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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Job 16

 

 

Verse 1

Job 16:1. Then Job answered and said — “Job, above measure grieved that his friends should treat him in this cruel manner, expostulates very tenderly with them on the subject. He tells them he should, in the like circumstances, have behaved to them in a very different way, Job 16:2. That he, as well as every one about him, was in the utmost astonishment, to find a man, whom he imagined his friend, accuse him falsely, and give him worse treatment than even his greatest enemies would have done. But that he plainly saw God was pleased to add this to the rest of his calamities; that he should not only be deprived of the comfort and assistance he might have expected from his friends, but that he should be used by them in a most relentless way, Job 16:7-14. That he had voluntarily taken on him all the marks of humility used by the guilty, though he was really innocent; that God above knew his innocence, though his friends so slanderously traduced him, Job 16:15-22. That he was sensible he was nigh his dissolution, otherwise he could return their own with interest, Job 17:1-3. That he made no doubt, whenever the cause came to a decision, the event would prove favourable to him. In the mean time, they would do well to consider what effect this their treatment of him must have on all mankind, and how great a discouragement it must be to the lovers of virtue, to see a man, whose character was yet unstained, on bare suspicion, dealt with so cruelly by persons pretending to virtue and goodness, Job 16:4-9. Would they but give themselves time to reflect, they must see that he could have no motive to hypocrisy; since all his schemes and hopes, with regard to life, were at an end, and, as he expected nothing but death, with what view could he play the hypocrite?” Job 16:10, to the end. — Heath.


Verse 2

Job 16:2. I have heard many such things — Both from you and divers others; and though you please yourselves with them, as if you had some great and important discoveries, they are but vulgar and trivial things. Miserable comforters are ye all — Instead of giving me those comforts which you pretend to do, or offering any thing to alleviate my affliction, you only add to it, and make it yet more grievous. What Job says here of his friends is true of all creatures in comparison with God; at one time or other, we shall be made to see and acknowledge, that miserable comforters are they all. To a soul under deep conviction of sin, or the arrests of death, nothing but a manifestation of the favour of God, and the consolatory influences of his Spirit, can yield effectual comfort.


Verse 3

Job 16:3. Shall vain words have an end? — When wilt thou put an end to these impertinent discourses? He retorts upon him his charge, Job 15:2-3. And what imboldeneth thee that thou answerest — Namely, in such a manner, so censoriously, opprobriously, and peremptorily. What secret grounds hast thou for thy confidence? Thy arguments are weak; if thou hast any stronger, produce them. It is a great piece of confidence to charge men, as Eliphaz did Job, with those crimes which we cannot prove upon them; to pass a judgment on men’s spiritual state, upon the view of their outward condition, and to re-advance those objections which have been again and again answered.


Verse 4

Job 16:4. I could also speak as ye do — It is an easy thing to trample upon those that are down, and to find fault with what those say who are in extremity of pain and affliction. If your soul were in my soul’s stead — If our conditions were changed, and you were in misery like me, and I at ease like you; I could heap up words against you — As you do against me; that is, I could multiply accusations and reproaches against you, and how would you like it? how would you bear it? and shake my head at you — In a way of derision, as this phrase is commonly used. Heath renders these clauses interrogatively, thus: If your soul were in my soul’s stead, would I accumulate sentences against you? would I shake my head at you? Which rendering gives the verse a very pathetic turn.


Verse 5

Job 16:5. But I would strengthen you with my mouth — I would endeavour to direct, support, and comfort you, and say all I could to assuage your grief, but nothing to aggravate it. It is natural to sufferers to think what they would do if the tables were turned; but, perhaps, our hearts may deceive us; we know not what we would do; we find it easier to discern the reasonableness and importance of a command, when we have occasion to claim the benefit of it, than when we have occasion to do the duty of it. We ought, however, to say and do all we can to strengthen our brethren in affliction, suggesting to them such considerations as are proper to encourage their confidence in God, and to support their sinking spirits. Faith and patience, we should remember, are the strength of the afflicted, and what helps these graces, confirms the feeble knees. The reader will observe, there is nothing in the Hebrew for the words your grief, in the latter clause of this verse, which are therefore printed in Italic letters. Our translators supposed that there is an ellipsis in the Hebrew text, and that these, or some words of the same import, were necessary to complete the sense. But the word, ניד, nid, here rendered moving, (being derived from נוד, nud, which sometimes means to condole,) may be translated, compassion, and then, without supposing any defect in the text, the sense of the clause will be, Compassion should restrain, or, govern my lips; namely, that they should avoid all speeches which might vex you, and speak only what might be to your comfort and benefit; whereas you let your tongues loose to speak whatsoever pleaseth you, although it does not profit, but only torment me. Chappelow proposes yet another version of the words, which he thinks the true one, namely, I could be stronger than you with my mouth; but he [God] restrains the motion of my lips.


Verse 6

Job 16:6. Though I speak — To God by prayer, or to you in the way of discourse; my grief is not assuaged — I find no relief or comfort. Job, having reproved his friends for their unkind behaviour toward him, and aggravated it by contrasting therewith his resolutions to have acted in a more friendly manner toward them, if they had been in his case; now returns to his main business, namely, to describe his miseries, in order that, if possible, he might move his friends to pity and comfort him. Though I forbear, what am I eased? — What portion of my grief departs from me? I receive not one grain of ease or comfort. Neither speech nor silence does me any good.


Verse 7

Job 16:7. But now he — Namely, God; hath made me weary — Either of complaining, or of my life. “He hath long since quite tired me with one trouble upon another.” — Bishop Patrick. Thou hast made desolate all my company — “Thou hast not ceased, O God, till thou hast left me neither goods nor children, no, nor a friend to comfort me.” He speaks in the second person, to God, as in the former clause in the third person, of God: such a change of persons is very usual in Scripture, and “is esteemed,” says Chappelow, “a singular ornament in poetry.”


Verse 8

Job 16:8. Thou hast filled me with wrinkles — By consuming my flesh and reducing my body; which is a witness — Of the reality and greatness, and just cause of my sorrows. Or, which is made a witness; that is, produced by my friends as a proof of God’s anger and my hypocrisy and impiety. And my leanness rising up in me — Or, against me; as witnesses are wont to rise and stand up against a guilty person to accuse him; beareth witness to my face — Namely, openly and evidently, as witnesses accuse a person to his face; or, so that any, who look on my face, may plainly discern it. Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase is, “The furrows in my face (which is not old) show the greatness of my affliction, which is extremely augmented by him who rises up with false accusations to take away mine honour, as this consumption will do my life.”


Verse 9

Job 16:9. He teareth me in his wrath — Hebrew, אפו שׂר, appo tarap, His wrath teareth me in pieces, properly, as a lion or other savage beast tears his prey, of which the word tarap is peculiarly used; who hateth me וישׂשׂמני, vajistemeni, rather, and hateth me; that is, pursues me with hatred, or as if he hated me. Some render it, adversatus est mihi, is hostile to me; or, acts as mine enemy. He gnasheth upon me with his teeth — A strong figurative expression, denoting extreme anger; mine enemy sharpeneth his eyes upon me — That is, looks upon me with a fierce and sparkling eye, as enraged persons are wont to look on those who have provoked them. It is a great question among commentators what enemy Job meant. Sol. Jarchi writes, Hasatan hu hatzar: Satan, he is the enemy. Certainly Satan was Job’s greatest enemy, and, by the divine permission, had brought all his sufferings upon him, and perhaps now frequently terrified him with apparitions. “It is not improbable,” says Henry, “that this is the enemy he means.” Many think that Eliphaz, who spoke last, and to whose speech Job is now replying, is intended. He had showed himself very much exasperated against Job; and might express himself with such marks of indignation as are here mentioned, rending Job’s good name, as Bishop Patrick expresses himself, and preaching nothing but terror against him. His eyes might be said to be sharpened to spy out matter of reproach against him, and very unkindly, yea, cruelly, both he and his friends had used him. Others, however, think that the expressions, though harsh, and apparently unbecoming to be applied to God, were, nevertheless, intended of him by Job, and are capable of being so interpreted as not to imply any reflection on the divine perfections. “The expressions,” says Chappelow, “are really not stronger than those which we read in other places, particularly in the eleventh and four following verses; as also 19:11, 30, 31.” The reader must observe, that the melancholy state of Job’s mind, and his dreadful sufferings under the chastising hand of God, which his friends never ceased to represent as the effects of divine wrath, had caused him to entertain distressing ideas of God’s terrors, and to view him, if not as an enemy, yet as a severe and inexorable judge, who was extreme to mark all his iniquities and failings.


Verse 10

Job 16:10. They — My friends, the instruments of God’s anger; have gaped upon me with their mouth — Have opened their mouths wide against me; either, 1st, To devour and destroy me, as a lion which falls upon its pray with open mouth: see Psalms 22:13-14, where these very expressions are used in the prediction of Christ’s sufferings, of whom, in all this, Job was an eminent type. Or, 2d, To scoff and deride me, as it follows, and as this phrase is most commonly used: see Psalms 22:8; Psalms 35:21. They have smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully — Hebrew, בחרפה, becherpeh, by reproach; or in a way of scorn and contempt, of which smiting on the cheek was a sign: see Lamentations 3:30 ; Micah 5:1. The meaning is, they have despised and derided me, the sign being put for the thing signified. They have gathered themselves together against me — They are come from several places, and have met together here, not for me, or to comfort me, as they pretended; but really against me, and to grieve and torment me.


Verse 11

Job 16:11. God hath delivered me to the ungodly — Either, 1st, To my friends, who act the part of the wicked in censuring and condemning the righteous, whom God approveth, and in pleading for a false and wicked cause. Or, rather, to the Chaldeans and Sabeans, who were a most ungodly and wicked people, living in gross contempt of God, and injurious to all sorts of men. This seems best to suit both with the first clause of the next verse, which shows that Job speaks of his first afflictions which befell him when he was at ease, and with his principal design, which was to prove that both eminent prosperity and affliction did indifferently happen both to good and bad men, which indeed was evident from this example: because holy Job was ruined at the very time when this wicked people were most victorious and successful.


Verse 12

Job 16:12. I was at ease — I lived in great peace and prosperity, and was contented and happy in the comfortable enjoyment of the gifts of God’s bounty, not fretful and uneasy, as some are, in the midst of the blessings of providence, who thereby provoke God to take these blessings from them; but he hath broken me asunder — Hath broken my spirit with the sense of his anger, and my body with loathsome ulcers; and all my hopes and prospects, as to the present life, by the destruction of all my children and property. He hath also taken me by the neck — And thrown me down from an eminent condition into one most despicable; and shaken me to pieces — As a mighty man acts with some young stripling when he wrestles with him; and set me up for his mark — That he may shoot all his arrows into me, and wound me with one calamity after another.


Verse 13-14

Job 16:13-14. His archers compass me round about — His plagues or judgments, elsewhere compared to arrows, and here to archers, surround me on all sides, and assault me from every quarter. Whoever are our enemies, we must look on them as God’s archers, and see him directing the arrow. He cleaveth my reins asunder — He wounds me inwardly, mortally, and incurably; which is also signified by pouring out the gall; such wounds being deadly. “The metaphor,” says Heath, “is here taken from huntsmen. First they surround the beast; then he is shot dead; his entrails are next taken out; and then his body is divided limb from limb.” He breaketh me with breach upon breach — My indignities and miseries have no interruption, but one immediately succeeds another; he runneth upon me like a giant — Who falls upon his enemy with all his might, that he may overthrow and kill him. He assaults me in so violent and powerful a manner, that I can make no more resistance than a dwarf against a giant.


Verse 15-16

Job 16:15-16. I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin — I have put on sackcloth, not upon my other garments, but next to my skin; as was done in great calamities. So far am I from stretching out my hands against God, whereof I am accused, (Job 15:25,) that I have humbled myself deeply under his hand, and I have even sewed sackcloth on me, as being resolved to continue my humiliation as long as my affliction continues. And defiled my horn in the dust — I have willingly parted with all my wealth, and power, and glory, (as the horn often signifies in Scripture,) and have been content to lie in the dust, and to endure the contempt which God hath brought upon me. “This phrase of defiling one’s horn in the dust,” says Chappelow, “is expressive of the greatest ignominy and contempt that a person can suffer, especially after he had been exalted to a high station.” My face is foul — The author of the Vulgate renders it, intumuit, hath swelled with weeping. And on my eyelids is the shadow of death — That is, a gross and terrible darkness. My sight is very dim, as is usual in case of sore diseases, or excessive grief and weeping, and especially in the approach of death.


Verse 17-18

Job 16:17-18. Not for any justice in my hands — And all this is not come upon me for any injurious dealing, but for other reasons, known to God only; also my prayer is pure — I do not cast off God’s fear and service, Job 15:4. I do still pray and worship God, and my prayer is accompanied with a sincere heart. O earth, cover not thou my blood — The earth is said to cover that blood which lies undiscovered and unrevenged: of which see on Genesis 4:10-11; and Isaiah 26:21. But, says Job, if I be guilty of destroying any one man by murder, or oppression, as I am traduced, O Lord, let the earth disclose it; let it be brought to light, that I may suffer condign punishment for it. And let my cry have no place — That is, either, 1st, Let the cries and groans which I have forced from others by my oppressions, have no place to hide them. Or, rather, 2d, Let the cry of my complaints to men, or prayers to God, find no place in the ears or hearts of God or men, if this be true.


Verse 19-20

Job 16:19-20. Behold, my witness is in heaven — Besides the witness of men, and of my own conscience, God is witness of my integrity. The witness of men, and even that in our own bosoms for us, will stand us in little stead if we have not a witness in heaven for us also: for God is greater than our own hearts, and than the hearts of all men: neither are we to judge ourselves, nor are men to be our judges. This therefore was Job’s triumph, that he had a witness in heaven, and could appeal to God’s omniscience concerning his integrity. My friends scorn me — Who ought to defend me from the scorns and injuries of others; but mine eye poureth out tears unto God — I pour forth my prayers and tears to him, that he would judge me according to my innocence, and plead my righteous cause against those that accuse and condemn me.


Verse 21

Job 16:21. O that one might plead for a man with God — O that either I or some faithful advocate might be admitted to plead my cause, either with God, or rather with you before God’s tribunal, God being witness and judge between us. A different translation of this verse is proposed by some, a translation which the Hebrew text will very well bear, namely, And he will plead (that is, there is one that will plead) for man with God, even the Son of man, for his friend or neighbour. Those who pour out tears before God, though they cannot plead for themselves by reason of their distance and defects, have a friend to plead for them, even the Son of man; and on this we must ground all our hopes of acceptance with God.


Verse 22

Job 16:22. When a few years are come — The number of years which is determined and appointed to me; then I shall go the way whence I shall not return — Namely, to the state and place of the dead, whence men cannot return to this life. The meaning is, my death hastens, and therefore I earnestly desire that the cause depending between me and my friends may be determined, that if I be guilty of these things, I may bear the shame of it before all men; and, if I be innocent, that I may see my own integrity and the credit of religion (which suffers upon this occasion) vindicated, that so I may die in peace with God, and may leave the savour of a good name behind me. Observe, reader, to die is to go the way whence we shall not return. It is to go a journey, a long journey, a journey for good and all; to remove from this to another country, from the world of sense to the world of spirits! It is a journey to our long home; there will be no coming back to our state in this world, nor any change of our state in the other world. We must all of us very certainly, and very shortly, go this journey; and it is comfortable to those who keep a good conscience to think of it; for it is the crown of their integrity.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Job 16:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/job-16.html. 1857.

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