Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Then Job answered and said,
How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?XIX.
(2) How long?—Job begins as Bildad himself had begun in both cases. His last speech had been so offensive and unfeeling that Job may well ask “How long will ye vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?” Moreover, Bildad had infused a kind of personal malice into his charges, which Job felt most keenly, so that he is constrained to ask, “If indeed I have erred, doth not my error remain with myself? I alone suffer for it, and ye do not even sympathise or suffer with me.”
Know now that God hath overthrown me, and hath compassed me with his net.(6) Know now that God hath overthrown me.—Bildad had spoken a great deal about the wicked being snared by his own sin, and now Job, without actually quoting his words—for he uses a word for net that Bildad had not used—speaks to their substance. It is God who has taken him in His net and compassed him about therewith. This is the assertion he has made before (Job 16:7; Job 13:27, &c.).
Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard: I cry aloud, but there is no judgment.(7) Behold I cry out of wrong.—The description he now gives of himself as persecuted and forsaken by God is necessary to enhance the value of the confession he is about to make. Severely has God dealt with him, but that severity of dealing has only drawn him nearer to God and made him trust the more. He groups together a rich variety of figures to express his desolate condition. He is suffering assault, and can get no protection or redress; he is imprisoned on every side, his hope is torn up like the tree of which he had before spoken (Job 14:7).
He hath also kindled his wrath against me, and he counteth me unto him as one of his enemies.(11) He hath also kindled . . .—Comp. Job 16:9; Job 16:12, &c.
He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me.(13) He hath put my brethren far from me.—The Psalmist has apparently copied this in Psalm 88:8. The sense of human desertion is hardly less terrible than that of being forsaken by God, and this has been added to him. It is not easy to read these sad complaints of Job without seeing how fitly they apply to the sorrows of the Man of sorrows. Those who, with the present writer, believe in the overruling presence of the Holy Ghost will adore His wisdom in this fitness; but at all events it shows how completely Christ entered into the very heart of human suffering, in that the deepest expressions of suffering inevitably remind us of Him, whether those expressions are met with in the Book of Job, in the Psalms of David, or in the Lamentations of Jeremiah.
My breath is strange to my wife, though I intreated for the children's sake of mine own body.(17) Though I intreated for the children’s sake of mine own body.—Rather, and so is my affection or kindness (see Psalm 77:10, where the same word occurs) to the children of my mother’s womb, i.e., my brethren. Others render, I am become offensive to, &c.
All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me.(19) My inward friends.—That is, my intimate friends: the men of my counsel who are familiar with my secret affairs.
My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.(20) My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh in one indistinguishable mass, and I have escaped with the skin of my teeth, because the teeth have no skin, or, as others explain, because the teeth have fallen out. This expression, which is by no means clear in the context, has passed into a proverb expressive of a very narrow escape—a meaning which can only by inference be obtained from this place in Job.
Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.(21) Have pity upon me.—Now comes once more an exceeding great and bitter cry. (Comp. Job 16:20.)
Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?(22) Why do ye persecute me as God?—Comp. Job 16:9.
Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!(23) Oh that my words were now written!—Some understand this to refer to the words he is about to utter; by others they are interpreted generally. The former view is probably owing to the Christian acceptation given to them, and the consequently great importance attaching to them. Since, however, the three verses, Job 19:25-27, are manifestly more emphatic than any he has yet spoken, though they do not stand quite alone, there is no reason why it should not be especially these very words which he desires more than any others to have recorded. Perhaps the “now” = here shows this.
Oh that they were printed.—This points us to primitive time, when writing materials and the use of writing involved more or less of engraving, as, for instance, in later times was the case with tablets of wax.
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:(25) For I know that my redeemer liveth.—We must carefully note all the passages which lead up to this one. First, we must bear in mind that Bildad (Job 18:17-20) had threatened Job with the extinction of his name and memory, so he now appeals to the verdict of futurity, and with what success we ourselves who read and repeat and discuss his words are witnesses. Then in Job’s own speeches we have, as early as Job 9:32-35. his longing for a daysman to come between himself and God. Then in Job 10:7; Job 13:15-19, he emphatically declares his innocence, and appeals to God as conscious of it. In Job 16:19, he affirms that his witness is in the high heavens; in Job 19:21 of the same chapter he longs for an advocate to plead his cause. In Job 17:3 he calls upon God to be surety for him. Therefore he has already recognised God as his judge, his umpire, his advocate, his witness, and surety, and in some cases by formal confession of the fact, in others by earnest longing after and aspirations for some one to act in that capacity. Here, then, he goes a step further in expression, if not by implication, and declares his knowledge that he has a Goel or Redeemer. This goel was the name given to the next of kin whose duty it was to redeem, ransom, or avenge one who had fallen into debt or bondage, or had been slain in a family feud. In Ruth, for instance, the goel is he who has to marry the widow of his relative, and to continue his name. The various and conditional functions, then, of this Goel, Job is assured, God will take upon Himself for him; He will avenge his quarrel (comp. Psalm 35:1; Psalm 35:23), He will be surety for him. He will vindicate him before men and before God Himself; He will do for him what none of his professed friends would undertake to do. And as to this matter, he has not the slightest doubt: he states most emphatically that he himself knows that this Goel liveth. “And I, even I know; as for me, I know that my Vindicator is living, that He liveth, is a reality existing now, and not one to come into existence hereafter, though His manifestation may be a thing of the future, for He shall stand at the last upon the earth,” or, “He shall stand last upon earth” (comp. Isaiah 40:8), that is, after all others have passed away and gone down to the bars of the tomb. Now, this alone is assuredly a marvellous confession. It states the reality and eternity of God. It is faith in the I am. This same epithet of Redeemer is applied to God in Ps. 19:15; Isaiah 59:20; in the former passage it is coupled with rock, which was the term Bildad bad applied to God (Job 18:4).
Upon the earth is literally, upon dust; the word is thus used in Job 41:33. This usage of the same words in the same book, where the meaning is not ambiguous, is strongly against the rendering some have preferred: over the dust, or over my dust.
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:(26) And though after my skin.—The word skin is probably put by the common metonymy of a part for the whole for body. “After they have thus destroyed my skin,” or “after my skin hath been thus destroyed”—or, “and after my skin hath been destroyed—this shall be: that even from my flesh I shall see God”—referring, probably, in the first instance, to his present personal faith, notwithstanding the corruption produced by his disease. “I can and do still see God, whom I know as my Redeemer;” but perhaps more probably put in contrast to this present knowledge as implying something yet to come, when the Redeemer stands at the last upon the earth, which also seems to be yet further expressed in the following verse.
Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.(27) My reins be consumed within me.—i.e., with longing to see Him; literally, my reins are consumed in my bosom. The words “in my flesh” may mean from my flesh, or, without my flesh. Taken in the former sense and applied to the future, it is hard not to recognise in them, at the least, some dim conception of a resurrection.
(27) Whom I shall see for myself.—The words “see for myself” may mean see on my side, i.e., as my Judge and Avenger; or they may be the personal intensifying of the conviction which seems confirmed by the words, “and not a stranger.” Do Job’s words then teach the doctrine of the resurrection? Possibly not directly, but they express the firm conviction of that faith of which the resurrection is the only natural justification; they express a living trust in a living personal God, who, if He is to come into contact with man, cannot suffer His Holy One to see corruption nor leave His soul in hell. How far Job believed in the resurrection of the flesh hereafter, he certainly believed there was life out of death and through death here; and no man can believe in a living God and not believe that He must and will triumph over death. It is possible for us to believe in some dogma about the resurrection, and yet not believe in God. In this respect we shall be unlike Job. It is impossible for us to believe as he did and not be ready and thankful to believe in the resurrection of Christ, and of those who belong to Christ, as soon as the fact is proclaimed to us on sufficient authority. In this way, and for this reason, the confession of Job rightly stands at the head of the Christian Office for the Burial of the Dead, which looks forward to the resurrection, and lays fast hold thereon. Those who decline to see in Job’s confession any knowledge or hope of a resurrection, must not forget that they have also to explain and account for Isaiah 26:19.
But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?(28) Seeing the root of the matter.—This verse is variously understood, according as “the root of the matter” is interpreted of the cause of suffering or the essence of piety. “For ye say, How we will persecute him, and that the root of the matter is found in me.” The Authorised Version takes the other view. It seems preferable to render, “For ye say, What is a persecuted man to Him (why should He persecute any man without cause?), and therefore the root of the matter (i.e., the cause of the afflictions) is, i.e., must be found in me.”
Be ye afraid of the sword: for wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgment.(29) Be ye afraid . . .—Job threatens his friends with that condign punishment of which they regarded him as a conspicuous example.