THE TROUBLESOME CONDITION OF HUMAN MORTALITY COMPOUNDED BY PERPLEXING DIVINE OPPOSITION LEAVES MANKIND IN DESPAIR WITH NO RELIEF
Roy Zuck: In a sudden shift of mood, Job turned from confidence that he could win his court case against God to a melancholy lament about life’s futility and death’s certainty.
Brian Borgman: All the Days of My Struggle, I Wait for My Change (13:17-14:20)
A. Listen to my case (13:17-28)
B. Life is hard then you die (14:1-6)
C. A tree has more hope than me (7-12)
D. Hide me in Sheol and then remember me (13-17)
E. You destroy man’s hope (18-22)
I. (13:18-28) CONFUSION OVER GOD’S UNEXPLAINED OPPOSITION
A. (:18-22) Transparency Should Yield Vindication – Not Confusion
1. (:18-19) Confidence in Ultimate Vindication
“Behold now, I have prepared my case;
I know that I will be vindicated.
19 Who will contend with me?
For then I would be silent and die.”
2. (:20-22) Concerns Complicating Open Communication with God
“Only two things do not do to me,
Then I will not hide from Thy face:
21 Remove Thy hand from me,
And let not the dread of Thee terrify me.
22 Then call, and I will answer;
Or let me speak, then reply to me.”
Meredith Kline: If only God will desist for a time from oppressing him and refrain from overwhelming him with his terrible majesty (13:21; cf. 9:34, 35), Job will appear before him either as defendant or as complainant (v. 22). If Job can successfully defend his integrity, it will be evident (according to his inadequate concept of human suffering) that God has been at fault in afflicting him so severely. Or, if Job is to succeed in convicting God of such wrong, he must first demonstrate his own integrity. Imagining himself as confronting his tormentor in the coveted trial, the sufferer now demands an explanation of God’s hostility (13:23, 24). But the judicial scene quickly fades, and the court oratory turns into the customary closing lamentation (13:25 ff.).
Tremper Longman: As preconditions to a meeting, Job insists that God back off from him (“move your palm far from me,” v. 21a) and stop scaring him (v. 21b). . . Job says that he has hidden his face from God because God has been hard on him both physically and psychologically through his affliction and through his fright.
B. (:23-28) Tension over God’s Strange Opposition
1. (:23) Make Known My Hidden Sins that are Causing Such Opposition
“How many are my iniquities and sins?
Make known to me my rebellion and my sin.”
2. (:24-25) Mystery Questions Regarding God’s Opposition and Man’s Precarious Status
a. (:24) Regarding God’s Opposition
“Why dost Thou hide Thy face,
And consider me Thine enemy?”
b. (:25) Regarding Man’s Precarious Status
1) Illustration of God Chasing a Trembling Leaf
“Wilt Thou cause a driven leaf to tremble?”
2) Illustration of God Chasing the Dry Chaff
“Or wilt Thou pursue the dry chaff?”
Francis Andersen: Job never pretends that he is sinless. He freely admits being sinful in his youth (26). But he must know what particular sins warrant God’s present hostility (24). By naming three kinds of sin—error, failure, rebellion—he lays himself wide open.
Elmer Smick: He sees himself as helpless, as swirling chaff or a wind-blown leaf. If God would only stop tormenting him and communicate, Job feels all will end well.
3. (:26-28) My Hardship Has Been Dictated by God
a. (:26) Divine Indictment
“For Thou dost write bitter things against me,
And dost make me to inherit the iniquities of my youth.”
b. (:27) Debilitating Constraints
“Thou dost put my feet in the stocks,
And dost watch all my paths;
Thou dost set a limit for the soles of my feet,”
John Hartley: Job describes his present predicament as that of a prisoner closely confined and constantly watched. His feet are put in stocks, either a block of wood fastened about a prisoner’s ankles to restrict his movements or bars that kept him from moving at all. The former situation is more likely, for the second line suggests that Job can move about while God keeps close watch on his paths. In this verse path means a way of escape, rather than one’s life-style, as it often means in the Wisdom literature. The prisoner’s feet were marked or banded in order that he might be easily tracked.
Tremper Longman: The last two verses describe the kind of pain that God is presently putting Job through. Verse 27ab uses the language of incarceration. Job is in stocks, and God restricts his movement. In v. 27c he speaks of God’s cutting the soles of his feet. The significance of this is not clear, though it obviously describes his affliction and probably again that God restricts his movement.
c. (:28) Decaying Condition
“While I am decaying like a rotten thing,
Like a garment that is moth-eaten.”
David Thompson: Not only does Job never curse God, he continues to acknowledge His sovereignty even though he himself is being crushed.
1) God is the One sovereignly writing the bitter script of Job’s life. 13:26a
2) God is the One who sovereignly makes Job pay for the sins of his youth. 13:26b
3) God is the One who has sovereignly locked Job into these sufferings. 13:27a
4) God is the One who sovereignly watches and controls everything in Job’s life. 13:27b
II. (14:1-6) CYNICISM OVER LIFE’S PERVASIVE TROUBLES
A. (:1-2) Life is Brief and Full of Trouble
1. (:1) Statement
“Man, who is born of woman,
Is short-lived and full of turmoil.”
John Hartley: The context favors the interpretation that born of woman means that the child is frail and subject to all human weaknesses.
2. (:2) Illustrations
a. Like a Flower
“Like a flower he comes forth and withers.”
b. Like a Shadow
“He also flees like a shadow and does not remain.”
Tremper Longman: Verse 2 illustrates his point about the brevity and hardship of life with the metaphors of a flower and a shadow. On the surface, a flower is a thing of beauty and pleasure. But flowers do not last very long. The fragile beauty of the flower is a fitting example of life. Life may begin with hope and energy, Job suggests, but as time progresses, life fades into something dry and ugly. The psalmist (103:15–16) and Isaiah (40:6–8) use the flower metaphor in a similar fashion. They, however, use it (along with withering grass) to contrast the fragility of human life with the permanence of God’s word.
B. (:3-4) Life is Headed for Divine Judgment with No Human Remedy
1. (:3) Life is Headed for Divine Judgment
“Thou also dost open Thine eyes on him,
And bring him into judgment with Thyself.”
2. (:4) No Human Remedy
“Who can make the clean out of the unclean?
John Hartley: These terms may relate to the birth process mentioned in v. 1. In giving birth a mother becomes ritually unclean. While it is not explicitly stated in any OT passage that this ritual impurity relates to inherited sin, a connection seems to be implied. That is, the ritual impurity attending birth foreshadows the certainty that the newborn child will become morally impure by transgressing the law. Not even God can prevent this from happening. He cannot make pure that which is impure by nature. Since this is true, Job is asking God why he holds a person accountable for every wrong he has done. Surely God cannot expect a human being to be flawless.
C. (:5-6) Life’s Duration is Fixed and Life’s Troubles Cry Out for Some Relief
1. (:5) Life’s Duration is Fixed by God
“Since his days are determined,
The number of his months is with Thee,
And his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass.”
David Guzik: Job continued to paint the picture of God fencing man in, restricting his movements. Under such an idea, it would be better if God would just look away so the afflicted one could rest.
2. (:6) Life’s Troubles Cry Out for Some Relief
“Turn Thy gaze from him that he may rest,
Until he fulfills his day like a hired man.”
John Hartley: Feeling the constraints of a limited life span, Job petitions God to turn his gaze from humanity in general. If God would spare humanity his constant surveillance, everybody would be able to experience some joy during his days (cf. Job 7:19; 9:34; 13:21). Their joy would be like that experienced by a hired worker (cf. 7:1–2). Satisfied and tired from a hard day’s work, he rests well at night. His pleasure, though it is limited, is rich. Job feels that God should grant each person at least that much relief from his painful burden.
David Thompson: In this verse, Job pleas with God to give him just a brief moment of enjoyment. In this verse Job views himself as a hired man who is under the dominant control of God. He simply asks God for some relief.
If God would turn His gaze from a man, man could live out his life in some supposed form of tranquility. In the book of Job, the gaze of God is viewed as all of the negatives that God is sending to Job’s life (7:19; 10:20). Job believed God sovereignly controlled every negative in his world and if God would just back off for a time, Job could enjoy a little life. Job is not asking to escape death; he is just asking for a little relief. Life for one right with God is not a tranquil pursuit of serenity in happy land.
Life for one right with God is war. It is a war coming directly from Satan.
III. (14:7-12) CONTRAST BETWEEN HOPE IN NATURE AND DESPAIR FOR MANKIND
Tremper Longman: No hope for humans. Job continues with the theme of human mortality (initiated in v. 5). He begins by contrasting trees and humans (vv. 7–10). Job points out that trees can be cut down to the stump, but, provided they receive water, they can flourish again. He pictures trees cut down and their roots rotting in the ground, but still they can live again. Not so for human beings. Once they die, they die. In vv. 11–12 Job cites another comparison, this time between humans and a body of water, either the sea or a river. Water, unlike trees, does not have the option of reviving to life once it has dried up. To make this comparison work, Job is not allowing for increased rainfall. Wilson correctly points to the fact that Job here uses “river” (nāhār) rather than “wadi” (naḥal), because the latter often dries up and then with rain or melting snow comes to life again. Human beings, once they sleep in death, will not be roused again. Death is the final sleep.
A. (:7-9) Illustration of the Revived Tree – Hope in Nature
“For there is hope for a tree,
When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And its shoots will not fail.
8 Though its roots grow old in the ground,
And its stump dies in the dry soil,
9 At the scent of water it will flourish
And put forth sprigs like a plant.”
B. (:10-12) Illustration of the Unrevived Finality of Human Death – Despair for Mankind
“But man dies and lies prostrate.
Man expires, and where is he?
11 As water evaporates from the sea,
And a river becomes parched and dried up,
12 So man lies down and does not rise.
Until the heavens be no more,
He will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep.”
IV. (14:13-17) CONCERNS ABOUT PRESENT PAIN AND FUTURE POSSIBILITIES
Peter Wallace: Lots of scholars think that no one in the Old Testament believed in the resurrection. But plainly, by the time of the NT, faithful Jews all believed in the resurrection. I would suggest that Job 14 shows us the beginnings of the OT doctrine of the resurrection. Job knows the traditional wisdom that sees death as the end – but he passionately longs for something more! Job realizes that if death is the end – and there is nothing more beyond death – then his whole case before God will fade into nothing. And so in verses 13-17, Job imagines the resurrection! It’s not clear yet that Job believes that this will actually happen – but he recognizes that something like the resurrection is needed!
David Guzik: Job longs for the grave and hopes for something beyond. . . Job looked for the change he hoped death to bring, that at least it would relieve him from his present agony.
John MacArthur: Job asked to die and remain in the grave until God’s anger was over, then be raised to life again when God called him back (vv. 13-15). If he were dead, God wouldn’t be watching every step, counting every sin (v. 16); it would all be hidden (v. 17). Here was the hope of resurrection, for those who trusted God. Job had hope that if he died, he would live again (v. 14).
A. (:13) Fatigue over Life’s Struggles Desires a Respite from Misery
“Oh that Thou wouldst hide me in Sheol,
That Thou wouldst conceal me until Thy wrath returns to Thee,
That Thou wouldst set a limit for me and remember me!”
Roy Zuck: Job could endure that time if God would limit it and not forget to resurrect him. But is resurrection possible? Pondering that faint possibility – If a man dies, will he live again? – Job said he was willing to wait out his hard service in this life, anticipating his “release.”
B. (:14-15) Faith Struggles with Questions about Eternity
“If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my struggle I will wait,
Until my change comes.
15 Thou wilt call, and I will answer Thee;
Thou wilt long for the work of Thy hands.”
Francis Andersen: The author’s real convictions may be stated in the middle of a poem, flanked before and after by contrasting opinions which he rejects. Verses 14–17 then constitute the high point of the speech, and reaffirm the faith already expressed in chapter 13, especially in verse 15.
John Hartley: With a renewed life would come a welcomed revitalization of Job’s relationship with God. Their communication would be open and reciprocal. God would call or summon Job to court, and Job would answer him, i.e., defend himself (cf. Habel, OTL). Job would be vindicated. Then he would have fellowship with God, for once again God would yearn for the work of his own hands (maʿaśēh yāḏêḵā; cf. 10:3). The word for yearn or long for (kāsap) comes from the same root as the word “silver” (kesep). It may mean “to turn pale, i.e., the color of silver, from intense longing or desire” (Pope). It depicts the intensity of God’s desire. When God seeks him again, Job will no longer feel that he is the spurned object of God’s toilsome labor (10:3). Rather he will again have a life filled with the spontaneous joy that attends God’s presence.
C. (:16-17) Future Hiding of Sins Preferred to Present Accountability
“For now Thou dost number my steps,
Thou dost not observe my sin.
17 My transgression is sealed up in a bag,
And Thou dost wrap up my iniquity.”
Tremper Longman: Verse 16 is a bit difficult because the two halves of the parallelism initially seem to say two different and somewhat contradictory things. It appears that Job contrasts God’s attitude toward him now (ʿattâ) with the hypothetical future attitude that Job hopes God would adopt toward him.
John Hartley: In the light of the context the imagery of vv. 16–17 is taken to mean that God observes all of Job’s ways, notices every failure, and stores up these errors in a bag or possibly keeps count of them by placing a stone in his bag for each sin. Instead of atoning for Job’s sins or wiping them out, as some interpret the phrase coat over my iniquity, God merely daubs them with whitewash a coating that the rain of judgment will easily wash away. Thus Job’s imaginative hope for a brighter future evaporates before his apprehension that worse affliction is in store for him.
V. (14:18-22) CANCELLATION OF HOPE AND PERSPECTIVE
Tremper Longman: Fading hope. In the previous section, Job had expressed his wish that God would put him into hibernation (so to speak) until his anger passed and he began to miss Job. However, in the final section of this final speech of the first cycle, Job comes back to what he thinks is reality. Verses 18–19b describe a mountain, a rather imposing and firmly established geographical feature, slowly but relentlessly being ground down to nothing. Rocks fall away, water from storms grind them down to nothing, and then the dust that remains is washed away. In the same way, says Job, human hope, which may begin strong, is eroded by the storms of life until it is gone. Job blames God for this eradication of hope. God overpowers his creatures, changing their countenance from joyful hope to fear, anxiety, and depression. The story of Job has provided an example of this. He began the story with hope, and he worked hard to maintain a good relationship and a prosperous lifestyle and a happy family, but the sufferings God has brought into his life have changed all that.
A. (:18-20) Eroding Hope Culminates in Man’s Departure
“But the falling mountain crumbles away,
And the rock moves from its place;
19 Water wears away stones,
Its torrents wash away the dust of the earth;
So Thou dost destroy man’s hope.
20 Thou dost forever overpower him and he departs;
Thou dost change his appearance and send him away.”
Peter Wallace: In verses 18-19, Job concludes that there is no hope for man. Everything that seems solid proves transitory. Mountains look immovable – but over time, they fall and crumble. Water wears away stones – torrents wash away the soil. Even so, God destroys the hope of man.
John Hartley: Job expresses his fearful thoughts by reciting hymnic lines that recount God’s awesome power as manifested in natural catastrophes. His mind muses on themes similar to those found in 9:5–10. Mountains and boulders, symbols of prominence and steadfastness, crumble and move about in a great avalanche caused by God’s appearing. Rushing water pulverizes stones, and a torrent, swelled by drenching rains and filled with debris, sweeps away the earth’s soil, cutting deep trenches in the landscape. Such is the way of man’s hope. It perishes before the overwhelming might of God’s actions. Job is saying that his hope, like the landscape, has been scarred by ominous forces of destruction.
B. (:21-22) Escalating Pain Leads to Self-Absorption
“His sons achieve honor, but he does not know it;
Or they become insignificant, but he does not perceive it.
22 But his body pains him,
And he mourns only for himself.”
Elmer Smick: The waters of suffering will continue to erode till his bright hope is a dim memory (v.19) and nothing matters anymore but the pain of his body and the continual mourning of his soul (v.22).
David Thompson: Job was worn down. His hope was gone. His life had crumbled. Once he was a strong stone, but that strength had been washed away. God had overpowered Job and what he once was, was now gone. His strength and his stamina were gone. He was so distraught that he didn’t even hurt over what had happened to his own family members.
Francis Andersen: The sadness of death is its loneliness. Unlike the dying patriarchs, who seemed to be looking forward to rejoining their ancestors, Job thinks only of separation from his family, in which alone he has his humanity in the relationships of life.
Meredith Kline: God’s hostility culminates in the death stroke, cutting man off from rapport with this world, even from knowledge of his posterity (14:21), shutting him up to himself in death, to the endless dull pain of decomposition and the soul’s dreary dirge (14:22).