The Pulpit Commentary

Job 19:1-29 (Job 19:1-29)

Job begins his answer to Bildad's second speech by an expostulation against the unkindness of his friends, who break him in pieces, and torture him, with their reproaches (verses 1-5). He then once more, and more plainly than on any other occasion, recounts his woes.

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Job 19:1-2 (Job 19:1-2)

Then Job answered and said, How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words? Job is no Stoic. He is not insensible to his friends' attacks. On the contrary, their words sting him, torture him, "break him in pieces," wound his soul in its tenderest part. Bildad's attack had been the cruellest of all, and it drives him to expostulation (verses 2-5) and entreaty (verses 21, 22).

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Job 19:1-22 (Job 19:1-22)

Job to Bildad: 1. A reply, an appeal, a complaint.

I. JOB 'S WRATHFUL REPLY TO HIS FRIENDS . Job accuses his three friends of:

1 . Irritating words. (Verse 2.) Their solemn addresses and eloquent descriptions were an exquisite torture, harder to endure than the miseries of elephantiasis. The cruel insinuations and unkind reproaches contained in their speeches crushed him more deeply and lacerated him more keenly than all the sharp strokes of evil fortune he had lately suffered. Wounds inflicted by the tongue are worse to heal than those given by the hand. "There is that speaketh like the piercings of a sword' ( Proverbs 12:18 ); and to "talk to the grief of those whom God has wounded" ( Psalms 69:26 ) is the severest of all kinds of persecution to sustain, as it is the wickedest of all sorts of crimes to commit.

2 . Persistent hostility. (Verse 3.) Not once or twice simply had they charged him with being a notorious criminal, but they had harped upon this same string ad nauseam ; they had carried their insulting behaviour to the furthest limits; the force of their acrimonious opposition could not further go. Their reproaches had well-nigh broken his great heart; cf. the language of David, who in his sufferings was a type of Messiah ( Psalms 69:20 ).

3 . Astounding callousness. (Verse 3.) Job was simply amazed at the cool indifference with which they could behold his sufferings, the unfeeling ease, if not the manifest delight, with which they could hurl their atrocious impeachments against him, and the utter insensibility which they displayed to his piteous appeals—amazed that one who claimed to be a friend of his should so completely show himself to be

"A stony adversary, an inhuman wretch

Incapable of pity, void and empty

From any dram of mercy."

('The Merchant of Venice,' act 4. sc. 1.)

4. Unnecessary cruelty. (Verse 4.) There was no "firm reason to be rendered" why they should thus remorselessly pursue him with their hate. They would not be called upon to expiate any of his unpunished crimes. Their theology and their saintly virtues would combine to shield them from that. Believing, as they did, that "the son shall not hear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son," but that "the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him" ( Ezekiel 18:20 ), there was no occasion to dread that any portion of the Divine retribution due to him would recoil on them. Hence they might have spared him any wanton aggravation of his woes. Job's language reminds us

5 . Arrogant assumption. In "pleading against him his reproach," i.e. in urging the intolerable miseries he suffered as a proof of his guilt, they were" magnifying themselves against him" (verse 5), i.e. tacitly boasting of their superior goodness. And as much perhaps as by anything in their language, the soul of Job was stung by the solemn Pharisaic aspect which sat upon their marble visages, and the atmosphere of awful sanctity in which they wrapt their holy persons. But true piety is ever meek and humble, never vaunteth herself, and is never puffed up, certainly never gloats over either the sins or the sufferings of others. A good man may magnify the grace of God that is in him ( 1 Corinthians 15:10 ), or the office that has been entrusted to him ( Romans 11:13 ), but of himself he ever thinks with lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than himself ( Philippians 2:3 ), whom he regards but as "less than the least of all saints" ( Ephesians 3:8 ), if not as "the chief of sinners" ( 1 Timothy 1:15 ).

6 . Conspicuous falsehood. Bildad had alleged that Job, by his incorrigible wickedness, had been the author of his own misfortunes, that he had been cast into a net by his own feet ( Job 18:8 ), that his calamity had come upon him as the recompense of his own crime; and to this Job replies with a direct contradiction, insisting that it was God who had flung his net about him, and that, if their theory of retribution was correct, God had wrested his cause and wronged him in so doing (verse 6). That Job's feet were entangled in a net, the testimony of Job's senses proclaimed. That this net had been cast around him by God, the eye of his faith could see. That God could not have done so on account of his wickedness, the inner witness of Job's spirit cried aloud. Hence this theory of the friends, which sometimes lay across his soul like a nightmare, was a blunder, and the allegation of the friends that he was being punished for his iniquity was a lie.

II. JOB 'S DOLEFUL COMPLAINT AGAINST GOD .

1 . Treating him like a criminal And that in respect of two particulars.

2 . Punishing him as a convict. (Verses 8-10.) And that by:

"I had no thought, no feeling—none;

Among the stones I stood a stone,

And was scarce conscious what I wist,

As shrubless crags within the mist," etc.

(Byron, ' Prisoner of Chillon,' 9)

Such a picture is true, not of the saint in the correction-house of affliction ( Psalms 34:17 ), not even of the sinner in the prison-house of condemnation, who is yet a prisoner of hope ( Zechariah 9:12 ), but only of the lost in the dungeon of everlasting death.

3 . Counting him for an enemy.

4 . Cutting him off from human sympathy. (Verses 13-19.) A pitiful picture of abject degradation, even worse than that which Bildad predicted for the wicked man who should be chased from the world ( Job 18:19 ). Surrounded by kinsmen and relatives, and still attended by wife and servants, he is to one and all an object of supreme contempt.

III. JOB 'S PITEOUS APPEAL FOR HIMSELF .

1 . A pathetic representation. (Verse 20.) Indicating the ground of Job's appeal. Bodily disease and mental anguish had reduced him to a skeleton, so that his bones appeared through his skin; the second clause, a cruz interpretum ( vide Exposition), probably depicting extreme emaciation. His condition may remind us of the value of physical health, of its instability, and of the ease with which it can be made to consume away like a moth ( Psalms 39:11 ).

2 . A melting supplication. (Verse 21.) Expressive of the fervent of Job's appeal. It was not much he craved—only pity, and that on two pleas:

"Pluck commiseration of his state

From brassy bosoms and rough hearts of flint"

Much more, then, from those who were united to him by ties of affection (cf. Job 6:14 , homiletics).

3 . A tender expostulation. (Verse 22.) Were the miseries he was suffering at God's hand not enough to satisfy their insatiable appetites or was God not able to exact retribution for his supposed iniquities, that they must assist him to crush the poor emaciated skeleton who had become his victim? Was it really come to this, that they were less merciful than God; that God's thirst for vengeance, if so be it was that he was being punished, was more easily slaked than theirs? So, alas! it has been found that man's tender mercies are cruel ( 2 Samuel 24:14 ), and in particular that when bigots turn persecutors they never cry, "Enough!"

Learn:

1 . There is a limit beyond which even good men are not expected to endure aspersions against their character.

2 . It is a shame for professors of religion to indulge in suspicions, or utter slanders, against their brethren.

3 . The greatest safeguard a suffering saint has, if also one of his acutest pains, is to connect his afflictions with God.

4 . It is better to direct the soul's plaint to God than to utter aloud the soul's complaint against God.

5 . The man has fallen low indeed who, besides being deserted by God (or appearing to be so), is also abandoned by man.

6 . The woman who forsakes her husband in his hour of sorrow, not only violates her marriage vow, but proves herself unworthy of the honour of wifehood, and brings disgrace upon the name of woman.

7 . It is an infinite mercy that God's heart is not so little pitiful as man'&

8 . A man's flesh is all that a persecutor can devour.

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Job 19:1-29 (Job 19:1-29)

Unconquerable convictions.

Job feels bitterly hurt by the speeches of Eliphaz and Bildad, and pleads, in face of their harsh constructions, for compassion in his unutterable sufferings. At the same time, he raises himself to bolder confidence in God's help than ever before. He expresses the definite hope that, if not on this side the grave, then on the other side, a justification awaits him by the personal appearance of God.

I. INTRODUCTION : INDIGNANT CENSURE OF HIS FRIENDS AS MALICIOUS SUSPECTERS OF HIS INNOCENCE . (Verses 1-5.) "How long will ye trouble my soul, and crush me with words?" "Ten times," he says, speaking in round numbers, i.e. again and again, have they slandered him by attacks on h-is innocence; they are not ashamed to deafen him with their revilings. It is true, he again confesses ( Job 6:24 ), he has sinned, but his sin remains with him alone; he is answerable to God alone, not to their unfeeling judgment. Is it their desire to magnify themselves—to play the part of great speakers and advocates, and bring home to him his disgrace by ingenious pleas? Vanity and self-conceit are at the bottom of much censoriousness; and Job here lays his finger upon the moral weakness of his self-constituted judges.

II. LAMENT OVER THE SUFFERING CAUSED HIM BY GOD . (Verses 6-12.) God has wronged him, and surrounded him with his nets, as a hunter takes his prey, depriving it of all means of escape (verse 6). The sufferer cries out, "Violence!" but no answer is given; and there is no justice in response to his cry for help (verse 7). His way is fenced in, and darkness is on his paths (verse 8; comp. Job 3:23 ; Job 13:27 ; Lamentations 3:7 , Lamentations 3:9 ; Hosea 2:6 ). God has stripped him of his honour and of his fair esteem in the eyes of men, and taken away the crown from his head (verse 9; comp. Job 29:14 ; Lamentations 5:16 ). "Honour ' and the "crown" are two expressions for the same thing ( Isaiah 61:10 ; Isaiah 62:3 ). God pulls him down on every side, like a building devoted to destruction; roots out the hope of his restoration, like a tree (verse 10). His warlike bands—wounds, pains, and woes of every kind—come on, and make their way against him as against a besieged fortress (verses 11, 12; comp. Job 16:14 ). All this is a true description of the thoughts of the heart from which Divine help has been withdrawn. It is a sore conflict, none sorer, when the mind is driven in its agony to view God as an end my, treating us unmercifully, willing neither to hear nor to help. Job is tempted to think God unjust; one who promises the forgiveness of sins, yet does not remove the penalty; promises his presence to the suffering, yet seems not to be touched by our woes—nay, even to delight in them. "In so great and glowing flames of hell we must look to Christ alone, who was made in all things like to his brethren, and was tempted, that he might succour them that are tempted" (Brenz).

III. LAMENT OVER THE SUFFERING CAUSED HIM BY MAN . (Verses 13-20.) In such crises we turn to friendship for solace. But to Job this is denied. In six different forms he mentions his kindred and friends, only to complain of their coldness and alienation (verses 13, 14). His domestics, too (verse 15), to whom he had doubtless been a kind master, are become strange to him. His servant does not answer when he calls so that he is obliged to change parts with him, and beg his help as a favour (verse 16) His breath and diseased body make him offensive even to his wife, and sons, or "brethren' (verse 17). The impudent little boys of the street, like those who mocked Elisha ( 2 Kings 2:23 , sqq .), make a butt of him, indulging in sarcastic taunts when he rises to speak (verse 18). His bosom-friends abhor him, and those whom he had loved—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—turn against him as violent opponents (verse 19). His bones cleave to his skin and flesh, can be seen and felt through his emaciated flesh, and only the skin of his teeth, the thin film, has escaped the ravages of his fearful mainly. He can only just speak still, without his mouth being filled with boils and matter, as in the last stage of the disease (verse 20) Friends often fail in the time of sorest distress; they are summer-birds, and pass away when the colder weather sets in. Men are liars, fickle as the wind. Their alienation is ascribed to God, because he has caused the distress; if he had not caused the distress, they would have remained. Here, again, we are reminded that the child of God may be called to be conformed to the image of the Saviour's sufferings. He knew what it was to be deserted by all men, even his dearest disciples and closest adherents. So we are to learn to build no confidence on man, but on the living God alone, whom faith can hold eternally fast.

IV. RISE TO A BLESSED HOPE IN GOD , HIS ONLY REDEEMER AND AVENGER . (Verses 21-27.) This section is introduced by a woeful petition to his friends for compassion, "for the hand of God has touched him," alluding to the disease, which from its fearfulness was regarded as a stroke of God's hand; and is it not the office of friendship to lend its hand to heal or soothe (verse 21)? Why, on the contrary, do they persecute him as God, assuming an authority that is superhuman, and so behaving unnaturally to him? They are not "satisfied with his flesh," continually piercing and ploughing it with the envenomed tooth of slander (verse 22). The appeal seems to be in vain, and he turns once more to God (verse 23, sqq. ) . Oh that his words were written down, inscribed in a book or roll, that those to come might read the fervent, repeated protestations of his innocence! That they were engraven with an iron pen, or cast with lead, so as to remain an indelible and eternal record! And, so long as there is a God, this wish for the perpetuation of his testimony cannot be in vain. It has been fulfilled. "In a hundred languages of the earth it announces to this day. to all peoples this truth: the good man is not free from sufferings, but in the consciousness of his innocence and in faith in God, providence, and immortality, he finds a consolation which suffers him not to fail; and his waiting for a glorious issue of God's dark leadings will certainly be crowned" (Wohlforth). Verse 25, "And I know that my Redeemer lives." "Redeemer" is probably to be taken, not in the sense of blood-avenger, but in that of restorer of my honour , avenger of my honour ; but the two meanings are connected. "And as Last One will he rise upon the dust." God is here viewed as he who will outlive all, especially in contrast to Job, now sinking into death. He will rise, stand up for Job's defence and deliverance, on the dust in which he shall soon be laid. Verse 26, "And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall behold Eloah." He is thinking of the time when he shall be treed from his wretched suffering and lacerated "flesh," and shall see God as a glorified spirit. Verse 27, "Whom I shall behold for myself," i.e. in my own person, "and my eyes shall see, and not a stranger." "My reins be consumed within me," in longing after this glorious view. It is an expression of the desire of the deepest, tenderest part of the man for this high consummation. To discuss the different theological interpretations of this passage does not come within the scope of this part of the Commentary. Perhaps the best is that which steers between two extremes, and is adopted by many eminent expositors of the present day. It is that Job does not here express the hope of a bodily resurrection after death, but of a contemplation of God in the other world in a spiritually glorified state. It is the hope of immortality, rather than that of resurrection, to which he rises, with such clearness and definiteness, above that ancient Israelitish idea of Sheol, which he himself has admitted in earlier discourses. It is a glorious confession of faith—one that, in a fuller sense, may well be that of the catholic Church. And once more the property and power of faith are exhibited in all their lustre. It cleaves to life in the very jaws of death; believes in heaven, even when hell is yawning at its feet; looks to God as the Redeemer even amidst anger and judgment; detects beneath seeming wrath his mercy; sees, under the appearance of the condemner, the Redeemer. Faith is here the "substance of things hoped for" ( Hebrews 11:1 ). The best consolation in the trouble of death is that Christ is risen from the dead, and therefore we shall rise ( Romans 8:11 ; 1 Corinthians 15:1-58 .). God gives more to his servant, who shows himself inspired by such firm confidence towards him, than he could ask or understand.

V. SOLEMN WARNING TO HIS FRIENDS TO DESIST FROM THEIR ATTACKS . (Verses 28, 29.) "If ye think, How shall we persecute him? and (if ye think) the root of the 'matter is found in me"—that is, if you think the reason fur my sufferings is solely to be found in myself, in my sin—"be afraid of the sword," the avenging sword of God, "fur wrath falls in with the offences of the sword," which may mean either that wrath is a punishment of the sword, or that the punishments of the sword are with wrath—wrath overtakes them. "That ye may know there is a judgment!" They knew this already, and upon this expectation their own warnings had been founded. But Job gives the thought an application to themselves. "That you may know that Gas exercises judgment on all the offences of the sword, which you do not own nor fear in your case, and that he severely punishes them." Thus Job opens that wider view of the future, of that day of discrimination, when the first shall be last, and the last first—the innocent shall be justified, and the hypocrite exposed—which corrects the narrow dogmatism of the friends. God punishes many sins in this life; but many are reserved for the last judgment. Temporal suffering may be escaped, and yet sure punishment may be in store. On the other hand, temporal suffering may be innocently endured, but for the true servant of God there will be final acknowledgment and eternal honour.—J.

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Job 19:1-21 (Job 19:1-21)

An appeal for pity.

Job is brought lower and lower By the words of those from whom he might have expected a true consolation. He at length declares they "vex" his "soul," and "break" him "in pieces with words" He appeals for freedom. He would be let atone, for, as he had sorrowfully said, "miserable comforters are ye all. " The great underlying teaching is the insufficiency of those views of human suffering which find its cause only in judgment upon wrong-doing. Job, the typical sufferer—typical for all future sufferers—undergoes the painfulness of being assailed by helpers who have but a partial and very imperfect view of all the circumstances of his case. And he appeals to them for ease. His cry to them is also a cry to Heaven for relief.

I. His appeal for pity is based ON THE GROUND OF THE WRONGFULNESS OF HIS ACCUSATION . "Behold, I cry out of wrong." His friends have set themselves against him. They have become his judges rather than his consolers or vindicators. They "reproach" him and make themselves "strange" to him; they "magnify" themselves against him. They try to plead his reproach against him. It is the way of the imperfectly instructed human helper, and more and more clearly makes plain the necessity for a voice to be raised on behalf of the sufferer that shall be of one better instructed.

II. But the appeal is urged ON THE GROUND OF THE SEVERITY OF HIS SUFFERINGS Job acknowledges his affliction to be of God, and he most tenderly and touchingly refers to the several features of his suffering. He cries out of wrong; he has no impartial and just hearing. He is encompassed by darkness from which he cannot escape; his honour is beclouded; his substance is destroyed; his hope has perished; he is dealt with as an enemy; his acquaintances are estranged; he is forgotten by his best friends; he is treated with indignity in his own home; he is offensive even to his wife; even young children despise him and speak against him—"they whom I loved are turned against me." Through the severity of his disease he is wasted to a skeleton; his "bone cleaveth" to his "skin." Surely this is a call for pity. Yet professed friends can stand by and argue with such a sufferer, seeking to prove his guiltiness and affirming all this to be the just punishment of his sin.

III. He makes his further appeal to their pity ON THE GROUND OF FRIENDSHIP . "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends!" It is reasonable to expect that professed friends will at least show pity to him for whom they have declared their great friendship.

IV. His final appeal to them is ON THE GROUND OF HIS AFFLICTION BEING THE STROKE OF GOD . "The hand of God hath touched me." Against the Almighty he cannot hope to contend. He is crushed under the Almighty's power. This lowly confession does not abate the calm inward assurance of personal integrity. But the solution of the mysterious Divine ways is wanting. He endeavours to abide in patience. But human sympathy should strengthen the sufferer under the pressure of the Divine hand, and not add to the already excessive weight of his calamities. "Why do ye persecute me as God?"

To whom should a sufferer turn if not to his friends? How obvious the office of friendship at such a time:

1. To sympathize.

2 . To seek to ease the burden of the sufferer.

3 . To strengthen by kindness and pity.—R.G.

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