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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Job 10



Verse 1

My soul is weary of my life - compare the note at Job 7:16. The margin here is, Or,” cut off while I live.” The meaning in the margin is in accordance with the interpretation of Schultens. The Chaldee also renders it in a similar way: אתגזרת נפשי - my soul is cut off. But the more correct interpretation is that in our common version; and the sense is, that his soul, that is, that he himself was disgusted with life. It was a weary burden, and he wished to die.

I will leave my complaint upon myself - Noyes, “I will give myself up to complaint.” Dr. Good, “I will let loose from myself my dark thoughts.” The literal sense is, “I will leave complaint upon myself;” that is, I will give way to it; I will not restrain it; compare Job 7:11.

I will speak in the bitterness of my soul - See the notes, Job 7:11.

Verse 2

I will say unto God, Do not condemn me - Do not hold me to be wicked - תרשׁיעני אל 'al tarshı̂y‛ēnı̂y The sense is, “Do not simply hold me to be wicked, and treat me as such, without showing me the reasons why I am so regarded.” This was the ground of Job‘s complaint, that God by mere sovereignty and power held him to be a wicked man, and that he did not see the reasons why he was so considered and treated. He now desired to know in what he had offended, and to be made acquainted with the cause of his sufferings. The idea is, that it was unjust to treat one as guilty who had no opportunity of knowing the nature of the offence with which he was charged, or the reason why he was condemned.

Verse 3

Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress - The sense of this is, that it could not be with God a matter of personal gratification to inflict pain wantonly. There must be a reason why he did it. This was clear to Job, and he was anxious, therefore, to know the reason why he was treated in this manner. Yet there is evidently here not a little of the spirit of complaining. There is an insinuation that God was afflicting him beyond what he deserved; see Job 10:7. The state of his mind appears to have been this: he is conscious to himself that he is a sincere friend of God, and he is unwilling to believe that God can wantonly inflict pain - and yet he has no other way of accounting for it. He is in a sort driven to this painful conclusion - and he asks with deep feeling, whether it can be so? Is there no other solution than this? Is there no way of explaining the fact that he suffers so much, than either the supposition that he is a hypocrite - which he feels assured he is not; or that God took a wanton pleasure in inflicting pain - which he was as little disposed to believe, if he could avoid it? Yet his mind rather verges to this latter belief, for he seems more disposed to believe that God was severe than that he himself was a hypocrite and a wicked man. Neither of these conclusions was necessary. If he had taken a middle ground, and had adverted to the fact that God might afflict his own children for their good, the mystery would have been solved. He could have retained the consciousness of his integrity, and at the same time his confidence in God.

That thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands - Margin, labor. That is, despise man, or treat him as if he were of no value. The idea is, that it would be natural for God to love his own work, and that his treatment of Job seemed as if he regarded his own workmanship - man - as of no value.

And shine upon the counsel of the wicked - By giving them health and prosperity.

Verse 4

Hast thou eyes of flesh? - Eyes like man. Dost thou look upon man with the same disposition to discern faults; the same uncharitableness and inclination to construe everything in the severest manner possible, which characterizes man? Possibly Job may have reference here to the harsh judgment of his friends, and means to ask whether it could be possible for God to evince the same feelings in judging of him which they had done.

Verse 5

Are thy days as the days of man - Does thy life pass on like that of man? Dost thou expect soon to die, that thou dost pursue me in this manner, searching out my sins, and afflicting me as if there were no time to lose? The idea is, that God seemed to press this matter as if he were soon to cease to exist, and as if there were no time to spare in accomplishing it. His strokes were unintermitted, as if it were necessary that the work should be done soon, and as if no respite could be given for a full and fair development of the real character of the sufferer. The whole passage Job 10:4-7 expresses the settled conviction of Job that God could not resemble man; Man was short lived, fickle, blind; he was incapable, from the brevity of his existence, and from his imperfections, of judging correctly of the character of others. But it could not be so with God. He was eternal. He knew the heart. He saw everything as it was. Why, then, Job asks with deep feeling, did he deal with him as if he were influenced by the methods of judgment which were inseparable from the condition of imperfect and dying man?

Verse 6

That thou inquirest after mine iniquity - Art thou governed by hu man passions and prejudices, that thou dost thus seem to search out every little obliquity and error? Job here evidently refers to the conduct of man in strictly marking faults, and in being unwilling to forgive; and he asks whether it is possible that God could be governed by such feelings as these.

Verse 7

Thou knowest that I am not wicked - That is, that I am not a hypocrite, or an impenitent sinner. Job did not claim perfection (see the note at Job 9:20), but he maintained through all this argument that he was not a wicked man, in the sense in which his friends regarded him as such, and for the truth of this he could boldly appeal to God. The margin is, “It is upon thy knowledge.” This is a literal translation of the Hebrew, but the sense is well expressed in the text. The meaning of the verse is, “Why dost thou thus afflict me, when thou knowest that I am not wicked? Why am I treated as if I were the worst of men? Why is occasion thus furnished for my friends to construct an argument as if I were a man of singular depravity?”

There is none that can deliver out of thine hand - I have no power to release myself. Job felt hat God had almighty power; and he seems to have felt that his sufferings were rather the simple exertion of power, than the exercise of justice. It was this that laid the foundation for his complaint.

Verse 8

Thine hands have made me - Job proceeds now to state that he had been made by God, and that he had shown great skill and pains in his formation. He argues that it would seem like caprice to take such pains, and to exercise such amazing wisdom and care in forming him, and then, on a sudden, and without cause, dash his own work to pieces. Who makes a beautiful vase only to be destroyed? Who moulds a statue from marble only to break it to pieces? Who builds a splendid edifice only to pull it down? Who plants a rare and precious flower only to have the pleasure of plucking it up? The statement in Job 10:8-12, is not only beautiful and forcible as an argument, but is especially interesting and valuable, as it may be presumed to embody the views in the patriarchal age about the formation and the laws of the human frame. No inconsiderable part of the value of the book of Job, as was remarked in the Introduction, arises from the incidental notices of the sciences as they prevailed at the time when it was composed.

If it is the oldest book in the world, it is an invaluable record on these points. The expression, “thine hands have made me,” is in the margin, “took pains about me.” Dr. Good renders it, “have wrought me;” Noyes, “completely fashioned me;” Rosenmuller explains it to mean, “have formed me with the highest diligence and care.” Schultens renders it, Manus tuae nervis colligarunt - “thy hands have bound me with nerves or sinews;” and appeals to the use of the Arabic as authority for this interpretation. He maintains (De Defectibus hodiernis Ling. Hebr. pp. 142,144,151), that the Arabic word atzaba denotes “the body united and bound in a beautiful form by nerves and tendons;” and that the idea here is, that God had so constructed the human frame. The Hebrew word used here (עצב ‛âtsab ) means properly to work, form, fashion. The primary idea, according to Gesenius, is, that of cutting, both wood and stone, and hence, to cut or carve with a view to the forming of an image. The verb also has the idea of labor, pain, travail, grief; perhaps from the labor of cutting or carving a stone or a block of wood. Hence it means, in the Piel, to form or fashion, with the idea of labor or toil; and the sense here is undoubtedly, that God had elaborated the bodies of men with care and skill, like that bestowed on a carved image or statue. The margin expresses the idea not badly - took pains about me.

And fashioned me - Made me. The Hebrew here means simply to make.

Together round about - סביב יחד yachad sâbı̂yb Vulgate, totum in circuitu. Septuagint simply, “made me.” Dr. Good, “moulded me compact on all sides.” The word יחד yachad rendered “together,” has the notion of oneness, or union. It may refer to the oneness of the man - the making of one from the apparently discordant materials, and the compact form in which the body, though composed of bones, and sinews, and blood-vessels, is constructed. A similar idea is expressed by Lucretius, as quoted by Schultens. Lib. iii. 358:

- Qui coetu, conjugioque

Corporis atque anirnae consistimus uniter apti.

Yet thou dost destroy me - Notwithstanding I am thus made, yet thou art taking down my frame, as if it were of no consequence, and formed with no care.

Verse 9

Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay - There is evident allusion here to the creation of man, and to the fact that he was moulded from the dust of the earth - a fact which would be preserved by tradition; see Genesis 2:7. The fact that God had moulded the human form as the potter moulds the clay, is one that is often referred to in the Scriptures; compare Romans 9:20-21. The object of Job in this is, probably, to recall the fact that God, out of clay, had formed the noble structure, man, and to ask whether it was his intention to reduce that structure again to its former worthless condition - to destroy its beauty, and to efface the remembrance of his workmanship? Was it becoming God thus to blot out every memorial of his own power and skill in moulding the human frame?

Verse 10

Hast thou not poured me out as milk? - The whole image in this verse and the following, is designed to fur nish an illustration of the origin and growth of the human frame. The Note of Dr. Good may be transcribed, as furnishing an illustration of what may have possibly been the meaning of Job. “The whole of the simile is highly correct and beautiful, and has not been neglected by the best poets of Greece and Rome. From the well-tempered or mingled milk of the chyle, every individual atom of every individual organ in the human frame, the most compact and consolidated, as well as the soft and pliable, is perpetually supplied and renewed, through the medium of a system of lacteals or milk-vessels, as they are usually called in anatomy, from the nature of this common chyle or milk which they circulate. Into the delicate stomach of the infant it is introduced in the form of milk; but even in the adult it must be reduced to some such form, whatever be the substance he feed upon, by the conjoint action of the stomach and other chylifactive organs, before it can become the basis of animal nutriment.

It then circulates through the system, and either continues fluid as milk in its simple state, or is rendered solid as milk is in its caseous or cheese-state, according to the nature of the organ which it supplies with its vital current.” True as this is, however, as a matter of physiology, now well understood, a doubt may arise whether Job was acquainted with the method thus described, in which man is sustained. The idea of Job is, that God was the author of the human frame, and that that frame was so formed as to evince his wonderful and incomprehensible wisdom. A consultation of the works on physiology, which explain the facts about the formation and the growth of the human body, will show that there are few things which more strikingly evince the wisdom of God than the formation of the human frame, alike at its origin, and in every stage of its development. It is a subject, however, which cannot, with propriety, be pursued in a work of this kind.

Verse 11

Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh - This refers, undoubtedly, to the formation of man in his foetal existence, and is designed to denote that the whole organization of the human frame was to be traced to God. Grotius remarks that this is the order in which the infant is formed - that the skin appears first, then the flesh, then the harder parts of the frame. On this subject, the reader may consult Dunglison‘s Physiology, vol. ii. p. 340ff.

And hast fenced me - Margin, Hedged. Literally, Hast covered me. The sense is plain. God had formed him as he was, and to him he owed his life, and all that he had. Job asks with the deepest interest whether God would take down a frame formed in this manner, and reduce it again to dust? Would it not be more for his honor to preserve it still - at least to the common limit of human life?

Verse 12

Thy visitation hath preserved my spirit - Thy constant care; thy watchful providence; thy superintendence. The word rendered visitation (פקדה peqûddâh ) means properly the mustering of an army, the care that is manifested in looking after those who are enlisted; and then denotes care, vigilance, providence, custody, watch. The idea is, that God had watched over him and preserved him, and that to his constant vigilance he owed the preservation of his life.

Verse 13

And these things hast thou hid in thine heart - This may either refer to the arrangements by which God had made him, or to the calamities which he had brought upon him. Most expositors suppose that the latter is intended. Such is the opinion of Rosenmuller, Good, Noyes, and Scott. According to this the idea is, that God had purposed in his heart to bring these calamities upon him. They were a part of his counsel and design. To hide in the heart, or to lay up in the heart, is a phrase expressive of a secret purpose. I see no reason to confine it, however, to the calamities which Job had experienced. It may refer to all the plans and doings of the Most High, to which Job had just referred. All his acts in the creation and preservation of man, were a part of his secret counsel, He had formed the plan in his heart, and was now executing it in the various dispensations of his providence.

I know that this is with thee - That all this is a part of thy purpose. It has its origin in thee, and is according to thy counsel. This is the language of piety, recognizing the great truth that all things are in accordance with the purposes of God, or that his plans embrace all events - a doctrine which Job most assuredly held.

Verse 14

If I sin - The object of this verse and the following is, evidently, to say that he was wholly perplexed. He did not know how to act. He could not understand the reason of the divine dealings, and he was wholly unable to explain them, and hence, he did not know how to act in a proper manner. It is expressive of a state of mind where the individual wishes to think and feel right, but where he finds so much to perplex him, that he does not know what to do. Job was sure that his friends were not right in the position which they maintained - that he was a sinner of enormous character, and that his sufferings were proof of this, and yet he did not know how to answer their arguments. He desired to have confidence in God, and yet he knew not how to reconcile his dealings with his sense of right. He felt that he was a friend of God, and he did not know why he should visit one who had this consciousness in this distressing and painful manner. His mind was perplexed, vacillating, embarrassed, and he did not know what to do or say. The truth in this whole argument was, that he was more often right than his friends, but that he, in common with them, had embraced some principles which he was compelled to admit to be true, or which he could not demonstrate to be false, which gave them greatly the advantage in the argument, and which they pressed upon him now with overwhelming force.

Then thou markest me - Dost carefully observe every fault. Why he did this, Job could not see. The same difficulty he expressed in Job 7:17-19; see the notes at that place.

And wilt not acquit me - Wilt not pardon me. Job did not understand why God would not do this. It was exceedingly perplexing to him that God held him to be guilty, and would not pardon him if he had sinned. The same perplexity he expressed in Job 7:21; see the note at that verse.

Verse 15

If I be wicked, woe unto me - The meaning of this in this connection is, “I am full of perplexity and sorrow. Whether I am wicked or righteous, I find no comfort. Whatever is my character, my efforts to be happy are unavailing, and my mind is full of anguish. Woe follows if I have been guilty of sin; and if I am not a sinful man, I am equally incapable of enjoyment. In every way I am doomed to wretchedness.” And if I be righteous, yet will I not lift up my head. That is, with confidence and cheerfulness. The meaning is, that though he was conscious that he was not a hypocrite, yet he did not know what to do. God treated him as if he were wicked, and his friends regarded him as such, and he was overwhelmed with the perplexities of his situation. He could not lift up his head with confidence, though he was certain that he was not a sinner in the sense in which they charged him with being such; and yet since he was treated by God in a manner so similar to the mode in which the wicked are treated, he felt ashamed and confounded. Who has not felt the same thing? Who has not experienced a sense of shame and mortification at being sick, - a proof of guilt, and an expression of the hatred of God against sin? Who has not felt humbled that he must die, as the most vile of the race must die, and that his body must become the “prey of corruption” and “the banquet of worms,” as a demonstration of guilt? Such humiliation Job experienced. He was treated as if he were the vilest of sinners. He endured from God sufferings such as they endure. He was so regarded by his friends. He felt humbled and mortified that he was brought into this situation, and was ashamed that he could not meet the arguments of his friends.

I am full of confusion - Shame, ignominy, distress, and perplexity. On every side there was embarrassment, and he knew not what to do. His friends regarded him as vile, and he could not but admit that he was so treated by God.

Therefore see thou mine affliction - The word rendered here “see” (ראה râ'âh ) in the imperative, Rosenmuller, Gesenius, and others suppose should be regarded as in the infinitive absolute, the finite verb being understood; “seeing I see my affliction,” that is, I certainly see it. So the Chaldee and the Syriac render it, and this agrees better with the connection of the passage. “I see the depth of my affliction. I cannot hide it from myself. I see, and must admit, that God treats me as if I were a sinner, and I am greatly perplexed and embarrassed by that fact. My mind is in confusion, and I know not what to say.”

Verse 16

For it increaseth - Our translators understand this as meaning that the calamities of Job, so far from becoming less, were constantly increasing, and thus augmenting his perplexity and embarrassment. But a somewhat different explanation is given to it by many interpreters. The word rendered “increaseth” (גאה gâ'âh ) means properly, to lift up, to lift up oneself, to rise; and Gesenius supposes that it refers here to “the head,” and that the meaning is, “if it lift up itself (sc. my head), thou huntest me as a lion.” It cannot be denied that the notion of pride, elation, haughtiness, is usually connected with the use of the word, but it is not necessary here to depart from the common interpretation, meaning that the increase of his affliction greatly augmented his perplexity. Jerome, however, readers it, “and on account of pride, thou dost seize me as a lioness.” The idea is, “my affliction, as it were, exalts itself, or, becomes more and more prominent.” This is a better interpretation than to refer it to the raising up of his head.

Thou huntest me as a fierce lion - On the meaning of the word here rendered “fierce lion” שׁחל shachal see the notes at Job 4:10. The sense here is, that God hunted or followed him as a fierce lion pursued his prey.

And again thou showest thyself marvelous - Or rather, “thou turnest, and art wonderful toward me.” The meaning is, that he did not at once spring upon his prey and then leave it, but he came back as if it had not been put to death when first seized, as if a lion should come back and torture his victim again. The meaning of the phrase “shewest thyself marvelous” is, that the dealings of God toward him were wonderful. They were wholly incomprehensible. He had no means of finding out the reasons of his doings. On the word used here, compare the notes at Isaiah 9:6.

Verse 17

Thou renewest thy witnesses against me - Margin, “that is, plagues.” The Hebrew is, “thy witnesses” - עדיך ‛ēdeykā So the Vulgate. The Septuagint is, “renewing against me my examination,” τὴν ἐξέτασίν μου tēn ecetasin mou Rabbi Levi supposes that the plague of the leprosy is intended. But the true meaning seems to be, that God sent upon him calamities which were regarded by his friends as “proofs” or “witnesses” that he was wicked, the public and solemn attestation of God, as they supposed, to the truth that he was eminently a bad man. New proofs of this kind were constantly occurring in his augmenting and protracted sorrows, and he could not answer the arguments which were brought from them by his friends.

Changes and war are against me - Or rather, are “with me,” עמי ‛ı̂my There were with him such reverses of condition as laid the foundation for the argument which they had urged with so much pertinacity and force that he was punished by God. The word rendered “changes” (חליפה chălı̂yphâh ) means properly “changes,” or exchanges, and is applied to garments, 2 Kings 5:5, 2 Kings 5:22-23. It may be used also of soldiers keeping watch until they are relieved by a succeeding guard; see the note at Job 14:14. Here it is not improbably employed in the sense of a succession of attacks made on him. One succeeds another, as if platoon after platoon, to use the modern terms, or phalanx after phalanx, should come up against him. As soon as one had discharged its arrows, another succeeded in its place; or as soon as one became ex hausted, it was followed by a fresh recruit. All this Job could not endure. The succession wearied him, and he could not bear it. Dr. Good supposes that the word refers to the skirmishes by which a battle is usually introduced, in which two armies attempt to gall each other before they are engaged. But the true idea, as it seems to me, is, that afflictions succeeded each other as soldiers on a watch, or in a battle, relieve each other. When one set is exhausted on duty, it is succeeded by another. Or, when in battle one company has discharged its weapons, or is exhausted, it is succeeded by those who are brought fresh into the field. The word rendered “war” (צבא tsâbâ' ) properly means an army or a host; see the note at Job 7:1. Here it means that a whole host had rushed upon him. Not only had he been galled by the succession, the relief-guard of calamities, the attacks which had followed each other from an advanced guard, or from scouts sent out to skirmish, but the whole army was upon him. A whole host of calamities came rushing upon him alone, and he could not endure them.

Verse 18

Wherefore then hast thou brought me forth - See the notes at Job 3:11.

Verse 19

I should have been carried from the womb to the grave - See the notes at Job 3:16.

Verse 20

Are not my days few? - My life is short, and hastens to a close. Let not then my afflictions be continued to the last moment of life, but let thine hand be removed, that I may enjoy some rest before I go hence, to return no more. This is an address to God, and the meaning is, that as life was necessarily so short, he asked to be permitted to enjoy some comfort before he should go to the land of darkness and of death; compare the note at Job 7:21. A somewhat similar expression occurs in Psalm 39:13:

O spare me, that I may recover strength,

Before I go hence, and be no more.

Verse 21

Before I go - from where “I shall not return.” To the grave, to the land of shades, to

“That undiscovered country, from whose bourne

No traveler returns.”

To the land of darkness - This passage is important as furnishing an illustration of what was early understood about the regions of the dead. The essential idea here is that it was a land of darkness, of total and absolute night. This idea Job presents in a great variety of forms and phrases. He amplifies it, and uses apparently all the epithets which he can command to represent the utter and entire darkness of the place. The place referred to is not the grave, but the region beyond, the abode of departed spirits, the Hades of the ancients; and the idea here is, that it is a place where not a clear ray of light ever shines. That this was a common opinion of the ancients in regard to the world of departed spirits, is well known. Virgil thus speaks of those gloomy regions:

Oii, quibusimperium est animarum, umbraeque silentes,

Et Chaos, et Phlegethon, loca nocte tacentia late,

Sit mihi fas audita loqui; slt numine vestro

Pandere res alta terra et caligine mersas.

Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbram,

Perque domos Ditis vacuas, et inania regna:

Quale per incertam lunam sub luce maligna

Est iter in silvis: ubi coelum condidit umbra

Jupiter, et rebus nox abstulit atra colorem

Aeneid vi. 259ff

A similar view of Hades was held by the Greeks. Thus, Theognis, 1007:

Ὠς μάκαρ εὐδυίμων τε και ὄλβιος, ὅστις ἄπειρος

Ἄθλων, εἰς ἥ δου δῶμα μέλαν κατέβη.

Hōs makar eudaimōn te kai olbios hostis apeiros

Athlōn eis h' dou dōma melan katebē is nowhere to be found, however, a description which for intensity and emphasis of expression surpasses this of Job.

Shadow of death - See this phrase explained in the note at Job 3:5.

Verse 22

A land of darkness - The word used here (עיפה ‛êyphâh ) is different from that rendered “darkness” השׁך chôshek in the previous verse. That is the common word to denote darkness; this seldom occurs. It is derived from עוּף ‛ûph to fly; and then to cover as with wings; and hence, the noun means that which is shaded or dark; Amos 4:13; compare Job 17:13; Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 9:1.

As darkness itself - This is still another word אפל 'ôphel though in our common version but one term is used. We have not the means in our language of marking different degrees of obscurity with the accuracy with which the Hebrews did it. The word used here אפל 'ôphel denotes a THICK darkness - such as exists when the sun is set - from אפל 'aphêl to go down, to set. It is poetic, and is used to denote intense and deep darkness; see Job 3:6.

And of the shadow of death - I would prefer reading this as connected with the previous word - “the deep darkness of the shadow of death.” The Hebrew will bear this, and indeed it is the obvious construction.

Without any order - The word rendered order (סדרים sedārı̂ym ) is in the plural. It is from סדר, obsolete, to place in a row or order, to arrange. The meaning is, that everything was mingled together as in chaos, and all was confusion. Milton has used similar language:

- “A vast immeasurable abyss.”

- “dark, wasteful, wild.”

Ovid uses similar language in speaking of chaos: “Unus chaos, rudis indigestaque moles.”

And where the light is as darkness - This is a very striking and graphic expression. It means that there is no pure and clear light. Even all the light that shines there is dark, sombre, gloomy - like the little light of a total eclipse, which seems to be darkness itself, and which only serves to render the darkness more distressing. Compare Milton:

“A dungeon horrible on all sides round,

As one great furnace flamed, yet from those flames

No light; but rather darkness visible

Served only to discover sights of woe.”

Par. Lost, 1.

The Hebrew here literally is, “And it shines forth (יתפע yatopha‛ ) as darkness:” that is, the very shining of the light there, if there is any, is like darkness! Such was the view of Job of the abodes of the dead - even of the pious dead. No wonder he shrank back from it, and wished to live. Such is the prospect of the grave to man, until Christianity comes and reveals a brighter world beyond the grave - a world that is all light. That darkness is now scattered. A clear light shines even around the grave, and beyond there is a world where all is light, and where “there is no night,” and where all is one bright eternal day; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5. O had Job been favored with these views of heaven, he would not have thus feared to die!


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 10:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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