Job 14


The shortness, misery, and sinfulness of man's life, 14.

The unavoidable necessity of death; and the hope of a general

resurrection, 5-15.

Job deplores his own state, and the general wretchedness of

man, 16-22.


Verse 1. Man-born of a woman] There is a delicacy in the

original, not often observed: Adam yelud ishah, "Adam

born of a woman, few of days, and full of tremor." Adam, who did

not spring from woman, but was immediately formed by God, had

many days, for he lived nine hundred and thirty years; during

which time neither sin nor death had multiplied in the earth, as

they were found in the days of Job. But the Adam who springs now

from woman, in the way of ordinary generation, has very few years.

Seventy, on an average, being the highest term, may be well said

to be few in days; and all matter of fact shows that they are full

of fears and apprehensions, rogez, cares, anxieties, and

tremors. He seems born, not indeed to live, but to die; and, by

living, he forfeits the title to life.

Verse 2. He cometh forth like a flower] This is a frequent image

both in the Old and New Testament writers; I need not quote the

places here, as the readers will find them all in the margin.

He fleeth also as a shadow] Himself, as he appears among men, is

only the shadow of his real, substantial, and eternal being. He

is here compared to a vegetable; he springs up, bears his flower

is often nipped by disease, blasted by afflictions and at last cut

down by death. The bloom of youth, even in the most prosperous

state, is only the forerunner of hoary hairs, enfeebled muscles,

impaired senses, general debility, anility, and dissolution. All

these images are finely embodied, and happily expressed, in the

beautiful lines of a very nervous and correct poet, too little

known, but whose compositions deserve the first place among what

may be called the minor poets of Britain.

See at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on Job 14:22.

Verse 3. Dost thou open thine eyes upon such a one] The whole of

this chapter is directed to God alone; in no part of it does he

take any notice of his friends.

Verse 4. Who can bring a clean thing] This verse is thus

rendered by the Chaldee: "Who will produce a clean thing from man,

who is polluted with sins, except God, who is one?" By Coverdale

thus: Who can make it cleane, that commeth of an uncleane thinge?

No body.

The text refers to man's original and corrupt nature. Every man

that is born into the world comes into it in a corrupt or sinful

state. This is called original sin; and is derived from fallen

Adam, who is the stock, to the utmost ramifications of the human

family. Not one human spirit is born into the world without this

corruption of nature. All are impure and unholy; and from this

principle of depravity all transgression is produced; and from

this corruption of nature God alone can save.

The Septuagint, in the Codex Alexandrinus, reads the verse thus:


γενηταιοβιοςαυτουεπιτηςγης; "Who is pure from corruption?

Not one, although he had lived but one day upon the earth."

Verse 5. Seeing his days are determined] The general term of

human life is fixed by God himself; in vain are all attempts to

prolong it beyond this term. Several attempts have been made in

all nations to find an elixir that would expel all the seeds of

disease, and keep men in continual health; but all these attempts

have failed. Basil, Valentine, Norton, Dastin, Ripley,

Sandivogius, Artephius, Geber, Van Helmont, Paracelsus,

Philalethes, and several others, both in Europe and Asia, have

written copiously on the subject, and have endeavoured to prove

that a tincture might be produced, by which all imperfect metals

may be transmuted into perfect; and an elixir by which the human

body may be kept in a state of endless repair and health. And

these profess to teach the method by which this tincture and this

elixir may be made! Yet all these are dead; and dead, for aught

we know, comparatively young! Artephius is, indeed, said to have

lived ninety years, which is probable; but some of his foolish

disciples, to give credit to their thriftless craft, added another

cipher, and made his age nine hundred! Man may endeavour to pass

the bound; and God may, here and there, produce a Thomas Parr, who

died in 1635, aged one hundred and fifty-two; and a Henry Jenkins,

who died in 1670, aged one hundred and sixty-nine; but these are

rare instances, and do not affect the general term. Nor can death

be avoided. Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return, is the

law, and that will ever render nugatory all such pretended

tinctures and elixirs.

But, although man cannot pass his appointed bounds, yet he may

so live as never to reach them; for folly and wickedness abridge

the term of human life; and therefore the psalmist says, Bloody

and deceitful men shall not live out HALF their days, Ps 55:23,

for by indolence, intemperance, and disorderly passions, the life

of man is shortened in cases innumerable. We are not to understand

the bounds as applying to individuals, but to the race in

general. Perhaps there is no case in which God has determined

absolutely that man's age shall be so long, and shall neither be

more nor less. The contrary supposition involves innumerable


Verse 6. Turn from him, that he may rest] Cease to try him by

afflictions and distresses, that he may enjoy some of the comforts

of life, before he be removed from it: and thus, like a hireling,

who is permitted by his master to take a little repose in the heat

of the day, from severe labour, I shall also have a breathing time

from affliction, before I come to that bound over which I cannot

pass. See Job 10:20, where there is a similar request.

Verse 7. For there is hope of a tree] We must not, says Calmet,

understand this of an old tree, the stem and roots of which are

dried up and rotted: but there are some trees which grow from

cuttings, and some which, though pulled out of the earth, and

having had their roots dried and withered by long exposure to the

sun and wind, will, on being replanted, take root and resume their

verdure. There are also certain trees, the fibres of which are so

solid, that if after several years they be steeped in water, they

resume their vigour, the tubes dilate, and the blossoms or flowers

which were attached to them expand; as I have often witnessed in

what is called the rose of Jericho. There are few trees which will

not send forth new shoots, when the stock is cut down level with

the earth.

Verse 9. Through the scent of water it will bud] A fine

metaphor: the water acts upon the decaying and perishing tree, as

strong and powerful odours from musk, otto of roses, ammonia, &c.,

act on a fainting or swooning person.

Verse 10. But man dieth] No human being ever can spring from the

dead body of man; that wasteth away, corrupts, and is dissolved;

for the man dies; and when he breathes out his last breath, and

his body is reduced to dust, then, where is he? There is a

beautiful verse in the Persian poet Khosroo, that is not unlike

this saying of Job:-





"I went towards the burying ground, and wept

To think of the departure of friends which

were captives to death;

I said, Where are they! and Fate

Gave back this answer by Echo, Where are they?

Thus paraphrased by a learned friend:-

Beneath the cypress' solemn shade,

As on surrounding tombs I gazed,

I wept, and thought of friends there laid,

Whose hearts with warmest love had blazed.

Where are those friends my heart doth lack,

Whose words, in grief, gave peace? Ah, where?

And Fate, by Echo, gave me back

This short but just reply, Ah, where?

Verse 11. The waters fail from the sea] I believe this refers to

evaporation, and nothing else. As the waters are evaporated from

the sea, and the river in passing over the sandy desert is partly

exsiccated, and partly absorbed; and yet the waters of the sea are

not exhausted, as these vapours, being condensed, fall down in

rain, and by means of rivers return again into the sea: so man is

imperceptibly removed from his fellows by death and dissolution;

yet the human race is still continued, the population of the earth

being kept up by perpetual generations.

Verse 12. So man lieth down] He falls asleep in his bed of


And riseth not] Men shall not, like cut down trees and plants,

reproduce their like; nor shall they arise till the heavens are no

more, till the earth and all its works are burnt up, and the

general resurrection of human beings shall take place. Surely it

would be difficult to twist this passage to the denial of the

resurrection of the body. Neither can these expressions be fairly

understood as implying Job's belief in the materiality of the

soul, and that the whole man sleeps from the day of his death to

the morning of the resurrection. We have already seen that Job

makes a distinction between the animal life and rational soul in

man; and it is most certain that the doctrine of the materiality

of the soul, and its sleep till the resurrection, has no place in

the sacred records. There is a most beautiful passage to the same

purpose, and with the same imagery, in Moschus's epitaph on the

death of Bion:-







Idyll. iii., ver. 100.

Alas! alas! the mallows, when they die,

Or garden herbs, and sweet Anethum's pride,

Blooming in vigour, wake again to life,

And flourish beauteous through another year:

But we, the great, the mighty, and the wise,

When once we die, unknown in earth's dark womb

Sleep long and drear, the endless sleep of death.

J. B. B. C.

A more cold and comfortless philosophy was never invented. The

next verse shows that Job did not entertain this view of the


Verse 13. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave] Dreadful as

death is to others, I shall esteem it a high privilege; it will be

to me a covert from the wind and from the tempest of this

affliction and distress.

Keep me secret] Hide my soul with thyself, where my enemies

cannot invade my repose; or, as the poet expresses it:-

"My spirit hide with saints above,

My body in the tomb."

Job does not appear to have the same thing in view when he

entreats God to hide him in the grave; and to keep him secret,

until his wrath be past. The former relates to the body; the

latter to the spirit.

That thou wouldest appoint me a set time] As he had spoken of

the death of his body before, and the secreting of his spirit in

the invisible world, he must refer here to the resurrection; for

what else can be said to be an object of desire to one whose body

is mingled with the dust?

And remember me!] When my body has paid that debt of death which

it owes to thy Divine justice, and the morning of the resurrection

is come, when it may be said thy wrath, appecha, "thy

displeasure," against the body is past, it having suffered the

sentence denounced by thyself: Dust thou art, and unto dust thou

shalt return, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely

die; then remember me-raise my body, unite my spirit to it, and

receive both into thy glory for ever.

Verse 14. If a man die, shall he live again?] The Chaldee

translates, If a wicked man die, can he ever live again? or, he

can never live again. The Syriac and Arabic thus: "If a man die,

shall he revive? Yea, all the days of his youth he awaits till his

old age come." The Septuagint: "If a man die, shall he live,

having accomplished the days of his life? I will endure till I

live again." Here is no doubt, but a strong persuasion, of the

certainty of the general resurrection.

All the days of my appointed time] tsebai, "of my

warfare;" see on Job 7:1.

Will I await till chaliphathi, my renovation, come. This

word is used to denote the springing again of grass, Ps 90:5, 6,

after it had once withered, which is in itself a very expressive

emblem of the resurrection.

Verse 15. Thou shalt call] Thou shalt say There shall be time no

longer: Awake, ye dead! and come to judgment!

And I will answer thee] My dissolved frame shall be united at

thy call; and body and soul shall be rejoined.

Thou wilt have a desire] tichsoph, "Thou wilt pant

with desire;" or, "Thou wilt yearn over the work of thy hands."

God has subjected the creature to vanity, in hope; having

determined the resurrection. Man is one of the noblest works of

God. He has exhibited him as a master-piece of his creative skill,

power, and goodness. Nothing less than the strongest call upon

justice could have induced him thus to destroy the work of his

hands. No wonder that he has an earnest desire towards it; and

that although man dies, and is as water spilt upon the ground that

cannot be gathered up again; yet doth he devise means that his

banished be not expelled from him. Even God is represented as

earnestly longing for the ultimate reviviscence of the sleeping

dust. He cannot, he will not, forget the work of his hands.

Verse 16. For now thou numberest my steps] ki attah,

ALTHOUGH thou, &c. Though thou, by thy conduct towards me, seemest

bent on my utter destruction, yet thou delightest in mercy, and I

shall be saved.

Verse 17. My transgression is sealed up in a bag] An allusion to

the custom of collecting evidence of state transgressions, sealing

them up in a bag, and presenting them to the judges and officers

of state to be examined, in order to trial and judgment. Just at

this time (July, 1820) charges of state transgressions, sealed up

in a GREEN BAG, and presented to the two houses of parliament, for

the examination of a secret committee, are making a considerable

noise in the land. Some suppose the allusion is to money sealed up

in bags; which is common in the East. This includes two ideas: 1.

Job's transgressions were all numbered; not one was passed by. 2.

They were sealed up; so that none of them could be lost. These

bags were indifferently sewed or sealed, the two words in the


Verse 18. The mountain falling cometh to naught] Every thing in

nature is exposed to mutability and decay:-even mountains

themselves may fall from their bases, and be dashed to pieces; or

be suddenly swallowed up by an earthquake; and, by the same means,

the strongest and most massive rocks may be removed.

Verse 19. The waters wear the stones] Even the common stones are

affected in the same way. Were even earthquakes and violent

concussions of nature wanting, the action of water, either running

over them as a stream, or even falling upon them in drops, will

wear these stones. Hence the proverb:-

Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.

"Constant droppings will make a hole in a flint."



"From frequent dropping, as the proverb says, perpetually

falling, even a stone is hollowed into a hole."

Thou washest away the things] Alluding to sudden falls of rain

occasioning floods, by which the fruits of the earth are swept

away; and thus the hope of man-the grain for his household, and

provender for his cattle, is destroyed.

Verse 20. Thou prevailest for ever against him] It is impossible

for him to withstand thee: every stroke of thine brings him down.

Thou changest his countenance] Probably an allusion to the

custom of covering the face, when the person was condemned, and

sending him away to execution. See the case of Haman, in the note

on Esther, See Clarke on Es 7:8.

Verse 21. His sons come to honour] When dead, he is equally

indifferent and unconscious whether his children have met with a

splendid or oppressive lot in life; for as to this world, when man

dies, in that day all his thoughts perish.

Verse 22. But his flesh upon him shall have pain] The sum of the

life of man is this, pain of body and distress of soul; and he is

seldom without the one or the other, and often oppressed by both.

Thus ends Job's discourse on the miserable state and condition of


THE last verse of the preceding chapter has been differently

translated and explained.

Mr. Good's version is the following, which he vindicates in a

learned note:-

For his flesh shall drop away from him;

And his soul shall become a waste from him.

The Chaldee thus: "Nevertheless his flesh, on account of the

worms, shall grieve over him; and his soul, in the house of

judgment, shall wail over him." In another copy of this version it

is thus: "Nevertheless his flesh, before the window is closed over

him, shall grieve; and his soul, for seven days of mourning, shall

bewail him in the house of his burial." I shall give the Hebrew:-

Ach besaro alaiv yichab,

Venaphsho alaiv teebal.

Which Mr. Stock translates thus, both to the spirit and letter:-

But over him his flesh shall grieve;

And over him his breath shall mourn.

"In the daring spirit of oriental poetry," says he, "the flesh,

or body, and the breath, are made conscious beings; the former

lamenting its putrefaction in the grave, the latter mourning over

the mouldering clay which it once enlivened."

This version is, in my opinion, the most natural yet offered.

The Syriac and Arabic present nearly the same sense: "But his body

shall grieve over him; and his soul be astonished over him."

Coverdale follows the Vulgate: Whyle he lyveth his flesh must

have travayle; and whyle the soul is in him, he must be in sorowe.

On Job 14:2. I have referred to the following beautiful lines,

which illustrate these finely figurative texts:-

He cometh forth as a FLOWER, and is CUT Down; he fleeth also as

a shadow, and continueth not.

All flesh is GRASS, and all the goodliness thereof is as the

FLOWER of the field.

The GRASS withereth, the FLOWER fadeth; but the word of our God

shall stand for ever.

The morning flowers display their sweets,

And gay their silken leaves unfold;

As careless of the noonday heats,

As fearless of the evening cold.

Nipp'd by the wind's untimely blast,

Parch'd by the sun's directer ray,

The momentary glories waste,

The short-lived beauties die away.

So blooms the human face divine,

When youth its pride of beauty shows;

Fairer than spring the colours shine,

And sweeter than the virgin rose.

Or worn by slowly-rolling years,

Or broke by sickness in a day,

The fading glory disappears,

The short-lived beauties die away.

Yet these, new rising from the tomb,

With lustre brighter far shall shine;

Revive with ever-during bloom,

Safe from diseases and decline.

Let sickness blast, let death devour,

If heaven must recompense our pains:

Perish the grass and fade the flower,

If firm the word of God remains.

See a Collection of Poems on Sundry Occasions, by the Rev. Samuel

Wesley, Master of Blundell's School, Tiverton.

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