Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,Zophar’s reproof: Job’s words too many, and false, even to mockery, in justifying himself, Job 11:1-4. Should God speak, his wisdom, and justice, and all his perfections would appear infinitely greater than what Job conceived of them Job 11:5-10. God knoweth man; seeth wickedness, and considereth it; but man is ignorant and foolish, and in vain pretendeth to wisdom, Job 11:11,12. If Job would prepare his heart, and pray, and put away his sin, he should again lift up his head, and forget his misery, and his last days be brightest; but the wicked shall perish, Job 11:13-20.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?Dost thou think to carry thy cause by thy long and tedious discourses, consisting of empty words, without weight or reason? Shall we by our silence seem to approve of thy errors? or shall we think thy cause the better, because thou usest more words than we do?
Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?Thy lies, i.e. thy false opinions and assertions, both concerning thyself and thy own innocency, and concerning the counsels and ways of God, make men hold their peace; as if thy arguments were unanswerable.
When thou mockest, both God, Job 10:3, and us, and our friendly and faithful counsels, Job 6:14,15,25,26,
shall no man make thee ashamed, by discovering thy errors and follies?
For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.My doctrine, concerning God and his providence. Pure, i.e. true and certain.
I am clean in thine eyes; I am innocent before God; I have not sinned, either by my former actions, or by my present expressions. Thou standest wholly upon thy justification. But Zophar aggravates and perverts Job’s words, for he did not deny that he was a sinner in God’s sight, Job 7:20,21 9:2,3 10:14, but only that he was a hypocrite or ungodly man, as they made him.
But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;i.e. Plead with thee, according to thy desire, Job 9:32, &c. He would soon put thee to silence and shame.
And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.The secrets of wisdom, i.e. the unknown and unsearchable depths of God’s wisdom and counsels in dealing with his creatures.
That they are double to that which is, i.e. that they are far more and greater (the word double being used indefinitely for manifold, or plentiful, as Isaiah 40:2 61:7 Jeremiah 17:18 Zechariah 9:12) than that which hath a being or existence, i.e. the secret wisdom of God is infinitely greater than that which is revealed to us by his word or works. The greatest part of what is known of God, is the least part of those perfections that are in him. And therefore thou dost rashly and foolishly in passing such a bold censure upon God’s ways, and judging so harshly of his proceedings with thee, because thou dost not comprehend the reasons of them, and in judging thyself innocent, because thou dost not see thy sins; whereas the all-knowing God sees innumerable sins in thee, for which he may utterly destroy thee, though thou discernest them not. But the words are and must be rendered, either thus, that he hath double, i.e. abundant, wisdom, for so this Hebrew word signifies, Job 6:13 12:16 Proverbs 2:7 3:21; or,
that they are double to, or in, that being or essence, to wit, to God, of whom he is here speaking; or, to the being, i.e. to God, who calls himself by the name I am, Exodus 3:14, which signifies being; and who appropriates being to himself, Isaiah 45:18, I am, and there is none else besides me; as elsewhere he is said to be the only wise, and only Potentate, and only immortal being, 1 Timothy 1:17 6:15,16. God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth, Heb. God lends, or gives, or forgives, thee part of thine iniquity, or of thy punishment; so far is he from dealing worse than thou deservest, as thou dost most falsely and wickedly accuse him.
Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?Find out God, i.e. discover all the depths of his wisdom, and the reasons of all his actions.
It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?Thou canst not measure the heights of the visible heavens, much less of the Divine perfections.
What canst thou do, to wit, to find him out?
What canst thou know, concerning him and his ways, which are far out of thy sight and reach?
The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.Longer than the earth, from one end to the other.
Broader than the sea; which is called the great and wide sea, Psalm 104:25.
If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?If he cut off, to wit, a person or a family. Shut up in a prison, or in the hands of an enemy. This shutting up is opposed to the opening of the prison doors, and to that enlargement which God is elsewhere said to give to men.
Gather together; either,
1. In a way of judgment, as a like word is used, Psalm 26:9, Gather not my soul with sinners. Or rather,
2. In a way of mercy, as this word is generally used in Scripture; this being every where promised by God to his people as an eminent mercy, that he would gather them together. So this is opposed to the former actions, and the sense of the place is, whether it pleaseth God to scatter a family, or to gather them together from their dispersions.
Who can hinder him from doing what he pleaseth and designeth with his own creatures? who can restrain him, either by giving law to him, or by force and power? or, who can contradict or answer him, or object against him, or retort or return upon him, i.e. charge him with injustice in such proceedings? which sense may seem to agree best both with the scope of the place and state of the question between him and Job; which was not whether any man could resist God’s power, but whether he could question his justice; and with the following verse.
For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?He knoweth vain men: though men know but little of God, and therefore are very unfit judges of all his counsels and actions; yet God knows man exactly, and his vanity, or falsehood, or folly, or rashness; for all these this word signifies. He knoweth that every man in the world is guilty of much vanity and folly, and therefore seeth sufficient reason for his severity against the best men, such as thou, O Job, fanciest thyself to be; and if thou wert so, thou hast no reason to wonder at or quarrel with his proceedings; and if thy quarrel be that he shuts thee up, or cuts thee off, when he gathers others under his wing and protection, whom thou thinkest or knowest to be worse than thyself, while thou dost impeach his justice, thou dost but betray thy own vanity and folly; for he knows both whom he chastiseth, and whom he spareth, and why he doth it, though he do not acquaint thee with the reasons of all his actions.
He seeth wickedness also; as he knoweth the vanity of all men, so he exactly perceiveth the wickedness of evil men, though it be covered with the veil of religion. He seeth thy evil heart, which discovers itself by such wicked and scandalous speeches against the justice and goodness of his providence, which gives him just cause to continue and increase thy miseries. Though thou art partial, and flatterest thyself with a conceit of thy own integrity, yet he knoweth thy hypocrisy and wickedness.
Will he not then consider it? shall he only see it as an idle spectator, and not observe it as a judge, to requite and punish it?
For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.Or, Yet, or But, vain or empty man (that foolish creature, that since the fall is void of all true wisdom and solid knowledge and judgment of the things of God) would be wise, i.e. pretends to be, and would be thought, wise, and able to pass a censure upon all God’s ways and works. Or thus, But vain man is foolish, or without heart, i.e. without understanding, unable to judge aright of the ways and things of God. For a verb very like this and coming from the same root, signifies to have one’s heart taken away, Song of Solomon 4:9.
Though man be born; and man is born, i. e. he is by his birth such: this evil is now natural and hereditary, and therefore common to all men; and therefore it is not strange if Job partake of the common distemper.
Like a wild ass’s colt, i.e. ignorant, and dull, and stupid, as to the knowledge of Divine things, and withal heady and untractable; and therefore very incompetent to judge of these high affairs.
If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;O Job, thy business is not to quarrel with thy Maker, or his works, but to address thyself to him.
Prepare thine heart, to wit, to seek God, as it is expressed, 2 Chronicles 19:3 30:19 Psalm 78:8. If thou prepare thy heart by sincere repentance for all thy hard speeches of God, and sins against him, and with a pure and upright heart seek unto him; without which thy prayers will be in vain. Or,
If thou directest, or rectifiest, thine heart, turning thy bold contentions with God into humble and sincere supplications to him.
Stretch out thine hands, i.e. pray, which is here described by its usual gesture; as Job 15:25 Psalm 88:9.
Towards him, i.e. to God, as appears both from the nature of the thing, and from the context.
If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.Either,
1. If thou hast in thine hand or possession any good, got by injury or oppression, as it seems they supposed that he had. Or,
2. More generally, If thou allowest thyself in any sinful practices. The hand is put for action, whereof it is the instrument.
Put it far away; keep thyself at a great distance, not only from such actions, but also from the very occasions and appearances of them.
Let not wickedness dwell, let it not have a quiet and settled abode, or allowance, in thy habitation, i.e. either in thyself, or in thy family; whose sins Job was obliged as far as he could to prevent or reform; as he had done, Job 1:5. He saith
tabernacles, because anciently the habitations of great men consisted of several tents or tabernacles, as we see, Genesis 24:67 31:33.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:Then shalt thou lift up thy face; which notes cheerfulness, and holy boldness and confidence; as a dejected countenance notes grief and shame. See Genesis 4:5,6 2 Samuel 2:22 Job 22:26 Luke 21:28.
Without spot; or, being without spot; so it is only an ellipsis of the verb substantive, which is most frequent. And this fitly follows as the ground of his confidence, because he should in this case have a clear and unspotted conscience, and a sense of his own innocency. Or, without blemish, as the word properly signifies, i.e. without any sense of guilt, or any shame consequent upon it, either from God or men. The ground of the expression is this, that when men’s faces are spotted with dirt, they are ashamed to show them. And Job was charged by his friends as having many spots upon him, yea, such as were not the spots of God’s children.
Stedfast; or, firm, or fixed; either,
1. As to his outward condition, which should be constantly prosperous. Or rather,
2. As to his mind, which should have strong and comfortable assurance of God’s favour, and of his own safety and happiness. For this steadfastness is opposed unto that fear which is incident to wicked men; who, even when they are free from actual miseries, yet ofttimes are tormented with the dread of them.
Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:Thou shalt be free from fear, because thy great and settled prosperity shall banish out of thy mind all those sad and irksome thoughts of thy former calamities, which naturally engender fears of the continuance or return of them. Persons blessed with eminent deliverances, and a happy settlement, are frequently said in Scripture to
forget their former sorrows, as Genesis 41:51 Isaiah 54:4 John 16:21; not that they simply forget them, but because they have no sad or frightful remembrance of them; for remembering and forgetting in Scripture do not simply note acts of the mind, but also affections and practices suitable to them, as is well known.
Remember it as waters that pass away; thou shalt remember them no more than men remember either a land-flood, which as it comes, so it goes away, suddenly, and leaves few or no footsteps or memorials behind it; or the waters of a river, which as soon as they are out of sight are out of mind, because of the new waters which immediately come in their stead.
And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.Thine age, i.e. the remainder of thy life and time in this world.
Shall be clearer, Heb. shall arise. Men are said to fall into troubles, and to arise out of them.
Than the noon-day; or, above the noon-day, or above the sun at noon-day, when it is at its highest pitch, as well as in its greatest glory.
Thou shalt shine forth: light in Scripture commonly signifies prosperity and glory, as Esther 8:16 Job 18:5,6 38:15 Proverbs 4:18. Or, if thou art in darkness, as this word properly signifies, Job 10:22 Amos 4:13, i.e. if thou comest into any distress and trouble. Shalt be as the morning, i.e. that night of trouble shall certainly and speedily be followed with the morning of deliverance and comfort, which, like the morning light, shall shine brighter and brighter until the perfect day.
And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.i.e. Thy mind shall be quiet and free from terrors, because thou shalt have a firm and well-grounded hope and confidence in God’s merciful and providential care of thee. Or, thou shalt be confident that thou shalt have what thou hopest for, the act, hope, being put for the object, as is very usual, i.e. thou shalt have assurance in and from God, that thy hopes shall not be disappointed, but fulfilled. This is opposed to that fear, Job 11:15.
Thou shalt dig about thee; either to fix thy tents, which after the manner of the Arabians were removed from place to place for conveniency of pasturage for their cattle; or to find out water for thy cattle, as they did, Ge 26; or to plough the ground, as he had done, Job 1:14; or to make a fence about thy dwelling; for both the foregoing and following passages express his secure and safe condition.
In safety; free from dangers and the fear of them, because of God’s fatherly providence watching over thee when thou canst not watch over thyself.
Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee.Desiring thy favour and friendship, because of thy great power, and riches, and eminent felicity: see Genesis 26:26, &c.
But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.Fail; or be consumed; either with grief and fears for their sore calamities; or with long looking for what they shall never attain, as this phrase is taken, Psalm 69:3 Jeremiah 14:6 Lamentations 4:17. And this shall be thy condition, O Job, if thou persistest in thine impiety.
They shall not escape; they shall never obtain deliverance out of their distresses, but shall perish in them.
As the giving up of the ghost, i.e. shall be as vain and desperate as the hope of life is in a man, when he is at the very point of death. Or, as a puff of breath, which is gone in a moment without all hopes of recovery.