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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Job 14

 

 

Verse 1

Job 14:1. Man that is born of a woman — A weak creature; and, withal, corrupt and sinful, and of that sex by which sin and all other calamities were brought into the world. Is of few days — Few at the most, in comparison with the days of the first patriarchs, much more in comparison with the days of eternity. Man is now a short-lived creature in himself, and withers so soon of his own accord, that he needs no violent hand to cut him off. And full of trouble — Liable to a variety of miseries. He is not only troubled, but full of trouble, Hebrew, שׂבע רגז, sebang rogez, satur trepidæ corporis et animi commotionis, full of disquietude and commotion in mind and body; exposed to labour and toil, affliction and pain, grief and fear: a day seldom passing without some cause of vexation and distress, some disorder, some calamity or other. And, therefore, Job intimates, man is a fitter object for God’s compassion than for his anger or severity.


Verse 2

Job 14:2. He cometh forth like a flower — Tender and delicate, fair and beautiful, his faculties and members opening and expanding themselves by degrees; and is cut down — By the scythe of some spreading malady; or cropped by the rude hand of some ruthless distemper; or nipped and withered by the frost of some wasting weakness and decay. He fleeth also as a shadow — Which, being caused by the sun, follows its motions, and is in perpetual variation, until, at last, it quite vanishes and disappears. “The flower,” says Henry, “is fading, and all its beauty soon withers and is gone. The shadow is fleeting, and its very being will soon be lost in the shadows of night. Of neither do we make any account, in neither do we put any confidence.”


Verse 3

Job 14:3. And dost thou open thine eyes on such a one? — Dost thou, the infinite Jehovah, the self-existent, independent, and supreme Lord of all, the Almighty, open thine eyes on such an insignificant and helpless creature? Dost thou, the immutable, the eternal God, behold and take account of such a frail, changeable, and short-lived being? Dost thou, ever- blessed and most holy, regard such an infirm, polluted, and miserable object? Dost thou take any thought or care about him? Is he not infinitely beneath thy notice? And dost thou stoop so low as even to observe his ways, yea, all his ways? And bringest me into judgment with thee — Pleadest with me by thy judgments, and thereby, in a manner, forcest me to plead with thee. Dost thou bring me, such a worthless worm as I am, into judgment with thee, who art so quick-sighted to discover the least failing, so holy to hate it, so just to condemn it, so mighty to punish it? The consideration of our inability to contend with God, of our own sinfulness and weakness, should engage us to pray, Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant.


Verse 4

Job 14:4. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? — I confess I am an unclean creature, and therefore liable to be abhorred by thy holiness, and condemned by thy justice, if thou wilt deal rigorously with me. But, remember, this is not my peculiar case, but the common lot of every man, who descended from sinful parents, and, being infected with original corruption, must unavoidably be unclean. Why, then, dost thou inflict such peculiar and extraordinary judgments upon me for that which is common to all men? And although my natural corruption do not excuse my actual sins, yet I hope it may procure some mitigation of my punishment, and move thy divine pity to deal less severely with me. Observe, reader, clean children can no more come from unclean parents, nor clean performances from an unclean principle, than pure streams can proceed from an impure spring, or grapes from thorns. Our habitual corruption is derived, with our nature, from our progenitors, and is therefore bred in the bone: and our blood is not only attainted by a legal conviction, but tainted with an hereditary disease. And hence flow all actual transgressions, which are the natural product of habitual corruption. This holy Job here laments, as all that are sanctified do, tracing the streams up to the fountain. The Chaldee paraphrase reads this verse, Who can make a man clean that is polluted with sin? Cannot one? that is, God: or, who but God, who is one, and will spare him? God can change the skin of the Ethiopian, and to him we ought to direct our prayer, saying, It is the prerogative of thy grace to bring a clean thing out of an unclean, and that grace I humbly implore.


Verse 5-6

Job 14:5-6. Seeing his days are determined — Limited to a certain period. The number of his months is with thee — Exactly known to thee, and in thy power and disposal. Thou hast appointed his bounds, &c. — Thou hast appointed a certain end of his days, beyond which he cannot prolong his life. Turn from him, that he may rest — Withdraw thine afflicting hand from him, that he may have some present ease and comfort. Till he shall accomplish, as a hireling, his day — Give him some respite till he finish his course, and come to the period of his life, which thou hast allotted him, as a man appoints a set time to a hired servant; which period will be as welcome to him as the end of his day of labour and toil is to the hireling. This idea is implied in the word ירצה, jertzeh, here rendered, he shall accomplish. Which properly means, he shall be pleased, or delighted. And the sense seems to be, As the poor mercenary rests and rejoices when he has finished the work of the day, and received his wages; so must that be an acceptable and joyful time, which puts a period to the life and sufferings of a man sinking under the burden of numerous and heavy troubles, and which introduces him into a state of perfect rest and endless felicity.


Verses 7-10

Job 14:7-10. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down — If the body of a tree be cut down, and only the stem or stump be left in the ground, yet there is hope; that it will sprout again — Hebrew, יחלי Š, jachalip, will yet renew itself, will revive and flourish as the spring comes on. Though the root wax old — Begin to wither and decay; and the stock thereof die — Namely, in outward appearance; yet, through the scent of water — By means of water; scent or smell being here figuratively ascribed to a tree. The moisture of the earth, and the rain of heaven, have sufficient influence upon it to revive it, and cause it to bud; and bring forth boughs like a plant — As if it were a tree newly planted. But man dieth and wasteth away — Man, though a far nobler creature, is in a much worse condition, as to this world, for when once he loseth his present life he never recovers it. Two words are here used for man, גבר, geber, a mighty man: though mighty, he dies: אדם, adam, a man of earth: being made of earth, he returns to it. He dieth and wasteth away: before death he is dying daily, continually wasting away; in death he gives up the ghost: the spirit leaves the body and returns to God, the Father of spirits, who gave it. After death, where is he? — Not where he was; his place knows him no more: his body, all that is visible of him, is rotting away in the grave. But where is the thinking, intelligent principle, the self-conscious being, the proper man? Is this nowhere? Yes, it is somewhere; and it is a very awful consideration to think where they are that have given up the ghost, and where we shall be when we give it up. It is gone into the world of spirits; gone into eternity, gone to return no more to this world.


Verse 11

Job 14:11. As the waters fail from the sea — This may mean, either, 1st, As the waters go, or flow out from the sea, and return not thither again, Ecclesiastes 1:7 : or, 2d, As waters, that is, some portion of the waters, are exhaled from the sea by the sun, or are received and sunk into the dry and thirsty earth: or, 3d, As the waters of the sea fail, when the sea forsakes the place into which it used to flow; and the flood decayeth and drieth up — As a flood, or a river, or a pond (for the word signifies any considerable confluence of waters) in a great drought decayeth, and is dried up, in which cases the same waters never return to their former places, so it is with man; when once the fountain of his life is dried up he dies, and never revives again as to the present life.


Verse 12

Job 14:12. So man lieth down — In his bed the grave, sleeping the sleep of death. And riseth not till the heavens be no more — That is, until the time of the general resurrection and restitution of all things, when these visible heavens shall pass away, and be no more, at least in the same form in which they are now. This whole paragraph is interpreted in a somewhat different way by a late writer. “After a tree is cut down, we see, nevertheless, the old stock flourish again, and send forth new branches; and shall man then, when he once expires, he extinct for ever? Is there no hope that he shall revive, and be raised again hereafter? Yes, there is, according to the doctrine delivered to us by our ancestors: but then they inform us, at the same time, that this resurrection shall not be but with the dissolution and renovation of the world, Job 14:11-12. The waters go off from the sea, and the flood (the river) will decay and dry up. And man lieth down and riseth not till the heavens be no more; (till then) they shall not awake nor be raised out of their sleep.” The meaning seems to be, that as we see every thing in flux, and subject to change, so the whole shall one day be changed. The sea itself will at length be quite absorbed; and the running rivers, which now flow perpetually, as if supplied by everlasting springs, will nevertheless, in time, quite cease and disappear. This visible frame of things shall be dissolved, and the present heavens themselves shall be no more: and then, and not before, comes the resurrection and general judgment.


Verse 13

Job 14:13. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave — The grave is not only a resting-place, but a hiding-place to the children of God: Christ has the key of the grave to open and let in now, and to let out at the resurrection. God hides his people in the grave as we hide our treasure in a place of secrecy and safety; and he that hides will find what he has hid, and nothing shall be lost. O that thou wouldst hide me, not only from the storms and troubles of this life, but for the bliss and glory of a better life; let me lie in the grave reserved for immortality, in secret from all the world, but not from thee, not from those eyes which saw my substance when first curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, Psalms 139:15-16. Thus, it was not only in a passionate weariness of this life that he wished to die, but in a pious assurance of a better life, to which at length he should arise. Until thy wrath be past — As long as our bodies lie in the grave there are some effects of God’s wrath against sin, but when the body is raised, that wrath is wholly past, and death, the last enemy, is totally destroyed. That thou wouldest appoint me a set time — Not only fix a time when thou wilt end my sufferings and my life, but when thou wilt remember my flesh lodged in the grave, as thou didst remember Noah and every living thing in the ark, Genesis 8:1. The bodies of the saints shall not be forgotten in the dust; there is a time appointed, a set time, for their being inquired after.


Verse 14

Job 14:14. If a man die, shall he live again? — He shall not in this world, but he shall in another and better; and, therefore, all the days of my appointed time will I wait — Hebrew, צבאי, tsebai, of my warfare, namely, with my spiritual enemies, or of my service and suffering, or of the station and place God has assigned me. The idea which the word conveys is partly, at least, that of a post or station given a man by God to maintain, till he be released from it, and called to a better state; as if Job had said, Whatever station or condition God shall please to appoint me, either here or in the intermediate state, I shall still wait in earnest expectation for the future renovation and resurrection; here evidently intended by the change which he expected to come. “I must insist upon it,” says Mr. Peters. “that Job, in this verse, declares very clearly his hope of a future resurrection. I know it is a common opinion, that by the change here mentioned, is meant the change of death; but the sense above given suits best with the context, as also with the Hebrew word חליפה, chalipah, which properly signifies a change for the better, a renewal.” Houbigant renders the beginning of this verse, For though a man die, yet he shall revive again; and, therefore, I will wait, &c, observing, in agreement with Mr. Peters, that nothing can be so absurd as to suppose the words contain any doubt of a future life.


Verse 15

Job 14:15. Thou shalt call and I will answer thee — 1st, At death, thou shalt call my body to the grave and my soul to thyself, and I will cheerfully answer, Here I am. Gracious souls readily answer death’s summons, and appear to his writ. Their spirits are not forcibly required of them, as was that of the rich man, Luke 12:20, but willingly resigned by them, and the earthly tabernacle not violently pulled down, but voluntarily laid down. 2d, At the resurrection thou shalt call me out of the grave by the voice of the archangel, and I will answer and come at thy call. For thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hands — A love for the soul, which thou hast made, and new-made by thy grace; and for the body, which is also the work of thy hands, and to which thou wilt have a desire, having prepared glory for it in a world of glory.


Verse 16-17

Job 14:16-17. For now — Or rather, But now, for this seems to be added by way of opposition, as if he had said, I believe thou wilt pity, help, and deliver me, and even wonderfully change my person, state, and place; but, for the present, it is far otherwise with me. Thus Job returns to his complaints; and, though he is not without hope of future felicity, he finds it hard to get over his present grievances. Thou numberest my steps — Thou makest a strict inquiry into all my actions, that thou mayest find out all my errors. Dost thou not watch over my sin? — The Hebrew should rather be rendered, Do not watch over, or take notice of, my sin, as the Chaldee paraphrast writes. Thus the vulgar Latin, Parce peccatis meis, Spare my sins; that is, forbear to punish me for them. He longed to go hence, to that world where God’s wrath would be past, because now he was under the continual tokens of it; as a child, under the severe discipline of the rod, longs to be of age! As if he had said, O that my change were come! for now thou seemest to number my steps, and watch over my sin, and seal it up in a bag, Job 14:17, as writings, or other choice things are preserved, that they may be all brought forth upon occasion, and not one of them forgotten; or, as bills of endictment are kept safe to be produced against the prisoner. Thou keepest all my sins in thy memory. But herein Job speaks rashly; or, rather, this verse ought to be rendered, in conformity with what was observed concerning a clause of the last, Do not seal up my transgressions in a bag, nor note my iniquities in thy register.


Verse 18-19

Job 14:18-19. As the mountain falling cometh to naught, &c. — As when a great mountain falls, by an earthquake or inundation, it moulders away like a fading leaf, (as the Hebrew ward signifies,) and as the rock, when, by the violence of winds or earthquakes, it is removed out of its place, and thrown down, is never re-advanced; and as the waters, by continual droppings, wear away the stones, so that they can never be made whole again; and as thou wastest away, by a great and violent inundation, the things which grow out of the dust of the earth, herbs, and fruits, and plants, which once washed away are irrecoverably lost; in like manner thou destroyest the hope of man: when man dies, all hope of his living again in this world is lost. Thus, as before he declared the hopelessness of man’s restoration from death to this animal life, by way of opposition to such things as did, in a manner, rise from death to life, Job 14:7-10; so now he declares the same thing, by way of similitude to such things as, being once lost and gone, are past all hopes of recovery.


Verse 20

Job 14:20. Thou prevailest for ever against him — When once thou takest away this life, it is gone for ever; for he speaks not here of man’s future and eternal life in another world. And he passeth — That is, he dieth: man’s death is often called a passage or a going, to intimate that it is not an annihilation, but only a translation of him into another place and state. Thou changest his countenance — That is, his visage, which, by death and its harbingers, is quite altered, both in colour and shape. When a man has been a few days sick, how apparent is the change in his countenance! and much more when he has been a few minutes dead! The countenance that was majestic and awful, becomes mean and despicable; that which was lovely and amiable, becomes ghastly and frightful! Where then is the admired beauty? Nay, the approach of death will frequently, through discomposing the mind, make the strongest and stoutest to change countenance: it will make the most cheerful and smiling countenance to look grave and serious, and the most bold and daring to look pale and timorous. By changing his countenance, may also be meant changing the face and state of his affairs, as to worldly riches, pleasures, and honours; all which he leaves behind him. Thou sendest him away — To his long home, by death.


Verse 21

Job 14:21. His sons come to honour — Hebrews יכבדו, jicbedu: increase either in number or in greatness. The LXX. render it, πολλων δε γενομενων, become many; and the word ויצערו, vejitzgnaru, and they are brought low, they interpret in the opposite sense, εαν δε ολιγοι γενωνται, if they be diminished, or become few. He knoweth it not, &c. — Either, 1st, He is ignorant of all such events; or, 2d, Is not concerned nor affected with them. A dead or dying man minds not these things. The consideration of this should moderate our cares concerning our children and families. God will know what becomes of them or happens to them, when we are gone. To him, therefore, let us commit them: with him let us leave them; and not burden ourselves with needless, fruitless cares concerning them.


Verse 22

Job 14:22. But his flesh upon him shall have pain — Or, while his flesh is upon him; and his soul within him — While the soul is clothed with, or united to, the body, he feels sharp pains in his body, and bitter grief in his soul. Dying work is generally hard work; dying pangs sore pangs. It is folly, therefore, for men to defer their repentance to a deathbed, and to have that to do, which is the one thing needful, when they are really unfit to do any thing. But it is true wisdom, by making our peace with God in Christ, and keeping a good conscience, to treasure up comforts, which will support and relieve us against the pains and sorrows of a dying hour.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 14:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/job-14.html. 1857.

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