CERTAINTY OF FINAL VINDICATION EASES THE PAIN OF PRESENT REJECTION AND PUTS FALSE ACCUSERS IN ULTIMATE JEOPARDY
Francis Andersen: In this speech Job’s audacious faith reaches its climax in the famous words, I know that my Redeemer lives (verse 25). He leaps to this height from a state of despair caused by the reproaches of his friends (verses 2–6), his devastation by God (7–12), and his sense of utter forsakenness (13–22). His certainty of final vindication (23–29) shines all the more brightly against this dark background.
Thomas Constable: This speech is one of the more important ones in the book, because in it, Job reached a new low and a new high in his personal experience. He revealed here the extent of his rejection by his friends, relatives, and servants, but he also came to a new confidence in God. Bildad had spoken of the terrors of death, and now Job described the trials of life—his own life. He did so by using seven figures to describe himself:
• an animal trapped (v. 6),
• a criminal in court (v. 7),
• a traveler fenced in (v. 8),
• a king dethroned (v. 9),
• a structure destroyed (v. 10),
• a tree uprooted (v. 10),
• and a city besieged (vv. 11-12).
This is Job’s first speech since chapter 3 in which he did not address God, though all that he said was for God’s ears; his concern was more to refute his companions.
Elmer Smick: The chapter divides into four logical stanzas.
– In the first Job shows increasing irritation over his counselors’ shameless attacks and his impatience with their superior claims (vv.2–5).
– Then follows Job’s feeling of abandonment by God and perception that God’s attack on him is wrong (vv.6–12).
– Then he blames God for alienating his kinsmen and household, even his wife (vv.13–20).
– In vv.21–27 he ends this lament, to our amazement, with a triumphant expression of faith in the one who will ultimately champion his cause and vindicate him (vv.23–27). This stanza is bracketed by words to his friends, who Job does not believe will ever have pity (v.21). So he warns them of the dire consequences of their false accusations (vv.28–29).
John Hartley: This speech consists of five pericopes:
– a complaint against the friends (vv. 1–6);
– a complaint about God’s enmity (vv. 7–12);
– a complaint about complete alienation (vv. 13–20);
– a plea for help and a statement of assurance (vv. 21–27);
– a warning to the friends (vv. 28–29).
(:1) PROLOGUE – RESPONSE OF JOB
“Then Job responded,”
I. (:2-6) JOB’S RETORT
Definition of “retort”:
• to reply to, usually in a sharp or retaliatory way; reply in kind to.
• to return (an accusation, epithet, etc.) upon the person uttering it.
• to answer (an argument or the like) by another to the contrary.
A. (:2-3) Give Me a Break – Ease Up on Your Attacks
“How long will you torment me,
And crush me with words?
3 These ten times you have insulted me,
You are not ashamed to wrong me.”
Job must not have been familiar with the old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
John Hartley: Job is greatly disturbed both by the harsh tone of Bildad’s speech and by his classifying him among the wicked. Therefore, he asks Bildad and the friends how long they will continue to make him feel worse about his affliction. He complains that, in fact, their insults ridiculing his perseverance in seeking an encounter with God crush him because they make his faith in God look like obstinate rebellion against God. No wonder Job rebuffs them so sharply.
Warren Wiersbe: Our words either hurt others or heal them; we either add to their burdens or help them bear their burdens with courage. Job’s friends crushed him with their words; they made him feel worthless and helpless in the face of all his suffering. How sensitive we should be to the needs and struggles of others! Even if people do need rebuke, we should do it in love; and our words should hearten them and not weaken them.
B. (:4) My Sin is My Own Business
“Even if I have truly erred, My error lodges with me.”
Elmer Smick: Job implies his friends have no right to interfere, no right to behave as though they were God (cf. v.22).
John Hartley: Remaining confident that he has never sinned as gravely as his misfortune suggests, Job refuses to concede that he has done anything more serious than some unintentional blunder.
C. (:5-6) My Suffering Has Been Wrongly Afflicted by God
“If indeed you vaunt yourselves against me,
And prove my disgrace to me,
Know then that God has wronged me,
And has closed His net around me.”
Tremper Longman: However, Job insists, if Bildad and his friends demand to make a federal case (v. 5a, “if you truly make yourself powerful against me”) of this mistake (which he is not even conceding), then he intends to push back hard. He notes that they make themselves powerful against him by making his “reproach,” that is, his affliction and emotional suffering part of their case (“reproof”) against him. The way he counters is by deflecting the accusation from himself to God. He is “perverted” because God has perverted him (v. 6). God has motivated Job’s reaction by the way he has treated him. The next number of verses then develop the idea that God has afflicted him.
John Hartley: He is refuting his friend’s interpretation by claiming that he has not fallen prey to his own folly. The truth is that God has been the aggressive hunter who has thrown his net around his prey so that there is no possibility for him to get away.
Thomas Constable: Job claimed that God had not been just in his case (vv. 5-6; cf. 8:3). Rather than snaring himself in his own net, as Bildad insinuated (18:8-10), Job claimed that God had trapped him in His net. God had driven him into a hunter’s net.
II. (:7-20) JOB’S REJECTION
A. (:7-12) Rejection By God — Complaint about God’s Angry Opposition
1. (:7) God Fails to Answer Cries for Help and Justice
“Behold, I cry, ‘Violence!’ but I get no answer;
I shout for help, but there is no justice.”
Francis Andersen: It is the silence of God that Job complains about, so long as there is no response to his plea for redress. To say that there is no justice does not mean that there is injustice. The verdict has not yet been given.
John Hartley: Job laments God’s treating him like an enemy. He takes this tactic in order to shock his friends into realizing that God himself is the cause of his plight, not some wrong that he has done. Languishing under God’s attack, Job cries out, Violence! (ḥāmās), the plaint of one in desperate need of help (Deut. 22:23–24). Without sufficient strength to resist his attackers, the victim’s only hope is that his cry will be heard in some quarter or by God himself. But no one, not even God, comes to Job’s rescue (cf. Lam. 3:8). No matter how loudly he cries, there is no justice for him.
Trapp: Nothing is more natural and usual than for men in misery to cry out for help. Job’s great grief was, that neither God nor man would regard his moans or deliver him out of the net.
2. (:8) God Blocks All Possibility of Escape
“He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass;
And He has put darkness on my paths.”
Thomas Constable: Job then named ten (cf. v. 3) hostile actions of God against himself (vv. 8-12). Note the recurrence of “He” in these verses that emphasizes God’s responsibility.
3. (:9) God Strips away Honor
“He has stripped my honor from me,
And removed the crown from my head.”
4. (:10) God Breaks Me Down and Uproots Hope
“He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone;
And He has uprooted my hope like a tree.”
5. (:11-12) God Angrily Assaults Me as His Enemy
“He has also kindled His anger against me,
And considered me as His enemy.
12 His troops come together,
And build up their way against me,
And camp around my tent.”
Tremper Longman: Verses 11–12 utilize a military metaphor to describe God’s anger toward Job. He treats Job (whose name may be connected with a Hebrew word for “enemy”; see the introduction) as a “foe” (ṣār, a Hebrew word related in meaning). Thus he sends his troops against him, who lay siege to him. They build a road to march the army toward him, and then they camp all around him. One wonders whether it is appropriate to speculate who the troops are. By doing so, we may be turning a metaphor into an allegory. The idea is that God the warrior has chosen to fight against his servant Job, or at least this is Job’s self-perception. Indeed, though, God has sent a “troop” against him, the accuser (“the satan”) as we learn in the first two chapters of the book. From Job’s perspective, the suffering that he experiences is the result of a whole army ranged against him, and that is the sentiment that he expresses in these two verses.
David Guzik: In Job 19:8-12, Job recounts the reverse progression of an ancient siege and conquering of a city; yet the irony was that Job was not like a mighty city, but only like a humble tent. We can see the reverse progress starting at Job 19:8:
• Captivity (I cannot pass; and He has set darkness in my paths).
• Dethronement (taken the crown from my head).
• Being like a wall torn down (He breaks me down on every side).
• Being like an uprooted tree (my hope He has uprooted like a tree).
• Having a siege set against him (build up their road against me).
• Being surrounded (they encamp all around my tent).
“Reverse this order and you have a step-by-step description of what happened in siege warfare… God’s troops laid siege as if Job were a fortified city; but, alas, he was only a tent.” (Smick)
B. (:13-20) Rejection By Family and Society – They Have All Turned against Job
Francis Andersen: Job’s burning concern for God does not make him insensitive to human relationships. On the contrary, the two are inseparable in the life of any person who attains wholeness as a human being. Job’s list of brethren, acquaintances, kinsfolk, close friends, guests, maidservants, servant(s), wife, children reveals his capacity, his enjoyment, and equally his hurt when denied the solace of company, the respect of employees, the intimacy of family.
Thomas Constable: Metaphorical descriptions of God’s hostility to Job (in vv. 8-12) now give way to literal ways in which He opposed him. In describing the people Job referred to in this section, he started with those farthest from him and moved to those closest to him, and from Job’s equals to his inferiors socially. He then moved outward, from his wife and brothers, to the neighborhood children, to the larger sphere of his intimates.
1. (:13-14) Failure of Close Relatives and Friends to Help
“He has removed my brothers far from me,
And my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.
14 My relatives have failed,
And my intimate friends have forgotten me.”
2. (:15-16) Failure of Household Servants to Help
“Those who live in my house and my maids consider me a stranger.
I am a foreigner in their sight.
16 I call to my servant, but he does not answer,
I have to implore him with my mouth.”
3. (:17-19) Failure of Close Relatives and Friends to Help
“My breath is offensive to my wife,
And I am loathsome to my own brothers.
18 Even young children despise me;
I rise up and they speak against me.
19 All my associates abhor me,
And those I love have turned against me.”
Tremper Longman: In sum, Job has no one to help him. He is on his own in his suffering. The only people who seem to be physically close to him are these three friends, who feel it is their duty to tear him down. It is the three friends that he now addresses. If he expects sympathy from them, he is horribly wrong.
David Guzik: The children Job refers to here must be either grandchildren or those who were symbolically Job’s children; it seems that all of Job’s ten children were killed in a tragic accident (Job 1:2; 1:18-19).
4. (:20) Summary: Barely Clinging to Life
“My bone clings to my skin and my flesh,
And I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth.”
Tremper Longman: Verse 20 turns from a lament over his relational alienation to his physical suffering. He says that he is “skin and bones,” barely holding on to life.
John MacArthur: The idea is that he had escaped death by a very slim margin. The loss of all his family, as well as the abuse of his friends was added to the terror of God-forsakenness which had gripped him.
III. (:21-27) JOB’S REDEEMER
Elmer Smick: Up to this point Job has come to the conclusion that he will soon die (10:20; 16:22–17:1). His experience has created in him a sense of amoral chaos in the world and in his life. His sense of being crushed causes him to look repeatedly toward death as a kind of hopeless release (14:18–22; 16:11–16). He knows he is innocent and seeks above all else to be vindicated. His compassionless counselors have reiterated their impersonal theology that declares him guilty. He feels as if God is angry with him and has become the enemy who has attacked and crushed him. He perceives that he is alone in a cruel and amoral world. There is no one left who understands, no one to plead his cause or bear witness to his innocence. And this is what he wants most of all—not release, not retribution, but only justice, someone to vindicate him.
A. (:21-22) Give Me a Break = Need for a Redeemer
1. (:21) Plea for Pity
“Pity me, pity me, O you my friends,
For the hand of God has struck me.”
Derek Kidner: It is surprising that Job calls on his friends to “have pity on” him at this stage (19:21), particularly since it is followed by as aggressive a speech against his friends as any to be found in the whole book (19:28-29). Job had not exactly paved the way for their pity, having implied their treachery (6:15), their heartlessness (6:27), their stupidity (12:2-3; 13:2), their worthlessness (13:4), their lies (13:7) and their bias (13:7-9). They were “miserable comforters” (16:2) who had almost succeeded in tormenting and crushing him (19:2).
2. (:22) Perplexed by Persecution
“Why do you persecute me as God does,
And are not satisfied with my flesh?”
Francis Andersen: Job’s dignity and self-composure are lost. He lies broken under the blows of God and the words of men. To men he appeals for pity (verse 21), to God for justice. But both alike hound (pursue) him.
B. (:23-24) Engrave My Words = Expectation of a Redeemer
“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 That with an iron stylus and lead
They were engraved in the rock forever!”
Tremper Longman: Verses 23–24 introduce his comments by expressing the wish that his words could become a permanent record. He wishes they were written in a scroll or, even more permanently, etched on a rock. It appears that this desire is expressed in connection with the words that follow, and by so expressing this desire, Job underlines the importance of what is to follow and thus heightens our expectations. It also may mean, as Smick says, that Job does not think he will last long, and so he wants his position to be recorded for posterity.
C. (:25-27) Note My Confidence in My Redeemer
1. (:25) Final Resolution
“And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,
And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.”
Tremper Longman: We know he wants an audience with God. He expects that he will be vindicated in such a meeting. In other words, he expects that God would move from being his accuser to being his defender once the facts are laid out on the table. Yes, this view of God is in tension with other times when he believes God is unfair and does not care whether he is innocent (9:19–21). But this is an inherent tension in Job’s mind. Sometimes he expects good things from an encounter with God and sometimes not. In this passage, we have an example of his most optimistic thinking. He will meet God, and God will vindicate him.
David Guzik: This is another of the brilliant flashes of faith in Job’s otherwise dark and bleak background of crisis and suffering. Perhaps as he considered that future generations would indeed look at his life and words, it stirred him to a triumphant proclamation of faith.
• The word translated Redeemer is goel, presenting one of the wonderful concepts of the Old Testament. “The ‘Goel’ stood for another to defend his cause, to avenge wrongs done to him, and so to acquit him of all charges laid against him.” (Morgan)
• “A redeemer was a vindicator of one unjustly wronged. He was a defender of the oppressed. A champion of the suffering. An advocate of one unjustly accused. If you were ever wronged, a redeemer would come and stand beside you as your champion and advocate.” (Lawson)
• “The meaning of the word goel (‘redeemer’) is fundamental to understanding this passage. The word is important in Old Testament jurisprudence. It had both a criminal and a civil aspect. As ‘blood avenger,’ a goel had a responsibility to avenge the blood of a slain kinsman (Numbers 35:12-28). He was not seeking revenge but justice. On the civil side he was a redeemer or vindicator. Here he had the responsibility to ‘buy back’ and so redeem the lost inheritance of a deceased relative… As such he was the defender or champion of the oppressed.” (Smick)
• “When Job, amid the desolation, declared that he had a ‘Goel’ living and active, he was uttering a profound truth, the truth that in God, man has a Redeemer in all the fullest senses of that great word. It was a spiritual apprehension of an abiding fact, which fact came into clear shining when God was manifest in flesh.” (Morgan)
• “Christ’s kinship with his people is to be thought of with great comfort because it is voluntary. We have some, perhaps, who are akin to us, yet, who wish they were not. Many a time, when a rich man has poor relations, he is half ashamed of the kinship between them, and wishes that it did not exist. Shame upon him for thinking so! But our Lord Jesus Christ’s relationship to us is no accident of birth; it was voluntarily assumed by him.” (Spurgeon)
• “Remember, too, that it was always considered to be the duty of the goel, not merely to redeem by price, but where that failed, to redeem by power… There are two redemptions, — redemption by price and redemption by power, and both of these Christ hath wrought for us; — by price, by his sacrifice upon the cross of Calvary; and by power, by his Divine Spirit coming into our heart, and renewing our soul.” (Spurgeon)
2. (:26-27) Visual Encounter
“Even after my skin is destroyed,
Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold,
And whom my eyes shall see and not another.
My heart faints within me.”
Francis Andersen: there is a tremendous emphasis on ‘seeing God’; the point is made three times in verses 26f. Hitherto Job has indicated a need to hear God speaking. Sight is more immediate, more physical, harder to doubt. Cf. 42:5. The references to skin, flesh and eyes make it clear that Job expects to have this experience as a man, not just as a disembodied shade, or in his mind’s eye. What he says should not be watered down by the biblical teaching that no-one can see God. The Old Testament records several notable instances where people such as Abraham, Moses and Isaiah ‘saw’ God, and Job doubtless has something similar in mind. To underline his belief that this will happen with full possession of his personal identity, Job uses I three times in verse 27a, once on the verb, once as the emphatic pronoun subject, once as the ‘ethic dative’: AV ‘Whom I shall see for myself’ cannot be improved on.
Verses 25–27 are so tightly knit that there should be no doubt that the Redeemer is God. NEB is to be commended for securing this, and also for bringing out the forensic connotations: the ‘vindicator’ who ‘will rise … to speak in court’ as Job’s ‘witness’ and ‘defending counsel’ is none other than ‘God himself’.
Roy Zuck: This thought so overwhelmed Job that he exclaimed, ‘My heart yearns’ (lit., “my kidneys,” considered the seat of the emotions, “waste away”) within me! He was emotionally drained by the very thought of meeting God and having Him once and for all vindicate rather than vitiate his cause.
Derek Kidner: Any interpretation of this passage has to take in view the cumulative insights of such utterances as Job gave in 14:14 and 16:19. It has led one commentator to say that “The hope of resurrection lies at the heart of Job’s faith.” This is the view more commonly accepted by evangelicals: Job is speaking here of his belief that he will be vindicated after his death when in a bodily state – i.e., Job is expressing his belief in a future bodily resurrection. . . It Job’s belief that even though he must die and be consumed, he will nevertheless stand before God in a new body. He will see God as his kinsman and not as a stranger who is currently hostile towards him (19:11-12).
(:28-29) EPILOGUE – REVERSAL OF PUNISHMENT
A. (:28) Pursuing Unjust Opposition against Job
“If you say, ‘How shall we persecute him?’
And ‘What pretext for a case against him can we find?’”
B. (:29) Warning of Judgment to Come
“Then be afraid of the sword for yourselves,
For wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
So that you may know there is judgment.”
David Guzik: Full of spiritual confidence and faith, Job warned his friends regarding their own disbelief. They seemed to believe more in God as a system of belief rather than in a person, a person whom Job would see and who would one day vindicate him.