Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
But Job answered and said,
FIRST SERIES CONTINUED.
Job 6:1-30. Reply of Job to Eliphaz.
Oh that my grief were throughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together!
2. throughly weighed—Oh, that instead of censuring my complaints when thou oughtest rather to have sympathized with me, thou wouldst accurately compare my sorrow, and my misfortunes; these latter "outweigh in the balance" the former.
For now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea: therefore my words are swallowed up.
3. the sand—(Pr 27:3).
are swallowed up—See Margin [that is, "I want words to express my grief"]. But Job plainly is apologizing, not for not having had words enough, but for having spoken too much and too boldly; and the Hebrew is, "to speak rashly" [Umbreit, Gesenius, Rosenmuller]. "Therefore were my words so rash."
For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.
4. arrows … within me—have pierced me. A poetic image representing the avenging Almighty armed with bow and arrows (Ps 38:2, 3). Here the arrows are poisoned. Peculiarly appropriate, in reference to the burning pains which penetrated, like poison, into the inmost parts—("spirit"; as contrasted with mere surface flesh wounds) of Job's body.
set themselves in array—a military image (Jud 20:33). All the terrors which the divine wrath can muster are set in array against me (Isa 42:13).
Doth the wild ass bray when he hath grass? or loweth the ox over his fodder?
5. Neither wild animals, as the wild ass, nor tame, as the ox, are dissatisfied when well-supplied with food. The braying of the one and the lowing of the other prove distress and want of palatable food. So, Job argues, if he complains, it is not without cause; namely, his pains, which are, as it were, disgusting food, which God feeds him with (end of Job 6:7). But he should have remembered a rational being should evince a better spirit than the brute.
Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?
6. unsavoury—tasteless, insipid. Salt is a chief necessary of life to an Easterner, whose food is mostly vegetable.
the white—literally, "spittle" (1Sa 21:13), which the white of an egg resembles.
The things that my soul refused to touch are as my sorrowful meat.
7. To "touch" is contrasted with "meat." "My taste refused even to touch it, and yet am I fed with such meat of sickness." The second clause literally, is, "Such is like the sickness of my food." The natural taste abhors even to touch insipid food, and such forms my nourishment. For my sickness is like such nauseous food [Umbreit]. (Ps 42:3; 80:5; 102:9). No wonder, then, I complain.
Oh that I might have my request; and that God would grant me the thing that I long for!
8. To desire death is no necessary proof of fitness for death. The ungodly sometimes desire it, so as to escape troubles, without thought of the hereafter. The godly desire it, in order to be with the Lord; but they patiently wait God's will.
Even that it would please God to destroy me; that he would let loose his hand, and cut me off!
9. destroy—literally, "grind" or "crush" (Isa 3:15).
let loose his hand—God had put forth His hand only so far as to wound the surface of Job's flesh (Job 1:12; 2:6); he wishes that hand to be let loose, so as to wound deeply and vitally.
cut me off—metaphor from a weaver cutting off the web, when finished, from the thrum fastening it to the loom (Isa 38:12).
Then should I yet have comfort; yea, I would harden myself in sorrow: let him not spare; for I have not concealed the words of the Holy One.
10. I would harden myself in sorrow—rather, "I would exult in the pain," if I knew that that pain would hasten my death [Gesenius]. Umbreit translates the Hebrew of "Let Him not spare," as "unsparing"; and joins it with "pain."
concealed—I have not disowned, in word or deed, the commands of the Holy One (Ps 119:46; Ac 20:20). He says this in answer to Eliphaz' insinuation that he is a hypocrite. God is here called "the Holy One," to imply man's reciprocal obligation to be holy, as He is holy (Le 19:2).
What is my strength, that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong my life?
11. What strength have I, so as to warrant the hope of restoration to health? a hope which Eliphaz had suggested. "And what" but a miserable "end" of life is before me, "that I should" desire to "prolong life"? [Umbreit]. Umbreit and Rosenmuller not so well translate the last words "to be patient."
Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh of brass?
12. Disease had so attacked him that his strength would need to be hard as a stone, and his flesh like brass, not to sink under it. But he has only flesh, like other men. It must, therefore, give way; so that the hope of restoration suggested by Eliphaz is vain (see on Job 5:11).
Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?
13. Is not my help in me?—The interrogation is better omitted. "There is no help in me!" For "wisdom," "deliverance" is a better rendering. "And deliverance is driven quite from me."
To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend; but he forsaketh the fear of the Almighty.
14. pity—a proverb. Charity is the love which judges indulgently of our fellow men: it is put on a par with truth in Pr 3:3, for they together form the essence of moral perfection [Umbreit]. It is the spirit of Christianity (1Pe 4:8; 1Co 13:7; Pr 10:12; 17:17). If it ought to be used towards all men, much more towards friends. But he who does not use it forsaketh (renounceth) the fear of the Almighty (Jas 2:13).
My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away;
15. Those whom I regarded as "my brethren," from whom I looked for faithfulness in my adversity, have disappointed me, as the streams failing from drought—wadies of Arabia, filled in the winter, but dry in the summer, which disappoint the caravans expecting to find water there. The fulness and noise of these temporary streams answer to the past large and loud professions of my friends; their dryness in summer, to the failure of the friendship when needed. The Arab proverb says of a treacherous friend, "I trust not in thy torrent" (Isa 58:11, Margin).
stream of brooks—rather, "the brook in the ravines which passes away." It has no perpetual spring of water to renew it (unlike "the fountain of living waters," Jer 2:13; Isa 33:16, at the end); and thus it passes away as rapidly as it arose.
Which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid:
16. blackish—literally, "Go as a mourner in black clothing" (Ps 34:14). A vivid and poetic image to picture the stream turbid and black with melted ice and snow, descending from the mountains into the valley. In the [second] clause, the snow dissolved is, in the poet's view, "hid" in the flood [Umbreit].
What time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place.
17. wax warm—rather, "At the time when." ("But they soon wax") [Umbreit]. "they become narrower (flow in a narrower bed), they are silent (cease to flow noisily); in the heat (of the sun) they are consumed or vanish out of their place. First the stream flows more narrowly—then it becomes silent and still; at length every trace of water disappears by evaporation under the hot sun" [Umbreit].
The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish.
18. turned aside—rather, "caravans" (Hebrew, "travellers") turn aside from their way, by circuitous routes, to obtain water. They had seen the brook in spring full of water: and now in the summer heat, on their weary journey, they turn off their road by a devious route to reach the living waters, which they remembered with such pleasure. But, when "they go," it is "into a desert" [Noyes and Umbreit]. Not as English Version, "They go to nothing," which would be a tame repetition of the drying up of the waters in Job 6:17; instead of waters, they find an "empty wilderness"; and, not having strength to regain their road, bitterly disappointed, they "perish." The terse brevity is most expressive.
The troops of Tema looked, the companies of Sheba waited for them.
19. the troops—that is, "caravans."
Tema—north of Arabia-Deserta, near the Syrian desert; called from Tema son of Ishmael (Ge 25:15; Isa 21:14; Jer 25:23), still so called by the Arabs. Job 6:19, 20 give another picture of the mortification of disappointed hopes, namely, those of the caravans on the direct road, anxiously awaiting the return of their companions from the distant valley. The mention of the locality whence the caravans came gives living reality to the picture.
Sheba—refers here not to the marauders in North Arabia-Deserta (Job 1:15), but to the merchants (Eze 27:22) in the south, in Arabia-Felix or Yemen, "afar off" (Jer 6:20; Mt 12:42; Ge 10:28). Caravans are first mentioned in Ge 37:25; men needed to travel thus in companies across the desert, for defense against the roving robbers and for mutual accommodation.
The companies … waited for them—cannot refer to the caravans who had gone in quest of the waters; for Job 6:18 describes their utter destruction.
They were confounded because they had hoped; they came thither, and were ashamed.
20. literally, "each had hoped"; namely, that their companions would find water. The greater had been their hopes the more bitter now their disappointment;
they came thither—to the place.
and were ashamed—literally, "their countenances burn," an Oriental phrase for the shame and consternation of deceived expectation; so "ashamed" as to disappointment (Ro 5:5).
For now ye are nothing; ye see my casting down, and are afraid.
21. As the dried-up brook is to the caravan, so are ye to me, namely, a nothing; ye might as well not be in existence [Umbreit]. The Margin "like to them," or "to it" (namely, the waters of the brook), is not so good a reading.
ye see, and are afraid—Ye are struck aghast at the sight of my misery, and ye lose presence of mind. Job puts this mild construction on their failing to relieve him with affectionate consolation.
Did I say, Bring unto me? or, Give a reward for me of your substance?
22. And yet I did not ask you to "bring me" a gift; or to "pay for me out of your substance a reward" (to the Judge, to redeem me from my punishment); all I asked from you was affectionate treatment.
Or, Deliver me from the enemy's hand? or, Redeem me from the hand of the mighty?
23. the mighty—the oppressor, or creditor, in whose power the debtor was [Umbreit].
Teach me, and I will hold my tongue: and cause me to understand wherein I have erred.
24, 25. Irony. If you can "teach me" the right view, I am willing to be set right, and "hold my tongue"; and to be made to see my error. But then if your words be really the right words, how is it that they are so feeble? "Yet how feeble are the words of what you call the right view." So the Hebrew is used (in Mic 2:10; 1:9). The English Version, "How powerful," &c., does not agree so well with the last clause of the verse.
How forcible are right words! but what doth your arguing reprove?
25. And what will your arguings reprove?—literally, "the reproofs which proceed from you"; the emphasis is on you; you may find fault, who are not in my situation [Umbreit].
Do ye imagine to reprove words, and the speeches of one that is desperate, which are as wind?
26. Do you imagine—or, "mean."
to reprove words and (to reprove) the speeches of one desperate, (which are) as wind?—mere nothings, not to be so narrowly taken to task? Umbreit not so well takes the Hebrew for "as wind," as "sentiments"; making formal "sentiments" antithetical to mere "speeches," and supplying, not the word "reprove," but "would you regard," from the first clause.
Yea, ye overwhelm the fatherless, and ye dig a pit for your friend.
27. literally, "ye cause" (supply, "your anger") [Umbreit], a net, namely, of sophistry [Noyes and Schuttens], to fall upon the desolate (one bereft of help, like the fatherless orphan);
and ye dig (a pit) for your friend—that is, try to ensnare him, to catch him in the use of unguarded language [Noyes]. (Ps 57:6); metaphor from hunters catching wild beasts in a pit covered with brushwood to conceal it. Umbreit from the Syriac, and answering to his interpretation of the first clause, has, "Would you be indignant against your friend?" The Hebrew in Job 41:6, means to "feast upon." As the first clause asks, "Would you catch him in a net?" so this follows up the image, "And would you next feast upon him, and his miseries?" So the Septuagint.
Now therefore be content, look upon me; for it is evident unto you if I lie.
28. be content—rather, "be pleased to"—look. Since you have so falsely judged my words, look upon me, that is, upon my countenance: for (it is evident before your faces) if I lie; my countenance will betray me, if I be the hypocrite that you suppose.
Return, I pray you, let it not be iniquity; yea, return again, my righteousness is in it.
29. Return—rather, "retract" your charges:
let it not be iniquity—that is, (retract) that injustice may not be done me. Yea retract, "my righteousness is in it"; that is, my right is involved in this matter.
Is there iniquity in my tongue? cannot my taste discern perverse things?
30. Will you say that my guilt lies in the organ of speech, and will you call it to account? or, Is it that my taste (palate) or discernment is not capable to form a judgment of perverse things? Is it thus you will explain the fact of my having no consciousness of guilt? [Umbreit].