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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Job 29

 

 

Verse 1

Job 29:1 Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,

Ver. 1. Moreover Job continued his parable] Or, his sentence, as Tremellius rendereth it, his sententious and elegant oration, his aureum flumen orationis, golden flood of grave discourse, as we may better call it, than Cicero did Aristotle’s politics, Tota oratio gravissimis sententiis, et verborum luminibus illustris est (Merlin). Here Job describeth graphically his former felicity; as in the next chapter his present misery. The promise of prosperity to God’s people is to be understood with exception of the cross, wherewith, if need be, 1 Peter 1:6, they are sure to be exercised; and they shall take it for a favour too, Hebrews 12:6. "By the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report," &c., 2 Corinthians 6:7-8, they must learn "to be abased, and to abound, to be full and to be hungry," &c., Philippians 4:12, though this be a hard lesson, Perquam durum est? sed ira lex scripta est, saith the civilian (Ulpian). Hard or not hard, we must frame to it, and hope for better. The Epicures held that a man might be cheerful amidst the most exquisite torments: 1. In consideration of his honesty and integrity: this indeed was Job’s great comfort, as we see, Job 31:6. And, 2. In consideration of those pleasures and delights that formerly he had enjoyed, and now cheered up himself with the remembrance of, Ex praeteritarum voluptatum recordatione (Cicer. de Finib. l. 2; Sen. de Benef. l. 4, c. 22). But how slight and slender a comfort this was Job setteth forth in this chapter. And who knoweth not that as it is a sweet thing in prosperity to relate what hazards and hardships we have passed through; so in adversity it is grievous to call to mind what better days we have had? - Olim haec meminisse iuvabit (Virg.). Minerum est fuisse faelicem (Sen.). And yet it is but reason that we should eat the crust and crumb together; receive, I mean, evil at the hand of God as well as good, Job 2:10. {See Trapp on "Job 27:1"}


Verse 2

Job 29:2 Oh that I were as [in] months past, as [in] the days [when] God preserved me;

Ver. 2. Oh that I were as in months past] O mihi praeteritos, &c. Though Job desireth not so much to be young again (which to be Chiron and Cato are said seriously to have refused, Secundum menses antiquitatis vel anteaetatis) as to prosper again; for this is what we all covet; but we shrink in the shoulder when called to carry the cross. To show his earnest desire, he redoubled his wish, as in the days, &c., and God answered him to the full, by redoubling upon him his former prosperity; not for days and months, but for various years together; and by giving him again all things richly to enjoy. So liberal is the Lord to his, that he many times giveth them more than heart can wish.

When God preserved me] That he acknowledged God to be the author of his earthly felicity was well done; but not so well to think that God preserved him not, because he prospered him not. See the like Job 29:5. God oft wraps himself up in a cloud, and will not be seen till afterwards; but his hand is ever upon all them for good that seek him, Ezekiel 18:21-22, he knoweth their souls in adversity, Psalms 31:7.


Verse 3

Job 29:3 When his candle shined upon my head, [and when] by his light I walked [through] darkness;

Ver. 3. When his candle shined upon my head] When I was apparently blessed by him, and all went hail well with me. The sun smote me not by day nor the moon by night, Psalms 121:6, but both seemed to be made and to make for me. Nay, more; the sweet sunshine of God’s loving countenance was displayed upon me, which is not like the winter sun, that casts a goodly countenance when it shines, but gives little comfort and heat. Job had both counsel and comfort from God; and that when other men were to seek of both: for,

By his light I walked through darkness] Without the least fear of those evils and miseries that put others into very great distemper. So Noah was - Mediis tranquillus in undis. Abraham stands upon the hill, and seeth the cities of the plain burning. David can walk (not step) through (not cross) the valley (not a dark entry) of the shadow of death (the darkest side of death), and not fear (though he should go back again in the same way). And why? "for thou art with me," saith he, "thy rod and thy staff they comfort me," Psalms 23:4.


Verse 4

Job 29:4 As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God [was] upon my tabernacle;

Ver. 4. As I was in the days of my youth] Hybernorum meorum, so Junius; as I was in the days of my winter quarters, when I lay and did little more than gather up mine assignations. Others render it, As I was in the days of mine autumn; that is, when, being a great man, I refreshed the poor, as autumn doth the passenger and others with its fruits. But they do best that render it days of my youth, which hath the same name in Hebrew with winter and with reproach חרף because (say some) young people are prone to reproachful practices, and that age is commonly frozen in vice, no virtue then springing or showing itself. So Ecclesiastes 11:10, the word used to signify youth signifieth darkness or blackness; to note that youth is the dark age, many times sooted with sin; and therefore young men should cleanse their ways by cleaving to the word, Psalms 119:9.

When the secret of God was upon my tabernacle] i.e. When God did so friendly and familiarly intermeddle with mine affairs, making them to prosper (Annotat. Diod.). When his most wise conduct did govern my house, and did provide for it; stopping those secret leaks, and that hole in the bottom of the bag, by which other men’s estates do usually run out; and supplying me and mine, tanquam virgula divina, with all things necessary for life and godliness. The Greek hath it, When God gave my house a visit. And some taking the secret of God here, for his law and covenant, say, that Job was good early; and when but a young housekeeper, had a church in his house, and much resort thither of godly people.


Verse 5

Job 29:5 When the Almighty [was] yet with me, [when] my children [were] about me;

Ver. 5. When the Almighty was yet with me] To prosper me, and give me all that heart could wish or need require. But if that be not done, God’s people are apt to think him absent. "Is the Lord among us?" say they in the wilderness; as if that could not be, and they athirst, Exodus 17:7. So Gideon in the invasion of the Midianites; "The Lord," saith the angel, "is with thee, thou valiant man. But Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us?" 6:12-13. "If it be so, why am I thus?" as she said, Genesis 25:22. Si amatur, quomodo infirmatur? If Lazarus be Christ’s friend, why is he sick? (Aug.). But these two may very well stand together; and God is never nearer to his children than when they, for crying, cannot see him. Moses speaks of the good will of him that dwelt in the bush, the burning bush, Exodus 3:2, Deuteronomy 33:2-3, but not consumed. God is with his in the fiery trial, Isaiah 43:2, as he was with the three children, and with the martyrs.

When my children were about me] Round about my table, Psalms 128:3, morigerous and obsequious unto me; when my children and servants (for the word signifieth both) were about me; as circles about a point or centre, all looking at and observing me, to do as I directed them.


Verse 6

Job 29:6 When I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil;

Ver. 6. When I washed my steps with butter] When I had of everything God’s plenty, as they call it. Butter enough to have washed my feet in, had I been so proud and profuse. And oil great store, insomuch as that rivers thereof seemed to flow for me from those rocks and craggy mountains in Arabia Petraea, where some say Job dwelt. Lavater, upon the text, tells us of rocks that yield oil, and of petroleum or petrelaeum , a sovereign ointment (very good against various diseases) that issueth out of rocks, whence also it hath its name (not unlike that berry which the French call, Uva de Spine, the grape of a thorn); but this whole verse seemeth to be a hyperbole (not unlike that of Zophar, Job 20:17, and that of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:13; confer Genesis 49:11, Psalms 80:15), importing the very great abundance of all outward comforts and contentments that Job once enjoyed. He had the reward of humility and the fear of the Lord, even riches, and honour, and life, Proverbs 22:4. Riches he had quantas optare nullus auderet (as Austin saith of Constantine the Great), more than heart could wish (De Civ. Dei, 1.5, c. 25). What honour he had with his wealth (and that is to be chosen before riches, Proverbs 22:1) he setteth forth at large in the following verses. And what long life he promised himself, not without the continuance of both the former, see Job 29:18-20; Job 42:12; Job 42:16-17.


Verse 7

Job 29:7 When I went out to the gate through the city, [when] I prepared my seat in the street!

Ver. 7. When I went out to the gate] i.e. To the place of judicature, called by Solomon the holy place, Ecclesiastes 8:11, because God sitteth in the midst of those gods, Psalms 82:1. The Ethiopian judges were wont to keep the chief seat empty for him. It appeareth by this text that Job was a judge: or chief magistrate, not like those whom Isaiah calleth scabs or wounds, Isaiah 3:7, vid. Pisc. in loc.; but those whom the same prophet calleth healers, or binders up of wounds, Isaiah 3:7, Here αναξ from ακος, Medela; and Hosea, shields, as Junius translateth, Hosea 4:8; and another prophet, heirs or possessors of restraint, 18:7. It appeareth also that he did justice in his own person; so did David, Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Augustus Caesar, more vigorously than any young man, and more prudent than any old man, as the historian saith of him, Pαντος μεν ανδρος νεανικωπερον, παντος δε γεροντος φρονιμωτερον (Dio). Which while Aurelian the emperor neglected to do, he was even bought and sold by his deputies.

When I prepared my seat in the street/] i.e. My judgment seat, where he sat Sub dio, non attollens inane supercilium, sed exhibens utile ministerium, Not priding himself, but profiting others, while justice, justice, as Moses speaketh, that is, pure justice, was duly administered, Deuteronomy 10:20. Over this tribunal might well have been set that distich at Zant,

Hic locus odit, amat, punit, conservat, honorat,

Nequitiam, pacem, crimina, iura, bonos.


Verse 8

Job 29:8 The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, [and] stood up.

Ver. 8. The young men saw me, and hid themselves] As awed with my presence, and fearing the censure of my gravity. Valerius Maximus reporteth the like of Marcus Cato among the Romans (lib. 5, cap. 2), as being Vir rigidae innocentiae, saith Livy; Et virtuti quam simillimus, as Velleius hath it; that is, a most strict and very virtuous magistrate. Hence at their Floralia, those wanton sports, the youths could not play their pranks till he departed; they all crying unto him, Aut vultum deponas, aut discedas, Either lay down your grave looks or leave the place.

And the aged arose, and stood up] Performing that respect to me which was due to them, Leviticus 19:32, and saluting me as the Athenians did their Phocion, by the title of Bonus Good; or as the Romans did their Trajan, by the style of Optimus the best ruler that ever they had; and all both young and old crying out, as once they did at Rome to Severus, the emperor, All men do the better in all respects for thy good government, Pαντες παντα καλως ποιουσιν επειδαν συ καλως αρχεις (Dio). These acclamations and public honours, though Job sought not, yet it could not but be a comfort to him, as it was to David, that whatsoever he did pleased the people.


Verse 9

Job 29:9 The princes refrained talking, and laid [their] hand on their mouth.

Ver. 9. The princes refrained talking] Not only as acknowledging his authority, but as admiring his great eloquence, and hanging upon his lips, as the babe doth upon the breast, the bee upon the flower, or the little bird upon her dam’s bill.

And laid their hand on their mouth] Kissing their hands and adoring me ( adorare est applicare manum ad os), or rather, as stopping their mouths, being ashamed to speak in his presence, whom they knew to be far beyond them in wisdom and elocution. Now of this honour done Job by all sorts of people, Brentius hath this note, Parum est ingentes camelos possidere, &c. It is a small matter, that Job had many camels and flocks of sheep; this was a greater blessing of God upon him, that he was honoured and observed by all sorts. This followeth virtue (as the shadow doth the body) at the heels. To do worthily in Ephrata, is the way to be famous in Bethlehem, Ruth 4:11.


Verse 10

Job 29:10 The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.

Ver. 10. The nobles held their peace] The Hebrew word for nobles signifieth such as stand in the presence of great princes; or, such as the people eyeth and referreth all things to them, Conticuere omnes, intentique ora tenebant (Virg.). These (after the example of those forementioned princes, Job 29:9) held their peace Heb. hid their voice, as ashamed to hear themselves speak before such a master of speech as Job was; of whom it might well be said, as once of Dr Whitaker, That never any man saw him without reverence, nor heard him without wonder (Dr Hall).

And their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth] Ex metu loquendi, as being afraid before me, though themselves were antecessores vocis (as some render the former words), eloquent men and able speakers. Demosthenes, that great orator, being to speak before King Philip, three several times stood speechless, and thirty different times forgot what he had prepared to speak unto him: Tρις αφωνος εγενετο. Tρισακις διελαθετο των α λαλειν εσκοπει (Tzetzes, Chiliad 7). An awful respect to Job’s dignity and worth caused this extreme silence in these grandees. And besides, it may be they were of Pliny’s mind, who said, Non minus interdum oratoris est tacere quam dicere. There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak, Ecclesiastes 3:7.


Verse 11

Job 29:11 When the ear heard [me], then it blessed me; and when the eye saw [me], it gave witness to me:

Ver. 11. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me] That is, it praised me, and praised God for me, as for a common blessing; so weighty were my words, and so just my sentence, not unlike that of the Areopagites, in Athens, which was so upright, that none could ever say that he was unjustly condemned by them; but both parties, as well those that were cast as they that cast them, were alike contented, Hττωμενοι στεργουσι ομοιως τοις κεκρατηκασι.

And when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me] Job (though he neither sought it, nor was puffed up with it) had that Pulchrum monstrari, et dicier, Hic est. The like happiness befell Demosthenes at Athens and Pliny at Rome, ουτος εστιν ο Dημοσθενης.


Verse 12

Job 29:12 Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and [him that had] none to help him.

Ver. 12. Because I delivered the poor that cried] Here are set forth the true causes of that great respect that was generally given Job; he was a good justicer, such as Jethro describeth, Exodus 18:21. He hated, much more than did Mithridates, such as maliciously persecuted virtue forsaken of fortune. And as James V of Scotland was called the poor man’s king, so might Job well have been; for no sooner could a poor body cry to him for help but he relieved him, and rescued him out of the hands of his oppressor (Cassiodor.). Theodoric of old, and Gustavus, king of Swedes, of late, are famous for so doing (Mr Clark).

And the fatherless, and him that had none, &c.] The fatherless and friendless, from whom he could not expect any reward. He was not of those who follow the administration of justice as a trade only, with an unquenchable and unconscionable desire of gain, but held out a constant course of integrity, and righted those whom others would have slighted.


Verse 13

Job 29:13 The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.

Ver. 13. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me] Such poor creatures as were destined to destruction, and seasonably delivered by my means, gave me their good words and wishes; yea, they cried me up for their gracious deliverer, with a courage, as the Grecians did Flaminius, the Roman general, as the Christian captives did Hunniades, who had set them at liberty from Turkish slavery; as the drowning man pulled out of the water by King Alphonsus, cried, Arragon, Arragon; and as the Italian prisoners in ‘88, released and sent home by Queen Elizabeth, sainted her, and said, That although they were Papists, yet they would worship no saint but her.

And I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy] sc. By ready righting her upon her adversary; and this out of conscience of duty, and not for her importunity, as that unjust judge, Luke 18:5, or because she conjured him to it, as that widow did Adrian the emperor, to whom, when he had answered, That he was not at leisure to hear her cause, she boldly replied, Kαι μη Bασιλευε, Then lay down the empire. Whereupon he turned again, and did her right, and sent her away a joyful woman (Dio in Adrian).


Verse 14

Job 29:14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment [was] as a robe and a diadem.

Ver. 14. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me] It was not ambition, popularity, or self-interest that put Job upon these and the following good practices and proceedings, but the care he had of discharging his trust, and the pure love he bare to justice and upright dealing, Fontem horum officiorum aperit (Merlin). For although he desired more to be loved than honoured (as it is said of Trajan the emperor), yet he would not do anything of popularity or partiality, by writhing or warping, but retained the gravity of the law; which is a heart without affection, an eye without lust, a mind without passion, a treasurer which keepeth for every man what he hath, and distributeth to every man what he ought to have, Fιλουμενος μαλλον η πιμωμενος εχαιρε (Dio). Job did put on righteousness, and it put on him; so the Hebrew hath it. By which similitude he declareth that he could as little be drawn from doing justice as he could go abroad without his clothes, or suffer them to be pulled off him, Declinatione et detorsione iudicii (Merlin).

My judgment was as a robe and a diadem] Righteousness is that whereby the innocent is delivered, judgment is that whereby the guilty person is punished, saith Brentius. With these was Job arrayed and adorned far better than was Alcisthenes the Sybarite with his cloak, sold by Dionysius to the Carthaginians for a hundred and twenty talents (Athenaeus); or Hanun with his solid gold diadem, "the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones," 2 Samuel 12:30. Some judges have nothing more to commend them than their robes, which are oft lined with rapine and robbery. So were not Job’s; he made the like use of them that old Eleazar did of his hoariness, he would not do anything that might seem to be evil, because he would not spot his white head; no more would Job, lest he should stain his purple, disgrace his diadem. He knew that dignitas in indigno est ornamentum in luto, Ruledom without righteousness is but eminent dishonour (Salvian).


Verse 15

Job 29:15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet [was] I to the lame.

Ver. 15. I was eyes to the blind] Here he saith the same in effect as before, Job 29:12-13, only he setteth it forth Pulcherrimis allegoriis per synathroismum velut conglobatis, by a heap of most elegant allegories (Mercer). He meaneth here, I gave advice to the simple, and support to the weak and impotent. But how many great men are there, qui etiam videntes, circumveniunt et fallunt, who put out the eyes of men, as Korah falsely accused Moses, Numbers 16:14. And cut off their legs (as that tyrant in the story served his guests that were too long for his bed) by disabling or discouraging them to follow their just causes, so that they are ready to say, with Themistocles, that if two ways were showed him, whereof the one led to hell and the other to those corrupt courses of justice, he would seriously choose the former rather than the latter (Plut.).


Verse 16

Job 29:16 I [was] a father to the poor: and the cause [which] I knew not I searched out.

Ver. 16. I was a father to the poor] Ab laebionim, an elegant alliteration, as Mercer here noteth. Job was not only a friend to the poor, as said before, but a father, providing for their necessities, and protecting them from injuries. So Augustus Caesar delighted to be called Pater Patriae, the father of his country (Suet.). And our Queen Elizabeth would many times say that she could believe nothing of her people that parents would not believe of their children (Cambden, Eliz.).

And the cause which I knew not I sought out] Sifting it to the bran, and not pronouncing sentence till I had fully understood each circumstance of the controversy. Judge not according to the appearance, but judge a righteous judgment, John 7:24. Thucydides well saith, That there are two things most opposite to right proceedings, ταχος τε και οργην, haste and anger; a justificer must do nothing rashly, but with greatest deliberation and industry, to come to a right understanding of matters, in capital causes especially, lest he repent it too late; as that Sir James Pawlet did, who, out of humour and for revenge, laid by the heels Thomas Wolsey, then a country minister (afterwards a cardinal, and Lord Chancellor of England), for the which he suffered long imprisonment (Negotiat. of Card. Wolsey). And as that judge mentioned by Fortescue, who, having condemned a gentle woman to death for the murder of her husband, upon the bare accusation of her man, which afterwards was found false, saepius ipse mihi falsus est; he afterwards confessed unto me, saith the author, that he should never during his life be able to clear his conscience of that fact. We know what pains Solomon took in the case of the two harlots that strove before him. And we have read of a judge, who, to find out a murder, caused those that were accused to open their bosoms, and felt the beating of their hearts. And when he found one of their hearts to beat extraordinarily, Tu, inquit, fecisti, Thou art the murderer certainly, said he. The man presently confessed the fact, and was executed for it (John Manl. loc. com. p. 290).


Verse 17

Job 29:17 And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.

Ver. 17. And I brake the laws of the wicked] It is a mercy to have judges, saith one, modo audeant quae sentiunt, as the orator hath it ( Cic. pro Milone); so they dare do as their consciences tell them they should do. Job was such a judge, he feared not to encounter and keep under those unruly beasts and Belialists, who oppressed the poor, and then doubted not to oppose with crest and breast whatsoever stood in the way of their humours and lusts. Hic forti magnoque animo opus fuit, saith one. Here Job’s courage was put to the proof, if ever. Is it nothing to break the jaw bones of the wicked, to take the prey out of the lion’s mouth, and to rescue the oppressed from the man that is too mighty for him? Is it nothing to encounter the Hydra of sin, to oppose the current of times and torrent of vice, to turn the wheel over the wicked, and to leave them as powerless as old Entellus in Virgil did Dares; whom his fellows led away well beaten, and well nigh broken,

Iactantemque utroque caput, crassumque cruorem

Ore reiectantem, mistosque in sanguine dentes? - (Virg. Aeneid.)

And plucked the spoil out of his teeth] i.e. I made him make restitution of his ill gotten goods, whether by fraud or force. So that Job’s court, we see, was not vitiorum sentina, sed virtutum officina; his course was, Parcere subiectis, et debellare superbos, to help the afflicted and to punish the proud. Augustus, the emperor, was wont to say, That such a one only was fit to be a magistrate that was free from foul offence himself, and could withstand the corruptions of the times, keep a constant countermotion to the evil manners of the multitude; "Oς μητε τι αυτος αμαρτανειν και ταις του δημου σπουδαις ανθιστοσθαι δυνηται (Dio); as Cato was ever inveighing against covetousness and riot in the Roman State. Here also we have in Job the lively picture of a good magistrate, much better than that of Caesar Borgia, that villain, whom Machiavel proposeth as the only pattern for princes to imitate (De Principe, p. 185).


Verse 18

Job 29:18 Then I said, I shall die in my nest, and I shall multiply [my] days as the sand.

Ver. 18. Then I said, I shall die in my nest] Heb. I shall expire and breathe out my last, by a natural death, in my house, and amidst my people; as a bird dieth in his nest when he hath lived his utmost. Pollicebar mihi securitatem, I promised myself a prosperous and long life, all health and happiness (Brent.). This some make to be a fault in Job, as it was likewise in David, when in his prosperity he said, "I shall never be moved," Psalms 30:6. And indeed the holiest hearts are apt in such a strait to grow proud and secure; like as worms and wasps eat the sweetest apples and fruits. But others are of judgment, that this was a commendable confidence in Job, grounded upon God’s promises, and the conscience of his own uprightness; an ευθυμια, a spiritual security, a blessed calm and composedness, a sabbath of spirit, flowing from faith, and causing joy. This was all well, only that of Bernard must be carefully heeded and held to, Laeti simus non securi, gaudentes in Spiritu Sancto, sed tamen caventes a recidivo: Be merry we may, but not carnally secure; rejoicing in the Holy Ghost, but yet beware that we backslide not. David by misreckoning of a point, missed the haven, and ran upon the rocks, Psalms 30:1-12 And Job here seemeth to have been mistaken, by taking the promises of outward happiness without exception of the cross; for the which he is afterwards reproved by Elihu, and also by God himself.

And shall multiply my days as the sand] i.e. Very long, by a Scripture hyperbole, Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Genesis 41:49. The Septuagint read, As the Phoenix: the Vulgate Latin, As the palm tree, which is reckoned among the long lived trees, as is likewise the Phoenix among the longest lived creatures. R. Solomon saith it lives a thousand years, others five hundred, and then dieth in his nest, made of frankincense and myrrh, and other sweet odours, which being kindled by the heat of the sun, he is burnt to ashes, they say; out of which ashes, a long time after, cometh another Phoenix. How true all this of the Phoenix is, I have not to say. Let them that will read more in Gesner’s History of Birds; or let them look upon Lactantius’s poem called the Phoenix, with Betuleius’s comment.


Verse 19

Job 29:19 My root [was] spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.

Ver. 19. My root was spread out by the waters] Heb. Opened to the waters; which therefore had free recourse to it, and much refreshed it. Hereby he describeth his flourishing condition when time was, through the perpetual inflowings of God’s free grace and favour.

And the dew lay all might upon my branch] Pernoctabat; because in the night the dew falleth. Beza thus paraphraseth this whole verse: For, downward, the root of my good and upright conscience was spread out by the ever flowing waters of God’s bountifulness, with which it was daily watered; and upward, the boughs growing out of this root, to wit, my children, my servants, nay flocks of sheep, and in a word, my substance, were washed with the celestial dew which from heaven fell down upon them; so that by this blessing of God they were marvellously increased.


Verse 20

Job 29:20 My glory [was] fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand.

Ver. 20. My glory was fresh in me] i.e. I had daily new accessions to mine honours; and I was herein like a bay tree, that is always green. This was also Joseph’s happiness in Egypt; David’s in the court of Saul; Mordecai’s and Daniel’s in the court of Persia; and Queen Elizabeth’s; concerning whom (besides that famous epitaph set upon her tomb by command of King James) Thuanus, a French historian, testifieth, that the Lady Anna Atestina, mother to the Guises and Nemours, pronounced her to be Gloriosissimam et omnium quae unquam sceptrum gestarunt felicissimam foeminam, The most glorious and happiest woman that ever swayed sceptre. Among her subjects she got a continual increase of honour and respects, by coupling mildness with majesty, and stooping, yet in a stately manner, to the lowest sort; but especially by setting up God and his sincere service wherever she had to do, trusting God with her precious life (so much sought for by Popish assassinates); which while her contemporary, Henry IV of France, dared not do, he lost his life, and much of his honour; witness that known anagram, Borbonius, once Bonus orbi, the good of the bereft now Orbus boni. bereft of good.

And my bow was renewed in my hand] That is, I had fresh and new supplies of strength, by friends and otherwise, outwardly and inwardly, according to that above, Job 17:9, "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger." Robur meum instaurabitur maiusque reddetur (Vatab.). See Genesis 49:24, 1 Samuel 2:4.


Verse 21

Job 29:21 Unto me [men] gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel.

Ver. 21. Unto me men gave ear, and waited] i.e. Such a gift I had in flexanimous oratory, that my auditors were held, as it were, by the ears in great attention to my speeches; as Lucian saith of Alcibiades, and Cicero of Crassus; and as the poets fable of their Hercules, that he had the ears of his hearers chained to his tongue, as being,

Aμφοτερος ρητηρ τ αγαθος, κρατερος τ αιχημτης.

 

And kept silence at my counsel] Received it as an oracle from heaven with all humble submission and plenary satisfaction; so great was the force of his wisdom, the weight of his counsel, and the authority of his person, tanquam ex tripode dictum. Erant κυριαι και αμυμονες δοξαι (Lavat.). In some men’s discourses a man shall have satis eloquentiae, sapientiae parum, much eloquence, little enough wisdom. But where there is a concurrence of these two, as was in Job, much may be done. This great men are not ignorant of, and do therefore greatly covet eloquence, Non phaleratam illam sed fortem; non effeminatum sed virilem, not a pedantic style or phrase, but majestic; such as was that of Phocion, a great orator, but one that could speak much in few, as Plutarch reporteth, πλειστον εν ελαχιστη λεξει νουν ειχε; or that of Julius Caesar, who wrote as he fought; and whom a man might know to be a soldier by his words, had he never heard of his noble achievements.


Verse 22

Job 29:22 After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them.

Ver. 22. After my words they spake not again] They replied not, but rested in my words, as if I had been some Doctor Resolutus or rather Irrefragabilis. The Vulgate rendereth it, Verbis meis addere nihil audebant, They dared not add anything to my words, as holding them current and sufficient.

And my speech dropped upon them] viz. As dew drops, Deuteronomy 32:2, or, as some, prophecy, saith R. Levi here. Confer Micah 2:6, Amos 7:17. Surely as the dew refresheth and cherisheth the dry and fading fields; so do fit words the hearts of the hearers. And as the dew allayeth great heats, and moisteneth the earth, that it may fructify; so it is here. Ills regit dictis animos, et pectora mulcet (Virg.). And lastly, as the dew lies in a little compass; so in fewness of words there is oft a fulness of matter, &c.


Verse 23

Job 29:23 And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide [as] for the latter rain.

Ver. 23. And they waited for me as for the rain] Which in those hot countries was highly prized, and dearly longed for.

And they opened their mouth wide] Stupebant, me loquente, et ore hiabant; they gaped, as if they would have eaten my words; they listened as for life.

As for the latter rain] A rain which came very seldom in that country, saith Diodati; but was much desired for the refreshing and nourishing of the grain and other fruits and benefits of the earth, Proverbs 26:1, Zechariah 10:1. Merlin collecteth from this text that Job came not into the public assemblies there to speak, and give counsel, but upon deliberate premeditation. Demosthenes would not be drawn to speak extemporarily to an audience. Aristides being by the emperor put upon such a task, answered, Propound today, and I will answer tomorrow; for I am not of those that spit or vomit out my conceptions; but of those that weigh things before I utter them, and polish before I publish them, ου γαρ εσμεν των εμουντων αλλα των ακριβουντων. Mr Bradshaw was called the weighing divine; and Melancthon took time to answer Eckius’s cavils, though by him and his Popish party he was jeered for so doing. It must be an elaborate speech that shall persuade or prevail much. Among the Romans the prince was not to be treated with otherwise than by writing. Caesar brought in this custom, that he might have time to consider that which was demanded, and what answer to return. Augustus sermones libello habuit, ne plus minusve loqueretur, Augustus had his speeches set down in a book, lest he should say more or less than what he thought of (Sueton.).


Verse 24

Job 29:24 [If] I laughed on them, they believed [it] not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down.

Ver. 24. If I laughed on them, they believed it not] They took it for a great favour, and could hardly think that I would grace them so far as to smile upon them, or jest with them; which if I did at any time, they were over joyed, Ecclesiastes 10:19. Ingenii fructus tenuissimus eat risus, saith Cicero (de Orat. lib. 2). To break a jest is no such witty thing as men conceit it. Howbeit, a harmless jest (that hath nothing in it which may justly grieve or offend another) may very well consistent with piety and Christian gravity; whatever some sour Anabaptists have held to the contrary. Jocularity indeed and scurrility are strictly forbidden, and reckoned among those τα ανηκοντα, things that conduce not to the main end of our lives, Ephesians 5:4. But Socrates would be very merry when he liked his company; yet so as that his mirth should be some way profitable, saith Xenophon, lib. 4, de Dict. et Fact. (Socr.) And Erasmus did the Papists more prejudice by his jesting, saith a grave author, than Luther did by his stomaching and storming. Good men’s jests should have something in them of seriousness and usefulness. All their speeches should be seasoned with salt of grace; and in the midst of their recreations they should show that their best affections are upon better things. Great care must be taken, that too much familiarity with those below us breed not contempt; which some think is means by the next clause, "And the light of my countenance they cast not down"; or, Yet the light, &c., that is, they did not slight me because of this familiar carriage; they did not therefore count me ridiculous and vain as men did that Rodulphus, the 35th archbishop of Canterbury, that succeeded Anselm; whom, for his jesting and merry toys, unbeseeming the gravity of his age and place, they surnamed or rather nicknamed, Nugax, the trifler. Sed authoritatem meam non spernebant, nihilomin, us me reverebantur, They despised not mine authority, they reverenced me no whit the less (Vatablus); but rather they took care that nothing might be done whereby of merry I might be made sad; they cherished this sign of complacency in me as a rare thing, and so much the more accepted as less expected and unusual; neither would they be so bold and so bob with me as to return me jest for jest, as if I had been their compeer and hail fellow well met. One paraphrast, Mr Abbot, senseth the whole verse thus: If I by my smiles gave any intimation of my suspicion of any report or business, it was presently distrusted and dissented from of all the rest. And on the other hand; my least countenance or show of approbation to any cause was observed of others, as a rule to go by. He goes on to give the meaning of the next words thus:


Verse 25

Job 29:25 I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the army, as one [that] comforteth the mourners.

Ver. 25. I chose out their way, and sat chief] In those days I was the only man in all matters, chosen by consent of all, to be the prolocutor and advanced to the first place in all assemblies and places of judicature, &c. Tremellius and others read it thus, If I chose their way (that is, if of mine own accord I came unto them at any time), I sat chief, and was chairman; in a word, I dwelt as a king amidst his troopers, when he comforteth them being cast down; that is, when, after some defeat or disappointment, he cheereth up their spirits by his speeches, and cries, Courage, my hearts:

Flebile principium, melior fortuna sequatur:

Victorem a victo superari saepe videmus.

The Tigurines render the former part of the verse thus, Accommodavi me illorum moribus cum iudicio, I fitted myself to their fashions, yet with discretion. R. Solomon and others thus, they asked me, What way shall we go? What course take? And I chose out their way, and set them down a course; as a counsellor doth to his clients, a king to his soldiers, or a casuist those that resort to him for comfort.

And dwelt as a king in the army] Where he is continually surrounded by his soldiers, and highly honoured. The bees, in their commonwealth, have a king, whose palace they frame as fair in show, as strong in substance; if they find him fall, they establish him again in his throne with all duty, with all devotion; they guard him continually, for fear he should miscarry, for love he should not. Job had so tempered and mixed gravity and lenity, he had so furbished the sword of justice with the oil of mercy, that he was at once both feared as a king, and loved as a comforter.

As one that comforteth the mourners] That mourn for the loss of some dear thing or person, as the word signifieth, and especially for the loss of God’s favour, as Zechariah 12:10, groaning under the sense of sin and fear of wrath. Now to comfort such mourners in Zion is as difficult a work as to raise the dead, saith Lather; and scarce one of a thousand can skill of it, Job 33:23. Every Christian should have feeding lips and a healing tongue, to comfort the feeble minded, to drink to them in a cup of Nepenthes, that cup of consolation, Jeremiah 16:7, taking them down into Christ’s wine cellar, Song of Solomon 2:4, and there stay them with flagons and comfort them with apples, Job 29:5, those apples of the garden of Eden (as the Chaldee there hath it), the sweet and precious promises, which are pabulum fidei, the food of faith, and do give the joy of faith; even that peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that have been in a low and lost condition. But this few can do to purpose; because they are either unskilful in the word of truth or unexperienced; they dig not their discourses out of their own breasts, they utter them more from their brains than from their bowels, from their own experience, I mean; which made even Christ himself a more compassionate high priest, Hebrews 5:1-2. And that eminent servant of his, St Paul, had by this means got an excellent faculty in comforting the disconsolate, 2 Corinthians 1:4. So had Luther, as having himself from his tender years been much beaten and exercised with spiritual conflicts (Melancthon). Conceive we may the like of Job, who was therefore flocked unto from far and near, as known to be able to time a word and to speak to the hearts of drooping and dejected persons. "But now," &c.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Job 29:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/job-29.html. 1865-1868.

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