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Bible Commentaries

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Job 8



Verse 1

Then answered Bildad the Shuhite - ; see the notes at Job 2:11.

Verse 2

How long wilt thou speak these things? - The flyings of murmuring and complaint, such as he had uttered in the previous chapters.

The words of thy mouth be like a strong wind? - The Syriac and Arabic (according to Walton) render this, “the spirit of pride fill thy mouth.” The Septuagint renders it, “The spirit of thy mouth is profuse of words” - πολυῤῥῆμον polurrēmon But the common rendering is undoubtedly correct, and the expression is a very strong and beautiful one. His language of complaint and murmuring was like a tempest. It swept over all barriers, and disregarded all restraint. The same figure is found in Aristophanes, Ran. 872, as quoted by Schultens, Τυφὼς ἐχβαίειν παρασκενάξεται Tuphōs ekbainein paraskeuacetai - a tempest of words is preparing to burst forth. And in Silius Italicus, xxi. 581:

- qui tanta superbo

Facta sonas ore, et spumanti turbine perflas

Ignorantum aures.

The Chaldee renders it correctly רבא זעפא - a great tempest.

Verse 3

Doth God pervert judgment? - That is, Does God afflict people unjustly? Does he show favor to the evil, and punish the good? Bildad here undoubtedly refers to Job, and supposes that he had brought this charge against God. But he had not done it in so many words. He had complained of the severity of his sufferings, and had indulged in irreverent language toward God. But he had not advanced the charge openly that God had perverted right. Bildad strenuously maintains that God would do right. His argument is based on the supposition that God would deal with people in this life according to their character; and thus he infers that Job must have been guilty of some great wickedness, that punishment should come upon him in this manner.

Verse 4

If thy children have sinned against him - Bildad here assumes that the children of Job had been wicked, and had been cut off in their sins. This must have cut him to the quick, for there was nothing which a bereaved father would feel more acutely than this. The meaning here is somewhat weakened by the word “if.” The Hebrew אם 'ı̂m is rather to be taken in the sense of “since” - assuming it as an indisputable point, or taking it for granted. It was not a supposition that if they should now do it, certain other consequences would follow; but the idea is, that since they had been cut off in their sins, if Job would even now seek God with a proper spirit, he might be restored to prosperity, though his beginning should be small; Job 8:7.

And he have cast them away - Bildad supposes that they had been disowned by God, and had been put to death.

For their transgression - Margin, in the hand of their. The Hebrew is, by the hand of their transgression; i. e, their sin has been the cause of it, or it has been by the instrumentality of their sin. What foundation Bildad had for this opinion, derived from the life and character of the sons of Job, we have no means of ascertaining. The probability is, however, that he had learned in general that they had been cut off; and that, on the general principle which he maintained, that God deals with men in this life according to their character, he inferred that they must have been distinguished for wickedness. Men not unfrequently argue in this way when sudden calamity comes upon others.

Verse 5

If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes - If thou wouldest do it now. If even on the supposition that your sons have thus perished, and that God has come out in judgment against your family, you would look to God, you might be restored to favor. The word rendered “seek betimes” (שׁחר shâchar ) means literally to seek in the morning, to seek early; and then, to make it the first business. It is derived from the word meaning aurora (שׁחר shachar ) and has reference to the early light of the morning, and hence, to an early seeking. It may be applied to seeking him in early life, or as the first thing - looking to him immediately when help is needed, or before we apply to anyone else; compare Proverbs 7:15; Proverbs 8:17; Proverbs 13:24; Job 24:5; Psalm 63:1; Psalm 78:34; Isaiah 26:9; Hosea 5:15; compare the advice of Eliphaz, Job 5:8.

Verse 6

If thou wert pure and upright - There is something especially severe and caustic in this whole speech of Bildad. He first assumes that the children of Job were cut off for impiety, and then takes it for granted that Job himself was not a pure and upright man. This inference he seems to have derived partly from the fact that he had been visited with so heavy calamities, and partly from the sentiments which Job had himself expressed. Nothing could be more unjust and severe, however, than to take it for granted that he was a hypocrite, and then proceed to argue as if that were a settled point. He does not make it a supposition that possibly Job might have erred - which would not have been improper; but he proceeds to argue as if it were a point about which there could be no hesitation.

He would awake for thee - He would arouse or excite himself יעיר yā‛ı̂r on thy account. The image is that of arousing oneself from sleep or inactivity to aid another; and the idea is, that God had, as it were, slumbered over the calamities of Job, or had suffered them to come without interposing to prevent them, but that he would arouse himself if Job were pure, and would call upon him for aid.

And make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous - That is, if thy habitation should become righteous now, he would make it prosperous. Hitherto, is the idea of Bildad, it has been a habitation of wickedness. Thy children have been wicked, and are now cut off. Thou thyself hast been a wicked man, and in consequence art afflicted. If now thou wouldest become pure and seek unto God, then God would make thy habitation prosperous. What could more try the patience of a sufferer than such cold and unfeeling insinuations? And what could more beautifully illustrate the nature of true courtesy, than to sit unmoved and hear such remarks? It was by forbearance in such circumstances eminently that Job showed his extraordinary patience.

Verse 7

Though thy beginning was small - On the supposition that the children of Job had been cut off, his family now was small. Yet Bildad says, that if he were to begin life again, even with so small a family, and in such depressed and trying circumstances, if he were a righteous man he might hope for returning prosperity.

Yet thy latter end - From this, it is evident that Job was not now regarded as an old man. He would still have the prospect of living many years. Some have supposed, however that the meaning here is, that his former prosperity should appear small compared with that which he would hereafter enjoy if he were pure and righteous. So Noyes and Rosenmuller interpret it. But it seems to me that the former interpretation is the correct one. Bildad utters a general sentiment, that though when a man begins life he has a small family and little property, yet if he is an upright man, he will be prospered and his possessions will greatly increase; compare Job 42:12: “Yahweh blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.”

Verse 8

For inquire thee of the former age - That is, attend to the results of observation. Ask the generations which have passed, and who in their poems and proverbs have left the records of their experience. The sentiment which Bildad proposes to confirm by this appeal is, that though the wicked should for a time flourish, yet they would be cut off, and that the righteous, though they may be for a time afflicted, yet if they seek God, they will ultimately prosper. It was common to make these appeals to the ancients. The results of observation were embodied in proverbs, parables, fables, and fragments of poems; and he was regarded as among the wisest of men who had the fruits of these observations most at command. To that Bildad appeals, and especially, as would appear, to the fragment of an ancient poem which he proceeds to repeat, and which, perhaps, is the oldest poem extant in any language.

And prepare thyself - Make an effort, or give diligent attention to it.

To the search of their fathers - Of the bygone generations, not only to the age immediately past, but to their ancestors. He would bring the results of the observation of far distant ages to confirm the sentiment which he had advanced.

Verse 9

For we are but of yesterday - That is, we are of short life. We have had but few opportunities of observation compared with those who have gone before us. There can be no doubt that Bildad here refers to the longevity of the antecedent ages compared with the age of man at the time when he lived; and the passage, therefore, is of importance in order to fix the date of the poem. It shows that human life had been reduced in the time of Job within comparatively moderate limits, and that an important change had taken place in its duration. This reduction began not long after the flood, and was probably continued gradually until it reached the present limit of seventy years. This passage proves that Job could not have lived in the time of the greatest longevity of man; compare the Introduction, Section 3.

And know nothing - Margin, not. So the Hebrew literally, “we do not know.” The sense is, “we have had comparatively few opportunities for observation. From the comparative brevity of our lives, we see but little of the course of events. Our fathers lived through longer periods, and could mark more accurately the result of human conduct.” One suggestion may be made here, perhaps of considerable importance in explaining the course of argument in this book. The friends of Job maintained that the righteous would be rewarded in this life, and that the wicked would be overtaken by calamity. It may seem remarkable that they should have urged this so strenuously, when in the actual course of events as we now see them, there appears to be so slender a foundation for it in fact. But may this not be accounted for by the remark of Bildad in the verse under consideration? They appealed to their fathers.

They relied on the results of experience in those ancient times. When people lived 900 or 1,000 years; when one generation was longer than twelve generations are now, this fact would be much more likely to occur than as human life is now ordered. Things would have time to work themselves right. The wicked in that long tract of time would be likely to be overtaken by disgrace and calamity, and the righteous would outlive the detractions and calumnies of their enemies, and meet in their old age with the ample rewards of virtue. Should people now live through the same long period, the same thing substantially would occur. A man‘s character, who is remembered at all, is fully established long before a thousand years have elapsed, and posterity does justice to the righteous and the wicked. If people lived during that time instead of being merely remembered, the same thing would be likely to occur. Justice would be done to character, and the world would, in general, render to a man the honor which he deserved. This fact may have been observed in the long lives of the people before the flood, and the result of the observation may have been embodied in proverbs, fragments of poems, and in traditionary sayings, and have been recorded by the sages of Arabia as indubitable maxims. With these maxims they came to the controversy with Job, and forgetful of the change necessarily made by the abbreviation of human life, they proceed to apply their maxims without mercy to him; and because he was overwhelmed with calamity, they assumed that therefore he must have been a wicked man.

Our days upon earth are a shadow - Comparisons of this kind are quite common in the Scriptures; see the notes at Job 7:6. A similar figure occurs in 1 Chronicles 29:15:

For we are strangers before thee,

And sojourners, as were all our fathers:

Our days upon earth are as a shadow,

Yea, there is no abiding.

An expression similar occurs in Aeschylus, Agam. v. 488, as quoted by Drusius and Dr. Good:

- εἴδωλον σκιᾶς eidōlon skias -

- The image or semblance of a shade -

So in Pindar, man is called σκιᾶς ὄναρ skias onar - the dream of a shade; and so by Sophocles, καπνοῦ σκιὰ kapnou skia - the shadow of smoke. All these mean the same thing, that the life of man is brief and transitory. Bildad designs to apply it not to man in general, but to the age in which he lived, as being disqualified by the shortness of life to make extended observations.

Verse 10

Shall not they teach thee - The results of human conduct, and the great principles on which God governs the world.

And utter words out of their heart - Dr. Good renders this,

“And well forth the sayings of their wisdom,”

And supposes it means that the words of wisdom would proceed from them as water bubbles from a fountain. But this, I think, is a mere conceit. The true sense is, that they would not speak that merely which comes from the mouth, or that which comes upper most, and without reflection - as the Greeks say, λέγειν πᾶν ὅ τι ἐπὶ στόμα ἔλθῃ legein pan ho ti epi stoma elthē or, as the Latins, Quicquid in buccam venerit loqui - to speak whatever comes in the mouth; but they would utter that which came from the heart - which was sincere, and the result of deep and prolonged reflection. Perhaps, also, Bildad means to insinuate that Job had uttered what was uppermost in his mind, without taking time for reflection.

Verse 11

Can the rush - This passage has all the appearance of being a fragment of a poem handed down from ancient times. It is adduced by Bildad as an example of the views of the ancients, and, as the connection would seem to imply, as a specimen of the sentiments of those who lived before the life of man had been abridged. It was customary in the early ages of the world to communicate knowledge of all kinds by maxims, moral sayings, and proverbs; by apothegms and by poetry handed down from generation to generation. Wisdom consisted much in the amount of maxims and proverbs which were thus treasured up; as it now consists much in the knowledge which we have of the lessons taught by the past, and in the ability to apply that knowledge to the various transactions of life. The records of past ages constitute a vast storehouse of wisdom, and the present generation is more wise than those which have gone before, only because the results of their observations have been treasured up, and we can act on their experience, and because we can begin where they left off, and, taught by their experience, can avoid the mistakes which they made. The word “rush” here גמא gôme' denotes properly a bulrush, and especially the Egyptian papyrus - papyrus Nilotica; see the notes at Isaiah 18:2. It is derived from the verb גמא gâmâ' to absorb, to drink up, and is given to this plant because it absorbs or drinks up moisture. The Egyptians used it to make garments, shoes, baskets, and especially boats or skiffs; Pithy, Nat. His. 13. 2126; see the notes at Isaiah 18:2. They also derived from it materials for writing - and hence, our word paper. The Septuagint renders it here, πάπυρος papuros Without mire - Without moisture. It grew in the marshy places along the Nile.

Can the flag - Another plant of a similar character. The word אחוּ 'âchû flag, says Gesenius, is an Egyptian word, signifying marsh-grass, reeds, bulrushes, sedge, everything which grows in wet grounds. The word was adopted not only into the Hebrew, but also into the Greek idiom of Alexandria, where it is written, ἄχι achi ἄχει achei Jerome says of it, “When I inquired of the learned what this word meant, I heard from the Egyptians, that by this name everything was intended in their language which grew up in a pool.” The word is synonymous with rush, or bulrush, and denotes a plant which absorbs a great quantity of water. What is the exact idea which this figure is designed to convey, is not very clear. I think it probable that the whole description is intended to represent a hypocrite, and that the meaning is, that he had in his growth a strong resemblance to such a rush or reed. There was nothing solid or substantial in his piety. It was like the soft, spongy texture of the water-reed, and would wilt under trial, as the papyrus would when deprived of water.

Verse 12

Whilst it is yet in his greenness - That is, while it seems to be in its vigor.

And is not cut down - Even when it is not cut down. If suffered to stand by itself, and if undisturbed, it will wither away. The application of this is obvious and beautiful. Such plants have no self sustaining power. They are dependent on moisture for their support. If that is withheld, they droop and die. So with the prosperous sinner and the hypocrite. His piety, compared with that which is genuine, is like the spongy texture of the paper-reed compared with the solid oak. He is sustained in his professed religion by outward prosperity, as the rush is nourished by moisture; and the moment his prosperity is withdrawn, his religion droops and dies like the flag without water.

Verse 13

So are the paths of all that forget God - This is clearly a part of the quotation from the sayings of the ancients. The word “paths” here means ways, acts, doings. They who forget God are like the paper-reed. They seem to flourish, but they have nothing that is firm and substantial. As the paper-reed soon dies, as the flag withers away before any other herb, so it will be with the wicked, though apparently prosperous.

And the hypocrite‘s hope shall perish - This important sentiment, it seems, was known in the earliest periods of the world; and if the supposition above be correct, that this is a fragment of a poem which had come down from far distant times, it was probably known before the flood. The passage requires no particular philological explanation, but it is exceedingly important. We may remark on it,

(1) That there were hypocrites even in that early age of the world. They are confined to no period, or country, or religious denomination, or profession. There are hypocrites in religion - and so there are in politics, and in business, and in friendship, and in morals. There arc pretended friends, and pretended patriots, and pretended lovers of virtue, whose hearts are false and hol ow, just as there are pretended friends of religion. Wherever there is genuine coin, it will be likely to be counterfeited; and the fact of a counterfeit is always a tribute to the intrinsic worth of the coin - for who would be at the pains to counterfeit that which is worthless? The fact that there are hypocrites in the church, is an involuntary tribute to the excellency of religion.

(2) The hypocrite has a hope of eternal life. This hope is founded on various things. It may be on his own morality; it may be on the expectation that he will be able to practice a deception; it may be on some wholly false and unfounded view of the character and plans of God. Or taking the word “hypocrite” in a larger sense to denote anyone who pretends to religion and who has none, this hope may be founded on some change of feeling which he has had, and which he mistook for religion; on some supposed vision which he had of the cross or of the Redeemer, or on the mere subsiding of the alarm which an awakened sinner experiences, and the comparative peace consequent on that. The mere cessation of fear produces a kind of peace - as the ocean is calm and beautiful after a storm - no matter what may be the cause, whether it be true religion or any other cause. Many a sinner, who has lost his convictions for sin in any way, mistakes the temporary calm which succeeds for true religion, and embraces the hope of the hypocrite.

(3) That hope will perish. This may occur in various ways.

(a) It may die away insensibly, and leave the man to be a mere professor of religion - a formalist, without comfort, usefulness, or peace.

(b) It may be taken away in some calamity by which God tries the soul, and where the man will see that he has no religion to sustain him.

(c) It may occur under the preaching of the gospel, when the hypocrite may be convinced that he is destitute of vital piety, and has no true love to God.

(d) It may be on a bed of death - when God comes to take away the soul, and when the judgment-seat appears in view.

(e) Or it will be at the bar of God. Then the hope of the hypocrite will certainly be destroyed. Then it will be seen that he had no true religion, and then he will be consigned to the awful doom of him who in the most solemn circumstances lived to deceive, and who assumed the appearance of that which he had the strongest reason to believe he never possessed. Oh! how important it is for every professor of religion to examine himself, that he may know what is the foundation of his hope of heaven!

Verse 14

Whose hope shall be cut off - Schultens supposes that the quotation from the ancients closes with Job 8:13, and that these are the comments of Bildad on the passage to which he had referred. Rosenmuller and Noyes continue the quotation to the close of Job 8:19; Dr. Good closes it at Job 8:13. It seems to me that it is extended further than Job 8:13, and probably it is to be regarded as continued to the close of Job 8:18. The beginning of this verse has been very variously rendered. Dr. Good says that it has never been understood, and proposes to translate it, “thus shall his support rot away.” Noyes renders it, “whose expectation shall come to naught;” Gesenius, “shall be cut off.” Jerome, Non ei placebit vecordia sua. “his madness (do age, rage, or frenzy) shall not please him?” The Septuagint, “his house shall be uninhabitable, and his tent shall pass away as the spider.”

The Hebrew word translated “cut off” (יקט yāqôṭ ) is from קוט kūṭ usually meaning to loathe, to nauseate, to be offensive. Gesenius supposes that the word here is synonymous with the Arabic “to be cut off.” But this sense does not occur elsewhere in the Hebrew, and it is doubtful whether this is the true sense of the phrase. In the Hebrew word there is probably always the idea of loathing, of being offensive, irksome, or disgusting; see Psalm 95:10, I was grieved; Job 10:1, is weary; Ezekiel 6:9, shall loathe; so Ezekiel 20:43; Ezekiel 36:31; Ezekiel 16:47, a tiresome, or disgusting object. Taylor (Concord) renders it here, “Whom his hope shall loathe or abominate, that is, who shall loathe or hate the thing that he hopes for.” I have no doubt that the meaning here is, to be loathsome, offensive, or nauseous, and the correct sense is, “whose hope shall rot.” The figure is continued from the image of the paper-reed and the flag, which soon decay; and the idea is, that as such weeds grow offensive and putrid in the stagnant water, so shall it be with the hope of the hypocrite.

And whose trust - Whose confidence, or expectation.

A spider‘s web - Margin, “house.” So the Hebrew בית bayı̂th The spider‘s house is the web which it forms, a frail, light, tenuous substance which will sustain almost nothing. The wind shakes it, and it is easily brushed away. So it will be with the hope of the hypocrite.

Verse 15

He shall lean upon his house - This is an allusion to the web or house of the spider. The hope of the hypocrite is called the house which he has built for himself; his home, his refuge, his support. But it shall fail him. In times of trial he will trust to it for support, and it will be found to be as frail as the web of the spider. How little the light and slender thread which a spider spins would avail a man for support in time of danger! So frail and unsubstantial will be the hope of the hypocrite! It is impossible to conceive any figure which would more strongly describe the utter vanity of the hopes of the wicked. A similar comparison occurs in the Koran, Sur. 28,40: “They who assume any other patrons to themselves besides God, are like the spider building his house; for the house of the spider is most feeble.”

He shall hold it fast - Or, he shall lay hold on it to sustain him, denoting the avidity with which the hypocrite seizes upon his hope. The figure is still taken from the spider, and is an instance of a careful observation of the habits of that insect. The idea is, that the spider, when a high wind or a tempest blows, seizes upon its slender web to sustain itself. But it is insufficient. The wind sweeps all away. So the tempest of calamity sweeps away the hypocrite, though he grasps at his hope, and would seek security in that, as a spider does in the light and tenuous thread which it has spun.

Verse 16

He is green before the sun - Vulgate, “antequam veniat sol - before the sun comes.” So the Chaldee, “before the rising of the sun.” So Eichhorn renders it. According to this, which is probably the true interpretation, the passage means that he is green and flourishing before the sun rises, but that he cannot hear its heat and withers away. A new illustration is here introduced, and the object is to compare the hypocrite with a vigorous plant that grows up quick and sends its branches afar, but which has no depth of root, and which, when the intense heat of the sun comes upon it, withers away. The comparison is not with a tree, which would bear the heat of the sun, but rather with those succulent plants which have a large growth of leaves and branches, like a gourd or vine, but which will not bear a drought or endure the intense heat of the sun. “This comparison of the transitory nature of human hope and prosperity to the sudden blight which over throws the glory of the forest and of the garden,” says the Editor of the Pictorial Bible (on Psalm 37:35), “is at once so beautiful and so natural, as to have been employed by poets of every age.” One such comparison of exquisite finish occurs in Shakespeare:

This is the state of man! Today he puts forth

The tender leaves of hope; tomorrow blossoms,

And hears his blushing honours thick upon him:

The third day comes a frost, a killing frost,

And, when he thinks, good easy man, full surely

His greatness is a ripening, nips his shoot,

And then he falls, as I do.

And his branch shooteth forth … - A comparison of a prosperous person or nation with a vine which spreads in this manner, is common in the Scriptures. See Psalm 80:11:

She sent out her boughs unto the sea,

And her branches unto the river.

Compare the note at Isaiah 16:8. A similar figure occurs in Psalm 37:35:

I have seen the wicked in great power,

And spreading himself like a green bay tree.

Verse 17

His roots are wrapped about the heap - There has been great diversity of opinion in the interpretation of this passage. Jerome renders it, “over the heap of stones his roots are condensed.” Walton, “super fontem - over a fountain.” The Septuagint, “he lies down (or sleeps, κοιμᾶται koimatai ) on a heap of stones; and he lives in the midst of flint-stones.” According to some, the word rendered heap גל gal means a fountain; according to others, it means a heap or pile of stones; according to Dr. Good, it means a rock. According to the view of the former, it refers to the flourishing condition of a hypocrite or sinner, and means that he is like a tree that sends its roots by a fountain, and is nourished by it. According to others, the reference is to the fact that the hypocrite is like a plant that has no depth of earth for its roots, that wraps its rooks around anything, even a heap of stones, to support itself; and that consequently will soon wither under the intense heat of the sun. The word גל gal rendered “heap,” means either

(1.) A heap, as a heap of stones, from גלל gâlal - to roll, as e. g. stones. It may denote a heap of stones, Joshua 7:26, but it commonly refers to the ruins of walls and cities, Jeremiah 9:11; Jeremiah 51:37; Isaiah 25:2. It means

(2.) A fountain or spring, so called from the rolling or welling up of the waters, Psalm 42:7; Psalm 89:9; Psalm 107:25, Psalm 107:29. The parallelism, if nothing else, demands that the usual signification should be given to it here; and the true sense is, that the prosperous wicked man or the hypocrite is like a plant which stands in the midst of rocks, rubbish, or old ruins, and not like one that stands in a fertile soil where it may strike its roots deep. The reference is to the fact that a tree or plant which springs up on a rock, or in the midst of rocks, will send its roots afar for nutriment, or will wrap them around the projecting points of rocks in order to obtain support. All have observed this in trees standing on rocks; but the following extract from Sillinian‘s Journal for January, 1840, wil illustrate the fact referred to here more fully.

“About fifteen years ago, upon the top of an immense boulder of limestone, some ten or twelve feet in diameter, a sapling was found growing. The stone was but slightly imbedded in the earth; several of its sides were raised from four to six feet above its surface; but the top of the rock was rough with crevices, and its surface, which was sloping off, on one side, to the earth, was covered with a thin mould. From this mould the tree had sprung up, and having thrust its roots into the crevices of the rock, it had succeeded in reaching the height of some twelve or fifteen feet. But about this period the roots on one side became loosened from their attachment, and the tree gradually declined to the opposite side, until its body was in a parallel line with the earth. The roots on the opposite side, having obtained a firmer hold, afforded sufficient nourishment to sustain the plant; although they could not, alone, retain it in its vertical position. In this condition of things, the tree as if ‹conscious of its needs, ‹ adopted (if the term may be used) an ingenious process, in order to regain its former upright position. One of the most vigorous of the detached roots sent out a branch from its side, which, passing round a projection of the rock, again united with the parent stalk, and thus formed a perfect loop around this projection, which gave to the root an immovable attachment.

“The tree now began to recover from its bent position. Obeying the natural tendency of all plants to grow erect, and sustained by this root, which increased with unwonted vigor, in a few years it had entirely regained its vertical position, elevated, as no one could doubt who saw it, by the aid of the root which had formed this singular attachment. But this was not the only power exhibited by this remarkable tree.

“After its elevation it flourished vigorously for several years. Some of its roots had traced the sloping side of the rock to the earth, and were buried in the soil below. Others, having embedded themselves in its furrows, had completely filled these crevices with vegetable matter. The tree still continuing to grow, concentric layers of vegetable matter were annually deposited between the alburnum and liber, until by the force of vegetable growth alone, the rock was split from the top to the bottom, into three nearly equal divisions, and branches of the roots were soon found, extending down, through the divisions into the earth below. On visiting the tree a few months since, to take a drawing of it, we found that it had attained an altitude of fifty feet, and was four and a half feet in circumference at its base.”

The image here shows that the author of this beautiful fragment was a careful observer of nature, and the comparison is exceedingly pertinent and striking. What more beautiful illustration of a hypocrite can there be? His roots do not strike into the earth. His piety is not planted in a rich soil. It is on the hard rock of the unconverted human heart. Yet it sends out its roots afar; seems to flourish for a time; draws nutriment from remote objects; clings to a crag or a projecting rock, or to anything for support - until a tempest sweeps it down to rise no more! No doubt the idea of Bildad was, that Job was just such a man.

Seeth the place of stones - Septuagint, “and lives in the midst of flints,” not an unapt rendering - and a very striking description of a hypocrite. So Castellio, “existit inter lapides.” Its only nutriment is derived from the scanty earth in the stony soil on which it stands, or in the crevices of the rocks.

Verse 18

If he destroy him from his place - The particle here which is rendered “if (אם 'ı̂m ) is often used to denote emphasis, and means here “certainly” - “he shall be certainly destroyed.” The word rendered destroy, from בלע bela‛ means literally to swallow Job 7:19, to swallow up, to absorb; and hence, to consume, lay waste, destroy. The sense is, that the wicked or the hypocrite shall be wholly destroyed from his place, but the image or figure of the tree is still retained. Some suppose that it means that God would destroy him from his place; others, as Rosenmuller and Dr. Good, suppose that the reference is to the soil in which the tree was planted, that it would completely absorb all nutriment, and leave the tree to die; that is, that the dry and thirsty soil in which the tree is planted, instead of affording nutriment, acts as a “sucker,” and absorbs itself all the juices which would otherwise give support to the tree. This seems to me to be probably the true interpretation. It is one drawn from nature, and one that preserves the concinnity of the passage.

Then it shall deny him - That is, the soil, the earth, or the place where it stood. This represents a wicked man under the image of a tree. The figure is beautiful. The earth will be ashamed of it; ashamed that it sustained the tree; ashamed that it ever ministered any nutriment, and will refuse to own it. So with the hypocrite. He shall pass away as if the earth refused to own him, or to retain any recollection of him.

I have not seen thee - I never knew thee. It shall utterly deny any acquaintance with it. There is a striking resemblance here to the language which the Savior says he will use respecting the hypocrite in the day of judgment: “and then will I profess to them, I never knew you;” Matthew 7:23. The hypocrite has never been known as a pious man. The earth will refuse to own him as such, and so will the heavens.

Verse 19

Behold, this is the joy of his way - This is evidently sarcastic. “Lo! such is the joy of his course! He boasts of joy, as all hypocrites do, but his joy endures only for a little time. This is the end of it. He is cut down and removed, and the earth and the heavens disown him!”

And out of the earth shall others grow - This image is still derived from the tree or plant. The meaning is, that such a plant would be taken away, and that others would spring up in its place which the earth would not be ashamed of. So the hypocrite is removed to make way for others who will be sincere, and who will be useful. Hypocrites and useless people in the church are removed to make way for others who will be active and devoted to the cause of the Redeemer. A similar sentiment occurs in Job 27:16-17. This closes, as I suppose, the quotation which Bildad makes from the poets of the former age, and in the remainder of the chapter he states another truth pertaining to the righteous. This fragment is one of the most interesting that can be found any where. As a relic of the earliest times it is exceedingly valuable; as an illustration of the argument in hand; and of the course of events in this world, it is eminently beautiful. It is as true now as it was when uttered before the flood, and may be used now as describing the doom of the hypocrite, with as much propriety as then, and it may be regarded as one of the way-marks in human affairs, showing that the government of God, and the manner of his dispensations, are always substantially the same.

Verse 20

Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man - On the meaning of the word perfect, see the note at Job 1:1. The sentiment of Bildad, or the inference which he draws from the whole argument is, that God will be the friend of the pious, but that he will not aid the wicked. This accords with the general sentiment maintained in the argument of the friends of Job.

Neither will he help the evil doers - Margin, “Take the ungodly by the hand.” This is in accordance with the Hebrew. The figure is that of taking one by the hand in order to assist him; see Isaiah 42:6.

Verse 21

Till he fill thy mouth with laughing - Until he make thee completely happy. The word rendered “till” (עד ‛ad ), is rendered by Dr. Good, “even yet.” Noyes, following Houbigant, DeWette, and Michaelis, proposes to change the pointing, and to read עד ‛ôd instead of עד ‛ad - meaning, “while.” The verse is connected with that which follows, and the particle used here evidently means “while,” or “even yet” - and the whole passage means, “if you return to God, he will even yet fill you with joy, while those who hate you shall be clothed with shame. God will show you favor, but the dwelling of the wicked shall come to naught.” The object of the passage is to induce Job to return to God, with the assurance that if he did, he would show mercy to him, while the wicked should be destroyed.

With rejoicing - Margin, “Shouting for joy.” The word used (תרוּעה terû‛âh ) is properly that which denotes the clangor of a trumpet, or the shout of victory and triumph.

Verse 22

They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame - When they see your returning prosperity, and the evidences of the divine favor. They will then be ashamed that they regarded you as a hypocrite, and that they reproached you in your trials.

And the dwelling-place of the wicked … - The wicked shall be destroyed, and his family shall pass away. That is, God will favor the righteous, but punish the wicked. This opinion the friends of Job maintain all along, and by this they urge him to forsake his sins, repent, and return to God.


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Bibliography Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 8:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

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