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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 19

 

 

Verse 2

Introduction — Even suppose there should be error, it is sad enough for Job that he bear its consequences, without being perpetually and maliciously reminded not only of his error but of his shame, Job 19:2-5.

2. Bildad’s repeated how long, (see chap. 18,) Job hurls back with an indignation which is reflected in an exaggerated “ten times” of the next verse.


Verse 3

3. Ten times — Used for many times. Thus Maimonides: “He who profaneth the name of God in the presence of ten Israelites, behold, he profaneth it in the presence of many.” Or it may stand as the number of human possibility, says Delitzsch, from its being the number of fingers on the two hands of man.

Make yourselves strange to me — Ill-treat me. (Dillmann.) Stun me. (Zockler.)


Verse 4

4. Remaineth — Literally, Passes the night, תלין, with me. The busy and absorbing scenes of the day divert the mind from its errors, guilt, and wretchedness. At night, left to itself, the soul becomes the prey of thought and of the remindings of conscience. Amid the darkness, conscience asserts her supremacy, and lords it over the man. What of the man, if the night be forever protracted! An inscription on an Assyrian tablet (in the British Museum, K, No. 44) gives an invocation to the fire-god: —

God of fire, with the bright fire, In the house of darkness, light thou establishest.

…To the wicked in the night, the causes of trembling art thou.

The works of man, the child of his God, do thou purify.…


Verse 5

5. And plead Then prove. If ye will look down upon me in pride, it is incumbent upon you by good arguments to prove against me shamelessness of deed or of life. Reproach, in the original, is the sense of shame which sin brings in its train. The Hebrew has no stronger word for shame than — חרפה . Some make this verse a question.


Verse 6

6. Overthrown me — Others read, perverted, wrested me.

With his net — The net was frequently used in ancient warfare for the purpose of entangling, and thus more easily destroying, an enemy. Kitto (Pict. Bible) cites an instance in history (about 600 years before Christ) of a single combat between the commanders of the Athenian and Mitylenean forces; the latter (Pittacus, one of the famous seven sages) concealed behind his shield a net, in which, throwing it suddenly, he entangled the Athenian general, and easily slew him. “Bildad had said that the wicked would be taken in his own snares. Job says that God has ensnared him.” — Elzas.


Verses 6-20

First division — NONE OTHER THAN GOD COULD BE THE AUTHOR OF SUCH CALAMITIES AS THOSE THAT HAVE BEFALLEN Job , vv6-20.

First strophe — Job admits that it is impossible that a calamity bearing such marks of design (comp. Job 19:6 with Job 18:8-10) — one, too, so complete and overwhelming — should have proceeded from any other than God, who consistently turns a deaf ear to his solemn appeals, Job 19:6-12.

Satan so contrived the misfortunes, and especially the disease, of Job, as to convince him that they must be the work of God, hoping the more assuredly to wreck his faith. See note on Job 1:15, and Job 19:21.


Verse 7

7. Of wrong Behold, I cry aloud, “Violence!” and am not answered.

Habakkuk 1:2.


Verse 8

8. See note on Job 3:23.


Verse 9

9. The crown — Though not a king, Job’s former state was truly regal.


Verse 10

10. Destroyed נתצ, a word in common use for the pulling down of buildings.

Removed Uprooted. By these figures Job expresses complete destruction.


Verse 11

11. One of his enemies — Hebrew, his foes; not one, but several. God treats him as if he were many enemies in one.


Verse 12

12. Gives the three stages of a siege: invasion; the throwing up of a mound; and, finally, complete investment. In their attacks on walled places both the Assyrians and the Egyptians used to cast up mounds or “banks.”’ 2 Kings 19:32; Isaiah 37:33; Jeremiah 32:24. These not only enabled the besiegers to push their battering rams up to the fortress, but at the same time to scale its walls. The judgments of God, subjecting man to extreme suffering, are often spoken of under the figure of a siege. Isaiah 29:3.


Verse 13

Second strophe — God’s treatment of Job has resulted in the alienation of his friends of every grade, so that the menials of his house now treat him with contempt, Job 19:13-20.

13. My brethren — Umbreit cites an Arabic proverb, “The brother — that is, the true friend — is only known in time of need.” Job specifies six different phases of friendship, or classes of friends, whom his sufferings had alienated: in general, his brethren, (Job 6:15;) his “knowers,” “confidants,” (acquaintance;) his kinsmen. “near ones,” (Psalms 38:11 :) “those familiarly known,” (familiar friends,) Job 19:14; sojourners in his house, (Job 19:15;) and finally, bosom friends. (inward friends,) Job 19:19.


Verse 15

15. They… dwell in mine house — Delitzsch understands them to be domestics or vassals.


Verse 16

16. My servant — Probably a head servant, as in Genesis 24:2.

With my mouth — The mouth that had been accustomed to command now entreats.


Verse 17

17. Though I entreated, etc. — Now generally translated, I am offensive to the sons, etc. The Hebrew is equivocal in meaning. (See below.) Job’s disease was no less offensive to the sense of sight than to that of smell. It is to the latter sense he may now refer.

Children — Some suppose he refers to his grandchildren, as his own children were believed to be all dead. But as the word rendered body signifies also womb, others think that he speaks of his own full brothers, that is, brothers by the same mother. Tayler Lewis renders the passage thus: “My temper, רוחי, [in the sense of religious faith.] to my wife is strange — my yearning for the children that she bare,” and devotes a long note to its defence. This rendering of חנותי agrees with the Arabic version, “My longing is for, or, I yearn after, the children of my body.” Such a sense is justified by the Arabic hhanan, signifying “to be moved by affection, either maternal or paternal,” as in Schultens, (i, 474,) who illustrates by the exceeding fondness of the camel for her young. It establishes a satisfactory parallelism, and removes the difficulty connected with the subsequent words of the verse. It is observable that Job makes no mention of his children except here and in Job 29:5. Their tragical death rendered the subject too painful for speech. In one of the Arabic poems of the Moallakat we have, “The unkindness of relations gives keener anguish to every noble breast than the stroke of an Indian scimitar.” It is said of Job’s great antitype, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” John 1:11.


Verse 18

18. I arose — The original intimates difficulty in so doing. The boys ridicule the efforts he makes to arise.


Verse 19

19. Inward friends — Literally, men of my counsel, that is, bosom friends.


Verse 20

20. The skin of my teeth — In the last stages of the disease (elephantiasis) the tongue and the gums are attacked, and the mouth filled with ulcers so as to render continuous speech impossible. This terrible infliction he has (he means to say) thus far escaped. The Germans call the gums zahn-fleisch, tooth-flesh, which, indeed, is the rendering Hitzig gives. An old English physician (Smith) in his “Portrait of Old Age,” (p. 69,) had hit upon the true sense of this passage. “There are two parts of the teeth: the basis and the radix, that is, the part which eminently appears white above the gums; this is that part which is within the gums, and stands fixed in the mandibles. Now, by Job’s skin or covering of his teeth, it is apparent he meant the gums which cover the roots of the teeth.” Wordsworth unnecessarily regards it “as a proverbial paradox.” Job is now in extremis. In the preceding chapter, while yet he could, he chanted his requiem. The next stage of his disease means death. There is but the skin of his teeth between him and sure destruction.


Verse 21

21. Touched me נגע, naga’h. The leprosy was called the stroke (nega’h) of God. (See note Job 2:8 .) The most touching appeal of the leper is, even at the present day, in vain. Though he be the greatest personage, he is removed at least a mile or two from the encampment, where a small black hair tent is put up for him, while an old woman who has no relations living is given him for a nurse until he dies. No one visits him, not oven his nearest relations. He is cast off as muqatal Allah, “slain of God.” — Wetzstein.


Verses 21-27

Second division — THE PITEOUS APPEAL JOB MAKES TO HIS FRIENDS FOR SYMPATHY OPENS UP AN EXTREMITY OF DISTRESS, OUT OF WHICH, AS IS SO COMMON IN THE ECONOMY OF GRACE, SPRINGS A MOST TRIUMPHANT ASSURANCE OF FAITH IN GOD’S PURPOSES OF ETERNAL GOOD TOWARDS HIM, Job 19:21-27.

The intensified storm of doubts, fears, griefs, and desolation quickly retires along the sky, and discloses a bow of peace, in beauty far transcending that of nature. Taylor Lewis supposes that a pause ensued after the repeated prayer for pity.


Verse 22

22. Satisfied with my flesh — According to Schultens, to eat the flesh of another, is an Arabic phrase for calumniating him. The comparison, so common in the East, of an evil report to a wild beast devouring the flesh, appears often in the classics, and is still retained in our word backbite. Psalms 27:2.


Verse 23

23. Written — So ancient is the knowledge of writing that Pliny says “it appears to have been in use from all eternity.” It is now conceded that to the parent Semitic tribe belongs the honour to have been first in possession of this invaluable invention. The knowledge of letters comes into history through the Hebrews and Phoenicians, who, it will be remembered, are classed among the Semitic nations. These letters appear vastly more perfect than the hieroglyphic system of Egypt or the cuneiform one of Assyria. (EWALD, Hist. of Israel, 1:51; RENAN, Les Langues Sem., 1:105; WINER, Rwb. 2:421.) In remote times papyrus, (see note Job 8:11,) the skins of animals, and Egyptian linen cloth, furnished the materials on which writing was made with the pen. Books, in the ancient sense of the term, consisted of sheets of papyrus, etc., with writing on one side, and rolled around a staff. Papyrus rolls are now in existence written more than two thousand years B.C. The Turin copy of “The Book of the Dead,” written, probably, in the time of the Ptolemies, is more than a hundred feet long.

Printed in a book Inscribed in the book. Septuagint, “a book” which Merx prefers. Schultens thinks some public book is meant, in which illustrious deeds were written. Exodus 17:14 speaks of writing a memorial in the book, הספר . Taking one of the root meanings of this word, sepher, to scrape or shave off, Havernick insists that the word is used of no other writing materials than skins of animals. There would be, however, no more reason for pressing the prime meaning of the Hebrew for “book” than that of חקק, printed; which signifying to cut into, hew into, would demand some more solid material than that of parchment. The book of which Job speaks may have been of wood or of some kind of metal. Very recently there has been discovered a copy of an extraditionary treaty between Rameses II., king of Egypt, and a prince of the Hittites. This is described as having been engraved by the latter upon an oblong tablet of silver, of which the Egyptian text gives the figure. It was surmounted by a ring which must have been used for suspending it. (M. CHABAS, Voyage, etc., p. 345.) Among the early Canaanites there was a very important city called “the Book City,” Kirjath-sepher, Joshua 15:15 . This was, probably, a city of the Hittites. Pliny (xiii, 21) speaks of the preservation of public documents in leaden volumes. Folding wooden tablets were employed for the same purpose even before the time of the Trojan war. (Iliad, 6:169.) The native city of Hesiod honoured his memory by engraving one of his poems on tablets of lead. (Pausanias, Job 9:31.) Very possibly Job refers to clay tablets or cylinders, such as have been discovered in modern times at Nineveh, on which the work is so minute and exquisitely wrought that the aid of a magnifying-glass is requisite to ascertain the terms of the letters. See LAYARD, Nineveh, 2:186; 3:345.


Verse 24

24. Since ink, parchment, and metal may perish, Job desires that the momentous truth he is about to utter may be chiseled into the rock; and, that the characters may be forever legible, he would have them filled in with lead. A gradation of thought is intended, as Holemann has indicated — first the writing, then the inscribing in a book, and last the chiseling into the rock forever. Rocks abound in the East bearing inscriptions not only of historical events, but of legal precepts, prayers, etc. While no one knows that the wish of Job was ever fulfilled, his precious thoughts stand recorded upon the rock of heavenly truth. Generation after generation have gazed with wondering and trusting hearts upon these imperishable lines, and thus shall it be so long as rocks and mountains stand.

THE INSCRIPTION — JOB’S CONFESSION OF FAITH.

Such is its momentousness that we give the Hebrew with a literal translation, and in the reverse order, as in the original: —

חי | גאלי| ידעתי| ואני

living (is) | my Redeemer | I know | And

יקום| עפר- על| ואחרון

shall stand | on the dust | the last.

And זאת- נקפו| עורי| ואחר

this they destroy | my skin. | And after

אלוה| אחזה| ומבשׁרי

God | I shall see. | And from my flesh

לי| אחזה| אני| אשׂר

for myself | I shall see. | I, | Whom,

זר - ולא| ראו| ועיני

and not another | behold, | And my eyes

בחקי | כליתי| כלו

within me | my reins. | Are consumed


Verse 25

25. For I know — “For” — and. It is not uncommon in the classics to commence a distinct poem or treatise in like manner. (OVID, Amos 3:8; PROPERTIUS, Job 1:17.) Ewald pertinently renders it but, in the sense of “Yet whereto other thoughts?” Or it may be used in a manner similar to the οτι of classic and N.T. Greek, which is often redundant before citations and declarative sentences. (Comp. THAYER’S Buttmann, pp. 245, 274.) And I, I know. The “I” stands forth with prominence as if to express the personal identity of the entire man. No one of the constituent natures answers to the “I” but all — body, mind, and spirit together — constitute man. Thus in Job 19:27, “Whom I, I shall see for myself.” I know — By degrees has Job been rising to this wondrous sunlight of faith. There has been all along not only a progress of doctrine, but a steady advance in faith. He has sighed for a daysman (Job 9:33) who might intercede for man with God. (Job 16:21.) The fearful struggle in the fourteenth chapter disclosed, for the miserable service in sheol, gleams of hope that God would bring it to an end. (Job 14:14.) Still horrors and doubts have “compassed him about” until, in agony, he cries out to God that he himself should be his sponsor with himself. (Job 17:3.) And all this time his “attester in the heights” (Job 16:19) has kept silence. But now the clouds vanish, and he cries triumphantly aloud, I KNOW my Redeemer liveth, etc. It is to be remembered that from this time forth we hear no more of the gloom of sheol, or of dismal doubts concerning the state of the dead.

My Redeemer — Hebrew, Goel. The prime meaning of the verb is loose, set free. There is no word that, better than redeemer, expresses the fourfold duties of a goel or kinsman. On him devolved, first, the recovery of the lost possession of a kinsman; (Leviticus 25:25;) second, the deliverance of a kinsman from bondage; (Leviticus 25:48-49;) third, the avenging of the violent death of a kinsman; (Numbers 35:12;) fourth, care for the widow of a deceased and childless kinsman; (Deuteronomy 25:5.) See vol. 3:308, 314. Christ is our nearest kinsman. Through his veins coursed a tide of blood in common with that of our entire race. The extremes of our race unite in him — however remote the circle of humanity, its radii all centre in him. Each human being can lay claim to a relationship to this divine Goel as close and tender as that which bound the brothers and sisters of Jesus to himself. (Matthew 13:56.) He stretches his arm of protection over our whole life, and draws to his heart each sorrowing child of Adam.

Liveth — (Is) living. “He ever liveth,” “hath life in himself,” “in him was life.” Job’s Redeemer would be pre-eminently a living one. “Life, in the Hebrew and Semitic languages, is a more complete idea than being.” — Dillmann.

He shall stand — The posture of Christ in great emergencies. (Acts 7:56.) Faith sees its future champion standing upon (not rising upon) the dust, as some would read the clause. The attitude is one of firmness, dignity, and endurance, like that of the angel of the last day. (Revelation 10:5.)

At the latter day upon the earth — Though Merx and others render אחרון at the latter, at last, it is plainly a substantive: —

The last (Gesenius, Michaelis, Zockler, etc.) It is an attribute of Deity (Isaiah 48:12) which Christ assumes to himself, (Revelations Job 1:11,) and to which the apostle alludes (“the last Adam”) in his description of the resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:45.)

The earth The dust. That into which the dead body moulders; hence the “dusty death” of the classics. Shall the dust (dead body: De Wette) praise thee? (Psalms 30:9.) Ewald and Merx read, instead of “upon the earth,” “on (my) grave.” a sense justified by the frequent use by Job of “dust” for the grave. (Job 7:21; Job 10:9; Job 17:16; Job 20:11; Job 21:26; Job 34:15.) The expression dust is peculiarly elegant in view of man’s origin and destiny. (Genesis 3:19.) In the Arabic the tomb is called turbe, dust.


Verse 26

26. And after my skin — That is, when my skin is no more. “After” can only be a preposition (See Hirtzel in loc.) If, as some prefer, it be read adverbially, we shall have, And after they have thus destroyed my skin. But there are greater difficulties in this than in the reading of the Authorized Version.

Destroy this — So many and varied are the agencies that destroy the body that they are not enumerated. The Orientals, however, were of the opinion that worms were the principal cause of its destruction. They say — according to Roberts — that the life is first destroyed by them and afterwards the body. The word נקפ, in the Piel rendered destroy, in the Arabic (nakafa) signifies to smash or crush the head. It is one of the most powerful words in the Semitic languages to express complete destruction.

This — Though not expressed, the allusion is evidently to the body.

Yet — “Yet” ( ו ) is adversative. (See Nordheimer, 2:294.)

In my flesh From my flesh. The word min, from, is supposed by some to mean without; apart from, and is thus given by Conant, Zockler in Lange, Ewald, etc. But Pusey and Perowne are right when they say that מן can no more, of itself, mean “without” than our word “from.” At the same time, the grammatical construction justifies the sense of in. Thus Rosenmuller, Kosegarten, Welte, Clarke, Carey, Noyes, Wordsworth, etc.: also the Vulgate, the Targum, (Walton’s rendering,) etc. The use of the word min, from, in the sense of in, is by no means alien to the Hebrew. This is especially the case in connexion with verbs of speaking, hearing, seeing, etc. The place from which the observer looks is invariably connected with the verb by the word from. A like remark holds good of the other senses. (GESENIUS, Thesaurus, p. 804.) Thus Sol. Song, (Song of Solomon 2:9,) “he looketh forth at,” (literally, from,) “the windows.” Comp. 2 Chronicles 6:21. Eastward, i.e., in the east, (Genesis 2:8,) is literally from the east. Besides, Job freely uses at least five other prepositions to express without, either one of which would have been better to convey the idea of without than the min before us. For instance, (Hebrew text,) Job 4:11; Job 4:20-21; Job 6:6; Job 7:6; Job 8:11; Job 24:7; Job 24:10; Job 30:8; Job 30:28; Job 31:19; Job 31:39; Job 33:9; Job 34:6; Job 34:20; Job 38:2; Job 38:41; Job 39:16; Job 41:33. Thrice, indeed, elsewhere in Job, min occurs in a privative sense, (Job 3:19; Job 11:15; Job 21:9,) which, however, can hardly be regarded as parallel cases. If Job speaks of beholding God with his bodily eyes after that body has been destroyed, it must be from a new body. The subsequent beholding of God with his eyes, (“mine eyes,”) identifies it with the body he then had, the body to which he had before pointed with the deictic this. The unbiased interpretation of this passage discloses substantially the elements of the doctrine of the resurrection, even though their full meaning may have been hidden from Job. See Excursus V.


Verse 27

27. Whom I — See note on Job 19:25.

Mine eyes — If the sight of God be solely that of the disembodied spirit, as many think, the expression “mine eyes” is superfluous and misleading. The six preceding Hebrew words four times disclose the same thought, that he, the identical person, after death, shall see God. If the sight be not a bodily one, the introduction of “mine eyes” is a solecism, a descent in thought, and a blemish upon the inscription. The eye is the frailest, most delicate, of the members of our physical frame — among the first to succumb to decay, and yet it is to be the medium through which the soul shall enjoy the sight of God. If God’s promise cover the eye it suffices for our entire dust.

Behold — The Hebrew, exact in the use of his language, employed חזה see (twice above) for mental vision, and for the sight of such objects as were subjected to the mind without the senses, such, for instance, as visions and oracles. (Numbers 24:4; Numbers 24:16; Ezekiel 12:27; Habakkuk 1:1,) while ראה, behold, was used of sight as an act of the senses. “The preterite raou, rendered behold, after the future ‘I shall see,’ is the perfect of certainty or futurity;” (Zockler) in like manner Delitzsch, Ewald, etc.

And not another — According to Gesenius, Stickel, Hahn, etc., “another” is the object of the verb. Thus Dr. Clarke: “Not a stranger, one who has no relation to human nature, but my redeeming kinsman.” Many others, however, (Zockler, Hengstenberg, etc.,) make another or stranger the nominative of the verb, and read, not a stranger, who would have no interest in the beatific sight, but himself, (now the alien, the rejected of God, then no longer a stranger,) shall behold him in his capacity of divine Goel. The words correlate with “mine eyes.” They are words of ecstatic triumph, and form the transition to the last clause of the inscription.

Though my reins — Neither the though of the text nor the when of Conant is justifiable. The reins, which were regarded as the seat of the deepest affections, consume within him (see margin) from intense longing for the realization of such a sight of God. See Excursus ix, p. 285.

Conclusion — Inspired by the vision of faith, Job not only ceases to be a supplicant for pity, but faithfully warns his persecutors that continued maltreatment of the unfortunate must provoke the wrath of Heaven, 28, 29.


Verse 28

28. But ye should say If ye say. “How shall we persecute him, and the root of the matter is found in me?

The root of the matter — The cause of the whole trouble; that is, his guilt and sin.


Verse 29

29. Be ye afraid — A continuation (the apodosis) of the preceding verse.

The punishments of the sword עונות means iniquities, which in this case deserved the punishment of the sword, succinctly called “sins of the sword.” With the Hebrew the sword was the symbol of the divine judgments, (Job 15:22, Deuteronomy 32:41; Psalms 7:12, etc.) It was also the insignia of the judge, and pointed to the judgment he executed. The last two Hebrew words stand as the equivalent, as well as the outcome of the first, “wrath.” The sense, then, is not far from that of our translators, wrath is, or bringeth, death. By “wrath” Hengstenberg understands that wrath of God, which visits capital misdeeds — those which deserve the sword. See note on Job 36:18. A judgment שׁדין, a compound word, the first letter of which is an abbreviation of אשׁר, signifying that. Ewald’s objection, that such a compounding of words would be solitary in our book is invalid, since a like use of the pronoun appears once in Deborah’s song, (Judges 5:7,) and only once besides in the same book, (Judges 6:17 .) Dillmann’s reading, “Almighty,” would require a radical change of the word. Divine judgments await the wrong doer here, and serve as so many indices of the judgment to come. “If there were no other argument for a life to come, SIN would furnish one never to be refuted.” The incomplete punishment of sin in this life necessitates punishment in the next.

EXCURSUS V.

THE INSCRIPTION.

This memorable passage has given rise to more comment, and probably to a greater division of sentiment, than any other in the Old Testament Scriptures. The history of these opinions does not lie within our scope, except to remark in general that the olden faith, that these lines referred to the Messiah and the resurrection of the body, has, to a great extent, given place in modern times to the view that the deliverance was altogether confined to this life, and that the earnest desire of Job was answered by the disclosure of Deity at the end of the debate, a view which is shared by such commentators as Albert Barnes, Stuart, and Noyes. More recent interpreters, however, incline to the opinion that Job speaks of a vision of God after death; though these do not for the most part acknowledge the teaching of a resurrection of the body. The question of Job’s faith in such a resurrection is so closely allied to the other question, of his belief in the existence of the soul after death, that the admission of the one seems quite to involve that of the other. J.J.S. Perowne, who doubts that the passage alludes to an after life, admits, “most certainly if there be any expression here of a hope reaching beyond this world, then there can be no doubt, I think, that Job looks for a resurrection, not merely for a future life.” — HULS. Lec. on Immortality, p. 80.

I. The evidently great importance, in Job’s estimation, of the inscription. Job desires that it should be chiselled into the rock, and in such a manner as to endure forever. The temporal theory, which looks to the vindication of Job’s character and the restoration of his loss, fails to present us an inscription with a purport worthy of such high consideration.

The experience of the Church in all ages proves that the vindication of character in this life, and the restoration of temporal loss, are not of so much consequence in the divine estimate. The Scriptures assume, rather, that loss and ignominy are incidental to the life of the good man, and that restitution and vindication are to take place in the life to come. It is of more importance that the moral government of God in this world should be vindicated; a demand that can be met only in a future life, comprehending within itself redemption for the entire man.

II. The natural impression that the language, literally interpreted, makes upon the mind. Mr. Barnes concedes that the language which is used is such as would properly describe the coming Messiah and the future resurrection of the dead. “This,” he says, “is undoubted, though more so in our translation than in the original; but the original would appropriately express such an expectation.” This may account for the marked unanimity among the ancient interpreters of this passage. Although the Septuagint, in the opinion of some, is of doubtful meaning, its rendering is, “For I know that he is eternal who is about to deliver me, and to raise up upon the earth my skin (the Codex Alexandrinus has σωμα, body) that endures these” (sufferings.) The Targum, the Vulgate, Clemens Romanus, Ephraim, Epiphanius, Augustine, and many others of the fathers; of more recent Continental interpreters, Schultens, J.H. and J.D. Michaelis, Rosenmuller, Kosegarten, Pareau, Welte, and Velthusen; and of English commentators, Adam Clarke, Good, Hales, Carey, Pusey, Wordsworth, and others; have seen in this inscription either a prophecy of, or an allusion to, the resurrection of the dead. The objection that nothing is said in reply to the startling thoughts of Job may be met by the consideration that no reply is made to other startling expressions. as those of a Daysman, (Job 9:33.) hope within sheol, (Job 14:13-16,) and advocacy of God with God, (Job 16:21.) The objection would be equally good against any possible interpretation of the inscription, for there is no direct reference made to it in the replies of the friends. It confessedly stands out alone — a vein of golden ore in the adamantine rock.

In the earlier ages truth was given in fragments. It was isolated, succinct, compressed, not unlike the utterances of oracles. The reader will be reminded of the gospel given in the garden, the prediction by Enoch of a judgment to come, the promise of Shiloh, and the prophecies through the Gentile Balaam. They who thus became agents for the transmission of divine truth may have failed to comprehend it in all its bearings, but the truth is on that account none the less rich and comprehensive. In the living Goel who shall stand upon the dust, Job may not have seen Christ in the fulness of the atonement; nor in the view of God “from the flesh,” have grasped the glories of the resurrection morn; but the essential features of these two cardinal doctrines of Scripture are there, identical with those we now see in greater completeness; even as the outlines of a landscape, however incompletely sketched, are still one with those of the rich and perfected picture.

Dr. Green wisely remarks that “the resurrection of the body was probably not present to Job’s thoughts, certainly not in the form of a general and simultaneous rising from the dead. And yet it is so linked, seminally at least, with our continued spiritual existence, and it is so natural, and even necessary, for us to transfer our ideas of being, drawn from the present state, to the great hereafter, that it may perhaps be truly said that the germs of the resurrection may likewise be detected here.” — The Argument, etc., p. 216.

III. The structure of the language. The keenest dissection of the sentences shows that there is nothing in the words themselves incompatible with a rudimental hope of the resurrection. The exegesis of the present day, as we have seen, accords to them the hope of immortality. The concession, we believe, carries with it the entire bulwark. “When Job says that with his own eyes he shall behold Eloah, it is, indeed, possible by these eyes to understand the eyes of the spirit; but it is just as possible to understand him to mean the eyes of his renewed body… and when Job thinks of himself (Job 19:25) as a mouldering corpse, should he not by his eyes, which shall behold Eloah, mean those which have been dimmed in death, and are now again become capable of seeing?” — Delitzsch, 1:371. Those who reject the doctrine of a resurrection are confronted with serious difficulties in the expressions “from my flesh” and “mine eyes.” They who confine the interpretation to the idea of immortality do grammatical violence to the former of the two expressions, “from my flesh,” (see note, Job 19:26,) — and the tautology is not to be overlooked, since he has just before uttered the words “after my skin” — and at the same time they are constrained to spiritualize the latter — “mine eyes.” Job having spoken once and again of the “I” who shall see God, the expression “mine eyes” appears to be expletive, unless he means the eyes of his body after its death. Then, too, we have “upon the dust,” “after my skin,” and “not another,” each of which expressions are excrescences upon the passage if we accept either the theory of deliverance in this life, or the spiritual beholding of God in the life to come. An insignificant and jejune inscription is the rock on which, an the one side, the temporal theory must split; while on the other, the superfluities in an inscription confessedly epigrammatic, make the Charybdis in which those critics who spiritualize the passage must founder. In other words, if the proposed inscription means merely the present life, it is hardly worth inscribing; if it have no idea of a resurrection it has so much that is superfluous, that it is at war with itself; it seems pruned to the utmost degree, and compacted, and yet at the same time is weighed down with redundancies.

IV. The scope of the context. During the course of the debate, Job has frequently given utterance not only to his despair of life, but to a passionate longing for death, (Job 6:8-12; Job 7:15; Job 10:18-21; Job 17:11-16.) Continued life entails inexpressible wretchedness. Therefore he digs for death more than for hid treasures. The glowing descriptions of brighter days that adorned the discourses of his friends sound to him as words of mockery, (Job 16:20; Job 17:2.) This very chapter speaks of his utter destruction, (Job 19:10.) It is, he stays, like that of a house fallen into ruins or a tree plucked up by the roots. Life no longer enters into his estimate. He had at times caught a glimpse of another life. His eye of faith had seen that the gloom of sheol could not last forever. The voice of God should surely call the sentinel from his dreary post, Job 14:13-16.

We are prepared for any notes of triumph from the welkin of a life to come, and even to see Job “plant the flag of victory over his own grave.” — Delitzsch. But here to talk of mere temporal life, (vain and barren in its best estate,) of compensation for loss, and an avenger of blood, is as much out of place as “the bloating of sheep and the lowing of oxen “at Gilgal. 1 Samuel 15:14. The view into the dark grave, by contrast reminds him of the view of God on its other side; and site sight of his loathsome body naturally suggests the hope that the time of its renewal should come, and that from his body he should yet see God.

V. The ancient and wide-spread belief in a resurrection, or more properly, a re-vivifying of the body. The objection has been strongly urged against the evangelistic interpretation of this passage that the dogma of a resurrection is of more recent disclosure than the time of Job. This objection now quite disappears beneath the accumulating light of our age.

It now appears that the most ancient of the civilized nations enjoyed high religious light. Frequent discoveries are made of religious truth in what appear most barren fields, which prove to be nuggets of gold from wastes of sand. With almost every Pagan people, the nearer we approach the fountain head of history the purer seems the knowledge of divine things. The history of very ancient nations — and we can hardly except the early Hebrew — records a loss of spiritual truth.

The following hymn, addressed to the mediator, God, (see Excursus iv,) taken from the Assyrian tablets, transmits the faith of the ancient Akkadian and of the later Chaldean-Babylonian on the subject of the resurrection: — “Great lord of the land, king of countries, eldest son of Hea, who dost lead (in their periodic movements) heaven and earth — great lord of the land, king of countries, god of gods, servant of Anna and Moulge, (that is, of heaven and earth,) the merciful one among the gods — the merciful one who dost raise the dead to life: O Silik — mouloukhi, king of heaven and earth, king of Babylon…strengthen heaven and earth… strengthen death and life.… Thou art the favourable Colossus. Thou art he who quickens. Thou art he who makes to prosper — the merciful one among the gods, the merciful one who raises the dead to life.” — LENORMANT, La Magie, etc. Compare George Smith’s Assyrian Discoveries, 202, 203.

In the proximity of Idumaea was another great people with whom the immortality of the soul had ever been a cardinal doctrine of faith. Even if most of the Semitic races of Arabia, Babylonia, and Phenicia, while retaining other spiritual knowledge had lost that of the resurrection of the body, Egypt, it now appears, possessed it, though in a modified form. With the Egyptian, in contradistinction even to the Hebrew, the body was the subject of anxious consideration after death. Its preservation, as all will admit, was for some reason essential to the weal of the soul. (See note, Job 3:14; also BUNSEN, Egypt’s Place, etc., 4:651.) In the fable of Osiris it was taught “that the souls of dead persons, whose bodies had been properly embalmed, descended into hades [the invisible world, see Excursus on Sheol] in the boat of the setting sun; and that after some long period, during which they had many trials to undergo, they would rise again perfectly pure to reunite with the body in the boat of the rising sun. Abydos then took its name, which means ‘the city of the resurrection,’ because at the time it was the highest point up the river to which the valley had been explored, and therefore the place where, according to the fable, the resurgent souls would first reach Egypt. It was, moreover, the doctrine of this fable that Osiris reigned supreme (both as god and king) over the entire destinies of the bodies and souls of the dead. He especially presided over the resurrection. Therefore it was that his city was named Abydos, the city (or place) of the resurrection.” — OSBURN, Monumental History of Egypt, 1:332.

“The deceased was to be resuscitated after this subterranean pilgrimage: the soul was to re-enter the body again to give it movement and life, or, to use the language of Egyptian mythology, the deceased was to arrive finally at the boat of the sun, to be received there by Ra, the scarabaeus god, and to shine with a brightness borrowed from him.” — LENORMANT, Ancient History, 1:321. “In general, the greater part of the funereal ceremonies, the various wrappers of the mummies, the subjects painted on the interior or exterior of the coffins, have reference to the different phases of the resurrection, such as the cessation of the corpse-like rigidity, the reviving of the organs, the return of the soul.” (Ibid., 1:311.) Compare chap. clv and clxix of the Book of the Dead, in the latter of which occurs the prayer, “Make his soul in his body again,’ etc.

The Vedas now satisfy the student that the Aryan race — between whom and the Semitic there was originally intercommunication of religious light as well as perhaps a primeval oneness of language — had some knowledge of a resurrection, though probably not so full and clear as that of the Egyptian and the Assyrian. “It is incontestable,” says Burnouf, (Essai sur le Veda, p. 438,) “that all ancient India believed in the possibility of the resurrection of the dead.” For the formula of the resurrection, see ibid., 436, 437.

The ancient Persian has been supposed by the Rationalists of the day to have been the great depository from which Job gained his ideas of Satanology; and, later, Israel its knowledge of the resurrection. On this account they have been disposed to ascribe a later origin to the book of Job. But the Parsee now seems to have been less enlightened than either the Egyptian or the Assyrian. On the cardinal doctrines just referred to, Job appears to have had fewer points in common with the Persian than with his other neighbours. Those well qualified to form an opinion deny that there are any traces of the resurrection in the Avesta — the sacred books of the Parsee. (See HARDWICK, Christ and other Masters, 2:426.) If Job had not some distinct conception of the revivifying of the dead body, he, the most enlightened of the Gentile world, and evidently possessed of a wide culture, falls below his contemporaries and neighbours, both Egyptian and Assyrian. If he had such knowledge, the words before us — the marvellous inscription — can be interpreted on no other hypothesis than that of a communication of his faith, which infinitely outshone that of any ancient religion whose light still lingers among men. The faith according to which the patriarchs lived and died, (Hebrews 11:13,) probably embraced a belief in the future reunion of soul and body. Joseph certainly could not have been ignorant of this marked feature of Egyptian lore. This is manifested in his remarkable care for his own mummy, “his bones,” which he commanded to have buried with his brethren in the land of promise and hope. (Hebrews 11:22.) The sun of a primeval revelation shed its light upon the human race as a whole; and Hebrew, Idumaean, Egyptian, and Assyrian enjoyed its quickening power, though subsequently in different degrees, because of the darkening and destructive influences of idolatry, into which some of them sank. If the seventh from Adam, of a line prior to the select Abrahamic race, overlooked the centuries and beheld the Lord coming to judgment, (Judges 1:14,) it is not unreasonable to suppose that the patient sufferer of Uz may have overlooked the grave and seen the same Lord standing triumphantly upon the dust of an entire race, and summoning soul and body to renewed and united life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 19:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-19.html. 1874-1909.

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