"a man that is not innocent shall be delivered:''
in like manner Jarchi interprets it, and so do Noldius (t) and others (u); and the sense is, that Job, for he is the person spoken of, as appears from the following clause, should not only be beneficial by his prayers, to humble and good men, but even to the wicked, such as were not innocent and free from fault and punishment, but guilty, and obnoxious to wrath and ruin; and yet such should escape it, at least for the present, through the prayers and intercession of Job; or God should do this for Job's sake and his prayers:
and it is, or "he is"
delivered by the pureness of thine hands; either by his good works, setting a good example, which, being followed, would be the means of the prevention of present ruin; or by his lifting up pure and holy hands in prayer to God for a sinful people; which God often attends to and hears, and so delivers them from destruction; as the Israelites were delivered through the prayer of Moses, when they had made the golden calf, and worshipped it; see Psalm 106:19; though sometimes God will not admit of an intercessor for such persons, Ezekiel 14:20.
(s) "innocens insulam liberabit", Montanus; so Pagninus, Vatablus. (t) Concordant. Ebr. Part. p. 25. No. 135. (u) "non innocentem", Drusius, Piscator, Michaelis; "non insontem", Schultens; to the same sense Beza, Mercerus, Codurcus, Junius, & Tremellius.
INTRODUCTION TO Job 23
This and the following chapter contain Job's reply to the last oration of Eliphaz; in this he first declares his present sorrowful estate and condition, Job 23:1; wishes he knew where to find God, as a judge sitting on a throne, before whom he might lay his cause, and plead it, and have his judgment and final decision passed upon it; when he doubted not but he would deal favourably with him, and both admit him and strengthen him, to plead his own cause, and would acquit him for ever from the charges laid against him, Job 23:3; in order to which he sought for him everywhere, but could not find him, but contents himself with this, that God knew his way; and that, after trial of him, he should shine like pure gold, and appear to be no apostate from him, but one sincerely obedient to his commands, and a true lover of his word, Job 23:8; and as for his afflictions, they were the result of the unalterable purposes and appointments of God: but what gave him the greatest uneasiness was, that there were more of that sort yet to come, which filled him with fears and faintings, with trouble and darkness, Job 23:13.
and my stroke is heavier than my groaning; or "my hand" (y), meaning either his own hand, which was heavy, and hung down, his spirits failing, his strength being exhausted, and so his hands weak, feeble, and remiss, that he could not hold them up through his afflictions, and his groanings under them, see Psalm 102:5; or the hand of God upon him, his afflicting hand, which had touched him and pressed hard upon him, and lay heavy, and was heavier than his groanings showed; though he groaned much, he did not groan more, nor so much, as his afflictions called for; and therefore it was no wonder that his complaint was bitter, nor should it be reckoned rebellion and provocation; see Job 6:2.
(x) "exacerbatio", Montanus, Vatablus, Schmidt; "exasperatio", Mercerus, Drusius; "pertinacia", Bolducius; "contumacia habetur", Cocceius; "rebellionem haberi", Junius & Tremellius; "rebellio est", Piscator, Codurcus. (y) "manus mea", Montanus, Vatablus, Mercerus, Drusius, Michaelis.
that I might come even to his seat; either his mercy seat, from whence he communes with his people, the throne of his grace, where he sits as the God of grace, dispensing his grace to his people, to help them in time of need; the way to which is Christ, and in which all believers may come to it with boldness, in his name, through his blood, righteousness, and sacrifice; they may come up even to it, in the exercise of faith and hope, though the distance is great, as between heaven and earth, yet by faith they can come into the holiest of all, and by hope enter within the vail; and though the difficulties and discouragements are many, arising from their sins and transgressions: or else his judgment seat, at which no man can appear and stand, without a righteousness, or without a better than his own, by which none can be justified in the sight of God; who, if strict to mark iniquity, the best of men cannot stand before him, at his bar of justice; indeed, in the righteousness of Christ, a believer may come up to the judgment seat of God, and to him as Judge of all, and not be afraid, but stand before him with confidence, since that is sufficient to answer for him, and fully acquit him: but Job here seems to have a peculiar respect to his case, in controversy between him and his friends, and is so fully assured of the justness of his cause, and relying on his innocence, he wishes for nothing more than that he could find God sitting on a throne of justice, before whom his cause might be brought and heard, not doubting in the least but that he should be acquitted; so far was he from hiding himself from God, or pleasing himself with the thoughts that God was in the height of heaven, and knew nothing of him and his conduct, and could not judge through the dark clouds, which were a covering to him, that he could not see him; that he was not afraid to appear before him, and come up even to his seat, if he knew but where and how he could; see Job 22:12.
and fill my mouth with arguments; either in prayer, as a good man may; not with such as are taken from his goodness and righteousness, but from the person, office, grace, blood, righteousness, and sacrifice of Christ, and from the declarations of God's grace, and the promises of his word; or else as in a court of judicature, bringing forth his strong reasons, and giving proofs of his innocence, such as would be demonstrative, even convincing to all that should hear, and be not only proofs for him, and in his favour, but reproofs also, as the word (c) signifies, to those that contended with him.
(c) "increpationibus", V. L. and so Montanus, Beza, Mercerus, Drusius, Schultens.
and understand what he would say unto me; what judgment he would pass upon him, what sentence he would pronounce on him, whether guilty or not, and by which judgment he was content to stand or fall; as for men's judgment, the judgment of his friends, or to be judged by them, he required it not, as he did not understand upon what ground they went, or that it was a good one; but the judgment of God he should pay a deference to, as being always according to truth, and the reason of which, when he should have a hearing before him, and a decisive sentence by him, he should clearly perceive; see 1 Corinthians 4:3.
no, but he would put strength in me: to pray unto him, and prevail with him to lay hold on him, and not let him go without the blessing, as Jacob did, Hosea 12:3; or to stand before him, and plead his own cause with him, in such a strong and powerful manner as to bear down all the accusations and charges brought against him: or "he will set his heart upon me" (d); deal mildly and gently, kindly and graciously, and not with his great strength and strict justice; or "will not put sins upon me", as Jarchi, or lay charges to him, however guilty of them, as his friends did, or impute such to him he never committed: God is so far from doing this to his people, that he does not impute their sins to them they have committed, but to his son, much less will he lay upon them more than is right, Job 34:23. Some take the sense of the words to be this, in answer to the above question, "will he plead against me with his great power?" let him do it, "only let him not set upon me" (e), in an hostile way, and then I do not decline entering the debate with him; which expresses great boldness and confidence, and even too much, and must be reckoned among the unbecoming expressions Job was afterwards convinced of; but this he utters in his passion, in order the more clearly to show, and the more strongly to assert, his innocence.
(d) "ipse apponeret ad me animum", Junius & Tremellius; so Piscator, Cocceius, & Aben Ezra. (e) Schultens.
so should I be delivered for ever from my Judge; either from those who judged harsely of him, and were very censorious in the character they gave of him; and from all their condemnation of him, and calumnies and charges they fastened on him; or "from him that judgest me" (f), from anyone whatever that should wrongly judge him, friend or foe; or rather from God himself, his Judge, from whom he should depart acquitted; and so Mr. Broughton renders the words, "so should I be quit for ever by my Judge"; for, if God justifies, who shall condemn? such an one need not regard the condemnations of men or devils; being acquitted by God he is for ever instilled, and shall never enter into condemnation; God's acquittance is a security from the damnatory sentence of others.
(f) "a judicante me", Beza, Pagninus, Montanus, Bolducius, Vatablus, Cocceius.
and backward, but I cannot perceive him; or understand where he is, or get intelligence of him, and of the reason of his dispensations, especially concerning himself.
(g) "et non ipse", Montanus, Drusius, Bolducius.
he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him; or "he covereth the right hand" (h), the southern parts of the world; he covers the face of the south with his face, that I cannot see him, so Jarchi; this is said because the south is covered with the waters of the ocean, as Bar Tzemach observes; what we call the South sea: or rather the meaning is, that God covered himself on the right hand, or on the south, as with a garment, as the word signifies; wrapped himself up either in light inaccessible, as with a garment, or with clouds of darkness, that he could not be seen; and if he hides himself, as he often does from the best of men, who can behold him? Job 34:29; see Job 9:11.
(h) "operiet dextram", Montanus, Junius & Tremellius; so Cocceius, Drusius, Schmidt, Schultens, & Broughton.
when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold; as pure as gold, as free from dross as that, appear quite innocent of the charges brought against him, and shine in his integrity. He was as valuable and precious as gold, as all God's people are in his esteem, however reckoned of by others; they are precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold; not that they have any intrinsic, worth in themselves, they are in no wise the better than others by nature; but through the grace of God bestowed on them, which is as gold tried in the fire; and through the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, which is gold of Ophir, and clothing of wrought gold; and, on account of both, they are like a mass of gold, and are the chosen of God, and precious: this gold he tries, the Lord trieth the righteous; and which he does by afflictive providences; he puts them into the furnace of affliction, which is the fiery trial to try them; and hereby their graces are tried, their faith, hope, love, patience, &c. their principles and doctrines they embrace, whether they are gold, silver, and precious stones, or whether wood, hay, and stubble; the fire tries every man's work, of what sort it is, and whether they will abide by them and their profession also, whether they will adhere to it; and by this means he purges away their dross and tin, and they come out of the furnace as pure gold in great lustre and brightness, as those in Revelation 7:13; now Job was in this furnace and trying; and he was confident that, as he should come out of it, he should appear to great advantage, pure and spotless; though it may be he may have respect to his trial at the bar of justice, where he desired to be tried, and be brought under the strictest examination; and doubted not but he should be acquitted, and shine as bright as gold; nay, these words may be given as a reason why God would not be found by him as his Judge to try his cause, because he knew his uprightness and integrity, and that he must go from him acquitted and discharged; and therefore, for reasons unknown to him, declined the judging of him; to this purpose Jarchi interprets the words, which may be rendered, "for he knoweth the way that I take" (a); and therefore will not be seen by me, nor appear to judge me: "he hath tried me"; again and again, and has seen the integrity of my heart, as Sephorno interprets it, and well knows my innocence; see Psalm 17:3; and if he would try me again, "I shall come forth as gold"; quite clear of all charges and imputations; I am able to stand the strictest scrutiny: this he said as conscious of his uprightness, and of his strict regard to the ways and word of God, as follows; but this was a bold saying, and an unbecoming expression of his to God; and of which he afterwards was ashamed and repented, when God appeared and spoke to him out of the whirlwind.
(a) "quia", Pagninus, Montanus, Mercerus, Piscator, Michaelis; "nam", Tigurine version, Cocceius, Schultens.
his way have I kept; the way he prescribed him, and directed him to walk in, the way of his commandments, which he observed constantly, and kept; though not perfectly, yet with great delight and pleasure, and so as not to be chargeable with any gross neglect of them, but in some sense to walk in all of them blameless, as not to be culpable before men:
and not declined: from the way of God, did not turn aside from it to the right or left, or go into crooked paths with wicked men, or wickedly depart from his God, his ways and worship, as David says, Psalm 18:21.
I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food; the words of the Lord, the doctrines of grace that came from his mouth, are food for faith; there are in them milk for babes, and meat for strong men; they are savoury, salutary, and wholesome words, by which the people of God are nourished up unto eternal life; and they are esteemed by them more than the food that is necessary and convenient for their bodies; see Proverbs 30:8; for as the soul is preferable to the body, so the food of the one is preferable to the food of the other, and is sweeter, as the words of God are, to the taste of a believer, than honey, or the honeycomb: or "I have hid or laid up, the words of his mouth" (b); he had laid them up in his heart, in order to meditate upon them, and receive comfort and spiritual nourishment from them when he should want it, as men lay up their food in a proper place against the time they want it for their support and refreshment; and Job was more careful to lay up the one than the other; see Psalm 119:11; here Job meets with, and has respect unto, the advice of Eliphaz, Job 22:22; and signifies that he had no need to have given him it, he had done this already.
(b) "abscondi", Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus, Bolducius; "recondidi", Tigurine version, Beza, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Mercerus, Cocceius, Michaelis, Schultens; so Broughton.
"if he is alone, or the only one;''
there is none with him to advise him, for "with whom took he counsel?" or to persuade him to be of another mind, and take contrary measures, who might be applied to, to use their interest with him to act it, a different manner; but he is alone, there are none with him that have any influence upon him, and can prevail with him to do otherwise than he does; some translate the words, "if he acts against one" (d); against a man in a hostile way, if he sets his face against him, and comes upon him as an enemy; and so Mr. Broughton, "yet when he is against me, who can stay him?" notwithstanding my innocence and integrity, though I keep his ways, and do not go back from his commandments. Some think there is a redundancy of a letter, which we translate "in", and then the words wilt be read thus: "but he is one"; the one only living and true God; this is the voice of reason and revelation, "hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord", Deuteronomy 6:4; for though there are three Persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, "these three are one God", 1 John 5:7; and so the words are expressive of the unity of the Divine Being; but this seems not to be Job's sense: Aben Ezra says, the truth is, that the letter is not added, is no redundancy, and should be read "he is in one"; but, says he, I cannot explain it, there is a great mystery in it: what the Jew understood not may be more clear and plain to us Christians, who are taught the mystery of the indwelling of the divine Persons in each other, the Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father, as they are divine Persons; though in what manner they are we are not able to explain; besides, God was in Christ, as Mediator, reconciling the world, choosing his people in him, and blessing them with all spiritual blessings in him; though the true sense seems to, be what is before given, agreeably to our version, that God is in one mind, purpose, and design; that his decrees are unchangeable and invariable; that he always acts according to them, and never alters them:
and who can turn him? turn his mind, or cause him to change his counsel, and alter his purposes; or turn his hand, or stop and stay it from the execution of them; it is not to be done by force and power, there is no power equal to his, and much less superior to his; which must be the case, if any could turn him: and though he may be turned by the prayers of his people, and by the repentance of men, so as to repent himself, and not do what he has threatened to do; yet this is no change of his mind and counsels, only an alteration in the course of his providence, or a change of his outward dealings with men, according to his unchangeable will; see Isaiah 14:27;
and what his soul desireth, even that he doth: that is, what he himself desireth earnestly and vehemently; he has done all things in creation according to the good pleasure of his will; and he does all things in providence according to the counsel of it, and as seems best in his sight; and so he does all things in grace, chooses whom he will, predestinates to the adoption of children according to the good pleasure of his will: redeems whom he pleases, and calls by his grace, and brings to glory whomsoever he will be gracious to; see Psalm 115:3.
(c) Sophorno. (d) "sed si ipse contra unum agit", Junius & Tremellius; so Piscator, Cocceius.
"because he hath furnished me with my daily bread, and many such graces are with him;''
and which he did according to his unchangeable purposes and decrees, and according as his soul desired, and it pleased him; and this laid Job under greater obligation still to have regard to his commandments, and the words of his mouth; but rather it is to be understood of the decrees and purposes of God relating to Job, to his person, case, and circumstances, throughout the whole course of his life hitherto: and indeed all things relating to every individual person, as to him, are appointed of God; and whatever he appoints he performs: all things relative to their temporal life, the birth of persons into the world, and their continuance in it; all the incidents in life, the places of their abode, their employments, callings, and occupations; their riches and poverty, prosperity and adversity; all their afflictions, and which Job has a special regard to, the kind and nature of them, their measure and duration, and the end and use of them; and death itself, which closes all things here, that is appointed of God, the time and circumstances of it, see Ecclesiastes 3:1; and so all things relative to the spiritual and eternal salvation of men; to save men is the determinate will of God; the persons saved are appointed by him to it, and Christ is ordained to be the Redeemer and Saviour of them; whose coming into the world for that purpose was at the appointed time, called the fulness of time, and his going out of it, or his sufferings and death, by which salvation was accomplished, were in due time, and by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. The conversion of men is according to the appointment of God; they that are called are called according to his purpose; the time of conversion, the place where, and means whereby, are all fixed in the decrees and purposes of God, and have their sure and certain accomplishment; and the several vicissitudes of distress and comfort in spiritual things are as God has determined; all the times of his people are in his hands, and disposed by him; times of temptation, darkness, and desertion, and times of peace, joy, and comfort; the everlasting happiness itself is a kingdom prepared in the purposes of God from the foundation of the world, and is an inheritance obtained according to the purpose of him who has predestinated unto it; and seeing God is all wise, all knowing, all powerful, faithful and true, what he appoints must certainly be performed:
and many such things are with him; besides what were appointed for Job, and performed upon him, there were innumerable instances in the world of God's appointments, and the performance of them, both with respect to good things and evil things, mercies and blessings, afflictions and troubles: or besides what God had performed with respect to Job, especially with regard to his afflictions and sufferings, there were still many more things to come, which were secret in his breast, and which he had decreed and appointed, and would in due time be performed, though Job knew not as yet what they, were, whether good or evil things, though he supposed the latter.
(e) "quia perfecit necessaria mea", Vatablus; so Nachmanides, Ben Gersom, Sephorno.
when I consider, I am afraid of him: when he considered his terrible majesty, his sovereign will, his unalterable purposes, his infinite wisdom, and almighty power, his strict justice, and spotless purity; he was afraid to appear before him, or afraid that since many such things were with him he had already experienced, there were more to be brought forth, which might be greater and heavier still.
and the Almighty troubleth me; by afflicting him; afflictions cause trouble, and these are of God; or he "astonishes" (a), amazes me, throws me into the utmost consternation, the reason of which follows.
(a) "me attonitum reddidit", Vatablus; "consternavit me", Drusius, Mercerus, Cocceius, Michaelis; "externavit me", Schultens.