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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 16

 

 

Verse 1

JOB’S FOURTH REPLY. Chaps. 16, 17.

1. Job answered and said — He replies to their heartless speeches, that there is a vast difference between the condition of a sufferer and that of his upbraiders. Their windy words have left his grief unassuaged. The conflict rages sore around him. His friends are not his sole antagonists: his startled soul sees on all sides a glaring throng of fiendish foes, into whose power God has cast him headlong. In every form of assault known to warfare the Divine Being has attacked him, until, (so he imagines,) crushed and wounded, he lies weltering in his own blood. The darkest hour, however, is one of hope. The blood of the innocent has power with God. Job’s faith, like that of Abel, is glorified in the juncture of extreme distress. It rises to the certainty that the God who is in the heights sees and feels his woes, and, conscious of this divine sympathy, he ventures to supplicate God himself, to plead with God in his behalf (ch. 17). With the grave beneath his feet, he prays for a mediator. He makes the amazing appeal to God to be his sponsor or bondsman with God. He has faith to believe that his sufferings shall not injure the cause of virtue. “A bitter feeling at the behaviour of his friends extends itself like a red thread throughout the entire discourse.” — Hitzig. See Job 16:10; Job 16:20; Job 17:2; Job 17:4; Job 17:10; Job 17:12.


Verse 2

Exordium, or introductory strophe — Job repudiates the commonplace, cheap, and heartless consolation of his friends, Job 16:2-5.

2. Miserable comforters — Literally, Comforters of trouble: sorrow-bringing comforters. The Hebrew shows an allusion to Job 15:11, “the consolations of God.” Kindred experience, keenness of sensibility, a consciousness of our own liabilities, sincerity of heart and purity of being, are elements essential to the exercise of the fullest power of sympathy. As sin gains power over a man, it lessens his sympathy for the woes of others — for sin means selfishness — living for self. Cold words are a mockery to a sorrowing heart. They are flakes of snow to an ice-bound pool. “Profound sympathies are always in association with keen sensibilities.” The comforter must feel his own liability to overwhelming distress.


Verse 3

3. Vain words Windy words. Like expressions abound in the classics. “Windy glory,” (Virgil;) “Windy people,” (Horace.) A retort upon Eliphaz for his taunting words, “windy knowledge,” Job 15:2, margin.


Verse 4

4. Heap up words Knit together words. The ministry of words is nothing without the ministry of the heart.


Verse 6

First division — A HIGH-WROUGHT DESCRIPTION OF JOB’S SORROWS, DESERTED AND PERSECUTED BY GOD, AND PREYED UPON BY FRIENDS, Job 16:6-17.

First strophe — Destitute of friends in God or man, he is forced back upon his own lamentable condition to feel that even his disease bears false witness against him, leading God to give him over into the power of his enemies, who gather around him like beasts of prey, Job 16:6-11.

6. Though If. He communes with himself as to whether he will continue the colloquy further. To speak or not to speak is all one, so far as consolation is concerned.

What am I eased — Literally, what goes forth from me? that is, his grief does not depart.


Verse 7

7. Made me weary Wearied me out.

Company Household. Same word as Eliphaz uses, Job 15:34.


Verse 8

8. Filled me with wrinkles Seized hold of me. The word kamat, in the Arabic, signifies to tie the hands and the feet; also, to bind a captive. (Schultens.) Job is bound with the “fetters” of disease, Job 13:27. These, like the fetters of a captive, may be misinterpreted into evidences of guilt, Job 10:17. Grotius, however, remarks that it is a judicial term, signifying “to bring into court as it were by the neck.” The rendering in the text is defended by some critics.

Which is a witness It is become a witness. His friends have perverted his afflictions into witnesses against him.

My leanness כחשׁי, which also signifies my “lie,” “deceit;” a metaphor similar to that of a dried-up brook, which “deals falsely,” Job 6:15 . His “emaciation” is in like manner “a false witness.” Hitzig finds in the Arabic a signification of “impotence in the hands and feet,” corresponding to the word kamat, which Job had used just before. Rising up in me, etc. — Riseth up against me, in order to bear witness against him.


Verse 9

9. He teareth His anger teareth me and warreth against me. If Job ascribe his treatment to God, (Job 16:9-14,) his language transcends all bounds of reason; but if, on the contrary, he speaks of the malice of evil spirits to whose power he has been for a time delivered, it is nothing more than what might be expected from their diabolical nature, which is best imaged in the wildness and cruelty of the brute creation. Raschi, Cocceius, Adam Clarke, Tayler Lewis, and others, think that Job speaks here of Satan with his mocking fiends.

Gnasheth… with his teeth — Such expressions appear often in the classics.

Sharpeneth his eyes — An expression still in use in the East. The eye is here compared to a sword, or, as others suppose, to the fierce, fascinating gaze of the lion as he is about to pounce upon his prey.


Verse 10

10. They have gaped upon me — As in many other instances, the subject of the sentence is left unexpressed. The thought is thus rendered more solemn and emphatic. See note on Psalms 22:13; also Luke 6:38 — “Shall they give.” The text speaks of a company of fiends, whether human or diabolic, who crowd around the sufferer jeering and maltreating him.

The description bears a striking resemblance to that given of Christ, who in many respects was the antitype of Job. (Psalms 22.)

Smitten me upon the cheek — “To smite the cheek is the deepest insult that can be offered to an Asiatic.” — Lord Valentia.


Verse 11

11. Delivered Hurled, cast head-long.

The ungodly עויל, the evil one, ο πονηρος, Matthew 13:19 . The word is in the singular number, and seems to denote the same being of whom mention is made in chaps. 1, 2.


Verse 12

Second strophe — Notwithstanding Job’s life of purity, God has maltreated and persecuted him even unto death, Job 16:12-17.

12. I was at ease — Our ungrateful nature has only a word, שׁלו, “at ease,” for years of prosperity, but dwells at length upon months of affliction.

By my neck — As a beast does his prey.


Verse 13

13. My reins — The kidneys. “The Scriptures bring the tenderest and the most inward experience of a manifold kind into association with them.” — DELITZSCH, Bib. Psychology, pp. 317-319. Here, in strong figurative language, cutting affliction cleaves the kidneys asunder; language akin to that of our own, “a broken heart.” The psalmist supplicates God to try his reins and his heart, (Job 26:2.) The ancients said the reins give counsel, but the heart carries it into execution.

My gall upon the ground — Used figuratively; the Hebrew doctors understand it literally, and say that Job was sustained in being by a miracle.


Verse 14

14. Breach upon breach — In the preceding verse the human body was compared to a target pierced through and through with arrows; it is now compared to a citadel of strength which the besiegers have breached again and again.

Giant Warrior.


Verse 15

15. Sackcloth — This cloth was of a coarse texture, generally of goat’s hair of a dark colour, with armholes, and shaped like a sack. It was commonly worn over the coat, in place of an outer garment, and thus served as a symbol of distress; but in extreme cases it was worn next to the skin, (2 Kings 6:30,) having been sewed tightly upon it, “like crepe upon a hat.” — Barnes. Dr. Good cites from Menander, the Greek poet: —

Following the Syrian plan

They then wear sackcloth, and by the public road

Sit upon a dunghill, επι κοπρου, in humblest guise,

Appeasing thus the Deity’s dread ire.

See note, Job 2:8. My horn in the dust — The horn, the defence and adornment of many animals, has ever been regarded in the East as a symbol of strength and dignity. Job’s degradation might well be compared to that of some noble animal lying dead, with its horn thrust (‘holalti) into the dust. Some think Job here speaks of the head, which it was customary to cover with dust in times of affliction; with which agrees the Syriac rendering of my head.

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Verse 16

16. Foul with weeping Inflamed by the heat of the tears.

Shadow of death — The Iliad frequently has the expression, “The cloud of death surrounds his eyes.”


Verse 17

17. Not for injustice — The Hebrew is the same as in Isaiah 53:9. where the words are spoken of Christ. Read, Though there be no violence in my hands.

Second division — JOB’S HOPE IS IN THE GODHEAD — THE GOD WHO SEES HIS GRIEFS SHALL TREAT WITH GOD IN HIS BEHALF, Job 16:18 - Job 17:9.


Verse 18

First strophe — God, the witness of the innocent blood which his own wrath hath shed, cannot but plead with God for justice, though man, the victim, be in the article of death. Job 16:18 - Job 17:2.

Job’s faith again appeals from God as he seems, to God as he must be.


Verse 18

18. Cover not thou my blood — He speaks of his sufferings under the figure of blood that has been wrongfully shed. “Blood,” says Grotius, “denotes every kind of immature death.” The ancients attributed to blood, unjustly shed, a cry that excited God to vengeance; an opinion which may have sprung from the case of Abel, Genesis 4:10. “When the earth covers the blood of the slain it seems to cloak injury.” — Drusius. See also Isaiah 26:21; Ezekiel 24:7-8. The Arabs say the dew of heaven will not descend upon a spot watered with innocent blood; and their poets fancy that the poison of asps distils from the dead body of the slain, and continues to do so till he is avenged, that is, sprinkled with fresh blood. (See HERDER, Hebrews Poetry, 1:195.) Job will have nothing to do with a human goel; he transfers his cause to a divine being (Job 19:25) who he believes will finally avenge his blood.

No place — In sense of resting place.


Verse 19

19. Record שׂהד, attestor. Schultens and Lee derive from the Arabic a meaning of eyewitness. The Septuagint renders it joint witness — Συνιστωρ. The translation of Cranmer, “and He that knoweth me is above in the height,” accords with that of Luther. The witness is plainly not documentary, (record,) but a person.


Verse 20

20. My friends scorn me מליצי רעיis almost invariably rendered, My scorners are my friends. But the word melits, in its root, signifies not only to “mock,” but “to speak in a foreign tongue,” (Gesenius,) whence the meaning of interpreter, intercessor, which is the rendering it bears in the other places where it occurs, (Genesis 42:23; 2 Chronicles 32:31 margin; Job 33:23, and Isaiah 43:27 margin;) also in the Targum peraklit, “advocate.” This leads Arnheim, Carey, and Prof. Lee to read it, “My interpreter is my friend,” and to argue, not so reasonably, that it refers to the promised mediator. To the objection that both words are in the plural, it is replied that this is an instance of the plural of majesty — the use of a word in the plural to express the idea of exaltation — as in Isaiah 54:5, “Thy Maker is thy husband,” where both words also are plural. The ever-ready assumption that the context demands “scorners” is not altogether satisfactory.


Verse 21

21. Oh that one might plead — Better, O that He (God) would plead for man with God, as a son of man for his fellow. ויוכח, weyokahh, argue, plead, is rendered by Schlottmann, Ewald, and others, do justice; by Delitzsch, decide; by Wordsworth, Carey, etc., plead. See note Job 9:33 . The German mind has caught a glimmering view, as “through a glass, darkly,” of the blessed purport of this passage, thus: “God is regarded as a twofold person, an adversary, and at the same time an umpire;” (Hirtzel;) and “Job appeals from God to God.” (Delitzsch.) “With melancholy quaintness [!!] Job says, God must support me against God.” — Umbreit. Melancholy there may be, but there is nothing quaint in human needs; for they are as deep as the soul and old as fallen man. Job’s burdened soul was not the first that has poured itself forth in sighs that God might plead with God in its behalf. In the falling tears of Job, germinant with words of hope, faith sees the bow of promise — an indirect prophecy of that advocacy which in after times was revealed as existing in Christ. The grand essential features of the Christian scheme are here in outline — man’s need of a superhuman mediator — that this mediator must be co-equal with God — and that our hope of mediation is in the Godhead itself — all based upon the postulate which appeals to the universal heart, that kindred nature is vital to successful mediation: “As a son of man pleads for his fellow.”


Verse 22

22. Few years — Literally, years of number. His life he conceives is now near its end; its few years are past, and soon he shall go the way from which “no traveller returns.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 16:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-16.html. 1874-1909.

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