JOB'S MEMORY OF PAST GLORY
This chapter is the first of a trilogy addressed to God.
"This chapter is part of Job's continuing recourse to God, a reiteration of his first complaint. It is the first of a trilogy that consists of: (1) a description of Job's former exaltation (Job 29), (2) a description of his present humiliation (Job 30), and (3) a final protestation of his innocence (Job 31)."F1
"In the whole circle of Job's lamentations this is perhaps the most affecting."F2 It cannot fail to touch the heart of any person who ever tasted the sorrows of being suddenly reduced from happiness, health, honor and glory to a status of disease, distress, dishonor and misery.
"We may only imagine what kind of an impression these last words of Job may have made upon his friends. Although obliged to be silent, they would not have admitted that they were vanquished, although the drying up of their thoughts and their involuntary silence was the proof of it."F3
JOB REMEMBERS HIS FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD
And Job again took up his parable, and said,
Oh that I were as in the months of old,
As in the days when God watched over me;
When his lamp shined above my head,
And by his light I walked through darkness;
As I was in the ripeness of my days,
When the friendship of God was upon my tent;
When the Almighty was yet with me,
And my children were about me;
When my steps were washed with butter,
And the rock poured me out streams of oil."
In these verses, Job remembers particularly the fellowship with God, to whom he attributed all of the happiness and prosperity which he had enjoyed in those blessed days then gone forever.
And Job again took up his parable, and said, Oh that I were as in the months of old, As in the days when God watched over me; When his lamp shined upon my head, And by his light I walked through darkness; As I was in the ripeness of my days, When the friendship of God was upon my tent; When the Almighty was yet with me, And my children were about me; When my steps were washed with butter, And the rock poured me out streams of oil!
(Job 29:2). The pathos of the whole book is in these words.F4 Job recognized God as the source of all of his prosperity and happiness; and the misery that Job was experiencing at the time of this speech was due to his feeling that God was no longer watching over him.
HE REMEMBERS THE HONOR AND RESPECT ACCORDED HIM
When I went forth to the gate unto the city,
When I prepared my seat in the street,
The young men saw me and hid themselves,
And the aged rose up and stood;
And the princes refrained from talking,
And laid their hand on their mouth;
And the voice of the nobles was hushed,
And their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
For when the ear heard me, then it blessed me;
And when the eye saw me, it gave witness unto me."
This paragraph reveals the great honor and respect accorded Job by the city fathers and princes who sat in the gate of the city. His mention of preparing his seat in the street suggests that he might, himself, have been one of the rulers of the city. His power and ability were recognized by all.
THE REASONS WHY THEY HONORED HIM
Because I delivered the poor that cried,
The fatherless also 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 sing for joy.
l put on righteousness, and it clothed me:
My justice 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 needy:
And the cause of him that I knew not, I searched out.
And I brake the jaws of the unrighteous,
And plucked the prey out of his teeth."
The impressive thing here is how effectively Job's deeds emphasized his righteousness and compassion for the unfortunate. With a record such as Job claimed here, with the silence of his friends standing as an eloquent proof of what he said, it is almost inconceivable that they should have accused him of so many crimes during the dialogues. The two themes of this chapter are: (1) Job's former security, and (2) his prominent and positive role in society; "And these two themes will be repeated in Job 29:18-25."F5
AN ELABORATION OF JOB'S HONORED PLACE IN SOCIETY
Then I said, I shall die in my nest,
And I shall multiply my days as the sand:
My root is spread out to the waters,
And the dew lieth all night upon my branch.
My glory is fresh in me,
And my bow is renewed in my hand.
Unto me men gave ear, and waited,
And kept silence for my counsel.
After my words they spake not again;
And my speech distilled upon them.
And they waited for me as for the rain;
And they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain.
I smiled on them, when they had no confidence;
And the light of my countenance they cast not down.
I chose out their way, and sat as chief,
And dwelt as a king in the army,
As one that comforteth the mourners." "Although from a Pauline perspective we know that, `There is none righteous, no not one' (Romans 3:10), the case of Job makes it clear that some men indeed are innocent and righteous."F6 Sinless perfection, of course, was achieved by only One in the whole history of mankind. "Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus it is He"!F7
As Kelly wrote, "These chapters are remarkably like the closing speech of a skilled lawyer, summing up the evidence, presenting the facts, reinforcing the legitimacy of his plea."F8 All along, Job has been wishing that there was a court where some judge or umpire might hear his plea and exonerate him; but, of course, there was no such court. God does not provide times when he may be arraigned, nor does he answer any human subpoenas.
The marvel about Job is that he went right on pleading his case before no visible audience whatever, except that of his skeptical and unbelieving friends. Yet God overruled the negative appearance of this situation and achieved the spread of Job's complete lamentation upon the blessed pages of that Book that shall outlast heaven and earth! How marvelous is the justice of God!
In the days of his prosperity and happiness, Job had supposed that life would continue without intermission, with no interruption of his happiness and prosperity; and in the disasters that overwhelmed him, we must read an illustration of the eternal truth that, "Ye know not what shall be on the morrow" (James 4:14).
Footnotes for Job 29
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 481.
2: The Expositor's Bible, Vol. 14, p. 320.
3: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Job, Vol. 2, p. 116.
4: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 436.
5: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 579.
7: Martin Luther, Hymn, A Mighty Fortress is our God.
8: Layman's Bible Commentary, Vol. 8, p. 121.