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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 11

 

 

Verse 1

ZOPHAR’S FIRST ADDRESS.1. Then answered Zophar — Eliphaz had modestly confirmed his views by an appeal to the revelation of a spirit; Bildad, by recourse to the wisdom of the ancients; Zophar, the youngest of the three, relies upon himself. “At first,” says Jahn, “his discourse is characterized by rusticity; his second address adds but little to the first; and in the third dialogue he has no reply to make.” The other two friends had looked upon Job’s sufferings as the chastenings of God, rather than punishments. Zophar, on the other hand, regards them as solely punitive. The address opens with painful vituperation, but proceeds in noble language to describe the infinite wisdom of God — a wisdom that comprehends and arraigns the human heart. In contrast man at best is, as Zophar says, but hollow-headed and perverse from his birth. With beautiful imagery he portrays the happiness and security of the just, and concludes, like Bildad, with the doom of the wicked.


Verse 2

First division, double strophe — THE APPEARANCE OF GOD WOULD MAKE KNOWN THE TRUTH THAT JOB HAD BEEN TREATED MUCH MORE MILDLY THAN HE DESERVED, Job 11:2-6.

a. Job’s false and boastful assumption of innocence. Job 11:2-4.

2. A man full of talk — Literally, a man of lips. A sneer at Job for loquaciousness, or an insinuation, perhaps, that he is insincere, a man of lips rather than of heart. Theocritus called an oration of Anaximenes a river of words with a drop of sense.


Verse 3

3. Thy lies — The Hebrew also means babblings, boastings. “To say or to suggest that a man lies, is, with us, enough to kindle the weakest spirit, and is, with many, a murderous affront, while an Oriental will listen to the coarsest imputations of falsehood with an undisturbed countenance.” — KITTO, D. B. Illus. The present stage of the debate would hardly justify so offensive a word as that of the Authorized Version, lies. Zophar has in view such expressions as Job 9:21; Job 9:35; Job 10:7.


Verse 4

4. Doctrine is pure — Not that he had used just such an expression, but this was the quintessence of Job’s speech.


Verse 6

b. Would that God might appear, even as Job desired, for then the divine insight would disclose Job’s deep guilt, and the many transgressions which still remained unpunished. The danger to Job lies not in God’s almightiness, as he claims, but in the deeps of God’s manifold knowledge, Job 11:5-6.

6. The secrets of wisdom — Prof. Lee devotes several pages to showing that the wisdom referred to is Christ, who is called the wisdom of God. This is one of the many instances which commentators upon this book furnish of forced spiritual interpretations.

Double to that which is — Michaelis and Dillmann render it, “double to (man’s) wisdom,” that is, God’s wisdom vastly exceeds ours: (Gesenius, p. 704:) others, “because there are complications of his wisdom;” that is, it is complicated, occult, inexplicable, and at the same time varied and infinite. Zockler’s reading is preferable “that it (wisdom) is twofold in true knowledge.” כפלים is dual in form, but used absolutely for manifold — fold upon fold! Compared with God’s, all human wisdom is vain, because one-sided. For the rendering of the difficult word toushiyyah, true knowledge, see Job 5:12; Job 12:16. God exacteth of thee, etc. — Literally, God brings into forgetfulness to thee a part of thy fault; (Furst, Dillmann;) God remits to thee of thy guilt. This is evident from the smallness of Job’s sufferings compared with his deserts. God is as infinite in mercy as he is in knowledge. “He forgives more than he punishes.” (Comp. Psalms 103:10.) The truth is a precious one, but as applied to Job it was offensive.


Verse 7

Second division, double strophe — THE PERFECTION OF DIVINE WISDOM NECESSITATES AN IMMEDIATE AND COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEART, Job 11:7-12.

a. God’s wisdom is unsearchable — heaven, hell, earth, and sea may be measured, but this divine wisdom knows no limits, Job 11:7-9.

7. By searching find out God — Furst, Zockler in Lange, etc., read, “Canst thou reach the deep things (depths) in God;” but Umbreit, Hit-zig, (die Forschung Gottes erreichen,) Hengstenberg, etc., read substantially as in the A.V. The former interpret החקר, the depths of God. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:10, τα βαθη, the depths of God. The latter translate it, the searching of God, (Eloah,) either of which meanings the word will bear. The most satisfactory reading of the text is that of Delitzsch, Canst thou find out the nature of God — “The hidden ground of God,” (Ewald,) a reading favoured by the Hebraic order of the words. To attribute to hheker the idea of search savours too much of tautology. Simonides, asked by Hiero what God is, desired a day to deliberate. When questioned the next day, he asked for two more; and after this doubled the days, until Hiero, wondering, again asked for his answer, when he replied, The longer I consider, the more obscure the subject appears to me. And Cicero declares, if asked the same question, he should follow the example of Simonides. — De Nat., i, sec. 22. (Compare Romans 1:19-20 . Meth. Quar. Revelation, 1869, p. 173, and In Memoriam, sec. 123.)

Almighty unto perfection — Thus Conant, justified by the parallelism and the accentuation. Others interpret it, “Penetrate to the uttermost parts in the Almighty,” (Dillmann and Zockler,) a harsh reading; “canst thou arrive at the limit of God, “(Wordsworth;) “canst thou reach the perfection of the Almighty,” (Davidson and Hitzig,) both of which are questionable. (See a sermon by Archbishop Tillotson on “The Incomprehensibleness of God.”)


Verse 8

8. High as heaven — Literally, the heights of heaven! The wisdom of God towers above the heavens; penetrates beneath the depths of sheol, (the underworld;) in length and breadth it surpasses earth and ocean. The apostle in like manner describes the perfection of love by giving the four dimensions “breadth, length, depth, and height,” (Ephesians 3:18,) the dimensions of a cube, which in the apocalypse stands as the symbol of perfection; Revelation 21:16. “The Pythagoreans represent the divine nature and every kind of perfection and completeness by a square.” — Heyne. The Fathers saw in this description of wisdom the similitude of the cross. Their idea J.F. Meyer thus reproduces: “Its head uplifts itself to the throne of God, and its root reaches down to hell. Its arms stretch from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, and from pole to pole. In it heaven and earth are united, in it appeased.”


Verse 9

9. Longer than the earth — Firdusi, Persia’s epic poet, exclaims: “The height and the depth of the whole world have their centre in thee, O my God! I do not know thee, what thou art; but I know that thou art what thou alone canst be.”


Verse 10

10. If he cut off, etc. — If he pass by, and arrest and call to judgment, who will restrain Him? (Dillmann, Umbreit, Delitzsch.)

Cut off Pass by. The word hhalaph, to glide by, used also of the spirit in the vision of Eliphaz, Job 4:15, expresses the solemn stillness of the Divine Spirit as he moves among men, arresting this one and that one, and calling them to their final account. Not only in this word hhalaph, but in the whole verse, there is an evident, perhaps ironical, reproducing of Job, (Job 9:11-12,) who is there the assailant of God’s justice, but now its presumable victim.

Gather together קהל, is used for the calling together of the people to take part in a trial, and in the inflicting of judgment. The ancient trials were in public.


Verses 10-12

b. If consequently such divine wisdom suddenly arrest and irresistibly drag a sinner to judgment, even a witless man must become wise, and though refractory as the foal of an ass, learn subjection and restraint, Job 11:10-12.

Job had dwelt on the irresistible power of God; Zophar now assails him with both the wisdom and might of God, and whips him with his own words.


Verse 11

11. Will he not then consider it — Literally, Even though he does not fix his mind upon it. (Gesenius, Hitzel, Dillmann.) He hath no need that he should consider for a long time, (Aben Ezra.) He sees wickedness at a glance — nay more, it is a necessity of his being that he should perceive all wickedness, whether of the overt act or of the most secret subtle thought. Man’s most hidden deeds and God’s knowledge of them are simultaneous.


Verse 12

12. For And or so. The transition of thought is, according to Hirtzel, “Over against this infinite knowledge of God man appears as a born fool.” Its drift, rather, is to show the effect of the divine arraignment upon men — meaning Job — who shows himself so ready to refer his case to God. This verse contains several ambiguous words, and has given rise to a great variety of interpretations. Thus Gesenius, Olshausen, and others: “But empty man is devoid of understanding, and (like) the foal of an ass man is born.” Others interpret it: “Before an empty man will become wise, a wild ass would be born a man.” (Oehler, Delitzsch.) Others yet, (Schultens and Dathe:) “Let, then, vain man be wise, and the wild ass’s colt become a man.” The rendering of most moderns approaches that of our translators, though with a modified sense. So would a witless man become wise, and a wild ass’s foal be born a man. In other words, were God to summon him before his tribunal, the most senseless man must get understanding, and the wildest and most stubborn sinner (here compared to a wild ass) become a man. “We have here,” says Hengstenberg, “the first passage of Scripture which speaks of a regeneration.” In the expressions, naboub, “hollow” (headed,) and yillabeb, “get wisdom,” (literally, heart,) there is, as Hitzig has remarked, a play on Job’s name, Iyyob, a personality which Job appreciates. See note on Job 12:3. “The void in his head is to be filled up, as it were, by a new heart.”

Vain man נבוב, hollow-headed. The word is used of a pillar. Jeremiah 52:21 . Wild ass’s colt — This is evidently a proverbial expression, and as such is still used by the Arabs, who employ the terms, “an ass of the desert,” or “wild ass,” to describe an obstinate, indocile, and contumacious person. — KITTO, Pictorial Bible. “A young wild ass is the wildest and roughest of creatures.” — Wetzstein. Among classic writers Oppian describes the ass as “swift, rapid, with strong hoofs, and most fleet in his course.” Thus Confucius: “The Master said, Men all say, ‘We are wise;’ but being driven forward and taken in a net, a trap, or a pitfall, they know not how to escape. Men all say, ‘We are wise,’ but happening to choose the course of the mean, they are not able to keep it for a round month.” — The Doctrine of the Mean, section 7. Plato introduces the poets as “mentioning man’s predisposition to vice, and saying: —

How vice at once and easily we choose,

The way so smooth, its dwelling, too, so nigh!

Toil before virtue, thus forewilled the gods.”

Republic, ii, chap. 7.


Verse 13

Third division, in three strophes: AN EXHORTATION TO REPENTANCE AND NEWNESS OF LIFE, Job 11:13-20.

a. Repentance toward God, and the putting away of sin, are the conditions of spiritual confidence and security, Job 11:13-15.

13. Prepare… heart — Zophar has just spoken (Job 11:12) of “getting a heart,” (becoming wise,) but this is not to be secured without the putting forth of effort. As if the pointed reference were not enough, the emphatic thou defines whom he meant by the cruel taunt of the preceding verse.

And stretch… thine hands — The stretching out of the hands toward heaven in prayer was a very ancient and appropriate mode of worship. It symbolized an earnestness of desire that would not be satisfied with folded arms or hands, but that stretched them forth toward heaven as far as possible, as if it would drag a blessing down. Or, as Witsius, (on prayer, page 93,) suggests, it may denote sincerity, the attribute being that of one who would lay open what was hid. Or it may indicate hope, which relinquishes every other object and turns to God.


Verse 14

14. Tabernacles — The word tent, in course of time, was used for dwellings of any kind. It is quite certain that Job dwelt in the country. See Job 29:7.


Verse 15

15. Lift up thy face — He refers to Job’s remark, (Job 10:15,) “I will not lift up my head.”

Without spot ממום . The Septuagint gives the sentence: “For thus shall thy countenance shine again as pure water.” In the Arabic the word is applied to fever spots and marks of cutaneous disease. There is, apparently, a cruel allusion to the effects of Job’s disease upon his countenance.

Steadfast — The word in the original is used of metal that has been melted and consolidated.


Verse 16

b. Then the sorrows of the present shall be forgotten in the brightness of future life, Job 11:16-17.

16. Waters that pass away — He probably alluded to Job’s figure, (Job 6:15-17.) His grief, now so tumultuous, shall subside as completely as the waters of the mountain torrents. Of the wadies, or beds of such torrents, which are perfectly dry in the summer, Wilson, in his Lands of the Bible, enumerates eighty-five; while Ritter in his Geography speaks of as many as two hundred. Note Job 6:16. The figure is strikingly appropriate. Affliction is not like the river that flows on forever, but is like a torrent that rages for a brief winter day, and vanishes with the rising of the summer sun. God’s love has ordained that “the excess of grief makes it soon mortal.” But we are not to forget the law of the human mind, that leads it to take pleasure in remembering sorrows when they have once gone beyond the power of return. The joys of heaven will be heightened by the remembrance of life’s troubles, and the retrospective vision will be none the less bright that we can still see the rivers through which we have passed, (Isaiah 43:2,) though they be but dim lines in the distant vista. A few lines in the spectrum suffice to tell the make of clouds and storms as they still sweep over the surface of the sun. Thus shall the clouds and storms of life appear when once we have entered our heavenly home.


Verse 17

17. Thine age, etc. — Brighter than the noonday shall thy life arise. חלד, life, human life, because it glides so swiftly away. (Thus Gesenius, 474.) Thou shalt shine forth, etc. — Rather, (Thy) darkness shall be as the morning. “If there be any dark shade it shall be only that of the morning twilight.” Though Job’s darkness shall have been like the inconsolable gloom of sheol, with which his speech had closed: even this shall be like the morning — serene and hopeful. “Job’s climax in Job 10:22, was that his daylight should be as darkness; Zophar’s promise is, that his darkness shall be daylight.” — DAVIDSON.


Verse 18

e. Beneath this noontide glory Job shall dwell with ever-increasing honour, secure against any dark forebodings of ill, Job 11:18-20.

18. Dig about thee חפר, “search about,” (Ewald, Dillmann, etc.,) to see that all is right — an uncalled-for weakening of the sense. Rosenmuller, etc., give it the sense of “being ashamed;” many others retain its ordinary meaning of dig, (Job 3:21 ;) for instance, “the fields,” (Furst,) or, “a well,” (Dr. A. Clarke.) Our translators had the true sense of digging for protection. Thus Hengstenberg.


Verse 19

19. Lie down — The image is Oriental, and is derived from flocks or herds in a state of repose. (Psalms 23:2.)

Make suit unto thee — Literally, stroke thy face, that is, caress thee; (Proverbs 19:6;) hence, to entreat the favour of one. It is commonly used of the worship of God, and besides, only of the respect paid to men high in position.


Verse 20

20. They shall not escape Refuge vanishes from them. Like “the fleeing shores of Italy,” it is in sight, but never reached.

The giving up of the ghost — Or, The breathing forth of life. The downfall of the wicked is beyond recovery. Zophar seems to advert to Job’s ardent desire for death, (Job 6:9;) as if he would say, thus the wicked die; and thus, without repentance, Job will die. The sting of the scorpion was in the tail, Revelation 9:10; the last words of this address are tipped with a sting, its climax of bitterness is now reached. “Eliphaz barely appended a slight warning; Bildad briefly blends it with his promise by way of contrast; Zophar adds a verse which already looks like the advanced picket of an army of similar harsh menacers in chaps. 15, 18, 20.” — Ewald.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 11:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-11.html. 1874-1909.

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