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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 23

 

 

Verse 1

CHAP. XXIII.

Job wishes that he might be allowed to plead his cause before God; but, wherever he turns himself, he cannot find or behold him. He acknowledges, however, that God observes his paths, and therefore he doth not despond.

Before Christ 1645.

Job 23:1. Then Job answered and said Job, being tried to a high degree, by the freedom which Eliphaz had taken with him in his last speech, charging him directly with the most enormous sins, (see the 15th, and following verses) turns to God, according to his custom, and earnestly begs that he would bring him to his trial; that he would hear the matter fully, and determine between him and his friends. The passage from this to the end of the 10th verse is a very fine one; in which a candid reader can see nothing, I should suppose, but an earnest desire in Job to come before his judge, and take his trial, and be delivered, once for all, from the unjust suspicions of his friends. The word rendered order, in the 4th verse, is used for drawing up a speech, chap. Job 32:14 or preparing a table for an entertainment, Isaiah 21:5. Moses uses the same word, Leviticus 6:9, for preparing a burnt offering; and David, Psalms 5:3 for addressing himself to his devotions. Our translators have rightly added the word strength in the 6th verse, Will he plead against me with his great strength? no; but he will put strength into me. Munster and Vatablus, two of the most judicious among the critics, follow this sense. Le Clerc gives another, not quite so natural, but a very good one, if the Hebrew will bear it; thus, Will he strive with me with his great might? no; but he would attend to me: that is, "he would give me a patient hearing, and attend to the reasonableness of my plea; which you do not." Heath, and some others, render the 2nd verse, Still must my complaint be rebellious obstinacy: his hand is heavier than my groaning. The word rendered seat, in the 3rd verse, denotes the throne or tribunal of God; the usual place for the administration of justice. From my judge, in the 7th verse, is rendered by Heath and Houbigant, From my accusation, or judgment: and in the 9th verse, instead of, where he doth work, Heath reads, towards his brightness; which makes a better sense, and is a proper antithesis to his hiding himself in the latter part of the verse. See Peters, p. 173.


Verse 11-12

Job 23:11-12. My foot hath held, &c.— The division of this book into verses has obscured the sense: these two should be read thus, Job 23:11. My foot hath trodden in his steps; I have kept his way, and have not turned aside (Job 23:12.) from the commandment of his lips; neither have I swerved from his statutes. I have esteemed, &c. See Heath, and the note on Job 22:22 of the last chapter.


Verse 13

Job 23:13. But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? For when he is in the way, who shall turn him? whatever he desireth, that he doth. Job had said, in the preceding verses, that he had observed the steps, and trodden in the way of God; and he now adds, when he is in the way, who shall turn him out? i.e. "Who shall compel God to forsake that way of ruling human affairs which he hath once purposed, and to follow another." Houb.


Verse 16

Job 23:16. For God maketh my heart soft, &c.— For God causeth my heart to melt; the Almighty terrifieth me; Job 23:17, Yet so, that my mind doth not despond for that darkness, even that thick darkness, with which I am covered. Houb. Heath observes, that the word darkness is used here, as it is frequently, to denote calamity; and the thick darkness to express death.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Job seems to think it in vain to reason with his friends, resolved as they were to condemn him so unreasonably and cruelly, and therefore rather turns to God in his answer to the accusations of Eliphaz.

1. He justifies his complaints from the bitterness of his anguish, which all their counsels tended nothing to alleviate; even to-day is my complaint bitter, or rebellion; so accounted by his censorious friends; but so far were his complaints from exceeding his sufferings, that his stroke was heavier than his groaning. Note; (1.) They who know not what others feel, are too apt, when at ease themselves, to condemn them for inordinate sorrow. (2.) Though God does not forbid us to complain, yet we need fear, lest we murmur under our afflictions, which were to rebel against his government.

2. He longs to appear before God, and plead his cause; Oh that I knew where I might find him, where at his tribunal I might stand, I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments, I would direct my prayer to him, and plead the prevailing arguments of his grace in a Redeemer; or I would produce the most unexceptionable evidences, how unjustly I am condemned by my friends. I would know the words which he would answer me; far from desiring the darkness to hide me, as suggested, chap. Job 22:14. I should long for his sentence to come forth, and to understand what he would say unto me, who would judge according to truth, and not condemn me unjustly as you do. Note; (1.) A soul under desertion cries after God, O that I knew where I might find him, and such complaints shall not be long unanswered; he will be found in mercy of those who seek him. (2.) It is a comfort to the people of God, that whatever others answer them, or judge concerning them, they expect to appear before Him whose decisions will be according to truth.

3. He expresses his confidence in the issue of such a trial. Would he, God, plead against me with his great power, to crush and oppress me as you do? No; he would put strength in me, encourage me to bear up under every pressure. There the righteous, such as in an evangelical sense, through the grace of God, he might be said to be, might dispute with him, not against him as an adversary, but before him as their judge, so should I be delivered for ever from my judge, from your censures, which, as judges of my case, you have so rashly pronounced; or rather he who is my judge would declare my integrity, and deliver me, through my Redeemer, from present and eternal condemnation. Note; (1.) They who fly to God in their distress, to pray and plead with him, shall find their strength increase with every application to him. (2.) If God acquit us? we need neither fear nor care whose anathemas are upon us.

2nd. Job had said, O that I knew where I might find him; and his were not empty wishes, but earnest labours.

1. He laments his disappointment; on every side he turned his thoughts, deeply revolved in mind his sufferings, and sought to find out their cause, and to acquaint himself with God's designs in them; but darkness was in all his path, and he was as much as ever at a loss to account for the very singular circumstances of his afflictions, and wherefore God thus visited him. Note; The most beloved saints of God have been exercised with great afflictions and trials, which, however grievous for the time, work blessed fruits for the faithful in the end.

2. He was conscious of his own integrity, and satisfied in the divine Omniscience; and therefore concludes, that, when he had been tried, he should come forth from the furnace as gold, the brighter for the torture. My foot hath held his steps, I have sought to conform step by step with his word and providences; his way have I kept, his worship have I maintained, and his will obeyed in simplicity, and not declined from it, in any known instance, or by allowed guile; neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips, as a backslider, or an apostate; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food, more delightful to my soul, and more necessary for it than even food for my body. Note; (1.) It is a comfort that God knows our ways, and our simplicity before him. (2.) The trials of the faithful are sure to terminate to their honour and advantage. (3.) The word of God is the believer's daily bread, and he feeds upon it to the comforting and strengthening of his soul.

3rdly. Though he was conscious of his uprightness, and hoped that the issue of his trials should be peace, they were hard to be borne, though bear them he must.

1. It was in vain to think of opposing God. He is in one mind, always the same, and who can turn him from executing his will? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth, without controul, or possibility of effective resistance. He performeth the thing that is appointed for me, according to his holy will; and many such things are with him, many dispensations of his providence, abstruse and unaccountable by mortal worms: or he feared more troubles were in his hand, as if his measure of suffering was not yet full. Note; Though God doth what he will, he cannot but do what is right; and therefore we are ever bound to acquiesce, and, seeing his hand in our afflictions, to be dumb, and not to open our mouth.

2. Though Job quitted not his hope, yet at times his fears prevailed: Therefore am I troubled at his presence; when I consider, I am afraid: What he had already suffered, made him apprehensive lest worst was in store for him, the apprehension of which quite melted him down: for God maketh my heart soft, and the Almighty troubleth me, the fear of his impending visitations, as well as the sense of present anguish; because I was not cut off before the darkness of affliction came, as if he was marked out to suffer; or it may be construed as an expostulation, Why was I not cut off before, or by darkness, by death, from beholding these miseries? neither hath he covered the darkness from my face, which, had I been hid in the grave, I had not seen: or without the word neither, He hath covered the darkness from my face, refuses me the comfort of departing, or suffers me not to see an end of my afflictions. Note; (1.) The consideration of God's perfections, out of a Redeemer, is big with terror to the soul; but in him our fears remove. (2.) We should not be in such haste to be gone from our troubles into the darkness of death, when we know not how soon the scene may change, and the life which was our burden be made comfortable to ourselves, and serviceable to the cause of God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 23:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-23.html. 1801-1803.

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