Job 5


Eliphaz proceeds to show that the wicked are always punished by

the justice of God, though they may appear to flourish for a

time, 1-8;

extols the providence of God, by which the counsels of the

wicked are brought to naught, and the poor fed and supported,


shows the blessedness of being corrected by God, in the

excellent fruits that result from it; and exhorts Job to

patience and submission, with the promise of all secular

prosperity, and a happy death in a mature and comfortable

old age, 17-27.


Verse 1. Call now, if there be any] This appears to be a strong

irony. From whom among those whose foundations are in the dust,

and who are crushed before the moth, canst thou expect succour?

To which of the saints wilt thou turn?] To whom among the holy

ones, ( kedoshim,) or among those who are equally dependent

on Divine support with thyself, and can do no good but as

influenced and directed by God, canst thou turn for help? Neither

angel nor saint can help any man unless sent especially from God;

and all prayers to them must be foolish and absurd, not to say

impious. Can the channel afford me water, if the fountain cease to

emit it?

Verse 2. For wrath killeth the foolish man] Foolish, silly, and

simple, are epithets given by Solomon to sinners and

transgressors of all kinds. Such parallelisms have afforded a

presumptive argument that Solomon was the author of this book. See

the preface. Job 1:1 The words of Eliphaz may be considered as

a sort of maxim, which the wisdom and experience of ages had

served to establish; viz., The wrath of God is manifested only

against the wicked and impious; and if thou wert not such, God

would not thus contend with thee.

Verse 3. I have seen the foolish taking root] I have seen wicked

men for a time in prosperity, and becoming established in the

earth; but I well knew, from God's manner of dealing with men,

that they must soon be blasted. I even ventured to pronounce their

doom; for I knew that, in the order of God's providence, that was

inevitable. I cursed his habitation.

Verse 4. His children are far from safety] His posterity shall

not continue in prosperity. Ill gotten, ill spent; whatever is got

by wrong must have God's curse on it.

They are crushed in the gate] The Targum says, They shall be

bruised in the gate of hell, in the day of the great judgment.

There is reference here to a custom which I have often had

occasion to notice: viz., that in the Eastern countries the

court-house, or tribunal of justice, was at the GATE of the

city; here the magistrates attended, and hither the plaintiff

and defendant came for justice.

Verse 5. Whose harvest] Their possessions, because acquired by

unjust means, shall not be under the protection of God's

providence; he shall abandon them to be pillaged and destroyed by

the wandering half-starved hordes of the desert banditti. They

shall carry it suddenly off; even the thorns-grain, weeds,

thistles, and all, shall they carry off in their rapacious hurry.

The robber swalloweth us] Or, more properly, the thirsty,

tsammim, as is plain from their swallowing up or gulping down;

opposed to the hungry or half-starved, mentioned in the preceding

clause. The hungry shall eat up their grain, and the thirsty

shall drink down their wine and oil, here termed cheylam,

their strength or power, for the most obvious reasons.

There seem to be two allusions in this verse: 1. To the hordes

of wandering predatory banditti, or half-starved Arabs of the

desert, who have their scanty maintenance by the plunder of

others. These descendants of Ishmael have ever had their hands

against all men, and live to this day in the same predatory manner

in which they have lived for several thousands of years. M.

Volney's account of them is striking: "These men are smaller,

leaner, and blacker, than any of the Bedouins yet discovered.

Their wasted legs had only tendons without calves. Their belly was

shrunk to their back. They are in general small, lean, and

swarthy, and more so in the bosom of the desert than on the

borders of the more cultivated country. They are ordinarily about

five feet or five feet two inches high; they seldom have more than

about six ounces of food for the whole day. Six or seven dates,

soaked in melted butter, a little milk, or curd, serve a man for

twenty-four hours; and he seems happy when he can add a small

portion of coarse flour, or a little ball of rice. Their camels

also, which are their only support, are remarkably meagre, living

on the meanest and most scanty provision. Nature has given it a

small head without ears, at the end of a long neck without flesh.

She has taken from its legs and thighs every muscle not

immediately requisite for motion; and in short has bestowed on its

withered body only the vessels and tendons necessary to connect

its frame together. She has furnished it with a strong jaw, that

it may grind the hardest aliments; and, lest it should consume too

much, she has straitened its stomach, and obliged it to chew the

cud." Such is the description given of the Bedouin and his camel,

by M. Volney, who, while he denies the true God, finds out a deity

which he calls Nature, whose works evince the highest providence,

wisdom, and design! And where does this most wonderful and

intelligent goddess dwell? Nowhere but in the creed of the

infidel; while the genuine believer knows that nature is only the

agent created and employed by the great and wise God to

accomplish, under his direction, the greatest and most stupendous

beneficial effects.

The second allusion in the verse I suppose to be to the loss Job

had sustained of his cattle by the predatory Sabeans; and all this

Eliphaz introduces for the support of his grand argument, to

convict Job of hidden crimes, on which account his enemies were

permitted to destroy his property; that property, because of this

wickedness, being placed out of the protection of God's


Verse 6. Affliction cometh not forth of the dust] If there were

not an adequate cause, thou couldst not be so grievously


Spring out of the ground] It is not from mere natural causes

that affliction and trouble come; God's justice inflicts them upon

offending man.

Verse 7. Yet man is born unto trouble] leamal, to labour.

He must toil and be careful; and if in the course of his labour he

meet with trials and difficulties, he should rise superior to

them, and not sink as thou dost.

As the sparks By upward.] ubeney resheph

yagbihu uph; And the sons of the coal lift up their flight, or

dart upwards. And who are the sons of the coal? Are they not

bold, intrepid, ardent, fearless men, who rise superior to all

their trials; combat what are termed chance and occurrence;

succumb under no difficulties; and rise superior to time, tide,

fate, and fortune? I prefer this to all the various meanings of

the place with which I have met. Coverdale translates, It is man

that is borne unto mysery, like as the byrde for to fle. Most of

the ancient versions give a similar sense.

Verse 8. I would seek unto God] Were I in your place, instead of

wasting my time, and irritating my soul with useless complaints, I

would apply to my Maker, and, if conscious of my innocence, would

confidently commit my cause to him.

Verse 9. Which doeth great things] No work, however complicated,

is too deep for his counsel to plan; none, however stupendous, is

too great for his power to execute. He who is upright is always

safe in referring his cause to God, and trusting in him.

Verse 10. Who giveth rain upon the earth] The Chaldee gives this

verse a fine turn: "Who gives rain on the face of the land of

Israel, and sends waters on the face of the provinces of the

people." Similar to our Lord's saying, which is expressed in the

half of the compass: Your Father which is in heaven-SENDETH RAIN


Sendeth waters upon the fields] The term chutsoth, which

we translate fields, and generally signifies streets, may here

mean those plantations which are laid out in ridges or plats,

in an orderly, regular manner. God does not only send rain upon

the earth in a general manner, but, by an especial providence,

waters the cultivated ground, so that not one ridge is destitute

of its due proportion of fructifying moisture.

Verse 11. To set up on high those that be low] He so distributes

his providential blessings without partiality, that the land of

the poor man is as well sunned and watered as that of the rich;

so that he is thus set upon a level with the lords of the soil.

Verse 12. He disappointeth the devices of the crafty] All these

sayings refer to God's particular providence, by which he is ever

working for the good, and counterworking the plots of the wicked.

And as various as are the contingent, capricious, and malevolent

acts of men, so varied are his providential interferences;

disappointing the devices, snares, and plots of the crafty, so that

their plans being confounded, and their machinery broken in

pieces, their hands cannot perform their enterprises.

Verse 13. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness] So

counterworks them as to cause their feet to be taken in their own

snares, and their evil dealings to fall on their own pate. Such

frequent proofs has God given of his especial interference in

behalf of the innocent, who have been the objects of the plots and

evil designs of the wicked, by turning those evil devices against

their framers, that he who digs a pit for his neighbour shall fall

into it himself has become a universal adage, and has passed,

either in so many words or in sense, into all the languages of all

the people of the earth. Lucretius expresses it strongly:

Circumretit enim vis atque injuria quemque,

Atque, unde exorta est, ad eum plerumque revortit.

LUCRET. lib. v., ver. 1151.

"For force and wrong entangle the man that uses them;

And, for the most part, recoil on the head of the contriver."

Verse 14. They meet with darkness in the daytime] God confounds

them and their measures; and, with all their cunning and

dexterity, they are outwitted, and often act on their own

projects, planned with care and skill, as if they had been the

crudest conceptions of the most disordered minds. They act in

noonday as if the sun were extinct, and their eyes put out. Thus

does God "abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound

their devices."

Verse 15. He saveth the poor from the sword, from their mouth]

This is rather a harsh construction. To avoid this, some have

proposed to render mechereb, which we translate from the

sword, the persecuted, but, I am afraid, on very slender

authority. Instead of mechereb mippihem, "from the

sword, from their mouth," eleven of Kennicott and De Rossi's

MSS. read mechereb pihem, from the sword of their mouth;

and with these MSS. the Chaldee, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic

agree. The verse, therefore, may be translated thus:-

He saveth from the sword of their mouth;

The poor from the hand of the mighty.

Or thus:-

He saveth from the sword of their mouth;

And with a strong hand the impoverished.

Verse 16. So the poor] dal, he who is made thin, who is

wasted, extenuated; hath hope-he sees what God is accustomed to

do, and he expects a repetition of gracious dealings in his own

behalf; and because God deals thus with those who trust in him,

therefore the mouth of impiety is stopped.

Religion is kept alive in the earth, because of God's signal

interventions in behalf of the bodies and souls of his followers.

Verse 17. Behold, happy is the man] hinneh, behold, is

wanting in five of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and also in

the Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic.

We have had fathers of our flesh, who corrected us for their

pleasure, or according to their caprices, and we were subject to

them: how much more should we be subject to the Father of spirits,

and live? for he corrects that we may be partakers of his

holiness, in order that we may be rendered fit for his glory. See

Heb 12:5; Jas 1:12; and Pr 3:12.

Verse 18. For he maketh sore, and bindeth up. Thus nervously

rendered by Coverdale, For though he make a wounde, he giveth a

medicyne agayne; though he smyte, his honde maketh whole agayne.

Verse 19. He shall deliver thee in six troubles] The numbers six

and seven are put here for many. Though a number of troubles

should come upon thee all at once, and there should be no hope,

humanly speaking, yet God would rid thee out of them all; for he

saves as well from many as from few. We may also understand the

words, He who hath been thy deliverer in past troubles, will not

deny his help in those which are to come.

Verse 20. In famine he shall redeem thee] The Chaldee, which

understands this chapter as speaking of the troubles and

deliverances of the Israelites in Egypt and the wilderness,

renders this verse as follows: "In the famine of Egypt he redeemed

thee from death; and in the war of Amalek, from the slaying of the


Verse 21. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue] The

Targum refers this to the incantations of Balaam: "From injury

by the tongue of Balaam thou shalt be hidden in the clouds; and

thou shalt not fear from the blasting of the Midianites, when it

shall come."

Perhaps no evil is more dreadful than the scourge of the tongue:

evil-speaking, detraction, backbiting, calumny, slander,

tale-bearing, whispering, and scandalizing, are some of the terms

which we use when endeavouring to express the baleful influence

and effects of that member, which is a world of fire, kindled from

the nethermost hell. The Scripture abounds with invectives and

execrations against it. See Ps 31:20; 52:2-4; Pr 12:18; 14:3;

Jas 3:1-8.

Neither shalt thou be afraid] "Thou shouldst have such strong

confidence in God, that even in the presence of destruction thou

shouldst not fear death," the God of life and power being with


Verse 22. At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh] This most

forcibly expresses the strongest security, and confidence in that

security. "In the desolation of Sihon, and in the famine of the

desert, thou shalt laugh; and of the camps of Og, who is compared

to a wild beast of the earth, thou shalt not be afraid."-Targum.

Verse 23. Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field]

Instead of abney, stones, Mr. Good reads beney,

sons, or produce; but this reading is not supported by any ancient

version, nor, as far as I know, by any MS. yet collated. We must,

therefore, take up the text as we find it, and make the best we

can of the present reading.

The Chaldee gives a plausible sense: Thou needest not to fear,

"because thy covenant is on tables of stone, which are publicly

erected in the field; and the Canaanites, which are compared to

the beasts of the field, have made peace with thee."

Perhaps the reference is to those rocks or strong holds, where

banditti secured themselves and their prey, or where the emirs or

neighbouring chiefs had their ordinary residence. Eliphaz may be

understood as saying: Instead, then, of taking advantage of thee,

as the Sabeans have done, the circumjacent chieftains will be

confederate with thee; and the very beasts of the field will not

be permitted to harm thy flocks.

Coverdale seems to have had an idea of this kind, as we find he

translates the verse thus:-

But the castels in the londe shall be confederate with the,

And the beastes of the felde shall give the peace.

I believe the above to be the meaning of the place. See the next


Verse 24. Thou shalt know] Thou shalt be so fully satisfied of

the friendly disposition of all thy neighbours, that thou shalt

rest secure in thy bed, and not be afraid of any danger, though

sleeping in thy tent in the field; and when thou returnest from

thy country excursions, thou shalt find that thy habitation has

been preserved in peace and prosperity, and that thou hast made no

mistake in thy trust, in thy confidence, or in thy confederates.

The word oholecha, "thy tabernacle," means simply a tent,

or moveable dwelling, composed of poles, pins, and cloth, or

skin, to be pitched any where in a few moments, and struck again

with the same ease.

The word navecha, which we properly translate thy

habitation, signifies a solid, permanent dwelling-place. See

Jos 22:4, 6-8; 2Sa 18:17; 19:8; 1Ki 12:16;

Ps 52:7; 91:10; 132:3; La 2:4; Mal 2:12; and with these

passages compare the place in the text.

As to techeta, which we translate thou shalt not SIN, it

comes from chata, to err, to mistake, to miss the

mark: hence to sin, transgress God's laws, seeking for happiness

in forbidden and unlawful things, and therefore missing the mark,

because in them happiness is not to be found: and it is very

likely, from the connection above, that to mistake or err is its

meaning in this place. I need not add, that the Arab chiefs, who

had their castles or strong holds, frequently in their country

excursions lodged in tents in the open fields; and that on

such occasions a hostile neighbour sometimes took advantage of

their absence, attacked and pillaged their houses, and carried off

their families and household. See at the end of this chapter.

See Clarke on Job 5:27.

Verse 25. Thine offspring as the grass] Thou shalt have a

numerous and permanent issue.

Verse 26. Thou shalt come to thy grave] Thou shalt not die

before thy time; thou shalt depart from life like a full-fed

guest; happy in what thou hast known, and in what thou hast


Like as a shock of corn] Thou shalt completely run through the

round of the spring, summer, autumn, and winter of life; and thou

shalt be buried like a wholesome seed in the earth; from which

thou shalt again rise up into an eternal spring!

Verse 27. Lo this, we have searched it] What I have told thee is

the sum of our wisdom and experience on these important points.

These are established maxims, which universal experience supports.

Know-understand, and reduce them to practice for thy good. Thus

ends Eliphaz, the Temanite, "full of wise saws and ancient

instances;" but he miserably perverted them in his application of

them to Job's case and character. They contain, however, many

wholesome truths, of which the wise in heart may make a very

advantageous practical use.

THE predatory excursions referred to in Job 5:23 were not

unfrequent among our own barbarous ancestors. An affecting picture

of this kind is drawn by Shakespeare, from Holinshed's Chronicles,

of the case of Macduff, whose castle was attacked in his absence

by Macbeth and his wife and all his children murdered. A similar

incident was the ground of the old heroic ballad of Hardicanute.

When the veteran heard that a host of Norwegians had landed to

pillage the country, he armed, and posted to the field to meet the

invading foe. He slew the chief in battle, and routed his

pillaging banditti. While this was taking place, another party

took the advantage of his absence, attacked his castle, and

carried off or murdered his lovely wife and family; which, being

perceived on his return by the war and age-worn chief, is thus

affectingly described by the unknown poet:-

Loud and chill blew the westlin wind,

Sair beat the heavy shower,

Mirk grew the nicht eir Hardyknute

Wan neir his stately tower:

His tower that us'd with torches bleise

To shine sae far at night,

Seim'd now as black as mourning weid,

Nae marvel, sair he sich'd.

"Thair's nae light in my lady's bowir,

Thair's nae light in my hall;

Nae blink shynes round my Fairly fair,

Nor ward stands on my wall.

"What bodes it, Thomas! Robert! say?"

Nae answer-speaks their dreid;

"Stand back, my sons, I'll be your gyde;"

But bye they pass'd with speid.

"As fast I haif sped owr Scotland's foes"

There ceis'd his brag of weir.

Sair schamt to mind ocht but his dame,

And maiden Fairly fair.

Black feir he felt; but what to feir

He wist not yet with dreid;

Sair schook his body, sair his limbs,

And all the warrior fled.

The ending of this poem is lost; but we here see that the castle

of Hardicanute was surprised, and his family destroyed, or carried

off, while he and his sons had been employed in defeating the

invading Norwegians. Thank God! civilization, the offspring of the

spread of Christianity, has put an end to these barbarous

practices among us; but in the East, where Christianity is not,

they flourish still. Britons! send out your Bible and your

missionaries to tame these barbarians; for whom heathenism has

done nothing, and the Koran next to nothing. Civilization itself,

without the Bible, will do as little; for the civilized Greeks and

Romans were barbarians, fell and murderous; living in envy and

malice, hateful, hating one another, and offering hundreds at a

time of human victims to their ruthless deities. Nothing but

Christianity ever did, or even can, cure these evils.

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