13". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27