Job 16


Job replies to Eliphaz, and through him to all his friends,

who, instead of comforting him, had added to his misfortunes;

and shows that, had they been in his circumstances, he would

have treated them in a different manner, 1-5.

Enters into an affecting detail of his suffering, 6-16.

Consoles himself with the consciousness of his own innocence,

of which he takes God to witness, and patiently expects a

termination of all his sufferings by death. 17-22.


Verse 2. I have heard many such things] These sayings of the

ancients are not strange to me; but they do not apply to my case:

ye see me in affliction; ye should endeavour to console me. This

ye do not; and yet ye pretend to do it! Miserable comforters are

ye all.

Verse 3. Vain words] Literally, words of air.

What emboldeneth thee] Thou art totally ignorant of the

business; what then can induce thee to take part in this


Verse 4. I also could speak] It is probably better to render

some of these permissives or potential verbs literally in the

future tense, as in the Hebrew: I also WILL speak. Mr. Good has

adopted this mode.

If your soul were in my soul's stead] If you were in my place, I

also could quote many wise sayings that might tend to show that

you were hypocrites and wicked men; but would this be fair? Even

when I might not choose to go farther in assertion, I might shake

my head by way of insinuation that there was much more behind, of

which I did not choose to speak; but would this be right? That

such sayings are in memory, is no proof that they were either made

for me, or apply to my case.

Verse 5. I would strengthen you with my mouth] Mr. Good

translates thus:-

"With my own mouth will I overpower you,

Till the quivering of my lips shall fail;"

for which rendering he contends in his learned notes. This

translation is countenanced by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic


Verse 6. Though I speak] But it will be of no avail thus to

speak; for reprehensions of your conduct will not serve to

mitigate my sufferings.

Verse 7. But now he hath made me weary] The Vulgate translates

thus:-Nunc autem oppressit me dolor meus; et in nihilum redacti

sunt omnes artus mei; "But now my grief oppresses me, and all my

joints are reduced to nothing." Perhaps Job alluded here to his

own afflictions, and the desolation of his family. Thou hast

made me weary with continual affliction; my strength is quite

exhausted; and thou hast made desolate all my company, not leaving

me a single child to continue my name, or to comfort me in

sickness or old age. Mr. Good translates:-

"Here, indeed, hath he distracted me;

Thou hast struck apart all my witnesses."

Verse 8. Thou hast filled me with wrinkles] If Job's disease were

the elephantiasis, in which the whole skin is wrinkled as the skin

of the elephant, from which this species of leprosy has taken its

name, these words would apply most forcibly to it; but the whole

passage, through its obscurity, has been variously rendered.

Calmet unites it with the preceding, and Houbigant is not very

different. He translates thus:-"For my trouble hath now weakened

all my frame, and brought wrinkles over me: he is present as a

witness, and ariseth against me, who telleth lies concerning me;

he openly contradicts me to my face." Mr. Good translates nearly

in the same way; others still differently.

Verse 9. He teareth me in his wrath] Who the person is that is

spoken of in this verse, and onward to the end of the fourteenth,

has been a question on which commentators have greatly differed.

Some think God, others Eliphaz, is intended: I think neither.

Probably God permitted Satan to show himself to Job, and the

horrible form which he and his demons assumed increased the

misery under which Job had already suffered so much. All the

expressions, from this to the end of the fourteenth verse, may be

easily understood on this principle; e.g., Job 16:9: "He

(Satan) gnasheth upon me with his teeth; mine enemy sharpeneth

his eyes upon me." Job 16:10: "They

(demons) have gaped on me with their mouth;-they have gathered

themselves together against me." Job 16:11: "God hath delivered

me to the ungodly, ( avil, to the EVIL ONE,) and turned me

over into the hands of the wicked." He hath abandoned me to be

tortured by the tempter and his host.

If we consider all these expressions as referring to Job's three

friends, we must, in that case, acknowledge that the figures are

all strained to an insufferable height, so as not to be justified

by any figure of speech.

Verse 13. His archers compass me] rabbaiv "his great

ones." The Vulgate and Septuagint translate this his spears; the

Syriac, Arabic, and Chaldee, his arrows. On this and the following

verse Mr. Heath observes: "The metaphor is here taken from

huntsmen: first, they surround the beast; then he is shot dead;

his entrails are next taken out; and then his body is broken up

limb by limb."

Verse 15. I have sewed sackcloth] sak, a word that has passed

into almost all languages, as I have already had occasion to

notice in other parts of this work.

Defiled my horn in the dust.] The horn was an emblem of power;

and the metaphor was originally taken from beasts, such as the

urus, wild ox, buffalo, or perhaps the rhinoceros, who were

perceived to have so much power in their horns. Hence a horn was

frequently worn on crowns and helmets, as is evident on ancient

coins; and to this day it is an appendage to the diadem of the

kings and chiefs of Abyssinia. In the second edition of Mr.

Bruce's Travels in Abyssinia, vol. viii., plates 2 and 3, we have

engravings of two chiefs, Kefla Yasous, and Woodage Ashahel, who

are represented with this emblem of power on their forehead. Mr.

Bruce thus describes it: "One thing remarkable in this cavalcade,

which I observed, was the head dress of the governors of

provinces. A large broad fillet was bound upon their forehead,

and tied behind their head. In the middle of this was a horn, or a

conical piece of silver, gilt, about four inches in length, much

in the shape of our common candle extinguishers. This is called

kirn, or horn; and is only worn in reviews, or parades after

victory. This, I apprehend, like all others of their usages is

taken from the Hebrews; and the several allusions made in

Scripture to it arise from this practice. 'I said unto the fools,

Deal not foolishly; and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn.'

'Lift not up your horn on high, speak not with a stiff neck; for

promotion cometh not,' &c. 'But my horn shalt thou exalt like the

horn of a unicorn.' 'And the horn of the righteous shall be

exalted with honour.' And so in many other places throughout the

Psalms." In a note on the same page we have the following

observation: "The crooked manner in which they hold their neck

when this ornament is on their forehead, for fear it should fall

forward, perfectly shows the meaning of 'Speak not with a stiff

neck when you hold the horn on high (or erect) like the horn of

the unicorn."'-Bruce's Travels, vol. iv., p. 407.

Defiling or rolling the horn in the dust, signifies the disgrace

or destruction of power, authority, and eminence.

Mr. Good translates, I have rolled my turban in the dust,

which he endeavours to justify in a long note. But in this, I

think, this very learned man is mistaken. The Hebrew keren is

the same as the AEthiopic kirn, and both mean exactly, in such

connection, what Mr. Bruce has noticed above. The horn on the

diadem is the emblem of power, authority, and eminence.

Verse 16. On my eyelids is the shadow of death] Death is now

fast approaching me; already his shadow is projected over me.

Verse 17. Not for any injustice] I must assert, even with my

last breath, that the charges of my friends against me are

groundless. I am afflicted unto death, but not on account of my


Also my prayer is pure.] I am no hypocrite, God knoweth.

Verse 18. O earth, cover not thou my blood] This is evidently an

allusion to the murder of Abel, and the verse has been understood

in two different ways: 1. Job here calls for justice against his

destroyers. His blood is his life, which he considers as taken

away by violence, and therefore calls for vengeance. Let my blood

cry against my murderers, as the blood of Abel cried against Cain.

My innocent life is taken away by violence, as his innocent life

was; as therefore the earth was not permitted to cover his blood,

so that his murderer should be concealed, let my death be avenged

in the same way. 2. It has been supposed that the passage means

that Job considered himself accused of shedding innocent blood;

and, conscious of his own perfect innocence, he prays that the

earth may not cover any blood shed by him. Thus Mr. Scott:-

"O earth, the blood accusing me reveal;

Its piercing voice in no recess conceal."

And this notion is followed by Mr. Good. But, with all deference

to these learned men, l do not see that this meaning can be

supported by the Hebrew text; nor was the passage so understood by

any of the ancient versions. I therefore prefer the first sense,

which is sufficiently natural, and quite in the manner of Job in

his impassioned querulousness.

Verse 19. My witness is in heaven] I appeal to God for my


Verse 20. My friends scorn me] They deride and insult me, but my

eye is towards God; I look to him to vindicate my cause.

Verse 21. O that one might plead] Let me only have liberty to

plead with God, as a man hath with his fellow.

Verse 22. When a few years are come] I prefer Mr. Good's


"But the years numbered to me are come.

And I must go the way whence I shall not return."

Job could not, in his present circumstances, expect a few years

of longer life; from his own conviction he was expecting death

every hour. The next verse, the first of the following chapter,

should come in here: My breath is corrupt, &c.] He felt himself as

in the arms of death: he saw the grave as already digged which was

to receive his dead body. This verse shows that our translation of

the twenty-second verse is improper, and vindicates Mr. Good's


I HAVE said on Job 16:9 that a part of Job's sufferings

probably arose from appalling representations made to his eye or

to his imagination by Satan and his agents. I think this neither

irrational nor improbable. That he and his demons have power to

make themselves manifest on especial occasions, has been credited

in all ages of the world; not by the weak, credulous, and

superstitious only, but also by the wisest, the most learned, and

the best of men. I am persuaded that many passages in the Book of

Job refer to this, and admit of an easy interpretation on this


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