Job 14:14
If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) If a man die, shall he live again?—Why ask the question if it were absolutely certain that he would not? “All the days of my warfare—i.e., as long as I live—I will hope, till my change or transition from life to death comes, that Thou shalt call and I shall answer Thee, that Thou wilt long for the work of Thine hands.”

Job

JOB’S QUESTION, JESUS’ ANSWER

Job 14:14
. - John 11:25 - John 11:26.

Job’s question waited long for an answer. Weary centuries rolled away; but at last the doubting, almost despairing, cry put into the mouth of the man of sorrows of the Old Testament is answered by the Man of Sorrows of the New. The answer in words is this second text which may almost be supposed to allude to the ancient question. The answer, in fact, is the resurrection of Christ. Apart from this answer there is none.

So we may take these two texts to help us to grasp more clearly and feel more profoundly what the world owes to that great fact which we are naturally led to think of to-day.

I. The ancient and ever returning question.

The Book of Job is probably a late part of the Old Testament. It deals with problems which indicate some advance in religious thought. Solemn and magnificent, and for the most part sad; it is like a Titan struggling with large problems, and seldom attaining to positive conclusions in which the heart or the head can rest in peace. Here all Job’s mind is clouded with a doubt. He has just given utterance to an intense longing for a life beyond the grave. His abode in Sheol is thought of as in some sense a breach in the continuity of his consciousness, but even that would be tolerable, if only he could be sure that, after many days, God would remember him. Then that longing gives way before the torturing question of the text, which dashes aside the tremulous hope with its insistent interrogation. It is not denial, but it is a doubt which palsies hope. But though he has no certainty, he cannot part with the possibility, and so goes on to imagine how blessed it would be if his longing were fulfilled. He thinks that such a renewed life would be like the ‘release’ of a sentry who had long stood on guard; he thinks of it as his swift, joyous ‘answer’ to God’s summons, which would draw him out from the sad crowd of pale shadows and bring him back to warmth and reality. His hope takes a more daring flight still, and he thinks of God as yearning for His creature, as His creature yearns for Him, and having ‘a desire to the work of His hands,’ as if His heaven would be incomplete without His servant. But the rapture and the vision pass, and the rest of the chapter is all clouded over, and the devout hope loses its light. Once again it gathers brightness in the twenty-first chapter, where the possibility flashes out starlike, that ‘after my skin hath been thus destroyed, yet from my flesh shall I see God.’

These fluctuations of hope and doubt reveal to us the attitude of devout souls in Israel at a late era of the national life. And if they show us their high-water mark, we need not suppose that similar souls outside the Old Testament circle had solid certainty where these had but a variable hope. We know how large a development the doctrine of a future life had in Assyria and in Egypt, and I suppose we are entitled to say that men have always had the idea of a future. They have always had the thought, sometimes as a fear, sometimes as a hope, but never as a certainty. It has lacked not only certainty but distinctness. It has lacked solidity also, the power to hold its own and sustain itself against the weighty pressure of intrusive things seen and temporal.

But we need not go to the ends of the earth or to past generations for examples of a doubting, superficial hold of the truth that man lives through death and after it. We have only to look around us, and, alas! we have only to look within us. This age is asking the question again, and answering it in many tones, sometimes of indifferent disregard, sometimes flaunting a stark negative without reasoned foundation, sometimes with affirmatives with as little reason as these negatives. The modern world is caught in the rush and whirl of life, has its own sorrows to front, its own battles to fight, and large sections of it have never come as near an answer to Job’s question as Job did.

II. Christ’s all-sufficing answer.

He gave it there, by the grave of Lazarus, to that weeping sister, but He spoke these great words of calm assurance to all the world. One cannot but note the difference between His attitude in the presence of the great Mystery and that of all other teachers. How calmly, certainly, and confidently He speaks!

Mark that Jesus, even at that hour of agony, turns Martha’s thoughts to Himself. What He is is the all-important thing for her to know. If she understands Him, life and death will have no insoluble problems nor any hopelessness for her. ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life.’ She had risen in her grief to a lofty height in believing that ‘even now’-at this moment when help is vain and hope is dead-’whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee,’ but Jesus offers to her a loftier conception of Him when He lays a sovereign hand on resurrection and life, and discloses that both inhere in Him, and from Him flow to all who shall possess them. He claims to have in Himself the fountain of life, in all possible senses of the word, as well as in the special sense relevant at that sad hour. Further, He tells Martha that by faith in Him any and all may possess that life. And then He majestically goes on to declare that the life which He gives is immune from, and untouched by, death. The believer shall live though he dies, the living believer shall never die. It is clear that, in these two great statements, to die is used in two different meanings, referring in the former case to the physical fact, and in the latter carrying a heavier weight of significance, namely the pregnant sense which it usually has in this Gospel, of separation from God and consequently from the true life of the soul. Physical death is not the termination of human life. The grim fact touches only the surface life, and has nothing to do with the essential, personal being. He that believes on Jesus, and he only, truly lives, and his union with Jesus secures his possession of that eternal life, which victoriously persists through the apparent, superficial change which men call death. Nothing dies but the death which surrounds the faithful soul. For it to die is to live more fully, more triumphantly, more blessedly. So though the act of physical death remains, its whole character is changed. Hence the New Testament euphemisms for death are much more than euphemisms. Men christen it by names which drape its ugliness, because they fear it so much, but Faith can play with Leviathan, because it fears it not at all. Hence such names as ‘sleep,’ ‘exodus,’ are tokens of the victory won for all believers by Jesus. He will show Martha the hope for all His followers which begins to dawn even in the calling of her brother back from the grip of death. And He shows us the great truth that His being the ‘Life’ necessarily involved His being also the ‘Resurrection,’ for His life-communicating work could not be accomplished till His all-quickening vitality had flowed over into, and flooded with its own conquering tides, not only the spirit which believes but its humble companion, the soul, and its yet humbler, the body. A bodily life is essential to perfect manhood, and Jesus will not stay His hand till every believer is full-summed in all his powers, and is perfect in body, soul, and spirit, after the image of Him who redeemed Him.

III. The pledge for the truth of the answer.

The words of Jesus are only words. These precious words, spoken to that one weeping sister in a little Jewish village, and which have brought hope to millions ever since, are as baseless as all the other dreams and longings of the heart, unless Jesus confirms them by fact. If He did not rise from the dead, they are but another of the noble, exalted, but futile delusions of which the world has many others. If Christ be not risen, His words of consolation are swelling words of emptiness; His whole claims are ended, and the age-old question which Job asked is unanswered still, and will always remain unanswered. If Christ be not risen, the hopeless colloquy between Jehovah and the prophet sums up all that can be said of the future life: ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, Thou knowest!’

But Christ’s resurrection is a fact which, taken in connection with His words while on earth, endorses these and establishes His claims to be the Declarer of the name of God, the Saviour of the world. It gives us demonstration of the continuity of life through and after death. Taken along with His ascension, which is but, so to speak, the prolongation of the point into a line, it declares that a glorified body and an abode in a heavenly home are waiting for all who by faith become here partakers in Jesus and are quickened by sharing in His life.

So in despite of sense and doubt and fear, notwithstanding teachers who, like the supercilious philosophers on Mars Hill, mock when they hear of a resurrection from the dead, we should rejoice in the great light which has shined into the region of the shadow of death, we should clasp His divine and most faithful answer to that old, despairing question, as the anchor of our souls, and lift up our hearts in thanksgiving in the triumphant challenge, ‘O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory?’Job 14:14. If a man die, shall he live again? — He shall not in this world, but he shall in another and better; and, therefore, all the days of my appointed time will I wait — Hebrew, צבאי, tsebai, of my warfare, namely, with my spiritual enemies, or of my service and suffering, or of the station and place God has assigned me. The idea which the word conveys is partly, at least, that of a post or station given a man by God to maintain, till he be released from it, and called to a better state; as if Job had said, Whatever station or condition God shall please to appoint me, either here or in the intermediate state, I shall still wait in earnest expectation for the future renovation and resurrection; here evidently intended by the change which he expected to come. “I must insist upon it,” says Mr. Peters. “that Job, in this verse, declares very clearly his hope of a future resurrection. I know it is a common opinion, that by the change here mentioned, is meant the change of death; but the sense above given suits best with the context, as also with the Hebrew word חליפה, chalipah, which properly signifies a change for the better, a renewal.” Houbigant renders the beginning of this verse, For though a man die, yet he shall revive again; and, therefore, I will wait, &c, observing, in agreement with Mr. Peters, that nothing can be so absurd as to suppose the words contain any doubt of a future life. 14:7-15 Though a tree is cut down, yet, in a moist situation, shoots come forth, and grow up as a newly planted tree. But when man is cut off by death, he is for ever removed from his place in this world. The life of man may fitly be compared to the waters of a land flood, which spread far, but soon dry up. All Job's expressions here show his belief in the great doctrine of the resurrection. Job's friends proving miserable comforters, he pleases himself with the expectation of a change. If our sins are forgiven, and our hearts renewed to holiness, heaven will be the rest of our souls, while our bodies are hidden in the grave from the malice of our enemies, feeling no more pain from our corruptions, or our corrections.If a man die, shall he live again? - This is a sudden transition in the thought. He had unconsciously worked himself up almost to the belief that man might live again even on the earth. He had asked to be hid somewhere - even in the grave - until the wrath of God should be overpast, and then that God would remember him, and bring him forth again to life. Here he checks himself. It cannot be, he says, that man will live again on the earth. The hope is visionary and vain, and I will endure what is appointed for me, until some change shall come. The question here "shall he live again?" is a strong form of expressing negation. He will not live again on the earth. Any hope of that kind is, therefore, vain, and I will wait until the change come - whatever that may be.

All the days of my appointed time - צבאי tsâbâ'ı̂y - my warfare; my enlistment; my hard service. See the notes at Job 7:1.

Will I wait - I will endure with patience my trials. I will not seek to cut short the time of my service.

Till my change come - What this should be, he does not seem to know. It might be relief from sufferings, or it might be happiness in some future state. At all events, this state of things could not last always, and under his heavy pressure of wo, he concluded to sit down and quietly wait for any change. He was certain of one thing - that life was to be passed over but once - that man could not go over the journey again - that he could not return to the earth and go over his youth or his age again. Grotius, and after him Rosenmuller and Noyes, here quotes a sentiment similar to this from Euripides, in "Supplicibus," verses 1080ff.

Οἴμοί τί δὴ βροτοῖσιν οὐκ ἔστιν τόδε,

Νέους δὶς εἶναι, καὶ γέροντας αὐ πάλιν; κ. τ. λ.

Oimoí ti dē brotoisin ouk estin tode,

Neous dis einai, kai gerontas au palin; etc.

The whole passage is thus elegantly translated by Grotius:

Proh fata! cur non est datum mortalibus

Duplici juventa, duplici senio frui?

Intra penates siquid habet incommode,

Fas seriore corrigi sententia;

Hoc vita non permittit: at qui bis foret

continued...

14. shall he live?—The answer implied is, There is a hope that he shall, though not in the present order of life, as is shown by the words following. Job had denied (Job 14:10-12) that man shall live again in this present world. But hoping for a "set time," when God shall remember and raise him out of the hiding-place of the grave (Job 14:13), he declares himself willing to "wait all the days of his appointed time" of continuance in the grave, however long and hard that may be.

appointed time—literally, "warfare, hard service"; imlying the hardship of being shut out from the realms of life, light, and God for the time he shall be in the grave (Job 7:1).

change—my release, as a soldier at his post released from duty by the relieving guard (see on [506]Job 10:17) [Umbreit and Gesenius], but elsewhere Gesenius explains it, "renovation," as of plants in spring (Job 14:7), but this does not accord so well with the metaphor in "appointed time" or "warfare."

Shall he live again? i.e. he shall not, namely, in this world, as was said before. The affirmative question is equivalent to an absolute denial, as Genesis 18:17 Psalm 46:7 Jeremiah 5:9, and every where.

Seeing death puts an end to all men’s hopes of any comfortable being here, because man once dead never returns to life, I will therefore wait on God, and hope for his favour whilst I live, and it is possible to enjoy it, and will continue waiting from time to time

until my change come, i.e. either,

1. Death, the great and last change; which is expressed by the root of this word, Job 10:17. Or,

2. The change of my condition for the better, which you upon your terms encourage me to expect, and which I yet trust in God I shall enjoy; for this word properly signifies vicissitudes or changes in one’s condition; and this seems to suit best with the following verse. And this change, or a comfortable life here, Job so heartily wisheth, not only from that love of life and comfort which is naturally implanted in all men, good and bad, and is not forbidden by God, which also was stronger in those Old Testament saints, when the discoveries of God’s grace to sinners, and of eternal life, were much darker than now they are; but also because this would be an effectual vindication of his own integrity and good name, and of the honour of religion, both which did suffer some eclipse from Job’s extreme calamities, as is evident from the discourses of his friends. If a man die,.... This is said not as if it was a matter of doubt, he had before asserted it; as sure as men have sinned, so sure shall they die; nothing is more certain than death, it is appointed by God, and is sure; but taking it for granted, the experience of all men, and the instances of persons of every age, rank, and condition, testifying to it; the Targum restrains it to wicked men,

"if a wicked man die:''

shall he live again? no, he shall not live in this earth, and in the place where he was, doing the same business he once did; that is, he shall not live here; ordinarily speaking, the instances are very rare and few; two or three instances there have been under the Old Testament, and a few under the New; but this is far from being a general and usual case, and never through the strength of nature, or of a man's self, but by the mighty power of God: or it may be answered to affirmatively, he shall live again at the general resurrection, at the last day, when all shall come out of their graves, and there will be a general resurrection of the just, and of the unjust; some will live miserably, in inexpressible and eternal torments, and wish to die, but cannot, their life will be a kind of death, even the second death; others will live comfortably and happily an endless life of joy and pleasure with God; Father, Son and Spirit, angels and glorified saints: hence, in the faith of this is the following resolution,

all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come; there is an appointed time for man on earth when he shall be born, how long he shall live, and when he shall die, see Job 7:1; or "of my warfare" (d) for the life of man, especially of a good man, is a state of warfare with many enemies, sin, Satan, and the world; at the end of which there will be a "change"; for not a change of outward circumstances in this life is meant; for though there was such a change befell Job, yet he was, especially at this time, in no expectation of it; and though his friends suggested it to him, upon his repentance and reformation, he had no hope of it, but often expresses the contrary: but either a change at death is meant; the Targum calls it a change of life, a change of this life for another; death makes a great change in the body of a man, in his place here, in his relations and connections with men, in his company, condition, and circumstances: or else the change at the resurrection, when this vile body will be changed, and made like unto Christ's; when it will become an incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual body, which is now corruptible, dishonourable, weak, and natural; and, till one or other of these should come, Job is determined to wait, to live in the constant expectation of death, and to be in a readiness and preparation for it; in the mean while to bear afflictions patiently, and not show such marks of impatience as he had done, nor desire to die before God's time, but, whenever that should come, quietly and cheerfully resign himself into the hands of God; or this may respect the frame and business of the soul in a separate state after death, and before the resurrection, believing, hoping, and waiting for the resurrection of the body, and its union to it, see Psalm 16:10.

(d) "quibus nunc milito", V. L. "militiae maae", Montanus, Tigurine version, Drusius, Codurcus, Michaelis, Schultens.

If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till {g} my change come.

(g) Meaning, to the day of the resurrection when he would be changed and renewed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 14. - If a man die, shall he live again? The question is clearly intended to be answered in the negative. It is not a dispassionate inquiry, but an expression of hopelessness. Let a man once die, and of course he cannot live again. Were it otherwise, then, Job says, all the days of my appointed time will I wait; or, rather (as in the Revised Version), all the days of my warfare would I wait; i.e. I would patiently endure any sufferings in the larger hope that would then be open to me. I would wait till my change (rather, my renewal) come. The exact nature of the 'renewal" which Job seems here to expect is obscure. Perhaps he is pursuing the idea, broached in ver. 13, of his being conveyed alive to Hades, and looks forward to a furthur renewed life after he is released from that "land of darkness." 7 For there is hope for a tree:

If it is hewn down, it sprouts again,

And its shoot ceaseth not.

8 If its root becometh old in the ground,

And its trunk dieth off in the dust:

9 At the scent of water it buddeth,

And bringeth forth branches like a young plant.

As the tree falleth so it lieth, says a cheerless proverb. Job, a true child of his age, has a still sadder conception of the destiny of man in death; and the conflict through which he is passing makes this sad conception still sadder than it otherwise is. The fate of the tree is far from being so hopeless as that of man; for (1) if a tree is hewn down, it (the stump left in the ground) puts forth new shoots (on החליף, vid., on Psalm 90:6), and young branches (יונקת, the tender juicy sucker μόσχος) do not cease. This is a fact, which is used by Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13) as an emblem of a fundamental law in operation in the history of Israel: the terebinth and oak there symbolize Israel; the stump (מצבת) is the remnant that survives the judgment, and this remnant becomes the seed from which a new sanctified Israel springs up after the old is destroyed. Carey is certainly not wrong when he remarks that Job thinks specially of the palm (the date), which is propagated by such suckers; Shaw's expression corresponds exactly to לא תחדל: "when the old trunk dies, there is never wanting one or other of these offsprings to succeed it." Then (2) if the root of a tree becomes old (חזקין inchoative Hiphil: senescere, Ew. 122, c) in the earth, and its trunk (גּזע also of the stem of an undecayed tree, Isaiah 40:24) dies away in the dust, it can nevertheless regain its vitality which had succumbed to the weakness of old age: revived by the scent (ריח always of scent, which anything exhales, not, perhaps Sol 1:3 only excepted, odor equals odoratus) of water, it puts forth buds for both leaves and flowers, and brings forth branches (קציר, prop. cuttings, twigs) again, כמו נטע, like a plant, or a young plant (the form of נטע in pause), therefore, as if fresh planted, lxx ὥσπερ νεόφυτον. One is here at once reminded of the palm which, on the one hand, is pre-eminently a φιλυδρον φυτόν,

(Note: When the English army landed in Egypt in 1801, Sir Sydney Smith gave the troops the sure sign, that wherever date-trees grew there must be water; and this is supported by the fact of people digging after it generally, within a certain range round the tree within which the roots of the tree could obtain moisture from the fluid. - Vid., R. Wilson's History of the Expedition to Egypt, p. 18.)

on the other hand possesses a wonderful vitality, whence it is become a figure for youthful vigour. The palm and the phoenix have one name, and not without reason. The tree reviving as from the dead at the scent of water, which Job describes, is like that wondrous bird rising again from its own ashes (vid., on Job 29:18). Even when centuries have at last destroyed the palm - says Masius, in his beautiful and thoughtful studies of nature - thousands of inextricable fibres of parasites cling about the stem, and delude the traveller with an appearance of life.

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