My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle . Though each day is a weariness, yet, on looking back upon my whole life, it seems to have come and gone in a moment (comp. Job 9:25 ). And are spent without hope. Job does not share in the hopes which Eliphaz has held out (see Job 5:17-27 ). He has no hope but in death.
Job to God: 1. The soliloquy of sorrow.
I. A PATHETIC REPRESENTATION OF HUMAN LIFE . In contrast to the fascinating picture sketched by Eliphaz ( Job 5:17-27 ), Job depicts human life in general, and his own sorrowful existence in particular, as:
1 . A term of hard service. "Is there not an appointed time [literally, 'a warfare, a term of hard service'] on the earth?' like that of a mercenary soldier hired out for military purposes to a foreign despot; and "are not his days like the days of an hireling?" i.e. a hired slave who has been let out to some pitiless taskmaster; both of whom, the soldier and the slave, "pant for the shadow" on the dial, and "long for their wages," to give them a release from their heavy toils. The language suggests:
2 . A heritage of incessant misery. As realized in the experience of Job, this misery was:
(a) Extinction of hope by day; the absolute expiry of everything like expectation of betterment, which must have been a greater burden to the heart of Job than ever the elephantiasis was to his body: "We are kept alive by hope" ( Romans 8:24 ); but within the soul of Job the principle of life was gone.
(b) Want of sleep by night. As sleep is one of God's best gifts to man ( Psalms 127:2 ), restoring nature's exhausted powers, refreshing mind and body both ( Ecclesiastes 5:12 ; Jeremiah 31:26 ; cf. Shakespeare, 'Henry IV .,' Part II . act 3. so. 1), so is the want of it one of the heaviest afflictions that can befall a sufferer, arising sometimes from excessive labour, as with Jacob ( Genesis 31:40 ); sometimes from intense bodily pain, as in the case of Job (verse 5); sometimes from disturbed thoughts, as with Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 2:1 ), Ahasuerus ( Esther 6:1 ), and wicked men ( Proverbs 4:16 ); the restless tossings to and fro of the body keeping time with the inward agitations of the mind.
(c) Bodily pain both day and night, springing from a loathsome malady, detailed (verse 5) as breeding worms in his flesh, covering his skin with earth-coloured scales, causing it to stiffen and emit a purulent discharge, and commonly believed to be elephantiasis (see homiletics on Job 2:7 ).
3 . A period of exceeding"brevity." "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and vanish without hope" (verse 8); i.e. they flee more rapidly than the shuttle passes backwards and forwards in the warp of the weaver's web, and vanish without hope of any to succeed them— i.e. of any days of happiness on earthman affecting emblem of the vanity and shortness of life.
II. A PITIFUL SUPPLICATION FROM HUMAN SORROW .
1 . The Being addressed. "Oh, remember!" Though not named, God is meant. It is well, though not always necessary, to invoke God by name in our prayers; but certainly it is better to leave God's name out altogether than to introduce it too frequently into our devotions. That Job called on God in his calamity was a sign that his faith was not yet extinguished, and that he still retained his hold upon the God whom he had formerly professed to serve. It was likewise a more hopeful way of obtaining relief from, or support under, his troubles, since it is always better in our distresses "to cry to God than to complain to creatures" (Caryl).
2 . The prayer presented. "Oh, remember!" As applied to God, the word signifies
God remembers when, so to speak, he allows an object to remain in the contemplation of his infinite mind so as to be suitably affected thereby.
Job desires that God would
(1) consider his case;
This, however, does not imply that God ever forgets his people ( Isaiah 49:15 ), though he may sometimes appear to do so ( Psalms 13:1 ); or fails to sympathize with them in trouble ( Psalms 103:13 ; Isaiah 66:13 ), though afflicted saints may sometimes imagine so ( Psalms 44:24 ; Isaiah 49:14 ); or is indisposed to succour them ( 1 Samuel 2:9 ; Psalms 31:23 ; Psalms 91:1 ), though he frequently, for wise and good reasons, delays his intervention ( Exodus 14:13 ; Matthew 14:25 ; Matthew 15:23 ).
3 . The plea offered . The irrevocableness of life which Job depicts by means of two impressive images, comparing his sorrowful existence to:
(a) His eye should never more see good (verse 7); i.e. it should never more return to enjoy the things that constitute (or are supposed to constitute) earthly felicity (cf. the language of Hezekiah, Isaiah 38:11 ). Life's pleasures, opportunities, privileges, can only be enjoyed once. Yet good in the highest sense does not terminate with death. When a saint departs from this mortal scene he enters upon the chief good, the experience of nobler pleasures and loftier privileges than ever he possessed on earth ( Job 19:27 ; Philippians 1:21 ).
(b) Men's eyes should never see him (verse 8); i.e. he should never more mingle in the society of the living, never more participate in the friendships and associations of time, having bid farewell to all companions and loved ones (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:9 , Ecclesiastes 9:10 )—an argument for living peacefully and lovingly amongst friends, companions, and neighbours, since we must soon be parted from them and they from us.
(c) Even God's eye should fail to see him (verse 8); i.e. God would not be able to do him good after he was dead, the present life being the only season in which man has an opportunity of receiving "gracious" visitation from God. It is too late to give a man a cordial when he is in his grave; and much more is it post horam to look for salvation when life is ended ( 2 Corinthians 6:2 ).
1 . Since life, and especially the Christian life, is a war-service ( 1 Timothy 6:12 ), it becomes saints not unnecessarily to entangle themselves with the affairs of this world ( 2 Timothy 2:4 ), but to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ ( 2 Timothy 2:3 ).
2 . Since God will faithfully recompense his servants ( Proverbs 12:14 ; Romans 2:10 ; 1 Corinthians 3:8 ), they whom he has hired should be faithful in the rendering of service to him ( Romans 12:11 ; Ephesians 6:6 , Ephesians 6:7 ).
3 . Since the natural life of man, even when taken at its best estate, is altogether vanity ( Psalms 39:5 , Psalms 39:11 ), it is the part of wisdom to aspire after that life which will never disappoint ( John 4:14 ), never know affliction ( Revelation 7:16 , Revelation 7:17 ), and never pass away ( 1 John 2:17 ).
4 . Since it is certain that we must all go down into the grave ( Job 30:23 ; Psalms 89:48 ; John 9:4 ; Hebrews 9:27 ), it becomes us to prepare for that event ( Psalms 39:4 ; 2 Kings 20:1 ; Philippians 1:21 : 1 Peter 1:17 ).
5 . Since it is equally certain that we shall all come up again out of our graves ( Job 19:26 ; Daniel 12:2 ; John 11:23 , John 11:24 ; Acts 24:15 ), it is folly not to seek before we die the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection ( Philippians 3:11 ).
The weakness of man's appeal to the clemency of God.
I. GENERAL VIEW OF MAN 'S MISERY AND HIS OWN . ( Job 7:1-5 .) Man is compared to a hireling with an appointed time of service, the end of which is wearily and wistfully looked for. The ideas suggested are
As the slave longs for the lengthening shadows of evening, the hired labourer for pay-time, so the oppressed sufferer, toiling beneath a load of pain, longs for the welcome end of death. He "would 'twere bedtime, and all well." Voluntary and moderate labour is one of the keenest delights of life; but forced and prolonged toll exhausts the very springs of enjoyment. Rest is the reward of moderate exertion, but to the excessive toiler or sufferer it is denied. We have a picture here of the extreme misery of sleeplessness, than which none can be more acute; the tossing through the wakeful hours of darkness, the mind travelling over and over again the same weary track of its melancholy contemplations. It may be appropriate here to think of the great blessing of sleep. Homer termed it "ambrosial." It was one of the great boons of Heaven to suffering mortals. It is "the season of all natures," as Shakespeare beautifully says. It is the preservation of sanity. Connected with this, the lesson of moderate exertion is one needed by many in these busy, striving days; and no less the fault of over-anxiety, and the duty of casting care upon God. on which the gospel insists so strongly. It is the life according to our true nature, and according to simple piety, which brings sound sleep by night, and healthy thought by day.
II. REFLECTION ON THE BREVITY OF LIFE , AND PRAYER . ( Job 7:6-10 .) The mood of self-pity continues. Then follows a lament on the shortness of life. It is compared to a weaver's shuttle, to smoke, to the vanishing of a cloud, as it is elsewhere compared ( Job 9:25 ) to the hasty passage of a courier, or, in the well-known old story of English history, to the flight of a bird through a hall and out into the darkness again. We may compare the following plaintive passage from the Greek poet AE schylus:—
Ah! friend, behold and see
What's all the beauty of humanity?
Can it be fair?
What's all the strength? can it be strong
And what hope can they bear,
These dying livers—living one day long?
Ah! seest thou not, my friend,
How feeble and slow
And like a dream doth go
This poor blind manhood, drifted from its end?"
(Mrs. E. B. Browning's translation.)
We may draw from this passage the following lessons:
1 . There is a constant sense of infirmity in human nature, and of the inexorable law of death.
2 . The mind cannot submit patiently to this doom. Dear earthly affections ( Job 7:8 ) cry out against it, and unconsciously witness for the immortality of the soul.
3 . The thought of utter extinction cannot be endured by an awakened and elevated spirit ( Job 7:10 ). These impotences and reluctances in the presence of decay and death are really tokens of immortality. We see them to be so in this instance, in an age when life and immortality were not brought to light.
4 . The natural relief from all such sorrows and perplexities is in prayer ( Job 7:7 ). The cry, "Oh, remember!" is not unheard by him who knows our frame and remembers that we are dust. There may be the clear consciousness of God where there is not the definite assurance of immortality. But a firm faith in him, when cherished and educated, leads ultimately to the conviction that the soul cannot perish.—J.
The days of the hireling.
Job speaks from the depth of suffering, and as yet he has no clear light upon the Divine purpose concerning him. God, who is his true Refuge, appears to be his Enemy; and he likens his miserable days to those of the oppressed slave. This he urges as a justification of the longing for rest which he has expressed. For him there is no prospect of that rest but in the grave. It is the cry of bitter subjection.
1. THE COMPARISON OF HUMAN LIFE TO THAT OF THE HIRELING . It is an appointed lot. It is a lot of subjection. It is a life of toil and weariness. In Job's case the comparison is most apt. But his thought is especially upon the longing of the hireling for the close of the day. For this the toil, the heat, the weariness, prepare him. Job's condition is one of hard toil. He is weary even of his life. And his longing for the rest which death alone can bring is the precise point of his comparison. How often does life present no brighter or more beauteous aspect! Its many cares, its disappointments, its multiplied sorrows and keen, penetrating pains make life to many to be as the hard drudgery of the hireling. How many long for death as the hireling for night I In a true sense life is the life of a hireling, and the good Master who has sent us into his vineyard to toil will reward the faithful labourer with his sufficient hire.
II. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF JOB 'S LOT . He is to his own view as one whose toil is a grievous one. He is more than weary; and his longing for the shadows of evening is justified by what seems to him to be the hardness of his taskmaster. Earnestly he "desireth the shadow;" for long "months of vanity" he is "made to possess," and "wearisome nights are appointed' to him. When the tired labourer lies down to rest in unconscious sleep, and to gain strength for the toil of the morrow, Job is "full of tossings to and fro." The dawn brings him no refreshment. The fevered night leaves him to encounter unprepared the enemy of the day. His poor afflicted body presents the saddest picture; "worms and clods of dust" clothe it, His "skin is broken;" his sores make his flesh "loathsome" to him, and his "days are spent without hope." From such a sufferer comes the word of complaining. It is little to be wondered at by one who remembers his own frailty. The picture of Job is a lesson for us, and, turning our thoughts from our own healthy life to the sufferings of the afflicted, let us learn our duty, and cherish:
1 . The pitifulness of spirit which is due to all sufferers.
2 . Their claim upon our help and sympathy.
3 . The forbearance with which we should hear their complainings.
4 . We also may, in our turn, become the sufferers, and need the comfort we now give to others.
Thus may each man see himself in every sufferer, and learn to give that consolation he himself so soon may need.—R.G.
The weariness of sorrow.
I. IN A DESIRE FOR THE CLOSE OF LIFE . ( Job 7:2 .)
II. As A CONTINUOUS DISAPPOINTMENT . ( Job 7:3 .)
III. As A CEASELESS RESTLESSNESS . ( Job 7:4 .)
IV. AS A REVOLT FROM THE PAINFULNESS OF ITS CIRCUMSTANCES . ( Job 7:5 .)
V. AS A CONDITION OF HOPELESSNESS . ( Job 7:6 .)—R.G.
The speedy flight of life.
In the multitude of his thoughts within him, Job glances at many of the painful aspects of life. His view is influenced by the condition of his spirit. With a longing for the grave, he nevertheless mourns over the rapid flight of his few days upon earth. Such a reflection every one may wisely make. Consider the expressive similes in which Job sees his hasty life represented.
1 . His days are swifter than the weaver's shuttle (verse 6).
2 . They are as the wind (verse 7).
3 . They are as the glance of the eye (verse 8).
4 . They are as the cloud which is consumed, and which vanisheth away (verse 9).
To what course of conduct should such a reflection lead? If life be so swiftly passed, can anything be done to abate its apparent evil? What is becoming to him whose days thus flee away?
1 . A diligent and careful use and husbanding of time.
2 . A concentration of attention on life's essential work, avoiding all frivolous occupations of time which rob the soul of its days and leave no residuum of blessing or benefit.
3 . A careful guard against confining the pursuits of life to those things which can be attained only in this present world.
4 . A just estimate of the value of immortality, and a due attention to the interests that relate to it.
5. A patient endurance of life's sorrows, seeing they will soon close; and a moderate absorption in life's pleasures, for they speedily pass away. Life is very brief, but it is long enough to enable every one to lay hold on eternal life, to prepare himself for that eternal life, and to do work that hereafter may be reflected upon with pleasure.—R.G.
The weaver's shuttle.
This is one of the many emblems of the brevity of life which carry a certain subtle suggestiveness of deeper meanings in spite of the minimizing pessimism that seems to be their sole prompting cause. The shuttle flies swiftly across the web. What does this fact suggest?
I. THE MELANCHOLY BREVITY OF LIFE . "The velocity of time," says Seneca, "is infinite, and is most apparent to those who look back." This is one of the most trite topics of conventional moralists. Yet it is one which each individual man feels with a startled shock of surprise when it comes directly home to him in experience. We say that life is short, but we do not believe it till we are reminded of the fact by ugly surprises. Then we feel that the flying shuttle, the melting shadow, the tale hastening to a close, are not more transitory than life. We are but creatures of a day in the light of God's eternity.
II. THE VANITY OF EARTHLY AMBITIONS . We lay our foundations, but we have not time to put the corner-stone on our cherished design before we are called hence. The tools drop from our hands ere we have accomplished our purposes. The mirage of life fades before its paradise has been attained. We start with great hopes, but our hairs are gray before we have begun to realize them, and we are in our graves before they are fulfilled.
III. THE FOLLY OF IMPATIENCE . Let us be fair. If the joys of life are fleeting, so also are its pains. Though our lot be hard, the hardship will not be long. Job seems to complain that, if life is so short, it is cruel to spoil it with trouble. It seems sad that so little a day should be robbed of its brief sunshine. But, on the other hand, if the day is one of pain and bitterness, may we not be thankful that the evening hasteneth on?
IV. THE DUTY OF UNSELFISHNESS . We make too much of our own individual lives, as though the world existed for ourselves. This is like the shuttle fancying that the loom belongs to it, and was made entirely to suit its convenience. Nay, it is worse: it is like the shuttle thinking the loom was made for one throw, one thread. We must learn to understand that we exist for a larger purpose. Slowly enough the great web of time is woven, though each throw of the shuttle is so swift. God is thinking of the whole.
V. THE MYSTERY OF A DIVINE PURPOSE . The shuttle knows not why it is flung across the threads. But it is working out an unseen design. The seemingly aimless and wasted throw is essential to the weaving of the pattern of the whole fabric. God has a purpose with each of our lives. Even the briefest life which is lived in obedience to God cannot be wasted. God's great loom will work it into his eternal design.
VI. THE NECESSITY OF A FUTURE LIFE . The animals are satisfied with their ephemeral existence. They have no melancholy reflections on the brevity of life. It is only to man that this earthly existence seems to be contemptibly short. Why? Because in his breast there dwells the instinct of immortality—an instinct whose very existence is a mute prophecy of its future satisfaction, since he who planted it will not disappoint it. The shuttle is not destroyed after its swift flight. This brief life carries us on to the endless ages of the Divine future.—W.F.A.
In this chapter Job first bewails his miserable fate, of which he expects no alleviation (verses 1-10); then claims an unlimited right of complaint (verse 11); and finally enters into direct expostulation with God—an expostulation which continues from verse 12 to the end of the chapter. At the close, he admits his sinfulness (verse 20), but asks impatiently why God does not pardon it instead of visiting it with such extreme vengeance (verse 21).