Job 21:4
As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?
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(4) Is my complaint to man?—“It is not to man that I complain. I do not ask for your sympathy, and, therefore, why should ye resent an offence that is not given? If, however, I did ask it, might not my spirit with good reason be impatient? But, on the contrary, my complaint is to God; and, concerning the ways of God, I venture to ask why it is that His justice is so tardy; and this is a problem which when I remember it I am troubled, and horror taketh hold on my flesh, so difficult and arduous is it.”

Job 21:4. Is my complaint to man? — No: if it were, I see it would be to little purpose to complain. I do not make my complaint to, or expect relief from you, or from any men; but from God only. I am pouring forth my complaints to him; to him I appeal. Let him be judge between you and me. Before him we stand upon equal terms, and, therefore, I have the privilege of being heard as well as you. And if it were so — If my complaint were to man; why should not my spirit be troubled? — Would I not have cause to be troubled? For they would not regard, nor even rightly understand me; but my complaint is to God, who will suffer me to speak, though you will not.21:1-6 Job comes closer to the question in dispute. This was, Whether outward prosperity is a mark of the true church, and the true members of it, so that ruin of a man's prosperity proves him a hypocrite? This they asserted, but Job denied. If they looked upon him, they might see misery enough to demand compassion, and their bold interpretations of this mysterious providence should be turned into silent wonder.As for me, is my complaint to man? - There is some difficulty in the interpretation of this verse, and considerable variety of explanation may be seen among expositors. The "object" of the verse is plain. It is to state a reason why they should hear him with patience and without interruption. The meaning of this part of the verse probably is, that his principal difficulty was not with his friends, but with God. It was not so much what they had said, that gave him trouble, as it was what God had done. Severe and cutting as were their rebukes, yet it was far more trying to him to be treated as he had been by God, "as if" he were a great sinner. That was what he could not understand. Perplexed and troubled, therefore, by the mysteriousness of the divine dealings, his friends ought to be willing to listen patiently to what he had to say; and in his anxiety to find out "why" God had treated him so, they ought not at once to infer that he was a wicked man, and to overwhelm him with increased anguish of spirit.

It will be recollected that Job repeatedly expressed the wish to be permitted to carry his cause at once up to God, and to have his adjudication on it. See Job 13:3, note; Job 13:18, notes. It is that to which he refers when he says here, that he wished to have the cause before God, and not before man. It was a matter which he wished to refer to the Almighty, and he ought to be allowed to express his sentiments with entire freedom. One of the difficulties in understanding this verse arises from the word "complaint." We use it in the sense of "murmuring," or "repining;" but this, I think, is not its meaning here. It is used rather in the sense of "cause, argument, reasoning, or reflections." The Hebrew word שׂיח śı̂yı̂ch means, properly, that which is "brought out" - from שׂיח śı̂yach, "to bring out, to put forth, to produce" - as buds, leaves, flowers; and then it means "words" - as brought out, or spoken; and then, meditations, reflections, discourses, speeches; and then it "may" mean "complaint." But there is no evidence that the word is used in that sense here. It means his reflections, or arguments. They were not to man. He wished to carry them at once before God, and he ought, therefore, to be allowed to speak freely. Jerome renders it, "disputatio mea." The Septuagint, ἔλεγξις elengcis - used here, probably, in the sense of "an argument to produce conviction," as it is often.

And if it were so, why should not my spirit be troubled? - Margin, "shortened," meaning the same as troubled, afflicted, or impatient. A more literal translation will better express the idea which is now lost sight of, "And if so, why should not my spirit be distressed?" That is, since my cause is with God - since my difficulty is in understanding his dealings with me - since I have carried my cause up to him, and all now depends on him, why should I not be allowed to have solicitude in regard to the result? If I manifest anxiety, who can blame me? Who would not, when his all was at stake, and when the divine dealings toward him were so mysterious?

4. Job's difficulty was not as to man, but as to God, why He so afflicted him, as if he were the guilty hypocrite which the friends alleged him to be. Vulgate translates it, "my disputation."

if it were—rather, "since this is the case."

To man; or, of man; for the prefix lamed commonly signifieth both to and of. And this question implies a denial, or that his complaint is not to or of man, to wit, only, but to or of God; as is here sufficiently implied, and oft elsewhere expressed by Job in this book. So the sense seems to be either,

1. This, I do not make my moan or complaint unto, or expect relief from, you, or from any men, but from God only; and therefore you have reason patiently to hear me when I am pouring forth my complaints to God. Or rather,

2. This, Do I only complain, or have I reason to complain, only of you and your unmerciful carriage to me; or of men who have dealt barbarously with me? Job 1 Job 30:1,9, &c. Surely no; but, my complaint is of God, and of his hard and severe dealing with me. It is he who hath alienated my friends’ affections from me, and stirred up mine enemies against me. And though it hath been my chief care and business to please and serve him, yet he hath also set himself against me, and shot all his arrows into me. And therefore my expostulation with him (which here follows, Job 21:7) is the more reasonable; and if you will hear me calmly and patiently, you will find that I have cause of complaining. If it were so, i.e. if my complaint were only of man, I have cause to be troubled. Or, if it be so, i.e. if I do not complain of man, but of God, it is no wonder if my spirit be greatly oppressed; and you ought to allow me the liberty of easing my troubled mind, and modestly pleading my cause before God.

Be troubled, Heb. be shortened, or straitened, i.e. either grieved or vexed, as this word signifies, Exodus 6:9 Numbers 21:4 Judges 10:16 16:16 The heart is enlarged by joy, and contracted by sorrow; as appears by philosophy and experience. As for me, is my complaint to man?.... Job had been complaining, and still was, and continued to do so after this, but not to them, his friends, nor any other man; his complaint was made to God, and of him he thought he was hardly dealt with by him, he could not tell for what; he had desired to know the reason why he contended with him in such a manner, but could get no satisfaction; when his friends came first to visit him, they said nothing to him, nor he to them; and when he did speak, it was not to them, but to God, of whom he complains; and expostulates with him why he had ever been born, or had not died as soon as born, and not have lived to have seen such unhappy days, and endured so much affliction and trouble:

and if it were so; that he had made his complaint to man, since it would have been in vain, and to no purpose, he should have got no relief, nor obtained any satisfaction:

why should not my spirit be troubled? or "shortened" (l); or, as the Targum, be straitened; for as comfort and joy enlarge the heart, trouble contracts and straitens it; or is "my prayer" or (m) "petition to men?" it was not, though he was reduced so low, and was in such a distressed condition; he had asked nothing of men, not of these his friends, neither to give him of their substance, nor to help him out of the hands of his enemies, Job 6:21; he had poured out his complaint before God, and had directed his prayer to the God of his life; he had desired to speak to none but the Almighty, and to reason only with him; he had petitioned him to take cognizance of his case, and to admit of a hearing of it before him, and to have it determined by him; he had complained of wrongs and injuries done him, and begged to be redressed and righted, but got no answer; God did not think fit to answer him, but hid himself from him, and continued so to do: "and if", if this be the case, as it really was, "why should not my spirit be troubled?" is there not reason for it? Some think Job's meaning is, is "my disputation", as the Vulgate Latin version, or is my discourse concerning human things, things within the compass of human knowledge and reasoning? or, to be attained to by the force of that, without divine revelation? no, it is concerning divine things; concerning the mysteries of Providence, with respect to good and bad men; concerning the living Redeemer, his incarnation, resurrection, &c. and faith in him; concerning the general resurrection, the final judgment, and a future state of happiness: or does my complaint, petition, or discourse, savour of that which is human, and is intermixed with human frailty? if it be so, it should be borne with, it should be considered I am but a man, and liable to err; and especially great allowances should be made in my present circumstances, being trader such sore afflictions; and it may be reasonably thought, that though the spirit may be willing to behave in a better manner, the flesh is weak, and much must be imputed unto that; and it will not seem so extravagant to indulge a troubled spirit so severely exercised; persons under afflictions generally think they do well to be troubled, and that there is reason enough for it, and ought to be borne with, and not to be reproached and rallied on that account.

(l) "abbreviabitur", Montanus, Vatablus, "abbreviaretur", Drusius, Cocceius, Michaelis. (m) "precatio mea", Drusius.

As for me, is my complaint to man? and if it {b} were so, why should not my spirit be troubled?

(b) As though he would say, I do not talk with man but with God, who will not answer me, and therefore my mind must be troubled.

4. is my complaint to man] Rather, of, or, concerning man. The whole first clause means, Is my complaint about man? my emphatic. The words may express a reason for their listening to him, it is not of them nor of men at all that he complains; it is of another, and of a moral riddle and evil that may well excuse his impatience.

And if it were so … troubled] Rather, or wherefore should I not be impatient? lit. should not my spirit be short?Verse 4. - As for me, is my complaint to man? Do I address myself to man, pour out my complaint to him, and expect him to redress my wrongs? No; far otherwise. I address myself to God, from whom alone I can look for effectual assistance. And if it were so; rather, and if so, if this is the case, if my appeal is to God, and he makes me no answer, then why should not my spirit be troubled? or, Why should I not be impatient? (Revised Version). Job thinks that he has a right to be impatient, if God does not vouchsafe him an answer. 26 All darkness is reserved for his treasured things,

A fire that is not blown upon devoureth him;

It feedeth upon what is left in his tent.

27 The heavens reveal his iniquity,

And the earth riseth up against him.

28 The produce of his house must vanish,

Flowing away in the day of God's wrath.

. . . . . .

29 This is the lot of the wicked man from Elohim,

And the heritage decreed for him from God.

As in Psalm 17:14 God's store of earthly goods for the children of men is called צפוּן (צפין), so here the stores laid up by man himself are called צפוּניו. Total darkness, which will finally destroy them, is decreed by God against these stores of the godless, which are brought together not as coming from the hand of God, but covetously, and regardless of Him. Instead of טמוּן it might also have been צפוּן (Job 15:20; Job 21:19; Job 24:1), and instead of לצפוּניו also לטמוּניו (Deuteronomy 33:19); but טמוּן is, as Job 40:13 shows, better suited to darkness (on account of the ט, this dull-toned muta, with which the word begins). כּל־חשׁך signifies sheer darkness, as in Psalm 39:6, כל־הבל, sheer nothingness; Psalm 45:14, כל־כבודה, sheer splendour; and perhaps Isaiah 4:5, כל־כבוד, sheer glory. And the thought, expressed with somewhat of a play upon words, is, that to the θησαυρίζειν of the godless corresponds a θησαυρίζειν of God, the Judge (Romans 2:5; James 5:3): the one gathers up treasures, and the other nothing but darkness, to whom at an appointed season they shall be surrendered. The תּאכלהוּ which follows is regarded by Ges. as Piel instead of תּאכּלהוּ, but such a resolving of the characteristic sharpened syllable of Piel is unsupportable; by Hirz., Olsh. 250, b, and Pual instead of תּאכּלהוּ, but אכּל signifies to be eaten, not (so that it might be connected with an accusative of the obj.) to get to eat; by Ew., Hupf., as Kal for תּאכלהוּ, which is possible both from the letters and the matter (vid., on Psalm 94:20); but more correctly it is regarded as Poel, for such Poel forms from strong roots do occur, as שׁפט (vid., on Job 9:15), and that the Cholem of these forms can be shortened into Kametz-chatuph is seen from ודרשׁוּ, Psalm 109:10 (vid., Psalter in loc.).

(Note: Such a contraction is also presented in the readings תּרצחוּ, Psalm 62:4; מלשׁני, Psalm 101:5; and ויּחלקם, 1 Chronicles 23:6; 1 Chronicles 24:3. All these forms are not resolved forms of Piel (Ges., Berth., Olsh. 248, a), but contracted forms of Poel with Kametz-chatuph instead of Cholem. תּהתלּוּ, Job 13:9, is not a resolved form of Piel, but a non-syncopated Hiphil. It should be observed that the Chateph-Kametz in "wedorschu" above and at p. 328 is used as an unmistakeable sign of the ŏ. - Tr.])

The Poel is in the passage before us the intensive of Kal: a fire which is not blown upon shall eat him up. By this translation נפּח is equivalent to נפּחה, since attention is given to the gender of אשׁ in the verb immediately connected with it, but it is left out of consideration in the verbs נפח and ירע which stand further form it, which Olshausen thinks doubtful; there are, however, not a few examples which may be adduced in favour of it, as 1 Kings 19:11; Isaiah 33:9; comp. Ges. 147, rem. 1. Certainly the relative clause לא נפח may also be explained by supplying בּהּ: into which one has not blown, or that one has not blown on (Symm., Theod., ἄνευ φυσήματος): both renderings are possible, according to Ezekiel 22:20, Ezekiel 22:22; but since the masc. ירע follows, having undoubtedly אשׁ as its subject, we can unhesitatingly take the Synallage gen. as beginning even with נפח. A fire which needs no human help for its kindling and its maintenance is intended (comp. on לא ביד, Job 34:20); therefore "fire of God," Job 1:16. This fire feasts upon what has escaped (שׂריד, as Job 20:21; Job 18:19), i.e., whatever has escaped other fates, in his tent. yeera` (Milel) is fut. apoc. Kal; the form of writing ירע (fut. apoc. Niph.) proposed by Olsh. on account of the change of gender, i.e., it is devoured, is to be rejected for the reason assigned in connection with נפח. The correct interpretation has been brought forward by Schultens.

It is not without reference to Job 16:18-19, where Job has called upon earth and heaven as witnesses, that in Job 20:27 Zophar continues: "the heavens reveal his guilt, and the earth rises against him;" heaven and earth bear witness to his being an abhorrence, not worthy of being borne by the earth and shone upon by the light of heaven; they testify this, since their powers from below and above vie with one another to get rid of him. מתקוממה is connected closely with לו (which has Lamed raphatum) by means of Mercha-Zinnorith, and under the influence of the law, according to which before a monosyllabic accented word the tone is drawn back from the last syllable of the preceding word to the penultima (Ew. 73, 3), is accented as Milel on account of the pause.


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