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David Clines: The structure of this fifth speech of Job is not so clear as in other speeches. As often, the direction of address is a helpful clue to structure.

We may then perhaps display the structure thus:

A. To the friends 16:2–6

B. To himself 16:7–17

C. To Earth 16:18(?–22)

C´. To God 17:1–5

A´. To the friends 17:6–10

B´. To himself 17:11–16

The strophic structure is plain:

Strophe 1 16:2–6 6 lines

2 16:7–11 5 (v 10 a tricolon)

3 16:12–14 4

4 16:15–17 3

5 16:18–22 5

6 17:1–5 5 (v 1 a tricolon)

7 17:6–10 5

8 17:11–16 6 (v 11 a tricolon)

John Hartley: After an opening complaint (16:1–6), Job bewails his miserable lot. He is addressing his words to God (16:17–17:16), words that feature a mixture of lamenting and judicial language. When he thinks of proving his innocence in court, Job’s faith reaches a new height as he states that he has a witness in heaven who will defend his honor (16:18–22). These thoughts also lead him to petition God to stand security for him in order that he might be released from his present affliction while awaiting his vindication (17:3). Thus through the legal metaphor Job finds a way to seek a resolution to his complaint. Nevertheless, his deep personal sorrow continues to echo throughout his lamenting. This speech is divided into four sections:

– a dispute with the comforters (16:1–6);

– a personal lament with a complaint against God (16:7–17);

– the heavenly witness (16:18–22);

– and a personal lament (17:1–16).

Francis Andersen: The inferences from Eliphaz’s words to Job’s case are obvious. If Job has been as good as he claims, he would never have had such troubles. Since troubles have come, he must be wicked. And if he does not admit it, he is a hypocrite besides. Against these insinuations, barely concealed in Eliphaz’s latest speech, Job protests with even greater indignation. He holds more tenaciously to two facts: he is guilty of no grave fault, and God is entitled to do what he pleases. But it is infinitely painful to Job that God is now inexplicably acting like an enemy. Eliphaz’s trite words do not even begin to touch on this awful fact.

Warren Wiersbe: Job’s response is to utter three heartfelt requests:

• first, a plea to his friends for sympathy (16:1-14);

• then, a plea to God for justice (16:15-22);

• and finally, a plea to God to end his life and relieve him of suffering (17:1-16)


“Then Job answered,”


A. (:2) No Comfort from Job’s Comforters

“I have heard many such things;

Sorry comforters are you all.”

David Thompson: All three of these guys were saying the same thing. Job had heard it all before. They were all saying he had secret sin in his life and if he confessed it God would lift the judgment against him. Problem is Job did not have any secret sin in his life. He had done nothing to deserve this and he was pure and right in his relationship with God. . .

Instead of them standing with Job and defending his character and ministering to Job and comforting him, they increased his sorrow and trouble by their verbal attacks. They added more weight to Job’s misery. They did this by their words. Words have the power to do this kind of thing.

John Hartley: The byword miserable comforters is a pungent oxymoron; i.e., the more words they speak to comfort, the more pain they inflict.

B. (:3) No Value in Windy Words

“Is there no limit to windy words?

Or what plagues you that you answer?”

John Hartley: With a biting rhetorical question Job charges Eliphaz with uttering windy words (diḇrê rûaḥ), i.e., eloquent speech devoid of content. He is directly countering Eliphaz’s reproach that his knowledge is empty wind (15:2) and Bildad’s retort that his words are a mighty wind (8:2). Next Job asks Eliphaz what irritates (himrîṣ) him so much that he feels compelled to keep answering. Job cannot fathom why Eliphaz is so upset with him.

David Thompson: Each man felt like he had to speak and it was like a plague that destroys. Each person felt led to speak against Job. Each person really believed he had something important to say in his attack against Job. Job had lost his wealth, children and health and reputation and each one of these men truly felt like it was their responsibility to say something. Just because one feels something doesn’t make it right or from God. This plague was coming directly from Satan.

C. (:4-5) No Comparison if Roles Were Reversed

1. (:4a) Imagine Role Reversal – Me Counseling You

“I too could speak like you,

If I were in your place.”

David Thompson: Job says you have options as to what you can say when a faithful person is hurting. You can use your speech to hurt and destroy or you can use it to help.

2. (:4b) Possibility of Attacking Words

“I could compose words against you,

And shake my head at you.”

3. (:5) Probability of Encouraging Words

“I could strengthen you with my mouth,

And the solace of my lips could lessen your pain.”

John Hartley: Job speculates about how he would act if their places were reversed. Indeed, he would speak with the same eloquence as his friends. Although much of his rhetoric would be the same as theirs, he would show more sympathy. He would join words to bring comfort (vv. 4c, 5a) and shake his head in sympathy (vv. 4d, 5b). He would not restrain his trembling lips from uttering supportive words. Job is saying that he has expected far more consolation from his friends than he has received.

D. (:6) No Relief in Speech or Silence for Job

“If I speak, my pain is not lessened,

And if I hold back, what has left me?”

John Hartley: Job breaks off his thought abruptly with a brief apology for his continued speaking. He uses cohortatives, I speak (ʾaḏabberâ) and I resist (ʾaḥḏelâ), for emphasis. Since his pain is not eased with his speaking nor does it leave him when he resists speaking, he sees no advantage in keeping silent. So he decides to keep on speaking in the hope of capturing God’s attention. He pours out to God a despairing lament, though tempered with a ray of hope.

David Clines: But to what end is all this talk of talk, these words about speaking? Job’s experience is that speech and silence are both alike incapable of assuaging his suffering. He has experimented with silence and with speech; he has restrained his mouth (2:10) and he has opened it (3:1); he has spoken in the anguish of his spirit (7:11), but he would as well be silent since his own mouth condemns him in God’s presence (9:20). And he has experienced also the friends’ silence (2:13) and their speeches; and he now knows from their speech that their silence was not the silence of sympathy but the amazed silence of horror at the enormity of his crime. Silence and speech from them have been equally ineffectual, equally judgmental, equally misdirected.


David Thompson: What we cannot help but be impressed with during this discussion is Job’s continued view of the sovereignty of God. Not once does he curse God, but he continues to maintain an awesome view of God’s sovereignty, even in his own suffering. There are nine facts Job believed about God:

• God has sovereignly brought Job to the point of exhaustion. 16:7a

• God has sovereignly permitted his company to be a waste. 16:7b

• God has sovereignly permitted Job to physically deteriorate. 16:8

• God has sovereignly permitted Job to be attacked by an adversary. 16:9

• God has sovereignly permitted Job’s adversaries to verbally attack him. 16:10

• God has sovereignly permitted Job to be dominated by those wicked. 16:11

• God has sovereignly permitted Job to be taken from a life of ease to a target of chaos. 16:12

• God has sovereignly permitted Job to be attacked physically. 16:13

• God has sovereignly permitted Job to be persistently attacked. 16:14

A. (:7-11) Reprehensibly Attacked by Both God and His Evil Instruments of Destruction

1. (:7) Attacks that Have Proved Exhausting and Devastating

“But now He has exhausted me;

Thou hast laid waste all my company.”

John Hartley: Feeling the stab of Eliphaz’s point that judgment falls on the entire company of the profane (15:34), Job counters that it is God who is making him look like a godless man by destroying his entire household.

2. (:8) Accusatory Testimony of My Emaciated Body

“And Thou hast shriveled me up,

It has become a witness;

And my leanness rises up against me,

It testifies to my face.”

John Hartley: Even more disturbing is the trouble brought by his trial, the severity of his Physical illness coupled with its condemning testimony. God has shriveled up (qāmaṭ) Job. His body has become a painful cage. And the community interprets his skinny body as proof that he has sinned arrogantly. The sores and wrinkles in his body are the convicting evidence that he is guilty. God has split Job in two, so to speak. His body witnesses against his own words. As a result, no one who sees him believes his verbal testimony of innocence.

David Clines: Verse 8, despite some uncertainties (reflected in the variant translations of RSV, JB, NEB and NAB, for example), seems to mean that Job’s emaciated condition, for which God is responsible, serves as proof—to everyone but Job—that Job is a dreadful sinner. His “leanness” is a witness against his innocence so long as the doctrine of exact retribution is operative. Job’s gauntness, of which we hear nowhere else, is hardly to be explained clinically as a result of his skin disease; it is a mark of his mental suffering, and is perhaps more something felt by Job than observed by his companions. The thought belongs to that complex of ideas in which fatness signifies prosperity which in turn signifies divine pleasure (cf. 21:23–24; 15:27) and thinness signifies what is dried up, devoid of life. The psychic sense of being dried up has previously come to expression in the images of the wind-driven leaf and withered straw (13:25) and, by contrast, in the image of the tree whose root decays but may nevertheless burst into new life at the scent of water (14:7–9).

Job is helpless against the criticism of his friends if his own physical appearance is testimony of his wrongdoing. His cause is lost if anything but his own inner conviction of his integrity is taken into account; God, the friends, his speech, his suffering and even his own body are witnesses against him.

3. (:9) Adversarial Opposition from an Angry God

“His anger has torn me and hunted me down,

He has gnashed at me with His teeth;

My adversary glares at me.”

John Hartley: Job fervently laments God’s brutal treatment. God’s anger is burning so hotly against him that he perceives that God is his adversary (ṣar). In accusing God of assailing him Job uses the Hebrew word śāṭam, “hate actively” (Driver-Gray), which is similar in sound to, if not directly related to, Heb. śāṭān, “prosecutor, satan” (cf. 1:6). Unable to fathom God’s role in his affliction, Job fears that God has become his enemy. Here Job comes close to reconstructing the scenes of the heavenly counsel in the prologue, but he turns them inside out. He identifies God as his enemy rather than as his advocate. At this crucial point he is tested to the ultimate. From his perspective he is led to wonder if the God in whom he has trusted is not in reality his satan.

Francis Andersen: vv. 9-14 — Only literal translation can do justice to the savagery of Job’s description of God’s vicious attack. He is like a ferocious beast (9f.), a traitor (11), a wrestler (12a, b), an archer (12c, 13a), a swordsman (13b, 14). Verse 11 explicitly names God as the assailant; but the plural in verse 10 suggests that Job is also complaining about God’s human allies (his ‘friends’ he calls them in verse 20, heavy with sarcasm).

4. (:10) Abused by the Contempt Shown by the Masses

“They have gaped at me with their mouth,

They have slapped me on the cheek with contempt;

They have massed themselves against me.”

John Hartley: Job’s sorrow is multiplied as the masses revile him with gestures and insulting blows. Seated on the dung heap outside the city gate, Job has become a spectacle attracting the attention of all. The passersby gape at him with wide open mouths, a gesture expressive of their disdain. They slap Job’s cheeks contemptuously and reproach him with taunts and insulting gestures. The lower the status of the mockers, the more insulting are their jeers against a nobleman. In their gaping mouths (v. 10a) and their slapping of his cheeks (v. 10b) Job sees God’s gnashing teeth (v. 9b) and his piercing eyes (v. 9C). This loss of dignity is just as agonizing for Job as the excruciating physical pain, since a person gets much of his identity and personal worth from his society; in rejecting one of its members a community inflicts severe emotional pain.

5. (:11) Abandoned by God to Harsh Treatment from the Wicked

“God hands me over to ruffians,

And tosses me into the hands of the wicked.”

John Hartley: Job states the reason that he has become an object of scorn: God has turned me over to the vicious. Instead of his punishing the wicked as the friends have described (8:22b; 11:20; 15:20–34), God has tossed him into the hands of the wicked. Given free rein by God they shame Job wrongfully and make his ill-fate unbearable.

Tremper Longman: But then v. 10 turns to his human adversaries, who also are determined to bring him down. Job is being attacked, or so he thinks, from above and below. They speak against him; they physically abuse him. They congregate against him in a way that suggests mob violence. But even in his human adversaries, Job sees the hand of God. These people are after him because God has turned him over to them (v. 11). The way Job sees it, he is innocent and his attackers are wicked.

B. (:12-14) Relentlessly Assaulted by God

1. (:12a) Shaken Me By My Neck

“I was at ease, but He shattered me,

And He has grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces;”

John Hartley: Job’s lament crescendos to an emotional peak in vv. 12–14, as evidenced by the poetic style: two tristichs, the use of assonance, and vivid word pictures. Job contrasts his former blissful state with God’s sudden onslaught. The attack was so surprising and so fierce that Job the victim has been left shattered. Like a strong man God seizes him by the nape of the neck (cf. Gen. 49:8) and administers a torturous beating. Or like a marksman God has set Job up as a target (cf. Job 6:4; 7:20; Lam. 3:12). Taking careful aim, he shoots scores of arrows at the target with no relenting. Many hit Job’s vital midsection, piercing his kidneys and spilling his gall on the ground (cf. Ps. 38:3 [Eng. 21; 64:8 [Eng. 7]). Mortally wounded, he is left alone with no hope of physical recovery.

Another picture likens God to a mighty warrior (gibbôr), marshalling his troops against a fortified city. Each surge renders breach after breach in the wall. Soon the city is razed. So too Job has been besieged. The disease has destroyed one member of his body after another. Only death awaits him. This picture contrasts sharply with Eliphaz’s perception that Job is an armed warrior attacking God (15:26).

2. (:12b-13a) Targeted Me with His Arrows

“He has also set me up as His target.

His arrows surround me.”

3. (:13b) Gutted Me

“Without mercy He splits my kidneys open;

He pours out my gall on the ground.”

4. (:14) Assaulted Me with Military Tactics

“He breaks through me with breach after breach;

He runs at me like a warrior.”

Tremper Longman: Verse 14 changes the metaphor again when Job is likened to a city that has been successfully besieged and breached. Once the wall comes down, the warriors (in this case, the warrior God) runs in for the kill.

David Clines: The final military image is of the ultimate stage in any assault on a city: the breaching of its walls and the storming in of the enemy troops. After the archery that assails him from a distance (in 12c from the archer’s perspective, in 13b-c from the target’s) comes the nearer approach of his enemy to batter on his very self. Job is the besieged city, God the stormtrooper intent upon breaching his defenses. For the imagery, cf. 30:14; Ps 80:13 [12]; 89:41 [40]; Amos 4:1; 1 Kgs 11:27; Isa 5:5; Neh 3:35 [4:3]. First God acts like an overwhelming army, inflicting one breach after another upon the city’s walls (for the idiom, cf. “disaster upon disaster,” Jer 4:20). Then he acts like a champion in single-handed combat, like a Goliath or “mighty warrior” (cf. 1 Sam 2:4; Jer 46:12; Hos 10:13) rushing upon his individual foe. The sack of the city has one man’s defeat as its object. Job is both the city and its lone inhabitant; the flow of the imagery mirrors the onward rush of the invader.

C. (:15-17) Response of Job to Such Adversarial Mistreatment

Elmer Smick: Here we see a pathetic figure in sackcloth, sitting with brow in the dust, eyes sunken and face bloated with tears, avowing innocence. From this sad figure arises a baneful cry, but one that has not totally lost hope, as vv.18–21 show.

David Thompson: There are five descriptions that Job gives of himself:

• Job was completely humiliated. 16:15

• Job was emotionally depressed. 16:16a

• Job was physically deteriorated. 16:16b

• Job had done nothing violent to deserve this. 16:17a

• Job was absolutely pure in his life and in his prayers. 16:17b

1. (:15-16) Profound Suffering, Mourning and Humiliation

“I have sewed sackcloth over my skin,

And thrust my horn in the dust.

16 My face is flushed from weeping,

And deep darkness is on my eyelids,”

Tremper Longman: He does more than don sackcloth, indicative of grief; he also sews it over his skin. Mourning has become part and parcel of who he is. In other contexts of grief, the mourners not only put on sackcloth but also throw dust on their heads (Lam. 2:10; Ezek. 27:30–31). Job’s suffering is so profound that he takes his head (horn) and sticks it in the dust. The use of “horn” for head evokes an animal image. A proud, confident animal lifts its horns high. Job’s movement downward is the exact physical and emotional opposite.

His grief and pain also lead to incessant weeping, which turns his face red and his eyelids black (perhaps referring to the dark circles that appear with lack of sleep and worry). He finally protests that there is no violence on his part and his prayer is pure. Outwardly and inwardly he does nothing to deserve his fate.

2. (:17) Protestations of Innocence

“Although there is no violence in my hands,

And my prayer is pure.”

Roy Zuck: Yet Job was free of violence, not ruthless as Eliphaz had suggested (15:20), and his praying was from pure motives, not selfish ones. So his ordeal was unexplainable. Why should he be in such torment when he was not a terrible person?

John Hartley: Job grounds the intensity of his lament in his innocence. Because he has done no violence and his prayer is pure, he cries out for vindication. Job chooses language similar to that found in the liturgy of confession that worshipers made before entering the temple precinct (cf. Ps. 24:4). Job is confessing that he has done no wrong. There is no transgression of his which could be the reason for the hostile way God is treating him. He asserts that his prayer is pure. His words have been spoken to God honestly and fervently. He has not uttered empty or false words merely to get God to help him. An ancient worshiper believed that God would more likely answer a prayer from pure motives (cf. Ps. 17:1). Job is earnestly seeking to move God to respond to him through his words, even though these words are filled with a biting complaint against God’s treatment of him. The daring of Job’s approach is only tempered by his uncompromising search for an encounter with God.

David Clines: we have here the reason why Job is grief-stricken: it is not the loss of his children or his own pain, but the fact of his innocence. The contrast is not between the weeping and the innocence, but between the divine assaults (of vv 7–14) and the innocence. His weeping results from God’s refusal to acknowledge his innocence.


Francis Andersen: Job supports his self-vindication by an appeal to the earth and the sky (cf. Isa. 1:2), the sleepless watchers of men’s actions and guardians of ancient covenants, as witnesses of his murder. His use of the word blood implies that he expects to die (22) before his cry for redress is heard.

A. (:18) Suffering Calls for Vindication

“O earth, do not cover my blood,

And let there be no resting place for my cry.”

Warren Wiersbe: Job was caught on the horns of a dilemma. His suffering was so great that he longed to die, but he didn’t want to die before he could vindicate himself or see God vindicate him. This explains his cry in verse 18. . . The ancients believed that the blood of innocent victims cried out to God for justice (Gen. 4:8-15) and that the spirits of the dead were restless until the corpses were properly buried (Isa. 26:21). Even if Job died, he would be restless until he had been proved righteous by the Lord.

B. (:19) Vindication Can Only Come from Heaven

“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,

And my advocate is on high.”

John Hartley: Since there is no earthly party who will come to his defense, Job asserts that his witness is in heaven, he will testify to his innocence. This heavenly witness is his defender. Who is this heavenly defender? Is it an angel or some other heavenly creature? Considering the various passages in which Job thinks about arguing his case before God, the best candidate for the defender that can be found is God himself. While it is difficult to think that God would serve as witness against himself, as Mowinckel argues, the concept is not impossible. In fact, the whole drama of redemption centers around the antinomy between God’s justice that is sometimes expressed in wrath toward sinful man and his love that reaches out to redeem that same sinful man. For love to be genuine, it must be true to justice. In his redeeming work God is motivated by love and acts true to justice. Here Job appeals to God’s holy integrity in stating his earnest hope that God will testify to the truth of his claims of innocence, even though such testimony will seem to contradict God’s own actions. Such risking is the essence of faith. For a moment Job sees God as his steadfast supporter. In this plea he is expressing the trust God had expressed in him in the prologue because he is pushing through the screen of his troubles to the real God. He is not essentially pitting God against God; rather he is affirming genuine confidence in God regardless of the way it appears that God is treating him. Since Job, in contrast to his friends, will not concede that truth is identical with appearances, he presses on for a true resolution to his complaint from God himself.

Francis Andersen: God is the one who hears the cry of shed blood; and God is the one who is said to be on high. And Job has consistently appealed to God.

Tremper Longman: Job speaks of a help in heaven that he wishes for but, in his mind at least, does not exist. This interpretation seems confirmed by the fact that in the story of Job no umpire, no witness, ever steps forward to help him.

Roy Zuck: Job wanted a spokesman, a kind of heavenly defense attorney who could speak on God’s level. Job’s companions had not spoken on his behalf, so he needed someone who would.

C. (:20-21) Expected Supporters Have Let Job Down = Failed to Vindicate Him

1. (:20a) Let Down by Earthly Friends

“My friends are my scoffers;”

2. (:20b) Let Down by Heavenly Silence

“My eye weeps to God.”

3. (:21) Let Down by Lack of Appeal Process

“O that a man might plead with God

As a man with his neighbor!”

John Hartley: Job declares confidently that his interpreter is his friend. The interpreter is one who advocates a party’s case, explaining the situation to the court and defending him against any charges. Who could that party be save God himself in the light of the last verse. That is, as Job’s interpreter he will argue the merits of his case with God just as between a man and his fellow, i.e., just as human beings do. Since Job’s earthly friends have failed him, God will take their place by defending his accused friend, even before himself. No wonder these great thoughts cause Job’s eyes to flow with tears.

E.S.P. Heavenor: This passionate longing for a heavenly Witness on his side strikingly points forward to the Christian thought of “an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 Jn. 2:1). Here faith is reaching out for a “God for us”. Again, Jesus alone can answer Job. Cf. Heb. 9:24.

D. (:22) Vindication is Urgently Needed

“For when a few years are past,

I shall go the way of no return.”

John Hartley: Job underlines his plea with a note of urgency. He reminds God that if his petition is not granted, he will perish in dishonor. His end is approaching so fast that he can count the few years left. Soon he will descend to hell on the way that allows no return (cf. 7:9). In the realm of the dead he will have no way to defend his reputation. What is decided must be decided on earth. So the closer death approaches, the more urgent his cry for help becomes. Such reasoning, i.e., that the faithful servant will be unable to praise God in the land of the dead, is frequently found in OT prayers, for the distressed petitioner is groping for some way to motivate God to act redemptively (cf. Ps. 30:10–11 [Eng. 9–10]). The appeal is that it is imperative for God to attend to the cry for help for his own sake, attesting his commitment to the upright and to the honor of his name among men.


David Clines: vv. 1-17 – Job has confidence in the rightness of his cause, but he has no expectation that he will live to see his innocence vindicated. As in all his previous speeches, he moves in the end to the contemplation of death, for that is the one certainty in his future, and he feels its near approach. The whole of this chapter revolves about the contrast of “hope” and “death”: in v 1 the absence of hope is expressed by the language of the imminence of death, in vv 13–16 its absence is explained by his feeling of being kin with death. There is, intermixed with these prevailing expressions of hopelessness, some caustic criticism of the friends and the sanctimoniously righteous in general; the train of thought is at several points obscure, and the exact sense of several lines remains a mystery.

A. (:1) Expression of Despondency

“My spirit is broken,

my days are extinguished,

The grave is ready for me.”

John Hartley: With great emotion Job expresses the depth of his despair in three short lines. His spirit (rûaḥ), the desire for life in him, has been broken. Depression is robbing his inner resources for bearing his shame. His days are about to run out. The graveyard awaits him. Completely disgraced, he will be buried in a common grave (qeḇer) instead of receiving honorable interment in a noble sepulcher.

Francis Andersen: There is no break between the chapters. Thoughts already expressed crowd together in brief, jumbled sentences.

B. (:2) Exposure of the Mockers Provoking His Depression

“Surely mockers are with me,

And my eye gazes on their provocation.”

David Clines: The glance at the mockery that surrounds him forms a reason for his loss of spirit. For Job to endure mockery, which is specifically a castigation of him as a hypocrite and a denial of his righteousness (cf. on 12:4–5), is a debilitating experience. He does not refer particularly to the friends of the dialogue as his mockers, but to any whom he has previously counted as his friends (as at 12:4). Nor is it to be supposed that the mockery he endures is necessarily expressed in any gross form (though cf. 30:1–15); he takes it for granted that the company of the godly must be despising him, as he himself had no doubt in happier times despised those whom suffering had marked out in his eyes as the wicked. The weak and the stumbling he supported (4:3–4), indeed, but as one of the wise he must have shared the common belief in that very retributive justice from whose operation he is now—in the eyes of others—smarting.

C. (:3) Entreaty for Divine Support

“Lay down, now, a pledge for me with Thyself;

Who is there that will be my guarantor?”

John Hartley: Job’s words are similar to the psalmist’s: “I have done justice and righteousness; do not surrender me to my oppressors. Be surety for your servant for good; let not the arrogant oppress me” (Ps. 119:121–22). This parallel passage makes it clear that Job is now pleading to God for immediate relief from his suffering while he has to wait for the heavenly court to hear his case. This plea offers evidence that Job’s faith in God remains firm and that God is the witness spoken of in 16:19.

D. (:4) Effects of Divine Blinding on Job’s Mockers – No Exaltation

“For Thou hast kept their heart from understanding;

Therefore Thou wilt not exalt them.”

E. (:5) Expectation of Retribution against Traitorous Friends

“He who informs against friends for a share of the spoil,

The eyes of his children also shall languish.”

John Hartley: Speaking to the friends, Job warns them of the danger that their false accusations against him may incur with a proverb about the retribution exacted against the children of him who informs against a friend for personal gain.

Elmer Smick: Verse 5 is a proverb. Job is reminding his counselors of the dire consequences of slander.


A. (:6) Object of Ridicule and Repulsion

“But He has made me a byword of the people,

And I am one at whom men spit.”

John Hartley: Job now mourns how deeply God has humiliated him among men. He has become a byword to the whole community. When passersby behold his deteriorated condition, they are filled with such repulsion that they shout reproaches and spit in his face, a revolting, insulting gesture. Undeserved mockery is a serious offense, for it darkens people’s minds, preventing them from discerning the truth.

B. (:7) Body of Rapid Physical Deterioration

“My eye has also grown dim because of grief,

And all my members are as a shadow.”

Trevor Longman: No wonder Job is despondent. He is filled with grief and physically fades away, like a shadow (v. 7).

C. (:8-10) Persistent Claim of Innocence in the Face of Unjustified Attacks

“The upright shall be appalled at this,

And the innocent shall stir up himself against the godless.

Nevertheless the righteous shall hold to his way,

And he who has clean hands shall grow stronger and stronger.

But come again all of you now,

For I do not find a wise man among you.”

John Hartley: vs. 8 — Job deplores the attitude that his woes produce in his friends. To disclose the inappropriateness of the friends’ approach to him, Job describes the response to ill-fate that is expected from a truly upright (yāšār) or innocent (nāqî) man. An upright person is so appalled at the abuse borne by an innocent victim that he, also an innocent person, stirs himself to oppose this kind of behavior from the godless. He defends the innocent and condemns the guilty. But Job’s friends have not followed this standard of conduct. Instead they have sided with the scoffers and added to his suffering.

Francis Andersen: Job is outraged because he, the man after God’s own heart, has made matters worse for himself by maintaining his own integrity. He has laid himself open to the charge of hypocrisy on top of secret sin. As a person now obviously deserted by God, he is unprotected prey for any hunter. Cf. chapter 30. And worse, while people with base minds may make him a target of popular obloquy, with no fear of divine retribution, for such a damned soul has no longer any claim on the protection of God, those who are on God’s side may feel that they are helping God in his work by treating Job as a miscreant. So Job is forced to defy them all (10a), as devoid of wisdom, even if everyone else admires them as sound men.

What can Job do? Nothing, except cling to his belief in the rightness of his cause, of which he is more convinced than ever (9). There is hardly a place in the book of Job concerning which commentators are in wider disagreement than this statement. Delitzsch (I, p. 300) compares it with a rocket burst of light. Others find the thought quite out of place, and either transfer it to another position, or leave it out altogether.

We see no need for this, although the difficulties are acknowledged, and dogmatism either way is no solution.

David Guzik: vs. 9 — Yet the righteous will hold to his way: F.B. Meyer gave several reasons why this was so.

• “You shall hold on your way because Jesus holds you in his strong hand. He is your Shepherd; He has vanquished all your foes, and you shall never perish.”

• “You shall hold on your way because the Father has designed through you to glorify His Son; and there must be no gaps in his crown where jewels ought to be.”

• “You shall hold on your way because the Holy Spirit has designed to make you his residence and home; and He is within you the perennial spring of a holy life.”

Elmer Smick: vs. 10 — Job is outraged at his friends’ attitude, which he considers completely devoid of wisdom. He taunts them to come back and have another go at him. The verse lends added weight to the interpretation of vv.8–9 as sarcasm.

Tremper Longman: vv. 10-11 — In v. 10 Job clearly addresses the three friends and taunts them to come back and do their best against him. He knows, however, the outcome based on their past performance. He will not find a bona fide sage among them. None of them will be able to diagnose or provide a remedy for his condition. They are supposed to be doctors of the soul, but they continue to fail miserably. Because of their failure, Job feels defeated. He has no “plans” for the future because he sees no way out of his predicament. He lacks desire because he has no hope.


Elmer Smick: The counselors have said that night will be turned to day for Job if only he would get right with God (cf. 11:17). In vv.12–16 Job makes a parody of their advice. It is like going to the grave with the notion that all you have to do is treat it like home where warmth and loved ones are and it will become so. No, Job’s fondest desires have been shattered (v.11); he has no hope but death. He closes this section as he opened it, with the despair of the grave (16:22–17:2). This despair is not quite as reprehensible as is their faulty advice.

Meredith Kline: vv. 10-16 – Job’s changes in mood are abrupt and extreme. Disdainfully inviting the wisdomless wise men to renew their witless counsel (v. 10), Job concludes with a description of his pathetic plight – on the brink of community with the worms.

A. (:11) Calling it Quits

“My days are past,

my plans are torn apart,

Even the wishes of my heart.”

John Hartley: He deplores the swift passing of his days, for suffering preempts them of any meaning. His plans (zimmâ) are undone. And the desires of my heart, namely, to be respected and accomplish good for others, are turned to ashes. With these thoughts Job’s hope sinks to a low ebb.

B. (:12) Condemning False Hope When Reality is Darkness

“They make night into day, saying,

‘The light is near,’ in the presence of darkness.”

Elmer Smick: The counselors had said that night would be turned to day for Job if only he would get right with God (cf. Job 11:17). In Job 17:12-16 Job made a parody of their advice. It was like going to the grave with the notion that all you have to do is treat it like home where warmth and loved ones are and it will become so.

C. (:13-16) Considering Sheol to Be the Destiny that Extinguishes All Hope

“If I look for Sheol as my home,

I make my bed in the darkness;

14 If I call to the pit, ‘You are my father’;

To the worm, ‘my mother and my sister’;

15 Where now is my hope?

And who regards my hope?

16 Will it go down with me to Sheol?

Shall we together go down into the dust?”

Tremper Longman: vv. 13-14 – The best interpretation of is as an acknowledgment of what is essentially a death wish. The “vv. 13–14 pit” is the grave, and maggots (and elsewhere, worms) are associated with the grave and death and putrefaction. If his hope is for death, then where is his hope? It is in the grave. Death is not something distant and impersonal; it is the place where he can find refuge (“my house”) and rest (“my bed”). He wants it close to him like he would want his closest and dearest relatives (father [pit], mother, sister [maggots]). But no one can see his hope unless they take the journey to Sheol with him.

David Clines: As in his previous speeches, it is death that is the closing note (7:21b; 10:21–22; 14:20–22). But that is not because he is suffering so badly that he believes he must soon die, nor because he has been unable to gain the support he had a right to expect from his friends, but because there is no sign of the vindication he demands, no hint that his judicial appeal to God (13:20–22) has penetrated the court of heaven. It is the perpetual ignoring of his right that has worn him down, crushed his spirit (v 1), wasted his limbs (v 7), broken his hopes (v 11).

Derek Kidner: Job’s speech ends, as we have noted earlier, in a despairing account of his distress. He is without a friend, the marks of death are visible in his bodily appearance and his life is ebbing away (17:5-16). Having raised himself to such heights in his cry for a witness in heaven, he quickly descends to the depths again as his present circumstances get the better of him. . . The only relief he can expect from his pain is the community of maggots! His only recourse is to prepare himself for a home in the grave (17:13; Hebrew, Sheol). And there in death his hope dies with him: “Will it go down to the gates of death? Will we descend together into the dust?” (17:16). This is utter despondency. If he is to be vindicated, God must act now before it is too late and he is claimed by the forces of darkness.