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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 23

 

 

Verse 1

JOB’S SEVENTH REPLY, Job 23, 24.

1. Then Job answered — In response to the touching exhortation of Eliphaz, calling him to prayer and holy living, Job pleads that his great misery is that he cannot find God. East, west, north, and south Job had earnestly sought God, but he seemed to hide Himself, lest, hearing his cause, love of righteousness should compel him to absolve his servant. Job’s consciousness of integrity — the thought that if tried he should come forth like gold from the furnace — buoys him up as he contemplates the absolute and unchangeable Arbiter of his fate. Chap. 24. He abruptly takes up again the line of thought pursued in the twenty-first chapter, with the question why it is, if God appoints days of judgment for the wicked, that his servants do not see them. On the contrary, God’s eye constantly rests on oppressors of every hue, who everywhere trample upon the defenceless poor, the groans and cries of whom cease not day nor night. Beneath the same Eye murderers and adulterers riot in the unholiest works of darkness. Instead of manifesting himself for the deliverance of the innocent and the punishment of the guilty, he grants these malefactors either an euthanasia, a quick and easy death, or else he lengthens out their life till at last, like ripened grain, they drop into the grave. Nowhere else are the perplexities of the divine government exhibited in so vivid colours; perplexities that now, as then, defy all human solution.


Verse 2

First division — THE OBVERSE AND PERSONAL SIDE OF THE MYSTERY OF EVIL — GOD CONDEMNS INNOCENT SUFFERERS.

The resource for calumniated Job would again be to refer the mystery of his lot to God for solution; but He of set purpose hides himself behind the veil of arbitrary will, lest he should be constrained to deal justly with his suffering servant, chap. 23.

First strophe — Could Job have access to God, he would elaborately prepare, and earnestly present, his case, Job 23:2-5.

2. To-day — Ewald thinks that the controversy was continued for several days. The sublime allusion to the stars; in the address of Eliphaz, points to the night as the time of its delivery. There may have been a considerable interval between the discourse of Eliphaz and the reply of Job. Hence the emphatic גם, “also, or again to-day.”

Bitter — Or, rebellion, for such his friends accounted his complaint. His complaint, he admits, is still rebellious.

My stroke — Literally, my hand, that is, God’s hand. Job (Job 19:21) had spoken before of the hand of God as the source of his affliction. Happy he who can call God’s chastening hand “my hand.” Hitzig and Delitzsch read, My hand lieth heavy upon my groaning, thus rendering על, upon, rather than with the sense of a comparative. Job’s groaning is due to the heavy hand of God. “The hand upon me presseth forth my sighs.” — Stickel.


Verse 3

3. Seat Tekounah. Its root signifies to prepare. The Scriptures represent God as seated when administering judgment. The seat or throne where God hearkens to man is one specially prepared, and is, therefore, a throne of grace. From the false verdict of his friends Job again makes his appeal to God. The Divine Being, who might easily hear his plea and adjudicate his cause, withdraws himself. For reasons known only to God, Job, like his Saviour, is left to drink the cup alone.


Verse 4

4. Order — Set in order. Job 13:18. Used also of the drawing up of an army. Judges 20:22.

Second strophe — Regerminant faith leads Job to trust that God yet would look propitiously upon him, but the hope is dispelled by the counter thought that God hides himself from all human search. Job 23:6-9.


Verse 6

6. Will he plead against me — Rather, Would He in great power contend with me? No! surely He would have regard to me.

Would put שׂים, place, fix, is elsewhere, as here, used without leb (heart or mind) when plainly required by the context. Job 24:12 ; Job 34:23; Isaiah 41:20. Could he but find God, Job is confident that He would not overwhelm him with His awe; on the contrary, He would give heed to him — “fix his mind upon him.”


Verse 7

7. Might dispute נוכח, pleads, the Niphal form of the verb. With the same preposition, עם, the Hiphil form is also rendered plead in Job 16:21, which see. The passage before us reads, literally, A righteous one there pleads with Him, which, to say the least, “suggests the thought of the Great Intercessor. It is, too, not altogether foreign to the book.” — T. Lewis. See Excursus 4. Delivered… from So should I be forever acquitted by my judge. God’s judgment would prove final; his words of absolution would be without repeal. When God did appear, his self-confidence, now so conspicuous, merged itself in the profoundest self-abasement. Job 40:4.


Verse 8

8. Forward — Or, eastward. The Orientals determined the cardinal points by facing the east; unlike ourselves, who, for reasons not so natural, confront the north, making this the starting point. Rawlinson traces the words Asia and Europe to Hebrew sources, the former having originally signified “the East,” the latter “the West.” (Herodotus 3:33.) The Jews have a tradition that Adam was created with his face toward the east, that he might first see the rising sun. Wordsworth happily reminds the Christian that in all his thoughts, words, and works, with regard to the points of his spiritual compass he should have the eye of his heart turned toward Christ, “the Sun of Righteousness,” and should regulate the whole course of his life accordingly.

Backward — To the west.


Verse 9

9. On the left hand — To the north.

Where he doth work — Where more strikingly the phenomena of nature declare divine agency. He may have had in mind the weird “auroral light” which an unseen power calls into being and suspends upon the brow of night without the agency of sun, moon, or stars.

He hideth himself — If in the north Job find not God, it were vain to turn to the south, (“the right hand,”) where barren wastes of sand stretched interminably away. Amid such desolation the imagination might well conceive that God had hidden himself, Job 9:11. The deep impression the invisibility of God made upon the ancient mind is reflected in the inscription made upon the base of the statue of the goddess of wisdom, Neith, (Minerva,) at Sais, Egypt — “I am all which hath been, which is, and which will be, and no mortal has yet lifted my veil.” — PLUTARCH, De Iside, etc., sec. 9.


Verse 10

Third strophe — Job is no less assured of the integrity of his life than of the absolute certainty that God will not turn aside from his purpose when once it is formed, Job 23:10-13.

10. The way that I take — The margin is more exact, the way that is with me; that is, that has become habitual to me. (Dillmann.) Laws of habit soon make the way of righteousness, no less than the path of iniquity, easy to our feet and one with our nature.


Verse 11

11. Held his steps — The primary meaning of the word אחז, rendered held, is to seize, to lay fast hold of; upon which Kitto (Pic. Bib.) observes that “an unshod Oriental, particularly an Arab, in treading firmly or in taking a determined stand, does actually seem to lay hold of, seize or grasp, the ground with his toes, giving a sort of fixedness in his position inconceivable to those the power of whose feet is cramped by the habitual use of shoes.” Roberts, in his “Oriental Illustrations,” says of a Kandian chief who was to be beheaded, that when he arrived at the place where he was to be executed he looked around for some time for a small shrub, and on seeing one he seized it with his toes in order to be firm while the executioner did his office.

His steps — The steps are divine. Our entire pathway has been marked by such. Thus holy life is made the more easy, for we have but to “rivet” (Good) our steps in these, and nothing can move us. Life thus becomes the king’s highway, with its “example,” pattern, υπογραμμος, literally, writing copy, which Christ hath left that we should follow his steps. 1 Peter 2:21. His way — The law was regarded by the Hebrew as a way wherein man should walk, under the leadership of God.


Verse 12

12. My necessary (food) חקיGenesis 47:22; Proverbs 30:8. Recent interpreters mostly render it my law, meaning his own natural desires contrasted with God’s law. This law of his sinful nature answers to what the apostle designates as the law in his members warring against the law of his mind. Romans 7:23. Job has subordinated his own to the divine will.


Verse 13

13. He is in one — The ב (in) is beth essential — God is one and the same, unchangeable. His determinations he carries into execution.


Verse 14

Fourth strophe — The thought that he should be the helpless victim of the impenetrable purposes of an unchangeable God fills Job with unspeakable terror, Job 23:14-17.

14. The thing that is appointed for me חקי . Same word as in Job 23:12; here meaning lot or destiny. Yes, He will accomplish my destiny. (Dillmann, Zockler.)

And many such (lots) are with him — The lot of all human lives is planned by God. He determines after what pattern they shall be moulded, what afflictions shall befall, how oft the gold shall be subjected to the alembic of sorrow, and in what new combinations of beauty the graces shall expand in flower and ripen in fruit. The many millions of beings pliant beneath the hand and heart of the divine Moulder, in varied character and experience may vie with the starry heavens in showing forth the glory of God.


Verse 15

15. Therefore — Because of this dark and absolute relationship to my fate.

Afraid of him — Eliphaz had reproached Job with his fear, chap.

Job 22:10. The thought of One, and he an unseen God, standing behind this troublous life with purposes incomprehensible, and the more perplexing because they affect ourselves, is in itself enough to “make soft the heart,” and “trouble,” that is, confuse, the mind. In His hand the individual lies helpless and alone; yet not without filial trust imparted by God himself.


Verse 16

16. For — Better, And.

Soft — Faint.


Verse 17

17. Cut off — The key to this much-vexed passage lies in nitsmath, “cut off,” which should bear its Arabic meaning of brought to silence. Eliphaz (Job 22:11) had taunted Job not only with his fear, but with the darkness and deluge that covered him. He replies, For I grow not dumb because of (or before) the darkness, nor because of (or before) myself, whom thick darkness hath covered. Thus most moderns. Job is still ready to maintain what he believes to be the right; he will “not be reduced to silence,” notwithstanding the black midnight darkness ( אפל ) which had overwhelmed him. This bold and defiant declaration is transitional to the awful arraignment of God’s ways in the following chapter. “From the incomprehensible punishment which, without reason, is passing over him, he now again comes to speak of the incomprehensible connivance of God, which permits the godlessness of the world to go on unpunished.” — Delitzsch.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 23:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-23.html. 1874-1909.

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