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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Job 8

 

 

Verse 1

CHAP. VIII.

Bildad affirms, that if Job was innocent, he would be immediately restored to his former splendor, on his making supplication to the Almighty. He shews that the wicked is like the bulrush, which withers as soon as it is sprung up.

Before Christ 1645.

Job 8:1. Then answered Bildad the Shuhite Bildad, whose sentiments are the same with those of the preceding friend, now comes on to the attack, and tells Job, that his general asseverations of innocence are of no avail; that to deny his guilt, was to charge the Almighty with injustice; Job 8:2-3 that if he would not yield to the argument of Eliphaz, drawn from his experience, and strengthened by revelation, he would do well to pay respect to the general experience of mankind, as handed down by tradition; where he would find it established, as a certain truth, that misery was the infallible consequence of wickedness; Job 8:8-20 that therefore they could not argue wrong, who inferred from actual misery antecedent guilt; and, though he might urge that these calamities were fallen on him on account of his children's wickedness, yet he only deceived himself; for in that case God might indeed have chastised them for their crimes; but he would by no means have destroyed the innocent with the guilty; Job 8:4-7. He would rather have heaped his blessings on the innocent person, that the contrast might have vindicated his providence. He would even have wrought a miracle for the preservation or restoration of such a person: and he concludes, that since, from the known attributes of God, it was impossible he should cut off the innocent, or suffer the guilty to go free, and as no interposition of Providence had happened in his behalf, he thought him in a likely way, by his utter destruction, to prove a terrible example of the truth of that principle which they had urged against him. Heath.


Verse 2

Job 8:2. How long wilt thou speak these things? How long wilt thou trifle in this manner? He compares his words in the next clause to a strong wind, to denote the vehemence and impetuosity wherewith, according to his opinion, the pride of Job's heart burst forth against God. There is a passage in Silius Italicus, which is a fine comment upon this verse.

——Qui tanta superbo Facta sonas ore, et spumanti turbine perflas Ignorantum aures. Lib. xi. ver. 581.

With haughty mouth who speaks such swelling deeds, And like a foaming tempest overflows The vulgar ears.


Verse 4

Job 8:4. If thy children have sinned Though thy children have sinned. Job 8:6. Surely now he would awake for thee] Surely now he would make bare his arm on thy behalf; he would make the beauty of thy righteousness perfect. Heath.


Verses 8-13

Job 8:8-13. For inquire, I pray thee, &c.— Bildad had exhorted Job to apply himself to God by prayer, upon the assurance, that if he were innocent, as he pretended, or shewed any marks of a sincere repentance, there was no doubt but he would be restored, through the divine mercy, to his former state of prosperity; but, if he should forget God in his calamity, or play the hypocrite with him, there were then no hopes for him; and for this he quotes a saying of their ancestors in these remarkable words. There are three things in this passage well worthy of our observation: First, his referring Job to their ancestors of former times, as the best instructors in wisdom; then urging the comparative ignorance of the generation which then was, and the reason of it, viz. the shortness of men's lives; We are but of yesterday, &c. human life being at this time in a swift decline, and reduced, in a few generations, from eight or nine hundred years, to one hundred and fifty, or thereabouts: but what is most to our purpose is, in the next place, his representing these long-lived ancestors of theirs, from whom they derived their wisdom, as living but an age or two before them: they were the men of the former age, or perhaps the fathers and grandfathers of these. And it appears from the Scripture history, that Shem, the son of Noah, who lived five hundred years after the flood, might well have been a cotemporary with the grand-fathers or great-grand-fathers of Job and his friends: with what authority, therefore, would such a one teach them! and with what attention would his instructions be received! Indeed, the same of these restorers of the human race was so great for many ages after, that when mankind fell into the superstition of worshipping men-deities, there is little doubt to be made, but that these were the first mortals who were deified; and that Saturn and his three famous sons (who are said by old Homer, Iliad xvi. ver. 187. to have "divided the world between them by a fair lot,") were, in reality, no other than Noah and his sons. See Bochart, Phaleg. c. 1. . The last thing that I shall observe from the passage is, the style or manner in which the precepts of their ancestors were transmitted to them; and that is, by some apt simile, or comparison, drawn from nature, and, like a picture, fitted to engage the attention; and, by agreeably entertaining the imagination, to leave a strong impression on the memory. Such is that natural and beautiful comparison which we have here; and which, by the way of introducing it, appears plainly to have been a proverbial saying, delivered down from their forefathers, and perhaps taught them from their cradles: Enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers. Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart: out of the heart, the seat of wisdom always with the ancients. Have not they then, says he, transmitted to thee this wise lesson? That as the rush cannot grow up without mire, nor the flag without water, so neither can any thing flourish or prosper long without the blessing of Almighty God? and how should the ungodly or the hypocrite expect his blessing! One scarcely knows which to admire most, the piety of the sentiment, or the elegance and justness of the comparison. The Redeemer of mankind, who came into the world, among other great designs, to revive, by his teaching, that simplicity of manners which was so observable in those ancient times, I mean that piety, and love, and humility, and purity, and probity, and truth, and those other ornaments of the mind of man, which we see so admirably delineated throughout this book,—was pleased to choose the same method of conveying his doctrines and precepts, under the delightful style of an easy parable or similitude: but enough has been said, I hope, to vindicate the interpretation given of this passage: and I have dwelt the longer on this point, as judging it a thing of some importance in itself, as well as necessary to a right understanding of the following part of the chapter.

And prepare thyself to the search of their fathers Search diligently of the fathers for their memorial. Houbigant. The Syriac has it, and understand the histories of the fathers of them.


Verse 11

Job 8:11. Can the rush grow up without mire? &c.— A bulrush without water is proverbial. It is adapted to the hypocrite, who, while he suddenly grows up, withers as suddenly, and while he flourishes most verdantly, is immediately dried up. Can the flag, or, can the sedge. Houbigant renders the 12th verse, whilst it yet flourishes, it is not cut down; yet it withereth before any other herb.


Verse 13

Job 8:13. Whose hope shall be cut off, &c.— The thing which he longed for shall be a torment to him; and his confidence shall be as the spider's web. Heath.


Verse 15

Job 8:15. He shall lean upon his house He may prop up his house, but it shall not stand: he may make himself strong in it, but it shall not endure. Heath, after the LXX.


Verse 17

Job 8:17. His roots are wrapped about the heap Heath renders it, He windeth his roots about a spring; he twisteth himself about a heap of stones. Houbigant reads it, he has his roots involved or fixed in a hill; he adheres to the midst of stones; by which the writer seems to express the apparent firmness and worldly dependance of the hypocrite. The next verse should be rendered, according to Houbigant, But when they shall eradicate, or destroy him, his place shall disown him; it shall say, I never saw thee. See Scheuchzer, tom. 6: p. 29.


Verse 19

Job 8:19. Behold, this is the joy of his way, &c.— Behold him now; destruction is in his path; and strangers out of the dust shall spring up in his room. Heath.


Verses 20-22

Job 8:20-22. Behold, God will not cast away Lo! as God doth not cast away the perfect man, so neither doth he strengthen the hands of the wicked; Job 8:21. Therefore he will again fill thy mouth with laughter, &c. Houbigant. This appears a kind of sarcastical conclusion; in which Bildad observes, that, though the hypocrite perishes in the manner above described, yet God will never reject the good man; and therefore, if Job were really such a one, which he appears greatly to doubt, he might be assured that God's providence would remarkably display itself in his behalf.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have here,

1. Bildad's hasty reproof of Job: How long wilt thou speak these things? impatient in thy complaints, obstinate in self-vindication, disregarding the good advice that was given thee, and charging God foolishly. How long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind? rude to thy friends, and insolent against the Almighty. Note; Reviling language shews both a bad disputant, and a weak cause.

2. His vindication of God. Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice? No; the Judge of all the earth must do right. So far the truth was evident, and none would dispute it; but he was greatly mistaken in,

3. The application. He supposes Job's children wicked, and himself a hypocrite; and intimates, that the awful providences upon him were the consequences thereof. If thy children have sinned against him, which he concludes from their sudden death, and he have cast them away for their transgression, it was an act of justice. If thou wouldst seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty, notwithstanding all these heavy visitations, if thou wert pure and upright, as thou pretendest to be, surely now, without delay, would God appear to comfort and restore thee: he would awake for thee, to rebuke thy afflictions, and make the habitation of thy righteousness, in which thou maintainest thyself, prosperous; which would be the sure evidence of his approbation; then, though thy beginning was small, reduced as thou now art, yet thy latter end should greatly increase. He seems to advise him as a friend, but insinuates a strong suspicion of his hypocrisy, and makes two suppositions. [l.] That extraordinary afflictions are always the punishment of extraordinary sins. [2.] That righteousness was always blessed with outward prosperity: both which are false, and yet God's judgment and justice in no wise impeached thereby. Note; (1.) In every affliction it is good advice to fly to God for help. (2.) We can have no good hope that he will answer us, if we are conscious of our own hypocrisy before him. (3.) God's blessing can soon make a little afford a great increase. (4.) Though men call us hypocrites, if God knows our simplicity, it need little move us.

2nd, From the miserable disappointment and end of the hypocrite and ungodly, Bildad goes on to infer, that the similar effects in Job's case proceeded from a similar cause.

1. He appeals to the experience of former ages for the truth of what he was advancing, and bids Job search for the traditions of the ancient fathers in proof of his argument, as he wished not to rest the matter on their own authority, who, though men of age and experience, were but of yesterday, creatures of a day, compared with the age of those who had gone before; and knew nothing, comparatively speaking, because their days upon earth were a shadow, so soon gone, and afforded less time for the improvement of knowledge, and opportunity of observation. But if he would be at the pains to require of those impartial judges, he would, doubtless, receive satisfaction. Note; (1.) The experience of God's saints of old, recorded in the word of truth, should be diligently inquired into, and applied to our own case. (2.) We are not now, through mercy, left to precarious tradition, but have God's infallible oracles to guide us. (3.) There is a great deference due to age and experience, and, in general, to consult with these is to do wisely.

2. He illustrates his main position by a variety of similitudes. Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water? these are their nourishment and support. Whilst it is yet in its greenness, seems most flourishing, and not cut down by the scythe, of its own accord it withereth before any other herb, or in their presence, they looking on, and deriding its fall. So are the paths of all that forget God. Though planted in earth, and fed with the mire of sensual indulgencies, prosperous for a while, and flourishing; yet at best they are hollow and useless, and in a moment they wither under the blasts of God's displeasure; and the hypocrite's hope perisheth. Fair as their profession seemed, and well-grounded as their hope appeared, a day of trial, like the scorching sun, exhales the water, and, their worldly supports being withdrawn, they perish for ever; whose hope shall be cut off in black despair, and whose trust shall be as the spider's web, or house, spun from their own bowels of self-sufficient righteousness, too weak to make a cable for hope's anchor, and too thin for garments to hide the shame of their nakedness; swept away without resistance by the besom of destruction, and affording no more shelter for the soul against divine justice, than the hole of the spider. He shall lean upon his house, his prosperity, his religious profession, his moral duties, his external worship and services, but it shall not stand; tottering on the sandy foundation, it can yield the hypocrite no support; he shall hold it fast, cling to it, as the spider to her web, refusing to be beat out of his vain confidence and self-dependance, but it shall not endure; his prosperity shall fail, and his false professions be detected. He is green before the sun, like a flourishing tree, while the world smiles; or in the eyes of men he appears eminently blest, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden, strong and vigorous, and fenced on every side. His roots are wrapped about the heap, strike deep, and he seeth the place of stones, or house of stones, grow so high as to overlook the stateliest building. Such is the appearance often of prosperous iniquity, and so high the hypocrite lifts his head. If he destroy him from his place, as God assuredly will, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee: so complete will be the extirpation, that neither root nor branch will be left. Behold, this is the joy of his way, spoken ironically, this is what it comes to at last; and out of the earth shall others grow; either hypocrites, like them, who take no warning by their end; or good men, for whom the wealth of the sinner is laid up. Note; (1.) Hypocrisy among professors is the most common and deadly weed that grows in the church and garden of God upon earth. (2.) Forgetfulness of God is at the bottom of all iniquity. (3.) The self-righteous formalist, fair as he may appear without, hath his spider's poison within; and, though he pride himself in his works and duties, they will be found as unable to bear the severity of God's justice, as the spider's web to bind Leviathan. (4.) Though worldly prosperity continue long with sinners, even until death, yet then, at least, the axe will be laid to the root of the tree, and all their hopes perish.

3rdly, Bildad here sums up his discourse, confident that every man would receive from God according to his work; but, as he looked no farther than temporal rewards and punishments, and extended no view to eternal ones, his inference was utterly defective.

1. The holy and pious man God will not cast away: however great his distress might be for a season, joy and gladness would again return, and peace and plenty crown his head, to the confusion of all that hated him.

2. The evil-doers God never will help out of the pit into which they are fallen, but their dwelling-place shall be covered with perpetual desolations. Hence he puts the issue of the controversy on the return of Job's prosperity; insinuating, that the continuance of his afflictions, from which there now appeared no prospect of deliverance, would be a full evidence of his insincerity and iniquity. Note; (1.) Though here the same event cometh in some sense alike to all, it is a blessed and comfortable truth, that in eternity God's justice shall be vindicated in the everlasting salvation of the righteous, and the eternal condemnation of the wicked. (2.) Till this great day comes, we may not conclude from men's outward circumstances either God's love or hatred, but must, in various circumstances, wait patiently to know the true characters of men, and judge nothing before the time when every man shall receive according as his work is.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 8:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/job-8.html. 1801-1803.

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