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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Job 8

 

 

Verses 1-22

As Job closed his reply to Eliphaz, he made the confession, "I have sinned," realizing that God is the Observer of mankind. We might have expected that Bildad, as he began to speak, would have made some allusion to this, but he does not appear to do so. Instead he accused him of uttering words like the blowing of a strong wind, and, to maintain the rightness of all God's judgments, he insinuated that Job's children must have been cast away as the penalty of their transgression. This must have been a bitter stroke at Job, since he had so regularly offered sacrifice on their behalf. Nevertheless he advised Job that if only he would be upright and seek God, he would be blessed in his latter end.

In verses Job 8:8-10, Bildad revealed his own standpoint in the argument that was developing. He set great store by the accumulated treasures of human wisdom. Even in these remote times it was possible to search in the records preserved from even remoter times. If Eliphaz argued from his own observation — what he personally had seen, — Bildad argued from tradition — what could be learned from the records of earlier days. He distrusted a deduction from one's personal experience, since the days of a man upon earth are but "a shadow."

Hence in the rest of the chapter he summarized what tradition would teach, illustrating his point by things in nature, like the rush and the spider's web. He claimed that all history showed that God requited man according to his deserts. If evil, he is cut off. If good, he is prospered. To tell Job that, "the hypocrite's hope shall perish," was a cut this time not at Job's children but at Job himself.

This brought forth from Job the striking words recorded in Job 9:1-35. He began by acknowledging the rightness of God's disciplinary ways, but raised the all-important question, as to how a man could be right with God. In our day the pithy sentence, "Get right with God," has been used to awaken interest in the Gospel message. It might well provoke the reply, "Yes, but how is it to be achieved?" This is just the enquiry that Job made in verse Job 8:2, and the rest of the chapter reveals how earnest and sincere he was in asking it, for he suggested and examined four possible answers. Each suggestion commences with an, "If."

The first is of course verse Job 8:3. Supposing man adopts a defiant attitude and contends with God; what then? Disaster, and no justification! Sin has made mankind into rebels, hence to defy God is their first instinct. But Job saw how ruinous such an attitude would be. God is so infinitely great that no rebel can prosper, and down to verse Job 8:19 he continues this theme. The earth and the heavens with their constellations proclaim the Creator's greatness and glory.

At verse Job 8:20, Job suggested another possible answer, How could he be just with God? Well, could he justify himself? This would at least mean a forsaking of the defiant attitude and the tacit admission of being wrong, and thus needing to be justified. Self-justification is a very attractive proposition, yet Job only stated it to dismiss the idea as impracticable. He knew he had only to open his mouth to condemn himself. Moreover he who would justify himself before the searching eye of God must be able to establish his own perfection. Nothing short of that would satisfy, as verse Job 8:20 shows. He went on to assert that even if he were perfect God would judge and destroy him, for he only knew perfection as it is estimated according to human standards.

In verse 27, we find his third "If..." He could not defy the God of heaven nor could he justify himself: then should he give up hope, abandon his quest for the answer, and give himself up to the careless pursuit of enjoyment? Human nature has not changed, for many of us have pursued just the line of thought which Job disclosed here; only he immediately discarded the idea, realizing how vain it was. If we carelessly forget, God does not forget. The sinner will not evade the judgment of God by declining to face the question.

The fourth "If..." occurs in verse 30. Job has discarded three suggested answers to his question those of defiance, of self-justification, of careless forgetfulness. What about a course of self-improvement? Would that help in the solution of the question? He has only to state it, to reject it with equal decision. He knew that melted snow would give distilled water of the purest kind, having the greatest power of absorbing and removing defilement. The figure he used is most graphic. If he achieved something like this in his own character and life, what then? Why, God would plunge him in a dirty ditch as the only fit place for him. And even then, he himself, beneath his clothes, would be dirtier than they! The defilement was in himself and not in his surroundings. His rejection of the idea of achieving justification by a process of self-improvement could not be more decisive.

How evident it is that Job knew that he was a sinful creature before his holy Creator, and that he possessed in himself no means of getting right. That being so, his only hope was in the intervention of a third party; but no such third party, or "daysman," was known to him. His three friends could not act the part, nor could any other man, since the daysman must be great enough to lay one of his hands upon Almighty God, and gracious enough to lay the other upon poor diseased and sinful Job.

How pathetic are the words that close this chapter! If only there were an efficient intermediary, how different it would be; but, says Job, "it is not so with me." Have we ever thanked God with sufficient fervour that it is so with us? The fact is that though he may not have known it, Job was sighing for the advent of CHRIST. We can now rejoice in the "one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). By Him the ransom price was paid, so that it is possible for a man to be just with God.

But for Job there was no apparent answer to his question, so we are not surprised that Job 10:1-22 is filled with his further words of complaint and sorrow coupled with pathetic appeals to God. He had just said of God, "He is not a man, as I am," hence he was aware that he was as nothing before His holy eyes, that searched him through and through. In verse Job 8:2 he appealed to God to show him the reason why He contended with him by these disasters. In verse Job 8:6 he again admitted "iniquity" and "sin," yet in the next verse he said, "Thou knowest that I am not wicked," using this term evidently in the sense in which Eliphaz uses it when we come to Job 22:15.

Yet, on the other hand, he knew that God's standards were far higher than his, and hence woe would come upon him if he were wicked, and that even if he were righteous he could not lift up his head in the presence of God. He was filled with confusion; his affliction increased; he again complained that he had ever been born, and as to the future he had no light. Death was to him as "a land of darkness," as we see in verses Job 8:21-22. We have to pass on to New Testament days to get such a word as that, "the true light now shineth" (1 John 2:8).

Yet even today there are all too many who regard death as the taking of "a leap in the dark." And indeed it is that to them if the Christ, presented to them in the Gospel, be neglected or rejected. For such there is no excuse, whilst for Job there was every excuse. Again we affirm that the gloom of this excellent saint of Old Testament days should move us to much thanksgiving to God, who has brought us out of darkness into His "marvellous light."

In Job 11:1-20 we have the brief speech of Zophar, the third of Job's friends, and reading it, we note that his tone is a little more severe even than Bildad's was. Possibly he was irritated by the fact that Job had not accepted the charges and arguments of the other two, but it was overshooting the mark and unfriendly to charge him with a "multitude of words," of being "full of talk," of uttering "lies," and of mocking. Nor had he claimed to be "clean" in the sight of God. Zophar does not as yet reveal the standpoint from which he speaks, but he oracularly declared that Job really deserved from God's hands severer punishment than he was getting. Seeing that his suffering exceeded any other of which we have record, and that the discussion centred around God's disciplinary dealings in this life, and did not look into eternity, this again strikes us as harsh and dogmatic in the extreme.

From verse Job 8:7 onwards, however, he did say some striking things that have truth in them, as other Scriptures show. It is indeed true that man cannot by his searching find out God. It is equally true that man, being sinful, is "vain," or, "empty," or, "senseless," and is born like "a wild ass's colt." Zophar evidently felt that Job needed to recognize these things, without much consciousness of how they applied to himself. If the men of this twentieth century recognized them, it would puncture their inflated pride. They may find out means of destroying human lives by the hundred thousand, but they cannot find out God. He can only be found in Christ, who has revealed Him.

Zophar's final words of counsel (verses Job 8:13-20) also have truth in them. Verse Job 8:14 in the New Translation begins, "If thou put far away the iniquity which is in thy hand;" that is, he again assumes, like the others, that Job is after all an evil man, holding tight to his sins. Here he was wrong, though his counsel to put away evil and turn to God was good, and his description of the happy result of so doing was correct enough.

Job 12:1-25. The tone of extreme dogmatism so noticeable in Zophar's utterance, no doubt prompted Job to begin his reply on a very sarcastic note. His words, "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you," have almost passed into a proverb, to be used against the dogmatism of self-conceit. He claimed to have understanding equal to his friends, and in verse Job 8:5 he reminded them that he, who was in this slippery place, shone like a warning lamp, only to be despised by those who were in easy and comfortable circumstances, as his friends were.

In verse Job 8:6 Job challenged the main position that his friends had taken. They asserted that God always rewards the pious with earthly prosperity and visits disaster upon the head of the wicked. He maintained that it was not so, but that there were cases when robbers prospered and those who provoked God were secure. In proof of this he referred to what could be seen in the lower creation - beasts, birds and fishes. He alluded, we suppose, to the disorder that the sin of man has introduced even there, so that the weaker meet with disaster and destruction from the stronger, and all this by the permission of God. Just as the mouth tastes meat so had his ear tried their words, and found them worthless.

From verse Job 8:13 to the end of this chapter Job reviewed the ways of God in His dealings with men. He acknowledged that "wisdom and strength" are His as well as "counsel and understanding." Yet he felt that God's exercise of these wonderful qualities were full of mystery. Again and again those who are great and wise — counsellors, judges, kings, princes — are spoiled and overthrown. He lived in days when, after the flood, nations had come into being. He had seen such increased and then destroyed. Men, who had been so wise as to become chief among the people, suddenly lose their understanding and grope in the dark without a light, or stagger like a drunken man. Now why was this?

Eliphaz had based his condemnation of Job on what he himself had observed. Well, Job too had powers of observation, and he had seen all these things of which he had just spoken, as he affirmed in the opening verses of Job 13:1-28. He did not claim to be superior to his friends, but at any rate he was not their inferior, yet he acknowledged that God's dealings mystified him, being far above and out of his sight. So, as verse Job 8:3 indicates, what he desired was to speak to the Almighty and reason with God, rather than spend his time in reasoning with his friends.

Still, there his friends were, and we can see that by this time Job had been goaded into retorts of a more biting kind. What he wanted was truth for his mind and healing for his body. They were only "forgers of lies," and "physicians of no value." He counselled them to hold their peace and listen to what he had to say; and up to verse Job 8:13 he continued in this strain. He felt they had talked as though speaking on God's behalf, and in so doing had misrepresented Him. In this, no doubt, Job judged rightly.

In verses Job 8:14-19, God, rather than his friends, is before the mind of Job. We can discern two conflicting elements. On the one hand, there was a remarkable spirit of faith, which led him to take all that had transpired from His hand and not concern himself with the agents of the disasters, which had stopped short of his death. He had desired to die, and if God should answer this request and slay him, he would not lose confidence but still trust in Him. This indeed was excellent, but at the same time Job revealed his very weak spot in his determination to "maintain," or "defend" his own ways before Him. So we see that in a true saint very real faith in God may exist, and yet be marred by a very determined measure of self-esteem. This it is, which gives such great value to this remarkable book, since the flesh in us, who are saints today, is just the same as it was in Job some four thousand years ago.

Thus it is, that Job proclaimed that God would be his salvation and that ultimately he would be justified. But in verse Job 8:20 he more definitely addressed himself to God. He accepted his sorrows as being from the hand of God and asked that His hand might be removed from him, so that he might stand before Him on easier terms. Verse 23 shows that directly Job felt himself to be before God he acknowledged iniquity and sins. He wished to know how many they were, since he felt, as the succeeding verses reveal, that the retribution he was suffering went beyond his real deserts. He was like a man with his feet in the stocks, and thus an easy target for those who wished to throw things at him.

As we read his words, we cannot but feel the pathos of them, and are not surprised at his cry of lamentation, which opens Job 14:1-22. In the far-off days of Job human life was perhaps three times longer than it is today; yet it was after all "of few days," and then it was "full of trouble," just as it is today, so that viewed in the light of the eternal God, he is but like a fading flower or a fleeting shadow. Job was conscious of this as regards himself and so he knew he could not stand the Divine inspection, nor stand before Him in judgment. Moreover he knew that he was not clean in the sight of God, and he was sure no one could produce the clean out of the unclean.

The Authorised Translation in verse Job 8:4, puts the word thing, in italics. Darby's New Translation inserts rather the word, man. This is another of the tremendous questions that Job asks, and this time he answers it — quite rightly too. No man can accomplish it in himself, and much less achieve it for others. Moreover, when we turn to the New Testament, we find that God does not propose to do it. The error that troubled the Galatians was the idea that the law had been given to clean men up, and hence even Christians had to put themselves under it and accept circumcision as the sign of it, in order to lead clean lives. The emphatic word correcting this is, "In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation" (Galatians 6:15). The believer is not the "old man" cleaned up. He is newly created in Christ, with a nature which in its essential character "cannot sin," as affirmed in 1 John 3:9.

Man being of few days, his life in this world must terminate in death, and the time when he goes is determined by God, as verse Job 8:5 states. But, what then? Job felt he was just like an hireling filling out his day, and he wished that God would give him rest until the end came. But again, what then?

We have to pass on to verse Job 8:14 before we find him actually stating the third tremendous question that filled his mind, but evidently it was in his mind as he commenced his argument in verse Job 8:7. He did not know how a man could be "just," or "right" with God. He knew that no man could produce that which is clean out of that which is unclean. And now comes the question, "If a man die, shall he live again?" As yet, on this point, no clear and decisive light was shining before him, and in his heart.

This being so, he started to reason the matter out. He took the analogy of a tree, which had been felled, when for long its root had been in the earth. He had seen the years pass so that the stump that was left had begun to decay. Yet a change had come. Something had happened, an earth-tremor had perhaps cracked the rocks and opened up a fresh channel for water to reach its roots. Then, as a consequence, the dead tree had come to life and sprouted again. The hope of Job was that something like that lay before mankind.

Evidently boo it was more than a hope, for in verse Job 8:12 he infers that men will "awake," and "be raised out of their sleep," but that this would not come to pass, "till the heavens be no more." How true this is, as to the masses of mankind who die in their sins, we see when we read Revelation 20:11-15. We must remember that the fact of there being a resurrection of the just a full thousand years before the resurrection of the unjust, had not come to light in the days of Job. Verse Job 8:13 makes it manifest that Job in his mind connected the fact of resurrection with the manifestation of God's wrath, from which he desired to be hid, and the rather to be remembered in mercy.

The words of Job in verses Job 8:14-15 are very remarkable. We may often have wondered how the faith of an Abraham embraced such things as are recorded in Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 11:16, seeing that in his day there was no public revelation of these heavenly things, as far as the Scripture record goes. So with Job here. He recognized that he had an " appointed time," when his "change" would come; that there would be a Divine "call," to which he would "answer," inasmuch as he was a "work" of God's hands. In thus speaking he was taught of God, as we can see in the light of the New Testament.

We pause to ask if we have ever thanked God in any adequate way that we walk in the light of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead? Have we ever given sufficient weight in our souls to the statement of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 1:10, which in the New Translation reads, "Our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has annulled death, and brought to light life and incorruptibility by the glad tidings." Immortality is not the word here. That the soul of man survived death, and resurrection lay ahead, was believed in Old Testament times, as Job's words here show, and as the Lord made plain in controversy with the Sadducees of His day. What was not made known was that for the saint resurrection will mean entrance upon a new and incorruptible order of things. This was demonstrated when our Lord rose from the dead. Hence we have.no need to discuss the matter and reason it out, as Job does here. The whole truth of it has been plainly revealed.

Thus Job had a certain measure of hope and expectation but, as the closing verses of the chapter show, all was for the moment swallowed up in the miseries of his present situation. Once more the speech of Job ends upon a note of gloom. His last word is "mourn."

There can be no doubt that the excellent men who lived before Christ did view death in that light. A striking exhibition of it is seen in the case of Hezekiah — read what he committed to writing, recorded in Isaiah 38:9-14. The day had not yet dawned when a saint could look death full in the face and write of "having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better." Again we say, how great the privilege of living in this Gospel day!

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Job 8:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/job-8.html. 1947.

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