Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,Bildad’s reproof: Job’s words said to be as wind: God just in all his ways, and in his dealings towards Job’s children: if he would pray to God, and was indeed pure and upright, God would arise for him, Job 8:1-7. For this he appealeth to the history of ancient times, which declare the bad end of the hypocrite, Job 8:8-19, and the hope and joy of the upright, Job 8:20-22.
No text from Poole on this verse.
How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?i.e. Boisterous and violent, swelling and furious, opposing all persons and things that stand in thy way, not sparing either God or men.
Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?God, Heb. the mighty God, as this word signifies; the almighty or all-sufficient God, as the next name of God here implies. These names are emphatically used, to prove that God cannot deal unjustly or falsely with men, because he hath no need of it, nor temptation to it, being self-sufficient for his own happiness, and being able by his own invincible power to do whatsoever pleaseth him; unless men will impudently say that God doth falsely for mere love to falsehood, without any necessity of it, or advantage to himself by it, than which nothing can be more absurd and ridiculous; for this makes him worse than the vilest of men, who act unjustly and falsely because they cannot otherwise accomplish their designs.
Pervert judgment, i.e. overthrow the course of justice in giving judgment, or judge unrighteously. No, this is inconsistent with God’s nature, which is essentially and necessarily just, and with his office of Governor of the world, Genesis 18:25.
If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;What though thou wast in a great measure innocent, thy children, upon whom a great part of these calamities fell, might be guilty of great sins; and therefore God is not unrighteous in these proceedings.
He hath cast them away, expelled, or cast them out, (to wit, out of the world, or out of his favour; as a man gives his wife a bill of divorce, of which this word is used,) by means (Heb. by the hand, which is oft so used) of their wickedness. Or, hath left them in the hand of their sin, to wit, to be punished by it and for it. Compare Numbers 32:23, Your sin shall find you out.
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;But, God hath spared thee, whom he might justly have destroyed with thy children, and thou art yet capable of his favour, if thou seek for it; and therefore cease from these causeless and unthankful complaints.
Seek unto God betimes, Heb. rise early to seek him, i.e. if thou wouldst seek him speedily, early, and diligently. See Job 5:8 7:18,21. But this may be understood of the time past; and this verse being connected with the next, may be thus rendered and understood, If thou hadst sought (for the future tense in the Hebrew is oft put for the past) unto God betimes, (as thou didst seem to do, Job 1:5) and made supplication to the Almighty; if withal thou hadst been pure and upright, i.e. if thy prayers had been accompanied with purity and uprightness of heart and life, they should have been heard and answered. But because thou didst regard iniquity in thy heart, therefore God would not hear and did not answer thy prayers, but answered thee with a curse instead of a blessing, as he useth to deal with hypocrites.
If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.If thou wert in truth what thou pretendest, and hast been thought by others, to be,
pure and upright, i.e. of a sincere heart and blameless life towards God and men. But God’s severe dealing with thee is an evident token, that notwithstanding all thy fair shows, thou art but a hypocrite and secret sinner. And this sense may seem to agree both with the same charge brought in against Job by Eliphaz, Job 4:6,7, and with the following discourse, particularly with Job 8:13,20. Or thus, If thou wouldst be pure and upright, i.e. if thou wouldst join reformation to thy supplication. And this sense may seem best to suit with the foregoing verse, according to the common translation.
Awake for thee, i.e. bestir himself to help thee, as being his faithful friend and servant, whom he could not in honour or justice forsake; whereas now he shows a deep sleep, and wholly neglects thee, and turneth a deaf car to all thy prayers; which showeth what opinion he hath of thee.
The habitation, i.e. the concerns of thy house and family; a usual metonymy.
Of thy righteousness; either,
1. Which thou hast got and managed with righteousness; so he calls it by way of supposition; if it were so, God would prosper thee accordingly. But because thou dost not prosper, it gives us cause to suspect that thou hast got thy estate by fraud and oppression. Or,
2. Which thou shalt now manage with justice, and not wrongfully, as thou hast done.
Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.The sense is either,
1. Though thou hadst possessed but very little at first, yet God would have wonderfully blessed and increased thy estate; whereas now God hath brought thee down from a great estate almost to nothing; which is an evidence of his displeasure, and thy hypocrisy. Or,
2. Though the beginning of thy future fortunes, or though what thou hast left, be now very small, yet if thou dost repent and seek God, it shall vastly increase.
For inquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:Of the former age, i.e. of our predecessors, who had the advantage of longer life and more experience, besides more frequent revelations from God, than we have; who also will be more impartial judges of this cause than we may be thought to be. Inform thyself from them by the instructions which they left, either in word or writing, what their opinion was about the manner of God’s dealings with men.
Prepare thyself to the search of their fathers; do not slightly, but seriously and industriously, search the ancient records.
(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)But of yesterday; but lately born, and therefore have but little knowledge and experience, as it follows.
Our days upon earth are a shadow: this is meant either,
1. Of their lives in particular, which were far shorter than the lives of their ancestors, the patriarchs, whose long lives gave them opportunity to know and see the course of God’s providence towards good and bad men, and the differing ends and issues of their lives. Or,
2. Of men’s lives in general; which being very short, men’s observation reacheth but to very few events in comparison of those which may be known by the records and testimony of all former ages.
Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?Assuredly they will inform thee that it is as we say.
Out of their heart; not partially, but sincerely, speaking their inward thoughts; not rashly, but from deep consideration; not by hearsay from others, but their own knowledge and experience.
Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?Without mire, i.e. if it be not in moist and miry ground. This and what follows he mentions as it were in the person of those ancients to whom he had referred him, of whom he saith that they would give him such instructions as these.
The flag; or, the grass; or, the meadow, as this word is used, Genesis 41:2, i.e. the grass of a meadow, But our translation seems the best, because it is compared with other herbs.
Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.Yet in his greenness; whereby it promiseth long continuance.
Not cut down; though no man cut it down, it withereth of itself, and will save a man the labour of cutting or plucking it up. It gives not a man so much warning that he can cut it down in time, as other green herbs do, but suddenly withereth.
Before any other herb, i.e. sooner than other herbs, or in their presence, or they surviving; in which sense it seems to be said that Ishmael died in the presence of his brethren, Genesis 25:18; the rest of the herbs looking upon it, and admiring this sudden change. For actions of sense and understanding are oft ascribed to lifeless creatures, both in Scripture and other authors.
So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:Of all that forget God, i.e. of wicked men, who are branded with this same character, Psalm 9:17 50:22; or hypocrites, as the next words explain it, who are described by their first and fundamental miscarriage, which is, that they forget, i.e. neglect, forsake, and despise, (for so this phrase is commonly understood, as Deu 6:12 8:11 32:18 Jeremiah 2:32 23:27) God, i.e. his presence, and commands, and worship, and providence; and therefore break forth into manifold sins. But by their paths he doth not understand the course of their actions, or manner of their living; but the events which befall them, called their paths objectively, because they are the paths of God, or the methods of his providence, or manner of his dealing with them. Now this may be accommodated to the foregoing similitude in this manner: Such is the prosperity of wicked men, because it wants the solid foundation of their piety, and of God’s promise and blessing consequent thereupon, it quickly vanisheth into nothing.
The hypocrite’s hope shall perish, i.e. he shall lose what he hoped for (hope being oft put for its object,) even uninterrupted and abiding felicity, and with it all hope of restitution.
Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.i.e. Whose wealth and outward glory, which is the matter of his hope and trust, shall be cut off, i.e. suddenly and violently taken away from him. Whose hope shall be irksome or tedious to him, by the succession of earnest expectation and great disappointment.
A spider’s web; which though it be formed with great art and industry, and may do much mischief to others, yet is most slender and feeble, and easily swept down or pulled in pieces, and unable to defend the spider that made it. The application is obvious.
He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.He, either the spider, or rather, the wicked man signified by it,
shall lean upon his house, i.e. he shall trust to the multitude and strength of his children and servants. and to his wealth, all which come under the name of a man’s house in Scripture use.
It shall not stand, i.e. not be able to uphold itself, nor him that trusted to it.
He shall hold it fast; or, he shall take fast hold of it; not to uphold it, but to strengthen and uphold himself by it, as it is in the former branch.
He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.He; either,
1. The perfect man, here understood out of Job 8:20, where it is expressed; or rather,
2. The hypocrite, of whom he hath hitherto treated, to whom this and the following verses very well agree; whom he before compared to a rush, and then to a spider’s web, and now to a tree, which is of a more solid substance, and more durable; as if he said, As some wicked men are quickly cut off in the very beginnings of their prosperity, so there are others who seem to be more firmly grounded, and yet they also at last come to ruin.
Is green, i.e. flourisheth in the world.
Before the sun; either,
1. Publicly, and in the view of all men, who observe it with admiration, and applause, and envy: compare 2 Samuel 12:12. Or rather,
2. Notwithstanding all the scorching heat of the sun, which quickly withers the rushes and herbs, of which he spake before, but doth only cherish and refresh the tree. And so doth many a wicked man secure himself, and thrive and prosper even in times of great danger and trouble, and in spite of all opposition.
His branch; or, his branches; the singular number for the plural; either,
1. Properly, and so this belongs to the description of a flourishing tree, by the spreading of its branches here, as by the depth of its root, Job 8:17. Or,
2. Metaphorically, to wit, his children, which are here mentioned as additions, not only to his comfort, but also to his strength and safety.
In his garden; a place where it is defended from those injuries to which the trees of the field are subject from men and beasts, and where, besides the natural advantages common to all trees, it hath peculiar helps from the art and industry of men, by whom it is watered and assisted as need requires. So he supposeth this man to be placed in the most desirable circumstances.
His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.About the heap, to wit, of stones, which word may be here understood out of the latter branch of the verse, as is very usual in Scripture use. This circumstance of the tree is added to signify, either,
1. Its firmness and strength, that it was not in loose and sandy ground, which a violent wind might overthrow, but in solid and hard ground, within which were many stones, which its numerous and spreading roots embrace, folding and interweaving themselves severally about several stones. Or,
2. Its singular and extraordinary growth, in spite of all disadvantages and oppositions; that even stony ground, which is very prejudicial to trees, Matthew 13:5, doth not hinder its growth, but only add to its strength. So God and man seem to conspire, and all things concur, to secure and perpetuate this man’s happiness. Some render the words, His roots are wrapped, or folded, or spread about, or beside, a spring, as the Hebrew gal sometimes signifies, as Joshua 15:19 Song of Solomon 4:12, i.e. a moist ground, which is much to its advantage: see Psalm 1:3 Jeremiah 17:8. Seeth he, i.e. the tree whose roots he last mentioneth, reacheth thither, spreadeth himself so far, takes the advantage of that place for the strengthening of itself. Seeing is oft put for enjoying, and is frequently attributed to lifeless things, by a known figure, called prosopopeia. The place, Heb. the house, which is oft used for a place; as 2 Samuel 6:17 1 Kings 8:6. Others render the words thus, he looketh upon the house of stones, i.e. made of stones for greater beauty and strength. He standeth proudly, and looketh boldly upon its owner’s house, nigh unto which it is placed, even in his garden, as was said before.
If he destroy him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.If he; either God, who is the Saviour of good men, and the Destroyer of the wicked; or the owner; or any other man; for this is an indefinite speech, and may be taken passively and impersonally; which is very common in the holy text and language.
From his place, in which he was planted.
Then it, i.e. the place; to which denying him and seeing him are here ascribed figuratively, as we have oft seen.
I have not seen thee, i.e. I do not know nor remember that ever thou wast planted here. He shall be so utterly extirpated and destroyed, that there shall be no footstep, nor name, nor memorial of him left there.
Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth shall others grow.This is the joyful and happy issue of the flourishing course, state, and condition (which is frequently called a way) of this tree, or of the hypocrite, manifestly represented by it, and expressed Job 8:13. It is a sarcasm or irony, and is to be understood contrariwise of his sad and unhappy end.
Out of the earth shall others grow, i.e. out of the same earth or place shall another tree grow; which could not be if there had been but a stump of it left, though under ground. So it notes the total extirpation of the tree, and of the hypocrite, that his person and all his children and family shall be utterly extinct, and so a stranger shall come into his place, and enjoy the fruit of his labours. But the words are and may be otherwise rendered very agreeably to the Hebrew text, and out of other ground they (i.e. plants or trees, of which he is here speaking) shall grow, or others shall grow, or plants shall grow; the noun being contained in the verb. So the sense is, This tree shall be rooted up, and the very ground of it so cursed, that nothing shall grow or thrive in it; but other ground shall be fruitful, and other trees that stood round about it shall stand still and flourish in their places. His design in all this is to prove Job to be a hypocrite, because he meets with their lot, which is total destruction.
Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:Heb. God will not despise or reject, i.e. he will not deny them his help, as appears by the opposite and following branch of the verse; he will not suffer them to be utterly lost. Help, i.e. deliver them out of their troubles. Hence it may seem that thou, O Job, art not a perfect or upright man, but an evil-doer. But this is certain, if for the future thy heart and way be not perfect, and thou dost not cease to do evil, thou wilt be utterly and irrecoverably lost; as, on the contrary, if thou dost repent and reform, he will help and deliver thee, and restore thee to thy former glory and happiness; which promise, though it be not here expressed, is sufficiently implied in the contrary threatening, as is evident from the following words, which plainly suppose it, and have a reference to it; such ellipses of contraries being not unusual in Scripture, as we shall see hereafter, especially in the Book of the Proverbs.
Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.And what I have said in general of all perfect men, shall be made good to thee, if thou be such a one; God will not forsake time, nor desist from doing thee good,
till he fill, & c., i.e. God will give thee such abundant matter of rejoicing, that thy heart shall not be able to hold it, but it shall break out at thy mouth and lips.
They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought.They that hate thee, that rejoice in thy calamities, shall be wholly covered with shame, shall be utterly confounded, when they shall observe thee, whom they have despised and insulted over, to be so wonderfully and surprisingly restored to thy former or a greater felicity.
Of the wicked; either particularly of thy enemies, who dealt so unworthily and wickedly with thee; or more generally of all wicked men. Having showed what good God would do to the perfect man, he now declares the contrary portion of the wicked; and as he said that God would not help them, Job 8:20, so here he adds, that God will bring not only them, but their house, i.e. their family and estate, to nought.