Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Should not the multitude of words be answered? - As if all that Job had said had been mere words; or as if he was remarkable for mere garrulity.
And should a man full of talk be justified - Margin, as in Hebrew "of lips." The phrase is evidently a Hebraism, to denote a great talker - a man of mere lips, or empty sound. Zophar asks whether such a man could be justified or vindicated. It will be recollected that taciturnity was with the Orientals a much greater virtue than with us, and that it was regarded as one of the proofs of wisdom. The wise man with them was he who sat down at the feet of age, and desired to learn; who carefully collected the maxims of former times; who diligently observed the course of events; and who deliberated with care on what others had to say. Thus, Solomon says, "In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise;" Pro 10:19; so Jam 1:19, "let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak." It was supposed that a man who said much would say some foolish or improper things, and hence, it was regarded as a proof of prudence to be distinguished for silence. In Oriental countries, and it may be added also, in all countries that we regard as uncivilized, it is unusual and disrespectful to be hasty in offering counsel, to be forward to speak, or to be confident and bold in opinion; see the notes at Job 32:6-7. It was for reasons such as these that Zophar maintained that a man who was full of talk could not be justified in it; that there was presumptive proof that he was not a safe man, or a man who could be vindicated in all that he said.
Should thy lies - Margin, "devices." Rosenmuller renders this, "should men bear thy boastings with silence?" Dr. Good, "before thee would man-kind keep silence?" Vulgate, "tibi soli tacebunt homines?" "Shall men be silent before thee alone? The Septuagint tenders the whole passage, "he who speaketh much should also hear in turn; else the fine speaker (εὔλαλος eulalos) thinketh himself just. - Blessed be the short-lived offspring of woman. Be not profuse of words, for there is no one that judges against thee, and do not say that I am pure in works and blameless before him?" How this was made out of the Hebrew, or what is its exact sense, I am unable to say. There can be no doubt, I think, that our present translation is altogether too harsh, and that Zophar by no means designs to charge Job with uttering lies. The Hebrew word commonly used for lies, is wholly different from that which is used here. The word here (בד bad) denotes properly "separation;" then a part; and in various combinations as a preposition, "alone separate." "besides." Then the noun means empty talk, vain boasting; and then it may denote lies or falsehood. The leading idea is that of separation or of remoteness from anything, as from prudence, wisdom, propriety, or truth. It is a general term, like our word "bad," which I presume has been derived from this Hebrew word (בד bad), or from the Arabic "bad." In the plural (בדים badı̂ym) it is rendered "liars" in Isa 44:25; Jer 50:36; "lies" in Job 11:3; Isa 16:6; Jer 48:30; and "parts" in Job 41:12. It is also often rendered "staves," Exo 27:6; Exo 25:14-15, Exo 25:28, et sap, at. That it may mean "lies" here I admit, but it may also mean talk that is aside from propriety, and may refer here to a kind of discourse that was destitute of propriety, empty, vain talk.
And when thou mockest - That-is, "shalt thou be permitted to use the language of reproach and of complaint, and no one attempt to make thee sensible of its impropriety?" The complaints and arguments of Job he represented as in fact mocking God.
Shall no man make thee ashamed? - Shall no one show thee the impropriety of it, and bring thy mind to a sense of shame for what it has done? This was what Zophar now proposed to do.
My doctrine is pure - The Septuagint instead of the word "doctrine" here reads "deeds," ἔργοις ergois; the Syriac, "thou sayest I have acted justly." But the word used here (לקח leqach) means properly "fair speech" or "taking arguments," that by which one is "taken" or captivated, from לקח lâqach, "to take." Then it means doctrine, or instruction, Pro 1:5; Pro 9:9. Here it means the views which Job had expressed. Dr. Good supposes that it means "conduct," a word which would suit the connection, but the Hebrew is not used in this sense.
And I am clean in thine eyes - In the eyes of God, or in his sight. This was a false charge. Job had never maintained that he was perfect (compare the notes at Job 9:20); he had only maintained that he was not such a sinner as his friends maintained that he was, a hypocrite, and a man eminent for guilt. His lack of absolute perfection he was ever ready to admit and mourn over.
But oh that God would speak - Hebrew, "and truly, who will give that God should speak." It is the expression of an earnest wish that God would address him, and bring him to a proper sense of his ill desert. The meaning is, that if God should speak to him he would by no means find himself so holy as he now claimed to be.
And that he would show thee the secrets of wisdom - The hidden things that pertain to wisdom. The reference here is to the wisdom of God himself. The sense is this, "you now think yourself pure and holy. You have confidence in your own wisdom and integrity. But this apprehension is based on a short-sighted view of God, and on ignorance of him. If he would speak and show you his wisdom; if he would express his sense of what purity is, you would at once see how far you have come from perfection, and would be overwhelmed with a sense of your comparative vileness and sin."
That they are double to that which is - Noyes renders this," his wisdom which is unsearchable." Dr. Good, strangely enough, "for they are intricacies to iniquity." The expression, as it stands in our common version, is not very intelligible; and indeed it is difficult, to attach any idea to it. Of the words used in the Hebrew, the sense is not difficult. The word כפלים kı̂playı̂m, "double," is from כפל kâphal "to fold,"" to double;" and means a doubling Job 41:5; and then two folds, or double folds, and the sense here is, that the wisdom of God is "double-fold;" that is, complicated, inexplicable, or manifold. It is not spread out and plain, but is infolded, so that it requires to be unrolled to be understood. The word rendered "that which is" (תשׁיה tûshı̂yâh), means properly a setting upright, uprightness - from ישׁע yâsha‛. Hence, it means help, deliverance, Job 6:13; purpose, undertaking, see the notes at Job 5:12; and then counsel, wisdom, understanding, Job 12:16; Isa 28:29. It means here, I suppose, "understanding;" and the idea is, that the wisdom of God is "double of understanding;" that is, it is so infolded, so complex, that it greatly surpasses our comprehension. What we see is a small part of it; and the "secrets" of his wisdom - the parts of his wisdom which are not unfolded, are far above our grasp. His wisdom is like a vast roll or volume, only the first and a very small part of which is unrolled so that we can read it. But who can look into that that remains unopened, and penetrate between the involutions, so as to perceive and read it all? It is but little that is now unrolled of the mighty volume - the remainder will be unfolded as years and ages shall pass on, and the entire unfolding of the book will be reserved for eternity.
Know, therefore, that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth - The word here rendered "exacteth" (ישׁה yasheh) more properly means "to forget" - from נשׁה nâshâh. It also means to loan on usury, or to borrow; but the sense here is rather that of forgetting. It is not used in the sense of exacting. The true meaning is, "know, therefore, that for thee God hath caused to be forgotten a part of thy iniquity." That is, he has treated you as if he had caused a part of your sins to be out of mind, or as if they were not remembered. Instead of treating you, as you complain, with severity, he has by no means inflicted on you the calamities which you deserve. The ground of this unfeeling assertion is the abstract proposition that God is infinitely wiser than human beings; that he has a deeper insight into human guilt than people can have; and that if he should disclose to us all that he sees of the heart, we should be amazed at the revelations of our own sins. This sentiment is undoubtedly true, and accords almost cxactly with what Job had himself said Job 9:19-22, but there is something very harsh and severe in the manner in which Zophar applies it.
Canst then, by searching, find out God? - In order to illustrate the sentiment which he had just expressed, that the secrets of divine wisdom must be far above our comprehension, Zophar introduces here this sublime description of God - a description which seems to have the form and force of a proverb. It seems to have been a settled opinion that man could not find out the Almighty to perfection by his own powers - a sentiment, which is as true now, as it was then, and which is of the utmost importance in all our inquiries about the Creator. The sentiment is expressed in a most beautiful manner; and the language itself is not unworthy of the theme. The word "searching," חקר chêqer, is from חקר châqar to search, to search out, to examine; and the primary sense, according to Gesenius, lies in searching in the earth by boring or digging - as for metals. Then it means to search with diligence and care. Here it means that by the utmost attention in examining the works of God, it would be impossible for man to find out the Almighty to perfection. All the investigations which have been made of God, have fallen short of the object; and at the present time it is as true as it was in the days of Job, that we cannot, by searching, find him out. Of much that pertains to him and his plans we must be content to remain in ignorance, until we are admitted to the revelations of a higher world - happy and thankful now that we are permitted to know so much of him as we do, and that we are apprized of the existence of one infinite and perfect mind. It is an inexpressible privilege to know "anything" of God; and it is proof of the exalted nature of man, that he is now capable of becoming in any degree acquainted with the divine nature.
It is as high as heaven - That is, the knowledge of God; or the subject is as high as heaven. The idea is, that man is incompetent to examine, with accuracy, an object that is as far off as the heavens; and that as the knowledge of God must be of that character, it is vain for him to attempt to investigate it fully. There is an energy in the Hebrew which is lost in our common translation. The Hebrew is abrupt and very emphatic: "The heights of the heavens!" It is the language of one looking up with astonishment at the high heavens, and over-powered with the thought that the knowledge of God must be higher even than those distant skies. Who can hope to understand it? Who can be qualified to make the investigation? It is a matter of simple but sublime truth, that God must be higher than these heavens; and when we take into view the amazing distances of many of the heavenly bodies, as now known by the aid of modern astronomy, we may ask with deeper emphasis by far than Zophar did. "Can we, by searching, find out God?"
Deeper than hell - Hebrew "Than Sheol" - משׁאול meshe'ôl. The Septuagint renders this, "the heaven is high, what canst thou do? And there are things deeper than in Hades - βαθύτερα τῶν ἐν ᾃδου bathutera tōn en Hadou - what dost thou know?" On the meaning of the word Sheol, see Isa 5:14, note; Isa 14:9, note. It seems to have been supposed to be as deep as the heavens are high; and the idea here is, that it would be impossible for man to investigate a subject that was as profound as Sheol was deep. The idea is not that God was in Sheol, but that the subject was as profound as the abode of departed spirits was deep and remote. It is possible that the Psalmist may have had this passage in his eye in the similar expression, occurring in Ps. 139:
If I ascend into heaven, thou art there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there.
The measure thereof is longer than the earth - The measure of the knowledge of God. The extent of the earth would be one of the longest measures known to the ancients. Yet it is now impossible to ascertain what ideas were attached, in the time of Job, to the extent of the earth - and it is not necessary to know this in order to understand this expression. It is morally certain that the prevailing ideas were very limited, and that a small part of the earth was then known. The general belief seems to have been, that it was a vast plain, surrounded by water - but how supported, and what were its limits, were evidently matters to them unknown. The earliest knowledge which we have of geography, as understood by the Arabs, represents the earth as wholly encompassed by an ocean, like a zone. This was usually characterized as a "Sea of Darkness;" an appellation usually given to the Atlantic; while to the Northern Sea was given the name of "The Sea of Pitchy Darkness." Edrisi imagined the land to be floating in the sea, and only part appearing above, like an egg in a basin of water. If these views prevailed so late as the tenth and eleventh centuries of the Christian era, it is reasonable to conclude that the views of the figure and size of the earth must have been extremely limited in the time of Job. On the ancient views of geography, see the notes at Job 26:7-10, and the maps there, also Murray's Encyclopaedia of Geography, Book I, and Eschenberg's Manual of Classical Literature, by Prof. Fiske, Part I.
And broader than the sea - What was the idea of the breadth of the sea, which was supposed to surround the earth, it is now wholly impossible to determine. Probably there were no ideas on the subject that could be regarded as settled and definite. The ancients had no means of ascertaining this, and they perhaps supposed that the ocean extended to an unlimited extent - or, perhaps, to the far distant place where the sky and the water appeared to meet. At all events it was an illustration then, as it is now, of a vast distance, and is not inappropriately used here to denote the impossibility of fully understanding God. This illustration would be far more striking then than now. We have crossed the ocean; and we do not deem it an impracticable thing to explore the remotest seas. But not so the ancients. They kept close to the shore. They seldom ventured out of sight of land. The enterprise of exploring and crossing the vast ocean, which they supposed encompassed the globe, was regarded by them as wholly impracticable - and equally so they correctly supposed it was to find out God.
If he cut off - Margin, "Make a change." But neither of these phrases properly expresses the sense of the original. The whole image here is probably that of arresting a criminal and bringing him to trial, and the language is taken from the mode of conducting a prosecution. The word rendered "cut off" - יחלף yachâlop, from חלף châlaph - means properly to pass along; to pass on; then to pass against anyone, to rush on, to assail; and in a remote sense in the Piel and the Hiphil, to cause to pass on or away, that is, to change. This is the sense expressed in the margin. The idea is not that of cutting off, but is that of making a rush upon a man, for the purpose of arresting him and bringing him to trial. There are frequent references to such trials in the book of Job. The Chaldee renders this, "if he pass on and shut up the heavens with clouds" - but the paraphrasist evidently did not understand the passage.
And shut up - That is, imprison or detain with a view to trial. Some such detention is always practiced of necessity before trial.
Or gather together - Gather together the parties for trial; or rather call the individual into court for trial. The word קהל qâhal means properly to call together, to convoke, as a people; and is used to denote the custom of assembling the people for a trial - or, as we would say, to "call the court," which is now the office of a crier.
Then who can hinder him? - Margin, "Who can turn him away?" He has all power, and no one can resist him. No one can deliver the criminal from his hands. Zophar here is in fact repeating in another form what Job had himself said (Job 9:3 ff), and the sentiment seems to be proverbial. The idea here is, that if God should call a man into judgment, and hold him guilty, he could neither answer nor resist him. God is so great; he so intimately knows the human heart; he has so thorough an acquaintance with all our past sins, that we cannot hope to answer him or escape. Zophar argues on this principle: "God holds you to be guilty. He is punishing you accordingly. You do not feel it so, or suppose that you deserve all this. But he sees your heart, and knows all your life. If he holds you to be guilty, it is so. You cannot answer him, and you should so regard it, and submit."
For he knoweth vain men - He is intimately acquainted with the heart; he knows human beings altogether. The word "vain" here (שׁוא shâv'), means properly vanity, emptiness, falsehood, a lie, iniquity. "Men of vanity," here may mean people whose opinions are valueless, or it may mean people of deceit, falsehood, hypocrisy. Most probably it means the latter, and the indirect reference may be to such men as Job. The sense is, that God is intimately acquainted with such men. They cannot deceive him, and their wickedness will be found out.
Will he not then consider it? - Various ways have been proposed of explaining this. By some it is supposed to mean, "He seeth iniquity, where they do not observe it;" that is, he perceives it, where people do not themselves. This would express a thought which would accord well with the connection, but it is doubtful whether the Hebrew will bear this construction. By another explanation it is supposed to mean, as in our common version, "Will not God observe it, and bring it to trial? Will he suffer it to pass unnoticed?" This makes good sense, and the Hebrew will admit of this interpretation. But there is another view still, which is preferable to either. According to this it means, that God perceives the iniquity in man, though he does not seem to notice it; see the notes at Job 11:6. He appears to pass over a part of it, but he sees it notwithstanding, and is intimately acquainted with all the depravity of the heart. The main reference here is to Job, and the object is to show him that he was guilty, though he had asserted his innocence in so decided a manner. Though he seemed to himself to be innocent, yet Zophar labors to show him that he must be guilty, and that he had seen but a small part of his sins.
For vain man - Margin, "empty." נבוב nâbûb, according to Gesenius, from the root נבב nâbab, to bore through, and then to be hollow; metaphorical, "empty," "foolish." The Septuagint, strangely enough, renders this," but man floats about with words." The Hebrew here means, manifestly, hollow, empty; then insincere and hypocritical. Zophar refers to a hollow-hearted man, who, though he was in fact like a wild ass's colt, attempted to appear mild and gentle, and to have a heart. The meaning is, that man by nature has a spirit untamed and unsubdued, and that with this, he assumes the appearance of gentleness and tenderness, and attempts to appear as if he was worthy of love and affection. God, seeing this hollow-heartedness, treats him accordingly. The reference here is to men like Job, and Zophar undoubtedly meant to say that he was hollow-hearted and insincere, and yet that he wished to appear to be a man having a heart, or, having true piety.
Would be wise - Various interpretations have been given to this expression. The most simple and obvious seems to be the true one, though I have not seen it noticed by any of the commentators. The word rendered "would be wise" (ילבב yı̂lâbēb) is from לבב lâbab, or לב lêb, meaning "heart," and the sense here, as it seems to me, is, "vain, hollow, and insincere, man would wish to seem to have a heart;" that is, would desire to appear sincere, or pious. Destitute of that truly, and false and hollow, he would nevertheless wish to appear different, and would put on the aspect of sincerity and religion. This is the most simple exposition, and this accords with the drift of the passage exactly, and expresses a sentiment which is unquestionably true. Gesenius, however, and some others render it, "but man is hollow and wanteth understanding; yea, man is born like a wild ass's colt, signifying the weakness and dullness of the human understanding in comparison with the divine wisdom." Others render it, "but the foolish man becometh wise when the wild ass's colt shall become a man," that is, never, a most forced and unnatural construction. Dr. Good renders it:
Will he then accept the hollow-hearted person?
Or shall the wild ass-colt assume the man?
Schultens and Dathe translate it:
Let then vain man be wise,
And the wild ass's colt become a man.
Though man be born - Though man by nature, or in connection with his birth, is untamed, lawless, rebellious. The wild ass is a striking image of that which is untamed and unsubdued; compare the notes at Job 39:5. Thus, Jeremiah describes it, "a wild ass used to the wilderness, that snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure," Jer 2:24. Thus, it is said of Ishmael Gen 16:12, "and he will be a wild man," אדם פרא pârâ' 'âdâm - a wild ass of a man. So Job 39:5 :
Who hath sent out the wild ass free?
Or who hath loosed the bands of the wild ass?
It is not quite easy for us to understand these allusions, for with us the ass is the proverbial image of stupidity, dullness, obstinacy, and immobility. But it was not so with the ancients. It is mentioned as distinguished for velocity, for wildness, and for an unsubdued spirit. Thus, Oppian, as quoted by Bochart, Hieroz. Lib. i. c. ix. p. 63, says:
Κῤαιπνὸν, ἀελλοπόδην, κρατερώνυχον, ὀξύτατον Θεῖν.
Kraipnon, aellopodēn, kraterōnuchon, ocutaton thein.
"Swift, rapid, with strong hoofs, and most fleet in his course."
And Aristotle mentions wild asses as τήν ταχυτῆτα διαφέροντες tēn tachutēta diapherontes, Hist. Lib. vi. 6 c. 36. So Aelian says of them, ὤκιστοι δραμεῖν ōkistoi dramein, fleet in their course. And Xenophon says of them, πολὺ τοῦ ἵππου θᾶττον ἔτρεχον polu tou hippou thatton etrechon, they run much swifter than a horse. In describing the march of the younger Cyrus through Syria, he says, "The wild ass, being swifter of foot than our horses, would, in gaining ground upon them, stand still and look around; and when their pursuers got nearly up to them, they would start off, and repeat the same trick; so that there remained to the hunters no other method of taking them but by dividing themselves into dispersed parties which succeeded each other in the chase;" compare Bochart, Hieroz. P. I. Lib. iii. c. xvi. pp. 867-879. A similar statement is made by Aelian (Lib. xiv. cap. 10, as quoted by Bochart), "The wild asses of Maurusius ὄνοι Μανρούσιοι onoi Maurousioi are most fleet in their course, and at the commencement of their course they seem to be borne along by the winds, or as on the wings of a bird." "In Persia," says the Editor of the Pictorial Bible, "the wild ass is prized above all other animals as an object of chase, not only from its fleetness, but the delicacy of its flesh, which made it an article of luxury even at the royal tables."
"They are now most abundantly found in the deserts of Tartary, and of the countries between the Tigris and the Indus, more particularly in the central parts of the regions thus defined. We know that they were also anciently found in the regions of Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, Syria, and Arabia Deserta; but from these regions they seem to have been, in the course of ages, almost entirely expelled or extirpated." Pict. Bib. on Job 39:5. The idea in the passage before us is, that man at his birth has a strong resemblance to a wild and untamed animal; and the passage undoubtedly indicates the early belief of the native proneness of man to wander away from God, and of his possessing by nature an insubmissive spirit.
If thou prepare thine heart - Zophar now proceeds to state that if Job even yet would return to God, he might hope for acceptance. Though he had sinned, and though he was now, as he supposed, a hollow-hearted and an insincere man, yet, if he would repent, he might expect the divine favor. In this he accords with the sentiment of Eliphaz, and he concludes his speech in a manner not a little resembling his; see Job 5:17-27.
And stretch out thine hands toward him - In the attitude of supplication. To stretch out or spread forth the hands, is a phrase often used to denote the act of supplication; see Ti1 2:8, and the notes of Wetstein on that place. Horace, 3 Carm. xxiii. 1, Coelo supinas si tuleris manus. Ovid, M. ix. 701, Ad sidera supplex Cressa manus tollens. Trist. i. 10, 21, Ipsc gubernator, tollens ad sidera palmas; compare Livy v. 21. Seneca, Ep. 41; Psa 63:4; Psa 134:2; Psa 141:2; Ezr 9:5.
If iniquity be in thine hand - If you have in your possession anything that has been unjustly obtained. If you have oppressed the poor and the fatherless, and have what properly belongs to them, let it be restored. This is the obvious duty of one who comes to God to implore his favor; compare Luk 19:8.
For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot - That is, thy face shall be bright, clear, and cheerful. Thus, we speak of a bright and happy countenance. Zophar undoubtedly designs to show what his appearance would be, contrasted with what it then was. Now his countenance was dejected and sad. It was disfigured by tears, and terror, and long continued anguish. But if he would put away iniquity, and return to God, his face would be cheerful again, and he would be a happy man.
Yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear - The word rendered "steadfast" (מצק mutsaq) is from יצק yâtsaq, to pour, to pour out, and is applied to liquids, or to metals which are fused and poured into a mould, and which then become hard. Hence, it is used in the sense of firm, solid, intrepid. "Gesenius." Schultens supposes that the reference here is to metallic mirrors, made by casting, and then polished, and that the idea is, that his face would shine like such a mirror. But it may be doubted whether this interpretation is not too refined. The other and more common explanation well suits the sense, and should probably be retained.
And remember it as waters that pass away - As calamity that has completely gone by, or that has rolled on and will return no more. The comparison is beautiful. The water of the river is borne by us, and returns no more. The rough, the swollen, the turbid stream, we remember as it foamed and dashed along, threatening to sweep everything away; but it went swiftly by, and will never come back. So with afflictions. They are soon gone. The most intense pain soon subsides. The days of sorrow pass quickly away. There is an outer limit of suffering, and even ingenuity cannot prolong it far. The man disgraced, and whose life is a burden, will soon die. On the checks of the solitary prisoner doomed to the dungeon for life, a "mortal paleness" will soon settle down, and the comforts of approaching death will soothe the anguish of his sad heart. The rack of torture cheats itself of its own purpose, and the exhausted sufferer is released. "The excess (of grief) makes it soon mortal." "No sorrow but killed itself much sooner." Shakespeare. When we look back upon our sorrows, it is like thinking of the stream that was so much swollen, and was so impetuous. Its waters rolled on, and they come not back again; and there is a kind of pleasure in thinking of that time of danger, of that flood that was then so fearful, and that has now swept on to come back no more. So there is a kind of peaceful joy in thinking of the days of sorrow that are now fled forever; in the assurance that those sad times will never, never recur again.
And thine age - Thy life. This does not mean old age, but the idea is, that his life would be cheerful and happy.
Clearer than the noon-day - Margin, "Arise above the noon-day." The margin is a literal rendering; but the sense is clear in the text. The idea is, that the remainder of his life would be bright as the sun if he would return to God.
Thou shalt shine forth - Or rather, "thou art now in darkness, but thou shalt be as the morning." The word used here - תעפה tā‛upâh is from עוּף ‛ûph, to cover - as with wings, to fly, to cover with darkness. In no instance does it mean to shine, or to be clear and bright; and why our translators attached that idea to it, it is now difficult to conjecture. The Chaldee and Syriac read the word as a noun, and render the passage, "and thy darkness shall be as the aurora." The Vulgate renders it, "and meridian splendor, as it were, shall arise upon thee at the evening." The Septuagint, "and thy prayer shall be like the morning star, and life shall rise upon thee from noon-day." The sense in the Hebrew is plain. He was then in darkness. Clouds and calamities were round about him, but if he would return to God, he would be permitted to enjoy a bright day of prosperity. Such a day would return to him like the morning after a long and gloomy night.
And thou shalt be secure - You will feel confident that your prosperity will be permanent, and you will be free from the distressing anxieties and fears which you now have.
Thou shalt dig about thee - The Chaldee renders this, "thou shalt prepare for thyself a sepulchre, and shalt lie down in safety." The word used here (חפר châphar) has two significations. It means,
(1) "to dig" - as, e. g. a well, and under this signification to search out, to explore; and,
(2.) to be ashamed, to blush, Isa 1:29.
According to Gesenius, the latter here is the signification. "Now thou art ashamed, then thou shalt dwell in quiet," Lexicon. So Noyes renders it. Dr. Good translates it, "yea, thou shalt look around;" Rosenmuller, "thou art suffused with shame." This is, probably, the true sense; and the idea is, that though he was now covered with shame, yet he would lie down in peace and safety if he would return to the Lord.
Many shall make suit unto thee - Many shall come in a suppliant manner to ask counsel and advice. The meaning is, that he would be a man of distinction, to whom many would look for counsel. This was evidently an honor highly valued in the East, and one on which Job had formerly pridcd himself; see Job 29:7-13.
But the eyes of the wicked shall fail - That is, they shall be wearied out by anxiously looking for relief from their miseries. "Noyes." Their expectation shall be vain, and they shall find no relief. Perhaps Zophar here means to apply this to Job, and to say to him that with his present views and character, his hope of relief would fail. His only hope of relief was in a change - in turning to God - since it was a settled maxim that the wicked would look for relief in vain. This assumption that he was a wicked man, must have been among the most trying things that Job had to endure. Indeed nothing could he more provoking than to have others take it for granted as a matter that did not admit of argument, that he was a hypocrite, and that God was dealing with him as an incorrigible sinner.
And they shall not escape - Margin, "Flight shall perish from them." The margin is a literal translation of the Hebrew. The sense is, escape for the wicked is out of the question. They must be arrested and punished.
And their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost - literally, "the breathing out of the life or soul." Their hope shall leave them as the breath or life does the body. It is like death. The expression does not mean that their hope would always expire at death, but that it would certainly expire as life leaves the body. The meaning is, that whatever hope a wicked man has of future happiness and salvation, must fail. The time must come when it will cease to comfort and support him. The hope of the pious man lives until it is lost in fruition in heaven. It attends him in health; supports him in sickness; is with him at home; accompanies him abroad; cheers him in solitude; is his companion in society; is with him as he goes down into the shades of adversity, and it brightens as he travels along the valley of the shadow of death. It stands as a bright star over his grave - and is lost only in the glories of heaven, as the morning star is lost in the superior brightness of the rising sun. Not so the hypocrite and the sinner. His hope dies - and he leaves the world in despair. Sooner or later the last ray of his delusive hopes shall take its departure from the soul, and leave it to darkness. No matter how bright it may have been; no matter how long he has cherished it; no matter on what it is founded - whether on his morals, his prayers, his accomplishments, his learning; if it be not based on true conversion, and the promised mercy of God through a Redeemer, it must; soon cease to shine, and will leave the soul to the gloom of black despair.