Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.1 Man that is born of a woman,
Short of days and full of unrest,
2 Cometh forth as a flower and is cut down;
He fleeth as a shadow, and continueth not.
3 Moreover, Thou openest Thine eyes upon him,
And Thou drawest me before Thy tribunal.
Even if he yields to the restraint which his suffering imposes on him, to regard himself as a sinner undergoing punishment, he is not able to satisfy himself by thus persuading himself to this view of God's conduct towards him. How can God pass so strict a judgment on man, whose life is so short and full of sorrow, and which cannot possibly be pure from sin? - Job 14:1. אדם is followed by three clauses in apposition, or rather two, for אשּׁה ילוּד (lxx γεννητὸς γυναικός, as Matthew 11:11; comp. γέννημα γυν. Sir. 10:18) belongs to the subject as an adjectival clause: woman-born man, short-lived, and full of unrest, opens out as a flower. Woman is weak, with pain she brings forth children; she is impure during her lying-in, therefore weakness, suffering, and impurity is the portion of man even from the birth (Job 15:14; Job 25:4). As קצר is the constr. of קצר, so (רגז) שׂבע is from שׂבע, which here, as Job 10:15, has the strong signification: endowed (with adversity). It is questionable whether ויּמּל, Job 14:2, signifies et marcescit or et succiditur. We have decided here as elsewhere (vid., on Psalm 37:2; Psalm 90:6, Genesis, S. 383) in favour of the latter meaning, and as the Targ. (אתמולל), translated "he is mown down." For this meaning (prop. to cut off from above or before, to lop off), - in which the verb מלל (מוּל נמל) is become technical for the περιτομή, - is most probably favoured by its application in Job 24:24; where Jerome however translates, sicut summitates spicarum conterentur, since he derives ימלו from מלל in the signification not found in the Bible (unless perhaps retained in מלילה ni , Deuteronomy 23:25), fricare (Arab. mll, frigere, to parch). At the same time, the signification marcescere, which certainly cannot be combined with praecidere, but may be with fricare (conterere), is not unnatural; it is more appropriate to a flower (comp. נבל ציץ, Isaiah 40:7); it accords with the parallelism Psalm 37:2, and must be considered etymologically possible in comparison with ק־מל א־מל. But it is not supported by any dialect, and none of the old translations furnish any certain evidence in its favour; ימולל, Psalm 90:6, which is to be understood impersonally rather than intransitively, does not favour it; and none of the passages in which ימּל occurs demand it: least of all Job 24:24, where praeciduntur is more suitable than, and Job 18:16, praeciditur, quite as suitable as, marcescit. For these reasons we also take ויּמּל here, not as fut. Kal from מלל, or, as Hahn, from נמל equals נבל, to wither, but as fut. Niph. from מלל, to cut down. At the same time, we do not deny the possibility of the notion of withering having been connected with ימל, whether it be that it belonged originally and independently to the root מל, or has branched off from some other radical notion, as "to fall in pieces" (lxx here ἐξέπεσεν, and similarly also Job 18:16; Job 24:24; comp. מלחים, rags, נמלח, to come to pieces, to be dissolved) or "to become soft" (with which the significations in the dialects, to grind and to parch, may be connected). As a flower, which having opened out is soon cut or withered, is man: אף, accedit quod, insuper. This particle, related to ἐπὶ, adds an enhancing cumulat. More than this, God keeps His eye open (not: His eyes, for the correct reading, expressly noted by the Masora, is עינך without Jod plur.), על־זה, super hoc s. tali, over this poor child of man, who is a perishable flower, and not a "walking light, but a fleeting shadow" (Gregory the Great), to watch for and punish his sins, and brings Job to judgment before himself, His tribunal which puts down every justification. Elsewhere the word is pointed במשׁפט, Job 9:32; Job 22:4; here it is במשׁפט, because the idea is rendered determinate by the addition of עמך.
He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
And dost thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment with thee?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.4 Would that a pure one could come from an impure!
Not a single one - -
5 His days then are determined,
The number of his months is known to Thee,
Thou hast appointed bounds for him that he may not pass over:
6 Look away from him then, and let him rest,
Until he shall accomplish as a hireling his day.
Would that perfect sinlessness were possible to man; but since (to use a New Testament expression) that which is born of the flesh is flesh, there is not a single one pure. The optative מי־יתּן seems to be used here with an acc. of the object, according to its literal meaning, quis det s. afferat, as Job 31:31; Deuteronomy 28:67; Psalm 14:7. Ewald remarks (and refers to 358, b, of his Grammar) that לא, Job 14:4, must be the same as לוּ; but although in 1 Samuel 20:14; 2 Samuel 13:26; 2 Kings 5:17, לא might be equivalent to the optative לו, which is questionable, still אחד לא here, as an echo of אין גם־אחד, Psalm 14:3, is Job's own answer to his wish, that cannot be fulfilled: not one, i.e., is in existence. Like the friends, he acknowledges an hereditary proneness to sin; but this proneness to sin affords him no satisfactory explanation of so unmerciful a visitation of punishment as his seems to him to be. It appears to him that man must the rather be an object of divine forbearance and compassion, since absolute purity is impossible to him. If, as is really the case, man's days are חרוּצים, cut off, i.e., ἀποτόμως, determined (distinct from חרוצים with an unchangeable Kametz: sharp, i.e., quick, eager, diligent), - if the number of his months is with God, i.e., known by God, because fixed beforehand by Him, - if He has set fixed bounds (Keri חקּיו) for him, and he cannot go beyond them, may God then look away from him, i.e., turn from him His strict watch (מן שׁעה, as Job 7:19; מן שׁית, Job 10:20), that he may have rest (יחדּל, cesset), so that he may at least as a hireling enjoy his day. Thus ירצה is interpreted by all modern expositors, and most of them consider the object or reason of his rejoicing to be the rest of evening when his work is done, and thereby miss the meaning.
Hahn appropriately says, "He desires that God would grant man the comparative rest of the hireling, who must toil in sorrow and eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, but still is free from any special suffering, by not laying extraordinary affliction on him in addition to the common infirmities beneath which he sighs. Since the context treats of freedom from special suffering in life, not of the hope of being set free from it, comp. Job 13:25-27; Job 14:3, the explanation of Umbreit, Ew., Hirz., and others, is to be entirely rejected, viz., that God would at least permit man the rest of a hireling, who, though he be vexed with heavy toil, cheerfully reconciles himself to it in prospect of the reward he hopes to obtain at evening time. Job does not claim for man the toil which the hireling gladly undergoes in expectation of complete rest, but the toil of the hireling, which seems to him to be rest in comparison with the possibility of having still greater toil to undergo." Such is the true connection.
(Note: In honour of our departed friend, whose Commentary on Job abounds in observations manifesting a delicate appreciation of the writer's purpose and thought, we have quoted his own words.)
Man's life - this life which is as a hand-breadth (Psalm 39:6), and in Job 7:1. is compared to a hireling's day, which is sorrowful enough - is not to be overburdened with still more and extraordinary suffering.
It must be asked, however, whether ריה seq. acc. here signifies εὐδοκεῖν (τὸν βίον, lxx), or not rather persolvere; for it is undeniable that it has this meaning in Leviticus 26:34 (vid., however Keil [Pent., en loc.]) and elsewhere (prop. to satisfy, remove, discharge what is due). The Hiphil is used in this sense in post-biblical Hebrew, and most Jewish expositors explain ירצה by ישלים. If it signifies to enjoy, עד ought to be interpreted: that (he at least may, like as a hireling, enjoy his day). But this signification of עד (ut in the final sense) is strange, and the signification dum (Job 1:18; Job 8:21) or adeo ut (Isaiah 47:7) is not, however, suitable, if ירצה is to be explained in the sense of persolvere, and therefore translate donec persolvat (persolverit). We have translated "until he accomplish," and wish "accomplish" to be understood in the sense of "making complete," as Colossians 1:24, Luther ("vollzhlig machen") equals ἀνταναπληροῦν.
Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;
Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.7 For there is hope for a tree:
If it is hewn down, it sprouts again,
And its shoot ceaseth not.
8 If its root becometh old in the ground,
And its trunk dieth off in the dust:
9 At the scent of water it buddeth,
And bringeth forth branches like a young plant.
As the tree falleth so it lieth, says a cheerless proverb. Job, a true child of his age, has a still sadder conception of the destiny of man in death; and the conflict through which he is passing makes this sad conception still sadder than it otherwise is. The fate of the tree is far from being so hopeless as that of man; for (1) if a tree is hewn down, it (the stump left in the ground) puts forth new shoots (on החליף, vid., on Psalm 90:6), and young branches (יונקת, the tender juicy sucker μόσχος) do not cease. This is a fact, which is used by Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-13) as an emblem of a fundamental law in operation in the history of Israel: the terebinth and oak there symbolize Israel; the stump (מצבת) is the remnant that survives the judgment, and this remnant becomes the seed from which a new sanctified Israel springs up after the old is destroyed. Carey is certainly not wrong when he remarks that Job thinks specially of the palm (the date), which is propagated by such suckers; Shaw's expression corresponds exactly to לא תחדל: "when the old trunk dies, there is never wanting one or other of these offsprings to succeed it." Then (2) if the root of a tree becomes old (חזקין inchoative Hiphil: senescere, Ew. 122, c) in the earth, and its trunk (גּזע also of the stem of an undecayed tree, Isaiah 40:24) dies away in the dust, it can nevertheless regain its vitality which had succumbed to the weakness of old age: revived by the scent (ריח always of scent, which anything exhales, not, perhaps Sol 1:3 only excepted, odor equals odoratus) of water, it puts forth buds for both leaves and flowers, and brings forth branches (קציר, prop. cuttings, twigs) again, כמו נטע, like a plant, or a young plant (the form of נטע in pause), therefore, as if fresh planted, lxx ὥσπερ νεόφυτον. One is here at once reminded of the palm which, on the one hand, is pre-eminently a φιλυδρον φυτόν,
(Note: When the English army landed in Egypt in 1801, Sir Sydney Smith gave the troops the sure sign, that wherever date-trees grew there must be water; and this is supported by the fact of people digging after it generally, within a certain range round the tree within which the roots of the tree could obtain moisture from the fluid. - Vid., R. Wilson's History of the Expedition to Egypt, p. 18.)
on the other hand possesses a wonderful vitality, whence it is become a figure for youthful vigour. The palm and the phoenix have one name, and not without reason. The tree reviving as from the dead at the scent of water, which Job describes, is like that wondrous bird rising again from its own ashes (vid., on Job 29:18). Even when centuries have at last destroyed the palm - says Masius, in his beautiful and thoughtful studies of nature - thousands of inextricable fibres of parasites cling about the stem, and delude the traveller with an appearance of life.
Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?10 But man dieth, he lieth there stretched out,
Man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
11 The waters flow away from the sea,
And a stream decayeth and dryeth up:
12 So man lieth down and riseth not again;
Till the heavens pass away they wake not,
And are not aroused from their sleep.
How much less favoured is the final lot of man! He dies, and then lies there completely broken down and melted away (חלשׁ( yaw, in the neuter signification, confectum esse, rendered in the Targum by אתּבר and אתמקמק). The fut. consec. continues the description of the cheerless results of death: He who has thus once fallen together is gone without leaving a trace of life. In Job 14:11. this vanishing away without hope and beyond recovery is contemplated under the figure of running water, or of water that is dried up and never returns again to its channel. Instead of אזלוּ Isaiah uses נשּׁתוּ (Job 19:5) in the oracle on Egypt, a prophecy in which many passages borrowed from the book of Job are interwoven. The former means to flow away (related radically with נזל), the latter to dry up (transposed נתּשׁ, Jeremiah 18:14). But he also uses יחרב, which signifies the drying in, and then ויבשׁ, which is the complete drying up which follows upon the drying in (vid., Genesis, S. 264). What is thus figuratively expressed is introduced by waw (Job 14:12), similar to the waw adaequationis of the emblematic proverbs mentioned at Job 5:7; Job 11:12 : so there is for man no rising (קוּם), no waking up (הקיץ), no ἐγείρεσθαι (נעור), and indeed not for ever; for what does not happen until the heavens are no more (comp. Psalm 72:7, till the moon is no more), never happens; because God has called the heavens and the stars with their laws into existence, לעד לעולם (Psalm 148:6), they never cease (Jeremiah 31:35.), the days of heaven are eternal (Psalm 89:30). This is not opposed to declarations like Psalm 102:27, for the world's history, according to the teaching of Scripture, closes with a change in all these, but not their annihilation. What is affirmed in Job 14:10-12 of mankind in general, is, by the change to the plural in Job 14:12, affirmed of each individual of the race. Their sleep of death is עזלם שׁנת (Jeremiah 51:39, Jeremiah 51:57). What Sheôl summons away from the world, the world never sees again. Oh that it were otherwise! How would the brighter future have comforted him with respect to the sorrowful present and the dark night of the grave!
As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!13 Oh that Thou wouldst hide me in Shel,
That Thou wouldst conceal me till Thine anger change,
That Thou wouldst appoint me a time and then remember me!
14 If man dieth, shall he live again?
All the days of my warfare would Iwait,
Until my change should come.
15 Thou wouldst call and I would answer,
Thou wouldst have a desire for the work of Thy hands -
16 For now thou numberest my steps,
And dost not restrain thyself over my sins.
The optative יתּן מי introduces a wish that has reference to the future, and is therefore, as at Job 6:8, followed by futt.; comp. on the other hand, Job 23:3, utinam noverim. The language of the wish reminds one of such passages in the Psalms as Psalm 31:21; Psalm 27:5 (comp. Isaiah 26:20): "In the day of trouble He hideth me in His pavilion, and in the secret of His tabernacle doth He conceal me." So Job wishes that Hades, into which the wrath of God now precipitates him for ever, may only be a temporary place of safety for him, until the wrath of God turn away (שׁוּב, comp. the causative, Job 9:13); that God would appoint to him, when there, a חק, i.e., a terminus ad quem (comp. Job 14:5), and when this limit should be reached, again remember him in mercy. This is a wish that Job marks out for himself. The reality is indeed different: "if (ἐὰν) a man dies, will he live again?" The answer which Job's consciousness, ignorant of anything better, alone can give, is: No, there is no life after death. It is, however, none the less a craving of his heart that gives rise to the wish; it is the most favourable thought, - a desirable possibility, - which, if it were but a reality, would comfort him under all present suffering: "all the days of my warfare would I wait until my change came." צבא is the name he gives to the whole of this toilsome and sorrowful interval between the present and the wished-for goal, - the life on earth, which he likens to the service of the soldier or of the hireling (Job 7:1), and which is subject to an inevitable destiny (Job 5:7) of manifold suffering, together with the night of Hades, where this life is continued in its most shadowy and dismal phase. And חליפה does not here signify destruction in the sense of death, as the Jewish expositors, by comparing Isaiah 2:18 and Sol 2:11, explain it; but (with reference to צבאי, comp. Job 10:17) the following after (Arab. chlı̂ft, succession, successor, i.e., of Mohammed), relief, change (syn. תּמוּרה, exchange, barter), here of change of condition, as Psalm 55:20, of change of mind; Aquila, Theod., ἄλλαγμα. Oh that such a change awaited him! What a blessed future would it be if it should come to pass! Then would God call to him in the depth of Shel, and he, imprisoned until the appointed time of release, would answer Him from the deep. After His anger was spent, God would again yearn after the work of His hands (comp. Job 10:3), the natural loving relation between the Creator and His creature would again prevail, and it would become manifest that wrath is only a waning power (Isaiah 54:8), and love His true and essential attribute. Schlottman well observes: "Job must have had a keen perception of the profound relation between the creature and his Maker in the past, to be able to give utterance to such an imaginative expectation respecting the future."
In Job 14:16, Job supports what is cheering in this prospect, with which he wishes he might be allowed to console himself, by the contrast of the present. עתּה כּי is used here as in Job 6:21; כי is not, as elsewhere, where עתה כי introduces the conclusion, confirmatory (indeed now equals then indeed), but assigns a reason (for now). Now God numbers his steps (Job 13:27), watching him as a criminal, and does not restrain himself over his sin. Most modern expositors (Ew., Hlgst, Hahn, Schlottm.) translate: Thou observest not my sins, i.e., whether they are to be so severely punished or not; but this is poor. Raschi: Thou waitest not over my sins, i.e., to punish them; instead of which Ralbag directly: Thou waitest not for my sins equals repentance or punishment; but שׁמר is not supported in the meaning: to wait, by Genesis 37:11. Aben-Ezra: Thou lookest not except on my sins, by supplying רק, according to Ecclesiastes 2:24 (where, however, probably משׁיאכל should be read, and מ after אדם, just as in Job 33:17, has fallen away). The most doubtful is, with Hirzel, to take the sentence as interrogative, in opposition to the parallelism: and dost Thou not keep watch over my sins? It seems to me that the sense intended must be derived from the phrase אף שׁמר, which means to keep anger, and consequently to delay the manifestation of it (Amos 1:11). This phrase is here so applied, that we obtain the sense: Thou keepest not Thy wrath to thyself, but pourest it out entirely. Mercerus is substantially correct: non reservas nec differs peccati mei punitionem.
If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.
Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.
For now thou numberest my steps: dost thou not watch over my sin?
My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity.17 My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And Thou hast devised additions to my iniquity.
18 But a falling mountain moveth indeed,
And a rock falleth from its place.
19 Water holloweth out stone,
Its overflowings carry away the dust of the earth,
And the hope of man - Thou destroyest.
The meaning of Job 14:17 is, not that the judgment which pronounces him guilty lies in the sealed-up bag of the judge, so that it requires only to be handed over for execution (Hirz., Ew., Renan), for although פּשׁע (though not exactly the punishment of sin, which it does not signify even in Daniel 9:24) can denote wickedness, as proved and recorded, and therefore metonomically the penal sentence, the figure is, however, taken not from the mode of preserving important documents, but from the mode of preserving collected articles of value in a sealed bag. The passage must be explained according to Hosea 13:12; Deuteronomy 32:34; Romans 2:5, comp. Jeremiah 17:1. The evil Job had formerly (Job 13:26) committed according to the sentence of God, God has gathered together as in a money bag, and carefully preserved, in order now to bring them home to him. And not this alone, however; He has devised still more against him than his actual misdeeds. Ewald translates: Thou hast sewed up my punishment; but טפל (vid., on Job 13:4) signifies, not to sew up, but: to sew on, patch on, and gen. to add (טפל, Rabb. accidens, a subordinate matter, opp. עקּר), after which the lxx translates ἐπεσημήνω (noted in addition), and Gecatilia Arab. ḥftṣt (added to in collecting). It is used here just as in the Aramaic phrase טפל שׁקרא (to patch on falsehood, to invent scandal).
The idea of the figures which follow is questionable. Hahn maintains that they do not describe destruction, but change, and that consequently the relation of Job 14:19 to what precedes is not similarity, but contrast: stones are not so hard, that they are not at length hollowed out, and the firm land is not so firm that it cannot be carried away by the flood; but man's prospect is for ever a hopeless one, and only for him is there no prospect of his lot ever being changed. Thus I thought formerly it should be explained: considering the waw, Job 14:19, as indicative not of comparison, but of contrast. But the assumption that the point of comparison is change, not destruction, cannot be maintained: the figures represent the slow but inevitable destruction wrought by the elements on the greatest mountains, on rocks, and on the solid earth. And if the poet had intended to contrast the slow but certain changes of nature with the hopelessness of man's lot, how many more appropriate illustrations, in which nature seems to come forth as with new life from the dead, were at his command! Raschi, who also considers the relation of the clauses to be antithetical, is guided by the right perception when he interprets: even a mountain that is cast down still brings forth fruit, and a rock removed from its place, even these are not without some signs of vitality in them, יבּול equals (יבוּל) יעשׂהבוּל, which is indeed a linguistic impossibility. The majority of expositors are therefore right when they take the waw, Job 14:19, similarly to Job 5:7; Job 11:12; Job 12:11, as waw adaequationis. With this interpretation also, the connection of the clause with what precedes by ואוּלם (which is used exactly as in Job 1:11; Job 11:5; Job 12:7, where it signifies verum enim vero or attamen) is unconstrained. The course of thought is as follows: With unsparing severity, and even beyond the measure of my guilt, hast Thou caused me to suffer punishment for my sins, but (nevertheless) Thou shouldst rather be gentle and forbearing towards me, since even that which is firmest, strongest, and most durable cannot withstand ultimate destruction; and entirely in accordance with the same law, weak, frail man (אנושׁ) meets an early certain end, and at the same time Thou cuttest off from him every ground of hope of a continued existence. The waw, Job 14:19, is consequently, according to the sense, more quanto magis than sic, placing the things to be contrasted over against each other. הר־נופL is a falling, not a fallen (Ralbag) mountain; and having once received the impetus, it continues gradually to give way; Renan: s'effondre peu peu. Carey, better: "will decay," for נבל (cogn. נבל) signifies, decrease from external loses; specially of the falling off of leaves, Isaiah 34:4. The second figure, like Job 18:4, is to be explained according to Job 9:5 : a rock removes (not as Jerome translates, transfertur, which would be יעתק, and also not as lxx παλαιωθήσεται, Schlottm.: becomes old and crumbles away, although in itself admissible both as to language and fact; comp. on Job 21:7) from its place; it does not stand absolutely, immovably fast. In the third figure אבנים is a prominent object, as the accentuation with Mehupach legarmeh or (as it is found in correct Codd.) with Asla legarmeh rightly indicates שׁחק signifies exactly the same as Arab. sḥq, attere, conterere. In the fourth figure, ספיח must not be interpreted as meaning that which grows up spontaneously without re-sowing, although the Targum translates accordingly: it (the water) washes away its (i.e., the dust of the earth's) after-growth (כּתהא), which Symm. follows (τὰ παραλελειμνένα). It is also impossible according to the expression; for it must have been עפר הארץ. Jerome is essentially correct: et alluvione paullatim terra consumitur. It is true that ספח in Hebrew does not mean effundere in any other passage (on this point, vid., on Habakkuk 2:15), but here the meaning effusio or alluvio may be supposed without much hesitation; and in a book whose language is so closely connected with the Arabic, we may even refer to ספח equals Arab. sfḥ (kindred to Arab. sfk, שׁפך), although the word may also (as Ralbag suggests), by comparison with מטר סחף, Proverbs 28:3, and Arab. sḥı̂qt, a storm of rain, be regarded as transposed from חיפיה, from סחף in Arab. to tear off, sweep away, Targ. to thrust away ( equals רחף), Syr., Talm. to overthrow, subvertere (whence s'chifto, a cancer or cancerous ulcer). The suffix refers to מים, and תּשׁטף before a plural subject is quite according to rule, Ges. 146, 3. ספיחיה is mostly marked with Mercha, but according to our interpretation Dech, which is found here and there in the Codd., would be more correct.
The point of the four illustrations is not that not one of them is restored to its former condition (Oetinger, Hirz.), but that in spite of their stability they are overwhelmed by destruction, and that irrecoverably. Even the most durable things cannot defy decay, and now even as to mortal man - Thou hast brought his hope utterly to nought (האבדת with Pathach in pause as frequently; vid., Psalter ii. 468). The perf. is praegnans: all at once, suddenly - death, the germ of which he carries in him even from his birth, is to him an end without one ray of hope, - it is also the death of his hope.
And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place.
The waters wear the stones: thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth; and thou destroyest the hope of man.
Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth: thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away.20 Thou siezest him for ever, then he passeth away;
Thou changest his countenance and castest him forth.
21 If his sons come to honour, he knoweth it not;
Or to want, he observeth them not.
22 Only on his own account his flesh suffereth pain,
And on his own account is his soul conscious of grief.
The old expositors thought that תּתקפהוּ must be explained by תתקף נמנו (Thou provest thyself stronger than he, according to Ges. 121, 4), because תּקף is intrans.; but it is also transitive in the sense of seizing forcibly and grasping, Job 15:24; Ecclesiastes 4:12, as Talm. תּקף (otherwise commonly אתקף as החזיק), Arab. taqifa, comprehendere. The many sufferings which God inflicts on him in the course of his life are not meant; לנצח does not signify here: continually, without intermission, as most expositors explain, but as Job 4:20; Job 20:7, and throughout the book: for ever (Rosenm., Hahn, Welte). God gives him the death-stroke which puts an end to his life for ever, he passes away βαίνει, οἴχεται (comp. Job 10:21); disfiguring his countenance, i.e., in the struggle of death and in death by the gradual working of decay, distorting and making him unlike himself, He thrusts him out of this life (שׁלּח like Genesis 3:23). The waw consec. is used here as e.g., Psalm 118:27.
When he is descended into Hades he knows nothing more of the fortune of his children, for as Ecclesiastes 9:6 says: the dead have absolutely no portion in anything that happens under the sun. In Job 14:21 Job does not think of his own children that have died, nor his grandchildren (Ewald); he speaks of mankind in general. כּבד and צער are not here placed in contrast in the sense of much and little, but, as in Jeremiah 30:19, in the wider sense of an important or a destitute position; כּבד, to be honoured, to attain to honour, as Isaiah 66:5. בּין (to observe anything) is joined with ל of the object, as in Psalm 73:17 (on the other hand, להּ, Job 13:1, was taken as dat. ethicus). He neither knows nor cares anything about the welfare of those who survive him: "Nothing but pain and sadness is the existence of the dead; and the pain of his own flesh, the sadness of his own soul, alone engage him. He has therefore no room for rejoicing, nor does the joyous or sorrowful estate of others, though his nearest ones, affect him" (Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, i. 495). This is certainly, as Ewald and Psychol. S. 444, the meaning of Job 14:22; but עליו is hardly to be translated with Hofmann "in him," so that it gives the intensive force of ἴδιος to the suff. For it is improbable that in this connection, - where the indifference of the deceased respecting others, and the absolute reference to himself of the existence of pain on his own account, are contrasted, - עליו, Job 14:22, is to be understood according to Job 30:16 (Psychol. S. 152), but rather objectively (over him). On the other hand, Job 14:22 is not to be translated: over himself only does his flesh feel pain (Schlottm., Hirz., and others); for the flesh as inanimate may indeed be poetically, so to speak zeugmatically, represented as conscious of pain, but not as referring its pain to another, and consequently as self-conscious. On this account, עליו, Job 14:22, is to be taken in the signification, over him equals upon him, or as Job 14:22 (beyond him), which is doubtful; or it signifies, as we have sought to render it in our translation in both cases, propter eum. Only on his own account does his flesh suffer, i.e., only applying to himself, only on his own account does his soul mourn, i.e., only over his own condition. He has no knowledge and interest that extends beyond himself; only he himself is the object of that which takes place with his flesh in the grave, and of that on which his soul reflects below in the depths of Hades. According to this interpretation אך belongs to עליו, after the hyperbaton described at Job 2:10, comp. Job 13:15, Isaiah 34:15. And he עליו, Job 14:22, implies the idea (which is clearly expressed in Isaiah 66:24, and especially in Judith 16:17: δοῦναι πῦρ καὶ σκώληκας εἰς σάρκας αὐτῶν καὶ κλαύσονται ἐν αἰσθήσει ἕως αἰῶνος) that the process of the decomposition of the body is a source of pain and sorrow to the departed spirit, - a conception which proceeds from the supposition, right in itself, that a connection between body and soul is still continued beyond the grave, - a connection which is assumed by the resurrection, but which, as Job viewed it, only made the future still more sorrowful.
This speech of Job (Job 12-14), which closes here, falls into three parts, which correspond to the divisions into chapters. In the impassioned speech of Zophar, who treats Job as an empty and conceited babbler, the one-sided dogmatical standpoint of the friends was maintained with such arrogance and assumption, that Job is obliged to put forth all his power in self-defence. The first part of the speech (Job 12) triumphantly puts down this arrogance and assumption. Job replies that the wisdom, of which they profess to be the only possessors, is nothing remarkable, and the contempt with which they treat him is the common lot of the innocent, while the prosperity of the ungodly remains undisturbed. In order, however, to prove to them that what they say of the majesty of God, before which he should humble himself, can neither overawe nor help him, he refers them to creation, which in its varied works testifies to this majesty, this creative power of God, and the absolute dependence of every living thin on Him, and proves that he is not wanting in an appreciation of the truth contained in the sayings of the ancients by a description of the absolute majesty of God as it is manifested in the works of nature, and especially in the history of man, which excels everything that the three had said. This description is, however, throughout a gloomy picture of disasters which God brings about in the world, corresponding to the gloomy condition of mind in which Job is, and the disaster which is come upon himself.
As the friends have failed to solace him by their descriptions of God, so his own description is also utterly devoid of comfort. For the wisdom of God, of which he speaks, is not the wisdom that orders the world in which one can confide, and in which one has the surety of seeing every mystery of life sooner or later gloriously solved; but this wisdom is something purely negative, and repulsive rather than attractive, it is abstract exaltation over all created wisdom, whence it follows that he puts to shame the wisdom of the wise. Of the justice of God he does not speak at all, for in the narrow idea of the friends he cannot recognise its control; and of the love of God he speaks as little as the friends, for as the sight of the divine love is removed from them by the one-sidedness of their dogma, so is it from him by the feeling of the wrath of God which at present has possession of his whole being. Hegel has called the religion of the Old Testament the religion of sublimity (die Religion der Erhabenheit); and it is true that, so long as that manifestation of love, the incarnation of the Godhead, was not yet realized, God must have relatively transcended the religious consciousness. From the book of Job, however, this view can be brought back to its right limits; for, according to the tendency of the book, neither the idea of God presented by the friends nor by Job is the pure undimmed notion of God that belongs to the Old Testament. The friends conceive of God as the absolute One, who acts only according to justice; Job conceives of Him as the absolute One, who acts according to the arbitrariness of His absolute power. According to the idea of the book, the former is dogmatic one-sidedness, the latter the conception of one passing through temptation. The God of the Old Testament consequently rules neither according to justice alone, nor according to a "sublime whim."
After having proved his superiority over the friends in perception of the majesty of God, Job tells them his decision, that he shall turn away from them. The sermon they address to him is to no purpose, and in fact produces an effect the reverse of that intended by them. And while it does Job no good, it injures them, because their very defence of the honour of God incriminates themselves in the eyes of God. Their aim is missed by them, for the thought of the absolute majesty of God has no power to impart comfort to any kind of sufferer; nor can the thought of His absolute justice give any solace to a sufferer who is conscious that he suffers innocently. By their confidence that Job's affliction is a decree of the justice of God, they certainly seem to defend the honour of God; but this defence is reversed as soon as it is manifest that there exists no such just ground for inflicting punishment on him. Job's self-consciousness, however, which cannot be shaken, gives no testimony to its justice; their advocacy of God is therefore an injustice to Job, and a miserable attempt at doing God service, which cannot escape the undisguised punishment of God. It is to be carefully noted that in Job 13:6-12 Job seriously warns the friends that God will punish them for their partiality, i.e., that they have endeavoured to defend Him at the expense of truth.
We see from this how sound Job's idea of God is, so far as it is not affected by the change which seems, according to the light which his temptation casts upon his affliction, to have taken place in his personal relationship to God. While above, ch. 9, he did not acknowledge an objective right, and the rather evaded the thought, of God's dealing unjustly towards him, by the desperate assertion that what God does is in every case right because God does it, he here recognises an objective truth, which cannot be denied, even in favour of God, and the denial of which, even though it were a pientissima fraus, is strictly punished by God. God is the God of truth, and will therefore be neither defended nor honoured by any perverting of the truth. By such pious lies the friends involve themselves in guilt, since in opposition to their better knowledge they regard Job as unrighteous, and blind themselves to the incongruities of daily experience and the justice of God. Job will therefore have nothing more to do with them; and to whom does he now turn? Repelled by men, he feels all the more strongly drawn to God. He desires to carry his cause before God. He certainly considers God to be his enemy, but, like David, he thinks it is better to fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man (2 Samuel 24:14). He will plead his cause with God, and prove to Him his innocence: he will do it, even though he be obliged to expiate his boldness with his life; for he knows that morally he will not be overcome in the contest. He requires compliance with but two conditions: that God would grant a temporary alleviation of his pain, and that He would not overawe him with the display of His majesty. Job's disputing with God is as terrible as it is pitiable. It is terrible, because he uplifts himself, Titan-like, against God; and pitiable, because the God against which he fights is not the God he has known, but a God that he is unable to recognise, - the phantom which the temptation has presented before his dim vision instead of the true God. This phantom is still the real God to him, but in other respects in no way differing from the inexorable ruling fate of the Greek tragedy. As in this the hero of the drama seeks to maintain his personal freedom against the mysterious power that is crushing him with an iron arm, so Job, even at the risk of sudden destruction, maintains the stedfast conviction of his innocence, in opposition to a God who has devoted him, as an evil-doer, to slow but certain destruction. The battle of freedom against necessity is the same as in the Greek tragedy. Accordingly one is obliged to regard it as an error, arising from simple ignorance, when it has been recently maintained that the boundless oriental imagination is not equal to such a truly exalted task as that of representing in art and poetry the power of the human spirit, and the maintenance of its dignity in the conflict with hostile powers, because a task that can only be accomplished by an imagination formed with a perception of the importance of recognising ascertained phenomena.
(Note: Vid., Arnold Ruge, Die Academie, i. S. 29.)
In treating this subject, the book of Job not only attains to, but rises far above, the height attained by the Greek tragedy: for, on the one hand, it brings this conflict before us in all the fearful earnestness of a death-struggle; on the other, however, it does not leave us to the cheerless delusion that an absolute caprice moulds human destiny. This tragic conflict with the divine necessity is but the middle, not the beginning nor the end, of the book; for this god of fate is not the real God, but a delusion of Job's temptation. Human freedom does not succumb, but it comes forth from the battle, which is a refining fire to it, as conqueror. The dualism, which the Greek tragedy leaves unexplained, is here cleared up. The book certainly presents much which, from its tragic character, suggests this idea of destiny, but it is not its final aim - it goes far beyond: it does not end in the destruction of its hero by fate; but the end is the destruction of the idea of this fate itself.
We have seen in this speech (comp. Job 13:23, Job 13:26; Job 14:16.), as often already, that Job is as little able as the friends to disconnect suffering from the idea of the punishment of sin. If Job were mistaken or were misled by the friends respecting his innocence, the history of his sufferings would be no material for a drama, because there would be no inner development. But it is just Job's stedfast conviction of his innocence, and his maintenance of it in spite of the power which this prejudice exercises over him, that makes the history of his affliction the history of the development of a new and grand idea, and makes him as the subject, on whom it is developed, a tragic character. In conformity with his prepossession, Job sees himself put down by his affliction as a great sinner; and his friends actually draw the conclusion from false premises that he is such. But he asserts the testimony of his conscience to his innocence; and because this contradicts those premises, the one-sidedness of which he does not discern, God himself appears to him to be unjust and unmerciful. And against this God, whom the temptation has distorted and transformed to the miserable image of a ruler, guided only by an absolute caprice, he struggles on, and places the truth and freedom of his moral self-consciousness over against the restraint of the condemnatory sentence, which seems to be pronounced over him in the suffering he has to endure. Such is the struggle against God which we behold in the second part of the speech (ch. 13): ready to prove his innocence, he challenges God to trial; but since God does not appear, his confidence gives place to despondency, and his defiant tone to a tone of lamentation, which is continued in the third part of the speech (ch. 14).
While he has raised his head towards heaven with the conscious pride of a תמים צדיק, first in opposition to the friends and then to God, he begins to complain as one who is thrust back, and yielding to the pressure of his affliction, begins to regard himself as a sinner. But he is still unable to satisfy himself respecting God's dealings by any such forcible self-persuasion. For how can God execute such strict judgment upon man, whose life is so short and full of care, and who, because he belongs to a sinful race, cannot possibly be pure from sin, without allowing him the comparative rest of a hireling? How can he thus harshly visit man, to whose life He has set an appointed bound, and who, when he once dies, returns to life no more for ever? The old expositors cannot at all understand this absolute denial of a new life after death. Brentius erroneously observes on donec coelum transierit: ergo resurget; and Mercerus, whose exposition is free from all prejudice, cannot persuade himself that the elecus et sanctus Dei vir can have denied not merely a second earthly life, but also the eternal imperishable life after death. And yet it is so: Job does not indeed mean that man when he dies is annihilated, but he knows of no other life after death but the shadowy life in Shel, which is no life at all. His laments really harmonize with those in Moschos iii.:106ff.:
Αἲ αἲ, ταὶ μαλάχαι μὲν ἐπὰν κατὰ κᾶπον ὄλωνται,
Ἤ τὰ χλωρὰ σέλινα, τό τ ̓ εὐθαλὲς οὖλον ἄνηθον,
Ὕστερον αὖ ζώοντι καὶ εἰς ἔτος ἄλλο φύοντι·
Ἄμμες δ ̓ οἱ μεγάλοι καὶ καρτεροὶ ἢ σοφοὶ ἄνδρες,
Ὁππότε πρῶτα θάνωμες, ἀνάκοοι ἐν χθονὶ κοίλᾳ
Εὔδομες εὖ μάλα μακρὸν ἀτέρμονα νήγρετον ὕπνον.
Alas! alas! the mallows, after they are withered in the garden,
Or the green parsley and the luxuriant curly dill,
Live again hereafter and sprout in future years;
But we men, the great and brave, or the wise,
When once we die, senseless in the bosom of the earth
We sleep a long, endless, and eternal sleep.
And with that of Horace, Od. iv. 7, 1:
Nos ubi decidimus
Quo pius Aeneas, quo dives Tullus et Ancus,
Pulvis et umbra sumus;
Or with that of the Jagur Weda: "While the tree that has fallen sprouts again from the root fresher than before, from what root does mortal man spring forth when he has fallen by the hand of death?"
(Note: Vid., Carey, The Book of Job, p. 447. We append here an extract from a letter of Consul Wetzstein, as giving an explanation of Job 14:7-9, derived from personal observation: "The practice of cutting down the trees in order to obtain a new and increased use from them, is an important part of husbandry in the country east of the Jordan. It is, however, now almost confined to the region round Damascus, in consequence of the devastation of the country. This operation is called gemm (גמם), and is performed only with the axe, because the stump would decay away if sawn. When the vine, after bearing from sixty to eighty years, loses its fruitfulness and begins to decay, it is cut down close to the ground in the second kânûn (January). The first year it bears little or nothing, but throws out new branches and roots; and afterwards it bears plenteously, for the vine-stock has renewed its youth. The fig-tree (tı̂ne) and the pomegranate (rummâne), when old and decayed, are cut down in like manner. Their shoots are very numerous, and in the following winter as many as ten young plants may be taken from the pomegranate. Those that are left on the old stem bear fruit in the fourth year. The walnut-tree (gôze) ceases to bear much after 100 years, and becomes hollow and decayed. It is then cut down to within two or three yards from the ground. If the trees are well watered, the new shoots spring up in a year in uncommon luxuriance, and bear fruit in the second year. The new shoot is called darbne. From many trees, as the citron (lı̂mûne), ash (dardâre), and mulberry (tûte), this new shoot often attains a length of twelve feet in the first year, provided the tree has the conditio sine qua non which Job styles ריח מים - a plentiful supply of water.")
These laments echo through the ancient world from one end to the other, and even Job is without any superior knowledge respecting the future life. He denies a resurrection and eternal life, not as one who has a knowledge of them and will not however know anything about them, but he really knows nothing of them: our earthly life seems to him to flow on into the darkness of Shel, and onward beyond Shel man has no further existence.
We inquire here: Can we say that the poet knew nothing of a resurrection and judgment after death? If we look to the psalms of the time of David and Solomon, we must reply in the negative. Since, however, as the Grecian mysteries fostered and cherished ἡδυστέρας ἐλπίδας, the Israelitish Chokma also, by its constant struggles upwards and onwards, anticipated views of the future world which reached beyond the present (Psychol. S. 410): it may be assumed, and from the book of Job directly inferred, that the poet had a perception of the future world which went beyond the dim perception of the people, which was not yet lighted up by any revelation. For, on the one hand, he has reproduced for us a history of the patriarchal period, not merely according to its external, but also according to its internal working, with as strict historical faithfulness as delicate psychological tact; on the other, he has with a master hand described for us in the history of Job what was only possible from an advanced standpoint of knowledge, - how the hope of a life beyond the present, where there is no express word of promise to guide it, struggles forth from the heart of man as an undefined desire and longing, so that the word of promise is the fulfilment and seal of this desire and yearning. For when Job gives expression to the wish that God would hide him in Shel until His anger turn, and then, at an appointed time, yearning after the work of His hands, raise him again from Shel (Job 14:13-17), this wish it not to be understood other than that Shel might be only his temporary hiding-place from the divine anger, instead of being his eternal abode. He wishes himself in Shel, so far as he would thereby be removed for a time from the wrath of God, in order that, after an appointed season, he might again become an object of the divine favour. He cheers himself with the delightful thought, All the days of my warfare would I wait till my change should come, etc.; for then the warfare of suffering would become easy to him, because favour, after wrath and deliverance from suffering and death, would be near at hand. We cannot say that Job here expresses the hope of a life after death; on the contrary, this hope is wanting to him, and all knowledge respecting the reasons that might warrant it. The hope exists only in imagination, as Ewald rightly observes, without becoming a certainty, since it is only the idea, How glorious it would be if it were so, that is followed up. But, on the one side, the poet shows us by this touching utterance of Job how totally different would be his endurance of suffering if he but knew that there was really a release from Hades; on the other side, he shows us, in the wish of Job, the incipient tendency of the growing hope that it might be so, for what a devout mind desires has a spiritual power which presses forward from the subjective to the objective reality. The hope of eternal life is a flower, says one of the old commentators, which grows on the verge of the abyss. The writer of the book of Job supports this. In the midst of this abyss of the feeling of divine wrath in which Job is sunk, this flower springs up to cheer him. In its growth, however, it is not hope, but only at first a longing. And this longing cannot expand into hope, because no light of promise shines forth in that night, by which Job's feeling is controlled, and which makes the conflict darker than it is in itself. Scarcely has Job feasted for a short space upon the idea of that which he would gladly hope for, when the thought of the reality of that which he has to fear overwhelms him. He seems to himself to be an evil-doer who is reserved for the execution of the sentence of death. If it is not possible in nature for mountains, rocks, stones, and the dust of the earth to resist the force of the elements, so is it an easy thing for God to destroy the hope of a mortal all at once. He forcibly thrust him hence from this life; and when he is descended to Hades, he knows nothing whatever of the lot of his own family in the world above. Of the life and knowledge of the living, nothing remains to him but the senseless pain of his dead body, which is gnawed away, and the dull sorrow of his soul, which continues but a shadowy life in Shel.
Thus the poet shows us, in the third part of Job's speech, a grand idea, which tries to force its way, but cannot. In the second part, Job desired to maintain his conviction of innocence before God: his confidence is repulsed by the idea of the God who is conceived of by him as an enemy and a capricious ruler, and changes to despair. In the third part, the desire for a life after death is maintained; but he is at once overwhelmed by the imagined inevitable and eternal darkness of Shel, but overwhelmed soon to appear again above the billows of temptation, until, in ch. 19, the utterance of faith respecting a future life rises as a certain confidence over death and the grave: the γνῶσις which comes forth from the conflict of the πίστις anticipates that better hope which in the New Testament is established and ratified by the act of redemption wrought by the Conqueror of Hades.
His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them.
But his flesh upon him shall have pain, and his soul within him shall mourn.