Job 8

CHAPTER VIII

Bildad answers, and reproves Job for his justifying himself,

1, 2.

Shows that God is just, and never punishes but for iniquity;

and intimates that it was on account of their sins that his

children were cut off, 3, 4.

States that, if Job would humble himself to the Almighty,

provided he were innocent, his captivity would soon be turned,

and his latter end be abundantly prosperous, 5-7.

Appeals to the ancients for the truth of what he says; and

draws examples from the vegetable world, to show how soon the

wicked may be cut off, and the hope of the hypocrite perish,

8-19.

Asserts that God never did cast of a perfect man nor help the

wicked; and that, if Job be innocent, his end shall be crowned

with prosperity, 20-22.

NOTES ON CHAP. VIII

Verse 1. Bildad the Shuhite] Supposed to be a descendant of

Shuah, one of the sons of Abraham, by Keturah, who dwelt in

Arabia Deserta, called in Scripture the east country. See

Ge 25:1, 2, 6.

Verse 2. How long wilt thou speak these things?] Wilt thou still

go on to charge God foolishly? Thy heavy affliction proves that

thou art under his wrath; and his wrath, thus manifested, proves

that it is for thy sins that he punisheth thee.

Be like a strong wind?] The Arabic, with which the Syriac

agrees, is [Syriac] rucholazomati, the spirit of pride. Wilt thou

continue to breathe forth a tempest of words? This is more

literal.

Verse 3. Doth God pervert judgment!] God afflicts thee; can he

afflict thee for naught? As he is just, his judgment is just; and

he could not inflict punishment unless there be a cause.

Verse 4. If thy children have sinned] I know thy children have

been cut off by a terrible judgment; but was it not because by

transgression they had filled up the measure of their iniquity?

And he have cast them away] Has sent them off, says the Targum,

to the place of their transgression-to that punishment due to

their sins.

Verse 5. If thou wouldest seek unto God] Though God has so

severely afflicted thee, and removed thy children by a terrible

judgment; yet if thou wilt now humble thyself before him, and

implore his mercy, thou shalt be saved. He cut them off in their

sins, but he spares thee; and this is a proof that he waits to be

gracious to thee.

Verse 6. If thou wert pure and upright] Concerning thy guilt

there can be no doubt; for if thou hadst been a holy man, and

these calamities had occurred through accident, or merely by the

malice of thy enemies, would not God, long ere this, have

manifested his power and justice in thy behalf, punished thy

enemies, and restored thee to affluence?

The habitation of thy righteousness] Strongly ironical. If thy

house had been as a temple of God, in which his worship had been

performed, and his commandments obeyed, would it now be in a state

of ruin and desolation?

Verse 7. Though thy beginning was small] Thy former state,

compared to that into which God would have brought thee, would be

small; for to show his respect for thy piety, because thou hadst,

through thy faithful attachment to him, suffered the loss of all

things, he would have greatly multiplied thy former prosperity, so

that thou shouldest now have vastly more than thou didst ever

before possess.

Verse 8. Inquire-of the former age] ledor rishon,

of the first age; of the patriarchs; the first generation of men

that dwelt upon the earth: not of the age that was just past, as

Mr. Peters and several others have imagined, in order to keep up

the presumption of Job's high antiquity. Bildad most evidently

refers to an antiquity exceedingly remote.

Verse 9. For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing] It is

evident that Bildad refers to those times in which human life was

protracted to a much longer date than that in which Job lived;

when men, from the long period of eight or nine hundred years, had

the opportunity of making many observations, and treasuring up a

vast fund of knowledge and experience. In comparison with them, he

considers that age as nothing, and that generation as being only

of yesterday, not having had opportunity of laying up knowledge:

nor could they expect it, as their days upon earth would be but a

shadow, compared with that substantial time in which the fathers

had lived. Perhaps there may be an allusion here to the shadow

projected by the gnomon of a dial, during the time the sun is

above the horizon. As is a single solar day, so is our life. The

following beautiful motto I have seen on a sundial: UMBRAE SUMUS!

"We are shadows!" referring to the different shadows by which the

gnomon marked the hours, during the course of the day; and all

intended to convey this moral lesson to the passengers: Your life

is composed of time, marked out by such shadows as these. Such as

time is, such are you; as fleeting, as transitory, as

unsubstantial. These shadows lost, time is lost; time lost,

soul lost! Reader take heed!

The writer of this book probably had before his eyes these words

of David, in his last prayer, 1Ch 29:15: "For we are strangers

before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days

upon earth are as a SHADOW, and there is no expectation. There is

no reason to hope that they shall be prolonged; for our lives are

limited down to threescore years and ten, as the average of the

life even of old men.

Verse 10. Shall not they teach thee] Wilt thou not treat their

maxims with the utmost deference and respect? They utter words

from their heart-what they say is the fruit of long and careful

experience.

Verse 11. Can the rush grow] The word gome, which we

translate rush, is, without doubt, the Egyptian flag papyrus, on

which the ancients wrote, and from which our paper derives its

name. The Septuagint, who made their Greek translation in Egypt,

(if this book made a part of it,) and knew well the import of each

word in both languages, render gome by παπυρος papyrus,

thus: μηθαλλειπαπυροςανευυδατος; Can the PAPYRUS flourish

without water? Their translation leaves no doubt concerning the

meaning of the original. They were probably writing on the very

substance in question, while making their translation. The

technical language of no science is so thoroughly barbarous as

that of botany: the description of this plant by Linnaeus, shall

be a proof. The plant he calls "Cyperus Papyrus; CLASS Triandria;

ORDER Monogynia; Culm three-sided, naked; umbel longer than the

involucres; involucels three-leaved, setaceous, longer; spikelets

in threes.-Egypt, &c. Involucre eight-leaved; general umbel

copious, the rays sheathing at the base; partial on very short

peduncles; spikelets alternate, sessile; culm leafy at the base;

leaves hollow, ensiform."

Hear our plain countryman John Gerarde, who describes the same

plant: "Papyrus Nilotica, Paper Reed, hath many large flaggie

leaves, somewhat triangular and smooth, not much unlike those of

cats-taile, rising immediately from a tuft of roots, compact of

many strings; amongst the which it shooteth up two or three naked

stalkes, square, and rising some six or seven cubits high above

the water; at the top whereof there stands a tuft or bundle off

chaffie threds, set in comely order, resembling a tuft of floures,

but barren and void of seed;" GERARDE'S Herbal, p. 40. Which of

the two descriptions is easiest to be understood by common sense,

either with or without a knowledge of the Latin language? This

plant grows in the muddy banks of the Nile, as it requires an

abundance of water for its nourishment.

Can the flag grow without water?] Parkhurst supposes that the

word achu, which we render flag, is the same with that

species of reed which Mr. Hasselquist found growing near the river

Nile. He describes it (p. 97) as "having scarcely any branches,

but numerous leaves, which are narrow, smooth, channelled on the

upper surface; and the plant about eleven feet high. The Egyptians

make ropes of the leaves. They lay the plant in water, like hemp,

and then make good and strong cables of them." As ach

signifies to join, connect, associate, hence achi, a

brother, achu may come from the same root, and have its

name from its usefulness in making ropes, cables, &c., which are

composed of associated threads, and serve to tie, bind together,

&c.

Verse 12. Whilst it is yet in his greenness] We do not know

enough of the natural history of this plant to be able to discern

the strength of this allusion; but we learn from it that, although

this plant be very succulent, and grow to a great size, yet it is

short-lived, and speedily withers; and this we may suppose to be

in the dry season, or on the retreat of the waters of the Nile.

However, Soon RIPE, soon ROTTEN, is a maxim in horticulture.

Verse 13. So are the paths] The papyrus and the rush

flourish while they have a plentiful supply of ooze and water; but

take these away, and their prosperity is speedily at an end; so it

is with the wicked and profane; their prosperity is of short

duration, however great it may appear to be in the beginning. Thou

also, O thou enemy of God, hast flourished for a time; but the

blast of God is come upon thee, and now thou art dried up from the

very roots.

The hypocrite's hope shall perish] A hypocrite, or rather

profligate, has no inward religion, for his heart is not right

with God; he has only hope, and that perishes when he gives up the

ghost.

This is the first place in which the word hypocrite occurs, or

the noun chaneph, which rather conveys the idea of

pollution and defilement than of hypocrisy. A hypocrite is

one who only carries the mask of godliness, to serve secular

purposes; who wishes to be taken for a religionist, though he is

conscious he has no religion. Such a person cannot have hope of

any good, because he knows he is insincere: but the person in the

text has hope; therefore hypocrite cannot be the meaning of the

original word. But all the vile, the polluted, and the profligate

have hope; they hope to end their iniquities before they end life;

and they hope to get at last to the kingdom of heaven. Hypocrite

is a very improper translation of the Hebrew.

Verse 14. Whose hope shall be cut off] Such persons, subdued by

the strong habits of sin, hope on fruitlessly, till the last

thread of the web of life is cut off from the beam; and then they

find no more strength in their hope than is in the threads of the

spider's web.

Mr. Good renders, Thus shall their support rot away. The

foundation on which they trust is rotten, and by and by the whole

superstructure of their confidence shall tumble into ruin.

Verse 15. He shall lean upon his house] This is all allusion to

the spider. When he suspects his web, here called his house, to be

frail or unsure, he leans upon it in different parts, propping

himself on his hinder legs, and pulling with his fore claws, to

see if all be safe. If he find any part of it injured, he

immediately adds new cordage to that part, and attaches it

strongly to the wall. When he finds all safe and strong, he

retires into his hole at one corner, supposing himself to be in a

state of complete security, when in a moment the brush or the

besom sweeps away both himself, his house, and his confidence.

This I have several times observed; and it is in this that the

strength and point of the comparison consist. The wicked, whose

hope is in his temporal possessions strengthens and keeps his

house in repair; and thus leans on his earthly supports; in a

moment, as in the case of the spider, his house is overwhelmed by

the blast of God's judgments, and himself probably buried in its

ruins. This is a very fine and expressive metaphor, which not one

of the commentators that I have seen has ever discovered.

Verse 16. He is green before the sun] This is another metaphor.

The wicked is represented as a luxuriant plant, in a good soil,

with all the advantages of a good situation; well exposed to the

sun; the roots intervolving themselves with stones, so as to

render the tree more stable; but suddenly a blast comes, and the

tree begins to die. The sudden fading of its leaves, &c., shows

that its root is become as rottenness, and its vegetable life

destroyed. I have often observed sound and healthy trees, which

were flourishing in all the pride of vegetative health, suddenly

struck by some unknown and incomprehensible blast, begin to die

away, and perish from the roots. I have seen also the prosperous

wicked, in the inscrutable dispensations of the Divine providence,

blasted, stripped, made bare, and despoiled, in the same way.

Verse 18. If he destroy him from his place] Is not this a plain

reference to the alienation of his inheritance? God destroys him

from it; it becomes the property of another; and on his revisiting

it, the place, by a striking prosopopoeia, says, "I know thee not;

I have never seen thee." This also have I witnessed; I looked on

it, felt regret, received instruction, and hasted away.

Verse 19. Behold this is the joy of his way] A strong irony.

Here is the issue of all his mirth, of his sports, games, and

pastimes! See the unfeeling, domineering, polluting and polluted

scape-grace, levelled with those whom he had despised, a servant

of servants, or unable to work through his debaucheries, cringing

for a morsel of bread, or ingloriously ending his days in that

bane of any well-ordered and civilized state, a parish workhouse.

This also I have most literally witnessed.

Out of the earth shall others gross.] As in the preceding case,

when one plant or tree is blasted or cut down, another may be

planted in the same place; so, when a spendthrift has run through

his property, another possesses his inheritance, and grows up from

that soil in which he himself might have continued to flourish,

had it not been for his extravagance and folly.

This verse Mr. Good applies to GOD himself, with no advantage to

the argument, nor elucidation of the sense, that I can see. I

shall give his translation, and refer to his learned notes for his

vindication of the version he has given:-

"Behold the Eternal () exulting in his course;

Even over his dust shall raise up another."

In this way none of the ancient versions have understood the

passage. I believe it to be a strong irony, similar to that which

some think flowed from the pen of the same writer: Rejoice, O

young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days

of thy youth; and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the

sight of thine eyes. But know thou, that for all these God will

bring thee into judgment; Ec 11:9. These two places illustrate

each other.

Verse 20. Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man] This is

another of the maxims of the ancients, which Bildad produces: "As

sure as he will punish and root out the wicked, so surely will he

defend and save the righteous."

Verse 21. Till he fill thy mouth with laughing] Perhaps it may

be well to translate after Mr. Good "Even yet may he fill thy

mouth with laughter!" The two verses may be read as a prayer; and

probably they were thus expressed by Bildad, who speaks with less

virulence than his predecessor, though with equal positiveness in

respect to the grand charge, viz., If thou wert not a sinner of no

mean magnitude, God would not have inflicted such unprecedented

calamities upon thee.

This most exceptionable position, which is so contrary to matter

of fact, was founded upon maxims which they derived from the

ancients. Surely observation must have, in numberless instances,

corrected this mistake. They must have seen many worthless men in

high prosperity, and many of the excellent of the earth in deep

adversity and affliction; but the opposite was an article of

their creed, and all appearances and facts must take its

colouring.

Job's friends must have been acquainted, at least, with the

history of the ancient patriarchs; and most certainly they

contained facts of an opposite nature. Righteous Abel was

persecuted and murdered by his wicked brother, Cain. Abram was

obliged to leave his own country on account of worshipping the

true God; so all tradition has said. Jacob was persecuted by his

brother Esau; Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers; Moses

was obliged to flee from Egypt, and was variously tried and

afflicted, even by his own brethren. Not to mention David, and

almost all the prophets. All these were proofs that the best of

men were frequently exposed to sore afflictions and heavy

calamities; and it is not by the prosperity or adversity of men in

this world, that we are to judge of the approbation or

disapprobation of God towards them. In every case our Lord's rule

is infallible: By their fruits ye shall know them.

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