Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
How long will it be ere ye make an end of words? - It has been made a question to whom this is addressed. It is in the plural number, and it is not usual in Hebrew when addressing an individual to make use of the plural form. Some have supposed that it is addressed to Job and to Eliphaz, as being both "long-winded" and tedious in their remarks. Others have supposed that it refers to Job "and the members of his family," who possibly interposed remarks, and joined Job in his complaints. Others suppose that it refers to Eliphaz and Zophar, as being silent during the speech of Job, and not arresting his remarks as they ought to have done. Rosenmuller supposes that it refers to Job and those similar to him, who were mere feigners of piety, and that Bildad means to ask how long it would be before they would be effectually silenced, and their complaints hushed. I see no great difficulty in supposing that the reference is to Job. The whole strain of the discourse evidently supposes it; and there is no evidence that any of the family of Job had spoken, nor does it seem at all probable that Bildad would reprove his own friends either for the length of their speeches, or for not interrupting an other. The custom in the East is to allow a man to utter all that he has to say without interruption.
Mark - Hebrew understand; or be intelligent - תבינו tābı̂ynû; that is, either speak distinctly, clearly, intelligently; or consider and weigh our arguments. The former is the interpretation of Schultens, and seems to me to be the true one. The idea is this: "You, Job, have been altering mere words. They are words of complaint, without argument. Speak now in a different manner; show that you understand the case; advance arguments that are worthy of attention, and then we will reply."
Wherefore are we counted as beasts? - "Why are we treated in your remarks as if we had no sense, and were unworthy of sound argument in reply to what we say?" It is possible that there may be reference here to what Job said Job 12:7 - that even the beasts could give them information about God. But the general idea is, that Job had not treated their views with the attention which they deserved, but had regarded them as unworthy of notice.
And reputed vile - The word used here (טמה ṭâmâh) means to be unclean, or polluted; and the idea is, that Job regarded them as worthless or impious.
He teareth himself - More correctly, "thou that tearest thyself in anger!" It is not an affirmation about Job, but it is a direct address to him. The meaning is, that he was in the paryoxysms of a violent rage; he acted like a madman.
Shall the earth be forsaken for thee? - A reproof of his pride and arrogance. "Shall everything be made to give way for you? Are you the only man in the world and of so much importance, that the earth is to be made vacant for you to dwell in? Are the interests of all others to be sacrificed for you, and is everything else to give place for you? Are all the laws of God's government to be made to yield rather than that you should be punished?" Similar modes of expression to denote the insignificance of anyone who is proud and arrogant, are still used among the Arabs. "Since Muhammed died, the Imams govern." "The world will not suffer loss on your account." "The world is not dependent on anyone man." T. Hunt, in Lowth's Lectures on Hebrew Poetry. Rosenmuller's Morgenland, in lec.
And shall the rock be removed out of his place? - "Shall the most firm and immutable things give way for your special accommodation? Shall the most important and settled principles of the divine administration be made to bend on your account?" These were not the principles and feelings of Job; and great injustice was done to him by this supposition. He was disposed to be submissive in the main to the divine arrangement. But this will describe the feelings of many a man of pride, who supposes that the divine arrangements should be made to bend for his special accommodation, and that the great, eternal principles of justice and right should give way rather than that he should be dealt with as common sinners are, and rather than that he should be cast into hell. Such people wish a special place of salvation for themselves. They are too proud to be saved as others are. They complain in their hearts that they are made to suffer, to lose their property, to be sick, to die - as others do. They would wish to be treated with special mercy, and to have special enactments in their favor, and would have the eternal laws of right made to bend for their special accommodation Such is the pride of the human heart!
Yea - Truly; or, behold. Bildad here commences his remarks on the certain destiny of the wicked, and strings together a number of apparently proverbial sayings, showing that calamity in various forms would certainly overtake the wicked. There is nothing particularly new in his argument, though the use of the various images which he employs shows how deep was the conviction of this doctrine at that time, and how extensively it prevailed.
The light of the wicked shall be put out - Light here is an emblem of prosperity.
The spark of his fire - Hebrew the flame of his fire. There may be an allusion here to the customs of Arabian hospitality. This was, and is, their national glory, and it is their boast that no one is ever refused it. The emblem of fire or flame here may refer to the custom of kindling a fire on an eminence, near a dwelling, to attract the stranger to share the hospitality of the owner of it; or it may refer to the fire in his tent, which the stranger was always at liberty to share. In the collection of the Arabian poems, called the Hamasa, this idea occurs almost in the words of Bildad. The extract was furnished me by the Rev. Eli Smith. It is a boast of Salamiel, a prince of Tema. In extolling the virtues of his tribe, he says, "No fire of ours was ever extinguished at night without a guest; and of our guests never did one disparage us." The idea here is, that the wicked would attempt to show hospitality, but the means would be taken away. He would not be permitted to enjoy the coveted reputation of showing it to the stranger, and the fire which might invite the traveler, or which might confer comfort on him, would be put out in his dwelling. The inability to extend the offer of a liberal hospitality would be equivalent to the deepest poverty or the most trying affliction.
And his candle - Margin, lamp. The reference is to a lamp that was suspended from the ceiling. The Arabians are fond of this image. Thus, they say, "Bad fortune has extinguished my lamp." Of a man whose hopes are remarkably blasted, they say, "He is like a lamp which is immediately extinguished if you let it sink in the oil." See Schultens. The putting out of a lamp is to the Orientals an image of utter desolation. It is the universal custom to have a light burning in their houses at night. "The houses of Egypt, in modern times, are never without lights; they burn lamps all the night long, and in every occupied apartment. So requisite to the comfort of a family is this custom reckoned, and so imperious is the power which it exercises, that the poorest people. would rather retrench part of their food than neglect it." Paxton. It is not improbable that this custom prevailed in former times in Arabia, as it does now in Egypt; and this consideration will give increased beauty and force to this passage.
The steps of his strength - Strong steps. "Steps of strength" is a Hebraism, to denote firm or vigorous steps.
Shall be straitened - Shall be compressed, embarrassed, hindered. Instead of walking freely and at large, he shall be compressed and limited in his goings. "Large steps," "free movement," etc. are proverbial expressions among the Arabs, to denote freedom, prosperity, etc. RosenmulIer. Schultens quotes the following illustrations from the Arabic poets. From Ibn Doreid, "He who does not confine himself within human limits, his vast strides shall be straitened." And from Taurizius," After the battle of Bedrense, the steps were straitened." The meaning here is, that he would be greatly impeded in his movements, instead of going forth at large and in full vigor as he had formerly done.
And his own counsel - His own plans shall be the means of his fall.
For he is cast into a net by his own feet - He is caught in his own tricks, as if he had spread a net or dug a pitfall for another, and had fallen into it himself. The meaning is, that he would bring ruin upon himself while he was plotting the rain of others; see Psa 9:16, "The wicked is snared by the work of his own hands;" compare the note at Job 5:13. The phrase "by his own feet" here means, that he walks there himself. He is not led or driven by others, but he goes himself into the net. Wild animals are sometimes driven, but he walks along of his own accord into the net, and has no one to blame but himself.
And he walketh upon a snare - Or a pitfall. This was formerly the mode of taking wild beasts. It was done by excavating a place in the earth, and covering it over with turf, leaves, etc. supported in a slender manner; so that the lion, or elephant or tiger that should tread on it, would fall through. These methods of taking wild beasts have been practiced from the earliest times, and are practiced everywhere.
The gin - Another method of taking wild beasts. It was a snare so made as to spring suddenly on an animal, securing him by the neck or feet. We use a trap for the same purpose. The Hebrew word (פח pach) may denote anything of this kind - a snare, net, noose, etc. with which birds or wild animals are taken.
By the heel - By the foot.
And the robber shall prevail - He shall be overpowered by the highwayman; or the plunderer shall make a sudden descent upon him, and strip him of his all. The meaning is, that destruction would suddenly overtake him. There can be no doubt that Bildad meant to apply all this to Job.
The snare is laid - All this language is taken from the modes of taking wild beasts; but it is not possible to designate with absolute certainty the methods in which it was done. The word used here (חבל chebel) means a cord, or rope; and then a snare, gin, or toil, such as is used by hunters. It was used in some way as a noose to secure an animal. This was concealed (Hebrew) "in the earth" - so covered up that an animal would not perceive it, and so constructed that it might be made to spring upon it suddenly.
And a trap - We have no reason to suppose that at that time they employed steel to construct traps as we do now, or that the word here has exactly the sense which we give to it. The Hebrew word (מלכדת malkôdeth) is from לכד lâkad - "to take," "to catch," and means a noose, snare, spring - by which an animal was seized. It is a general term; though undoubtedly used to denote a particular instrument, then well known. The general idea in all this is, that the wicked man would be suddenly seized by calamities, as a wild animal or a bird is taken in a snare. Independently of the interest of the entire passage Job 18:8-10 as a part of the argument of Bildad, it is interesting from the view which it gives of the mode of securing wild animals in the early periods of the world. They had no guns as we have; but they early learned the art of setting gins and snares by which they were taken. In illustrating this passage, it will not be inappropriate to refer to some of the modes of hunting practiced by the ancient Egyptians. The same methods were practiced then in catching birds and taking wild beasts as now, and there is little novelty in modern practices. The ancients had not only traps, nets, and springs, but also bird-lime smeared upon twigs, and made use of stalking-horses, setting dogs, etc. The various methods in which this was done, may be seen described at length in Wilkinson's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, vol. iii. pp. 1-81. The noose was employed to catch the wild ox, the antelope, and other animals.
This seems to be a self-acting net, so constructed that the birds, when coming in contact with it, close it upon themselves.
This trap appears as if in a vertical position, although, doubtless, it is intended to represent a trap lying upon the ground.
There are other traps very similar to this, except that they are oval; and probably have a net like the former. They are composed of two arcs, which, being kept open by machinery in the middle, furnish the oval frame of the net; but when the bird flies in, and knocks out the pin in the center, the arcs collapse enclosing the bird in the net. One instance occurs, in a painting at Thebes, of a trap, in which a hyaena is caught, and carried on the shoulders of two men. It was a common method of hunting to enclose a large tract of land by a circle of nets, or to station men at convenient distances, and gradually to contract the circle by coming near to each other, and thus to drive all the wild animals into a narrow enclosure, where they could be easily slain. Some idea of the extent of those enclosures may be formed from the by no means incredible circumstance related by Plutarch, that when the Macedonian conquerors were in Persia, Philotos, the son of Armenio, had hunting-nets that would enclose the space of an hundred furlongs. The Oriental sovereigns have sometimes employed whole armies in this species of hunting. Picture Bible.
Terrors shall make him afraid - He shall be constantly subject to alarms, and shall never feel secure. "Terrors here are represented as allegorical persons, like the Furies in the Greek poets." Noyes. The idea here is substantially the same as that given by Eliphaz, Job 15:21-22.
And shall drive him to his feet - Margin, scatter. This is a literal translation of the Hebrew. The idea is, that he will be alarmed by such terrors; his self-composure will be dissipated, and he will "take to his heels."
His strength shall be hungerbitten - Shall be exhausted by hunger or famine.
And destruction shall be ready at his side - Hebrew "Shall be fitted" נכוּן nākûn "to his side." Some have supposed that this refers to some disease, like the pleurisy, that would adhere closely to his side. So Jerome understands it. Schultens has quoted some passages from Arabic poets, in which calamities are represented as "breaking the side." Bildad refers probably, to some heavy judgments that would crush a man; such that the ribs, or the human frame, could not bear; and the meaning is, that a wicked man would be certainly crushed by misfortune.
It shall devour the strength of his skin - Margin, bars. The margin is a correct translation of the Hebrew. The word used (בדי badēy, construct with עורו ‛ôrô - his skin) means bars, staves, branches, and here denotes his limbs, members; or, more literally, the bones, as supports of the skin, or the human frame. The bones are regarded as the bars, or the framework, holding the other parts of the body in their place, and over which the skin is stretched. The word "it" here refers to the "first-born of death" in the other hemistich of the verse; and the meaning is, that the strength of his body shal be entirely exhausted.
The first-born of death - The "first-born" is usually spoken of as distinguished for vigor and strength; Gen 49:3, "Reuben, thou art my first-born, my might, and the beginning of my strength;" and the idea conveyed here by the "first-born of death" is the most fearful and destructive disease that death has ever engendered; compare Milton's description of the progeny of sin, in Paradise Los. Diseases are called "the sons or children of death" by the Arabs, (see Schultens in loc.,) as being begotten by it.
His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle - Security shall forsake his dwelling, and he shall be subject to constant alarms. There shall be nothing there in which he can confide, and all that he relied on as sources of safety shall have fled.
And it shall bring him - That is, he shall be brought.
To the king of terrors - There has been much variety in the explanation of this verse. Dr. Noyes renders it, "Terror pursues him like a king." Dr. Good, "Dissolution shall invade him like a monarch." Dr. Stock says. "I am sorry to part with a beautiful phrase in our common version, the king of terrors, as descriptive of death, but there is no authority for it in the Hebrew text." Wemyss renders it, "Terror shall seize him as a king." So Schultens translates it, "Gradientur in eum, instar regis, terrores." Rosenmuller renders it as it is in our version. The Vulgate: Et calcet super eum, quasi rex, interitus - "destruction shall tread upon him as a king." The Septuagint "and distress shall lay hold on him with the authority of a king" - αἰτίᾳ βασιλικῃ satia basilikē. The Chaldee renders it, "shall be brought to the king of terrors" - רגושתא למלך is not evident, therefore, that we are to give up the beautiful phrase, "king of terrors."
The fair construction of the Hebrew, as it seems to me, is that which is conveyed in our common version - meaning, that the wicked man would be conducted, not merely to death, but to that kind of death where a fearful king would preside - a monarch infusing terrors into his soul. There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the phrase, "the king of terrors." Death is a fearful monarch. All dread him. He presides in regions of chilliness and gloom. All fear to enter those dark regions where he dwells and reigns, and an involuntary shudder seizes the soul on approaching the confines of his kingdom. Yet all must be brought there; and though man dreads the interview with that fearful king, there is no release. The monarch reigns from age to age - reigns over all. There is but one way in which he will cease to appear as a terrific king. - It is by confidence in Him who came to destroy death; that great Redeemer who has taken away his "sting," and who can enable man to look with calmness and peace even on the chilly regions where he reigns. The idea here is not precisely that of the Roman and Grecian mythologists, of a terrific king, like Rhadamanthus, presiding over the regions of the dead but it is of death personified - of death represented as a king fitted to inspire awe and terror.
It shall dwell in his tabernacle - It is uncertain what is to be understood as referred to here. Some suppose that the word to be understood is soul, and that the meaning is "his soul," that is, he himself, "shall dwell in his tent." Rosenmuller, Noyes, Wemyss, and others, suppose that the word is terror. "Terror (בלהה ballâhâh) shall dwell in his tent," the same word which is used in the plural in the previous verse. This is undoubtedly the correct sense; and the idea is, that his forsaken tent shall be a place of terror - somewhat, perhaps, as we speak of a forsaken house as "haunted." It may be that Bildad refers to some such superstitious fear as we sometimes, and almost always in childhood, connect with the idea of a house in which nobody lives.
Because it is none of his - It is no longer his. It is a forsaken, tenantless dwelling.
Brimstone shall be scattered - Brimstone has been always the image of desolation. Nothing will grow on a field that is covered with sulphur; and the meaning here is, that his house would be utterly desolate and forsaken. Rosenmuller and Noyes suppose that there is an allusion here to a sudden destruction, such as was that of Sodom and Gomorrha. Grotius doubts whether it refers to that or to lightning. Others suppose that lightning is referred to both here and in Gen 19:24; Deu 29:23. I can see no evidence here, however, that there is any reference to Sodom and Gomorrha, or that there is any allusion to lightning. If the allusion had been to Sodom, it would have been more full. That was a case "just in point" in the argument; and the fact that was exactly in point, and would have furnished to the friends of Job such an irrefragalbe proof of the position which they were defending, and that it is not worked into the very texture of their argument, is full demonstration, to my mind, that that remarkable event is not referred to in this place. The only thing necessarily implied in the language before us is, that sulphur, the emblem of desolation, would be scattered on his dwelling, and that his dwelling would be wholly desolate.
His roots shall be dried up - Another image of complete desolation - where he is compared to a tree that is dead - a figure whose meaning is obvious, and which often occurs; see Job 15:30, note; Job 8:12-13, notes.
Above his branch - Perhaps referring to his children or family. All shall be swept away - an allusion which Job could not well hesitate to apply to himself.
His remembrance shall perish - His name - all recollection of him. Calamity shall follow him even after death; and that which every man desires, and every good man has, and honored name when he is dead, will be denied him. Men will hasten to forget him as fast as possible; compare Pro 10:7, "The name of the wicked shall rot."
No name in the street - Men when they meet together in highways and places of concourse - when traveler meets traveler, and caravan caravan, shall not pause to speak of him and of the loss which society has substained by his death. It is one of the rewards of virtue that the good will speak of the upright man when he is dead; that they will pause in their journey, or in their business, to converse about him; and that the poor and the needy will dwell with affectionate interest upon their loss. "This" blessing, Bildad says, will be denied the wicked man. The world will not feel that they have any loss to deplore when he is dead. No great plan of benvolence has been arrested by his removal. The poor and the needy fare as well as they did before. The widow and the fatherless make no grateful remembrance of his name, and the world hastens to forget him as soon as possible. There is no man, except one who is lost to all virtue, who does not desire to be remembered when he is dead - by his children, his neighbors, his friends, and by the stranger who may read the record on the stone that marks his grave. Where this desire is "wholly" extinguished, man has reached the lowest possible point of degradation, and the last hold on him in favor of virtue has expired.
He shall be driven from light into darkness - Margin, "They shall drive him." The meaning is, that he should be driven from a state of prosperity to one of calamity.
And chased out of the world - Perhaps meaning that he should not be conducted to the grave with the slow and solemn pomp of a respectful funeral, but in a hurry - as a malefactor is driven from human life, and hastily commited to the earth. The living would be glad to be rid of him, and would "chase" him out of life.
He shall neither have son ... - All his family shall be cut off. He shall have no one to perpetuate his name or remembrance. All this Job could not help applying to himself, as it was doubtless intended he should. The facts in his case were just such as were supposed in these proverbs about the wicked; and hence, his friends could not but conclude that he was a wicked man; and hence, his friends could not but conclude that he was a wicked man; and hence, too, since these were undisputed maxims, Job felt so much embarrassment in answering them.
They that come after him - Future ages; they who may hear of his history and of the manner in which he was cut off from life. So the passage has been generally rendered; so, substantially, it is by Dr. Good, Dr. Noyes, Rosenmuller, and Luther. The Vulgate translates it novissimi; the Septuagint, ἔσχατοι eschatoi - "the last" - meaning those that should live after him, or at a later period. But Schultens supposes that the word used here denotes those in "the West," and the corresponding word rendered "went before," denotes those in "the East." With this view Wemyss concurs, who renders the whole verse:
"The West shall be astonished at his end;
The East shall be panic-struck."
According to this, it means that those who dwelt in the remotest regions would be astonished at the calamities which would come upon him. It seems to me that this accords better with the scope of the passage than the other interpretation, and avoids some difficulties which cannot be separated from the other view. The word translated in our version, "that come after him" אחרינים 'achăryônı̂ym is from אחר 'âchar, to be after, or behind; to stay behind, to delay, remain. It then means "after," or "behind;" and as in the geography of the Orientals the face was supposed to be turned to "the East," instead of being turned to the North, as with us - a much more natural position than ours - the word "after," or "behind," comes to denote West, the right hand the South, the left the North; see the notes at Job 23:8-9.
Thus, the phrase האחרין הים hayâm hā'achăryôn - "the sea behind, denotes the Mediterranean sea - the West; Deu 24:3; see also Deu 11:24; Deu 34:2; Joe 2:20, where the same phrase in Hebrew occurs. Those who dwelt in the "West," therefore, would be accurately referred to by this phrase.
Shall be astonied - Shall be "astonished" - the old mode of writing the word being "astonied;" Isa 52:14. It is not known, however, to be used in any other book than the Bible.
As they that went before - Margin, or "lived with him." Noyes, "his elders shall be struck with horror." Vulgate, "et primos invadet "horror." Septuagint, "amazement seizes "the first" - πρώτους prōtous. But the more correct interpretation is that which refers it to the people of the East. The word קדמנים qadmônı̂ym is from קדם qâdam to precede, to go before; and then the derivatives refer to that which goes before, which is in front, etc.; and as face was turned to the East by geographers, the word comes to express that which is in the East, or near the sun-rising; see Joe 2:20; Job 23:8; Gen 2:8. Hence, the phrase קדם בני benēy qedem - "sons of the East" - meaning the persons who dwelt east of Palestine; Job 1:3; Isa 11:14; Gen 25:6; Gen 29:1. The word used here, (קדמנים qadmônı̂ym), is used to denote the people or the regions of the East; in Eze 47:8, Eze 47:18; Zac 14:8. Here it means, as it seems to me, the people of the East; and the idea is that people everywhere would be astonished at the doom of the wicked man. His punishment would be so sudden and entire as to hold the world mute with amazement.
Were affrighted - Margin, "laid hold on horror." This is a more literal rendering. The sense is, they would be struck with horror at what would occur to him.
Surely such are the dwellings of the wicked - The conclusion or sum of the whole matter. The meaning is, that the habitations of all that knew not God would be desolate - a declaration which Job could not but regard as aimed at himself; compare Job 20:29. This is the close of this harsh and severe speech. It is no wonder that Job should feel it keenly, and that he "did" feel it is apparent from the following chapter. A string of proverbs has been presented, having the appearance of proof, and as the result of the long observation of the course of events, evidently bearing on his circumstances, and so much in point that he could not well deny their pertinency to his condition. He was stung to the quick, and and gave vent to his agonized feelings in the following chapter.