Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Can a man be profitable unto God? - Can a man confer any favor on God, so as to lay him under obligation? Eliphaz supposes that Job sets up a "claim" to the favor of God, because he was of service to him, or because God had something to fear if he was cut off. He maintains, therefore, that a man can confer no favor on God, so as to lay him under obligation. God is independent and supreme. He has nothing to gain if man is righteous - he has nothing to apprehend if he is punished. He is not dependent at all on man.
As he that is wise - Margin, or, "if he may be profitable, doth his goodness depend thereon." The meaning of the passage is, a wise man may promote his own advantage, but he cannot be of advantage to God. All the result of his wisdom must terminate on himself, and not on God; compare Psa 16:2. Of the correctness of this sentiment there can be no doubt. It accords with reason, and with all that is said in the Scriptures. God is too great to be benefited by man. He is infinite in all his perfections; he is the original fountain of blessedness; he is supremely wise; he has all resources in himself, and he cannot be dependent on his creatures. He cannot, therefore, be deterred from punishing them by any dread which he has of losing their favor - he cannot be induced to bless them because they have laid him under obligation. Eliphaz meant this as a reply to what Job had said. He had maintained, that God did "not" treat people according to their character in this life, but that, in fact, the wicked were often prospered, and suffered to live long. Eliphaz at once "infers," that if this were so, it must be because they could render themselves "serviceable" to God, or because he must have something to dread by punishing them. In the general sentiment, he was right; in the "inference" he was wrong - since Job had not affirmed that they are spared from any such cause, and since many other "reasons" may be assigned.
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that thou art righteous? - This is the same sentiment which was advanced in the previous verse. The meaning is, that it can be no advantage to God that a man is righteous. He is not dependent on man for happiness, and cannot be deterred from dealing justly with him because he is in danger of losing anything. In this sense, it is true. God "has" pleasure in holiness wherever it is, and is pleased when people are righteous; but it is not true that he is dependent on the character of his creatures for his own happiness, or that people can lay him under obligation by their own righteousness. Eliphaz applies this general truth to Job, probably, because he understood him as complaining of the dealings of God with him, as if he had laid God under obligation by his upright life. He supposes that it was implied in the remarks of Job, that he had been so upright, and had been of so much consequence, that God "ought" to have continued him in a state of prosperity. This supposition, if Job ever had it, Eliphaz correctly meets, and shows him that he was not so profitable to God that he could not do without him. Yet, do people not often feel thus? Do ministers of the gospel not sometimes feel thus? Do we not sometimes feel thus in relation to some man eminent for piety, wisdom, or learning? Do we not feel as if God could not do without him, and that there was a sort of necessity that he should keep him alive? Yet, how often are such people cut down, in the very midst of their usefulness, to show
(1) that God is not dependent on them; and
(2) to keep them from pride, as if they were necessary to the execution of the divine plans; and
(3) to teach his people their dependence on "Him," and not on frail, erring mortals. When the church places its reliance on a human arm, God very often suddenly knocks the prop away.
Will he reprove thee for fear of thee? - Or, rather, will he come into trial, and argue his cause before a tribunal, because he is afraid that his character will suffer, or because he feels himself bound to appear, and answer to the charges which may be brought? The language is all taken from courts of justice, and the object is, to reprove Job as if he felt that it was necessary that God should appear and answer to what he alleged against him.
Will he enter with thee into judgment? - Will he condescend to enter on a trial with one like thee? Will he submit his cause to a trial with man, as if he were an equal, or as if man had any right to such an investigation? It is to be remembered, that Job had repeatedly expressed a desire to carry his cause before God, and that God would meet him as an equal, and not take advantage of his majesty and power to overwhelm him; see Job 13:3, note; Job 13:20-21, notes. Eliphaz here asks, whether God could be expected to meet "a man," one of his own creatures, in this manner, and to go into a trial of the cause. He says that God was supreme; that no one could bring him into court; and that he could not be restrained from doing his pleasure by any dread of man. These sentiments are all noble and correct, and worthy of a sage. Soon, however, he changes the style, and utters the language of severe reproach, because Job had presumed to make such a suggestion. Perhaps, also, in this verse, a special emphasis should be placed on "thee." "Will God enter into trial with thee ... a man whose wickedness is so great, and whose sin is infinite?" Job 22:4-5.
Is not thy wickedness great? - That is, "Is it not utter presumption and folly for a man, whose wickedness is undoubtedly so great, to presume to enter into a litigation with God?" Eliphaz here "assumes" it as an undeniable proposition, that Job was a great sinner. This charge had not been directly made before. He and his friends had argued evidently on that supposition, and had maintained that one who was a great sinner would be punished in this life for it, and they had left it to be implied, in no doubtful manner, that they so regarded Job. But the charge had not been before so openly made. Here Eliphaz argues as if that were a point that could not be disputed. The only "proof" that he had, so far as appears, was, that Job had been afflicted as they maintained great sinners "would be," and they, therefore, concluded that he must be such. No facts are referred to, except that he was a great sufferer, and yet, on the ground of this, he proceeds to take for granted that he "must have been" a man who had taken a pledge for no cause; had refused to give water to the thirsty; had been an oppressor, etc.
And thine iniquities infinite? - Hebrew "And there is no end to thine iniquities," that is, they are without number. This does not mean that sin is an "infinite evil," or that his sins were infinite in degree; but that if one should attempt to reckon up the number of his transgressions, there would be no end to them. This, I believe, is the only place in the Bible where sin is spoken of, in any respect, as "infinite;" and this cannot be used as a proof text, to show that sin is an infinite evil, for:
(1) that is not the meaning of the passage even with respect to Job;
(2) it makes no affirmation respecting sin in general; and
(3) it was untrue, even in regard to Job, and in the sense in which Zophar meant to use the phrase.
There is no intelligible sense in which it can be said that sin is "an infinite evil;" and no argument should be based on such a declaration, to prove that sin demanded an infinite atonement, or that it deserves eternal sufferings. Those doctrines can be defended on solid grounds - they should not be made to rest on a false assumption, or on a false interpretation of the Scriptures.
For thou hast taken a pledge from thy brother for nought - The only evidence which Eliphaz seems to have had of this was, that this was a heinous sin, and that as Job seemed to be severely punished, it was to be "inferred" that he must have committed some such sin as this. No way of treating an unfortunate and a suffering man could be more unkind. A "pledge" is that which is given by a debtor to a creditor, for security for the payment of a debt, and would be, of course, that which was regardcd as of value. Garments, which constituted a considerable part of the wealth of the Orientals, would usually be the pledge which would be given. With us, in such cases, watches, jewelry, notes, mortgages, are given as collateral security, or as pledges. The law of Moses required, that when a man took the garment of his neighbor for a pledge, it should be restored by the time the sun went down, Exo 22:26-27. The crime here charged on Job was, that he had exacted a pledge from another where there was no just claim to it; that is, where no debt had been contracted, where a debt; had been paid, or where the security was far beyond the value of the debt. The injustice of such a course would be obvious. It would deprive the man of the use of the property which was pledged, and it gave him to whom it was pledged an opportunity of doing wrong, as he might retain it, or dispose of it, and the real owner see it no more.
And stripped the naked of their clothing - Margin, "clothes of the naked." That is, of those who were poorly clad, or who were nearly destitute of clothes. The word naked is often used in this sense in the Scriptures; see the notes at Joh 21:7. The meaning here is, that Job had taken away by oppression even the garments of the poor in order to enrich himself.
Thou hast not given water to the weary - That is, thou hast withheld the rites of hospitality - one of the most grievous offences which could be charged on an Arabian; compare the notes at Isa 21:14. In all the Oriental world, hospitality was regarded, and is still, as a duty of the highest obligation.
But as for the mighty man - Hebrew as in the margin, "man of arm." The "arm," in the Scriptures, is the symbol of power; Psa 10:15, "Break thou the arm of the wicked;" Eze 30:21. "I have broken the arm of Pharaoh;" Psa 89:13, "Thou hast a mighty arm;" Psa 97:1, "His holy arm hath gotten him the victory." The reason of this is, that the sword and spear were principally used in war, and success depended on the force with which they were wielded by the arm. There can be no doubt that this is intended to be applied to Job, and that the meaning is, that he had driven the poor from their possessions, and he had taken forcible occupancy of what belonged to them. The idea is, that he had done this by power, not by "right."
Had the earth - Took possession of the land, and drove off from it those to whom it belonged, or who had an equal right to it with him.
And the honorable man - Margin, "eminent," or "accepted of countenance." Hebrew: "Lifted up of countenance;" that is, the man whose countenance was elevated either by honor or pride. It may be used to describe either; but, perhaps, there is more force in the former, in saying that it was the great man, the man of rank and office, who had got possession. There is, thus, some sarcasm in the severe charge: "The great man ... the man of rank, and wealth, and office, has got possession, while the humble and poor are banished." Job had had great possessions; but this charge as to the manner in which he had acquired them seems to be wholly gratuitous. Eliphaz takes it for granted, since he was so severely punished, that it "must have been" in some such way.
Thou hast sent widows away empty - That is, without regarding their needs, and without doing anything to mitigate their sorrows. The oppression of the widow and the fatherless is, in the Scriptures, every where regarded as a crime of special magnitude; see the notes at Isa 1:17.
The arms of the fatherless have been broken - Thou hast taken away all that they relied on. Thou hast oppressed them and taken advantage of their weak and defenseless condition to enrich yourself. This charge was evidently gratuitous and unjust. It was the result of an "inference" from the fact that he was thus afflicted, and about as just as inferences, in such cases, usually are. To all this, Job replies in beautiful language in Job 29:11-16, when describing his former condition, and in justice to him, we may allow him to speak "here," and to show what was, in fact, the course of his life.
When the ear heard me, then it blessed me;
And when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me:
Because I delivered the poor that cried,
And the fatherless, and him that had none to help him.
The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me:
And I caused the widow's heart to leap for joy.
I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;
My judgment was as a robe and a diadem.
I was eyes to the blind,
And feet was I to the lame;
I was a father to the poor,
And the cause which I knew not, I searched out
Therefore snares are round about thee - "Snares" were used for catching wild animals and birds, and the word then came to denote any sudden calamity; see Job 18:8-10. Eliphaz here says, that it "must be" that these calamities came upon Job in consequence of such sins as he had specified. About that he took it for granted there could be no dispute.
And sudden fear - The calamities of Job came upon him suddenly Job 1. It was to this, doubtless, that Eliphaz alluded.
Or darkness - Darkness and night in the Scriptures are emblems of calamity.
That thou canst not see - Deep and fearful darkness; total night, so that nothing is visible. That is, the heaviest calamities had overwhelmed him.
And abundance of waters - An emblem, also, of calamities; Job 27:20; Psa 69:1-2; Psa 73:10.
Is not God in the height of heaven? - In the highest heaven. That is, Is not God exalted over all worlds? This seems to be intended to refer to the sentiments of Job, as if he had maintained that God was so exalted that he could not notice what was occurring on earth. It should, therefore, be read in connection with the following verse: "God is so exalted, that thou sayest, How can he know? Can he look down through the thick clouds which intervene between him and man?" Job had maintained no such opinion, but the process of thought in the mind of Eliphaz seems to have been this. Job had maintained that God did "not" punish the wicked in this life as they deserved, but that they lived and prospered. Eliphaz "inferred" that he could hold that opinion only because he supposed that God was so exalted that he could not attend to worldly affairs. He knew no other way in which the opinion could be held, and he proceeds to argue "as if" it were so.
Job had in the previous chapter appealed to plain "facts," and had rested his whole argument on them. Eliphaz, instead of meeting the "facts" in the case, or showing that they did not exist as Job said they did, considered his discourse as a denial of Divine Providence, and as representing God to be so far above the earth that he could not notice what was occurring here. How common is this in theological controversy! One man, in defending his opinions, or in searching for the truth, appeals to "facts," and endeavors to ascertain their nature and bearing. His adversary, instead of meeting them, or showing that they are not so, at once appeals to some admitted doctrine, to some established article of a creed, or to some tradition of the fathers, and says that the appeal to fact is but a denial of an important doctrine of revelation. It is easier to charge a man with denying the doctrine of Providence, or to call him by a harsh name, than it is to meet an argument drawn from fact and from the plain meaning of the Bible.
And behold the height of the stars - Margin, as in Hebrew "head" - ראשׁ rô'sh. God is more exalted than the highest of the stars. The stars are the highest objects in view, and the sense, therefore, is, that God is infinitely exalted.
And thou sayest, How doth God know? - That is, it "follows" from what you have said; or the opinion which you have advanced is "the same" as if you had affirmed this. How common it is to charge a man with holding what we "infer," from something which he has advanced, he must hold, and then to proceed to argue "as if" he actually held that. The philosophy of this is plain. He advances a certain opinion. "We" infer at once that he can hold that only on certain grounds, or that if he holds that he must hold something else also. We can see that if "we" held that opinion, we should also, for the sake of consistency, be compelled to hold something which seems to follow from it, and we cannot see how this can be avoided, and we at once charge him with holding it. But the truth may be, that "he" has not seen that such consequences follow, or that he has some other way of accounting for the fact than we have; or that he may hold to the fact and yet deny wholly the consequences which legitimately follow from it. Now we have a right to show him "by argument" that his opinions, if he would follow them out, would lead to dangerous consequences, but we have a right to charge him with holding only what he "professes" to hold. He is not answerable for our inferences; and we have no right to charge them on him as being his real opinions. Every man has a right to avow what he actually believes, and to be regarded as holding that, and that only.
How doth God know? - That is, How can one so exalted see what is done on the distant earth, and reward and punish people according to their deserts? This opinion was actually held by many of the ancients. It was supposed that the supreme God did not condescend to attend to the affairs of mortals, but had committed the government of the earth to inferior beings. This was the foundation of the Gnostic philosophy, which prevailed so much in the East in the early ages of the Christian church. Milton puts a similar sentiment into the mouth of Eve in her reflections after she had eaten the forbidden fruit:
And I, perhaps, am secret: heaven is high,
High and remote from thence to see distinct
Each thing on earth; and other care perhaps
May have diverted from continual watch
Our great Forbidder, safe with all his spies about him.
Paradise Lost, B. ix.
Can he judge through the dark cloud? - Can he look down through the clouds which interpose between man and him? Eliphaz could not see how Job could maintain his opinions without holding that this was impossible for God. He could see no other reason why God did not punish the wicked than because "he did not see them," and he, therefore, charges this opinion on Job.
Thick clouds are a covering to him - This is to be understood as expressing what Eliphaz regarded as the sentiment of Job - that so thick clouds intervened between him and man that he could not take cognizance of what was going forward on earth.
And he walketh in the circuit of heaven - Upon the arch of heaven, as it seems to be bent over our heads. He walks above that cerulean, so high, that he cannot see what occurs on earth, and to punish mortals. This was not an uncommon sentiment among the ancients, though it is here, with the greatest injustice, attributed to Job. A similar sentiment is expressed by Lucretius, as quoted by Rosenmuller and Noyes:
Omnis enim per se Divum natura necesse est
Immortali aevo summa cum pace fruatur,
Semota a nostris rebus, sejunctaque longe.
Nam privata dolore omni, privata periclis,
Ipsa suis pollens opibus, nihil in liga nostri,
Nec bene promeritus capitur, nec tangitur ira.
Compare Isa 29:15.
Hast thou marked the old way which wicked men have trodden? - Hast thou seen what has happened in former times to wicked people? Job had maintained that God did not deal with people in this world according to their character. To meet this, Eliphaz now appeals to ancient facts, and especially refers to the deluge, when the wicked were cut off by a flood for their sins. Schultens, Dr. Good, Noyes, and Reiske, however, suppose that tbe word here rendered "mark," means to "pursue," or "imitate," and that the sense is," Are you willing to adopt the principles of those wicked people who lived in the time of the deluge?" But the sense is not materially affected. The general design is to refer Job to the case of the impious generation that was swept off by a flood. The judgments of God on them were a full refutation, in his view, of the sentiments of Job.
Which were cut down - Who were suddenly destroyed by a flood. On the word used here (קמט qâmaṭ) see the notes at Job 16:8. It occurs only in that place and this. Its primary notion is that of drawing together or contracting - as the feet of a lamb or calf are drawn together and tied preparatory to being killed; and the meaning here is, probably, "who were huddled together by the waters," or who were driven in heaps by the deluge, so rapidly and suddenly did it come upon them.
Out of time - Hebrew "And there was no time;" that is, it was done in a moment, or suddenly. No time was given them; no delay was granted. The floods rushed over them, and nothing could stay them.
Whose foundation was overflown - Margin, or, "a flood was poured upon their foundation." That is, all on which they relied was swept away. The word "foundation" refers to that on which their happiness and security rested, as a house rests on its foundation, and when that is swept away the house falls.
With a flood - Hebrew (נהר nâhâr) "river." The word is commonly applied to a river; and in the Scriptures, by way of eminence, to the Euphrates; see Isa 7:20, note; Isa 8:7, note. It may be used, however, to denote a river which is swollen, and then a flood - and it is several times rendered "flood" in the Scriptures; Job 14:11; Jon 2:3 (where it means the sea); Jos 24:2-3, Jos 24:14-15; Psa 66:6; Job 28:11; Psa 24:2; Psa 93:3; Sol 8:7. Prof. Lee supposes that the allusion here is to some overflowing of the Euphrates, but the reference seems to be decidedly to the deluge in the time of Noah. The "language" is such as would be used in referring to that, and the fact is just such an one as would be pertinent to the argument of Eliphaz. The fact was undoubtedly well known to all, so that a bare allusion to it would be enough.
Which said unto God, Depart from us - Notes, Job 21:14. A very correct description of the old world. They had no wish to retain God in their knowledge. Probably Eliphaz here refers to what Job had said, Job 21:14-15. He had remarked, in describing the wicked, that they said unto God, "Depart from us," and yet they lived prosperously. "But see," says Eliphaz,'" a case" where they did this. It was done by the inhabitants of the world before the deluge, and their houses were filled, as you say the houses of the wicked are, with good things, but God swept them all suddenly away."
And what can the Almighty do for them? - Margin, or," to." That is, they demanded what the Almighty could do for them. They did not feel their dependence on him; they did not admit that they needed his aid; they cast off all reliance on him. This whole passage is a most sarcastic retort on what Job had said in Job 21:14-15. He had affirmed that though wicked people used this language, yet that they prospered. Eliphaz takes the same language and applies it to the sinners before the deluge, and says that they expressed themselves just in this manner. The language which Job puts into the mouths of the wicked, had indeed, says Eliphaz, been used. But by whom? By those who lived in security and prosperity. "By the men before the deluge," says he, "the race that was so wicked that it was necessary to cut them off by the flood. These are the people to whose sentiments Job appeals; these the people with whom he has sympathy!"
Yet he filled their houses with good things - This is undoubtedly a biting sarcasm. Job had maintained that such people were prosperous. "Yes," says Eliphaz, "their houses were well filled! They were signally blessed and prospered!"
But the counsel of the wicked is far from me - This is the very language of Job, Job 21:16. It is used here sarcastically. "Far from me," you say, "be the counsel of the wicked. Thus you defend them, and attempt to show that they are the favorites of heaven! You attempt to prove that God must and will bless them! Far from me, say I, be the counsel of the wicked! With them I have no part, no lot. I will not defend them ... I will not be their advocate!" The object is, to show that, notwithstanding all that Job had said, he was secretly the advocate of the wicked, and stood up as their friend.
The righteous see it, and are glad - see the destruction of the wicked; compare Rev 15:3; Rev 16:7; Rev 19:1-2. This is designed by Eliphaz, probably, not only to state a fact about the righteous of other times who saw the wicked punished, but, also, to vindicate his own conduct and that of his two friends in regard to Job. If the righteous of other times had rejoiced when the wicked were punished, they inferred that it was not improper for them to manifest similar rejoicings when God had overtaken one who was so signally depraved as they supposed Job to be. Their lack of sympathy for him, therefore, they would defend by a reference to the conduct of the people of other times. There is a sense in which good people rejoice when the wicked are detected and punished. It is not:
(1) that they rejoice that the sin was committed; nor
(2) that they rejoice in misery; nor
(3) that they would not rejoice more if the wicked had been righteous, and had escaped suffering altogether.
But it is the kind of joy which we have when a murderer, a robber, or a pirate is seized - when a counterfeiter is detected - when a man who prowls around the dwelling at night to murder its inmates is brought to punishment. It is joy, not that the sin was committed, but that the laws are executed; and who should not rejoice in that? We have joy in the character of an upright judge when he impartially and faithfully administers the laws; and why should we not rejoice in God when he does the same? We rejoice in the manifestation of truth and justice among people - why should we not in the exhibition of the same things in God? We rejoice in a police that can ferret out every form of iniquity, and bring offenders to justice; and why should we not rejoice in that government which is infinitely more perfect than any police ever was among people?
And the innocent laugh them to scorn - This is another way of saying that they exult or rejoice; compare Pro 1:26-27. No consideration can justify people in deriding and mocking those who are subjected to punishment; and it is by no means certain that the speaker meant to refer to such derision.
Whereas our substance is not cut down - Margin, or, "Estate" Gesenius supposes that this means our adversary or enemy. The word used here (קים qı̂ym) he regards as derived from קוּם qûm - to rise, to rise up; and, hence, it may have the sense of rising up against, or an enemy. So Noyes understands it, and renders it:
"Truly, our adversary is destroyed;
And fire hath consumed his abundance."
Rosemmuller accords with this, and it seems to me to be the correct view. According to this, it is the language of the righteous Job 22:19 when exciting over the punishment of the wicked, saying, "Our foe is cut down." Jerome renders it, Nonne succisa est erectio eorum, etc. The Septuagint, "Has not their substance ὑπόστασις hupostasis disappeared?" The sense is not materially different. If the word "substance," or "property," is to be retained it should be read as a question, and regarded as the language of the righteous who exult. "Has not their substance been taken away. and has not the fire consumed their property?" Dr. Good strangely renders it, "For our tribe is not cut off."
But the remnant of them - Margin, "their excellency." Hebrew יתרם yı̂thrām. Jerome, "reliquias eorum" - "the remnants of them." Septuagint, κατάλειμμα kataleimma - "the residue," or "what is left." The Hebrew word יתר yether means, "the remainder, the residue, the rest;" then, what is redundant, more than is needed, or that abounds; and then, "wealth," the superabundant property which a man does not "need" for his own use or family. The word here probably means that which the rich sinner possessed.
The fire consumeth - Or, hath consumed. It has been supposed by many that the allusion here is to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and it cannot be denied that such an allusion is possible. If it were "certain" that Job lived before that event, there could be little objection to such a supposition. The "only" objection would be, that a reference to such an event was not more prominent. It would be a case just in point in the argument of the three friends of Job, and one to which it might be supposed they would have appealed as decisive of the controversy. They lived in the vicinity. They could not have been strangers to so remarkable an occurrence, and it would have furnished just the argument which they wished, to prove that God punishes the wicked in this life. If they lived after that event, therefore, it is difficult to account for the fact, that they did not make a more distinct and prominent allusion to it in their argument. It is true, that the same remark may be made respecting the allusion to the flood, which was a case equally in point, and in reference to which the allusion, if it exist at all, is almost equally obscure. So far as the language here is concerned, the reference may be either to the destruction of Sodom, or to destruction by lightning, such as happened to the possessions of Job, Job 1:16; and it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine which is correct. The general idea is, that the judgments of heaven, represented by fire, had fallen on the wicked, and that the righteous, therefore, had occasion to rejoice.
Acquaint now thyself with him - Margin, that is, "with God." Eliphaz takes it for granted now, that Job was a sinner wholly unreconciled to God, and unacquainted with him. This fact, he supposes, was the source of all his calamities. As long as he remained thus unreconciled to God, he must be miserable. He proceeds, therefore, in a most beautiful manner, to exhort him to be at peace with God, and portrays the benefits which would result from such a reconciliation. There are few passages in the Bible of more exquisite beauty than this, and nothing could be sounder advice, on the supposition that Job was, as he supposed, a stranger to God. In this beautiful exhortation, be shows:
(1) what he means by becoming acquainted with God Job 22:21-23; and then
(2) what would be the happy results of such reconciliation, Job 22:24-30.
The word rendered "acquaint thyself" הסכן hasâkan - from סכן sâkan means, properly, "to dwell," to be familiar with anyone, to associate with one - from the idea of dwelling in the same tent or house; and in the Hiphil, the form used here, to become familiar with anyone, to be on terms of friendship. The meaning here is, "Secure the friendship of God. Become truly acquainted with him. Be reconciled to him. You are now estranged. You have no just views of him. You murmur and complain, and you are suffering under his displeasure as a sinner. But it is not too late to repent, and to return to him; and in so doing you will find peace." An acquaintance with God, in the sense of this passage, implies:
(1) a correct knowledge of his true character, and
(2) reconciliation with him.
There are two great difficulties among people in regard to God. The first is, that they have no just views of his real character. They think him harsh, stern, tyrannical. They regard his law as severe, and its penalty as unjust. They think his government to be arbitrary, and himself to be unworthy of confidence. This erroneous view must be corrected before people can be reconciled to him - for how can they be brought to lay aside their opposition to him while they regard him as unjust and severe? Secondly, even when the character of God is explained, and his true character is set before people, they are opposed to it. They are opposed to him because he is so holy. Loving sin, they cannot love one who has no sin, and who frowns on evil; and this opposition to the real character of God must be removed before they can be reconciled to him. This requires a change of heart - a change from sin to holiness; and this is the work performed in regeneration.
And be at peace - There can be no peace while you maintain a warfare with God. It is a war against your Maker, where he has control over your conscience, your intellect, your body, and all which can affect your welfare; and while this is maintained, there can be no peace. If the mind is reconciled to him, there will be peace. Peace of mind always follows reconciliation where there has been a variance, and nowhere is the peace so entire and full of joy as when man feels that he is reconciled to God. Eliphaz here has stated a doctrine which has been confirmed by all the subsequent revelations in the Bible, and by the experience of all those who have become reconciled to God; compare the notes at Rom 5:1 : It is peace, as opposed to the agitation and conflict of the mind before; peace resulting from acquiescence in the claims of God; peace in the belief that he is wholly right, and worthy of confidence; and peace in the assurances of his friendship and favor forever. This doctrine, it seems, was thus understood in the early ages of the world, and, indeed, must have been known as early as religion existed after the fall. Man became alienated from God by the apostasy; peace was to be found again only by returning to God, and in reconciliation to him.
Thereby good shall come unto thee - The benefits which he supposed would result from such reconciliation, he proceeds to state in the following verses. They relate chiefly to temporal prosperity, or to proofs of the divine favor in this life. This was in accordance with the views which then prevailed, and especially with their limited and obscure conceptions of the future state. They saw a part - "we" see more; and yet we by no means see all. The "good" which results from reconciliation with God consists in:
(1) pardon of sin;
(2) peace of conscience;
(3) the assurance that we shall have all that is needful in this life;
(4) support in trial;
(5) peace and triumph in death;
(6) a part in the resurrection of the just; and
(7) a crown incorruptible and undefiled in heaven.
No man was ever "injured" by becoming reconciled to God; no one is reconciled to him who is not made a better and a happier man in this life, and who will not be crowned with immortal glory hereafter.
Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth - Listen to his commands, and obey his precepts.
And lay up his words in thine heart - Embrace his truth, and do not forget it. Let it abide with you, and let it influence your secret feelings and the purposes of the soul.
If thou return to the Almighty - Assuming that he was an impenitent sinner, and wholly unreconciled to him.
Thou shalt be built up - A figure taken from building up a house, in contradistinction from pulling one down, and denoting that he would be prospered and happy.
Thou shalt put away iniquity - Rosenmuller, Good, Noyes, and Wemyss, suppose correctly, as it seems to me, that the word "if" is to be understood here to complete the sense - "if thou shalt put away iniquity."
From thy tabernacle - From thy tent, or dwelling.
Then shalt thou lay up gold as dust - Margin, or, "on the dust." Dr. Good renders this, "Thou shalt then count thy treasure as dust" - implying that he would have much of it. Noyes, "Cast to the dust thy gold" - implying that he would throw his gold away as of no account, and put his dependence on God alone. Kim-chi, and, after him, Grotius, suppose that it means, "Thy gold thou shalt regard no more than dust, and gold of Ophir no more than the stones of the brook; God shall be to thee better than gold and silver." The editor of the Pictorial Bible supposes that there is here a distinct reference to the sources from which gold was for merly obtained, as being washed down among the stones of the brooks. The word rendered "gold" here בצר betser is from בצר bâtsar - to cut off, Psa 76:12, and was properly applied to the ore of precious metals in the rude state, as cut or dug out of mines.
Hence, it properly refers to the metals in their crude state, and before they were subjected to the fire. Then it comes to mean precious metals, and is parallel with gold of Ophir in the other hemistich. The word occurs only in the following places; Job 22:24; Job 36:19, where it is rendered "gold," and Job 22:25, where it is rendered "defense." The literal translation here would be, "Cast to the dust the precious metals; on the stones of the brooks (the gold of) Ophir." The Vulgate renders it, "He shall give for earth flint, and for flint golden torrents." The Septuagint, "Thou shalt be placed on a mount in a rock, and as a rock of the torrent of Ophir." Chaldaen: "And thou shalt place upon the dust thy strong tower תקיף כרך, and as a rock of the torrents the gold of Ophir." The word here is probably synonymous with "precious treasure," whether consisting in gold or silver; and the idea is, that he should cast to the dust all that treasure, or regard it as valueless; that he should cease to make it an object of solicitude to gain it, and "then" the Almighty would be to him a treasure of more value than gold. According to this, the idea is, not that he would be recompensed with gold and silver as the consequence of returning to God, but that God would afford him more happiness than he had found in the wealth which he had sought, and on which Eliphaz supposed his heart had been set. He regarded Job as covetous of property, as mourning over that which he had lost, and he entreats him now to cease to grieve on account of that, and to come and put his trust in God.
And the gold of Ophir as the stones of the brooks - Or, rather, "Cast the gold of Ophir to the stones of the valley, or let it remain in its native valley among the stones of the brook, as of no more value than they are." There is, probably, allusion here to the fact, that gold was then commonly found in such places, as it is often now. It was washed down by mountain torrents, and lodged among the stones of the valley, and was thence collected, and the sand being washed out, the gold remained. Ophir is uniformly mentioned in the Scriptures as a place abounding in gold, and as well known; see Kg1 9:28; Ch2 8:18; Ch2 9:10; Kg1 10:11; Kg1 22:48; Ch1 29:4. Much perplexity has been felt in reference to its situation, and the difficulty has not been entirely removed. In regard to the opinions which have been held on the point, the reader may consult the notes at Isa 13:12, the note in the Pictorial Bible on Ch2 20:36, and the Dissertation of Martin Lipenius "de Ophir," in Ugolin's Thesaur. Sacr. Ant. Tom. vii. pp. 262-387; also, the Dissertation of John C. Wichmanshausen, "de navigatione Ophiritica," and Reland's Dissertation "de Ophir" in the same volume. From the mention of this place at a period so early as the time of Job, it is reasonable to suppose that it was not a very remote region, as there is no evidence that voyages were made then to distant countries, or that the knowledge of geography was very extensive. The presumption would be, that it was in the vicinity of Arabia.
Yea, the Almighty shall be - Or, rather, "then the Almighty shall be" - והיה yehâyâh. The meaning is, that if he would return to God, and cast off his anxiety for gold, "then" the Almighty would be his real treasure, and would impart to him solid happiness.
Thy defense - Margin, "gold." The margin is the more correct translation. The word is the same which occurs in the previous verse בצר betser, and there rendered "gold." The word may have the sense of "defense," as the verb בצר bâtsar is often used with such a reference; Num 13:28; Deu 1:28; Deu 3:5; Deu 9:1, et al. The meaning of such places, where the word is applied to walled towns or fortified places, is, that the enemy was, by means of walls, "cut off" from approach. Here, however, the idea of "gold" or "treasure" better suits the connection, and the meaning is, that "God" would be to him an invaluable "treasure" or source of happiness.
And thou shalt have plenty of silver - Margin, "silver of strength." The correct idea, however, is, "and the Almighty shall be treasures of silver unto thee;" that is, he shall be better to you than an abundance of the precious metals. The Hebrew is literally, "And silver of treasures unto thee."
Shalt thou have thy delight in the Almighty - Instead of complaining of him as you now do, you would then find calm enjoyment in contemplating his character and his moral government. This is a correct account of the effects of reconciliation. He who becomes truly "acquainted" with God has pleasure in his existence and attributes; in his law and administration. No longer disposed to complain, he confides in him when he is afflicted; flees to him when he is persecuted; seeks him in the day of prosperity; prefers him to all that this world can give, and finds his supremest joys in turning away from all created good to hold communion with the Uncreated One.
And shalt lift up thy face unto God - An emblem of prosperity, happiness, and conscious innocence. We hang our face down when we are conscious of guilt; we bow the head in adversity. When conscious of uprightness; when blessed with prosperity, and when we have evidence that we are the children of God, we look up toward heaven. This was the natural condition of human beings - made to look upward, while all other animals look grovelling on the earth. So Milton describes the creation of man:
There wanted yet the master-work, the end
Of all yet done; a creature, who, not prone
And brute as other creatures, but endued
With sanctity of reason, might erect
His stature, and upright with front serene
Govern the rest, self-knowing; and from thence
Magnanimous to correspond with heaven,
But grateful to acknowledge whence his good
Directed in devotion, to adore
And worship God supreme, who made him chief
Of all his works.
Paradise Lost, B. vii.
The Classic reader will instantly recollect the description in Ovid:
Pronaque cum spectent animalia caetera terram;
Os homini sublime dedit; coelumque tueri
Jussit, et erectos ad sidera tollere vultus.
Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him - God would then hear him, for he would be righteous. This was one of the blessings which would follow reconciliation. It is, in fact, one of the blessings of a return to God. He hears the cry of his people, and answers their supplications. To be permitted to go to God and to tell him all our needs, to plead for all we need and to implore blessings on our families and friends, is a privilege of far higher value than anything which wealth can bestow; is worth more than all the honors of this world.
And thou shalt pay thy vows - That is, thy vows shall be accepted; thou shalt obtain those blessings for which thou didst make thy vows.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee - Thou shalt form a purpose or plan, and it shall not be frustrated. It shall not be opposed by the events of divine Providence, but whatever you undertake shall prosper.
And the light shall shine upon thy ways - Thou shalt be prospered in all things, instead of being overtaken with calamity.
When men are cast down - The meaning of this is, probably, when people are usually cast down, or in the times of trial and calamity, which prostrate others, you shall find support. You shall then be enabled to say, "there is lifting up, or there is support." Or, more probably still, it may mean, "in times when others are cast down and afflicted, thou shalt be able to raise them up, or to aid them. Thou shalt be able to go to them and say, 'Be of good cheer. Do not be cast down. There is consolation.' And thou shalt be able to procure important blessings for them by thy counsels and prayers;" see the notes at Job 22:30.
And he shall save the humble person - That is, either, "Thou shalt save the humble person," by a change from the second person to the third, which is not uncommon in Hebrew; or, "thou shalt be able from thine own experience to say, "He," that is, "God," will save the humble person, or the one that is cast down." Margin, "him that hath low eyes." The Hebrew is like the margin. In affliction the eyes are cast upon the ground; and so, also, a casting the eyes to the ground is indicative of dejection, of humility, or of modesty. It refers here to one who experiences trials; and Eliphaz says that Job would be able to save such an one; that is, to support him in his afflictions, and furnish the helps necessary to restore him again to comfort.
He shall deliver the island of the innocent - Margin, "the innocent shall deliver the island." Never was there a more unhappy translation than this; and it is quite clear that our translators had no intelligible idea of the meaning of the passage. What can be meant by "saving the island of the innocent?" The word rendered island (אי 'ı̂y) commonly means, indeed, an island, or a maritime country; see Isa 20:6, note. It is, however, used as a "negative" in Sa1 4:21, in the name "I-chabod" - אי־כבוד 'ı̂y-kâbôd. "And she named the child I-chabod (margin, that is, "where is the glory?" or, there is "no glory"), saying, the glory is departed from Israel." This sense is frequent in the Rabbinic Hebrew, where it is used as connected with an adjective in a privative sense, like the English "un." It is probably an abbreviated form of (אין 'ayı̂n) "not, nothing;" and is used here as a "negative" to qualify the following word, "He shall deliver even him that is not innocent."
So it is rendered by the Chaldee, by Le Clerc, Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Noyes, and others. The Vulgate and the Septuagint render it, "He shall deliver the innocent." The sense is, that the man who returns to God, and who is regarded by him as his friend, will be able to intercede for the guilty, and to save them from the punishment which they deserved. His prayers and intercessions will be heard in their behalf, and on his account layouts will be shown to them, even when they did not personally deserve them. This sentiment accords with that expressed in Gen 18:26, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes;" Eze 14:14, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, they should deliver but their own souls;" compare Eze 22:30; Jer 5:1. The sentiment, also, had a beautiful illustration, though one which Eliphaz did not here think of, in his own case and that of his friends, where this very Job, to whom he was giving this counsel, was directed to intercede for them; Job 42:7-8. The sentiment, indeed, is found every where in the Scriptures, that the righteous are permitted to pray for others, and that they are thus the means of bringing down important blessings on them. In answer to those prayers, multitudes are saved from calamity here, and will be brought to eternal life hereafter.
And it is delivered by the pureness of thine hands - Or, rather, he, i. e., the wicked, for whom you pray, will be delivered by the pureness of thine hands. That is, God will save him in answer to the prayers of a righteous man. Your upright and holy life; your pure hands stretched out in supplication, shall be the means of saving him. No one can tell how many blessings are conferred on wicked people because the righteous pray for them. No one can tell how many a wicked son is spared, and ultimately saved, in answer to the intercessions of a holy parent; nor can the wicked world yet know how much it owes its preservation, and the numberless blessings which it enjoys, to the intercessions of the saints. It is one of the innumerable blessings of being a child of God thus to be permitted to be the means of bringing down blessings on others, and saving sinners from ruin. All the friends of God may thus confer unspeakable benefits to others; and they who have "an interest at the throne of grace" should plead without ceasing for the salvation of guilty and dying people.