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Job reproves his friends for their prejudice: he professes his confidence in God, and entreats to know of him why he hides his face from him, and holds him for an enemy.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 13:4. Physicians of no value— Empty boasters: men who put on airs of great consequence, though in reality they were nothing. See Heath.
Job 13:8. Will ye contend for God— The Hebrew for contend is a judicial term, and oftentimes used for putting a sentence in execution. Of this there is a particular instance in the case of Gideon, who was demanded by the men of his city to be put to death for casting down the altar of Baal, Judges 6:31.; where, though our translators render it plead, the sense necessarily requires it to be rendered execute vengeance; for the question was, not about pleading, but instantaneously putting to death. If he be a God, let him execute vengeance for himself. Job here convicts his friends of wickedness; of taking upon them to defend God in an improper manner, as if he needed their rash censures to vindicate the ways of his providence. This was such a fault as they had but too much reason to fear might, one time or other, draw down his severe chastisements on their own heads. He will surely reprove you, Job 13:10 if you secretly accept persons: i.e. if you judge thus rashly and unjustly even for him, or in vindication of his ways. See Peters.
Job 13:9. Is it good, &c.— Is it right for you to pay false adulation to him? Houbigant; who observes, that the word adulate, in this clause, properly corresponds with mock in the next.
Job 13:11-12. Shall not his excellency, &c.— His majesty shall wholly confound you, and his terror shall fall upon you; Job 13:12. Your boasting shall be like unto dust; your pride like a heap of sand, Job 13:13. Hear me in silence and I will speak; I will deliver that which hath been known to me. Houbigant. Heath renders the 12th verse, Are not your lessons empty proverbs? Your high-flown speeches, what are they, but heaps of dung? Job refers, says he, to those general maxims of the course of providence towards wicked men, which they had thrown out to insinuate to him that he was certainly guilty of some great wickedness, for which the wrath of God had overtaken him.
Job 13:14. Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, &c.?— That is, "You ask me, why I should consider my case as thus desperate? (for that is the meaning of these phrases.) Why should you be thus slow to believe that God will deliver you out of your troubles? This looks as if you were conscious of some wickedness rendering you unworthy of such a deliverance." Job answers to this charge immediately: "It is not the want of a due hope or trust in God, occasioned by any wickedness whereof I am conscious, that makes me thus despair of my condition; for, though he slay me, (Job 13:15.) yet will I trust in him; but still I will maintain mine own ways, my own integrity before him; Job 13:16. He also shall be my salvation; for an hypocrite,—a sycophant, or false accuser, as the Hebrew word ףּחנ chanep, sometimes signifies,—shall not come before him, to charge me with crimes of which I am not guilty, in the future judgment." If we understand the word rendered hypocrite in its ordinary signification, it will afford a good sense: as thus, He also shall be my salvation, for I am no hypocrite. Here Job gives a very poetical turn to his speech; supposes himself as already dead, and standing before the tribunal of God; and bids his friends, as in that awful presence, say what they had to charge him with; Job 13:17-18. As if he had said, "I address myself to my trial, and plead not guilty; Job 13:19. Who is he that will litigate the matter with me? for now I will be silent, and expire." This is the Hebrew, rendered as literally as possible; and the meaning, I think, is clear; namely, "Who is he that will bring a charge against me? for you are now to consider me as dead, and standing before the tribunal of God." The translators, who certainly mistook the meaning of the words, have added an if, and so spoiled the whole turn of the sentence, thus: For now if I hold my peace, I shall give up the ghost: but there is no if in the Hebrew. It is literally as rendered above. Here, then, we must suppose Job to break off his speech for a moment, to see whether his friends would venture to accuse him of any thing when summoned before the Supreme Judge, in this solemn and affecting manner: and as they had no particular crime to charge him with, nothing but a groundless suspicion against him, we may conclude, that they must needs remain as silent upon this occasion as Job, and as if they had expired with him: upon which this holy man seems to recollect himself, and, as fearing that he might have been too bold in his appeal, addresses himself in the following verses to the Judge himself; beseeching him, in the most submissive manner, before he enters into judgment with him, to grant him two things: to withdraw his afflicting hand from him, and to veil the terrors of his majesty, that it might not strike him with too great a dread; and then to question him, and he would answer; or permit him to speak, and vouchsafe to inform him what his guilt was, and what were the reasons of these severe afflictions. See the 20th and following verses. This beautiful passage evidently shews, as well as several others in his speeches, that Job looked forward to a day of judgment, when he hoped to have his innocence cleared. See Peters, p. 165, 166.
Job 13:15. Though he slay me, &c.— It is impossible to understand this of a temporal deliverance; for how should a man hope for this, though he were slain? This passage, according to another reading, is, "Lo, he will kill; I will not hope; nevertheless, I will argue mine own ways, or plead mine own cause before him. He also shall be my salvation, &c." It is plain that Job here despairs of life, and yet hopes for salvation; which, therefore, must necessarily be understood of a future absolution and reward in the day of judgment. Peters.
Job 13:22. Then call thou— The word call is here a judicial term, and imports the declaring the accusation. This, in our law, is termed arraigning the criminal. The whole verse is of the same kind. Heath.
Job 13:24. Wherefore hidest thou thy face, &c.?— This expression, among some others, has been charged upon Job by a learned writer as very improper and unbecoming. Now, though we might admit that there is something faulty in the expostulation, yet it is very much alleviated by those expressions of humility and self-abasement which immediately precede and follow it. Read the 23rd and 25th verses. Scarcely ever were the feelings of the human heart, burdened with such a load of grief, expressed in a more natural or less blameable way; and I could almost recal the concession that I have made, of any thing at all wrong in it: for, if it be a rule of equity to put upon words and things the best construction that they will bear, Job seems, in the first part, to wish that God would discover to him the particular sins, if any, for which he thus afflicted him, and he was ready to deplore them, and to correct his errors for the future: in the second, the exceptionable part, he seems nevertheless to account it the greatest of his calamities, that God should hide his face from him, and deal with him as an enemy; on whose friendship and favour he had always set the highest value; had endeavoured to preserve it by the integrity of his life, and was resolved never to depart from that integrity. In the last part he confesses his own meanness, or rather nothingness, in comparison of God; and that in a manner so ingenuous and simple, as to shew that his complaints, however passionate and moving, had but a small mixture (for I must not venture to say none) of pride or stubbornness at the bottom of it. Peters.
Job 13:26. Thou writest bitter things against me— The author of the Divine Legation, zealous to support his allegorical scheme, is always desirous, for that end, to point out inconsistencies in this book. "The great point Job insists upon (says he) throughout the whole book is, his innocence; and yet, to our surprize, we hear him thus expostulating with God: Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth. This can be accounted for no otherwise than by understanding it of the Jewish people:"—but why so? May not the best man that ever lived find something to condemn in the levities and sins of his youth, or when he was a boy or child? for the Hebrew word נעורי neuraii, sometimes denotes a state of childhood. See Schultens and Grey. We may certainly allow him to have had respect to some actual sins of his youth, without any detriment to his argument, drawn from that present uprightness of heart and life which he now pleads; and had long practised; for, by the way, it is not his innocence, strictly speaking, which Job insists on, but his integrity. Peters.
Job 13:27. Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, &c.— Thou puttest my feet also in a clog; thou watchest all my paths; thou settest a mark on the soles of my feet. This alludes to the custom of putting a clog on the feet of fugitive slaves with the owner's mark, that they might be tracked and found. Heath. Houbigant renders the next verse, So that I am become like a thing consumed with rottenness; like a garment eaten up by the moth. I would just observe, that the dividing these speeches by chapters very frequently interrupts the connection; and the reader would do well in his perusal of them to neglect this division, which, though it has its uses, is of very modern date.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, In vindicating his cause against his unkind friends, some severity mixes with his just self-defence.
1. He desires them to weigh what he had said, that they might be convinced that he was not so weak as they would insinuate; he spoke from experience and observation, and he was assured that both would corroborate his sentiments, and prove him at least their equal in understanding. Note; We should well weigh before we condemn; rash censures only shew the folly of those who bestow them.
2. He wishes that the cause might be brought before God, as the umpire between him and his friends; could this be granted, he feared not to carry the point. Note; Conscious simplicity fears not the eye of piercing truth.
3. He sharply upbraids their cruel treatment of him: Ye are forgers of lies, contriving and publishing positions contrary to the truth of God, and highly injurious to the character of their neighbour—in saying that God never afflicted the righteous, and that his (Job's) sufferings were on account of his wickedness: ye are all physicians of no value, idol-physicians, pretenders to science, but ignorant both of the cause of his maladies, and the method of cure, deceiving his hopes, and as useless as the idol stock or stone. Note; (1.) A deliberate lie is a crying sin; against such false tongues no innocence can protect. (2.) Whatever here below the awakened sinner flies to for help and healing, will make him worse rather than better: none can cure the miseries of a fallen spirit, but that great physician who has the balm of life and grace to minister to the sin-sick soul.
4. He begs them to hold their peace rather than speak such words as wound, instead of healing; and observes, that their wisdom would better appear in silence, than in arguments so weak, and urged with such unkindness. He earnestly intreats them to hear his reasoning, and not be inattentive to, or disregard his pleadings, as they seemed to do. Note; (1.) Hastiness to speak, and rashness to utter without mature deliberation, expose the folly, instead of displaying the wisdom of a disputant. (2.) Truth needs only a fair hearing; but prejudice is deaf, and the best of men often suffer unheard or unnoticed.
5. He expostulates with them on the folly, sin, and danger of their conduct; who, while they pretended to plead the cause of God and truth, dishonoured him by falsehood, and misrepresented his dispensations; Will you speak wickedly for God? in condemning a righteous man as a hypocrite, and talk deceitfully for him, by pretending to vindicate his justice at the expence of his truth. Will ye accept his person, according to human partiality, and, construing my afflictions into signs of guilt, refuse to examine my case, and judge me unheard? Will ye contend for God? does his cause need such advocates? or will your pretext to plead for him excuse the falsehood of your principles, or the rash censure of your conclusions? Is it good that he should search you out? would he not then detect the evil of your principles, and the cruelty of your conduct? or as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him? pretending to be on his side, yet speaking to his dishonour. He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons; however you may deceive yourselves with imaginations of zeal for the honour of his perfections, he will resent your accusations of an upright man, condemned unjustly by you: Shall not his excellency make you afraid? or his height, his glorious perfections, of power, holiness, truth, &c. and his dread fall upon you, as false witnesses for him, doing so bad a thing under a pretence of zeal for his glory. Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay; your arguments are light as ashes, and as weak as a fortification composed of eminences of clay; or he suggests their weak and mortal state, as a reason why they should be afraid to provoke the holy and avenging God. Note; (1.) A good intention will not excuse, much less justify, an ill thing. (2.) They who plead for God had need be serious inquirers after truth themselves, and neither wilfully nor wickedly condemn those whom God hath not condemned. (3.) Whatever deceit we may put on others or ourselves, God is not mocked; he searcheth the heart, is no respecter of persons, and will assuredly reprove the evil that he discerns, however secretly committed, or coloured over with whatever pious pretext. (4.) The consideration of God's excellency and our meanness, his perfections and our vanity, should awaken in our mind a holy awe, and make us afraid to provoke his displeasure.
2nd, Full of matter, he resolved to utter his speech, and begs a moment's diligent attention to the declaration that he was going to make.
1. Whatever became of him, whatever censures his friends laid on him, speak he must; he would not smother the protestations of his innocence, nor pine to death in silent vexations: for, to hold his tongue under such circumstances of suffering and wrong, would be to burst with grief and expire: or, as some render the words, At all events I will take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand; come what will come, I will maintain my integrity. Note; If we have the testimony of a good conscience, we need fear no evil.
2. He strongly maintains his simplicity before God. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: the severity of my trials shall not make me quit my dependance on him; and the consciousness of my integrity till death will I never renounce. I will maintain mine own ways before him, that I have walked in truth and all good conscience. Not that herein he placed his hope of salvation; no; He also shall be my salvation, in his rich and free grace is my trust, whatever becomes of me here below; but this he never could hope to partake of, if allowed guile had been chargeable upon him; for an hypocrite shall not come before him: this he was fully assured of, and as sure that this character was not applicable to himself, as his friends had insinuated. Behold, now I have ordered my cause, am ready to maintain it against every accuser; I know that I shall be justified from the malicious accusations of men, from the sin he had confessed, and in his own heart enjoy the consciousness of his acceptance before God. Who is he that will plead with me? let him appear, and I am prepared to answer every allegation. Note; (1.) Whatever discouragements are in our way, confidence in God is our great duty and support. (2.) They who plead the salvation of Jesus Christ, and trust in it in living loving faith, are conscious that no charge lies against them in the court of heaven. (3.) Though sincerity is not our justification before God, it is a comfortable evidence to our own souls of an interest in his salvation, while hypocrisy gives the lie to every hope.
3. He turns from his friends to make his address to God. Two things he desires, and then he will undertake to open his cause: (1.) That his afflictions be removed, or suspended; and (2.) That the terror of the Divine Majesty be withdrawn; and that such a manifestation of his presence might be made, as would not confound and dismay him; then, as Defendant, he would answer, or as Plaintiff interrogate, and reason with God on his dealings with him: a daring proposal, for which he was afterwards, by Elihu, and God himself, justly censured. Note; In their distress men are too apt to utter what, on reflection, they must deeply condemn.
3rdly, Having proposed a fair trial, Job now,
1. Begs to be informed of the number and nature of his sins, being confessedly a sinner, though not chargeable with any of the grosser crimes. Some understand this as the language of humility; others, as a complaint of hard measure, to suffer without knowing the cause, or being conscious of having given any particular provocation: the latter sense seems most to correspond with the succeeding expostulations. Note; Who can understand his errors? they who know most, know but a little of the evil that they stand chargeable with before God.
2. He grieves bitterly at the absence of a sense of God's favour, a more afflictive burden than all his other losses; and cannot bear the thought of having the God he loved to treat him as an enemy, and frown on him in displeasure. Note; (1.) Those alone who have enjoyed communion with God know the misery of darkness, and distance from him. (2.) An apprehension of God's wrath is a kind of hell upon earth. (3.) When God seems to depart from us, it becomes us to examine and see what hath provoked him; for assuredly there is a cause.
3. He expostulates with God on his treatment of him, as beneath his majesty to crush a worm, who is as unable to resist him as the stubble the furious whirlwind: perhaps he meant it to move his commiseration. He complains of the hard measure that he endured, for which the iniquities of his youth were raked up against him, as those which afforded most cause for condemnation; and intimates God's severity in putting him into such a state of suffering, marking every false step, as if solicitous to catch at the least infirmity to vindicate his procedure, and to increase his anguish, under which already he pined away, as a corpse turning to putrefaction, and as a garment moth-eaten: under such misery to add to his sufferings seemed bitter, not to say cruel. Note; (1.) They have sadly-mistaken notions of the divine compassions, who can entertain a thought of his breaking with his wrath the heart which is bleeding in humiliation. (2.) However lightly youthful sins may be considered, God frequently makes his servants possess the bitter remembrance of them. (3.) They who think God too strict and severe, prove their own ignorance of themselves and him. (4.) Man is a perishing worm. How vile does disease make our bodies! but how much more odious has sin made the souls of all men by nature! What a blessed hope to be fixed out of the reach of both for ever on the resurrection-day!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 13". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27