Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?
Verses 1-27. - Eliphaz, having narrated his vision, and rehearsed the words which the spirit spoke in his ear, continues in his own person, first (vers. 1-7) covertly reproaching Job, and then (vers. 8-27) seeking to comfort him by the suggestion that, if he will place himself unreservedly in the hands of God, it is still possible that God may relent, remove his chastening hand, deliver him from his troubles, and even give him back all his former prosperity. The anticipation is in remarkable accordance with the ultimate event (Job 42:10-17), and shows that Eliphaz, if not a prophet in the higher sense, is at least a sagacious interpreter of God's ways with men, and can very happily forecast the future. Verse 1. - Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; rather, call now; is there any that will answer thee? What aid, that is, wilt thou invoke, if thou turnest away from God, and reproachest him? Thinkest thou to find any one in heaven or earth to answer to the call and come to thy assistance? Utterly vain is any such hope. And to which of the saints wilt thou turn? By "the saints" are meant in this place "the holy angels" (comp. Job 15:15; Psalm 89:7; Zechariah 14:5). The question, "To which wilt thou turn?" seems to imply that there was already in Job's time some knowledge of individual members of the angelic host, such as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, etc., though we have no mention of any names of angels in Scripture until the time of Daniel (Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21). That invocation of angels was an actual practice in Job's age is, however, scarcely proved by this passage.
For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one.
Verse 2. - For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one. For "wrath" and "envy "others suggest "vexaation" and "impatience" (Lee), or "vexation" and "jealousy" (Revised Version). The connection of thought seems to be, "For thou art quite foolish enough to let thy vexation and impatience prompt thee to such a course, which could only lead to thy destruction." Eliphaz is quite sure that trust in any other beside God, and appeal to any other against God, is utter folly, sinful infatuation, and must lead to the ruin of whoever indulges in it. Thus the invocation of angels receives no countenance from him, but the contrary.
I have seen the foolish taking root: but suddenly I cursed his habitation.
Verse 3. - I have seen the foolish taking root. The "I" is emphatic. "I myself have seen," etc. What Eliphaz had seen was that folly, i.e. sinful infatuation, was always punished. It might seem to prosper: the foolish man might seem to be taking root; but Eliphaz was not deceived by appearances - he saw through them, he knew that there was a curse upon the man's house, and so pronounced it accursed. And the ruin which he had foreseen, it is implied, followed. But suddenly; rather, immediately, without hesitation. I cursed his habitation; i.e. "pronounced it accursed, declared that the curse of God rested upon it?"
His children are far from safety, and they are crushed in the gate, neither is there any to deliver them.
Verse 4. - His children are far from safety. The sins of the fathers arc visited upon the children. Eliphaz makes covert allusion to the death of Job's children (Job 1:19). Feeling, however, that he is on delicate ground, he goes on into details which in no way fit their case. And (he says) they are crushed in the gate; i.e. they are oppressed, crushed, by litigations. The house once smitten of God, human beasts of prey enter in; claims are made against the children; lawsuits commenced; all the arts of chicanery set in motion; every effort made to strip them of their last penny. (For the sense here assigned to "the gate," see Job 29:7 and Job 31:21.) Neither is there any to deliver them. No one intercedes on their behalf, undertakes their detente in the courts, or makes any effort to avert their ruin. This picture of legal oppression accords very closely with what we know of the East in all ages (comp. Isaiah 1:17, 23; Isaiah 3:14, 15; Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 10:2, etc.). Oriental cowardice causes men to shrink from casting in their lot with those whom Misfortune has marked as her own.
Whose harvest the hungry eateth up, and taketh it even out of the thorns, and the robber swalloweth up their substance.
Verse 5. - Whose harvest the hungry eateth up. Covetous men rush in and "eat up" all that the family possesses, thus bringing it to the extreme of poverty and want. And taketh it even out of the thorns. Vain is any protection that may be devised. As hedges, even of the prickly pear, do not keep out a band of plunderers, so there is no obstacle which those bent on robbing them will not overcome. And the robber swalloweth up their substance; or, the thirsty; i.e. those who thirst after it.
Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;
Verse 6. - Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground. There is a tacit reference to what was said in Job 4:8. Affliction and trouble are not chance products of spontaneous growth. They only spring up when men have prepared the ground for them, and planted in it an evil seed.
Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
Verse 7. - Yet man is born unto trouble. Yet still, in point of fact, man is born to trouble. He has a corrupt nature, and always sins more or less. Each sin brings him into trouble, since it entails on him a punishment. As the sparks fly upward; literally, the sons of flame. Some suppose "meteoric flashes" to be meant: others suggest, "ignited arrows." But many good Hebraists maintain the rendering of the Authorized Version (see Buxtorf, 'Lexicon,' p. 757; Rosenmuller, 'Scholia,' vol. 5. p. 165; Canon Cook, 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 34).
I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause:
Verse 8. - I would seek unto God; rather, as in the Revised Version; but as for me, I would seek etc.; i.e. if the case were mine, if I were afflicted as thou art, I would not betake myself to any of the angels (see ver. 1), but would cast myself wholly upon God. It is necessarily implied that Job had not done so. And unto God would I commit my cause (comp. Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 16:3).
Which doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number:
Verse 9. - Which doeth great things and unsearchable. These are reasons why Job should "seek unto God." "Great things are those which he has done." There is none like unto him. His ways are "unsearchable;" no one may think fully to search them and seek them out (comp. Job 9:10; Job 37:5; Psalm 145:3: Romans 11:33). It may be that, if Job will appeal to him, a result will follow that at present seems impossible. For he doeth marvellous things without number (comp. Psalm 40:5; Psalm 72:18; Psalm 77:14; Psalm 136:4). Eliphaz proceeds to mention some of them.
Who giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields:
Verse 10. - Who giveth rain upon the earth. To the dweller in the parched regions of South-Western Asia rain is the greatest of all blessings, and seems the greatest, of all marvels. When for months and months together the sun has blazed all day long out of a cloudless sky, when the heaven that is over his head has been brass, and the earth that is under him iron (Deuteronomy 28:33), a great despair comes upon him, and that it should ever rain again seems almost an impossibility. Where is the rain to come from? From that cruel, glaring sky, which has pursued him with its hostility week after week, and month after month? Or from that parched earth in which, as it seems, no atom of moisture is left? When God at length gives rain, he scarcely believes his eyes. What? The blessed moisture is once more descending from the sky, and watering the earth, and quickening what seemed dead, and turning the desert into a garden! All Eastern poetry is full of the praises of rain, of its blessedness, of its marvellousness, and of its quickening power. Very naturally Eliphaz, in speaking of God's marvellous works of mercy, mentions rain first, as, within his experience, one of the chief. And sendeth waters upon the fields. This is either the usual pleonastic repetition of the second hemistich, or (perhaps) a reference to the fountains and rills of water, which spring into being as a consequence of the rain.
To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.
Verse 11. - To set up on high those that be low. God's physical blessings are intended to subserve moral ends. He gives his rain, both the former and the latter, to raise up men from despair, to enable them to see in him a God of mercy as well as a God of vengeance; and with the same object, after withholding it from us for a while, he pours into our parched hearts the dew of his Holy Spirit. That those which mourn may be exalted to safety; or, "raised to safety" (Lee).
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.
Verse 12. - He disappointeth the devices of the crafty; or, frustrateth - makes them of no effect (comp. Psalm 33:10; Isaiah 8:10). Some suppose Eliphaz to insinuate here that Job's apparent wisdom has not been true wisdom, but cunning or craft, and that therefore God has brought it to nought. But to us it rather seems that he enunciates a.general sentiment, and a true one. He is giving examples of the "marvellous things" which God does (ver. 9), and naturally enumerates among them his victories over the craft and cunning of his adversaries (comp. Isaiah 44:25). So that their hands cannot perform their enterprise; literally, and their hands accomplish nothing solid. No substantial result is effected by all their scheming.
He taketh the wise in their own craftiness: and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.
Verse 13. - He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Men are, as Shakespeare says, "hoist with their own petard." They "fall into their own nets together" (Psalm 141:11), while the godly, their intended prey, "escape them." And this is God's doing - it is his providence which brings it to pass. And the counsel of the froward is carried headlong; or, "put to confusion" (Lee).
They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.
Verse 14. - They meet with darkness in the daytime (comp Deuteronomy 28:29 and Isaiah 59:10). The metaphor expresses the bewilderment of the crafty, when they find their schemes foiled, and all their subtlety of no avail. Suddenly their light goes out; they know not what to do, or which way to turn; "their way is hid" (Job 3:23); they are baffled, perplexed, confounded. And grope in the noonday as in the night (comp. Job 12:25). A variant form of the preceding hemistich.
But he saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth, and from the hand of the mighty.
Verse 15. - But he sayeth the poor from the sword, from their mouth; rather, from the sword of their mouth; i.e. from their cruel and destructive words (Psalm 57:4; Psalm 64:3; Proverbs 12:18), which cut "like a sharp razor" (Psalm 52:2). By calumny, innuendoes, lies, fraudulent representations, and the like, the ungodly work, perhaps, more injury than by their actions. And from the hand of the mighty. God delivers the poor both from their words and from their deeds.
So the poor hath hope, and iniquity stoppeth her mouth.
Verse 16. - So the poor hath hope. With the fall of each crafty oppressor, the poor man's hopes revive. He feels that "God ruleth in Jacob, and unto the ends of the world" (Psalm 59:13). He recognizes the fact that the Almighty "maintains the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor" (Psalm 140:12), that he is "a Refuge for the oppressed, a Refuge in times of trouble" (Psalm 9:9). And iniquity stoppeth her mouth (comp. Psalm 107:42). Either "the oppressors themselves are struck dumb, recognizing the fact that God is against them;" or "those who perversely question God's ways are struck dumb, seeing his retributive justice." If we understand the passage in the latter sense, we may see in it a reproof of Job's murmurs against his treatment by God (Job 3:11-26).
Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty:
Verse 17. - Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth! This "opens," as Professor Lee observes, "a new view of the subject." Hitherto Eliphaz has regarded afflictions as simply punitive. Now it occurs to him that they are sometimes chastisements. The difference is that punishment has regard only to the past, to the breach of the moral law committed, and the retribution which has to follow it. Chastisement looks to the future. It aims at producing an effect in the mind of the person chastised, at benefiting him, and raising him in the scale of moral being. In this point of view afflictions are blessings (see Hebrews 12:5-11). Recognizing this, Eliphaz suddenly bursts out with the acknowledgment, "Happy is the man [or, 'blessings on the man'] whom God correcteth!" (Comp. Proverbs 3:11, 12; Psalm 94:12; 1 Corinthians 11:32). He suggests to Job the idea that his sufferings are not punishments, but chastisements - that they may be but for a time. Let him receive them in a proper spirit; let him humble himself under them, and they may work altogether for his good, his latter end may surpass his early promise. Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. Words quoted by the authors of Proverbs (Proverb s3:11), and of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:5), and well deserving to be laid up in the recollection of all faithful souls. They remind us that God's chastenings are blessings or the contrary, as we make them. Accepted humbly, they improve men, exalt the moral character, purge it of its dross, and bring it nearer to the perfection at which God would have us aim (Matthew 5:48). Rejected, chafed against, received with discontent and murmurings, they injure us, cause our characters to deteriorate, sink us instead of raising us in the moral scale. Job was now undergoing the ordeal - with what result remained to be determined.
For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.
Verse 18. - For he maketh sore, and bindeth up. Metaphors drawn from the healing art. He "maketh sore" - applies the scalpel and the cautery when and where they are needed; and then, after a while, "bindeth up" - employs his lint and bandages; in both cases alike seeking the good of the sufferer. He woundeth, and his hands make whole (setup. Deuteronomy 32:39; Hosea 6:1).
He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.
Verse 19. - He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven (comp. Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13, "For three transgressions... and for four"). An idiomatic way of expressing an indefinite number. There shall no evil touch thee; i.e. no real evil, nothing calculated to do thee real hurt. All affliction is "for the present grievous;" but if it "afterward yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11), it does not do us harm, but good.
In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and in war from the power of the sword.
Verse 20. - In famine he shall redeem thee from death. Famine appears throughout the whole of Scripture as one of God's severest chastisements (see Leviticus 26:19, 20; Deuteronomy 28:22-24; 2 Samuel 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:13; 2 Kings 8:1; Psalm 105:16; Isaiah 14:30; Jeremiah 24:10; Revelation 18:8). Ezekiel speaks of "the sword, the famine the noisome beast, and the pestilence," as God's "four sore judgments" (Ezekiel 14:21). Miraculous deliverances from famine are related in Genesis 41:29-36; 1 Kings 17:10-16; 2 Kings 7:1-16. And in war from the power of the sword. In war God protects whom he will, and they seem to have charmed lives. They are covered with his feathers, and safe under his wings (Psalm 91:4).
Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue: neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.
Verse 21. - Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue (comp. Psalm 31:20). God will also protect his own from "the scourge of the tongue," i.e. from calumny, from abuse, from bitter words (see the comment on ver. 15). Neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh; rather, of devastation. "Shod (שׁור) populationes, praedationes, calamitosas tempestates, terrae motus, ruinas, incendia, mala omnia vasti-tatem inducentia, amplectitur" (Schultens).
At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh: neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.
Verse 22. - At destruction (rather, devastation) and famine; rather, dearth. The word is not the same as that used in ver. 20, but a weaker cue. Thou shalt laugh; "Thou shalt smile" (Lee). Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. "The beasts of the earth" - i.e. destructive and ferocious wild beasts, like the Indian "man-eaters" - are enumerated among God's "four sore plagues" (Ezekiel 14:21; comp. 2 Kings 17:25). In ancient times they were sometimes so numerous in a country that men were afraid to occupy it.
For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.
Verse 23. - For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; i.e. there shall be peace between thee and all the rest of God's creation, even "the stones of the field," against which thou shalt not dash thy foot (Psalm 91:12); and if the senseless stones am thus in league with thee, and refrain from doing thee hurt, much more mayest thou be sure that the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. For they are not altogether senseless, and will in some sort understand that thou art under God's protection, and not to be molested by them (comp. Hosea 2:18, where God promises to make a covenant between his people and "the beasts of the field, the fowls of heaven, and the creeping things of the ground," that so they may "lie down safely "). A misplaced ingenuity seeks to find either six or seven forms of calamity in the enumeration of vers. 20-23; but there appear to be really only five:
(4) devastation; and
(5) noisome beasts.
The expression used in ver. 19 - "six, yea, seven" - means, as already explained, an indefinite number.
And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; and thou shalt visit thy habitation, and shalt not sin.
Verse 24. - And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; rather, thy tent; i.e. thy habitation, whatever it may be. Thou shalt feel assured of peace in thy dwelling, since God's peace will rest upon it. And thou shalt visit thy habitation; or, thy fold (see the Revised Version). And shalt not sin; and shalt miss nothing (Revised Version). The exact meaning is very uncertain. Professor Lee renders, "Thou shalt not err;" Schultens, "Thou shalt not be disappointed of thy desires;" Rosenmuller, "Thou shalt not miss thy mark."
Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great, and thine offspring as the grass of the earth.
Verse 25. - Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great. Little by little Eliphaz passes from a general description of the blessedness of those faithful ones who "despise not the chastening of the Almighty" (ver. 17) to a series of allusions which seem specially to touch Job's case. Without claiming prophetical inspiration, he ventures to promise him in the future "the exact reverse of all that he had experienced" in the past - "a safe home, flocks untouched, a happy and prosperous family, a peaceful old age" (Cook). The promises may have sounded in Job's ears as "a mockery" (ibid.); but it is creditable to the sagacity of Eliphaz that he ventured to make them. And thine offspring as the grass of the earth. The ordinary symbols for multitudinous-ness - the sand of the sea, and the stars of heaven - are here superseded by an entirely new one, "the grass of the earth." Undoubtedly it is equally appropriate, and perhaps more natural in a pastoral community.
Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season.
Verse 26. - Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age (comp. Genesis 15:15; Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29). Professor Lee translates, 'Thou shalt come to thy grave in honour." But, on the whole, the rendering of the Authorized Version may well stand. The expression used occurs only here and in Job 30:2. Like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season; literally, is lifted up. The shocks of corn were lifted up, and placed on a cart, for transfer to the barn or the threshing-floor. The emphasis, however, is on the closing words, "in his season." Eliphaz promises Job that he will reach a good ripe old age, and not die untimely. (For the result, see Job 42:17.)
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.
Verse 27. - Lo this, we have searched it, so it is. Eliphaz does not claim to be delivering a Divine message, or in any way stating results which he has learnt from revelation. Rather is he declaring what he has "searched out;" i.e. gathered with much trouble from inquiry, observation, and experience. He is, however, quite confident that he has arrived at a true conclusion, and expects Job to accept it and act upon it. Hear it, and know thou it for thy good; literally, for thyself. Make the knowledge, i.e. which I have communicated to thee, thine own. Professor Lee observes, "Them is nothing in all this savouring of any asperity, as far as I can see, beyond the anxieties of true friendship. The sentiments delivered from ver. 17 to the end of the chapter are not only most excellent in themselves, but perfectly applicable to Job's case; and were, in the event, made good in every respect. It is true, we have not much sympathy expressed for Job's bereavements and afflictions. And, in this respect, Eliphaz was, no doubt, to blame" ('Book of the Patriarch Job' p. 216).