Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Job 30:4. Who cut up mallows — Or, bitter herbs, as the word seems to import, which shows their extreme necessity; by the bushes — Or, by the shrubs, nigh unto which they grew. Or, with the bark of trees, as the Vulgate Latin renders it; and juniper-roots — Possibly the word may signify some other plant, for the Hebrews themselves are at a loss for the signification of the names of plants.
By the bushes - Or among the bushes; that is, that which grew among the bushes of the desert. They wandered about in the desert that they might obtain this very humble fare.
And juniper-roots - The word here rendered "juniper" רתם rethem, occurs only in this place, and in 1 Kings 19:4-5; Psalm 120:4. In each place it is rendered "juniper." In 1 Kings is mentioned as the tree under which Elijah sat down when he fled into the wilderness for his life; In Psalm 120:4, it is mentioned as a material for making coals. "Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper." It is rendered "juniper" by Jerome, and by the rabbis. The verb (רתם râqab) occurs in Micah 1:13, where it is rendered "bind," and means to bind on, to make fast; and probably the plant here referred to received its name in some way from the notion of "binding" - perhaps because its long, flexible, and slender twigs were used for binding, or for "withes." There is no evidence, however, that the "juniper" is in any case intended. It denotes a species of "broom - spartium junceum" of Linn., which grows abundantly in the deserts of Arabia. It is the "Genista raetam" of Forskal. "Flora" Egypt. Arab. p. 214.
It has small variegated blossoms, and grows in the water-courses of the Wadys. Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Researches, i. 299) says, "The Retem is the largest and most conspicuous shrub of these de sects, growing thickly in the water-courses and valleys. Our Arabs always selected the place of encampment (if possible) in a place where it grew, in order to be sheltered by it at night from the wind; and, during the day, when they often went on in advance of the camels, we found them not unfrequently sitting or sleeping under a bush of Retem, to protect them from the sun. It was in this very desert, a day's journey from Beersheba, that the prophet Elijah lay down and slept beneath the same shrub. The roots are very bitter, and are regarded by the Arabs as yielding the best charcoal. The Hebrew name רתם rethem, is the same as the present Arabic name." Burckhardt remarks, that he found several Bedouins in the Wady Genne collecting brushwood, which they burned into charcoal for the Egyptian market, and adds that they preferred for this purpose the thick roots of the shrub Rethem, which grew there in abundance. Travels in Syria, p. 483. It could have been only those who were reduced to the utmost penury and want that could have made use of the roots of this shrub for food, and this is doubtless the idea which Job means to convey. It is said to have been occasionally used for food by the poor. See Gesenius, Lex.; Umbreit in loc., and Schultens. A description of the condition of the poor, remarkably similar to this, occurs in Lucan, Lib. vii.;
- Cernit miserabile vulgus
In pecudum cecidisse cibos, et carpere dumos
Et morsu spoliare nemus.
Biddulph (in the collection of Voyages from the Library of the Earl of Oxford, p. 807), says he had seen many poor people in Syria gather mallows and clover, and when he had asked them what they designed to do with it, they answered that it was for food. They cooked and ate them. Herodotus, viii. 115, says, that the army of Xerxes, after their defeat, when they had consumed all the grain of the inhabitants in Thessaly, "fed on the natural produce of the earth, stripping wild and cultivated trees alike of their bark and leaves, to such an extremity of famine were they come."
by the bushes—among the bushes.
juniper—rather, a kind of broom, Spartium junceum [Linnæus], still called in Arabia, as in the Hebrew of Job, retem, of which the bitter roots are eaten by the poor.Mallows; or, purslain, or salt or bitter herbs, as the word seems to import, which shows their extreme necessity.
By the bushes; or, by the shrubs, nigh unto which they grew; or, with the barks of trees, as the Vulgar Latin renders it.
Juniper roots: possibly the word may signify some other plant, for the Hebrews themselves are at a loss for the signification of the names of plants. Job 54ed, was a valley of salt, see 2 Kings 14:7. Jarchi says it is the same with what the Syrians in their language call "kakuli", which with them is a kind of pulse; but what the Turks at this day call "kakuli" is a kind of salt herb, like to "alcali", which is the food of camels (x) the Septuagint render the word by "alima"; and, by several modern learned men, what is intended is thought to be the "halimus" of Dioscorides, Galen, and Avicenna; which is like unto a bramble, and grows in hedges and maritime places; the tops of which, when young and tender, are eaten, and the leaves boiled for food, and are eaten by poor people, being what soon filled the belly, and satisfied; and seem to be the same the Moors call "mallochia", and cry about the streets, as food for the poor to buy (y): however it appears upon the whole to be the tops or leaves of some sort of shrub, which Idumean people used to gather and live upon. The following story is reported in the Talmud (z) concerning King Jannai, who
"went to Cochalith in the wilderness, and there subdued sixty fortified towns; and, upon his return, he greatly rejoiced, and called all the wise men of Israel, and said unto them, our fathers ate "malluchim" (the word used in this text of Job) at the time they were employed in building the sanctuary; so we will eat "malluchim" on remembrance of our fathers; and they set "malluchim" on tables of gold, and they ate;''
which the gloss interprets herbs; the name of which, in the Syriac language, is "kakuli"; the Targum is, who plucks up thorns instead of eatable herbs. Some (a) render the word "nettles", see Job 30:7;
juniper roots for their meat, or "bread" (b); with the roots of which the poor were fed in time of want, as Schindler (v) observes: that bread may be, and has been made out of roots, is certain, as with the West Indians, out of the roots of "ages" and "jucca" (c); and in particular juniper roots in the northern countries have been used for bread (d); and there were a people in Ethiopia above Egypt, who lived upon roots of reeds prepared, and were called "rhisophagi" (e), "root eaters": some render the words, "or juniper roots to heat", or "warm with" (f), as the word is used in Isaiah 47:14; and coals of juniper have in them a very great and vehement heat, see Psalm 120:3; but if any part of the juniper tree was taken for this purpose, to warm with when cold, one should think the branches, or the body of the tree, should be cut down, rather than the roots dug up: another sense is given by some (g), that meat or bread is to be understood of the livelihood these persons got by digging up juniper roots, and selling them: there are others that think, that not the roots of juniper, but of "broom" (h), are meant, whose rape, or navew, or excrescence from the roots of it, seem to be more fit food. All this agrees with the Troglodytes, whom Pliny (i) represents as thieves and robbers, and, when pressed with famine, dig up herbs and roots: cutters of roots are reckoned among the worst of men by Manetho (k).
(r) Diodorus Siculus, l. 3. p. 175. (s) "super virgulto", Montanus, Schultens; "super arbustum", Bochart. (t) In symposio septem sap. (u) "-----me pascunt olivae. Me cichorea levesque malvae". Carmin. l. 1. Ode. 31. & Epod. Ode. 2.((x) Scheuchzer. Physic. Sacr. vol. 4. p. 760. (y) lbid. vid. Reinesium de Lingua Punic. c. 9. S. 20, 21. (z) T. Bab. Kiddushin, fol. 66. 1.((a) David de Pomis Lexic. fol. 80. 3.((b) "panis eorum", Montanus, Michaelis, Schultens. (v) Lexic. col. 1775. (c) Pet. Martyr. de Angleria, decad. 1. l. 1.((d) Olaus Magnus, de Ritu Gent. Septent. l. 12. c. 4. (e) Diod. Sic. l. 3. p. 159. (f) "Ad calefaciendum se", Pagninus; so Kimchi, Sepher Shorash rad, (g) Hillerus apud Schultens in loc. (h) "radix genistarum", Michaelis, Schultens; so some in Mercerus, Drusius, & Gussetius, p. 839. (i) Nat. Hist. l. 37. c. 8. (k) Apotelesm. l. 5. v. 183.Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)4. by the bushes] i. e. beside or among the bushes. The “mallows” or “salt-wort” which they pluck as food is found among the bushes, which cover it from the heat and drought, and under the shadow of which it thrives.
juniper roots] Or, roots of the broom.Verse 4. - Who cut up mallows by the bushes. One of the plants on which they feed is the malluch, not really a "mallow," but probably the Atriplex halimus which is "a shrub from four to five feet high, with many thick branches; the leaves are rather sour to the taste; the flowers are purple, and very small; it grows on the sea-coast in Greece, Arabia, Syria, etc., and belongs to the natural order Chenopodiace" (see Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' vol. 2. p. 215). And juniper roots for their meat. Most moderns regard the rothen as the Genista monosperma, which is a kind of broom. It is a leguminous plant, having a white flower. and grows plentifully in the Sinaitic desert, in Palestine, Syria, and Arabia. The root is very bitter, and would only be used as food under extreme pressure, but the fruit is readily eaten by sheep, and the roots would, no doubt, yield some nourishment (see Dr. Cunningham Geikie's work,' The Holy Land and the Bible,' vol. 1. p. 258).
And remained silent at my decision.
22 After my utterance they spake not again,
And my speech distilled upon them.
23 And they waited for me as for the rain,
And they opened their mouth wide for the latter rain.
24 I smiled to them in their hopelessness,
And the light of my countenance they cast not down.
25 I chose the way for them, and sat as chief,
And dwelt as a king in the army,
As one that comforteth the mourners.
Attentive, patient, and ready to be instructed, they hearkened to him (this is the force of שׁמע ל), and waited, without interrupting, for what he should say. ויחלּוּ, the pausal pronunciation with a reduplication of the last radical, as Judges 5:7, חדלּוּ (according to correct texts), Ges. 20, 2, c; the reading of Kimchi, ויחלוּ, is the reading of Ben-Naphtali, the former the reading of Ben-Ascher (vid., Norzi). If he gave counsel, they waited in strictest silence: this is the meaning of ידּמוּ (fut. Kal of דּמם); למו, poetic for ל, refers the silence to its outward cause (vid., on Habakkuk 3:16). After his words non iterabant, i.e., as Jerome explanatorily translates: addere nihil audebant, and his speech came down upon them relieving, rejoicing, and enlivening them. The figure indicated in תּטּף is expanded in Job 29:23 after Deuteronomy 32:2 : they waited on his word, which penetrated deeply, even to the heart, as for rain, מטר, by which, as Job 29:23, the so-called (autumnal) early rain which moistens the seed is prominently thought of. They open their mouth for the late rain, מלקושׁ (vid., on Job 24:6), i.e., they thirsted after his words, which were like the March or April rain, which helps to bring to maturity the corn that is soon to be reaped; this rain frequently fails, and is therefore the more longed for. פּער פּה is to be understood according to Psalm 119:131, comp. Psalm 81:11; and one must consider, in connection with it, what raptures the beginning of the periodical rains produces everywhere, where, as e.g., in Jerusalem, the people have been obliged for some time to content themselves with cisterns that are almost dried to a marsh, and how the old and young dance for joy at their arrival!
In Job 29:24 a thought as suited to the syntax as to the fact is gained if we translate: "I smiled to them - they believed it not," i.e., they considered such condescension as scarcely possible (Saad., Raschi, Rosenm., De Wette, Schlottm., and others); עשׂחק is then fut. hypotheticum, as Job 10:16; Job 20:24; Job 22:27., Ew. 357, b. But it does not succeed in putting Job 29:24 in a consistent relation to this thought; for, with Aben-Ezra, to explain: they did not esteem my favour the less on that account, my respect suffered thereby no loss among them, is not possible in connection with the biblical idea of "the light of the countenance;" and with Schlottm. to explain: they let not the light of my countenance, i.e., token of my favour, fall away, i.e., be in vain, is contrary to the usage of the language, according to which הפּיל פּנים signifies: to cause the countenance to sink (gloomily, Genesis 4:5), whether one's own, Jeremiah 3:12, or that of another. Instead of פּני we have a more pictorial and poetical expression here, אור פּני: light of my countenance, i.e., my cheerfulness (as Proverbs 16:15). Moreover, the אשׂחק אליהם, therefore, furnishes the thought that he laughed, and did not allow anything to dispossess him of his easy and contented disposition. Thus, therefore, those to whom Job laughed are to be thought of as in a condition and mood which his cheerfulness might easily sadden, but still did not sadden; and this their condition is described by לא יאמינוּ (a various reading in Codd. and editions is ולא), a phrase which occurred before (Job 24:22) in the signification of being without faith or hope, despairing (comp. האמין, to gain faith, Psalm 116:10), - a clause which is not to be taken as attributive (Umbr., Vaih.: who had not confidence), but as a neutral or circumstantial subordinate clause (Ew. 341, a). Therefore translate: I smiled to them, if they believed not, i.e., despaired; and however despondent their position appeared, the cheerfulness of my countenance they could not cause to pass away. However gloomy they were, they could not make me gloomy and off my guard. Thus also Job 29:25 is now suitably attached to the preceding: I chose their way, i.e., I made the way plain, which they should take in order to get out of their hopeless and miserable state, and sat as chief, as a king who is surrounded by an armed host as a defence and as a guard of honour, attentive to the motion of his eye; not, however, as a sovereign ruler, but as one who condescended to the mourners, and comforted them (נחם Piel, properly to cause to breathe freely). This peaceful figure of a king brings to mind the warlike one, Job 15:24. כּאשׁר is not a conj. here, but equivalent to כאישׁ אשׁר, ut (quis) qui; consequently not: as one comforts, but: as he who comforts; lxx correctly: ὃν τρόπον παθεινοὺς παρακαλῶν. The accentuation (כאשׁר Tarcha, אבלים Munach, ינחם Silluk) is erroneous; כאשׁר should be marked with Rebia mugrasch, and אבלים with Mercha-Zinnorith.
From the prosperous and happy past, absolutely passed, Job now turns to the present, which contrasts so harshly with it.
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