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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 6


The response of Job contains a touching appeal to man, (chap. 6,) and a much more touching one to God, (chapter 7,) appeals which Ewald calls the “monologue of despair.” His miserable condition is such that he leaves for the present the consideration of the cold didactic argument of Eliphaz. He defends his lamentation, (chap. 3,) as the natural outburst of a heart broken by sorrow, but admits that he had spoken imprudently. Instead of the balm of friendship and the life-giving streams of sympathy, he finds a captious disposition to take advantage of his words of sorrow that had been pressed out of a bleeding heart. In his appeal to God he pleads the shortness and vanity of life, the inexorableness of death, his own insignificance, as reasons for release from the burden of the divine visitations. What there is of argument, as respects the reasoning of Eliphaz, in these impassioned remonstrances of Job, is, that his sufferings are vastly in excess of those that legitimately spring from man’s naturally sinful estate; and as he is conscious of his innocence of all overt guilt, there still is wanting a solution for his extreme sufferings. Eliphaz has represented premature death to be the punishment of the wicked; on the contrary, Job declares death to be his only hope a declaration that conduces to the entanglement which afterward becomes inextricable, so far as the four disputants are concerned. This surging sea of doubt, foreboding, wailing, and despair, which again quite overwhelms Job, casts up some unmistakable pearls of great beauty, among which is the prolonged description of false and treacherous friendship.

Verse 2


First strophe His grief is so great that it cannot be weighed, Job 6:2-4.

2. Grief כעשׂ , vexation or wrath. See on Job 5:2. Job would have the test made, whether his vexation were greater than his calamity justified.

The balances Probably the common balance of Egypt, which was also used in early times among the Hebrews. Lepsius gives a representation from an Egyptian tomb, in which a person appears to be weighing rings of gold or silver with weights in the form of a bull’s head. The weighing of words and thoughts in scales is a figure, as Canon Cook ( SPEAKER’S Commentary) shows, derived from the remotest antiquity. In the Egyptian ritual, the day of weighing words is a common term for the day of judgment, as in chapter i; and the vignette to the 125th chapter represents the weighing of the heart in the presence of Osiris.

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Verse 3

3. Sand of the sea A figure also common in the classic writers for what cannot be measured or numbered. Compare Hosea 1:10. Swallowed up לעו . Better, Therefore do my words rave. A candid admission! The proper acknowledgment of one’s error is a mark of a truly noble mind. Castell gives the meaning of the cognate word in Arabic as, “to be rash,” which Gesenius ( Thesaurus, 758) and Furst both accept as the basis and meaning of the word here. The secret of his wild words lies in his inexpressible, unweighable misery.

Verse 4

4. The arrows of the Almighty The various calamities, such as sickness, pain, bereavements, and sorrows, (Deuteronomy 32:23; Psalms 38:2,) which the great Archer had sent. “The emphasis lies on Almighty the awful nature of his Adversary” this was enough to account for all his madness. Few are the hearts in which remain not such arrows deeply infixed, which He alone can extract

Who has Himself Been hurt by th’ archers; in his side

He bears, And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars!


The poison whereof. The ancients sometimes tipped their arrow-heads with the most deadly poison. If they but touched the blood they inflicted certain death. Ulysses is represented in Homer as making a voyage to a distant city, Ephyra,

Seeking some poisonous drug

Wherewith to taint his brazen arrows keen.

Odyssey, 1:2 60.

Man’s cruelty to man, in one age, invents poisoned arrows, in another, explosive bullets.

Drinketh up my spirit Rather, my spirit drinketh up. The original justifies this change, which modern commentators generally adopt. The effects of the divine arrows upon him are similar, to the poisoned arrows of men. Maddened by the virus, it is no wonder he raves.

Set themselves in array Used in a military sense, as in Judges 20:33 and 1 Samuel 4:2, where the same Hebrew word is used.

Verse 5

Second strophe It is natural for all beings, brute and human, to complain when in trouble, Job 6:5-7.

5. Dr. Young has the same thought: “Deep in their pastures will thy lowing herds complain.” “Do you suppose I (a reasonable being) would complain without cause? He complains not, with whom all is well.” Hirtzel.

Verse 6

6. Unsavoury… white of an egg Rir hhallamouth. The latter word is one of the many in this book which occur but once in the Bible. This is because of the great antiquity of the book of Job. This archaism has given rise to conflicting views. Michaelis thinks it means the insipid froth of camel’s milk, from which the Arabs derive many proverbs, comparing anger, vanity, and whatever is superficial with this tasteless froth. ( Sup. ad Lex., page 779.) Others suppose it signifies the broth or slime of purslain, an herb proverbial among the Arabs, Greeks, and Romans for its insipidity. Thus Renan and Merx. The authorized version is preferable, as Dillmann shows; also Umbreit, Ewald, Delitzsch, and Hitzig. An objection is made by Bottcher, that the Hebrews before the captivity did not keep poultry. The objection is inapposite, since geese, together with beef, constituted the principal part of the animal food throughout ancient Egypt. That by tasteless food he means his sorrows, and perhaps his loathsome disease, is evident from the preceding verses. As insipid food calls for some kind of condiment or relish, so does his calamity justify complaint.

Verse 7

7. The things that my soul refused The verse reads literally, My soul refuses to touch! They are as tainted food to me. Thus most of the recent commentators. Hitzig, however, renders דוי , crumbs; which, in connexion with “my food,” to say the least, makes very poor sense. Job’s soul recoils from, absolutely loathes, the sorrows of which he speaks in the fourth verse, and again, under a figure, in the sixth. They are to him “like putridity in his food.” Furst.

Verse 8

Third strophe So heavy is his burden of sorrow, that death would be true consolation, Job 6:8-10.

8. Oh that We have here the optative formula, “Who will give”=Oh that! quite frequent in the addresses of Job, and occurring once besides in this book, in the first address of Zophar. Job 11:5. The pathos of this appeal is exceedingly touching, and is heightened by his assuming that all must know what that wish must be.

Verse 9

9. Please God to destroy me With God is the determination of life and death. The command, “Thou shalt not kill,” includes self-destruction. In all his sufferings Job never intimates a thought of taking his own life. The old Hebrew mind would have spurned the effeminacy that expresses itself in the “Morals of Seneca;” that mind was strong to bear the ills of life so long as it pleased God. In the entire Old Testament there is no trace of suicide apart from war, unless the case of Ahithophel be an exception.

And cut me off Allusion is here made to the weaver, who, when the web is woven, cuts off the thread from the thrum which fastens the web to the loom. Compare Isaiah 38:12.

Verse 10

10. Then should I yet have comfort “A clear assertion of belief in a life to come.” Wordsworth. The difficulty of any other interpretation is felt by Zockler, who cannot see in this connexion how a speedy death could, in and of itself, bring any comfort. He is forced, with Delitzsch, Schlottmann, etc., to find the source of comfort in the statement of the last clause, that he had not denied the words of the Holy One! thus making the second member of the verse parenthetical. The structure of the clause, however, naturally points to the preceding verse for the ground of his comfort. His jubilant expression, that in the midst of unsparing anguish he “would exult,” is also retrospective. The last clause of the verse is rather a continued reason why God should give him the solace of death, as both Hirtzel and Dillmann admit: the latter urging that the cool reflection that he had not denied the words of the Holy One would be out of harmony with the triumphant exultation of the second member. That he had kept the faith, is a climactical reason why God should discharge him from his troubles, and give sweet rest in the grave. “A poor consolation,” (that of being cut off,) Peters well says, “perfectly romantic and delusive, could we suppose him to have no expectations after death.”

I would harden myself, etc. I would exult in the pain which He does not spare: ( Furst:) or the pain that does not spare. ( Dillmann.) The subject of the word “spare” is not given in the original.

Harden myself סלד . The Arabic saladha to leap, to exult determines the meaning of this word, which occurs only once in the Scriptures. The ηλλομην of the Septuagint corresponds: thus, “Let the grave be my city, upon the walls of which I have leaped.”

Concealed That is, denied in the sense of renouncing.

Verse 11

Second long strophe THE DECEITFULNESS OF HUMAN FRIENDSHIP, Job 6:11-20.

First strophe His helplessness and consequent hopelessness, Job 6:11-13.

11. Prolong my life The Vulgate is right patiently endure. The original, “that I should stretch out my spirit,” is a decided Hebraism. In Exodus 6:9, anguish is expressed by shortness of spirit. Compare Jeremiah 21:5.

Verse 12

12. Is my flesh of brass That is, invulnerable? Brass is used sometimes as the symbol of incorrigible pride and wanton immorality, and sometimes as an emblem of durability and strength. (Eadie.) The ancients possessed some secret for hardening brass (more properly copper) so as to make it firm like iron. “For man,” says Cicero, “is not sculptured out of the rock, nor hewn out of the oak-tree: he has body, he has mind; he is moved by mind, he is actuated by senses.” Acad. Quest., 4:31.

Verse 13

13. Is not my help in me Rather, Is it not so that there is no help in me?

Wisdom Strength, or soundness toushiyyah; same as in Job 5:12. A comprehensive word embracing the entire internal resources of a man. We may call it the very substratum of man’s being, the substance, (Latin, substantia,) that which is beneath, upon which all that appears rests. With Job all is gone.

Verse 14

Second strophe The withholding of sympathy has been like the failure of a summer brook, Job 6:14-17.

14. The pity his condition calls for, they (his friends) have denied him.

To him, etc. Literally, To the despairing, from his friend, (is) pity. The pity of a friend is spontaneous. Its flow to such a despairing sufferer as Job is like a fountain, natural and unforced. Their sympathy has consisted of words and ceremony; hence they are not true friends. This prepares us for the coming portrayal of deceitful friendship.

Afflicted מס , literally, melted down, dissolved; a graphic description of the effect of sorrow on Job.

Pity Umbreit says of pity, hhesedh, (which may be rendered also kindness or love,) that it is the friendly and indulgent judgment of our fellow-men; the true love which is the spirit of Christianity; and it is put (Proverbs 3:3) on a par with truth. They together form the principal elements of moral perfection, and are recommended to our care as a double talisman of perfect virtue.

But he forsaketh Concerning the meaning of the preceding clause there is but little doubt; the confessedly great difficulty of the present clause turns for the most part on the rendering of the particle but ו . The old reading of the Targum, Vulgate, Luther, “He who withholds mercy from his neighbour, he forsakes the fear of the Almighty,” entirely ignores the particle, and is now, with the exception of Merx, quite given up. Some modern expositors, such as Schlottmann, Renan, Dillmann, and Zockler, read, “Even if he should have forsaken,” etc. The more satisfactory exposition is that of Delitzsch, Schnurrer, Hengstenberg, Wordsworth, Canon Cook, etc., “ Otherwise he forsaketh.” etc., that is, unless he receives pity from his friend a reading that is justified by the occasional use of the particle, as in Gesenius, Thesaurus, p. 397 . For want of human sympathy a man may fall away from his God. Nothing can more forcibly express the power of Christian love. It is conservative it may keep others from evil. A kind word, a sympathetic tear, a charitable deed, is a little thing, but an engine of might that any one may wield. Sympathy, oneness of feeling, is a magic power to lift the sorrowful and despairing up from the abyss. It is like the golden chain let down from heaven, as the ancients fabled. Through sympathy the resources of the one, supplement the weakness of another. The field of responsibility vastly enlarges, when we behold it embracing the little deeds of charitable love we might have done. If sorrow could enter heaven, it would be because we have done so little for Christ and his suffering ones on earth.

Verse 15

15. As a brook The Arabians, as Schultens observes, compare a faithless friend to a mountain torrent. Thus, “I put no trust in the flowing of thy torrent.” The Greek Artemidorus, writing on dreams, interprets those of running water to indicate change and instability. The apostle is supposed by some to make use of the figure of our text in his exhortation against spiritual defection. (Hebrews 2:1.)

Stream of brooks Rather, the bed of torrents wadies in which Arabia and Palestine abound. Dillmann urges that עבר should be rendered overflow, instead of pass away which certainly could not be said of the channels and that it is in better accord with the description which assumes that the channels are full. “The long, winding valleys,” in the graphic words of the recent traveller, Palmer, “by which the mountain groups are intersected, are called wadies. They are not at all like the valleys to which we are accustomed in Europe, but present rather the appearance of dry, sandy river-beds. They are, in fact, the courses along which the torrents from the mountains find their way down to the sea; but, as rain seldom falls, and as there is no soil or vegetation on the mountain sides to collect or absorb the gentle showers when they do come, the valleys are never filled except on the occasion of some fierce storm bursting over the mountains which they drain.” Desert of the Exodus, p. 22.

Verse 17

17. What time At the time (that is, as soon as) they flow, they vanish away. So short-lived are the mountain torrents. As soon as the snows that feed the streams are melted, the torrents are consumed away. “The simile is remarkably complete. When little needed the torrent overflows, when needed it disappears; in winter it does not fertilize, in summer it is dried up.”

Verse 18

Third strophe Job draws a picture of caravans perishing miserably for the want of water, Job 6:18-20.

18. The paths of their way Delitzsch, Barnes, Wordsworth, and Zockler, substantially adopt our authorized version. They understand Job still to speak of the streams, that “they wind about;” (are turned aside;) “they go up into the waste ( tohu) and vanish.” Others, (Ewald, Dillmann, Noyes, Renan, etc.) more satisfactorily, read, caravans turn aside their course, they go up into the wastes and perish, making a slight change in the pointing of the Hebrew thus, ארחות , orhhoth, caravans, as in Isaiah 21:13, instead of ארחות , orhhoth, ways. Delitzsch pertinently puts the argument for the rendering “ways,” by asking “if it be likely that the poet would let the caravans perish in Job 6:18, and in Job 6:19, sq., still live? If so, the feebler figure follows the stronger.” On the other hand it may be replied, 1) That the same objection holds against the rendering of “ways.” The streams have been consumed, “extinguished,” and if they reappear here on their winding way it must be at the creative touch of the poetic wand. 2) Two different and entirely inapposite meanings must be given to substantially the same word, orhhoth, in two successive verses, the 18th and 19th. 3) To say of torrents, even though they wind about, that they go up ( עלה ) into the waste, is quite absurd, and can here apply only to caravans. Zockler’s conceit, (in Lange,) that they go up in vapours and clouds, does not relieve the difficulty, as tohu does not justify such rendering. 4) The objection of tautology Evans thus happily answers: that the chief motive of the description just given is not to excite pity for the fate of such a caravan, but to justify Job’s resentment at the treachery of which the dry wady is the type. Hence in the verses following, Job emphasizes the disappointment which the caravans of Tema and Sheba (named by way of vivid individualization) would feel in such a plight. See note on next verse.

Verse 19

19. Troops of Tema The caravans of Tema. Job now enlarges, according to Oriental usage, upon the thought of the preceding verse, and specifies the mighty caravans of Tema and Sheba. In very remote ages caravan routes lay through Idumaea. Umbreit improperly makes these troops a part of the caravans referred to in Job 6:18, who had gone on and perished. “These,” he says, “await their return and blush over their disappointment.” This is altogether too tame. Tema was the ninth of the sons of Ishmael. (Genesis 25:15.) The tribe that bore his name probably resided not far from Idumaea. The prophets speak of a Tema in connexion with Arabia and her kings; Isaiah 21:14, and Jeremiah 25:23. The Arabs still give the name Taima to a region in the north of Arabia-Deserta, on the borders of Syria. The town Taima lies on the route of the Damascus caravan. It is interesting to remember that it was a company of Ishmaelites that bought Joseph of his brethren and carried him down into Egypt. For Sheba see note on Job 1:15. Job probably alluded to some well-known destruction of a caravan that had failed to find a supply of water at the appointed place.

Verse 20

20. They were confounded, etc. Rather, They were ashamed because they trusted; they came thither and reddened with shame. Job now closes a most striking description of the failure of human friendship. He leads us to the mountain torrent, swollen by wintry storms, boisterous, impetuous. While we gaze, the voice of the torrent ceases to be heard; for the summer sun is on the sky. With a master stroke Job fixes our eye on the toiling, thirsting, dying hosts of a caravan who have turned aside that they may find water and life in the hour of their distress. Again a single touch shows us their confusion and despair as they sink down in the dreary wastes and die. Such is friendship, loud in its professions and strong in the day of prosperity. Such was the thirst of Job’s soul for the pure streams of friendship; but he thirsted in vain.

Verse 21


First strophe Job proceeds to apply the preceding illustration, Job 6:21-23.

21. Ye are nothing Like the streams the perishing host looked for.

My casting down Fearful state, (Furst,) or terror. Job was fearful to behold. The disposition of the three friends is like that of the priest and Levite they look on and lend no succour. The original has a figure of beauty a paronomasia, ( ותיראו … תראו ) that cannot be translated.

Verse 22

22. Give a reward For the purpose of bribing, say some, since the verb will bear such a rendering. The questions are evidently meant in derision.

Verse 23

23. Or, Deliver me He had not asked for alms to relieve his distress, nor for money for purposes of bribery, nor for help to pay his ransom from an enemy, nor that his friends should interpose against the mighty. He had asked absolutely nothing at their hands either before or since his crushing calamity. As he was under no obligations he had reason to expect better treatment.

Verse 24

Second strophe Their words, far from being forcible, have in them the elements of cruelty, Job 6:24-27.

24. Teach me If they really believe that he has been guilty of some great wrong, as their looks probably showed during the seven days of formal sorrow, it is their duty now to show him the wrong. Eliphaz had taken advantage of “the wrath” of Job to charge him with folly. Having disposed, as he thinks, of this charge, Job now demands other reasons for their cruel treatment.

Verse 25

25. How forcible How sweet, etc. Thus Furst, Ewald, and Zockler. Many others of equal authority, however, (for instance, Gesenius, Thes., p. 820,) favour the version of the text How forcible are right words words of “uprightness,” or “truth,” ישׁד . The parallelism, which ever helps to the meaning of a verse, will properly appear from a literal translation of the second member of the verse: “But what doth reproof from you reprove.” The feebleness of their reproof ( from you) is set forth by contrast with the forcibleness of right words. “Words which keep the straight way of truth go to the heart.”

Verse 26

26. Do ye imagine, etc. Read, Do ye think to reprove (mere) words, when the words of the despairing are as wind? Instead of displaying wisdom by forcible words, their folly is conspicuous in taking up for reproof the words of despair rather than the actions and character of a lifetime. “Certainly a dangerous expression for Job to make,” (says Dillmann,) “when he thus depreciates words.” Such a sentiment, moreover, is quite inconsistent with Job’s high tone of morals, expressed in his anxiety for his children. (Note on Job 1:5.) The view of the recent commentator Hitzig relieves the difficulty by rendering the latter clause thus: And even the HASTY speech of the despairing. The Hebrew will justify such a rendering of לרוח ; literally, to (the) wind, as he satisfactorily shows.

Verse 27

27. Overwhelm Literally, Cause to fall upon, (as in the margin,) here used elliptically. Accordingly, most moderns render the clause, Ye would even cast lots for the fatherless, in allusion to a custom by which the prey was divided by lot. (See 1 Samuel 14:42; Jonah 1:7.) This is the cruelest charge that Job makes. Carey, however, would supply the word net and read, “ye spring a net.” The ancient Egyptians, as is still seen on the monuments, ensnared birds with a net. The former rendering is better.

Dig a pit כרה . Karah, also bears the meaning of traffic; thus, Ye would traffic in your friend; (Ewald, Furst, etc.;) for instance, as the brethren of Joseph trafficked in him. (Comp. Job 41:6.) According to Hitzig, Job sees in his friends a firm conviction that he has been guilty of some unknown offense. In their uncertainty as to its nature they leave (he says) its determination to chance. Serious objections to this view lie on the surface. Hirtzel and Dillmann suggest a painful thought that the traffic alluded to was in the children of deceased friends, who were sold into captivity to pay the debts of their fathers. (2 Kings 4:1.) The reading of the English version is preferred by Rosenmuller and Gesenius. To the present day, among wild nations, the mode mentioned in the text is followed for entrapping wild beasts. The “pit” that has been dug is covered with brushwood and earth. The spot selected is on the wonted path of the animal. Even the elephant falls into such traps. Job, we think, does not mean by this harsh language to charge his friends with having perpetrated these acts; but that their treatment of him contained all the elements of such cruelty.

Verse 28

Third strophe He makes an appeal for justice, and justice only, Job 6:28-30.

28. Now therefore And now be pleased to look upon me. He deems that they will see, notwithstanding his disfigurement, integrity in his look and bearing. Evident unto you, etc. I will not speak falsely to your face, is the reading of most modern critics. Hengstenberg prefers to read, “let it be before your face,” that is, be determined by you, “whether I lie.”

Verse 29

29. Return… return Renan supposes that Job’s friends, astonished by his apostrophes, turn away as if about to depart, and Job calls them back.

Let it not be iniquity Let there be no wrong (between us.)

My righteousness is in it That is, in the matter about which we treat, (Dillmann, Hirtzel.) My position is impregnable, for my cause is a righteous one.

Verse 30

30. Iniquity Is there wrong in my tongue?

Taste Cannot my palate discern that which is perverse? Of all human beings he himself knows best about his own heart and life, as one’s own palate is best fitted to discern its own objects of taste. The word palate is here used metaphorically for the moral judgment. It is this that tries “perverse things,” הוות not “calamities,” as Zockler would read, but a “wickedness which completely contaminates feeling and utterance.” See Psalms 52:2, where the same word is used and rendered “mischiefs.”

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.