Notes on Job 23-24

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Answers of Job
The tone of the answer is calmer, and somewhat more comely, though he says that today also his complaint is rebellion (or bitter), and his stroke heavier than his groaning. But his desire is, as before, to draw near to God, and have His decision, in the face of all the circumstances that seemed to testify against his integrity, and of friends carried away by appearance, and as ready to condemn him now as his worst enemies. Nothing disturbs fellowship more than misjudgment, unless it be positive sin, especially when concealed under high pretension to godliness; and this was just the question between Job and his friends. On the other hand, while re-asserting his good conscience and his ways, Job owns to a shrinking from His presence, because He is inflexible in His decrees, and unnerves the heart by the thought of Himself more than darkness. And this leads him, in chapter xxiv., to show, not that God has not a moral government now, but how incomprehensible it is to man, the first half dwelling on the sad sufferings of the innocent under wicked and mighty foes, the second on the successful evil-doers, who long carry on their villainy in secret, till condign punishment comes from God, as it will, beyond doubt, at the end.
Chapter 23.
And Job answered and said,
Also today [is] my complaint rebellion,
My stroke is heavier than my groaning.
O that I knew where to find Him!
I would come unto His chair of state,
I would draw up the cause before Him,
And would fill my mouth with arguments;
I would know the words He would answer me,
And understand what He would say to me.
Would He contend with me by main strength?
Nay, but He would give heed to me.
There would a righteous one be pleading with Him,
And I should be forever quit of my judge.
Behold, I go eastward, but He is not there,
And westward, but I cannot perceive Him;
To the north, where He worketh, but cannot behold [Him];
He veileth the south, and I see [Him] not.
But He knoweth the way, who is with me;
He trieth me, as gold I come forth.
To His step my foot hath held,
His way have I kept, and not turned aside:
The commandment of His lips I have not left,
More than my law [or my daily bread],
Have I kept the sayings of His mouth.
But He [is] in one thing, and who will turn Him?
And His soul desireth, and He will accomplish.
For He performeth what is appointed me,
And much of the like [is] with Him.
Therefore I am confounded before His face;
I consider, and am afraid before Him.
For God [El] hath made my heart soft,
And the Almighty hath confounded me,
For I was not cut off before the darkness,
And before me covered He the thick darkness.
Chapter 24
Why, since times are not hid from the Almighty,
Do not those who know Him see His days?
They remove landmarks; they rob flocks, and feed;
They drive the ass of the orphan, they distrain the ox of the widow;
They thrust the needy out of the way,
The poor of the land must hide together.
Behold, wild asses in the wilderness, they go forth,
Early about their work, after prey;
The desert is to him bread for the little ones;
In the field they reap his cattle fodder,
And the vineyard of the wicked they glean.
They make the naked lodge without clothing,
And without covering in the cold.
With the rain of mountains they are drenched,
And, shelterless, they embrace a rock.
They pluck the orphan from the breast,
And on the poor lay distraint.
Naked they go without clothing,
And hungry they bear the sheaf,
They make oil within their walls,
They tread wine-vats and they thirst.
Out of the city mortals groan,
And the Soul of the wounded crieth out;
Yet God regardeth not the folly!
They are among the rebels against the light,
They know not His ways, nor remain in His paths.
With the light the murderer riseth,
He slayeth the poor and needy,
And in the night he is as a thief.
And the adulterer's' eye watches for the twilight,
Saying, “No eye observeth me,"
And he layeth a veil over the face.
In the dark he breaketh into houses,
They keep themselves close by day, they know not the light.
For morning is to them altogether death-shade,
When he discerneth the terrors of the death-shade.
Light [is] he on the face of the waters;
The portion of those on the land is despised,
He turneth not to the way of the vineyards.
Drought and heat consume the snow-waters;
[So doth] sheol [those that] have sinned,
The womb forgetteth him, the worm feedeth on him,
He is no more remembered, and wickedness is broken like a tree.
He devoureth the barren that beareth not, and doeth the widow no good.
And he hath drawn the mighty by his power,
He riseth, and none believeth in life.
He [God] giveth confidence to him, and he is supported;
And His eyes are on their ways.
High they are a little while, and are not,
And they sink; like all they are shut up,
And are cut off, like the topping ears of corn.
And if not so now, who proveth me a liar,
And maketh my word naught?
The sufferer still pleads the extremity of his sorrows as accounting for his rebellious complaint, and affirms that the hand laid on him was even heavier than his groaning. If he could only find God, he would stand before His tribunal, lay out his case before Him, and argue it out fully there, where he would learn from Himself the grounds of what seemed wholly inexplicable, and understand why He had so dealt with His servant. Far from meeting with fresh trial there, or such scorn as his friends poured on him, he was confident that God would use His power to strengthen his weakness. The hands of God were infinitely preferable to man's, even were he the oldest of his friends, and he was confident, being assured of his own integrity. He should thus get quit of his judge, instead of enduring the lingering suspicion of those who reasoned from the outside show of things, without a single fact to justify it. Nothing is harder to disprove than that which has its only, but deep, root in the minds of opponents who assume to have God's mind, and commit themselves thoroughly to saying so.
But there was his fresh trouble: he knew not where to find God. If he went east or west, it was equally vain; either He was not there, or Job could not perceive Him: If he turned to the north, with its hail and snows, where He works, he could not get a glimpse; much less where He veils the south in mist and cloud.
But of this he was sure, that God knew the way with Job, and that, after His trial of him, he should come forth as gold; for, as he so frequently says, his foot had held firmly to His step, and he had, without turning aside, kept His way. From the commandment of His lips he had not swerved: more than his law (for Job used to speak and act as a prince) had he kept the sayings of His mouth.
But then there was the serious reflection that, as God was assuredly in these extraordinary afflictions, Job felt the impossibility of turning Him aside from His inscrutable purpose, and that what was appointed to him would come to pass without fail, for He has His mind, and does it always. Therefore was Job confounded before His face, and fear grew as he considered it. For El unnerved his heart, and Shaddai confounded him. Eliphaz might talk of the darkness which he owned did surround him, and he might impute it to hidden iniquity; it was God's doing so that appalled and perplexed him. Some understand the last sentence to mean that he had this sense of dread because God did not cut him off before the darkness came, and He had not covered the thick blackness from his face.
So the beginning of chapter 24 has furnished room for no small debate, many moderns preferring to understand and divide it thus: Why are times not reserved by the Almighty, and do His friends [literally knowers] not see His days? The times are judicial terms when He dispenses justice, and the days are an even more common expression of like intervention. The difference is that the latter clause makes the sense of the former still narrower, or more definite. I have given what most approves itself to my mind, and distinguishes between the times not hid from Shaddai, and those who know Him not seeing His days of retribution. It would not have been strange in those ignorant of Him. It is the enigma of psalms and prophets, and must be till Christ solves it.
Then Job expands on the allowed evil of men, who profit by it shamelessly. Who of men can reckon up the shades of human fraud and force, of corruption and violence, without and within, but above all on the defenseless and the poor? The country and the city, the desert and the sea, are the varied scenes of wickedness as varied, whore men embezzle and plunder; and in the abodes of civilization the darkness before the day calls them out to intrigues and crimes as dark, without a notice from God; while the restless sea gives scope to a deeper restlessness; yet they die, and are buried just as others. Again, family ties yield as little guarantee against cruelty as the public life where a despot reigns, regardless of everything but his own will.
It is not that Job doubted all to be under the eye of God, though as yet His hand be not on the world, while death comes in to cut off the highest when they least expect it. He is sure that his estimate cannot be gainsaid.