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Job appeals from men to God: the unmerciful dealing of men with the afflicted may astonish, but not discourage the righteous. Job professes that his hope is not in life, but in death.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 17:1. The graves are ready for me— They are preparing a grave for me. See Houbigant.
Job 17:2. Are there not mockers with me?— Were it not so, I have sarcasms enough in store, and I could spend the whole night unmoved at their aggravations. Heath. See chap. Job 24:25. It is very plain to me, says Peters, that as Job in the fourth verse directs his speech to God, so in the two preceding he points at and addresses himself to his mistaken friends: Are there not mockers with me? Lay down now (some earnest or pledge), put me in a surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me? i.e. Which of you, who thus mock and insult me, will venture to try your cause before the Supreme Judge? No; they shew a want of understanding in thus rashly censuring me; and were they to bring their cause before thee, O God, thou wouldst not exalt them; i.e. they would be cast in the trial. This sense, we see, is very obvious and easy: the change of the person addressed, and the several breaks in the sentence, only shew the earnestness of the speaker, and are both natural and elegant.
Job 17:5. He that speaketh flattery to his friends— The Hebrew of this verse literally runs thus: תכלננ בניו ועיני רעים יגיד לחלק lechelek yaggiid reiim veeinei banaiv tiklenah, He shall reckon friends for a portion or inheritance, and the eyes of his children shall fail; i.e. with expectation. They may look their eyes out before they receive any benefit or assistance from these friends. The expression is proverbial, intimating how liable men are to be disappointed who depend upon the constancy of human friendships; and nothing could be more apposite to Job's purpose. Peters.
Job 17:6. He hath made me also a by-word— But they have marked me out for a by-word of the people; nay, I am even a prodigy in their sight. Heath.
Job 17:8. And the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite— The innocent, to be sure, will exert himself against the profligate. The whole of this and the next verse is an irony. Heath.
Job 17:10. But as for you all, &c.— Now, therefore, recollect yourselves, all of you, and consider, I pray you: cannot I find one wise man among you? Heath and Houbigant. See ch. Job 6:28.
Job 17:11-12. The thoughts of my heart, &c.— The gnawings of my heart (Job 17:12.) causeth it to be night instead of day; the light is short in comparison of darkness. Heath.
Job 17:13. If I wait, the grave is mine house— I have no hope; the grave is my house: I have spread my couch in darkness.
Job 17:15. And where is now my hope?— The repetition of the word hope is extremely elegant in this place. The two verses may be thus connoted; Where now, pray, can be my hope? my hope indeed! whoever have a mind to see it, (Job 17:16.) they must descend to the confines of the grave, seeing we shall go down to the dust together. Houbigant renders the last verse, It [my hope] shall descend together with me into the grave: it shall rest with me in the dust.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Job wished for a fair trial of his case; but it must be soon, or death would prevent him.
1. He speaks of himself, as of one at the point of death, his breath corrupt through his disease, and drawn with difficulty; his days extinct, the last of them just at their end, and the graves of his fathers open, as ready for his reception. Note; (1.) Though the breath of natural life will quickly expire; yet if God has breathed spiritual life into us, we can never die. (2.) The days of time are drawing to their period; what folly then to seek our portion here, instead of securing a part in that eternity, where time will be lost as a drop in the ocean. (3.) If the grave is ready for us, highly it imports us to be ready for the grave; then come death, and welcome!
2. He complains of his friends, as mockers, who insulted him with abuse, and deceived his expectations, provoking him continually, so that neither day nor night his eyes could close. Note; (1.) It is cruel to mock at any man's calamities. (2.) An exasperated spirit drives sleep from the eyelids.
3. He longs that God would hear the cause. Lay down now some pledge of appearing, put me in a surety with thee, let me have assurance that the cause shall be heard, or, appoint my surety with thee, my Divine Redeemer, who will undertake to plead my cause for me, and then I am sure of success. Who is he that will strike hands with me, and lay any thing to my charge? I shall then have an advocate to answer for me. Note; They who have Christ for their surety, may appear with boldness at the bar of God.
4. He imputes the charges of his friends to a judgment of infatuation upon them from God; and thence concludes their unfitness to be exalted as umpires in the dispute. Note; (1.) Wisdom is God's gift; and when the wise abuse their talent, he can infatuate and confound them. (2.) They shall not be exalted, but be cast down into the pit of misery, who employ the wisdom that God hath given them against the cause and people of God.
5. He denounces a curse upon flatterers, such as he considered his friends to be, who pretended to speak for God, and to give him great expectations of prosperity: The eyes of his children shall fail, his family be desolate, and find no kindness in their distresses. Note; Flattery is abominable, and every wise and good man abhors it.
6. He laments that he was now despised, though once the darling of his friends and the people. His poverty became a proverb, and his wickedness was universally esteemed to be the cause of it. Note; (1.) We must place little confidence in men's regard: love and loathing, honour and infamy, are often successive. (2.) Every one is the great man's admirer; but let him be reduced, and how despicable does he in poverty appear! It is well if we have one friend who is not so changeable.
7. Bitter sorrow dimmed his eye, and continual tears wore him to a skeleton; so deeply does the body usually partake in the anguish of the soul. Let us fear inordinate grief, lest it make us self-murderers!
8. He declares what effect his sufferings and his friends' behaviour would have upon the righteous. They would be astonished at his sorrows and their cruelty, and rise up with indignation to reprove the hypocrisy of such as pretended to sanctity, yet were so rash in their censure of the innocent. Far from being discouraged by such a dark dispensation, or the fear of the like usage, they would hold on their way in purity, simplicity, and integrity; and, instead of fainting, grow stronger and stronger. Perhaps he expresses his own confidence of doing so, notwithstanding their revilings, conscious of his righteousness, and the cleanness of his ways before God. Note; (1.) A good man may see things that he cannot account for in God's dealings; but he staggers not through unbelief. (2.) They who are faithful to God are zealous for him, and dare to vindicate his oppressed cause and people. (3.) The bitterest abuse that God's people sustain is usually from formal and hypocritical professors. (4.) Difficulties and opposition quicken and strengthen them who walk in the ways of God.
2nd, From sad experience he is now convinced how little expectation he could entertain from his friends.
1. He professes his despair of being eased by their counsels, in which no traces of wisdom appeared; and, unless they returned to a better mind, and came with more unprejudiced tempers to hear his defence, he could hope for little good from their conference. Note; Many are wise in their own eyes, who, in conference, are found to add nothing to the knowledge of those whom they pretend to instruct.
2. He concludes it folly to flatter himself with the hope of good days. They are passed, no more to return; all his gracious purposes of the employment of his affluence for the good of mankind are frustrated; and the thoughts of his heart are ready to perish with his body in the grave: they are so bitter, that they change night into day, giving him no rest; and the light is short, because of darkness; the days of prosperity seemed but like a flash of passing light, succeeded by thick darkness; or the day obscured with his sorrows drew to an end, and scarcely afforded a beam of welcome light. Note; (1.) Death will put an end to all our purposes; therefore what now thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might. (2.) The night is tiresome to the sleepless eye, and the day dark to the sorrowful; let us bless God if we sleep in peace, and awake cheerful to meet the morning sun.
3. His approaching end made it vain to expect a change; he looked for no house but the grave, no bed of lasting repose but the dust, no more dear relatives but worms and corruption; his hope was gone of earthly blessings, which neither he nor they would live to see restored. One prospect only was before him, They shall go down to the bars of the pit, and rest together there. Note; (1.) We are too apt to faint in adversity, and, when perplexed, to be in despair. Job little thought what good things yet awaited him. (2.) It is useful to keep death in our view, and to make the grave familiar to us. To a gracious soul, death has lost its terror. Since Jesus slept in the grave, it is but our house of passage, as travellers from time to eternity, from life to immortality. (3.) To be proud, little becomes those who are so nearly related to worms and corruption. (4.) They who could obtain no rest before, in death will find it; there, at least, fierce disputes and animosities will have an end.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 17". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19