Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then Job answered and said,Job’s answer: man cannot stand in judgment with God, because of his justice, wisdom, and power, which are unsearchable, Job 9:1-11. All help or reason against God is vain; nor can we answer him; but must supplicate to our Judge, Job 9:12-15. God’s sovereignty, and our vileness before him, Job 9:16-21. The godly are punished as well as the wicked by general calamities and wicked oppression, Job 9:22-24. His time swift; his sorrows bitter: if wicked, he could not clear himself; nor would God hold him innocent, Job 9:25-31; yet wisheth for a daysman, and a removal of Divine terror; then would he before God maintain his innocency, Job 9:32-35.
No text from Poole on this verse.
I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?I know it is so, to wit, as you say, that God is just in all his ways, that he doth ordinarily bless the righteous, and punish the wicked.
But how should man be just? Heb. and how, &c.? i.e. and I know that no man is absolutely just, or can defend his righteousness, if God be severe to mark what is amiss in him.
With God; either,
1. Being compared with God; or,
2. Before God, as the same phrase is taken, 1 Samuel 2:26 Psalm 130:3, if he be brought before God’s tribunal to debate the matter with him.
If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.If God be pleased to contend (to wit, in judgment; debate or plead; for so this word is oft used, as Hosea 2:2 4:1 Micah 6:1; compare Isaiah 45:9) with man.
One of a thousand; either to one accusation or argument among a thousand which God shall produce against him, or one time of a thousand. So far will he be from being able to maintain his own innocency against God, if God set himself against him as his adversary.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?Wise in heart; either,
1. Really and profoundly wise; or,
2. Wise in his mind or understanding, which in Hebrew is oft called the heart, as Proverbs 2:10 6:32 Hosea 4:11, because the Hebrews make the heart the seat of the understanding, or of the reasonable soul. The sense is, He is infinitely wise, and so knows all things, and searcheth all men’s hearts and ways, and discovers a multitude of sins which men’s short-sighted eyes cannot see; and therefore can charge them with innumerable evils where they thought themselves innocent, and sees far more malignity than men could discern in their sins: and men cannot conceal any of their sins from him, nor cheat him, as they may other men, with crafty devices and evasions; so that there is no contending with him.
Mighty in strength, i.e. omnipotent; and therefore if men contumaciously persist in contending with him after they are convicted and condemned, he can easily crush them. So that whether men contend with God by wisdom or by strength, (which are the two ways of one man’s contending with another,) God will be conqueror.
Who hath hardened himself against him, i.e. obstinately contended with him? Or, spoken hard things towards him; quarrelling with him, opposing and reproaching God’s providence towards him as hard and unjust. Compare Judges 1:15.
Hath prospered, Heb. hath been at peace, i.e. hath not provoked God to his own destruction. A common figure, called meiosis, whereby more is understood than is expressed.
Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.He proccedeth to give particular evidences of the Divine power and wisdom, which he mentioned Job 9:4.
And they know not, i.e. suddenly and unexpectedly, ere they were aware of it. They, i.e. the mountains, to which he ascribes sense and knowledge figuratively, as hath been oft noted. In his anger; in token of his displeasure with men that lived upon them, or near them.
Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.The earth, i.e. great portions of it, by earthquakes, or by removing islands, which sometimes hath been done.
The pillars thereof, i.e. the strength or the strongest parts of it, the mountains, yea, the deep and inward parts of it, which, like pillars, supported those parts which appear to our view, and yet have been discovered and overturned by earthquakes.
Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.He speaks either,
1. Of that which God can do; or rather, (as he doth in the foregoing and following instances,)
2. Of what God actually doth; and that either,
1. Ordinarily; and so he gives laws to the sun that it shall not rise, but at such times, and to such places, and in such manner as he hath appointed; as that it shall rise constantly at its set time, and never disorderly; that it shall not rise for divers months together in some parts of the world, &c. Or rather,
2. Extraordinarily; (for of such works of God he discourseth in this place;) and so it may note either some stop given to the sun for a small season, like that in Joshua’s time; which might have been, though it be not recorded; or some extraordinary tempest or dark season, wherein the morning is made darkness, as the phrase is, Amos 4:13; compare Amos 5:8; wherein the sun doth not at all appear, (as it was for many days together, Acts 27:20) and consequently is to those places and persons as if he were not risen. For things in Scripture are oft said to be, or not to be, when they appear or disappear; of which some instances have been formerly given, and more we shall have hereafter, in their proper places. Sealeth up the stars, i.e. as it were, covereth and shutteth them up that they may not shine, as in dark and dismal tempests, like that now mentioned, Acts 27:20, when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days.
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.Alone, i.e. by his own single power, without any other: help.
Spreadeth out the heavens: he spread them out like a curtain, Psalm 104:1,2; and he in a manner spreads them again every day, i.e. keeps them spread for the comfort and benefit of this lower world, and doth not roll and fold them up, as he will do in due time: see Isaiah 34:4 2 Peter 3:10 Revelation 6:14. Or, boweth down the heavens, as the same Hebrew verb is rendered, Psalm 18:9. So it is a further description of a black-and tempestuous season, wherein the heavens seem to be brought down and nearer to the earth.
Treadeth upon the waves of the sea, i.e. represseth and ruleth them when they rage and are tempestuous; for treading upon any thing signifies in Scripture use power and dominion over it; as Deu 33:29 Job 40:12 Psalm 60:12 Psalm 91:13 Luke 10:19
Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.Maketh; either,
1. Created them; or rather,
2. Ordereth and disposeth them, as the word making is sometimes used in Scripture; governeth their rising and setting, and all their influences.
Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south: these he names as stars or constellations of greatest note and eminency; for so they are both in Scripture and other authors, and such as have, or are thought to have, a special influence in raising storms and tempests; but under them lie seems to comprehend all the stars, which as they were created by God, so are under his government. Arcturus is a northern constellation, near that called the Bear, which riseth to us about the beginning of September, and by its rising produceth (as Pliny affirms) horrible storms and tempests. Orion is a more southerly constellation, that ariseth to us in December, and is noted by astronomers for raising fearful winds and tempests, both by sea and land. The Pleiades is a constellation not far from Orion, and near that called the Bull, which we call the Seven Stars: to us it riseth at the beginning of the spring, and by its rising causeth rains and tempests, and therefore is unwelcome to mariners at sea. By the chambers (or inmost and secret chambers, as the word signifies) of the south, he seems to understand those stars and constellations which are towards the southern pole, which are fitly called inward chambers, because they are for the most part hid and shut up (as chambers commonly are) from these parts of the world, and do not rise or appear to us till the beginning of summer, when they also raise southerly winds and tempests, as astronomers observe.
Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.Which words were produced by Eliphaz, Job 5:9, (where they are explained,) and are here repeated by Job, to show his agreement with him therein.
Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.He goeth, i.e. he worketh by his providence in ways of mercy or judgment.
By me; or, besides or before me; in my presence.
I see him not; I see the effects, but I cannot understand the causes or grounds of his actions, for they are incomprehensible by me, or by any other men: for though he speaks only in his own person, yet he means it of all men; that such is the weakness of men’s understandings, that they cannot search out God’s counsels and ways: see Acts 17:27 Romans 11:33.
He passeth on also; he goeth from place to place, from one action to another. He speaks of God after the manner of men.
Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?If he determine to take away from any man his children, or servants, or estate, as he hath done from me, who is able to restrain him from doing it? or who dare presume to reprove him for it? And therefore far be it from me to quarrel with God, whereof you untruly accuse me.
If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.i.e. If God resolve not to withdraw his rod and stroke, the effect of his anger. Or without if, which is not in the Hebrew,
God will not withdraw his anger, i.e. not forbear to punish, neither because any man can overpower and restrain him, nor for fear lest he should rebuke him for proceeding to punish, as is implied by comparing this verse with the former.
The proud helpers, i.e. those men who shall undertake to uphold and defend him whom God intends to punish and destroy; who are fitly called proud helpers, because this is a most proud, and insolent, and presumptuous act, to oppose themselves to the Lord God Almighty, and to his counsels and courses: or, (as it is in the Hebrew,) helpers of pride, because they give assistance to that man who carries himself proudly and stoutly towards God under his correcting hand: or, (as some translate it,) the helpers of Egypt, or the Egyptian helpers, i.e. the most potent helpers; for Egypt was in Job’s time a powerful and flourishing kingdom, and not far from Job’s country. And the word rahab, here rendered pride, is elsewhere put for Egypt, as Psalm 87:4 Isaiah 51:9; and (as some take it) Job 26:12.
Do stoop under him, i.e. shall fall and be crushed by him; and consequently they who are helped by him must fall with them.
How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?Since no creature whatsoever can resist his power, and no man living can search out or comprehend his counsels and ways; how can I, who am a poor, contemptible, dispirited creature, contend with him?
Answer him, i.e. answer his allegations and arguments produced against me.
Choose out my words to reason with him, Heb. choose my words with (or before, or against, as this particle is used, Deu 9:7 Psalm 94:16 Proverbs 30:31) him, i.e. shall I try whether God or I can choose fitter words, or stronger arguments? or shall I contend with him, and expect to get the better of him by using choice, and forcible, and elegant words, as one man doth with another?
Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.Though I were righteous; though I had a most just cause, and were not conscious to myself of any sin.
Yet would I not answer, i.e. I durst not undertake to plead my cause against him, or maintain my integrity before him, because he knows me better than I know myself, and because I am wholly in his hands, and at his mercy.
I would make supplication to my Judge, to wit, that he would hear me meekly, and judge favourably of me and my cause, and not according to the rigours of his justice.
If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.If I had called, i.e. prayed, as this word is commonly used, to wit, unto my Judge, for a favourable sentence, as he now said, and therefore it was needless here to mention the object of his calling or prayer.
Yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice; I could not believe that God had indeed granted my desire, though he had done it; because I am so infinitely below him, and obnoxious to him, and still full of the tokens of his displeasure; and therefore should conclude that it was but a pleasant dream or fancy, and not a real thing: compare Psalm 126:1.
For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.This is the reason of his foregoing diffidence, that even when God seemed to answer him in words, yet the course of his actions towards him was of a quite contrary nature and tendency.
With a tempest; as with a tempest, i.e. unexpectedly, violently, and irrecoverably.
Without cause; not simply without any desert of his, or as if he had no sin in him, for he oft declares the contrary; but without any evident or special cause of such singular afflictions, i.e. any peculiar and extraordinary guilt, such as my friends charge me with.
He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.My pains and miseries are continual, and I have not so much as a breathing time free from them. My afflictions are not only long and uninterrupted, but also exceeding sharp and violent, contrary to the common course of God’s providence.
If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?If my cause were to be decided by power,
lo, he is strong, i.e. stronger than I. If I would contend with him in a way of right, there is no superior judge that can summon him and me together, and appoint us a time of pleading before him, and oblige us both to stand to his sentence; and therefore I must be contented to sit down with the loss.
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.If I plead against God mine own righteousness and innocency, God is so infinitely wise and just, that he will find sufficient matter of condemnation from my own words, though spoken with all possible care and circumspection; or he will discover so much wickedness in me of which I was not aware, that I shall be forced to join with him in condemning myself.
If I say, I am perfect; if I were perfect in my own opinion; if I thought myself completely righteous and faultless, it, i.e. my own mouth, as he now said, or,
he, i.e. God, who is easily understood by comparing this with the former verses, where the same he is oft mentioned,
shall also prove me perverse.
Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.i.e. Though God should acquit me in judgment, and pronounce me perfect or righteous,
yet would I not know, i.e. regard or value, (as that word is oft used,) my soul, i.e. my life; as the soul frequently signifies, as Genesis 19:17 Job 2:6 John 10:15,17; and as it is explained in the following branch, where life is put for soul, and despising for not knowing: and so the same thing is repeated in differing words, and the latter clause explains the former, which was more dark and doubtful, according to the usage of sacred Scripture. So the sense is, Though God should give sentence for me, yet I should be so overwhelmed with the dread and terror of the Divine Majesty, that I should be weary of my life. And therefore I abhor the thoughts of contending with my Maker, whereof you accuse me; and yet I have reason to be weary of my life, and to desire death. Or thus, If I say, I am perfect, as the very same Hebrew words are rendered, Job 9:20, i.e. if I should think myself perfect,
yet I would not know, i.e. not acknowledge,
my soul; I could not own nor plead before God the perfection and integrity of my soul, but would only make supplication to my Judge, as he said, Job 9:15, and flee to his grace and mercy; I would abhor, or reject, or condemn my life, i.e. my conversation. So the sense is, I would not insist upon nor trust to the integrity, either of my soul and heart, or of my life, so as to justify myself before the pure and piercing eyes of the all-seeing God.
This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.In the other things which you have spoken of God’s greatness, justice, &c., I do not contend with you, but this one thing I do and must affirm against you.
Therefore I said it; I did not utter it rashly, but upon deep consideration. God sends afflictions promiscuously upon good and bad men. Compare Psalm 73:2 Ecclesiastes 9:2 Jeremiah 12:1, &c.
If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.If the scourge slay suddenly; either,
1. If some common and deadly judgment come upon a people, which destroys both good and bad. Or,
2. If God inflicts some grievous and unexpected stroke upon an innocent person, as it follows. He will laugh at the trial of the innocent; as he doth at the destruction of the wicked, Psalm 2:4. His outward carriage is the same to both; he neglects the innocent, and seems not to answer their prayers, and suffers them to perish with others, as if be took pleasure in their ruin also. But withal, he intimates the matter and cause of his laughter or complacency which God takes in their afflictions, because to them they are but trials of their faith, and patience, and perseverance, which tends to God’s honour, and their own eternal advantage.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?The earth, i.e. the possession and dominion of men and things on earth.
Is given, to wit, by God, the great Lord and Disposer of it, by his providence.
Into the hand of the wicked; into their power. As good men are scourged, Job 9:23, so the wicked are advanced and prospered, in this world.
He covereth the faces of the judges thereof, i.e. he blinds their eyes, that they cannot discern between truth and falsehood, justice and unrighteousness. He. Who? Either,
1. The wicked last mentioned, who either by power or by gifts corrupts the officers of justice. Or rather,
2. God, whom the pronoun he designed all along this chapter; who is oft said to blind the minds of men, which he doth not positively, by making them blind, but privatively, by withdrawing his own light, and leaving them to their own mistakes and lusts. Or by judges he may hear mean those who are worthy of that name, and duly administer that office; whose faces God may be said to cover, because he removeth them from their high places into obscurity, and covers them with contempt, and in a manner passeth a sentence of condemnation and destruction upon them; covering of the face being the usual posture of condemned persons, and of men in great misery; of which see Esther 7:8 Psalm 44:15 Isaiah 22:17 Jeremiah 14:4. So the sense of this verse is, God commonly advanceth wicked men into power and honour, and casteth down men of true worth and virtue from their seats. If not; if it be not as I say, if God do not these things. Where, and who is he? either,
1. Who will confute me by solid arguments? Or,
2. Who doth these things? Who but God doth dispose of the world in this manner?
Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good.What he had said of the calamities which God usually inflicted upon good men, he now exemplifieth in himself.
My days; the days, either of my prosperity; for the time of affliction is commonly described by the night; or rather, of my life, as the last clause showeth; for it were an absurd and contradictious speech to say that his prosperous days saw no good.
A post; who runs or rides upon swift horses.
They see no good; I enjoy no good in them. Seeing is oft put for experiencing either good or evil, Job 7:7 Psalm 34:12 John 3:36 John 8:51.
They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.Swift ships, Heb. ships of desire; which make great haste, as if they longed for their desired haven, as it is called, Psalm 107:30. Or, ships of pleasure; which sail more swiftly than ships of great burden.
As the eagle; which generally flies most swiftly, Deu 28:49 Jeremiah 4:13 Lamentations 4:19, especially when its own hunger and the sight of its prey quickens its motion.
If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself:If I say; if I resolve within myself.
I will forget my complaints; I will cease complaining.
My heaviness, Heb. mine anger; wherewith Job was charged by his friends, Job 18:4; my angry expressions. And comfort myself; I will endeavour to take comfort.
I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.My sorrows; or, my pains and griefs. I find all such endeavours vain; for if my griefs be suspended for a little time, yet my fears continue.
I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent; I plainly perceive that my changing my note is to no purpose; for thou, O God, (to whom he makes a sudden apostrophe, as he doth also Job 9:31) wilt not clear my innocency, by removing those afflictions which make them judge me guilty of some peat crime. Words proceeding from great impatience and despair of relief.
If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?Heb. I shall be wicked, or guilty, to wit, before thee. Whether I be holy or wicked, if I dispute with thee, I shall be found guilty. Or thus, I shall be used like a wicked man, and punished as such. So this is opposed to his not being held innocent, Job 9:28, i.e. not being acquitted or exempt from punishment. Why then should I not indulge my griefs, but restrain them? Why should I comfort myself with vain hopes of deliverance, as thou advisest me, Job 8:6; or seek to God, as I was directed, Job 5:8, for that ease which I see he is resolved not to give me? Why should I trouble myself with clearing mine innocency, seeing God will still hold me guilty?
If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;If I wash myself; either,
1. Really, by sanctification, cleansing my heart and life from all filthiness; or rather,
2. Declaratively or judicially, i.e. if I clear myself from all imputations, and fully prove my innocency before men.
With snow water, i.e. as men cleanse their bodies, and as under the law they purified themselves, with water, which he here calls water of snow, either because by its purity and brightness it resembled snow; or because in those dry countries, where fresh and pure water was scarce, snow water was much in use; or because that water might be much used among them in some of their ritual purifications, as coming down from heaven.
Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.In the ditch, i.e. in miry and puddle water, whereby I shall become most filthy. But as Job’s washing, so God’s plunging him, &c., is not understood really, as if God would make him filthy; but only judicially, that God would prove him to be a most guilty and filthy creature, notwithstanding all the professions and evidences of his purity before men.
Mine own clothes shall abhor me, i.e. I shall be so altogether filthy, that my own clothes, if they had any sense in them, would abhor to touch me: a figure called prosopopaeia.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.He is not a man, as I am; but one infinitely superior to me in majesty, and power, and wisdom, and justice.
That I should answer him; that I should presume to debate my cause with him, or answer his allegations against me.
That we should come together, face to face, to plead upon equal terms before a superior and indifferent judge.
Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.Daysman; or, a reprover; or, a judge or umpire, whose office was to reprove the guilty person. That might lay his hand upon us both, i.e. use his power and authority to appoint the time and place of our meeting, to order and govern us in pleading, and to oblige us to stand to his decision. The
hand is oft put for power, and laying on the hand upon another was ofttimes an act and sign of superiority and dominion.
Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:His fear; objectively so called, i.e. the fear and dread of him, of his majesty and justice. Let him not deal with me rigorously, according to his sovereign dominion and perfect justice, but according to his wonted grace and clemency.
Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.i.e. I would speak freely for myself, being freed from the dread of his majesty, which takes away my spirit and courage, and stoppeth my mouth.
But it is not so with me, i.e. I am not free from his terror, and therefore cannot and dare not plead my cause boldly with him; and so have no thing else to do but to case myself by renewing my complaints; as he doth in the next words. Others thus, but I am not so with myself, i.e. I am in a manner beside myself, distracted with the terrors of God upon me. Or rather thus, for I am not so with myself, or in my own conscience, as I perceive I am in your eyes, to wit, a hypocrite and ungodly man. So this is a reason why he could speak to God without slavish fear, because he was conscious to himself of his own integrity: I have a good conscience within myself, and therefore could use boldness in speaking to God, provided he would not deal with me in strict justice, but upon the terms of grace and mercy which he hath proposed to sinners, and with allowance to human infirmities.