Notes on Job 3-7

Job 3-7
The complaint of Job.
The presence of his friends day after day, their silent presence in face of all his troubles, was too much for the long-enduring saint, who after this opened his mouth, and cursed his day; and “Job answered and said,
Perish the day wherein I was born,
And the night that said, A man is conceived.
That day! be it darkness;
Let not God from above ask after it;
And let not light shine upon it;
Let darkness and death-shade reclaim it;
Let clouds tabernacle on it;
Let darkenings of the day affright it.
That night! thick darkness seize on it;
Let it not be joined to the days of the year;
Let it not come into the number of the months.
But that night! let it be barren;
Let no shout of joy come into it;
Let cursers of days curse it,
Who are prepared to rouse leviathan.
The stars of its twilight be dark;
Let it look for light, but have none,
And let it not gaze on the eyelids of the dawn;
Because it shut not the doors of my [mother's] belly,
And hid sorrow from mine eyes.
Why did I not die from the womb-
Come forth from the belly, and expire?
Why did knees anticipate me,
And what breasts that I should suck?
For now I had lain, and been quiet,
I had slept, and then had there been rest for me,
With kings and counselors of the earth,
Who built ruins for themselves;
Or with princes that had gold,
Who filled their houses with silver;
Or, as a hidden abortion, I should not be,
As infants [that] never saw light:
There the wicked cease from raging,
And there the weary are at rest;
Together rest the prisoners;
They hear not the taskmaster's voice;
Small and great are there the same;
And free the slave from his master.
Wherefore giveth He light to the wretched one,
And life to the bitter [in] soul;
Who long for death, and it [is] not,
And dig for it more than for treasure;
Who rejoice to dancing,
Exult when they find the grave?
To a man whose way is hid,
And whom God hath hedged in?
For instead of my bread cometh my sighing,
And like waters are my groans poured forth.
For greatly I feared, and forthwith it overtook me,
And what I dreaded hath come to me.
I was not at ease, I had no quiet,
And no rest, and trouble came."
Thus bitterly does he deprecate the day of his birth and all connected with it. Indeed there had never been a child of Adam or a believer so visited as Job; and as yet he knew not the end, that the Lord is exceeding pitiful, and of tender mercy. He was in the depth of his trial aggravated by the silence of his friends, soon to augment it yet more by the drawn swords of their increasingly expressed suspicion. And so he asks, in the anguish of his soul, why, if such was to be his lot living, he died not from the womb? Why he should have been so tenderly cared for to encounter at length such agony? Why did he not share the quiet of the grave with earth's grandees, who were spending life in building monuments that decay themselves, or cramming their houses with silver and gold they must leave behind; unless he had been as a still-born babe that never saw light, and thus be where the wicked trouble no more, and the weary are at rest, and the captives repose together, with no taskmaster's voice, small and great alike there, and the slave free from his master? The last verses (20-26) put the question, first generally, and then with pointed application to himself, why he should live, being thus miserable. There is no need for giving the impersonal turn of the English Bible and of many others, to verse 20, though there is still the avoidance of uttering the name of God. The full answer could only come in a dead and risen Christ: if it were not so, the most miserable of all men would be the Christian. But now is He risen, and become the first-fruits of them that sleep. Fear of evil is gone forever to him who now walks by faith; for to it evil is gone before God, and nothing but good abides. and triumphs in Him whom we know on the throne of God, now appearing in His presence for us. Hence can the Christian glory in tribulations, and die daily.
Chapters 4, 5.
The first discourse of Eliphaz.
The eldest of the three friends proceeds to reprove Job.
"Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said,
Should one attempt a word to thee, wilt thou be grieved?
And yet to hold back from speaking, who is able?
Lo, thou hast corrected many,
And slack hands hast thou strengthened,
The stumbling one thy speech did raise,
And sinking knees thou didst confirm;
But now it cometh to thee, and thou art grieved,.
It toucheth thee, and thou art confounded.
[Is] not thy fear thy confidence,
And the uprightness of thy ways thy hope?
Remember, I pray thee, who perished being innocent?
Or where have the upright been blotted out?
So far as I have seen, they that plow iniquity,
And they that sow trouble, reap the same.
By the breath of God they perish,
And by the blast of His nostrils they are consumed.
The roaring of the lion, and the voice of the dark lion,
And the teeth of the young lion are broken.
The strong lion perisheth for lack of prey,
And the whelps of the lioness are scattered.
And to me there stole a word,
And mine ear caught a whisper from it,
In thoughts from visions of the night,
When deep sleep falleth on man.
Shuddering befell me, and trembling,
Which shook the multitude of my bones.
And a spirit glideth before me:
The hairs of my body bristled up.
It stood there—I discerned not its appearance—
An image before mine eyes:
Silence! and a voice I hear,
Is a mortal more just than God?
Is a man purer than his Maker?
Behold, His servants He trusteth not,
And to His angels He ascribeth error;
How much more those who dwell in houses of clay,
The foundation of which [is] in the dust,
Which are crushed as though moths.
From morning to evening they are destroyed;
Before any one marketh it they perish forever.
Is not their cord in them torn away?
They die, and not in wisdom.
Call now; is there any that will answer thee?
And to which of the holy ones wilt thou turn?
For grief killeth a fool,
And jealousy slayeth the simple.
I have seen a fool taking root,
And suddenly I cursed his habitation.
His sons are far from help,
And are crushed in the gate without deliverance;
Whose harvest the hungry one devoureth,
And taketh it off even out of a thorn-hedge,
And the thirsty swalloweth up their wealth.
For evil goeth not forth of the dust,
And trouble doth not sprout out of the ground;
But man is born to trouble,
As the sparks of flame make high their flight.
For my part, then, I would turn to God (El),
And to God (Elohim) would I commit my cause,
Who doeth great things and unsearchable,
Who giveth rain on the face of the earth,
And sendeth water on the face of the fields,
To set the low on high,
And raise up the mourning to prosperity.
He breaketh to pieces the devices of the crafty,
SO that they can do nothing to purpose.
He taketh the wise in their craftiness,
And the counsel of the cunning is overturned.
By day they run against darkness,
And as in the night they grope at noon-day.
And he saveth the poor from the sword out of their month,
And from the hand of the strong.
So there is hope to the poor,
And iniquity shutteth her mouth.
Lo, happy the man whom God correcteth
Therefore despise not the chastening of the Almighty.
For He woundeth, and bindeth up,
He smiteth and His hands make whole.
In six troubles He will deliver thee,
And in seven no evil shall befall thee.
In famine He hath redeemed thee from death,
And in war from the hand of the sword.
In the scourge of the tongue thou art hidden,
And fearest not destruction when it cometh.
At destruction and at famine thou shalt laugh,
And thou shalt not be afraid before beasts of the earth.
For with the stones of the field is thy covenant,
And the wild beasts of the field are at peace with thee.
And thou knowest that thy tabernacle [is] peace,
And thou shalt oversee thy place and miss nothing.
And thou shalt know that thy seed [is] great,
And thine offspring as the green herb of the earth.
Thou shalt go to the grave in a full age,
As the heap of sheaves mounteth up in its Season.
Lo, this we have searched out; so it [is];
Hear it and mark [it] well for thyself."
Such is the opening speech of the elder of the three interlocutors who henceforth proceed to sit in judgment on Job, and are successively answered by him. Unquestionably the gravest of them is Eliphaz, and this first utterance of his lets us into his character and style. Every word may be true in itself; all is said with the utmost dignity and force; yet it is misapplied and one-sided, and hence, in effect, erroneous as a whole. Eliphaz assumes that God at the present time is displaying His government, and exactly measures prosperity or adversity to men's deserts. This is false ground, and vitiates the application, especially to one like Job given up to be assailed by Satan, and tried to the end (not “the bitter,” but the sweet) by God.
Hence, though the pious sage stands revealed in every sentiment, though ripe experience and moral grandeur are everywhere felt, though the spiritual and the natural worlds contribute their full quota to the argument, though the reproach is as yet mild, and the exhortation appears to be that of faithful friendship and earnest piety, there underlies it an assumption of conscious hidden guilt on Job's part, which could not but aggravate his grief, and which did not fail to call forth his too bitter resentment.
Eliphaz begins with a glance at Job's former profession of righteousness, but it is to reprove him for his actual failure in endurance. Ignorant of himself, and feebly realizing the accumulated and overwhelming pressure on Job, he is honestly astounded at his outburst; and then lays down his law of present retribution, but rather to rouse him from his wild despair to the language of piety than to condemn him as impious. If godly fear was his, as Eliphaz trusted yet, why was it not his confidence? why was not the uprightness of his ways his hope? It is plain that Eliphaz was as ignorant as Job of the source, and character, and aim of the trial then going on. All he sees is the necessary triumph of righteousness, and the irretrievable ruin of the wicked; and this by figures taken not only from men, but the wildest of beasts crushed under God's hand.
Next Eliphaz sets forth in mysterious and awful style an oracle of the night, which impressed his own soul with the folly of earthly, sinful, weak, man's pretension to be more just than God by arraigning His dispensations.
In the beginning of chapter 5 Eliphaz proceeds in a strain of deepening severity, and not without a claim of superior moral judgment. On whom could Job call, if not on God, against whom he was rather murmuring? For himself he saw the sudden and inevitable ruin of the prosperous fool and of all pertaining to him. Job should therefore accept his suffering from God, and turn to Him with supplication, who is not merely great beyond creature search, but bountiful, and this morally to the abject, as surely as He confounds the crafty and the strong. Eliphaz finally counsels submission to the chastening hand of God, who would surely deliver from all evil, and bless him with all good; and this in the name, not merely of himself, but of his friends, on whose entire agreement he reckons with assurance.
It is to be noticed that the Holy Ghost. is pleased to endorse the language of Eliphaz, and this not merely in the earlier revelations but in the fullest light of the New Testament, as we may see in life apostle's use of it to the Corinthians and to the Hebrews. Indeed the issue in the book itself was the remarkable (and probably by himself unexpected) seal of the truth of his closing words, which no doubt at that time fell coldly on the ear and heart of the sufferer.
How natural it is, especially for those who believe in a present moral government of God, to look for a perfect manifestation of His mind in the maintenance of right and the judgment of wrong in the world as it is I.
No doubt this was strongest among the Jews, who might have expected it justly under the theocracy Jehovah was pleased to establish in their midst. But in truth it is a truth indigenous to every land, and common to all ages, and found in every circumstance and grade of life. Here the three friends of Job more and more yield to it, mid Job, who suffered from his allowance of it, was kept from it mainly by the unswerving consciousness of his own integrity, but none the less writhing under the inexplicable web of inflicted misery, the more poignantly felt because he never doubted that God somehow had to do with it all, and righteousness pleads that evil should be punished, and good dwell in peace and honor. Who ever learns till he is taught of God that His children must wait in faith, and suffer patiently in the exercise and trial of their faith, till God has His rights in the return and reign of His Anointed? Then, and not before, shall we reign with Him.
Chapters vi., vii.
THE REPLY OF JOB.
“AND Job answered, and said,
O that my vexation were exactly weighed,
And my calamity raised in the scales together!
For now is it heavier than the sand of the seas,
Therefore do my words rave.
For the arrows of the Almighty are in me,
The poison of which my spirit drinketh up. 1
The terrors of God array themselves against me.
Doth the wild ass bray by the fresh grass?
Doth an ox low over his fodder?
Is that which is tasteless eaten without salt?
Is there flavor in the white of an egg?
My soul refuseth to touch:
They are as the disease of my bread.
O that my request might come,
And that God would grant my longing,
That it might please God to destroy me,
That He would let loose His hand, and cut me off!
So would it ever be my comfort,
And I would exult if he in pain should not spare,
For I have not denied the words of the Holy One.
What is my strength that I should wait,
And what mine end that I should be patient?
Is my strength the strength of stones?
Is my flesh copper?
Truly is not the nothingness of help with me,
And substance driven away from me?
To the despairing there is gentleness from his friends,
Even to one forsaking the face of the Almighty.
My brethren have deceived as a torrent,
As the bed of torrents which overflow.
Turbid are they from ice;
The snow hideth itself in them:
What time heat cometh, they are cut off;
When it is hot, they are extinguished from their place.
Caravans2 turn aside out of their way,
They go up into the waste, and vanish.
The caravans of Tema looked,
The companies of Sheba hoped for them;
They were put to shame because one trusted,
They came up to it, and became red with shame.
For truly ye are become nothing,
Ye see a terror, and are dismayed.
Is it that I ever said, Give me,
And bring presents to me from your wealth,
And deliver me out of the enemy's hand,
And redeem me out of the oppressor's hand?
Teach me, and I will be silent,
And show me wherein I have erred.
How sweet are right words!
And what doth reproof from you reprove?
Think you to reprove words,
When the speeches of one despairing are but wind?
Ye would even let fall on the orphan,
And would traffic for your friend.
But now be pleased to face me,
And to your faces it will be if I lie.
Return, I pray, let there be no wrong;
Yea, return; I am still right therein.
Is there wrong in my tongue?
Doth not my palate discern calamities?
Hath not man a warfare on earth,
And are not his days as the days of a hireling?
As the slave panting after the shade,
And as the hireling longing for his wages.
So I am made to inherit months of wretchedness,
And nights of distress are appointed to me.
When I lie down, then I say,
When shall I arise, and the evening be gone?
And I am weary of restlessness till the dawn.
My flesh is clothed with worms and crusts of earth,
My skin healeth, and is again melted;
My days pass more swiftly than a shuttle,
And come to an end without hope.
Remember that my days are a breath,
Mine eye will not return to see good.
The eye of him that seeth me shall not see me;
Thine eyes [look] toward me: I am no more.
The cloud consumeth, and is gone;
So he that goeth down to Sheol cometh not up,
He returneth no more to his house;
His place knoweth him not again.
I also will not restrain my mouth,
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I a sea, or a monster,
That thou settest guard over me?
When I say, My bed shall comfort me,
My couch shall ease my complaint,
Then thou shakest me with dreams,
And makest me tremble through visions of the night,
So that my soul chooseth strangling,
Death rather than these bones: I would not live on;
I loathe it: let me alone; my days are vanity.
What is man that Thou magnifiest him,
And that Thou settest Thy mind on him,
And that Thou visitest him every morning,
And every moment triest him?
How long dost not Thou look away from me,
Nor lettest me alone till I swallow my spittle?
I have sinned; what could I do to Thee?
Watcher of men, why makest Thou me Thy mark,
So that I am become a burden to myself?
And why dost not Thou pardon my transgression,
And put away my iniquity?
For now shall I lie in the dust,
And, if Thou seekest after me, I am no more."
Thus Job pleads for a fairer appraisal of his sore trial along with his random words. It was easy for others to moralize who were at ease, but as inevitable for him to cry out as for the beast without food. He owned the strokes to be from God, and only desired to be crushed, as his conscience was good. Hope for this life was gone. Such an one should have had pity from his friends, who had, on the contrary, played him false, as the wadys of the desert deceive in summer the caravans that count on them. Nor had he asked help, of them, but was willing to learn if they could show his error, instead of caviling at the wild words of one in despair. He asks an open judgment of his ways, and a lenient estimate of his complaints. When a man has served out as a soldier or slave, may be not retire? It was his grief that he could not, after unutterable days and nights of hopeless misery; yet was he but a wind or cloud, and as he thought of it, he must again speak in his anguish. Was he a sea, or sea-monster, so uncontrollable as to be allowed no respite, not even at night, from horrors enough to make him prefer strangling, any death, rather than for such bones as his to live on? What was mortal man that God should make so much of him? and try him as he was tried unintermittingly? Grant that he had sinned; but why set him as a butt till he should pass away in sorrow?
How beautiful is the contrast with Job's repining in Psa. 8 and 144., where a similar question brings out, in and by the Lord Jesus, wholly different answers. Yet the Lord passed into the glory of Son of man set over all things, through infinitely deeper suffering; as He will at length close man's feeble history by His coming in judgment to take the kingdom in power and glory before the universe. Job gives way to murmurs and complaints that God should take such notice of man in daily government: not so He, who was rejected by all, and tasted death for everything, whom now we see exalted above the heavens, and who will ere long judge all men when God gives the word.