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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 15

 

 

Verse 1

The Second Stage of the Controversy.

Chaps. 15-21.

SECOND ADDRESS OF ELIPHAZ.

1. Answered, etc. — Eliphaz, who was the first speaker in the first circle of debate, now urges that the talk of Job was not only as unprofitable as an east wind, but really destructive to all piety. He taunts him with assuming a monopoly of wisdom such as could only have been gathered from some prior existence or from the council chamber of God. To convince Job of the folly of his arrogance, he alludes again to the revelation he had himself received, from which Job may learn that man’s place in the scale of righteousness is lower even than in that of wisdom. His own observation agreed with the sentiment of an ancient poem, that there is a perfect scheme of retribution in this world. The prosperity of the wicked man is only apparent. He lives a life of anguish; his fields are covered with blasted fruit; he reaps the vanity he has sown. The view of Eliphaz is limited by the theorem that suffering is an evidence either of a guilty life or an impure heart.


Verse 2

First division — JOB’S SPEECHES SUBSTANTIATE HIS GUILT, Job 15:2-19.

First strophe — His discourses are distinguished for inane vehemence, destructive godlessness, and low cunning, Job 15:2-6.

2. Vain knowledge — Literally, windy knowledge. See note Job 16:3.

His belly — The sense of the Hebrew beten is best expressed by the Arabic, el battin, which signifies that which is within. In a mystical sense, it means the inmost being, in which were united, as Orientals believe, all the powers of mind, body, and spirit.

East wind — See Job 1:19. This wind was exceedingly violent and destructive, and is frequently used in the prophets as an image of desolation and emptiness.


Verse 4

4. Thou castest off Makest void.

Fear — The fear of God is the life of every form of religion. It is the keystone of the arch that upholds the morals of a people, and all that is dear to man. Irreligion, as the word signifies, is the unbinder; it gradually perverts the affections of the soul from the love and pursuit of things true, just, pure, and lovely; (Philippians 4:8;) it loosens the ties of society by removing the sense of responsibility to God; in fine, breaks the divine bond that binds the yearning God to a salvable soul. Eliphaz charges upon Job false principles, and reasons that these must spring from the neglect of religion.

And restrainest — Literally, lessenest. According to Eliphaz, Job’s theory, that God treats the righteous and the wicked alike, renders prayer unnecessary. It strikes a blow at the most universal of the institutions of religion. Not to pray is to do violence to nature. “The flow of prayer is just as natural as the flow of water; the prayerless man has become an unnatural man.”

Prayer — Hebrew, meditation, the fruitful source of prayer.


Verse 5

5. Uttereth יאל Š, (yealleph,) teacheth. Iniquity is the grammatical subject of the sentence, which should read, For thine iniquity teacheth thee. Iniquity was his oracle — “an oracle of transgression,” נאם פשׁע, (Psalms 36:2,) a kind of demon, in the inmost recesses of the heart, whispering the dialect, (the alephs,) the abc’s of evil.

Crafty ’Haroum; the same word is used of the serpent in Genesis 3:1. The use of this comparatively rare word may have made it an offensive echo of the preceding thought. “Job plays the part of a thief, who, when accused, strives to criminate his accusers.” — Ewald.


Verse 7

Second strophe — Ironical questioning as to the possible modes by which Job had attained to such superior wisdom and self-sufficiency that he could discard divine consolations imparted through his friends, Job 15:7-11.

7. Art thou the first man — Literally, Wast thou born the first man? Art thou an Adam still alive, having gathered all the treasures of wisdom — the experience of many centuries? In India, Mr. Roberts tells us, a pertinacious opposer is asked, “What! were you born before all others?” “Yes, yes, he is the first man: no wonder he has so much wisdom.”


Verse 8

8. Hast thou heard — Literally, Hast thou heartened in the council of God. “Wast thou present at the secret council of God at the creation.” (Targum.) After the manner of an Oriental monarch, God is represented as engaged in consultation with his counsellors upon important questions relative to his moral government. The intensest irony introduces Job as a listener, a kind of eavesdropper.


Verse 10

10. The grayheaded — He probably refers to himself. The Targum applies the term gray-haired to Eliphaz; aged, to Bildad; and older, or greater in days, to Zophar.


Verse 11

11. Consolations of God — Such as he and his friends administered.

Small with thee Too little for thee, great and “wise in thy own conceit.”

Is there any secret thing with thee — Literally, and the word so gentle with thee. (Hitzig.) Is that, also, too small for thee. The word לאשׂ, so gentle, is used in 1 Kings 21:27 of the slow gait of a mourner, and in Isaiah 8:6 of the gentle waters of Shiloah, “that go softly.” God’s words are words of tenderness. The affection and the wisdom of God are seen in the adaptation of his revelation to the heart, no less than to the mind, of man. “The Bible fits into every fold of the heart.” It is God’s book because it is, in the tenderest sense, man’s book. God’s yearning over man is the lesson of its every page. He who holds over our world the atmosphere, like a veil that the severest rays of the sun may be toned down, has modified his revelation to every heart; so that the blind may see, the despairing take heart, the guilty find pardon, and the dying live.


Verse 12

Third strophe — The fundamental error with Job is his ignorance of the true character of sin, Job 15:12-16.

12. Thy eyes Why do thy eyes twinkle? Job’s impatience at the hypocritical assumption of his friends must have manifested itself through the flashing of his eyes.


Verse 14

14. Born of a woman — The words of Job are now turned upon him, and give point to the citations Eliphaz makes from his wonderful revelation, Job 4:17. Job’s admission “born of a woman,” (see note Job 14:1,) justifies Eliphaz in seizing again his fallen weapon — “Job a sinner.”


Verse 15

15. Saints Holy ones. See Job 5:1. The belief in a defection among the angels was very ancient. Thus in the Veda, as extracted by Sir Wm. Jones, (vol. vi, page 418,) “But what are they? Others yet greater.… companies of spirits… have we seen destroyed. But what are they? Others still greater have been changed — even the sufees, or angels, hurled from their stations.”

The heavens — The blue heavens, with their glittering stars, have ever been an emblem of purity, but, compared with God, they are not clean. Most commentators, however, regard the word as a trope for “the hosts of the heavens.” But this is needless.


Verse 16

16. How much more Much less is he, the abominable and filthy man, that drinketh iniquity like water. Man’s pollution seems the greater by contrast.

Abominable נתעב . Man is a being detestable because of his corruption. The original implies both. The more pure a nature is, the more it loathes moral corruption. An infinitely pure being regards it as infinitely abominable.

Filthy אלח, to be muddy, dirty, spoken of water; hence, to be corrupt in a moral sense. (Furst.) The word in the Arabic means to turn sour, as in the case of milk or wine. The same word is used in Psalms 14:3 ; Psalms 53:3.

Drinketh iniquity like water — It is supposed by Dr. Good that this is a “proverbial expression, with a direct allusion to the prodigious draught of water swallowed by a camel.” A custom connected with the Arabic dance, described by Burckhardt, favours this view. In the exclamations with which the men standing in line animate the girl who dances, they do not address her by name, which would, according to Bedouin etiquette, be a breach of politeness, but style her “camel,” affecting to suppose that she advances toward them in search of food or water. This fiction is continued during the whole dance. “Get up, O camel,” “walk fast,” “the poor camel is thirsty,” and similar expressions, are used on the occasion. — Notes on the Bedouins, 1:254. The expression of the text, considered from any point of view, indicates an exceeding fondness for sin. Semper nitimur in vetitum, “We always strive for the forbidden.” (Ovid.) Evil takes the form of thirst. This thirst is abnormal — it conflicts with man’s entire being. Its indulgence only increases its power; the more the soul drinks of evil the more it demands. “In divine speech water is the hieroglyphic for abundance.” — Corderus. The soul drinks iniquity abundantly. Everywhere this holds true of man: “No one is born without vices.” — Horace, Sat., Job 3:1. Society, education, custom, manners, civilization, may do much to disguise the diseased condition of the soul, but it is everywhere man’s inalienable heritage, though the soul be, in the words of Sakuntala, (Sanscrit drama,) “like a deep well whose mouth is covered over with smiling plants.”


Verse 19

Fourth strophe — The remarkable fragment out of the experience and wisdom of the ancients which Eliphaz is about to recite in confirmation of his own views as to the miserableness of the wicked, he thinks is worthy of the more consideration, because of the purity of the race-stock by whom it has been preserved and transmitted, Job 15:17-19. The strophe is transitional.

19. The earth The land. Eliphaz boasts, like a true Ishmaelite, that his ancestors had kept their land against the intrusion of strangers, and their blood free from foreign commixture. Hence their doctrines and faith were more trustworthy because unalloyed. With Arabs even at the present day, purity of blood is the highest nobility, and a guarantee of superior wisdom. An unmixed Temanite was necessarily a wise man. See note Job 2:11, and Delitzsch, 1:259.

Rosenmuller suggests that Eliphaz means to insinuate that Job’s belief had been corrupted by association with the Chaldaeans and Sabeans; and he might have added the Egyptians, for Job makes more frequent allusions to their customs than to those of either of the others.


Verse 20

20. Is hidden — Rather, That are reserved, for the oppressor. His life is prolonged, but with the intention of punishment. Years of splendour have no power to allay his trouble — it lies deep within, where God and the soul come together. Hence the word conscience, which implies a second and divine party to the knowledge and punishment of sin. In its maturest form the compunction of conscience becomes remorse, with its meaning of to bite back upon the soul. Eliphaz uses a figure common in the East when he compares the gnawing of conscience to the pains of childbirth. In the Greek language, the term wickedness, (πονηρια,) in its root, signifies labor, misery, and the Hebrew word for sin ( עון ) means misfortune and punishment. (See note, Job 3:17.) A most remarkable letter was that of Tiberius Cesar, monarch of the world, (Luke 3:1,) to his Senate, commencing in these words: “What to write you, Conscript Fathers, or in what manner to write, or what altogether not to write at this juncture, if I can determine, may all the gods and goddesses doom me to worse destruction than that by which I feel myself consuming daily.” — TACITUS, Annals.


Verses 20-35

Second division — THE WISDOM OF PRIMITIVE AGES INCULCATED THE DIVINE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED IN THIS PRESENT LIFE, Job 15:20-35.

First strophe — Notwithstanding external appearances, fear and anxiety torment the wicked their entire life, Job 15:20-24.

The remainder of the chapter appears to be a fragment of some ancient poem. Clericus supposes that these maxims originated among the Joktanidae, or pure original Arabs. (The queen of Sheba is believed to have been of this people.) The deepest interest gathers about this poem, which is evidently of very high antiquity.


Verse 21

21. Dreadful sound Sound of terrors.

In prosperity In (time of) peace. The words of Horace (Odes, Job 3:1) are in place: Post equitem sedet atra cura — Behind the knight sits dark care.


Verse 22

22. Darkness — Destruction is represented by the figure of night.

The sword — Metaphorical for the wrath of God. The same poet (ibid.) speaks of the naked sword suspended over the impious neck of the tyrant.


Verse 23

23. Where is it אוה . This word, differently pointed, may signify vulture, (γρυψιν, Septuagint,) which leads Merx to render the passage, “He wanders about to be the food of vultures.” Better the text, with its outcry “where?” The one touch of the pencil paints the confusion and despair of famine. “He sees himself in the mirror of the future reduced to beggary.” — Delitzsch. The imagination — that faculty by which we form images, real or unreal — is a powerful agent which God uses for the punishment of men in this present life.


Verse 24

24. Trouble and anguish — These are personified as leaders of a formidable force of troubles. They loom forth, kings armed for the battle.


Verse 25

Second strophe — Titans in impiety, they not only rushed madly against God, but fattened themselves upon the ruin of the innocent. If their punishment be aggravated it springs from aggravated sin, Job 15:25-30.

25. Strengtheneth himself Boasteth himself. The first reason given for his wretched doom is his stiff-necked hostility to God. (Job 15:25-26.) “When all vices flee from God, pride alone opposes itself to him.” — Boetius.


Verse 26

26. On his neck With his neck, (with neck erect — Vulgate, Furst,) as a combatant rushes upon his adversary. Upon the thick bosses, etc. — The central and projecting part of the shield, which was made thick and strong. The use of the word shield or buckler, in the plural, may denote the joining of shield to shield, thus forming what the Romans called a testudo, from the likeness of the linked shields to the scales of a tortoise. Schultens cites an Arabic proverb, “He turns the back of his shield:” denoting that such a one has become an enemy.


Verse 27

27. Maketh collops of fat on his flanks — Literally, he maketh (gathereth) fat upon his loins. Job 15:27-28 contain the second reason for the destiny of the wicked, “his contentment on the ruin of another’s prosperity.” — Delitzsch. The misery of others does not trouble him, he grows fat in its midst. The words are rank with the corruption of human nature. The Greeks had a word, επιχαιρεκακια, (ARISTOTLE, Ethics, 2:7, 15,) which appears also in the German, schadenfreude, signifying the joy which man feels in the sufferings of others. The text sets before us the anger of Heaven at the contemplation of a self-complacent, bloated sinner, “the fatness” upon whose “face” has been made out of the destruction of others — a pampered human spider, surrounded by his gray web, lined with the refuse of many a gory feast. Isaiah 5:8; Habakkuk 2:5; Habakkuk 2:12. The two rich men of whom Christ speaks will recur to the reader. (Luke 12:18; Luke 16:19.)


Verse 28

28. No man inhabiteth — Literally, which they should not inhabit for themselves. This “wicked man’s” defiance of God is manifested, as some think, by his preferring to dwell in cities that God has cursed. In blasphemy he chooses the ruins of a Sodom, Jericho, Tyre, or Babylon. This impiety is the more conspicuous as the people of the East have ever shrunk from inhabiting places on which they believe the frown of God rests. The Arab at the present day, as Consul Wetzstein informs us, hurries through the city of el Hijr (Medain Salih) without looking round, and muttering prayers, as does the great throng of pilgrims to Mecca, from fear of incurring the punishment of God by the slightest delay in the accursed city.


Verse 29

29. Neither shall he prolong the perfection, etc. — Their substance (riches — Furst) bendeth not to the ground. (Hirtzel, Stickel. etc.) The image is drawn from a tree whose branches bend with their weight of fruit.


Verse 30

30. Dry up his branches — The figure is of a lofty tree which has been scathed by fire.

By the breath of his mouth — The breath of God’s mouth gave him life. God breathes in his wrath and it gives him death — he goes away. Where?


Verse 31

31. Let him not trust in evil; he is deceived, for evil shall be his reward. (Conant and most moderns.)

Recompense — Literally, exchange. The word translated vanity signifies also evil, or sin and destruction. For sin the wicked man gets destruction. Let him not be deceived, for this is the exchange he makes. Galatians 6:7.


Verses 31-35

Third strophe — The evil in which they trusted is its own recompense: its chief characteristic — vanity, שׁוא, (nothingness, abortion,) — is the blossom and fruit of their whole being, Job 15:31-35 .

The conclusion which Eliphaz means Job should draw is — all the godless are miserable, therefore the most miserable (Job) are the most godless.


Verse 32

32. Accomplished before his time — Literally, In not his day it (the exchange) is fulfilled. The wicked man dies prematurely. The day he dies “is not his appointed day.” — Dillmann, Hirtzel. See note, Job 14:5. Compare Psalms 55:23. Branch The top branch (of the palm.)


Verse 33

33. Cast off his flower as the olive — “The olive is the most prodigal of all fruit-bearing trees in flowers. It literally bends under the load of them. But then not one in a hundred comes to maturity. The tree casts them off by millions, as if they were of no more value than flakes of snow, which they closely resemble. So it will be with those who trust in vanity.” — Land and Book, 1:72.


Verse 34

34. The congregation of hypocrites The household of the impure.

Desolate — The figure is of a rock, hard and barren. Fire is often employed in the Bible for the wrath of God.


Verse 35

35. Deceit — This word is but the refrain of the entire address of Eliphaz — Job is self-deceived.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 15:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-15.html. 1874-1909.

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