Job 7

CHAPTER VII

Job continues to deplore his helpless and afflicted state, 1-6.

He expostulates with God concerning his afflictions, 7-12;

describes the disturbed state of his mind by visions in the

night season; abhors life, 13-16;

and, showing that he is unworthy of the notice of God, begs

pardon and respite, 17-21.

NOTES ON CHAP. VII

Verse 1. Is there not an appointed time to man] The Hebrew, with

its literal rendering, is as follows: halo

tsaba leenosh aley arets, "Is there not a warfare to miserable man

upon the earth?" And thus most of the versions have understood the

words. The SEPTUAGINT: ποτερονουχιπειρατηριονεστιοβιος

ανθρωπουεπιτηςγης; "Is not the life of man a place of trial

upon earth?" The VULGATE: Militia est vita hominis super terram,

"The life of man is a warfare upon earth?" The CHALDEE is the

same. N'y a-t-il pas comme un train de guerre ordonne aux mortels

sur la terre? "Is there not a continual campaign ordained for

mortals upon the earth?" FRENCH BIBLE. The GERMAN and DUTCH the

same. COVERDALE: Is not the life off man upon earth a very

batayle? CARMARDEN, Rouen, 1566: \@Hath man any certayne tyme upon

earth? SYRIAC and ARABIC: "Now, man has time upon the earth." Non\@

e egli il tempo determinato a l'huomo sopra la terra?" "Is there

not a determined time to man upon the earth?" BIB. ITAL., 1562.

All these are nearer to the true sense than ours; and of a bad

translation, worse use has been made by many theologians. I

believe the simple sentiment which the writer wished to convey is

this: Human life is a state of probation; and every day and place

is a time and place of exercise, to train us up for eternal life.

Here is the exercise, and here the warfare: we are enlisted

in the bands of the Church militant, and must accomplish our time

of service, and be honourably dismissed from the warfare, having

conquered through the blood of the Lamb; and then receive the

reward of the heavenly inheritance.

Verse 2. Earnestly desireth the shadow] As a man who labours

hard in the heat of the day earnestly desires to get under a

shade, or wishes for the long evening shadows, that he may

rest from his labour, get his day's wages, retire to his food, and

then go to rest. Night is probably what is meant by the shadow; as

in VIRGIL, AEn. iv., ver. 7: Humentemque Aurora polo dimoverat

UMBRAM. "The morning had removed the humid shadow, i.e., night,

from the world." Where SERVIUS justly observes: Nihil interest,

utrum UMBRAM an NOCTEM dicat: NOX enim UMBRA terrae est, "It makes

no difference whether he says shadow or night; for night is the

shadow of the earth."

Verse 3. So am I made to possess] But night is no relief to me,

it is only a continuance of my anxiety and labour. I am like the

hireling, I have my appointed labour for the day. I am like the

soldier harassed by the enemy: I am obliged to be continually on

the watch, always on the look out, with scarcely any rest.

Verse 4. When I lie down] I have so little rest, that when I do

lie down I long for the return of the light, that I may rise.

Nothing can better depict the state of a man under continual

afflictions, which afford him no respite, his days and his nights

being spent in constant anguish, utterly unable to be in any one

posture, so that he is continually changing his position in his

bed, finding ease nowhere: thus, as himself expresses it, he is

full of tossings.

Verse 5. My flesh is clothed with worms] This is perhaps no

figure, but is literally true: the miserably ulcerated state of

his body, exposed to the open air, and in a state of great

destitution, was favourable to those insects that sought such

places in which to deposit their ova, which might have produced

the animals in question. But the figure is too horrid to be

farther illustrated.

Clods of dust] I believe all the commentators have here missed

the sense. I suppose Job to allude to those incrustations of

indurated or dried pus, which are formed on the tops of pustules

in a state of decay: such as the scales which fall from the

pustules of the smallpox, when the patient becomes convalescent.

Or, if Job's disease was the elephantiasis, it may refer to the

furfuraceous scales which are continually falling off the body

in that disorder. It is well known, that in this disease the skin

becomes very rigid, so as to crack across, especially at the

different joints, out of which fissures a loathsome ichor is

continually exuding. To something like this the words may refer,

My SKIN is BROKEN, and become LOATHSOME.

Verse 6. Swifter than a weaver's shuttle] The word areg

signifies rather the weaver than his shuttle. And it has been

doubted whether any such instrument were in use in the days of

Job. Dr. Russell, in his account of Aleppo, shows that though they

wove many kinds of curious cloth, yet no shuttle was used, as they

conducted every thread of the woof by their fingers. That some

such instrument as the shuttle was in use from time immemorial,

there can be no doubt: and it is certain that such an instrument

must have been in the view of Job, without which the figure would

lose its expression and force. In almost every nation the whole of

human existence has been compared to a web; and the principle of

life, through the continual succession of moments, hours, days,

weeks, months, and years, to a thread woven through that web.

Hence arose the fable of the Parcae or Fates, called also the

Destinies or Fatal Sisters. They were the daughters of Erebus

and Nox, darkness and night; and were three in number, and named

Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Clotho held the distaff; Lachesis

spun off the thread; and Atropos cut it off with her scissors,

when it was determined that life should end. Job represents the

thread of his life as being spun out with great rapidity and

tenuity, and about to be cut off.

And are spent without hope.] Expectation of future good was at

an end; hope of the alleviation of his miseries no longer existed.

The hope of future good is the balm of life: where that is not,

there is despair; where despair is, there is hell. The fable above

mentioned is referred to by Virgil, Ecl. iv., ver. 46, but is

there applied to time:-

Talia Secla, suis dixerunt, currite, fusis

Concordes stabili fatorum numine Parcae.

"The FATES, when they this happy thread have spun

Shall bless the sacred clue, and bid it smoothly run."

DRYDEN.

Isaiah uses the same figure, Isa 38:12:-

My life is cut off, as by the weaver:

He will sever me from the loom.

In the course of the day thou wilt finish my web.

LOWTH.

Coverdale translates thus: My dayes passe over more spedely then

a weaver can weave out his webbe and are gone or I am awarre.

A fine example of this figure is found in the Teemour Nameh,

which I shall give in Mr. Good's translation:-

"Praise be to God, who hath woven the web of human affairs in

the loom of his will and of his wisdom, and hath made waves of

times and of seasons to flow from the fountain of his

providence into the ocean of his power." The simile is fine, and

elegantly expressed.

Verse 7. My life is wind] Mr. Good translates, "O remember

that, if my life pass away, mine eye shall turn no more to scenes

of goodness;" which he paraphrases thus: "O remember that, if my

life pass away, never more shall I witness those scenes of Divine

favour, never more adore thee for those proofs of unmerited mercy,

which till now have been so perpetually bestowed on me." I think

the common translation gives a very good sense.

Verse 8. Shall see me no more] If I die in my present state,

with all this load of undeserved odium which is cast upon me by my

friends, I shall never have an opportunity of vindicating my

character, and regaining the good opinion of mankind.

Thine eyes are upon one, and I am not.] Thou canst look me

into nothing. Or, Let thine eye be upon me as judged to death, and

I shall immediately cease to live among men.

Verse 9. As the cloud is consumed] As the cloud is dissipated,

so is the breath of those that go down to the grave. As that cloud

shall never return, so shall it be with the dead; they return no

more to sojourn with the living. See on the following verses.

Verse 10. He shall return no more to his house, neither shall

his place know him any more.] He does not mean that he shall be

annihilated but that he shall never more become an inhabitant of

the earth.

The word , which we properly enough translate grave, here

signifies also the state of the dead, hades, and sometimes any

deep pit, or even hell itself.

Verse 11. Therefore I will not refrain] All is hopeless; I will

therefore indulge myself in complaining.

Verse 12. Am I a sea, or a whale] "Am I condemned as the

Egyptians were who were drowned in the Red Sea? or am I as

Pharaoh, who was drowned in it in his sins, that thou settest a

keeper over me?" Targum. Am I as dangerous as the sea, that I

should be encompassed about with barriers, lest I should hurt

mankind? Am I like an ungovernable wild beast or dragon, that I

must be put under locks and bars? I think our own version less

exceptionable than any other hitherto given of this verse. The

meaning is sufficiently plain. Job was hedged about and shut in

with insuperable difficulties of various kinds; he was entangled

as a wild beast in a net; the more he struggled, the more he lost

his strength, and the less probability there was of his being

extricated from his present situation. The sea is shut in with

barriers, over which it cannot pass; for God has "placed the sand

for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot

pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can

they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over

it," Jer 5:22.

"For thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that

they turn not again to cover the earth;" Ps 104:9. "Or

who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it

had issued out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment

thereof, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and brake up

for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors; and said,

Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther: and here shall thy proud

waves be stayed;" Job 38:8.

Here then is Job's allusion: the bounds, doors, garment,

swaddling bands, decreed place, and bars, are the watchers or

keepers which God has set to prevent the sea from overflowing

the earth; so Job's afflictions and distresses were the bounds

and bars which God had apparently set to prevent him from injuring

his fellow creatures. At least Job, in his complaint, so takes it.

Am I like the sea, which thou hast imprisoned within bounds, ready

to overwhelm and destroy the country? or am I like a dragon, which

must be cooped up in the same way, that it may not have the power

to kill and destroy? Surely in my prosperity I gave no evidence of

such a disposition; therefore should not be treated as a man

dangerous to society. In this Job shows that he will not refrain

his mouth.

Verse 14. Thou sparest me with dreams] There is no doubt that

Satan was permitted to haunt his imagination with dreadful dreams

and terrific appearances; so that, as soon as he fell asleep, he

was suddenly roused and alarmed by those appalling images. He

needed rest by sleep, but was afraid to close his eyes because of

the horrid images which were presented to his imagination. Could

there be a state more deplorable than this?

Verse 15. Chooseth strangling] It is very likely that he felt,

in those interrupted and dismal slumbers, an oppression and

difficulty of breathing something like the incubus or nightmare;

and, distressing as this was, he would prefer death by this means

to any longer life in such miseries.

Verse 16. I loathe it; I would not live alway] Life, in such

circumstances, is hateful to me; and though I wish for long life,

yet if length of days were offered to me with the sufferings which

I now undergo, I would despise the offer and spurn the boon.

Mr. Good is not satisfied with our common version, and has

adopted the following, which in his notes he endeavours to

illustrate and defend:

Ver. 15. So that my soul coveteth suffocation,

And death in comparison with my suffering.

Ver. 16. No longer would I live! O, release me!

How are my days vanity!

Verse. 17. What is man that thou shouldest magnify him? and that

thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?] Two different ideas have

been drawn from these words:-

1. Man is not worth thy notice; why therefore dost thou contend

with him?

2. How astonishing is thy kindness that thou shouldest fix thy

heart-thy strongest affections, on such a poor, base, vile,

impotent creature as man, ( enosh,) that thou shouldest so

highly exalt him beyond all other creatures, and mark him with the

most particular notice of thy providence and grace!

The paraphrase of Calmet is as follows: "Does man, such as he at

present is, merit thy attention! What is man that God should make

it his business to examine, try, prove, and afflict him? Is it not

doing him too much honour to think thus seriously about him? O

Lord! I am not worthy that thou shouldest concern thyself about

me!"

Verse 19. Till I swallow down my spittle?] This is a proverbial

expression, and exists among the Arabs to the present day; the

very language being nearly the same. It signifies the same as, Let

me draw my breath; give me a moment's space; let me have even the

twinkling of an eye. I am urged by my sufferings to continue my

complaint; but my strength is exhausted, my mouth dry with

speaking. Suspend my sufferings even for so short a space as is

necessary to swallow my spittle, that my parched tongue may be

moistened, so that I may renew my complaint.

Verse 20. I have sinned; what shall I do] Dr. Kennicott contends

that these words are spoken to Eliphaz, and not to GOD, and would

paraphrase them thus: "You say I must have been a sinner. What

then? I have not sinned against thee, O thou spy upon mankind! Why

hast thou set up me as a butt or mark to shoot at? Why am I become

a burden unto thee? Why not rather overlook my transgression, and

pass by mine iniquity? I am now sinking to the dust! To-morrow,

perhaps, I shall be sought in vain!" See his vindication of Job at

the end of these notes on this book. Others consider the address

as made to God. Taken in this light, the sense is plain enough.

Those who suppose that the address is made to GOD, translate the

20th verse Job 7:20 thus: "Be it that I have sinned, what

injury can I do unto thee, O thou Observer of man? Why hast thou

set me up as a mark for thee, and why am I made a burden to thee?"

The Septuagint is thus: ειεγωημαρτοντιδυνησομαιπραξαιο

επισταμενοςτοννουντωνανθρωπων; If I have sinned, what can I

do, O thou who knowest the mind of men? Thou knowest that it is

impossible for me to make any restitution. I cannot blot out my

offenses; but whether I have sinned so as to bring all these

calamities upon me, thou knowest, who searchest the hearts of men.

Verse 21. And why dost thou not pardon] These words are spoken

after the manner of men. If thou have any design to save me, if

I have sinned, why dost thou not pardon my transgression, as thou

seest that I am a dying man; and to-morrow morning thou mayest

seek me to do me good, but in all probability I shall then be no

more, and all thy kind thoughts towards me shall be unavailing? If

I have sinned, then why should not I have a part in that mercy

that flows so freely to all mankind?

That Job does not criminate himself here, as our text intimates,

is evident enough from his own repeated assertions of his

innocence. And it is most certain that Bildad, who immediately

answers, did not consider him as criminating but as justifying

himself; and this is the very ground on which he takes up the

subject. Were we to admit the contrary, we should find strange

inconsistencies, if not contradictions, in Job's speeches: on such

a ground the controversy must have immediately terminated, as he

would then have acknowledged that of which his friends accused

him; and here the book of Job would have ended.

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