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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Job 5

 

 

Verse 1

Third double strophe — APPLICATION OF THE VISION, Job 5:1-7. First strophe — The folly of murmuring, Job 5:1-5.

1. If there be any — Literally, Is there he? The Septuagint renders the verse, “But call, if any one will hearken to thee, or if thou shalt see any of the holy angels.”

The saints קדשׁים, (the holy.) As this term is employed both of good men and good angels, (Deuteronomy 33:2-3 ; Psalms 34:9, etc.,) its meaning must be determined by the context. The idea of Eliphaz is, that Job, in his present mood, need expect no sympathy or help from any quarter. The vision just cited has established the inferiority of all beings in the sight of God, and, as declared in the afflictions of Job, the infinite wisdom of his will. After God has spoken there is none other — holy man or angel — who will either deign or dare to make reply to his (Job’s) complaints. To reply, even, might foster the spirit of rebellion. Murmuring belongs to man, not to the angels. That there can be no reference, as the Romanists teach, to any intercession of angels, is evident from the comparatively low estimate in which the vision had held them. See Job 5:8; Job 4:18. Nor is it a challenge to Job, as Grotius and others have held, to produce a similar revelation in his own favour. Nor is there any ground for the suggestion of Schultens, that “call” and “answer” are forensic terms, thus versified by Scott: —

“Be now complainant, the defendant see;

Which angel will espouse thy daring plea?


Verse 2

2. For wrath כעשׂ signifies also grief. Passionate sorrow, such as Job had indulged, slays the foolish. 2 Corinthians 7:10. In the word for, Eliphaz resumes the leading thought of this discourse — men reap what they sow. The passions of a man — for instance, “envy,” (jealousy,) — an envy that even looks wistfully at non-existence, (Job 3:3) — are not only the ruin of a man, but they are the marks of “a fool,” אויל — a word which he repeats in the next verse. “The violence of sin brings no help, but destruction, to itself, which is the nerve of all Eliphaz is saying: Job 5:6-7.” — DAV. At the opening of the debate the implication against Job is of folly, manifesting itself through jealousy and passionate murmurings against God, rather than of crime. The latter is reserved for a direct charge, which the now courteous Eliphaz himself brings against Job at a later stage of the debate; chap. 22. Nevertheless, these words sink deep into the heart of Job, as is seen by his allusion (Job 6:2) to this very word wrath.


Verse 3

3. Suddenly I cursed — He feels himself justified in acting upon what he had observed — that adversity trod upon the heel of wickedness. So that where-ever he beheld the marked prosperity of the foolish, he at once pronounced their doom. The version of the Septuagint, “but suddenly their habitation was devoured,” Merx is not justifiable in following. “The word ‘suddenly’ points, as with the finger, to the catastrophe by which, at one stroke, Job’s prosperity was laid in the dust — to the Chaldeans and Sabeans, to the lightning and the storm.” — Hengstenberg.


Verse 4

4. His children — In the East the fate of the children was involved in that of the parent, as in the case of Haman’s ten sons, who were hanged on the gallows. Esther 9:13-14. The merciful legislation of Moses was arrayed against such monstrous perversion of justice. Deuteronomy 24:16. Are crushed — Davidson unnecessarily supposes the verb to be reflexive, that the children crushed each other by “family feuds and ruinous litigations.” “In the gate,” (Job 31:21; see also Job 29:7,) plainly points to courts of justice before which fatherless children, having no natural defender, would fare badly, even to being crushed.

In the gate of the city the great assemblies of people were held, (Proverbs 1:21,) whether for reading the law and proclamations, (Nehemiah 8:1; Nehemiah 8:3,) or for the administration of justice, (Joshua 20:4; Ruth 4:1,) or even for market purposes. (2 Kings 7:1.) The sculptures found by Botta (plate 18) represent the king sitting at the gate in an arm-chair, the seat of judgment. This Oriental custom is transmitted in the title of the court of the Sultan, The Sublime Porte — the word “porte” signifying gate. In the Koran (Sura xxiii, 79) we read: “We have opened against them the gate of supreme judgment.” See note on Matthew 16:19.


Verse 5

5. Even out of the thorns — The best interpretation is that of Dr. Thomson, who speaks of Gennesareth as “pre-eminently fruitful in thorns. They grow up among the grain, or the grain among them, and the reaper must pick the harvest out of the thorns.” The idea of Eliphaz is, that “the robbers would make thorough work of it, and leave nothing behind them, not even that which grew among the thorns.” (See further, “The Land and the Book,” 1:537.)

The robber The thirsty; that is, greedy spoilers. צמים is rendered “snare,” or “noose,” by Gesenius, Furst, Hirtzel, Conant, etc., thus, “The snare gapeth for their substance:” but most ancient versions, together with Ewald, Wordsworth, Zockler, etc., adopt the reading, “The thirsty (pant for) swallow up their substance,” on the assumption that a weak letter א has been lost from the original word. The exact meaning of the verb, which expresses violent emotion, such as “to pant for,” “to greedily drain,” etc., accords better with the rendering, “the thirsty.”


Verse 6

Second strophe — Suffering is of divine appointment, Job 5:6-7.

This is shown by its being inseparable from the constitution of nature.

6. Although — Rather, for. He proceeds to give the reason why it is foolish to murmur over affliction: evil is not fortuitous, but due to the wickedness of man.

Affliction און ; evil.

Spring out Sprout up like weeds. Man’s trouble is not a growth or offshoot of nature, but a divine appointment on account of sin. It belongs to a scheme subsequent to that of nature, in which man, a sinful race, grows up to trouble as naturally as the plant sprouts from the earth, or the spark springs upward from the burning coal. The true well-spring of misery is not in nature, but within man himself.


Verse 7

7. Yet — Not an adversative, as Dillman, Hitzig, and others would read, but for; thus Conant, Evans, etc. This verse is also argumentative.

The sparks Bene resheph — sons of fire, just as arrows are called sons of the bow. Umbreit translates: “Even as the bird of prey rises high in its flight.” Jerome beautifully expresses it, “Man is born to labour and the bird to flight.” The version of the text is better. That the evils of life are many, and “in close succession rise,” is implied in the figurative word “sparks.”


Verse 8

Fourth double strophe — GOD’S MORAL GOVERNMENT, Job 5:8-16.

First strophe — His government is as beneficent in the moral as in the natural world, Job 5:8-11.

8. I would seek — Literally, But I, I would seek. As for me, whatever others may do, I would seek unto God. He proposes to go, not to saints or angels, or through the medium of saints or angels, but directly to God himself.

God — The first name of God is El, the second Elohim. The first designation of God presents him as the mighty one; the second, as “God in the totality of his variously manifested nature.” He turns with strongest aversion from the thought of Job’s outcries of despair, in like manner as afterward (Job 22:18) from the spectacle of successful antediluvian sinners, and betakes himself to God.


Verse 9

9. Without number — Literally, “Till there be no number.” Each avenue of research opens upon the infinite. Science has brought to light worlds of creative might of which Eliphaz had not dreamed. The commonest textbooks of science furnish abundant illustrations of the text.


Verse 10

10. Giveth rain — The Koran often calls the rain “the flowing forth of divine power.” The devastations by droughts, so frequently experienced throughout the East, make the advent of rain a most signal event, illustrative both of the power and goodness of God. Psalms 65:10; Jeremiah 14:22; Acts 14:17.


Verse 11

11. Eliphaz naturally passes to the moral world, in mysterious grandeur so far transcending that of nature. He who, for the sake of the arid and barren wastes connects with each tiny raindrop transforming power, can change sorrow into joy. The change produced by the autumnal rains, Dr. Russel, in his “History of Aleppo,” calls “a sudden resurrection of vegetable nature.”

Second strophe — Human arrogance and human wisdom God alike overwhelms and brings to shame, Job 5:12-16.


Verse 12

12. Crafty — From ערם, to spin, twist. Furst cites three Hebrew words expressive of cunning or evil thought, (he might have added pathal, froward, Job 5:13,) whose roots give the same idea of spinning. However men may work in the dark, spinning their evil devices, God “breaks them to pieces,” (disappointeth,) מפר .

Enterprise תושׁיה, toushiyyah. The root of the word indicates being, substance, that which is. See note on Job 6:13. It stands in contrast with און, evil, which signifies, also, emptiness, nothingness, which is its root idea. The wicked can accomplish nothing substantial.


Verse 13

13. The wise — Those whose “wisdom is of this world,” as in 1 Corinthians 3:19, a verse in which the apostle quotes this very passage from the Hebrew, rather than the Septuagint. There lurks an insinuation, that Job’s boasted wisdom may prove to be a like counterfeit of the real. “He captures the wise, not when their wisdom has forsaken them, and they make a false step, but at the very point where they make the highest use of it.” — Hengstenberg. “This,” says Hitzig, “is the only passage in this book which is cited in the New Testament.”

Froward Crooked or cunning.

The Koran has a similar thought: “God outwits the cunning,” 13:44. Lucretius is still more in point: —

“Circumretit enim vis, atque injuria, quemque

Atque unde exorta est, ad eum plerumque revortit.”

“For force and rapine in their craftiest nets

Oft their own sons entangle, and the plague Tenfold recoils.”


Verse 14

14. They meet with darkness They stumble against darkness. — GESENIUS, Thesaurus. A judicial visitation. They were deemed sharp-sighted among men. God sends upon them thick darkness.


Verse 15

15. From the sword מחרב . Doderlein, Michaelis, and Conant propose to change the pointing of the original, in order to make a direct object of the verb; thus, מחרב, desolated, and read, “So he rescues the victim from their mouth, and the needy from the hand of the strong.” Dr. Adam Clarke adduces eleven of Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s manuscripts as reading, “from the sword of their mouth,” with which agree the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic. The rendering of Zockler, Umbreit, and most moderns, accords with that of Delitzsch — from the sword, (that) of their mouth, that is, that proceeds from their mouth — who also remarks that the text is sound and beautiful. Compare Psalms 64:3, “who whet their tongue like a sword.” The shape of the tongue may have led to its comparison to a sword; certainly its power to cut, to wound, has ever led the Oriental to associate the two together.


Verse 16

16. So the poor hath hope — As the poor are God’s special care, Heaven’s proteges, it is particularly said of them, that they have hope. Eliphaz sublimely declares the care of the poor, the lowly, and the suffering ones of this world to be the ulterior end of the natural and moral worlds; to this end converge all the arrangements of nature and of grace, with all their criss-cross and apparently contradictory motions. In harmony with our thought is the pleasing one of Whewell, (Bridgewater Tr., chap. 3,) who “considers the whole mass of the earth, from pole to pole and from center to circumference, as employed in keeping a snow-drop in the position most suited to the promotion of its vegetable health.” The verse is a grand climactical close to this sublime description of God. Comp. Luke 7:22, with a similar climax — “The poor have the gospel preached to them.”


Verse 17

Fifth double strophe — THE BLESSED RESULTS OF SUBMISSION, Job 5:17-27.

First strophe — The happiness of him who willingly yields himself to the loving chastisements of the Almighty, Job 5:17-21.

17. Behold, happy Behold, blessed is the man. One of the earliest beatitudes; so important, that our attention is specially invited. It appears again in the Psalms, (94,) the Proverbs, (3,) and Hebrews, (12.) “The world,” says A.H. Hallam, “was loved in Christ alone. The brethren were members of his mystical body. All the other bonds that had fastened down the spirit of the universe to our narrow round of earth were as nothing in comparison to this golden chain of suffering and self-sacrifice, which at once riveted the heart of man to one who, like himself, was acquainted with grief. Pain is the deepest thing we have in our nature, and union [with God] through pain has always seemed more real and more holy than any other.”


Verse 18

18. Bindeth up — Among the ancients the healing art was for the most part confined to external applications. They seem generally to have attributed the curing of diseases to supernatural agency; hence priests were resorted to for healing purposes, since they were supposed to possess peculiar powers of propitiating their deities. On the medical resources of the ancients, see PLINY, Nat. Hist., Books 23-29. Also Leviticus 13, which Kitto calls the most ancient medical treatise in the world.


Verse 19

19. Six troubles — The speaker first incidentally suggests six, but as seven is the number expressive of completeness, he adds “in seven troubles;” that is, in all troubles, God will protect us against evil. He goes on to specify a few, say five, troubles, although Cocceius and Schultens conceive that seven are enumerated. Davidson sees a fine gradation in the ills, and observes that they are coupled together in pairs: — First pair: Public national calamity — famine and sword, (20.) Second pair: Personal private wrong from the powerful or malevolent — calumny, violence, (21.) Third pair: Personal private misfortune — hunger, (want from failure,) beasts of the field, (ravages on private property,) (22, 23.) “The number seven was esteemed a holy number also among other peoples, as the Persians, Hindus, and the ancient Germans.” — WINER, Rwb. This wondrous word “SEVEN,” according to Cicero, contains the mystery of all things, and tends, as Hippocrates, the ancient philosopher, said, through its occult virtues to the evolution of all things. The identity of the Hebrew word with שׁבע, “to swear,” “take an oath,” as if men swore by this word seven, shows that from very ancient times it has been associated with a sacred idea.


Verse 20

20. The power of the sword — Literally, The hands of the sword. The Scriptures attribute hands to other destructive agencies: to the tongue, Proverbs 18:21; to the flame, Isaiah 47:14; to lions, Daniel 6:27; and to the grave, Psalms 49:15; as if, poetically, their destructive power could be accounted for only by their being endowed with man’s most formidable members of destruction.


Verse 21

21. Scourge of the tongue — The Targum refers this to the incantations of Balaam, but without reason. The word scourge, שׁושׂ, means whip, and is used here figuratively, with prime reference, perhaps, to the whip so frequently depicted on the monuments of Egypt. The same word, שׁושׂ, used of Satan’s rapid and destructive course and rendered “going to and fro,” means literally “whipping through,” Job 1:7 . Jeremiah (Jeremiah 18:18) makes similar allusion to the tongue as a whip. Comp. Isaiah 28:15. Hitzig finds the secret of the figure used here in the resemblance of the sound of the tongue to that of a whip, or in their like flexibility — a thought which Homer has, “flexible is the tongue of mortals.” — Iliad, 20:248. It is worthy of remark, (Schlottmann calls it a certain irony,) that the very evil — calumny — from which Job is assured he should be hidden, in case he yields to the divine chastisement, is that with which the friends already threaten him.


Verse 22

Second strophe — The blessings that shall crown the life of such a favourite of heaven, Job 5:22-26.

22. Thou shalt laugh — The man of God, secure in his tower of faith, looks down upon the most formidable evils, and, in the bold imagery of the East, laughs at them. He thus expresses his sense of superiority; an idea that Hobbes has embodied in his theory of laughter.


Verse 23

23. For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field — Literally, For with the stones of the field (is) thy covenant. “Isaiah (Isaiah 28:15) speaks of ‘a covenant with death;’ that is, death is far from us, and will not injure us. Such, also, is the meaning here: thy field will be free from stones, which would make it barren.” — Rosenmuller. In like manner Lucan says (Phar., 9:394) —

Pax illis cum morte data est, Peace with death to them is given, in the sense of security from death. Dr. Shaw thus alludes to this text: “The feet being thus unguarded, (that is, being bare, or only protected with slippers,) were every moment liable to be hurt and injured; and from thence perhaps the danger, without the divine assistance, which ever protects us from the smallest misfortunes, of dashing them against a stone, (Psalms 91:12;) which, perhaps, will illustrate that difficult text (Job 5:23) of being in league with the stones of the field.” Compare 2 Kings 3:25. “The stones are personified: they conclude a treaty with the reformed Job, and promise not to injure him.” — Hengstenberg.

Beasts… field — In Ezekiel 14:21, “noisome beasts” constitute a fourth calamitous judgment which God threatens against Israel. What is here promised to the pious man is in like figure prophesied of the Messianic times; Isaiah 11:6-10. The good man is protected against the animate and inanimate creation. Each of the three following verses is crowned with a promise especially pleasing to the Oriental mind: first, domestic bliss; second, numerous posterity; third, long life.


Verse 24

24. Thy tabernacle shall be… peace — Hebrews, ohel; equally a tent in which to live and the house of God in which to worship. Our homes should be God’s houses; then shall they be peace.

And shalt not sin — Or err, as in the margin. Among the radical meanings of the word חשׂא are, to miss, want, miss the mark. The word originally used in a physical sense, for instance, of the skill of the warrior, (Judges 20:16,) took upon itself a moral meaning, as in the case of the Greek αμαρτανω. Comp. Iliad, 5:287, and 9:501.* The sense of this passage, according to most moderns, is, that he shall return to his dwelling and find nothing wanting. Thus Wordsworth: “Not one of thy cattle, sheep, or lambs will be missing” — a forced and feeble interpretation. The more natural reading — which at the same time is consistent with the legitimate sense of the verb — is that of the Vulgate, Luther, and our English version, that the good man may be kept by the grace of God from the commission of sin. As “habitation” corresponds with “tabernacle” of the preceding clause, so does God’s protection from sin answer to the “peace” Eliphaz promises. The antithesis is thus well sustained, and the sense harmonious. Hengstenberg accepts of the English version, and explains: “In looking over thy possessions thou shalt find thou art not treated by God as a sinner but as a friend, being richly blessed by him” — a paraphrase which Evans rightly condemns.

[* The following hymn, taken from the Rig Veda, 7:85, contains a similar thought:

1. Let me not yet, O Varuna, enter into the house of clay; have mercy, Almighty, have mercy!

2. If I go along trembling like a cloud driven by the wind; have mercy, Almighty, have mercy!

3. Through want of strength, thou strong and bright God, have I gone to the wrong shore; have mercy, Almighty, have mercy! — See further, MULLER’S Sanscrit. Lit., p. 540.]


Verse 26

26. Like as a shock of corn cometh — Literally, Like the going up of a heap of sheaves. The threshing-floor was on some open and elevated spot, that there might be a free circulation of the air, and the grain be more easily winnowed. As the carts, crowned with the ripened grain, were driven up the ascent, a sense of triumph must have filled the heart of the husbandman. While the paths of earthly glory “lead but to the grave,” the course of the man of God, even in death, is an ascension, a “going up.” Like sheaves from the harvest-field, the good are gathered together at last. Thus Sandys: —

Thou, full of days, like weighty sheaves of corn

In season reaped, shalt to thy grave be borne.


Verse 27

27. We have searched it — He thus commits the two other friends to the sentiments he has expressed, and they by their silence assent. Job assumes this in his reply.

For thy good — As in the margin, for thyself. These principles, proved by experience, Job may take to himself. The frigid want of sympathy accompanies the speech to its bitter end. The galled jade may wince — Job is in the hands of a righteous God, let him suffer. “Eliphaz blames Job for his murmuring, and bids him receive his affliction with a recognition of human sinfulness and the divine purpose for good. Thus the controversy begins.” — Delitzsch.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 5:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-5.html. 1874-1909.

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