Matthew Poole's Commentary
Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?Wrath foolish: the wicked miserable, Job 5:1-5. Evil cometh not by chance; it is natural to our condition, Job 5:6,7. This is our motive to prayer and trust in God, Job 5:8; whose unsearchable power and wisdom are against the high and crafty, for the relief of the poor, Job 5:9-16. Their happiness whom God correcteth, and God’s gracious care of such, Job 5:17-27.
Call now, i.e. invite, or make proclamation, as this word is oft used, as Deu 20:10 Judges 12:1 Jeremiah 2:2 3:12 7:2. Call them all as it were by their names; consult the whole catalogue of them all, which thou didst ever know or hear of.
If there be any, to wit, of the saints, as it follows.
That will answer thee, i.e. comply with thee, answer thy desires or expectations; try if there be any one saint that will defend or allow thee in these bold expostulations with God; or, as it is in the Hebrew,
if there be any that doth answer thee, i.e. whose opinion or disposition and carriage is answerable or like to thine. So answering is sometimes used, as Proverbs 27:19 Ecclesiastes 10:19. Thou wilt find many fools or wicked men, as it follows, Job 5:2, to answer or imitate thee in their speeches and carriages, but not one of the saints like thee; which deserves thy serious consideration, and gives thee just cause to question thine integrity.
The saints; either,
1. The angels, who are sometimes called saints, as Job 15:15 Daniel 8:13 Zechariah 14:5, because they are eminently and perfectly holy; or rather,
2. Holy men, as appears both from the word, which most commonly is so used, and from the opposition of the foolish man to these, Job 5:2, and because the example of men was more proper and effectual for Job’s conviction than of angels.
Wilt thou turn, or look? look about thee, view them all, and see if thou canst find one like thee.
For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.Either,
1. The wrath of God; or rather,
2. A man’s own wrath, fretting, and impatience, and indignation; which kills men, partly, naturally, as it preys upon a man’s spirit, and wasteth him inwardly, and so hastens his death, of which see Proverbs 14:30 17:22; partly, morally, as it prompts him to those rash, and furious, and wicked actions which may procure his death; and partly, meritoriously, as it provoketh God to cut him off, and to bring upon him those further and severe strokes which he mentions in the following words.
The foolish man; either,
1. The rash and inconsiderate man, who doth not ponder things impartially; but, like a man mad, rageth against God, and torments himself and all that hear him. Or,
2. The ungodly man, who is frequently called a fool in Scripture language, and who is here opposed to the saints, Job 5:1.
Envy: he taxeth Job, who spoke with great envy at those that were never born, or were in their graves, Job 3:10,12, &c.
The silly one; properly, the man who, for want of true wisdom, is soon deceived with false opinions, and appearances, and present things; which is thy case, O Job. The sense of the verse may be this, I perceive, O Job, that thou art full of envy at wicked men, who at present are, or seem to be, in a happier condition than thou; and of wrath against God, who denies thee that mercy, and loads thee with afflictions; and this shows thee to be a foolish and weak man. For those men, notwithstanding their present prosperity, are doomed to great and certain misery, as it here follows. And so this verse coheres with the following as well as the foregoing verses.
I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation.I have oft observed it in my experience. Having severely rebuked Job for his transports of passion and intemperate speeches against God, he now returns to his former argument, and proves that such dreadful and destructive judgments of God do not befall the righteous, but the wicked, as he observed, Job 4:7,8. Withal, he answers an objection concerning the present and seeming prosperity of the wicked, which he confesseth that he himself had sometimes observed.
The foolish, i. e. the wicked man, who is quite destitute of true, i.e. of spiritual and heavenly, wisdom.
Taking root; not only prosperous for the present, but, as it seemed, from all secure for the future, being strongly fortified with power, and riches, and children too, so as there was no appearance nor danger of a change.
Suddenly; in a moment, besides and before mine, and his own, and all other men’s expectation.
I cursed; either,
1. I judged that he was a cursed creature, notwithstanding all his prosperity; and I foresaw and foretold it by the rules of Scripture, or the direction of God’s Spirit, that he would certainly sooner or later be stripped of all his blessings, and have God’s curse fall heavily upon him. Or rather,
2. I saw and perceived, by, the event which followed his prosperity, that he was a man accursed of God. For he speaks not in these words of what his estate constantly was, even in the midst of his happiness, though even then he was really accursed; but of what it was by a sudden change.
His habitation; or, as the Hebrew word signifies, his pleasant or commodious habitation; persons or things in it, or belonging to it, being comprehended in that word by a usual metonymy.
His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.His children; whose greatness and happiness he designed in all his enterprises, supposing that his family was and would be established for ever.
Are far from safety, i.e. are exposed to great dangers and calamities in this life, and can neither preserve themselves, nor the great inheritance which their fathers got and left for them. Thus to be far from peace, Lamentations 3:17, is to be involved in desperate troubles.
In the gate, i.e. in the place of judicature; to which they are brought for their offences, and where they will find severe judges, and few or no friends; partly because, being wickedly educated, and trusting to their own greatness, they were insolent and injurious to all their neighbours; and partly because those many persons whom their powerful fathers defrauded or oppressed do seek for justice, and the recovery of their rights, which they easily obtain against such persons as plainly declared by their actions that they neither feared God nor reverenced him, and therefore were hated by all sorts of men.
Neither is there any to deliver them; they can find no advocates nor assistants, who are either able or willing to help them; but, like Ishmael, as their hand was formerly against every man, so now every man’s hand is against them.
Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.Whose harvest, which they now justly and confidently expect to reap, after all their cost and labour for that end, but are sadly and suddenly disappointed; which is a great aggravation of their misery.
The hungry, i.e. the poor, whose necessities make them greedy and ravenous to eat it all up; and from whom he can never recover it, nor any thing in recompence of it.
Out of the thorns, i.e. out of the fields, notwithstanding the strong thorn hedges wherewith it is enclosed and fortified, and all other dangers or difficulties which may be in their way. They will take it, though they be scratched and wounded by the thorns about it. The robbers; so called from their long hair, which such persons nourished, either because of their wild and savage kind of life, which made them neglect the trimming of their hair and body; or that they might look more terribly, and so affright all those who should endeavour to oppose them. Or, the thirsty, as the word may signify from another root. And so it answers well to the hungry, in the former branch. Swalloweth up greedily, and so as there is no hope of recovering it.
Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;Although, or for, or rather, because. So the following words may contain a reason why he should seek unto God, as he exhorts him, Job 5:8. Or, surely, as that particle is oft used. And so it is a note of his proceeding to another argument.
Affliction, or iniquity, as this word oft signifies; and of this the following sentence is true. And so this first branch speaks of sin, and the next branch of trouble, which is the fruit of sin; and both sin and trouble are said to come from the same spring. But this word signifies also affliction, or misery, or trouble, as Psalm 90:10 Proverbs 12:21; which seems most proper here, both because it is so explained by the following words,
trouble; and again, trouble, Job 5:7, the same thing being repeated in several words, as is usual in Holy Scripture; and because the great thing which troubled Job, and the chief matter of these discourses, was Job’s afflictions, not his sins. Cometh not forth of the dust; it springs not up by chance, as herbs which grow of their own accord out of the earth; or, it comes not from men or creatures here below; but it comes from a certain and a higher cause, even from God, and that for man’s sins; and therefore thou shouldst seek to him for redress, as it follows, Job 5:8.
Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.i.e. He is so commonly exposed to many and various troubles, as if he were born to no other end. Affliction is become in some sort natural and proper to man, and it is, together with sin, transmitted from parents to children, as their most certain and constant inheritance; God having allotted this portion to mankind for their sins. And therefore thou takest a wrong course in complaining so bitterly of that which thou shouldst patiently bear, as the common lot of mankind; and thy right method is to seek unto God, who inflicts it, and who only can remove it.
As the sparks fly upward, i.e. as naturally and as generally as the sparks of fire fly upward, which do so universally and constantly. Heb. and the sparks, &c. But the particle and is oft used comparatively for as, as Job 12:11 14:11 34:3 Proverbs 25:21 Mark 9:49.
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:If I were in thy condition; and therefore I would advise thee to the same course.
Seek unto God, to wit, by prayer, and humiliation, and submission, imploring his pardon, and favour, and help, and not repine at him, and accuse his providence, as thou dost.
Would I commit my cause, i.e. commend my afflicted condition to him by fervent prayer, and resign myself and all my concerns to him, and humbly hope for relief from him. Or, propound my matters, i.e. make known my afflictions and requests to him; or, put or dispose my words, i.e. pray to him, and pour out my complaints before him.
Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number:Here Eliphaz enters upon a discourse of the infinite perfection and greatness of God’s nature and works; which he doth partly as an argument to enforce the exhortation to seek and commit his cause to God, Job 5:8, because God was infinitely able, either to punish him yet far worse, if he continued to provoke him, or to raise him from the dust, if he humbly addressed himself to him; and partly that by a true representation of God’s excellency and glory, and of that vast disproportion which was between God and Job, he might both convince Job of his great sin in speaking so boldly and irreverently of him, and prevent his relapse into the same miscarriage.
Unsearchable; either such things as we may not boldly and curiously search into, Deu 29:29 Romans 11:33 Colossians 2:18; or such as by searching we cannot find out, Job 11:7; such as we cannot thoroughly understand, either the works themselves, or God’s way and manner of doing them, or God’s designs or ends in doing them. And therefore, O Job, thou art guilty of great impiety and folly to censure the ways and works of God as unreasonable, Job 3:11,20, because thou dost not fully understand the nature and use of them.
Marvellous things; which (though common, as the following works are, and therefore neglected and despised, yet) are just matter of wonder even to the wisest men.
Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields:He beginneth with this ordinary and obvious work of God, in which he implies that there is something unsearchable and wonderful, as indeed there is in the rise of it from the earth, in the strange hanging of that heavy body in the air, and in the distribution of it as God sees fit, Amos 4:7; and how much more in the secret counsels and hidden paths of Divine Providence, which Job took the liberty to censure!
Waters; either fountains and rivers, which is another great and wonderful work of God; or rather, rain water, as the following words imply; the same thing being repeated in other words, after the manner.
Upon the fields, or, upon all places abroad, i.e. which have no covering to keep out the rain.
To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.These words contain either,
1. A declaration of God’s end in giving rain, which is to enrich those who were poor, or mourning for the drought, by sending rain, and making their lands fruitful; or rather,
2. Another example of God’s great and wonderful works. And the infinitive verb is here put for the indicative, he setteth up, &c., which is very frequent in the Hebrew, as Psalm 56:13 Zechariah 3:4 12:10. He giveth this instance to comfort and encourage Job to seek to God, because he can raise him out of his greatest depths, and useth to raise others in the like condition.
That those which mourn may be exalted to safety, notwithstanding all the craft and power of their enemies.
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.Of the crafty; such as are cunning to work evil, and to cover it with fair pretences, as hypocrites use to do, and as Job’s friends charged him with doing: God breaks the hopes and designs of such men; as he hath now blasted thy expectation, and taken away thy outward happiness, which was the thing thou didst design in taking up the profession of religion.
Their enterprise; or, any thing; or, what is solid or substantial; or, wisdom, i.e. their wise counsel or crafty design. They cannot execute their cunning contrivances.
He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.The wise in their own craftiness; wicked men, who are wise to do evil, and wise in the opinion of the world, he not only deceiveth in their hopes and counsels, but turns them against themselves; as we see in Ahithophel, Haman, &c. The froward, or perverse, or wrestlers; such as wind and turn every way, as wrestlers do, and will leave no means untried to accomplish their counsels. Is carried headlong, i.e. is tumbled down and broken, and that by their own precipitation and haste. Their malice cannot have the patience to proceed wisely and leisurely against God’s church and people, but makes them eager and venturous, and so to make more haste than good speed in their wicked designs.
They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.i.e. In plain things they run into gross mistakes and errors, and commonly choose those counsels and courses which are worst for themselves.
Darkness oft notes misery, but here ignorance or error, as it is also used Job 12:25 37:19, and elsewhere.
Grope, like blind men to find their way, not knowing what to do.
But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.The poor, or helpless; who therefore flee to God for refuge.
From their mouth, or,
from the sword which cometh out of their mouth, i.e. from all their censures, slanders, threatenings, deceitful insinuations, false swearings of witnesses, unrighteous sentences of corrupt judges, whereby their good names, or estates, or lives may be exposed to the utmost hazards. And this is fitly opposed to the sword of the hand, implied in the next branch of the verse. Or, from the sword by their mouths, i.e. by those wicked men’s own words against the godly, which God wonderfully overruleth to the working out of their deliverance.
So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth.So this poor man obtaineth what he in some measure hoped or expected from God, to whom he committed his cause; and other poor men will be encouraged by his example to place their hope in God.
Iniquity, i. e. wicked men; the abstract for the concrete, as pride, deceit, injustice, are put for proud, deceitful, and unrighteous men, Jeremiah 13:9 2 Peter 3:13.
Stoppeth her mouth, i.e. they are silenced and confounded, being convicted of their own wickedness and folly, and finding that not only the poor are got out of their nets and snares, in which they thought that they had them fast, but also the oppressors themselves are insnared in them; and all this by sudden and unexpected means.
Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:Behold; for what I am saying, though most true, will not be believed without serious consideration.
Happy is the man whom God correcteth, Heb. blessednesses (i.e. various and great happiness, as the plural number implies) belong to that man whom God rebukes, to wit, with strokes, Job 33:16,19. Those afflictions are so far from making thee miserable, as thou complainest, that they are, and will be, if thou dost thy duty, the means of thy happiness: which, though a paradox to the world, is frequently affirmed in Holy Scripture; and the reason of it is plain, because they are pledges of God’s love, which no man can buy too dear; and though bitter, yet necessary physic to purge out that sin which is deeply fixed in all men’s natures, and thereby to prevent far greater, even infinite and eternal, miseries; without respect to which this proposition could not be true or tolerable. And therefore it plainly shows that good men in those ancient times of the Old Testament had the prospect, and belief, and hope of everlasting blessedness in heaven after this life.
Despise not thou, i.e. do not abhor it as a thing pernicious and intolerable, nor refuse it as a thing useless and unprofitable, nor slight it as a mean and unnecessary thing; but, on the contrary, prize it highly, as a favour and vouchsafement of God; for such negative expressions oft imply the contrary, as 1 Thessalonians 5:20 1 Timothy 4:12. See Proverbs 10:2 17:21.
Of the Almighty; or, of the all-sufficient God, who is able to support and comfort thee in thy troubles, and to deliver thee out of them, and to add more calamities to them, if thou art obstinate and incorrigible.
For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.Bindeth up, to wit, the wounds, as good surgeons use to do when they have dressed them, in order to their healing. Compare Psalm 147:3 Ezekiel 34:4. The sense is, Though he hath seen it fit to wound thee, yet he will not always grieve thee, but will in due time release thee from all thy miseries. Therefore despair not.
He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.He shall deliver thee, to wit, if thou seekest to him by prayer and repentance.
Six, i.e. manifold or repeated; as six is used for many, Proverbs 6:16.
There shall no evil touch thee, to wit, so as to undo or destroy thee, as touching is used, Joshua 9:19 Hebrews 11:28 1Jo 5:18. See also Genesis 26:11,29 2 Samuel 14:10 Psalm 105:15 Zechariah 2:8. Thou shalt have a good issue out of all thy troubles, though they are both great and many.
In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword.In famine; which Job might be thought to fear, as being so poor that he needed his friends’ contributions for his relief.
From death; from that terrible kind of death.
These things he utters with more confidence, partly because the rewards or punishments of this life were more constantly distributed to men in the Old Testament according to their good or bad behaviour than now they are; and partly because it was his particular opinion, that great afflictions were the constant fruits and certain evidences of a man’s wickedness; and consequently, that great mercies and deliverances should infallibly follow upon true repentance and godliness.
Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue: neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.Hid, i.e. protected, as in some secret and safe place.
From the scourge of the tongue, i.e. from false accusations and virulent slanders and reproaches, either by diverting their tongues to other persons or things, or by clearing thy integrity.
Neither shalt thou be afraid; thou shalt have no cause to fear it, because God will secure thee in it and from it.
When it cometh, to wit, upon others; near thee, or round about thee.
At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.Thou shalt not only be redeemed from famine, Job 5:20, and not fear destruction, Job 5:21, but thou shalt laugh at them; not with a laughter of scorn and contempt, as this word is used, Job 39:18 Psalm 2:4 37:13; (for God’s judgments are to be entertained with reverence and godly fear;) but with a laughter of joy and triumph, arising from his just security and confidence in God’s watchful and gracious providence, which will either keep him from it or in it, or do him much good by it.
The beasts, i.e. the wild beasts, which were numerous and mischievous in those parts. See Deu 28:26 1 Samuel 17:34 Jeremiah 7:33.
For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.Thou shalt be free from any annoyance by stones, either in thy walking or other postures, or in thy ploughing, as if they had made an inviolable league with thee. Stones may be, and in these stony countries were, hurtful to men many ways; either by bruising or hurting their feet when they walked barefoot, as the manner then was; or by giving them occasion of stumbling, or slipping, and falling; or by falling upon a man from a rock, or higher ground, as sometimes it hath happened; or filling his grounds, so as to hinder his ploughing, and make his lands unfruitful. Nay, the stones shall not only cease to be hurtful, but they shall be useful and beneficial to thee; they shall, as it were, present themselves to thee when thou hast occasion, either to sling them at thine enemies, as then was usual, Judges 20:16 2 Chronicles 26:14, or to make fences to thy ground, or to build a house. This is a bold metaphor, but such are frequent, as in other authors, so also in Scripture, as Isaiah 28:15 Hosea 2:18.
The beasts of the field; either,
1. The wild beasts; and then this is an addition to the former privilege; they shall not hurt thee, Job 5:22; nay, they shall befriend thee, as being at peace with thee, here, Job 5:23. Or,
2. The tame beasts, who otherwise may be refractory and hurtful to a man, many having been killed by them.
And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.Thou shalt know, by certain and constant experience,
that thy tabernacle, i.e. thy habitation, as it follows, including also the inhabitants, children, or friends and servants,
shall be in peace; shall enjoy great safety from all their enemies, and concord among themselves, and prosperity in all their concerns; all which are comprehended under the sweet name of
peace. Visit thy habitation, i.e. manage and order thy family, and all thy domestic affairs and worldly concerns, with care and diligence. Visiting is oft used for regarding or taking care of, as Genesis 21:1 Ruth 1:6 Psalm 8:4 80:14.
Shalt not sin; either by unrighteousness in thy dealings with thy family or others, or by neglecting God and his service in thy family, or by winking at any sin in thy domestics which thou canst hinder. But because he speaks not here of Job’s duty, but of his privilege, and that in outward and worldly things, it seems better rendered by others,
and thou shalt not err, or miscarry, or miss thy way or mark, as this very word is used below, Job 24:19 14:16 Judges 20:16; thou shalt not be disappointed of thy hopes, or blasted in thy endeavours, but shalt succeed in them. Or, and thou shalt not wander, or be a wanderer, having no house in which to put his head, which Job might have some ground to fear; but thou shalt have a habitation of thy own, which thou shalt visit and manage as thou didst before.
Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.Thou shalt know; partly by assurance from God’s promises, and the impressions of his Spirit; and partly by experience in due time.
Thy seed shall be great; thy posterity, which God will give thee instead of those which thou hast lost, shall be high, and honourable, and powerful. Or, shall be many.
Thine offspring; which shall come out of thy own loins as branches out of a tree, as the word signifies. And this word seems added to the former to restrain and explain it, by showing that he did not speak of his spiritual seed, as Abraham’s seed is in part understood, but of the fruit of his own body. As the grass of the earth; both for its plentiful increase, and for its flourishing greenness.
Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.In a full age; in a mature and old, but vigorous, age, as the word implies. Thou shalt not be cut off by a hand of violence before thy time, as thy sons and other wicked men have been; but shalt die in a good old age, as did Abraham, Genesis 25:8, and Moses, Deu 34:7.
As a shock of corn cometh in; as a heap or stack of corn is brought in, to wit, to the barn. Heb. ascendeth, or riseth; which word is very proper and usual in this case; for a stack of corn is said to rise, when by the addition of new heaps and handfuls it is raised to a higher pitch. Or, is cut off, as this same word is used, Psalm 102:24. Cut me not off, &c., Heb. Make me not to ascend; and thus it is fitly used both of the corn, which when it is cut up ascends, or is lifted up from the earth, on which it lay, and is advanced into stacks and high heaps, either in the barn or in the field; and of man, who when he dies his spirit goeth upward to heaven, as is implied even there where in the person of an epicure it is questioned, Ecclesiastes 3:21.
In his season; in harvest, when the corn is ripe.
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.It is not my single opinion, but my brethren concur with me, as thou wilt hear from their own mouths. This is no rash or hasty conceit, but what we have learned by deep consideration and hard study, long experience and diligent observation, both of God’s word, so far as he hath been pleased to reveal himself, and of the course and methods of his providence and dealing with men in the world.
Know thou it; for to us thou seemest by thy words and carriage to be wholly, or in a great part, ignorant of these things. For thy good; let the advantage which will come unto thee by following this counsel remove thy prejudice against it.