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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 17

 

 

Verse 1

Job 17:1 My breath is corrupt, my days are extinct, the graves [are ready] for me.

Ver. 1. My breath is corrupt] Which argueth that my inwards are imposthumated and rotten, so that I cannot in likelihood have long to live; Oh therefore that I might have a day of hearing and clearing before I die! But Job should have remembered that there will be at the last day a resurrection of names as well as of bodies; which he that believeth maketh not haste. Howsoever, it was not amiss for Job, so grievously diseased, and now well in years, to have thought himself to be dying and to discourse about these three particulars, that speak of him as a dying man. In the old the palm tree is full of blooms, the map of age is figured on his forehead, the calendars of death appear in the furrows of his face, the mourners are ready to go about the streets, and he is going to his long home, according to that elegant description, Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 He should therefore say with Varro, Annus octogesimus me admonet, ut farcinas colligam, &c., It is high time for me to pack up, and to be gone out of this life; or rather, as Simeon, Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, &c.

My days are extinct] As a candle, Proverbs 13:9. Or cut off, as a web, so some read it. The original word is found only here.

The graves are ready for me] Heb. The graves for me; q.d. I bid adieu to all things else, and as the grave gapes for me, so do I gape for the grave, Eιθε μοι τουτο γενοιτο. I would it were even so, as Basil said, when Valens, the Arian emperor, threatened him with death. But why doth Job speak of graves in the plural? Surely, to show that he was besieged with many deaths; or else, because the dead are buried (as it were) first in their grave clothes, and then in the coffin, and then in the bier or hearse, and lastly in the sepulchre, which every place did, as it were, proffer to Job, and threaten him with death, in regard to his many pains and pressures, by the scoffs and taunts of his friends. For,


Verse 2

Job 17:2 [Are there] not mockers with me? and doth not mine eye continue in their provocation?

Ver. 2. Are there no mockers with me?] Heb. If there be not mockers with me, q.d. despeream, let me be punished, or let me be blamed for wishing to argue it out with God; so some Jewish doctors sense it. Job had before complained about his friends’ jeering and girding at him, Job 16:20. To be mocked in misery is no small aggravation. See what is threatened, Proverbs 1:26. The proverb is, Oculus, fides, et fama non patiuntur iocos, There is no jesting with a man’s eye, faith, and fame. Junius rendereth the text thus, Forasmuch as there are no mockings with me, I mean honestly, and deal plainly, and yet mine eye continueth in their provocations, neither can I be set right in their opinions, so prejudiced they are against me.

And doth not mine eye continue in their provocation?] Heb. Lodge or tarry all night in their provocations, or bitternesses? Broughton readeth, In these men’s vexing lodgeth mine eye; that is, I lodge not so much in my bed as in the thoughts of my friends’ unkindness. And indeed, saith one, a man may sleep better upon bare boards than upon hard words. Some refer it to the eye of his mind lifted up to God in prayer; but yet no sweetness coming from him either internally or externally. The former is rather to be followed.


Verse 3

Job 17:3 Lay down now, put me in a surety with thee; who [is] he [that] will strike hands with me?

Ver. 3. Lay down now, put me in a surety with thee] This Job speaketh not to Eliphaz (as R. Moses, Beza, and some others would have it), but to God himself, as Job 16:7, whom be desireth to lay down or appoint, as Exodus 1:11, and put in Christ as a surety to plead for him; see Hebrews 7:22; and so Brentius expoundeth it: There is one only surety, saith he, one only intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ, who if he appear not in the eyes of our faith, we have none else that can undertake for us to God; neither is there any creature which can stand in the judgment of God, though he would never so fain be surety for us: thus he. And accordingly our late learned annotators, reading the words thus: Appoint, I pray thee, my surety with thee; who is he then that will strike upon my hand? that is, Appoint Christ, who is with thee in heaven, and hath undertaken to be my surety; appoint him, I say, to plead my cause and to stand up for me, and then no man will dare to contend with me. And so it is suitable to the notes on {See Trapp on "Job 16:21"} {See Trapp on "Romans 8:33"} The Vulgate Latin (not altogether from the purpose, saith Brentius) translates the whole verse thus, Put me near thyself, and then let whoso will contend with me.


Verse 4

Job 17:4 For thou hast hid their heart from understanding: therefore shalt thou not exalt [them].

Ver. 4. Thou hast hid their heart from understanding] That is, thou hast hidden understanding from their heart, thou hast left them in the dark, destitute of a right judgment, while they condemn me to be a wicked person, because I am grievously afflicted; and thence it is that I do so confidently appeal to thee in Jesus Christ, since my friends are so far mistaken in this controversy. If God give not both light and sight, if he vouchsafe not to irradiate both organ and object, the best will be bemisted. Every good gift and perfect cometh from above, even from the Father of lights, James 1:17. It was he that made Reverend Doctor Sibbs (as one saith of him) spiritually rational and rationally spiritual; one that seemed to see the insides of nature and grace, and the world and heaven, by those perfect anatomies he had made of them all.

Therefore shalt thou not exalt them] Therefore thou shalt not give them honour, so Broughton rendereth it. But that is not all. Litotes est, saith Mercer; it is a figure, wherein less is said, and more is meant; thou shalt not only not exalt them, but thou shalt also abase and humble them; this contestation shall be nothing at all to their commendation in the end. It is sound knowledge of the truth according to godliness, that exalteth a man, and makes him to be accounted of; and the contrary. Howbeit many great and good men have been greatly mistaken in very great controversies and transactions, as was Luther, Doctor resolutus, sed non in omnibus illuminatus. And yet how many learned able men hath his name misled in the point of consubstantiation! Ursin was carried away with it awhile, till he read his arguments, which he found to be little better than an illogical argument. Holy Greenham, when pressed to conformity to the ceremonies, by the bishop of Ely, who urged Luther’s approbation of them; and are you wiser than Luther? his sober and gracious answer was, I reverence more the revealed will of God in teaching Luther so many necessary things to salvation than I search into his secret will, why he hid his heart from understanding in things less necessary.


Verse 5

Job 17:5 He that speaketh flattery to [his] friends, even the eyes of his children shall fail.

Ver. 5. He that speaketh flattery to his friends] As you, my friends, do to and for God, in seeming to assert his justice in punishing me for my wickedness, so soothing and smoothing up the Almighty ( quod ipsum nihil aliud est quam falso Deo blandiri, saith Merlin), and seeking to make the world believe, by your great words, that you are his great champions, while you go about to clear up his righteousness by concluding that I am unrighteous. See Job 13:7-8. {See Trapp on "Job 13:7"} {See Trapp on "Job 13:8"}

The eyes of his children shall fail] Not himself only shall smart (while the Lord cutteth off flattering lips and the deceitful tongue, Psalms 12:3), but his poor children shall repent for it. They shall lie languishing at hope’s hospital, and after all be disappointed; or their eyes shall fail with long looking after good; but nothing comes. They shall look for peace, and there is no good; and for a time of healing, but behold trouble, Jeremiah 14:19. God will destroy flatterers, head and tail, branch and rush, like as the Thessalians once utterly destroyed the city called Kολακεια, or Flattery (Hen. Steph. Apol. pro Herod.).


Verse 6

Job 17:6 He hath made me also a byword of the people; and aforetime I was as a tabret.

Ver. 6. He hath made me also a byword of the people] Here Job returns to his old task of setting forth his own misery; for what men are most sensible of that their tongues do most of all run upon. Job is a byword, or a proverb, to this day, for we say, As poor as Job; as of old they said, Iro pauperior, &c. He was become a common proverb, a public mocking stock, yea, he was pro cantione ad tympanum trita, as some sense the next words. And before time (or, to men’s faces) I was (or I am) a tabret; they sing my miseries to the tabret, as a matter of mirth; they compose comedies out of my tragedies; and this greateneth my grief. I am openly a tabret; so Broughton reads it. The Vulgate hath it, I am an example before them. The Chaldea paraphrast, I am as hell before them. The Hebrew word is Tophet, taken afterwards indeed for hell, but not so in Job’s time. The Septuagint, I became a sport, γελως, to them. David met with the like measure, Psalms 69:10-11, and the Church, Lamentations 2:15. And Christ on the cross was matter of mirth to the malicious Jews. God had made Job all this. He (that is, God) hath made me, &c.: his name he spares in reverence; but everywhere he acknowledgeth God the author of his troubles, as Mercer here noteth. The whole verse may be read thus; He hath made me also a byword of the people, whereas beforetime I was as a tabret; that is, I am now a scorn to them who delighted in me in my prosperity.


Verse 7

Job 17:7 Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow, and all my members [are] as a shadow.

Ver. 7. Mine eye also is dim by reason of sorrow] Not only is my good name blasted, but my body also is wasted; the nerves of mine eyes are contracted, the visual faculty decayed, Psalms 6:7. "Mine eye is consumed because of grief; yea, my soul and my belly," Psalms 31:9. Not the visual only, but the vital powers are wasted; {see Job 16:16} yea, the intellectual part as well as the sensitive, understood by the formations in the next clause, that is, the cogitations, say they, according to Genesis 6:5. But I rather take it according to our translation, for the members of the body.

And all my members are as a shadow] My membra members are but umbra, shadows, they look more like a skeleton, an anatomy, an apparition, than a true body, nothing being left but skin and bone, so much meagred are all my members. This is hyperbolica malorum suorum amplificatio, saith Merlin.


Verse 8

Job 17:8 Upright [men] shall be astonied at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite.

Ver. 8. Upright men shall be astonied at this] They shall silently admire and adore the fathomless depth of the divine administration when they see a man so upright to suffer such heavy pressures; yet shall they not censure me as you do, nor condemn me for complaining, since there is a cause. They cannot indeed see far into God’s secret intentions, they do therefore mirari marvel, rather than rimari, examine, like as the old Romans dedicated unto Victory a certain lake, the depth whereof they could not fathom.

And the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite] He shall learn of me not to be baffled out of his sincerity, to be mocked out of his integrity, but to maintain and take comfort therein against all his false accusers. Opposition doth not weaken, but waken, heroic spirits, 2 Samuel 6:21-22. They proceed so much the more vigorously in the ways of holiness; like as lime burns the more for the cold water cast upon it, and as the palm tree, which, although it have many weights at the top, and many snakes at the bottom, yet it stirreth up itself, and flourisheth, taking for its posy, Nec premor, nec perimor. Nothing hurteth or hindereth me.


Verse 9

Job 17:9 The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger.

Ver. 9. The righteous also shall hold on his way] Stumble he may for a time at his own calamity, and worse, men’s felicity; but as he that stumbleth, and yet falleth not, gets ground, so fareth it with the righteous in this case. Once David said, "Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence; for all the day long have I been plagued," when bad men have been prospered. Hence he began to repent of his repentance, and to miscensure the generation of God’s children as thrice miserable, Psalms 73:13-15; but after a while, and upon better consideration, he said, "This is mine infirmity"; yea, he fooled and beasted himself, Psalms 73:22, for so saying. And the like will all those at length do that belong to God; though for the present offended at God’s proceedings, and by their passions miscarried to their cost, yet they return to their right minds; forwards they may fall sometimes, but not backwards, for that were far more dangerous. "Lord, to whom should we go," saith Peter, since "thou alone hast the words of eternal life?" John 6:68. Neither know we where to mend ourselves, by gadding about, to change our way, Jeremiah 2:36. The righteous shall hold on his way, mordicus tenebit, he shall hold it toughly, hold it as with tooth and nail, not going aside a nail’s breadth; ανθεξεται, he shall stick to it, as the Greek hath it.

And he that hath clean hands] Upright, innocent, righteous, clean handed, these all are the good man’s adjuncts and titles of honour, far beyond those of the world’s greatest magnificent.

Shall be stronger and stronger] Heb. Shall add strength. Not only shall he hold his own, but get more grace; not only persevere, but proceed and make progress. He shall take boldness, Sumet audaciam, say the Septuagint, and (by a holy antiperistasis) {Opposition or contrast of circumstances; the force of contrast or contrariness; resistance or reaction roused against any action.} get heart of grace, as they call it, from the evil attempts of others against him; the more outrageous they the more courageous he; like as by St Paul’s bonds many waxed confident, Philippians 1:14, and as the primitive Christians, the more they were killed up the more numerous they became. Plures efficimur quoties metimur (Tertul.). True zeal is of a most masculine and courageous nature; it is enkindled by quench coals, quickened by rubs and remoras. Baruch repaired earnestly, bursting out into heat, Nehemiah 3:20. Shall such a man as I flee? said that heavenly spark, Job 6:11. Shall I change my opinion, because hoc Ithacus velit? Remit my diligence, because of a frown or a trump? because such a persecutor threateneth me? Oh that I might enjoy those wild beasts prepared for my death! said Ignatius. Oh that I might have the maidenhead of that kind of suffering for Christ, said that martyr to Bonner, threatening to whip him, &c.


Verse 10

Job 17:10 But as for you all, do ye return, and come now: for I cannot find [one] wise [man] among you.

Ver. 10. But as for you all, do you return, &c.] Change your minds, as Malachi 3:18, and close with me, lay aside your prejudiced opinions, deliver up yourselves to my discipline, who am ready to teach you things both weighty and necessary, Siquis culturae patientum accommodet aurem.

For I cannot find one wise man amongst you] Nihil hic ex odio dicit, saith an interpreter. This Job speaketh not out of hatred to their persons, but freely uttereth that which he was persuaded to be the truth, and wisheth them a better understanding of the thing controverted between himself and them at this time. Now it is no fault to speak of men as we find them. See 1 Corinthians 6:5, "I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you?" and yet, Job 10:15, "I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say."

Oυδεις ανθρωπων αυτος απαντα σοφος (Theog.).


Verse 11

Job 17:11 My days are past, my purposes are broken off, [even] the thoughts of my heart.

Ver. 11. My days are past] q.d. It is past time of day for me to hope for a return of a prosperous condition, since I am irrecoverably diseased, and cannot be long of life.

My purposes are broken off] Or, My thoughts are plucked up by the roots, even the possessions of mine heart, that is, those thoughts that should wholly possess me, and take me up entirely, seizing upon my spirit; q.d. I am not now in case to think settledly and seriously of any good, my sorrows are so many, and my sores so grievous. The Chaldee hath it, The tables of my heart are broken. How foolish then are they who put off their repentance till they are cast upon their sick beds, when they may soon find enough to do to attend the pain and infirmity of their bodies! To suffer and be sick (saith one) is work enough for any man at one time; he had not need to have his greatest work to do when he hath such work to do.


Verse 12

Job 17:12 They change the night into day: the light [is] short because of darkness.

Ver. 12. They change the night into day] i.e. My troubled thoughts render my nights restless, filling me with confusion. When the mind is unsettled the man cannot rest.

The light is short because of darkness] i.e. Comfort is long ere it cometh, and soon it expireth; Rara hora, brevis mora Rare the hour, short the delay (Bern.). The Vulgar, Post tenebras spero lucem, here, After darkness I hope for light (the ancient motto of the town of Geneva), is far fetched.


Verse 13

Job 17:13 If I wait, the grave [is] mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness.

Ver. 13. If I wait, the grave is mine house] In that congregation house of all living (as it is called, Job 30:23) both I and my hopes must be suddenly lodged. Some render it thus, If I build, the grave is my house. Solomon calleth it, The house of eternity, Ecclesiastes 12:5. And the Egyptians accordingly call graves everlasting houses, as Siculus saith, lib. i.

I have made my bed in darkness] The grave was Job’s house, and therein he had made his bed to rest from his labours. There men follow their works no more, because followed by their works, Revelation 14:13.


Verse 14

Job 17:14 I have said to corruption, Thou [art] my father: to the worm, [Thou art] my mother, and my sister.

Ver. 14. I have said to corruption, Thou art my father] See how he speaks of corruption and the worms, Ac si iam iuris illorum, et domesticus esset, as if he were of family with them, and nearest of kin to them; so doth he court them, as it were, that they might be willing to receive him; showing by it how willing he was to die; for whither do men in a strange country, and in misery, desire rather to go than to the house of their parents? Here also Job declareth what will be the end of all men, and what shall be their kindred in the grave. From corruption we came (for what else is the seed and blood of generation), to corruption also we go, as sons thereof; and Pulvis et Putredo, we salute for sisters, what shall be most tender to us, and attendant upon us. Why then should any boast of high kindred? To the pit I cry, O father, O sister; O mother, to the worm: so Broughton rendereth it. Why should any boast of bodily beauty, since corruption will shortly seize upon the fairest face, which is now but putrefaction and worms once removed, and to the same must suddenly move back again. Mihi experto credite, saith Austin, Believe me, who have made trial of it: Open a grave, and upon the dead man’s head you shall find toads leaping, begotten of his brains; upon his loins serpents crawling, begotten of his reins; in his belly worms abounding, arising out of his entrails. Behold what now we are, and what we shortly shall be; behold the origin and filthiness of sin (Serm. 48, ad Frat. in Erem.).


Verse 15

Job 17:15 And where [is] now my hope? as for my hope, who shall see it?

Ver. 15. And where is now my hope? &c.] Heb. And where is my hope? sc. of restoration to my pristine prosperity, which you have so often promised me, who am now ready set upon the confines of death? Job was past the Cape of Good Hope in his own apprehension; but God turned again his captivity, Job 42:10 Qui nihil sperare potest desperet nihil. Who is able to hope for nothing, despairs for nothing. Job did well to propound death to himself, and prepare for it by such a before mentioned familiarity; but yet he should have better thought of the infinite power and goodness of God, who raiseth the dead, and delighteth to help such as are forsaken of their hopes. "Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver," 2 Corinthians 1:10. The Hebrew word that signifieth hope signifieth also a line, because by hope the heart should be stretched out as a line to the thing it hopeth for; and because it signifieth also a congregation, therefore some render this verse thus, And where now is my congregation? And as for my congregation, who shall see it? q.d. I have no other family or familiars but what are to be found in the grave, Jeremiah 3:17, Genesis 3:19.


Verse 16

Job 17:16 They shall go down to the bars of the pit, when [our] rest together [is] in the dust.

Ver. 16. They shall go down to the bars of the pit] That is, I and my things, or I and my hopes of prosperity, Job 17:15, and they that will see the good I hope for must pass through the gates of death to behold it, and lie down in the grave with me, and then it shall appear. Cajetan thinks that this is spoken ironically to his friends, and by way of derrision, Per irrisionem haec dicta sunt; q.d. It seems like you think I shall be rich in the grave (who promise so much to me, and make me such overtures of a happiness here), for I have no hope to be rich in this world. And the Septuagint seem to favour this sense, rendering it, Shall my goods go into the grave with me? See 1 Timothy 6:7. {See Trapp on "1 Timothy 6:7"}

When our rest together is in the dust] Or, When I shall rest alone in the dust, as Job 34:29; and then (De Annibal. Sil. Ital.),

- Modo quem fortuna fovendo,

Congestis opibus donisque refersit opimis,

Nudum tartarea portabit navita cymba

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 17:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-17.html. 1865-1868.

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