Job here comes to make application of what he had said in the foregoing
chapter; and now we have him not in so good a temper as he was in then:
I. He is very bold with his friends, comparing himself with them,
notwithstanding the mortifications he was under,
Condemning them for their falsehood, their forwardness to judge, their
partiality and deceitfulness under colour of pleading God's cause
and threatening them with the judgments of God for their so doing
desiring them to be silent
and turning from them to God,
II. He is very bold with his God.
1. In some expressions his faith is very bold, yet that is not more
bold than welcome,
2. In other expressions his passion is rather too bold in
expostulations with God concerning the deplorable condition he was in
&c.), complaining of the confusion he was in
and the loss he was at to find out the sin that provoked God thus to
afflict him, and in short of the rigour of God's proceedings against
|Job's Reply to Zophar.
||B. C. 1520.|
1 Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and
2 What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior
3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason
4 But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no
5 O that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be
6 Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my
7 Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him?
8 Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?
9 Is it good that he should search you out? or as one man
mocketh another, do ye so mock him?
10 He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept
11 Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall
12 Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to
bodies of clay.
Job here warmly expresses his resentment of the unkindness of his
I. He comes up with them as one that understood the matter in dispute
as well as they, and did not need to be taught by them,
They compelled him, as the Corinthians did Paul, to commend himself and
his own knowledge, yet not in a way of self-applause, but of
self-justification. All he had before said his eye had seen confirmed
by many instances, and his ear had heard seconded by many authorities,
and he well understood it and what use to make of it. Happy are those
who not only see and hear, but understand, the greatness, glory, and
sovereignty of God. This, he thought, would justify what he had said
which he repeats here
"What you know, the same do I know also, so that I need not come
to you to be taught; I am not inferior unto you in wisdom."
Note, Those who enter into disputation enter into temptation to magnify
themselves and vilify their brethren more than is fit, and therefore
ought to watch and pray against the workings of pride.
II. He turns from them to God
Surely I would speak to the Almighty; as if he had said, "I can
promise myself no satisfaction in talking to you. O that I might have
liberty to reason with God! He would not be so hard upon me as
you are." The prince himself will perhaps give audience to a poor
petitioner with more mildness, patience, and condescension, than the
servants will. Job would rather argue with God himself than with his
friends. See here,
1. What confidence those have towards God whose hearts condemn them
not of reigning hypocrisy: they can, with humble boldness, appear
before him and appeal to him.
2. What comfort those have in God whose neighbours unjustly condemn
them: if they may not speak to them with any hopes of a fair hearing,
yet they may speak to the Almighty; they have easy access to him and
shall find acceptance with him.
III. He condemns them for their unjust and uncharitable treatment of
1. They falsely accused him, and that was unjust: You are forgers of
lies. They framed a wrong hypothesis concerning the divine
Providence, and misrepresented it, as if it did never remarkably
afflict any but wicked men in this world, and thence they drew a false
judgment concerning Job, that he was certainly a hypocrite. For this
gross mistake, both in doctrine and application, he thinks an
indictment of forgery lies against them. To speak lies is bad enough,
though but at second hand, but to forge them with contrivance and
deliberation is much worse; yet against this wrong neither innocency
nor excellency will be a fence.
2. They basely deceived him, and that was unkind. They undertook his
cure, and pretended to be his physicians; but they were all
physicians of no value, "idol-physicians, who can do me no more
good than an idol can." They were worthless physicians, who neither
understood his case nor knew how to prescribe to him--mere empirics,
who pretended to great things, but in conference added nothing to him:
he was never the wiser for all they said. Thus to broken hearts and
wounded consciences all creatures, without Christ, are physicians of no
value, on which one may spend all and be never the better, but rather
IV. He begs they would be silent and give him a patient hearing,
1. He thinks it would be a credit to them if they would say no more,
having said too much already: "Hold your peace, and it shall be your
wisdom, for thereby you will conceal your ignorance and ill-nature,
which now appear in all you say." They pleaded that they could not
but he tells them that they would better have consulted their own
reputation if they had enjoined themselves silence. Better say nothing
than nothing to the purpose or that which tends to the dishonour of God
and the grief of our brethren. Even a fool, when he holds his
peace, is accounted wise, because nothing appears to the contrary,
And, as silence is an evidence of wisdom, so it is a means of it, as it
gives time to think and hear.
2. He thinks it would be a piece of justice to him to hear what he had
to say: Hear now my reasoning. Perhaps, though they did not
interrupt him in his discourse, yet they seemed careless, and did not
much heed what he said. He therefore begged that they would not only
hear, but hearken. Note, We should be very willing and glad to hear
what those have to say for themselves whom, upon any account, we are
tempted to have hard thoughts of. Many a man, if he could but be fairly
heard, would be fairly acquitted, even in the consciences of those that
run him down.
V. He endeavours to convince them of the wrong they did to God's
honour, while they pretended to plead for him,
They valued themselves upon it that they spoke for God, were advocates
for him, and had undertaken to justify him and his proceedings against
Job; and, being (as they thought) of counsel for the sovereign, they
expected not only the ear of the court and the last word, but judgment
on their side. But Job tells them plainly,
1. That God and his cause did not need such advocates: "Will you
think to contend for God, as if his justice were clouded and
wanted to be cleared up, or as if he were at a loss what to say and
wanted you to speak for him? Will you, who are so weak and passionate,
put in for the honour of pleading God's cause?" Good work ought not to
be put into bad hands. Will you accept his person? If those who
have not right on their side carry their cause, it is by the partiality
of the judge in favour of their persons; but God's cause is so just
that it needs no such methods for the support of it. He is a God, and
can plead for himself
and, if you were for ever silent, the heavens would declare his
2. That God's cause suffered by such management. Under pretence of
justifying God in afflicting Job they magisterially condemned him as a
hypocrite and a bad man. "This" (says he) "is speaking wickedly"
(for uncharitableness and censoriousness are wickedness, great
wickedness; it is an offence to God to wrong our brethren); "it is
talking deceitfully, for you condemn one whom yet perhaps your
own consciences, at the same time, cannot but acquit. Your principles
are false and your arguings fallacious, and will it excuse you to say,
It is for God?" No, for a good intention will not justify, much
less will it sanctify, a bad word or action. God's truth needs not our
lie, nor God's cause either our sinful policies or our sinful passions.
The wrath of man works not the righteousness of God, nor may we do
evil that good may come,
Pious frauds (as they call them) are impious cheats; and devout
persecutions are horrid profanations of the name of God, as theirs who
hated their brethren, and cast them out, saying, Let the Lord
VI. He endeavours to possess them with a fear of God's judgment, and so
to bring them to a better temper. Let them not think to impose upon God
as they might upon a man like themselves, nor expect to gain his
countenance in their bad practices by pretending a zeal for him and his
honour. "As one man mocks another by flattering him, do you think so to
mock him and deceive him?" Assuredly those who think to put a cheat
upon God will prove to have put a cheat upon themselves. Be not
deceived, God is not mocked. That they might not think thus to jest
with God, and affront him, Job would have them to consider both God and
themselves, and then they would find themselves unable to enter into
judgment with him.
1. Let them consider what a God he is into whose service they had thus
thrust themselves, and to whom they really did so much disservice, and
enquire whether they could give him a good account of what they did.
(1.) The strictness of his scrutiny and enquiries concerning them
"Is it good that he should search you out? Can you bear to have
the principles looked into which you go upon in your censures, and to
have the bottom of the matter found out?" Note, It concerns us all
seriously to consider whether it will be to our advantage or no that
God searches the heart. It is good to an upright man who means honestly
that God should search him; therefore he prays for it: Search me, O
God! and know my heart. God's omniscience is a witness of his
sincerity. But it is bad to him who looks one way and rows another that
God should search him out, and lay him open to his confusion.
(2.) The severity of his rebukes and displeasure against them
"If you do accept persons, though but secretly and in heart,
he will surely reprove you; he will be so far from being pleased
with your censures of me, though under colour of vindicating him, that
he will resent them as a great provocation, as any prince or great man
would if a base action were done under the sanction of his name and
under the colour of advancing his interest." Note, What we do amiss we
shall certainly be reproved for, one way or other, one time or other,
though it be done ever so secretly.
(3.) The terror of his majesty, which if they would duly stand in awe
of they would not do that which would make them obnoxious to his wrath
"Shall not his excellency make you afraid? You that have great
knowledge of God, and profess religion and a fear of him, how dare you
talk at this rate and give yourselves so great a liberty of speech?
Ought you not to walk and talk in the fear of God?
Should not his dread fall upon you, and give a check to your
passions?" Methinks Job speaks this as one that did himself know the
terror of the Lord, and lived in a holy fear of him, whatever his
friends suggested to the contrary. Note,
[1.] There is in God a dreadful excellency. He is the most excellent
Being, has all excellencies in himself and in each infinitely excels
any creature. His excellencies in themselves are amiable and lovely. He
is the most beautiful Being; but considering man's distance from God by
nature, and his defection and degeneracy by sin, his excellencies are
dreadful. His power, holiness, justice, yea, and his goodness too, are
dreadful excellencies. They shall fear the Lord and his goodness.
[2.] A holy awe of this dreadful excellency should fall upon us and
make us afraid. This would awaken impenitent sinners and bring them to
repentance, and would influence all to be careful to please him and
afraid of offending him.
2. Let them consider themselves, and what an unequal match they were
for this great God
"Your remembrances (all that in you for which you hope to be
remembered when you are gone) are like unto ashes, worthless and
weak, and easily trampled on and blown away. Your bodies are like
bodies of clay, mouldering and coming to nothing. Your memories,
you think, will survive your bodies, but, alas! they are like ashes
which will be shovelled up with your dust." Note, the consideration of
our own meanness and mortality should make us afraid of offending God,
and furnishes a good reason why we should not despise and trample upon
our brethren. Bishop Patrick gives another sense of this verse: "Your
remonstrances on God's behalf are no better than dust, and the
arguments you accumulate but like so many heaps of dirt."
13 Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let
come on me what will.
14 Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in
15 Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will
maintain mine own ways before him.
16 He also shall be my salvation: for a hypocrite shall not
come before him.
17 Hear diligently my speech, and my declaration with your
18 Behold now, I have ordered my cause; I know that I shall
19 Who is he that will plead with me? for now, if I hold my
tongue, I shall give up the ghost.
20 Only do not two things unto me: then will I not hide
myself from thee.
21 Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make
22 Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and
answer thou me.
Job here takes fresh hold, fast hold, of his integrity, as one that was
resolved not to let it go, nor suffer it to be wrested from him. His
firmness in this matter is commendable and his warmth excusable.
I. He entreats his friends and all the company to let him alone, and
not interrupt him in what he was about to say
but diligently to hearken to it,
He would have his own protestation to be decisive, for none but God and
himself knew his heart. "Be silent therefore, and let me hear no more
of you, but hearken diligently to what I say, and let my own oath for
confirmation be an end of the strife."
II. He resolves to adhere to the testimony his own conscience gave of
his integrity; and though his friends called it obstinacy that should
not shake his constancy: "I will speak in my own defence, and let
come on me what will,
Let my friends put what construction they please upon it, and think the
worse of me for it; I hope God will not make my necessary defence to be
my offence, as you do. He will justify me
and then nothing can come amiss to me." Note, Those that are upright,
and have the assurance of their uprightness, may cheerfully welcome
every event. Come what will, bene præparatum pectus--they are ready
for it. He resolves
that he will maintain his own ways. He would never part with the
satisfaction he had in having walked uprightly with God; for, though he
could not justify every word he had spoken, yet, in the general, his
ways were good, and he would maintain his uprightness; and why should
he not, since that was his great support under his present exercises,
as it was Hezekiah's, Now, Lord, remember how I have walked before
thee? Nay, he would not only not betray his own cause, or give it
up, but he would openly avow his sincerity; for
"If hold my tongue, and do not speak for myself, my silence now
will for ever silence me, for I shall certainly give up the
"If I cannot be cleared, yet let me be eased, by what I say," as Elihu,
III. He complains of the extremity of pain and misery he was in
Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth? That is,
1. "Why do I suffer such agonies? I cannot but wonder that God should
lay so much upon me when he knows I am not a wicked man." He was ready,
not only to rend his clothes, but even to tear his flesh, through the
greatness of his affliction, and saw himself at the brink of death, and
his life in his hand, yet his friends could not charge him with any
enormous crime, nor could he himself discover any; no marvel then that
he was in such confusion.
2. "Why do I stifle and smother the protestations of my innocency?"
When a man with great difficulty keeps in what he would say, he bites
his lips. "Now," says he, "why may not I take liberty to speak, since I
do but vex myself, add to my torment, and endanger my life, by
refraining?" Note, It would vex the most patient man, when he has lost
every thing else, to be denied the comfort (if he deserves it) of a
good conscience and a good name.
IV. He comforts himself in God, and still keeps hold of his confidence
in him. Observe here,
1. What he depends upon God for--justification and salvation, the two
great things we hope for through Christ.
I have ordered my cause, and, upon the whole matter, I know
that I shall be justified. This he knew because he knew that his
Those whose hearts are upright with God, in walking not after the flesh
but after the Spirit, may be sure that through Christ there shall be no
condemnation to them, but that, whoever lays any thing to their charge,
they shall be justified: they may know that they shall.
He also shall be my salvation. He means it not of temporal
salvation (he had little expectation of that); but concerning his
eternal salvation he was very confident that God would not only be his
Saviour to make him happy, but his salvation, in the vision and
fruition of whom he should be happy. And the reason why he depended on
God for salvation was because a hypocrite shall not come before
him. He knew himself not to be a hypocrite, and that none but
hypocrites are rejected of God, and therefore concluded he should not
be rejected. Sincerity is our evangelical perfection; nothing will ruin
us but the want of that.
2. With what constancy he depends upon him: Though he slay me, yet
will I trust in him,
This is a high expression of faith, and what we should all labour to
come up to--to trust in God, though he slay us, that is, we must be
well pleased with God as a friend even when he seems to come forth
against us as an enemy,
We must believe that all shall work for good to us even when all seems
to make against us,
We must proceed and persevere in the way of our duty, though it cost us
all that is dear to us in this world, even life itself,
We must depend upon the performance of the promise when all the ways
leading to it are shut up,
We must rejoice in God when we have nothing else to rejoice in, and
cleave to him, yea, though we cannot for the present find comfort in
him. In a dying hour we must derive from him living comforts; and this
is to trust in him though he slay us.
V. He wishes to argue the case even with God himself, if he might but
have leave to settle the preliminaries of the treaty,
He had desired
to reason with God, and is still of the same mind. He will
not hide himself, that is, he will not decline the trial, nor dread
the issue of it, but under two provisos:--
1. That his body might not be tortured with this exquisite pain:
"Withdraw thy hand far from me; for, while I am in this
extremity, I am fit for nothing. I can make a shift to talk with my
friends, but I know not how to address myself to thee." When we are to
converse with God we have need to be composed, and as free as possible
from every thing that may make us uneasy.
2. That his mind might not be terrified with the tremendous majesty of
God: "Let not thy dread make me afraid; either let the
manifestations of thy presence be familiar or let me be enabled to bear
them without disorder and disturbance." Moses himself trembled before
God, so did Isaiah and Habakkuk. O God! thou art terrible even in
thy holy places. "Lord," says Job, "let me not be put into such a
consternation of spirit, together with this bodily affliction; for then
I must certainly drop the cause, and shall make nothing of it." See
what a folly it is for men to put off their repentance and conversion
to a sick-bed and a death-bed. How can even a good man, much less a bad
man, reason with God, so as to be justified before him, when he is upon
the rack of pain and under the terror of the arrests of death? At such
a time it is very bad to have the great work to do, but very
comfortable to have it done, as it was to Job, who, if he might but
have a little breathing-time, was ready either,
(1.) To hear God speaking to him by his word, and return an answer:
Call thou, and I will answer; or,
(2.) To speak to him by prayer, and expect an answer: Let me speak,
and answer thou me,
Compare this with
where he speaks to the same purport. In short, the badness of his case
was at present such a damp upon him as he could not get over; otherwise
he was well assured of the goodness of his cause, and doubted not but
to have the comfort of it at last, when the present cloud was over.
With such holy boldness may the upright come to the throne of grace,
not doubting but to find mercy there.
23 How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my
transgression and my sin.
24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine
25 Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou
pursue the dry stubble?
26 For thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to
possess the iniquities of my youth.
27 Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, and lookest
narrowly unto all my paths; thou settest a print upon the heels
of my feet.
28 And he, as a rotten thing, consumeth, as a garment that is
I. Job enquires after his sins, and begs to have them discovered to
him. He looks up to God, and asks him what was the number of them
(How many are my iniquities?) and what were the particulars of
them: Make me to know my transgressions,
His friends were ready enough to tell him how numerous and how heinous
"But, Lord," says he, "let me know them from thee; for thy judgment
is according to truth, theirs is not." This may be taken either,
1. As a passionate complaint of hard usage, that he was punished for
his faults and yet was not told what his faults were. Or,
2. As a prudent appeal to God from the censures of his friends. He
desired that all his sins might be brought to light, as knowing they
would then appear not so many, nor so mighty, as his friends suspected
him to be guilty of. Or,
3. As a pious request, to the same purport with that which Elihu
directed him to,
That which I see not, teach thou me. Note, A true penitent is
willing to know the worst of himself; and we should all desire to know
what our transgressions are, that we may be particular in the
confession of them and on our guard against them for the future.
II. He bitterly complains of God's withdrawings from him
Wherefore hidest thou thy face? This must be meant of something
more than his outward afflictions; for the loss of estate, children,
health, might well consist with God's love; when that was all, he
blessed the name of the Lord; but his soul was also sorely
vexed, and that is it which he here laments.
1. That the favours of the Almighty were suspended. God hid his face as
one strange to him, displeased with him, shy and regardless of him.
2. That the terrors of the Almighty were inflicted and impressed upon
him. God held him for his enemy, shot his arrows at him
and set him as a mark,
Note, The Holy Ghost sometimes denies his favours and discovers his
terrors to the best and dearest of his saints and servants in this
world. This case occurs, not only in the production, but sometimes in
the progress of the divine life. Evidences for heaven are eclipsed,
sensible communications interrupted, dread of divine wrath impressed,
and the returns of comfort, for the present, despaired of,
These are grievous burdens to a gracious soul, that values God's
loving-kindness as better than life,
A wounded spirit who can bear? Job, by asking here, Why
hidest thou thy face? teaches us that, when at any time we are
under the sense of God's withdrawings, we are concerned to enquire into
the reason of them--what is the sin for which he corrects us and what
the good he designs us. Job's sufferings were typical of the sufferings
of Christ, from whom not only men hid their faces
but God hid his, witness the darkness which surrounded him on the cross
when he cried out, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? If
this were done to these green trees, what shall be done to the dry?
They will for ever be forsaken.
III. He humbly pleads with God his own utter inability to stand before
"Wilt thou break a leaf, pursue the dry stubble? Lord, is it for
thy honour to trample upon one that is down already, or to crush one
that neither has nor pretends to any power to resist thee?" Note, We
ought to have such an apprehension of the goodness and compassion of
God as to believe that he will not break the bruised reed,
IV. He sadly complains of God's severe dealings with him. He owns it
was for his sins that God thus contended with him, but thinks it
1. That his former sins, long since committed, should now be remembered
against him, and he should he reckoned with for the old scores
Thou writest bitter things against me. Afflictions are bitter
things. Writing them denotes deliberation and determination, written as
a warrant for execution; it denotes also the continuance of his
affliction, for that which is written remains, and, "Herein thou
makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth," that is, "thou
punishest me for them, and thereby puttest me in mind of them, and
obligest me to renew my repentance for them." Note,
(1.) God sometimes writes very bitter things against the best and
dearest of his saints and servants, both in outward afflictions and
inward disquiet; trouble in body and trouble in mind, that he may
humble them, and prove them, and do them good in their latter end.
(2.) That the sins of youth are often the smart of age both in respect
of sorrow within
and suffering without,
Time does not wear out the guilt of sin.
(3.) That when God writes bitter things against us his design therein
is to make us possess our iniquities, to bring forgotten sins to mind,
and so to bring us to remorse for them as to break us off from them.
This is all the fruit, to take away our sin.
2. That his present mistakes and miscarriages should be so strictly
taken notice of, and so severely animadverted upon
"Thou puttest my feet also in the stocks, not only to afflict me
and expose me to shame, not only to keep me from escaping the strokes
of thy wrath, but that thou mayest critically remark all my motions and
look narrowly to all my paths, to correct me for every false step, nay,
for but a look awry or a word misapplied; nay, thou settest a print
upon the heels of my feet, scorest down every thing I do amiss, to
reckon for it; or no sooner have I trodden wrong, though ever so
little, than immediately I smart for it; the punishment treads upon the
very heels of the sin. Guilt, both of the oldest and of the freshest
date, is put together to make up the cause of my calamity." Now,
(1.) It was not true that God did thus seek advantages against him. He
is not thus extreme to mark what we do amiss; if he were, there were no
abiding for us,
But he is so far from this that he deals not with us according to the
desert, no, not of our manifest sins, which are not found by secret
This therefore was the language of Job's melancholy; his sober thoughts
never represented God thus as a hard Master.
(2.) But we should keep such a strict and jealous eye as this upon
ourselves and our own steps, both for the discovery of sin past and the
prevention of it for the future. It is good for us all to ponder the
path of our feet.
V. He finds himself wasting away apace under the heavy hand of God,
He (that is, man) as a rotten thing, the principle of
whose putrefaction is in itself, consumes, even like a moth-eaten
garment, which becomes continually worse and worse. Or, He
(that is, God) like rottenness, and like a moth, consumes me.
Compare this with
I will be unto Ephraim as a moth, and to the house of Judah as
rottenness; and see
Note, Man, at the best, wears fast; but, under God's rebukes
especially, he is soon gone. While there is so little soundness in the
soul, no marvel there is so little soundness in the flesh,