Job 9:26
They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
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(26) Swift ships.—What is meant by the swift ships, or ships of Desire, no one knows. Literally, ships of Eveh, probably a proper name, and perhaps referring to a particular kind of boat in use on the Nile; if so, this is one instance out of many of Job’s acquaintance with Egypt. The Vulgate has, naves poma portantes. Job is a problem to himself; he is confident of his innocence, and yet he is confident that that very innocence will avail him nothing before God, he is sure that he must be condemned. Now, it is impossible to deny that this is the very attitude of the Gospel; it is, therefore, if we bear in mind the vast antiquity of the confession, both a witness to the truth of the Gospel and an anticipation of it that God alone could give. Indeed, it is hopelessly impossible to enter into the position of Job unless we are ourselves enlightened with the teaching of the Gospel, and able to look at it from the Gospel standpoint. While, therefore, admitting this fact, we are the better able to appreciate the wonderful confession Job is about to make in Job 9:32-33.

Job 9:26. As the swift ships — Hebrew, ships of desire; that is, such as are longed for, and long to be at their destined port, and crowd all the sail they can for that purpose. Or, as in the Chaldee paraphrase, ships loaded, pretiosis, with things of value; and are therefore named swift ships, because the more valuable the effects are, the more haste is made to return home for readier sale. The Hebrew may also be translated, ships of pleasure, which sail more swiftly than ships of burden. As the eagle that hasteth to the prey — Which generally flies most swiftly when hungry, and in sight of his prey. See here how swift the motion of time is! It is always upon the wing, hastening to its period. What little need have we of pastimes! What great need to redeem time, which runs out, runs on so fast toward eternity! And how vain are the enjoyments of time, which we may be deprived of, even while time continues. Our day may be longer than our sunshine: and when that is gone, it is as if it had never been.

9:25-35 What little need have we of pastimes, and what great need to redeem time, when it runs on so fast towards eternity! How vain the enjoyments of time, which we may quite lose while yet time continues! The remembrance of having done our duty will be pleasing afterwards; so will not the remembrance of having got worldly wealth, when it is all lost and gone. Job's complaint of God, as one that could not be appeased and would not relent, was the language of his corruption. There is a Mediator, a Daysman, or Umpire, for us, even God's own beloved Son, who has purchased peace for us with the blood of his cross, who is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God through him. If we trust in his name, our sins will be buried in the depths of the sea, we shall be washed from all our filthiness, and made whiter than snow, so that none can lay any thing to our charge. We shall be clothed with the robes of righteousness and salvation, adorned with the graces of the Holy Spirit, and presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. May we learn the difference between justifying ourselves, and being thus justified by God himself. Let the tempest-tossed soul consider Job, and notice that others have passed this dreadful gulf; and though they found it hard to believe that God would hear or deliver them, yet he rebuked the storm, and brought them to the desired haven. Resist the devil; give not place to hard thoughts of God, or desperate conclusions about thyself. Come to Him who invites the weary and heavy laden; who promises in nowise to cast them out.They are passed away as the swift ships - Margin, Ships of desire; or ships of Ebeh. Hebrew אבה אניה 'onı̂yâh 'êbeh. Vulgate, Naves poma portantes. Septuagint, "Is there any track left by ships in their passage?" The Chaldee renders it as the Vulgate, "Ships bearing good fruit;" that is, as such fruit was perishable, haste was required in order to reach the place of destination. Our translators were evidently perplexed by the word אבה 'êbeh, as appears by their placing two different phrases in the margin. "Ships of desire," denotes the value or desirableness of such ships; and the phrase, "Ships of Ebeh," denotes their confession of ignorance as to the meaning of the word. Gesenius explains the word to mean reed, bulrush, or papyrus - from an Arabic use of the word, and supposes that the reference is to the light vessels made of the papyrus, which were used on the Nile; see the note at Isaiah 18:2. Such vessels would be distinguished for the ease with which they might be rowed, and the rapidity of their motion. Chardin supposes that the reference is to vessels that were made to go on the Euphrates or the Tigris, and that were borne along with the rapid current. The supposition of an allusion to any boat or vessel under full sail, will be in accordance with the language here, though the probability is, that the reference is to the light vessels, made of reeds, that might be propelled with so much fleetness. Sails were frequently used, also, for such vessels.

As the eagle that hasteth to the prey - A striking emblem of rapidity. Few things can be more rapid than the motion of the eagle, as he darts upon his victim.

26. swift ships—rather, canoes of reeds or papyrus skiffs, used on the Nile, swift from their lightness (Isa 18:2). Swift ships, Heb. ships of desire; which make great haste, as if they longed for their desired haven, as it is called, Psalm 107:30. Or, ships of pleasure; which sail more swiftly than ships of great burden.

As the eagle; which generally flies most swiftly, Deu 28:49 Jeremiah 4:13 Lamentations 4:19, especially when its own hunger and the sight of its prey quickens its motion.

They are passed away as the swift ships,.... Those that are lightest built, and run swiftest. Bar Tzemach thinks such vessels as are rowed with oars are meant, which may be called "ships of will or desire" (b), as the words may be rendered, because they may be rowed at pleasure, and be carried to any place where and when a man thinks fit; whereas those that are not depend upon the wind, and that must be waited for; or they design such ships that are so swift in their motion, that they arrive to the haven as soon as men can well wish for and desire. Some render it "pirate ships", or "ships of enmity" (c); such as are designed for spoil and plunder, and which are light ones, not loaded with goods, and therefore move swiftly: the Targum is,

"ships burdened with precious fruits;''and the Vulgate Latin version is,"ships carrying apples:''now ships loaded with such sort of goods, with perishing commodities, are obliged to make their port as soon as possible. Some leave the word untranslated, and call them "ships of Ebeh" (d); which, according to Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and others, is either the name of a place, or of a river in Arabia, which ran with a rapid stream, and in which ships were carried with great celerity. Bolducius relates from a traveller of his acquaintance, who finished his travels in 1584, that he saw such a river about Damascus, not far from the sepulchre of Job; but that must be the river Chrysorrhoas, now called Barrady; but there were two rivers of this name Ebeh; one near Cufa, and another in Wasith, a country of Babylon, as Golius observes (e). Others take the word to have the signification of reed or papyrus, which grew on the banks of the Nile, and of which ships were made; see Gill on Isaiah 18:1; and render the words "ships of reeds" or "of papyrus" (f), and which, being light, were very swift:

as the eagle that hasteth to the prey; the eagle is the swiftest of birds, and therefore persons and things exceeding swift are compared unto them, see Habakkuk 1:8; and it flies the most swiftly when being hungry, and in sight of its prey, and is nearest to it, and flaps upon it, which is the thing referred to, and so may be rendered, "that flies upon the prey" (g). Job uses these metaphors, which are the most appropriate, to show how fleeting his days of prosperity were, and how soon gone: and a climax may be observed in the words; a runner, though he runs swiftly, a ship moves faster than he, and an eagle, just about to seize its prey, flies swifter than that.

(b) "navibus desiderii", Mercerus, Drusius, Schmidt; so Ben Gersom. (c) "Naves inimicitiarum, i.e. "piraticae, vel hostiles"; as some in Drusius; so Broughton. (d) "Navibus Ebeh", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Bolducius, Codurcus. (e) Lexic. Arab. p. 2.((f) "Naves arundinis", Michaelis, "navibus papyraceis", Schultens, Ikenius, in ib. (g) "involans in escam", Junius & Tremellius; "involat in escam", Piscator, Schultens.

They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
26. the swift ships] the ships of reed. These skiffs, constructed of a wooden keel and the rest of reeds, are the “vessels of bulrushes” of Isaiah 18:2. They carried but one or two persons, and being light were extremely swift. The ancients were familiar with them; Plin. xiii. 11, ex ipso quidem papyro navigia texunt; and Lucan, Phars, iv. 36,

conseritur bibula Memphitis cymba papyro,

(quoted in Gesenius, Com. on Is. i. p. 577).

Job as usual heaps images together to picture out the brevity of his life, cf. ch. Job 7:6 seq. Here the images are new, a runner, a skiff of reed, an eagle swooping on his prey.

Verse 26. - They are passed away as the swift ships; literally, like the ships of reed. The allusion is probably to the frail reed vessels of the Egyptians, of which many ancient writers speak (see Theophrastus, 'Hist. Plant.,' 4:9; Pithy, 'Hist. Nat.,' 6:56; 13:11; Luean, ' Pharsalis,' 4:36, etc.). They were long, light canoes, formed generally of the papyrus plant, and propelled either by a single paddle or by a punting-pole. They were fiat-bottomed and broad, like punts, with a stem and stern rising considerably above the level of the water (see the authofs 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1. pp. 507, 508). Isaiah speaks of them as "vessels of bulrushes," in which "swift messengers" were sent by the nations peopling the banks of the Nile (Isaiah 18:1, 2). The Euphrates boats described by Herodotus (1:194) were of an entirely different construction, and cannot be here intended. They consisted of a framework of wood, which was covered with skins, and then coated with bitumen, and resembled the Welsh "coracles." As the eagle that hasteth to the prey; or, as the eagle that swoopeth on the prey (Revised Version). Job's observation presents to him three types of swiftness - the trained runner upon the earth, the swift ships upon the waters, and the hungry eagle in the air. It seems to him that his life passes away as swiftly as any of these. Job 9:2625 My days were swifter than a runner,

They fled away without seeing prosperity,

26 They shot by as ships of reeds,

As an eagle which dasheth upon its prey.

27 If my thought is: I will forget my complaint,

I will give up my dark looks and look cheerful;

28 I shudder at all my pains,

I feel that Thou dost not pronounce me innocent.

Such, as described in the preceding strophe, is the lot of the innocent in general, and such (this is the connection) is also Job's lot: his swiftly passing life comes to an end amidst suffering, as that of an evil-doer whom God cuts off in judgment. In the midst of his present sufferings he has entirely forgotten his former prosperity; it is no happiness to him, because the very enjoyment of it makes the loss of it more grievous to bear. The days of prosperity are gone, have passed swiftly away without טובה, i.e., without lasting prosperity. They have been swifter רץ מנּי. By reference to Job 7:6, this might be considered as a figure borrowed from the weaver's loom, since in the Coptic the threads of the weft (fila subteminis) which are wound round the shuttle are called "runners" (vid., Ges. Thesaurus); but Rosenmller has correctly observed that, in order to describe the fleetness of his life, Job brings together that which is swiftest on land (the runners or couriers), in water (fast-sailing ships), and in the air (the swooping eagle). עם, Job 9:26, signifies, in comparison with, aeque ac. But we possess only a rather uncertain tradition as to the kind of vessels meant by אבה אניות. Jerome translates, after the Targ.: naves poma portantes, by which one may understand the small vessels, according to Edrisi, common on the Dead Sea, in which corn and different kinds of fruits were carried from Zoar to Jericho and to other regions of the Jordan (Stickel, S. 267); but if אבה were connected with אב, we might rather expect אבּה, after the form אשּׁה (from אשׁ), instead of אבה. Others derive the word from אבה, avere: ships of desire, i.e., full-rigged and ready for sea (Gecatilia in Ges. Thes. suppl. p. 62), or struggling towards the goal (Kimchi), or steering towards (Zamora), and consequently hastening to (Symmachuc, σπευδούσαις), the harbour; but independently of the explanation not being suited to the description, it should then be accented beh, after the form נדה, קצה, instead of bh. The explanation, ships of hostility (Syr.),

(Note: Luther also perhaps understood pirate ships, when he translated, "wie die starcken Schiff.")

i.e., ships belonging to pirates or freebooters, privateers, which would suit the subject well, is still less admissible with the present pointing of the text, as it must then be אבה (איבה), with which the Egyptian uba, against, and adverse (contrarius), may be compared. According to Abulwalid (Parchon, Raschi), אבה is the name of a large river near the scene of the book of Job; which may be understood as either the Babylonian name for river Arab. 'bby, or the Abyssinian name of the Nile, ab; and אבה may be compared with לבנה in relation to the Arabic, lubna. But a far more satisfactory explanation is the one now generally received, according to the comparison with the Arabic abâ'un, a reed (whence abaa-t-un, a reed, a so-called n. unitatis): ships made from reeds, like גּמא כּלי, Isaiah 18:2, vessels of papyrus, βαρίδες παπύριναι. In such small ships, with Egyptian tackling, they used to travel as far as Taprobane. These canoes were made to fold together, plicatiles, so that they could be carried past the cataracts; Heliodorus describes them as ὀξυδρομώτατα.

(Note: There is no Egyptian word which can be compared to אבה, whereas han (hani) or an (ana) in Egyptian, like the Hebrew אניה, means a ship (vid., Chabas, Le Papyrus magique Harris, p. 246, No. 826, cf. pp. 33, 47); it is written with the sign for set equals downwards, since they fastened a stone at the front of the vessel, as was even known to Herodotus, in order to accelerate its speed in descending the river. From this one might conjecture for the passage before us אבן אניות equals swift sailers.)

The third figure is the eagle, which swoops down upon its prey; טוּשׂ, like Chaldee טוּס, by which the Targ. translates השׁ, Habakkuk 1:8; Grtz' conjecture of ישׁוּט (which is intended to mean flutters) is superfluous. Just as unnecessary is it, with Olshausen, to change אמרי אם into אמרתי אם: "if my saying (thinking)" is equivalent to, "as often as I say (think)." פנים is here (as in the German phrase, ein Gesicht machen) an ill-humoured, distorted, wry face. When Job desires to give up this look of suffering and be cheerful (הבליג, like Job 10:20, hilaritatem prae se ferre, vultum hilarem induere), the certainty that he is not favoured of God, and consequently that he cannot be delivered from his sufferings, all his anguish in spite of his struggles against it comes ever afresh before his mind. It is scarcely necessary to remark that תנקני is addressed to God, not to Bildad. It is important to notice that Job does not speak of God without at the same time looking up to Him as in prayer. Although he feels rejected of God, he still remains true to God. In the following strophe he continues to complain of God, but without denying Him.

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