Which removes the mountains, and they know not: which overturns them in his anger.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Job 9:5-6. Which removeth the mountains — He proceeds to give particular evidences of the divine power and wisdom, which he mentioned Job 9:4. And they — That is, the mountains, to which he figuratively ascribes sense and knowledge; know not — He removes them suddenly and unexpectedly ere they are aware of it. Which overturneth them in his anger — In token of his displeasure with men, that lived upon or near them. Which shaketh the earth — Great portions of it by earthquakes, or by removing islands. And the pillars thereof tremble — The deep and inward parts of it, which, like pillars, support those parts which appear to our view.Judges 5:5; 1 Kings 19:11; Psalm 65:6; Psalm 114:4; Psalm 144:5; Isaiah 40:12; Jeremiah 4:24.
And they know not - This is evidently a Hebraism, meaning suddenly, or unexpectedly. He does it, as it were, before they are aware of it. A similar expression occurs in the Koran, "God overturns them, and they do not know it;" that is, he does it without their suspecting any such thing; compare Psalm 35:8. "Let destruction come upon him at unawares," or, as it is in the Hebrew and in the margin, "which he knoweth not of." Tindal renders this, "He translatethe the mountaynes or ever they be aware."Job 9:4.
And they know not, i.e. suddenly and unexpectedly, ere they were aware of it. They, i.e. the mountains, to which he ascribes sense and knowledge figuratively, as hath been oft noted. In his anger; in token of his displeasure with men that lived upon them, or near them. Zechariah 14:4; and Josephus (a) gives a relation much like it, as in fact; besides, Job may have respect to what had been done in his times, or before them, and particularly at the universal deluge, which covered the tops of the highest mountains and hills, and very probably washed away some from their places: or else it may be understood proverbially, of the Lord's doing things marvellous and surprising, and which are impossible and impracticable with men; see Matthew 17:20; or rather figuratively, of kingdoms and mighty kings, as the Targum, comparable to mountains for their height and strength, who yet are removed by God at his pleasure; see Zechariah 4:7,
and they know not; when they are removed, and how it is done; it is imperceptible; either the mountains are not sensible of it, or the inhabitants of the mountains, as Bar Tzemach; or men, the common sort of men, the multitude, as Gersom: R. Saadiah Gaon interprets it of removing the men of the mountains, and they know it not:
which overturneth them in his anger; for the sins or men, which was the case of the old world: Mr. Broughton renders it, "that men cannot mark how he hath removed them out of their place in his anger".Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)5–10. Description of God’s omnipotent power as it displays itself in the material world.
they know not] Suddenly and unexpectedly, Psalm 35:8; Jeremiah 50:24.Verses 5-13. - A magnificent description of the might and majesty of God, transcending anything in the Psalms, and comparable to the grandest passages of Isaiah (see especially Isaiah 40:21-24; Isaiah 43:15-20). Verse 5. - Which removeth the mountains, and they know not; which overturneth them in his anger. Earthquakes are common in all the countries adjoining Syria and Palestine, and must always have been among the most striking manifestations of God's power. There are several allusions to them in the Psalms (Psalm 8:8, 104:32). and historical mention of them in Numbers 16:32; 1 Kings 19:1; Amos 1:1; Zechariah 14:4, 5; Matthew 24:7. Josephus speaks of one which desolated Judaea in the reign of Herod the Great, and destroyed ten thousand people ('Ant. Jud.,' 15:5. § 2). There was another in 1181, which was felt over the whole of the Hauran, and did great damage. A still more violent convulsion occurred in 1837, when the area affected extended five hundred miles from north to south, and from eighty to a hundred miles east and west. Tiberias and Safed were overthrown. The earth gaped in various places, and closed again. Fearful oscillations were felt. The hot springs of Tiberias mounted up to a temperature that ordinary thermometers could not mark, and the loss of life was considerable (see the account given by Dr. Cunningham Geikie, in 'The Holy Land and the Bible,' vol. 2. pp. 317, 318). The phrases used by Job are, of course, poetical. Earthquakes do not literally "remove" mountains, nor "overturn" them. They produce fissures, elevations, depressions, and the like; but they rarely much alter local features or the general configuration of a district.
And taketh not evil-doers by the hand.
21 While He shall fill thy mouth with laughing,
And thy lips with rejoicing,
22 They who hate thee shall be clothed with shame,
And the tent of the ungodly is no more.
"To take by the hand," i.e., ready to help as His own, as Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 42:6. Instead of עד (Job 8:21), there is no great difficulty in reading עוד: again (as e.g., Psalm 42:6) He will fill; but even עד is supportable; it signifies, like Job 1:18; Psalm 141:10, while. On the form ימלּה, vid., Ges. 75, 21, b. This close of Bildad's speech sounds quite like the Psalms (comp. Psalm 126:2 with Job 8:21; Psalm 35:26; Psalm 109:29; Psalm 132:18, with Job 8:22). Bildad does all he can to win Job over. He calls the ungodly שׂנאיך, to show that he tries to think and expect the best of Job.
We have seen that Job in his second speech charges God with the appearance of injustice and want of compassion. The friends act as friends, by not allowing this to pass without admonition. After Job has exhausted himself with his plaints, Bildad enters into the discussion in the above speech. He defends the justice of God against Job's unbecoming words. His assertion that God does not swerve from the right, is so true that it would be blasphemy to maintain against him that God sometimes perverts the right. And Bildad seems also to make the right use of this truth when he promises a glorious issue to his suffering, as a substantial proof that God does not deal unjustly towards him; for Job's suffering does actually come to such an issue, and this issue in its accomplishment destroys the false appearance that God had been unjust or unmerciful towards him. Bildad expresses his main point still more prudently, and more in accordance with the case before him, when he says, "Behold! God does not act hostilely towards the godly, neither does He make common cause with the evil-doer" (Job 8:20), - a confession which he must allow is on both sides the most absolute truth. By the most telling figures he portrays the perishableness of the prosperity of those who forget God, and paints in glowing colours on this dark background the future which awaits Job. What is there in this speech of Bildad to censure, and how is it that it does not produce the desired cheering effect on Job?
It is true that nothing that God sends to man proceeds from injustice, but it is not true that everything that He sends to him comes from His justice. As God does not ordain suffering for the hardened sinner in order to improve him, because He is merciful, so He does not ordain suffering for the truly godly in order to punish him, because He is just. What we call God's attributes are only separate phases of His indivisible holy being, - ad extra, separate modes of His operation in which they all share, - of which, when in operation, one does not act in opposition to another; they are not, however, all engaged upon the same object at one time. One cannot say that God's love manifests itself in action in hell, nor His anger in heaven; nor His justice in the afflictions of the godly, and His mercy in the sufferings of the godless.
Herein is Bildad's mistake, that he thinks his commonplace utterance is sufficient to explain all the mysteries of human life. We see from his judgment of Job's children how unjust he becomes, since he regards the matter as the working out of divine justice. He certainly speaks hypothetically, but in such a way that he might as well have said directly, that their sudden death was the punishment of their sin. If he had found Job dead, he would have considered him as a sinner, whom God had carried off in His anger. Even now he has no pleasure in promising Job help and blessing; accordingly from his point of view he expresses himself very conditionally: If thou art pure and upright. We see from this that his belief in Job's uprightness is shaken, for how could the All-just One visit Job with such severe suffering, if he had not deserved it! Nevertheless אתה וישׁר זך אם (Job 8:6) shows that Bildad thinks it possible that Job's heart may be pure and upright, and consequently his present affliction may not be peremptory punishment, but only disciplinary chastisement. Job just - such is Bildad's counsel - give God glory, and acknowledge that he deserves nothing better; and thus humbling himself beneath the just hand of God, he will be again made righteous, and exalted.
Job cannot, however, comprehend his suffering as an act of divine justice. His own fidelity is a fact, his consciousness of which cannot be shaken: it is therefore impossible for him to deny it, for the sake of affirming the justice of God; for truth is not to be supported by falsehood. Hence Bildad's glorious promises afford Job no comfort. Apart from their being awkwardly introduced, they depend upon an assumption, the truth of which Job cannot admit without being untrue to himself. Consequently Bildad, though with the best intention, only urges Job still further forward and deeper into the conflict.
But does, then, the confession of sin on the part of constantly sinful man admit of his regarding the suffering thus appointed to him not merely not as punishment, but also not as chastisement? If a sufferer acknowledges the excessive hideousness of sin, how can he, when a friend bids him regard his affliction as a wholesome chastisement designed to mortify sin more and more, - how can he receive the counsel with such impatience as we see in the case of Job? The utterances of Job are, in fact, so wild, inconsiderate, and unworthy of God, and the first speeches of Eliphaz and Bildad on the contrary so winning and appropriate, that if Job's affliction ought really to be regarded from the standpoint of chastisement, their tone could not be more to the purpose, nor exhortation and comfort more beautifully blended. Even when one knows the point of the book, one will still be constantly liable to be misled by the speeches of the friends; it requires the closest attention to detect what is false in them. The poet's mastery of his subject, and the skill with which he exercises it, manifests itself in his allowing the opposition of the friends to Job, though existing in the germ from the very beginning, to become first of all in the course of the controversy so harsh that they look upon Job as a sinner undergoing punishment from God, while in opposition to them he affirms his innocence, and challenges a decision from God.
The poet, however, allows Bildad to make one declaration, from which we clearly see that his address, beautiful as it is, rests on a false basis, and loses its effect. Bildad explains the sudden death of Job's children as a divine judgment. He could not have sent a more wounding dart into Job's already broken heart; for is it possible to tell a man anything more heart-rending that that his father, his mother, or his children have died as the direct punishment of their sins? One would not say so, even if it should seem to be an obvious fact, and least of all to a father already sorely tried and brought almost to the grave with sorrow. Bildad, however, does not rely upon facts, he reasons only priori. He does not know that Job's children were godless; the only ground of his judgment is the syllogism: Whoever dies a fearful, sudden death must be a great sinner; God has brought Job's children to such a death; ergo, etc. Bildad is zealously affected for God, but without understanding. He is blind to the truth of experience, in order not to be drawn away from the truth of his premiss. He does not like to acknowledge anything that furnishes a contradiction to it. It is this same rationalism of superstition or credulity which has originated the false doctrine of the decretum absolutum. With the same icy and unfeeling rigorism with which Calvinism refers the divine rule, and all that happens upon earth, to the one principle of absolute divine will and pleasure, in spite of all the contradictions of Scripture and experience, Bildad refers everything to the principle of the divine justice, and indeed, divine justice in a judicial sense.
There is also another idea of justice beside this judicial one. Justice, צדקה or צדק, is in general God's dealings as ruled by His holiness. Now there is not only a holy will of God concerning man, which says, Be ye holy, for I am holy; but also a purpose for the redemption of unholy man springing from the holy love of God to man. Accordingly justice is either the agreement of God's dealings with the will of His holiness manifest in the demands of the law, apart from redemption, or the agreement of His dealings with the will of His love as graciously manifested in the gospel; in short, either retributive or redemptive. If one, as Bildad, in the first sense says, God never acts unjustly, and glaringly maintains it as universally applicable, the mystery of the divine dispensations is not made clear thereby, but destroyed. Thus also Job's suffering is no longer a mystery: Job suffers what he deserves; and if it cannot be demonstrated, it is to be assumed in contradiction to all experience. This view of his affliction does not suffice to pacify Job, in spite of the glorious promises by which it is set off. His conscience bears him witness that he has not merited such incomparably heavy affliction; and if we indeed suppose, what we must suppose, that Job was in favour with God when this suffering came upon him, then the thought that God deals with him according to his works, perhaps according to his unacknowledged sins, must be altogether rejected.
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