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Job sets forth, in a pathetic manner, the happiness of his former prosperous state.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 29:1. Moreover, Job continued his parable— Job now goes on to finish his defence; and, in order to it, he first sets out his condition in the time of his prosperity, in the present chapter; against which he places, by way of contrast, in the next chapter, his present unhappy situation, describing both with great beauty and elegance. He then proceeds, in the 31st chapter, to purge himself of the several crimes laid to his charge; imprecating on himself the divine vengeance, in various manners, in case he were guilty; and at last concludes, Job 31:35; Job 31:37 that this was his plea; on this he would rest his defence: he was desirous that it might be recorded, and prays that his cause might be brought to a decision, declaring that he was under no manner of apprehension as to the consequences.
Job 29:3. When his candle shined upon my head— See the Reflections.
Job 29:4. As I was in the days of my youth— The word חרפי chorpi, signifies the winter, or rather, more precisely, the wet season, such as prevails in the eastern countries. Oh that I were as in months past, says Job, as I was in the days of my winter; in the days of his moist time; that is, when, as he expresses it in the 19th and 20th verses, my root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch, &c. Not as in the days of his disgrace then, the days in which he was stripped of all, as an herb of its leaves and flowers in the winter; but like a plant in the latter part of the rainy season, before the violent heats and droughts come on, which scorch and burn up every thing. See Observations, p. 11. Heath, after Schultens, renders it, The days of my prosperity, my autumnal state; when he was loaded with prosperity, as the trees are with ripe fruit in autumn. The word סוד; sod, (the secret,) in Scripture, signifies two things; either secret counsels, or the assembly where such consultations are held. In the former sense it is used Amo 3:7 in the latter sense it is used more frequently, as in Psalms 89:7. Jer 6:11 and elsewhere. Agreeable to this account then, אלוה סוד, sod eloha, (the secret of the Lord,) and יהוה סוד, sod iehovah, in Scripture, may signify two things, either the counsels and decrees of God's providence (which are secret with respect to us, any further than he is pleased to reveal them), or the assembly where these consultations (speaking after the manner of men) are held: In this sense it is used in the 8th verse of the 15th chapter of this book; where Eliphaz asks Job, Hast thou heard the secret of God? (the Hebrew is אלוה בסוד besod eloha in the secret counsel, or assembly of God;) And dost thou restrain, rather, hast thou drawn wisdom to thyself? i.e. "Hast thou been admitted, as a hearer, in that great assembly where God's consultations are held, and hast thou drawn wisdom to thyself from thence?" Now, if we understand the phrase in the same sense here, we shall not only find the passage very intelligible, but an image rising to our view which is exceedingly sublime: Oh that I were, says Job, as in months past! when the counsel of God was over my tabernacle: i.e. when that august assembly where God's counsels and decrees are passed was held, as it were, over my habitation, and it seemed to be his peculiar care to prosper me and my family! When the Almighty was yet with me, as he goes on, and my children were about me! The LXX and Symmachus both preserve the sense, or come very near it, but do not seem to have equalled the full beauty of the image. See the Reflections.
Job 29:8. The young men saw me, and hid themselves— Among the honours paid to Job in the time of his prosperity, though he was the greatest of all the men of the east, his cotemporaries, we do not find that prostration was ever used towards him, or so much as thought of. The young men when they saw him, through a rustical bashfulness, hid themselves; the aged stood up; the nobles held their peace; they were all attention when he spoke. Their tokens of respect, in short, were natural and manly; and one of the most convincing proofs of the high antiquity of the book, is this simplicity of manners, which is every where observable. Peters.
Job 29:15. I was eyes to the blind, &c.— The writer of the Observations remarks, that when Job would express his readiness to bring forward on their journey those who were enfeebled by sickness, or hurt by accident, and to guide in their way those who were blind, or ignorant of it, he says, I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame; referring to the difficult journeyings in the wildernesses of that country. See Numbers 10:31.
Job 29:20. My bow was renewed in my hand— Gained strength in my hand. The word ףּתחלי tachliph, rendered renewed denotes all change, whether from worse to better, or the contrary. See Isaiah 40:31. Heath.
Job 29:22. My speech dropped upon them— My speech dropped upon them like the dew. Houb.
Job 29:23. They waited for me as for the rain— Among the Egyptians, the heavens pouring down rain or dew, was a hieroglyphic of learning and instruction. See Horapollo on Hieroglyph. l. 1. sect. 35 and Heath.
Job 29:24. If I laughed on them, &c.— If I was merry with them, they could scarce contain themselves; yet dropped they not their reverence for me. The word rendered they could scarce contain themselves, signifies properly, to stand firm on the legs. The sense is, they could not refrain from bodily expressions of joy. The latter clause is rendered by Mr. Heath paraphrastically. It is literally, and they caused not the light of my countenance to fall. See Houb.
Job 29:25. I chose out their way, &c.— But if, with them, I sought after serious things, I sat in the chief place: as a king when he cometh to comfort the mourners, so did I dwell in the midst of the company. Houb.; who makes this and the foregoing verse correspond to each other. Heath translates it very differently. If I chose to travel with them, I had the most honourable place: I pitched in tent also as a king among the troop; when he leadeth them to the plains.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Reflections upon Job's former prosperous state, contrasted with his present wretchedness, draw forth the deep sigh from his bosom, and, though no prospect of a change appears, he cannot but wish the return of happier days. Oh, that I were as in months past, enjoying such outward blessings, or rather such communion with God, as even then was his greatest joy. Note; (1.) God does not forbid us to pray for the restoration of health, ease, and worldly good, while we in submission resign ourselves to his will. (2.) A godly man longs more for the light of God's countenance, than for any blessing that this world can afford.
Job mentions two things especially, which made him wish for the months that were past: the comfort that he had in God and in his family.
1. In God; when he preserved me from all evil, when his candle shined upon my head, the bright communications of his favour were my delight and glory; and when by his light I walked through darkness, and every trouble was made easy by the presence, light, and love of God: As I was in the days of my youth, when he enjoyed a lively sense of the divine regard, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle, and he manifested himself to me, as he doth not to the world; when the Almighty was yet with me, showering down mercies spiritual and temporal upon me. Note; (1.) They are safe whom God preserves, and they only. (2.) The light of God's love will refresh the soul amid the darkest dispensations. (3.) It is a blessed thing, when in our youthful days we are acquainted with the secret of God.
2. In his family. When my children, those dearest and most valuable earthly blessings, were about me, my comfort and joy: when I washed my steps with butter, so plentifully did the kine supply him, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil; his olive yards so fruitful, that the streams of oil gushed out, as springs of water from beneath the rock. Note; Children are God's gifts: while we thankfully enjoy them, let us not by idolatrous affection tempt God to take them away.
2nd, Job's friends had treated him with insolence, and accused him of being an oppressive magistrate, as well as, in general, a bad man. But how differently had he used to be regarded, and what testimonies could he not produce of his integrity! He here declares,
1. What high respect had formerly been paid him from the least to the greatest. When, as a magistrate, he went to the place of judgment, which was usually held in the gate, or where the greatest concourse of people was, that all might hear and have free access, the young men with veneration gave way, and the aged rose up with deep respect, and stood till he was seated. The princes and nobles, the chief magistrates who were on the bench with him, conscious of his superior abilities, heard him as their oracle: they sealed up their lips before him, and waited for his opinion of the case, fully assured, from the depth of his penetration, and the integrity of his heart, that his decisions would be the voice of truth and justice. Every hearer applauded his sentence, and every beholder testified to the gravity, wisdom, and uprightness of his conduct. Note; (1.) Modesty in youth, and respect for the aged, are most amiable and becoming. (2.) A wise and upright judge is worthy to be had in honour, as one of the most useful members of the community. (3.) It is a mark of true wisdom to know when to be silent.
2. What did he do to deserve this respect? He was the friend of the poor and fatherless, espousing their cause, and redressing their complaints. Those who were ready to perish, through want or oppression, experienced his generous support; and the widow's hearts were made to exult in the kind care that he shewed for them and their interests. Blessings were showered down upon his head, the voice of gratitude; and daily prayers went up to God for him; the best recompence that the poor can make to their benevolent friends, and which Job esteemed the most valuable return. Clothed with righteousness, no respect of persons ever biassed his determinations; and the ornament that he valued more than the purple robe, or the diadem, which as a magistrate, perhaps, he wore, was that judgment, that principle of equity and uprightness, which ever influenced him. The ignorant, who could not plead for themselves, and the helpless, who had neither friends nor money to prosecute their just rights, he freely and effectually assisted; and the poor found in him a father, ever ready to vindicate their wrongs. If difficulties occurred in any cause with close application he set himself to unravel the truth, which cunning, fraud, or falsehood had perplexed; and the wicked, convicted by his wisdom, and condemned by his righteous sentence, unable, as when the jaw-bone is broken, to hold their prey, were compelled by shame and grief, or by compulsion, to restore the fruits of their oppression. Note; (1.) They are truly great, whose will to do good is equal to their ability. (2.) Gratitude and prayer are returns which the poorest can make; these then should never be forgotten. (3.) A heart filled with the love of justice, seasoned with mercy, a head blessed with sound understanding, an ear patiently attentive to the longest evidence, and a hand firm in the execution of proper punishment on the wicked—these constitute a righteous judge.
3rdly. From all appearances, and according to human foresight, no man's prosperity appeared of surer continuance than Job's; no wonder therefore,
1. That he promised himself good days. Then I said, when every thing without was so fair, and I felt within conscious integrity, I shall die in my nest. He knew that he must die; and never in his greatest prosperity forgot to prepare for his departure hence; but he hoped that it would be in peace, amid his kind friends surrounding his bed, and his children, the heirs of his virtue as well as affluence, with filial piety closing his dying eyes. I shall multiply my days as the sand, and late return unto the tomb, full of years, riches, and honours. Note; (1.) When things go smoothly we are too apt to count upon their continuance; but how often do we see a quick transition, and our hopes disappointed! (2.) A long life is a desirable blessing, when employed for the glory of God, and the good of mankind.
2. He thought that he had great grounds for his hope. Rooted as a tree, his worldly prosperity seemed fixed on a durable basis, and his vital stamina sound and vigorous. Watered continually by providential care, he grew and increased; the dew of heavenly influences rested upon him, and all his concerns, spiritual and temporal, flourished. His glory was fresh, never withering, ever blooming; while each day added new lustre to his estate, and his bow was renewed in his hand; so that he appeared to have nothing to apprehend from any adversary. When he spoke, attention sat mute; and on his lips the audience hung: the ear, delighted, was never weary; and his discourse, as gentle showers descending to refresh the parched ground, sunk deep into the heart. All heard with silent wonder his words, as the voice of wisdom; and with submission received his counsels, as oracular. If he smiled graciously, so great they esteemed the honour, that they scarcely could believe themselves the objects of his regard; and, far from presuming on his familiar condescension, were awed by his Majesty, and paid him no less respect and reverence. As a counsellor, all who consulted him acquiesced in his advice. As a teacher of divine truth, he pointed out their way, and they followed him. In public assemblies he had the seat of honour; in the congregation of the faithful he presided, and led their devotions. As a king in his army, he was honoured and obeyed, and as one that comforteth the mourners, ready to fly to the relief of the afflicted, and to pour the balm of consolation into the wounded spirit. Note; (1.) If we prosper in body or soul, be it ever remembered who it is that watereth us every moment; whose influences being withheld, we wither, droop, and die. (2.) Superiors should be condescending, and yet in their freedoms maintain their dignity. (3.) They who have comforted others, find themselves often unable to receive in their afflictions the consolations which they have administered.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 29". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20