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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 14

 

 

Verse 1

CHAP. XIV.

Job sets forth the shortness and misery of human life. He expresses his faith in a future state; and declares, that after his change God will call, and he will answer him.

Before Christ 1645.


Verse 3

Job 14:3. And bringest me into judgment with thee? And dost thou bring such a one into judgment with thee?


Verse 4

Job 14:4. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Who can be clean, that is born of the unclean? Not one. Houbigant, who observes, that Job, without doubt, here alludes to our natural corruption. The Vulgate renders it, Who can bring a clean thing from unclean seed?


Verse 6

Job 14:6. Turn from him This is a metaphor taken from combatants, who keep their antagonist always in their eye. See on chap. Job 7:19. Heath.


Verses 7-16

Job 14:7-16. For there is hope of a tree, &c.— Job begins this chapter with a reflection on the shortness and wretchedness of human life, a truth which he had so sadly learned from experience. In his progress, therefore, as was natural, he seems to be casting about for arguments of support and consolation under these distressed circumstances; and particularly for proofs to confirm him in the belief of what they had received an obscure tradition of, the resurrection of mankind to another life. In Job 14:7 he touches upon that argument, from the analogy of things, which has been so often made use of in treating upon this subject: for there is hope of a tree, if be cut down, that it will sprout again: Hebrew ףּיחלי iachalip, will yet renew itself, will revive and flourish, as the spring comes on. This description is pursued for three verses. Then, Job 14:10. But men dieth, and wasteth away; man expires, and where is he? As if he had said, "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, be 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 from 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 the general judgment. The common translation is somewhat different. Though the comparison here expressed has nothing to answer to it in the Hebrew, yet, it must be owned, the כ, caph of similitude, as they call it, or the particle כמו, kemo, as, is sometimes understood; and, therefore, the passage may be so rendered, if there be occasion; and then the meaning will be, that the death of man is not like the cutting down of a tree, which soon sprouts out again, and flourishes in the same place: but rather like the drying up of a river, whose waters disappear, and we see no more of them. So man appears no more upon the stage of this world: he lieth down, and riseth not till the heavens be no more. Job proceeds: "Since, then, this is the lot of mankind, to die to all intents and purposes to the things of this world, and not to be raised again till the end of it; Job 14:13 . Oh that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, (Hebrew בשׁאול bisheol, in sheol, the region of departed souls) that thou wouldest keep me secret till thy wrath be past: that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!" As if he had said, "Tired out with the calamities of life, let me then presently undergo this lot, which must be undergone, the effect of Adam's sin and of thy wrath against it, till the time for us to remain in this separate state be fulfilled; and then remember me, and raise me to that better state which thou hast prepared for thy faithful servants." And here he breaks out into an expression of joy and admiration; Job 14:14. If a man die, shall he live, or revive? Is it true that we shall rise again to a new and better life hereafter? Let me, with hope and patience, wait this happy change, how long soever it may be in coming. All the days of my appointed time (or station) will I wait, till my change (Hebrew חליפתי chalpathi, my renovation) comes: It follows, Job 14:15. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hands. What can this mean, but that God would call him forth to judgment? That he should then be admitted to answer for himself before a just and equitable Judge, who knew the uprightness of his heart, and had a love for all his creatures who did not render themselves unworthy of it; and that then he should receive another sort of sentence than that which his rash, ill-judging friends had passed upon him, and be acquitted before him and all the world? though now, as it follows in the next verse, God had seemed to deal so hardly with him, had numbered all his steps, and sealed up his transgression and iniquity, as in a bag: Job 14:16-17 that is, had seemed to take account of every the smallest transgression of his life, and, by the severe chastisements inflicted upon him, had laid him open to the bitter censures and reproaches of his three friends. For his hopes of being acquitted in the day of judgment, could not entirely allay that grief and indignation which he had conceived at the cruel usage inflicted on him by these men, who measured his guilt by his afflictions, and treated him upon this account, in all their speeches, as a wicked man and a hypocrite. The reading of the LXX, understood by way of interrogation, which is Rufinus's conjecture, favours the sense that I have given of this passage. It is thus; for there is hope of a tree if it be cut down, that it will sprout again; but man dieth, and is he no more? intimating that it would be strange if a tree should revive after it was cut down; but that man, a creature of such excellence, should die, and there be an utter end of him. This kind of argument, I am sure, was much insisted on by the first apologists for Christianity; and while the Heathens complained in such strains as these, Soles occidere, et redire possunt, &c. "the sun sets and rises again; but for us, when our short day expires, there remains one perpetual night of sleep;" (Catull. Epig. 5:) the Christians argued, on the other hand, that, as the sun sets and rises again, the stars glide away and return, the trees grown old and dead in winter, recover life again, and bud and blossom in the spring; so, expectandum nobis etiam corporis ver est; "We too shall have our spring-time of resurrection;" Vide adeo quam in solatium nostri, resurrectionem futuram omnis natura meditatur, says Minutius Felix. And, as this reasoning is natural and obvious, as well as peculiarly calculated to shine in poetry, I see not why Job, in this noble poem, may not be allowed to reason in the same way. But, supposing the question where is he? to mean "he is gone for ever;" still this can only be understood of his returning no more to this world; for, as to the future resurrection, I must insist upon it that Job declares his hope of it very clearly in Job 14:14. All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. 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. Peters. Houbigant renders the beginning of the 14th verse, For, though a man die, yet he shall revive again; and therefore I will wait all the days, &c.; observing, in agreement with the ingenious Mr. Peters, that nothing can be so absurd as to suppose that the words contain any doubt of a future life, according to the common version. The learned Scheuchzer on this passage, as well as many others of this book, has entered into a variety of pleasing disquisitions in physics, which are by far too copious for our work: we beg, therefore, to refer the reader to him.


Verse 14

Job 14:14. My appointed time My appointed service. My station, or my warfare, as some render it: צבאי, zebaai. The word is commonly used in a military sense, either for an army, or a state of warfare; but it is likewise used in a religious sense, if I may so term it. The angels which attend the throne of God are called his צבא zaba, his host; and it is with respect to these that he is so often called the God and Lord of Hosts: צבאות zebaoth. The Levites, who attended the service of the tabernacle, are said to wait to do their office in this phrase. See Numbers 4:23. The word is used remarkably by the Prophet Isaiah 40:2 either to express the state of the Jews in the captivity of Babylon, waiting for the promised deliverance; or rather, the state of the faithful, who expected a much more glorious redemption under the Messiah: Cry unto her, that her warfare ( צבא zaba,) is accomplished. If Job had the same notion of a separate state which Isaiah seems here to have, either of the captivity of the Jews, under which they were to remain for a certain season, as a state brought upon them by their sins, till the day of their deliverance came; or of the state of the faithful, waiting with hope and patience for the redemption of the Messiah; we see how aptly he uses the word צבאי zebaai. The idea which the word conveys, is that of a post or station given him by God to maintain, till released from it and called to a better state; as if he had said, "Whatever station or condition God shall please to appoint me, either here, or in sheol, the intermediate state, I shall still wait in earnest expectation of the future renovation and resurrection." Peters.


Verse 16

Job 14:16. For now, &c.— But now thou, &c. Do not watch mine offences so narrowly: Job 14:17. Do not seal up my transgression in a bag, or note mine iniquities in thy register. The word rendered sewest up in our version, signifies the taking down any remark or memorandum in a table-book. Heath.


Verse 19

Job 14:19. Thou washest away the things, &c.— And the inundations of waters sweep away the soil of the earth. So the hope of man hast thou utterly destroyed. Heath, who renders the beginning of the 18th verse, for as the mountain falling wasteth away, and the rock may be removed from its place. Job, in these latter verses, returns to his deploration of that mortality which consumes and destroys the human race; which he illustrates and exaggerates by several similies: as of a mountain fallen, a rock plucked up by the roots, stones worn away by the continual lapse of water, and the earth itself carried away and consumed by inundations. See Schultens. Chappelow renders the 22nd verse, But his flesh shall have pain for him, and his dead body shall mourn for him: To which version, says he, an objection will possibly be raised from what we read in the 21st verse; for there it is mentioned as if man, after his departure hence, had no knowledge or perception of his sons coming to honour, or of their being brought low; therefore, how can it be said that his flesh shall have pain, and his soul, or dead body, shall mourn? This must be understood in an allegorical or poetical sense. Thus the Jews used to say, "The worm is troublesome to a dead man, as the needle is to the flesh of the living." Job writes in the same style, chap. Job 21:33. The clods of the valley shall be sweet unto him, i.e. when brought to the grave.

REFLECTIONS.—We have here,

1. A lively and affecting description of man, that is born of a woman, a dying worm, sprung from dying worms. He is of few days, so short his passing existence, that years or months are too long to reckon by: he is the creature of a day, a few short days terminate his mortal being, and full of trouble withal. From the hour that in cries he first bemoaned his entrance into a wretched world, sorrow is his portion; infancy, youth, manhood, age, have their attendant diseases, griefs, vexations, cares, and fears; till death, the king of terrors, closes the scene. In his best estate, he cometh forth like a flower, which of itself would quickly fade, but is seldom left to such a gradual decay; and is cut down, by the stroke of disease or accident, as grass before the mower's scythe: so transitory is all his excellence! He seeth also as a shadow; there is no more substantial good in his short-lived enjoyments, than there is solidity in a shadow; and, what makes them still more vain, he continueth not, but hastens from life to death, as the shadow of the flying bird: withal full of sin by nature as of sorrow, and indeed thence all his sorrow flows. He came a corrupted creature into the world, a child of fallen man, begotten in his image, for who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? or, from such a sinful original, what but evil can be the natural fruit? Not one is born but in this state; not one is found, who is not a transgressor from the womb. Note; (1.) An humbling sense of original sin is the foundation of all true humiliation. (2.) The vanity and shortness of our present life should quicken us to greater diligence in securing an eternity of substantial bliss.

2. Job expostulates with God, why, as a creature so weak, corrupt, and worthless, he should so strictly eye his ways, and so rigorously severe call him to his bar? He begs a moment's respite, that God would turn his frowning face away, and suffer him as a hireling to accomplish his day, with some little intermissions from ceaseless toil, and bring him at last to the sleep of death. Note; (1.) Life is a day of toil, but, blessed be God, "there remaineth a rest to his people (Hebrews 4:9.)" eternal in the heavens. (2.) We have a God who knows our frailty, and can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; it is good in prayer to spread our case before him.

2nd, Having pathetically described the miseries of life, he passes on to the consideration of death, where his flesh might rest in hope, though not of prosperity on earth, yet of a joyful resurrection.

1. At death, man's hope in this world finally perishes. A tree cut down will sprout again; and, though the stock be dead, fibres from the root will put forth new suckers: the waters, exhaled from the sea, fall down again in showers; and winter's floods, though dried up by the scorching sun, at the returning season rise as before. But man's waste is irreparable; and when, at death, he gives up the ghost, as soon he must, he is gone for ever: no shoot shall spring, no flood of life return; where he lieth down he must abide, till the heavens be no more, never to return to life below: or perhaps intimating, that in another world only, when the heavens shall be wrapped together as a scroll, he might expect to rise again, chap. Job 19:26. Note; (1.) Though man's body dies, his soul perishes not with it, but lives in the world of spirits. (2.) Since there is no return hither to correct what hath been amiss, how great need have we to improve that present moment on which eternity depends!

2. As he had hope in his death, he longs for its arrival; O that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, from all the miseries and sorrows which he endured, and from the strife of tongues; that thou wouldst keep me secret, where no eye should see him, until thy wrath be past, the effects of which, he apprehended, would never remove till his body should return to the dust, and his soul wait a resurrection-day: That thou wouldst appoint me a set time, to discharge me from the labours of life, or to rescue me from the dust of death, and remember me! think upon my sorrows, to end them; or on my sleeping ashes, to raise them once more from the grave. Note; (1.) Till the body sleeps in death, we cannot be entirely hid from troubles; but there at least they will end. (2.) The dust of God's saints is precious to him; he doth not forget them; the time is fixed for their glorious restitution, and herein they can rejoice.

3. He resolves in patient hope to wait God's sacred pleasure. If a man die, as surely he must, shall he live again, to amend any thing that is past? no; therefore let me with patience bear my present burden. Or, shall he live again? yes; though his body lie down in the dust, he shall rise again: therefore all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. This expectation shalt reconcile me to my present afflictions: a change will come, a glorious change; the time is fixed; O come the welcome day! Then thou shalt call, and I will answer thee, ready for the arms of death; or from the dust, joyful to hear the trump that awakes the dead. Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands; the curious fabric of my body, which thy hands have fashioned, thou wilt restore, no more to taste of death, or see corruption. Note; (1.) The hope of a glorious resurrection is the great support under every human misery. (2.) Death has changed its nature, when grace hath changed our hearts; it then becomes our privilege to die.

3rdly, Job returns to his sad complaints,

1. Of God's rigour. He had no hope of rest on this side the grave, while God seemed to mark with curious eye each step, to minute the least transgressions, and seal them up, as indictments ready to be produced in court against him. Note; (1.)

Hard thoughts of God are as bitter to ourselves, as dishonourable to him. (2.) It is the want of a due sense of the evil of sin, which leads us to complain.

2. Of man's wasting and irreparable condition. The mountains moulder; the rocks are removed by floods, or earthquakes; the stones, by continual dropping, are hollowed out; and floods sweep away the productions of the earth. These wastes none can repair; the mountains cannot grow again, nor the rocks return; the hollow of the stone is never filled up, nor the desolations of the flood repaired; and, or so, thou destroyest the hope of man, who, once removed by death, never returns to his place again: thou prevailest for ever against him, contention is vain, disease and death cannot be resisted; and he passeth, as a wind, from the face of the earth. Thou changest his countenance; the stroke of sickness covers the blooming face with livid paleness, and death makes it ghastly and frightful; and sendest him away into the grave. There, insensible of all that passes here below, his sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them. But his flesh upon him shall have pain, in the dying hour, and his soul within him shall mourn at the bitterness of death. Note; (1.) This is a perishing world; we and it consume together; how vain then to place our confidence in any thing here below! (2.) Death makes strange alterations; proud beauty should look in that glass to humble its self-idolatry. (3.) It is to mere nature a bitter thing to die, and expiring groans are often full of anguish: to a sinner they are only the beginning of sorrows; but to a saint they are a farewel to pain and grief for ever.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 14:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-14.html. 1801-1803.

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