I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
And the cause which I knew not I searched out - This is according to the interpretation of Jerome. But the more probable meaning is, "the cause of him who was unknown to me, that is, of the stranger, I searched out." So Rosenmuller, Herder, Umbreit, and Good. According to this, the sense is, that, as a magistrate, he gave particular attention to the cause of the stranger, and investigated it with care. It is possible that Job here designs specifically to reply to the charge brought against him by Eliphaz in Job 22:6 ff. The duty of showing particular attention to the stranger is often inculcated in the Bible, and was regarded as essential to a character of uprightness and piety among the Orientals.
the cause which I knew not—rather, "of him whom I knew not," the stranger (Pr 29:7 [Umbreit]; contrast Lu 18:1, &c.). Applicable to almsgiving (Ps 41:1); but here primarily, judicial conscientiousness (Job 31:13).A father, i.e. had the care and bowels of a father to them.
The cause which I knew not; either,
1. Those which were not brought to my knowledge or tribunal, either through neglect, or because the injured persons durst not complain, I diligently inquired after. Or,
2. Those which were hard and difficult, and possibly were made so by the frauds or arts of the oppressors, or their advocates, which the poor injured person could not find out, I took pains to discover.
and the cause which I knew not I searched out; any cause that was brought before him, he knew thing of before, and which, upon the opening of it, did not appear plain and easy, but had its difficulties; this he closely examined, and searched thoroughly into the merits of, till it appeared plain to him on which side the truth and justice of it lay; he did not hurry it over, and pass sentence, having only in a superficial manner considered it, as is too often the case; but after a long examination of the contending parties, and of the witnesses on both sides, to whom he gave an impartial hearing, he pronounced the decisive sentence; see Proverbs 25:2. Some think this refers to his diligent search and inquiry after causes that were not brought before him; he did, not wait for application to be made to him, but hearing of, or upon inquiry finding, that there were persons oppressed and distressed by cruel men, he of himself voluntarily offered his assistance, searched into their cause, made himself master of it, and freed them from their distresses; so different were his behaviour and character from that of the unjust judge, Luke 18:1; though others, choose to render the words, "the cause of him that I knew not", &c. (t); of a stranger, of one that he had never seen before, of one that was most unknown to him in the world; the cause of such an one he took as, much pains with to get the true knowledge of, and do justice to, as of the dearest relation, the nearest neighbour, and the most intimate friend and acquaintance that he had.I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)16. the cause which I knew not] Rather, the cause of him whom I knew not. Not merely the poor about him, to whom he might feel that he owed help, but even strangers who had a cause that needed unravelling he aided by his wisdom and justice.Verse 16. - I was a father to the poor (comp. ver. 12, and see below, ch. 31:16-22): and the cause which I knew not I searched out; rather, the cause of him that I knew not I searched out (see the Revised Version). When men were quite unknown to him, Job still gave to their causes the utmost possible attention, "searching them out," or investigating them, as diligently as if they had been the causes of his own friends.
(Note: Comp. jer. Schekalim ii. 5 (in Pinner's Compendium des Thalmud, S. 58): "R. Jochanan was walking and leaning upon R. Chija bar-Abba, R. Eliezer perceived him and hid himself from him (ומטמר לח מקמי). Then said R. Jochanan: This Babylonian insulted him (R. Chija) by two things; first that he did not salute him, and then that he hid himself. But R. Jakob bar-Idi answered him, it is the custom with them for the less not to salute the greater, - a custom which confirms Job's words: Young men saw me and his themselves.")
and old men (hoary heads) stood up, remained standing (ἀσυνδέτως, as Job 20:19; Job 28:4). קוּם signifies to stand up, עמד to advance towards any one and remain standing. They rose in order not to seat themselves until he was seated. שׂרים are magnates (proceres) of the city. These עצרוּ בּמלּים, cohibebant verba (עצר with Beth of the obj., as Job 4:2; Job 12:15), and keeping a respectful silence, they laid their hand on their mouth (comp. Job 21:5). All stepped back and desisted from speaking before him: The speech of illustrious men (נגידים from נגד, Arab. njd, to be visible, pleasant to the sight, comp. supra, p. 510) hid itself (not daring to be heard), and the tongue of the same clave (motionless) to their palate. We do not translate: as to the voice illustrious men hid themselves, for it is only the appearance produced by the attractional construction Ges. 148, 1 that has led to the rendering of קול־נגידים as an acc. of closer definition (Schult., Hahn: quod ad vocem eminentium, comprimebantur). The verb is construed with the second member of the genitival expression instead of with the first, as with מספר, Job 15:20; Job 21:21; Job 38:21, and with ראשׁ, Job 22:12; a construction which occurs with קול not merely in such exclamatory sentences as Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 52:8, but also under other conditions, 1 Kings 1:41, comp. Job 14:6. This may be best called an attraction of the predicate by the second member of the compound subject, like the reverse instance, Isaiah 2:11; and it is sometimes found even where this second member is not logically the more important. Thus Ew. transl.: "the voice of the nobles hides itself;" whereas Olsh., wrongly denying that the partt. in passages like Genesis 4:10; 1 Kings 1:41, are to be taken as predicative, wishes to read נחבא, which is the more inadmissible, as even the choice of the verb is determined by the attractional construction.
The strophe which follows tells how it came to pass that those in authority among the citizens submitted to him, and that on all sides the people were zealous to show him tokens of respect.
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