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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 4

 

 

Verse 1

CHAP. IV.

Eliphaz reproves Job, who, having consoled others in adversity, nevertheless desponds himself. He affirms, that it was a thing unheard of, for an innocent man to perish; on the contrary, that the wicked perish at the blast of God, and are destroyed for ever.

Before Christ 1645.

Job 4:1. Then Eliphaz the Temanite The three friends who came to comfort Job, disgusted, as it seems, with the bitterness of his complaint, change their purpose, and, instead of consolation, vent the severest reproaches against him. The eldest of these three extraordinary comforters condemns his impatience; desires Job to recollect himself; not to give way to fruitless lamentations, but to put in practice those lessons which he had often recommended to others; Job 4:3-6. He reminds him of that (as they thought) infallible maxim, that "those who reap misery must have sown iniquity;" a maxim which he confirms by his own particular experience, and which he supposes was assented to by all mankind: and, in the display of this maxim, he throws in many of the particular circumstances attending Job's calamity; intimating, that he must have been a great, though secret oppressor, and that therefore the breath of God had blasted him at once, Job 4:7-11; and he confirms the truth of his principles by a revelation which he says was made to him in a vision; Job 4:12 to the end. See Bishop Lowth and Heath.


Verse 2

Job 4:2. If we assay to commune with thee, &c.— This verse contains an apology for what Eliphaz was about to say, and is well rendered by Houbigant thus: If I should attempt a discourse against thee, thou wilt take it ill; but who can refrain from such discourse? In the following verses he proceeds to put Job in mind, that he had instructed many how to bear afflictions, and that his good advice had been effectual to the healing of their griefs; that, therefore, it would ill become him, now that it was his own time to suffer, to forget the lessons which he had taught, and to deliver himself up to despair, as he had seemed to do by the whole tenor of his speech. The several images of weak hands, feeble knees, &c. contain a fine poetical description of affliction. See Peters and Heath.


Verse 6

Job 4:6. Is not this thy fear, thy confidence, &c.— Eliphaz points out to Job, in these words, the proper refuge of the afflicted; that their trust or confidence should be in God. Is not thy fear thy confidence, &c. that is, "Thy fear of God should be thy confidence." Houbigant renders it, Was not thy religion thy confidence, thy hope the integrity of thy manners? There is another sense which may be given to the passage, and which Mr. Heath prefers; Is not thy fear thy folly, thy hope, and the integrity of thy ways? That is, "Does not thy fear proceed from some folly and wickedness thou hast been guilty of? Or, if thou art innocent, ought not thy hope to keep pace with thine integrity? For, remember, who ever perished, &c.?" The ו vau, or conjunction and, as some interpreters judge, should be before thy hope; and then the construction, say they, will be plainer; and thy hope the integrity of thy ways: but there are several examples where the ו vau is thus postponed, and that with elegance. See Peters.


Verse 7-8

Job 4:7-8. Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, &c.— Recollect, I pray thee, &c. Eliphaz here begins to shew what he suspected. The strong term he uses, who ever perished, being innocent? and his adding what himself had observed of the punishment which sometimes befalls wicked men, contains a shrewd insinuation that he believed Job to have been guilty of some secret sins for which the hand of God was thus heavy on him. It will be proper here to remark in general, that it is natural for men earnest in dispute to carry matters to an extreme on either hand, or at least to be sometimes very unguarded in their expressions; and therefore we are not to interpret in the strictest and severest sense every word which fell from these unwary combatants. For example, from the present verse, or from any similar expressions in their following speeches, we are not to conclude, that these friends, really believed that there never was an instance of the righteous being cut off untimely, but merely that it much seldomer happened thus than otherwise. The strength of the expression is to be allowed for, by attending to the design that they had upon Job, and their zeal in prosecuting it. See note on ch. Job 7:20 and Peters.


Verse 9-10

Job 4:9-10. By the blast of God they perish, &c.— By the breath of God they perish; for, at the blast of his anger, the roarings of the lion, and the growling of the black lion, are hushed, and the teeth of the young lions are broken. Heath.


Verse 11

Job 4:11. The old lion perisheth for lack of prey Schultens imagines, that this want of prey was not so much owing to its scarcity, as to its being torn from the mouth and talons of this ravenous creature. But it may be imputed with more probability to his not daring to venture out of his den in search of prey, amidst the roar of thunder, the blaze of lightning, and the violence of the storm, that blast of God mentioned in the preceding verse. This sense seems to be confirmed by the word יתפרדו yithparadu which we render, are scattered abroad; the meaning of which is, they are so affrighted by the lightning and thunder, that, being separated, they fly every one a different way, and cannot find the path which leads to the den of the lioness their dam. See Schultens and Heath.


Verse 12

Job 4:12. Mine ear received a little thereof The word שׁמצ shemets rendered little, may be derived from an Arabic one, signifying a string of pearls. So the oracle that he here mentions was a collection of precious observations delivered to him in the way of vision, says Heath; who renders the verse, Moreover, somewhat oracular was secretly imparted to me, and mine ear took in a precious lesson from it. Houbigant renders the last clause, of which mine ear took in the whisper. See Parkhurst on the word שׁמצ .


Verse 13

Job 4:13. In thoughts from the visions, &c.— In the hurry of the visions; Heath, who observes from Schultens, that the word properly signifies an absence or confusion of mind, proceeding from a sudden perturbation. Houbigant renders it, in those appearances of dreams which come by night.


Verse 14

Job 4:14. Fear came upon me As in a poem every thing is or ought to be alive, so far is here made a person, who comes up to him as an officer of justice, and arrests him. See Heath, and Peters, p. 204.


Verse 16

Job 4:16. It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof, &c.— It stood still indeed, but I knew not its form: the appearance vanished from before mine eyes, but I heard a voice. Houbigant. Dr. Grey renders it, he stood, but I knew not his form, nor the image before mine eyes: there was a profound calm, and I heard a voice. It is supposed by this and many other commentators, that the word רוח ruach, rendered spirit, in this and the 15th verse, should be rendered a wind: then a wind passed swiftly before my face; which wind they suppose, as in the case of Elijah, to have been the prelude to the divine presence. See 1 Kings 19:11 and Genesis 1:2. But see my own opinion in the Reflections.


Verse 18

Job 4:18. His angels he charged with folly Schultens observes, that the Hebrew word rendered charged, signifies to discern or take notice of; see Isaiah 41:20.; and that the word rendered folly, signifies a defect or imperfection; not one that implies any degree of viciousness, but only what appears of no estimation when compared with the attributes of the perfect Deity. Houbigant renders the clause, and in his angels mutability was found.


Verse 19

Job 4:19. How much less in them, &c.— How much more in them. Heath. The expression, dwelling in houses of clay, is used with great propriety to convey the idea of the frailty of the human nature: whose foundation is in the dust, is a poetical expression to denote the formation of man from the dust of the ground. There are various opinions concerning the next clause; who are crushed before the moth, עשׁ לפני lipni osh, like or after the manner of the moth. "I retain this interpretation," says Mr. Hervey, "both as it is most suitable to my purpose, and as it is patronised by some eminent commentators, especially the celebrated Schultens; though I cannot but give the preference to the opinion of a judicious friend, who would render the passage more literally, before the face of a moth; making it to represent a creature so exceedingly frail, that even a moth flying against it may dash it to pieces: which, besides its closer correspondence with the exact import of the Hebrew, presents us with a much finer image of the most extreme imbecility; for it certainly implies a far greater degree of weakness, to be crushed by the feeble flutter of the feeblest creature, than only to be crushed as easily as that creature, by the hand of man. The French version is very expressive and beautiful; a la recontre d'un vermisseau."


Verse 20

Job 4:20. They are destroyed from morning to evening, &c.— From morning until evening they are destroyed; for want of discernment they perish together: Heath; who renders the next verse thus: It not the excellence which was in them pulled up by the roots? They die, but not in wisdom. This seems to allude to the corruption of human nature by the fall.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Having heard Job's impatient complaint, Eliphaz can no longer keep silence.

1. He apologizes for the part that he is about to take, but hopes that Job will not be offended if he and his friends essay to apply some remedy to his disease; and, as they apprehended his wound needed to be laid open, he begs he will not think that unkindness, but friendship, dictates his discourse. He would not willingly grieve him; but he intimates, that in this case silence would be criminal, and that God's glory, as well as Job's good, required them to deal with him faithfully.

2. He suggests the unbecoming tenour of his conduct under his present trials, so contrary to the advice that himself had often given to others. Thou hast instructed many how they should walk before God, and taught them the submission due to his holy will: thou hast strengthened the weak hands that hung down as ready to faint, under the pressure of heavy afflictions; thy words have upholden him that was falling, either by temptation into sin, or by trouble into despair; and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees, encouraged them to support their burdens, and helped them with good advice, and kind consolation; but now it is come upon thee, the same trials which he had taught others how to bear; and thou faintest, or art weary, sinking under the burden as insupportable; it toucheth thee, as if Job's present griefs were but light afflictions, but a slight stroke of correction; and thou art troubled, like the raging sea which cannot rest. Hence he seems to intimate, that, as his present behaviour so little corresponded to his own advice, it was to be feared that his former conduct had been insincere. Note; To make light of others' trials, and to exaggerate their impatience under them, shews the absence of the spirit of love, which would be glad to plead the excuse of the tempted, and from their circumstances engage us to make the most candid allowances.

3. He charges him with hypocrisy in his former professions; insinuates, that his fear of God, his confidence in his regard, his hope of things unseen, and the uprightness of his ways, however exemplary they might have seemed, were but appearances; that at bottom there was nothing in them; and his present state, as he concludes, evidently proved this, since God would not afflict a truly righteous man, nor would such a one be thus impatient in his trouble. Note; (1.) The charge of hypocrisy is one which is the oftenest laid against God's people, and among the sorest to be borne. (2.) A censorious spirit is exceedingly sinful; they will have judgment without mercy, who have shewn no mercy. (3.) We must not judge of a man's state from a particular failing. He may be truly faithful at bottom, who on a violent temptation may yet be moved from his own steadfastness.

2nd, Eliphaz here lays down two positions in support of his former charge that Job must be a hypocrite because of his afflictions.

1. That the innocent and righteous never perish under such heavy visitations; but his case appeared desperate, therefore he was not innocent or righteous, as he pretended. Alas! Job, to whose experience he appealed, might easily have confuted him with the death of Abel, and the sufferings of Jacob. Note; The conclusions of the revilers of God's people are usually drawn from premises as weak and insufficient to support them.

2. That wickedness was ever attended with, or followed by, temporal punishment; and for this he vouches his own experience, in the case of sinners in general; who, sowing iniquity, and expecting to reap comfort, find the harvest misery; their crop blasted with the divine displeasure, and consumed as corn rooted up by the whirl-wind: and in particular he had seen the proud oppressors thus perish; who, ravening like lions, fierce and greedy of prey, filled their houses with spoil; but soon, by God's judgment, their teeth were broken, the old lion was famished with hunger, and their whelps, their families, were scattered abroad. Though he speaks of the case of others, there seems to be an oblique glance at Job's situation, as if, like this old lion, he had by extortion filled his den, but now was ready to perish for want, and his children had been slain by the breath of God. Hence he would infer his wickedness as the cause of his sufferings; but, whatever the experience of Eliphaz might be, greater and more numerous instances were easy to be collected, where the wicked prospered long, perhaps died in plenty, and saw no bitterness. Such was profane Esau's case; and Lamech seems a still more daring and prosperous sinner.

3rdly, To reprove Job's impatient complaints, Eliphaz proceeds to relate a vision from God. The purport of it is, from the view of the frailty, folly, and sinfulness of mortal man, to silence every murmur against his dispensations, and to lead his friend to more humble thoughts of himself.

1. He describes the manner of this revelation made to him: a thing, or a word of divine wisdom was secretly brought to me, stole upon me unawares, and mine ear received a little thereof; either his capacity was too weak to retain the whole, or what was revealed was but a small portion of the will of God. In thoughts of deep and serious meditation from visions of the night, which were vouchsafed him, when deep sleep falleth upon men, to whose spirit nevertheless God hath access, fear came upon me, and trembling; an awful sense of the Divine Majesty affected his mind, and communicated to his very body a sacred tremor, which made all my bones to shake, as if each sinew was unstrung, and every joint loosened. Note; (1.) God hath secret ways of access to the souls of men; his people know it, to their comfort; his enemies feel it, to their terror. (2.) Our highest attainments are poor and inconsiderable; we know but a part, a very little part of God's ways. (3.) When we lie down with good thoughts, we may hope that our very dreams shall be holy. (4.) Though most visions of the night are vain and incoherent, and that to be troubled by them would be superstitious folly; yet there are some, I doubt not, which bear the mark of God's hand, and deserve our solemn attention.

2. The messenger who brought it: a spirit, one of those bright angelic hosts who minister to the heirs of salvation, passed before my face; struck with surprise and dread, the hair of my head stood up, erect as the bristles of the porcupine. It stood still, as if prepared to speak, but I could not discern the form thereof, perhaps the brightness of the surrounding glory prevented him: an image was before my eyes, terrible to behold; there was silence, an awful pause, and then I heard a voice distinct and audible. Note; (1.) Though apparitions, in general, are the creatures of fear and folly, yet why should it be thought incredible that God may on important occasions thus send from the world of spirits? (2.) The weakness of our nature shudders, and the consciousness of guilt terrifies us, at the apprehension of a visit from the unseen world. (3.) When God is about to speak, silence and attention become our prostate souls before him.

3. The message is weighty and important: shall mortal man, sinful, and therefore weak and frail, be more just than God, or rather be just before God, pretend to affect innocence, or stand at his bar as righteous? Behold, note it with deep attention, he put no trust in his servants, his angels; did not place his confidence in them, as in any measure supporting the glory of his throne; he wanted them not: (nay, he chargeth them with folly; compared with himself, their wisdom is foolishness:) how much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, in man, a worm, whose body is but a vessel of finer clay, whose foundation is in the dust, weak and tottering before every blast of disease or accident, which are crushed before the moth; if but such a weak worm push against it, so feeble is the structure, the house is broken through, or more easily crushed than the soft moth between our fingers. They are destroyed from morning to evening, thousands dying daily and continually, or every day their bodies hasten to their dissolution; they perish for ever, are cut off from the land of the living, no more to return, without any regarding it; they themselves little expecting it, and the living usually lay it not to heart. Doth not their excellency which is in them go away, or with them? all the endowments of their mind, the beauty, health, and strength of their bodies, and all their pomp, greatness, and affluence, vanish as the cloud of the morning; they die even without wisdom, it perishes with them; or forgetting to consider their latter end, they die unprepared. Now, if God puts no trust in the angels, and charges them with folly, how much less dependance can be placed on miserable, weak, and sinful man; and how much more chargeable is he with folly and frailty! man, therefore, can in nowise arrogate to himself a wisdom and righteousness beyond his maker, or think of appearing justified in the eyes of his purity. Note; (1.) To be discontent with the dispensations of God's providence is, in fact, to impeach his wisdom, justice, and goodness, as inferior to our own. (2.) If the angels are in God's sight thus weak and imperfect, and in some sense he places no confidence in them, what folly for man to make them the objects of worship, or to direct his prayer unto them! (3.) The more we consider the vanity and frailty of our life, and the nearness and certainty of death, the lowlier thoughts of ourselves it will beget in us. (4.) It were the height of folly, nay of madness, for a sinful dying worm to plead before God his worth and excellence. (5.) It is among the strong proofs of the insensibility and thoughtlessness bound up in the heart of a sinner, that amid such daily warnings around him, and such frequent notices within him, he lives so carelessly, and leaves death, with all its awful consequences, far out of his sight.

 


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

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