UNJUST SUFFERING AND DERISIVE SOCIAL ATTACKS UNLEASH PHYSICAL, EMOTIONAL, PSYCHOLOGIAL AND SPIRITUAL AGONY WHEN GOD REMAINS SILENT
Tremper Longman: Chapter 30 continues on from Job’s comments in the previous chapter. There he remembered the good old days when God liked him and he prospered and was honored. He did the right things and he fully expected to die in his blessed condition. This chapter now describes how his life has transformed from blessing to curse. He believes that this change is totally unjust since he has done nothing to deserve it, so in the next chapter (31) he will protest his innocence and announce his intention to confront God over this indignity.
In the first part of chap. 30, Job bemoans that he is no longer respected by old and young, noble or not, as he was in earlier days (vv. 1–10). Indeed, the very scum of the earth, whose description occupies the majority of these verses, laugh at him. Verses 11–15 accuse God of humiliating him, and in his shame and weakness a mob then comes to harass him. He is deeply afraid and shamed. He feels as if God has mugged him (vv. 16–19). While he has appealed to God, God has not responded to him (vv. 20–23). Job ends by saying that God should have helped him or anyone who is suffering as he is (vv. 24–31). After all, even he, a human, helps those who appeal to him for help. His optimism has turned to pessimism.
Francis Andersen: In chapter 3 his attention was narrowly focused on his immediate pain. In chapter 30, he is more widely aware of the social and spiritual dimensions of his predicament. This is perhaps the most pathetic of all Job’s poems of grief, and a fitting finish to all the earlier ones. It is more subdued, more reflective, less defiant. It shows Job in his weakness, no longer able to hope for even one touch of friendliness from men or God.
David Thompson: Job was a hurting man. He was mocked by society, he was in pain physically, he was abandoned spiritually and he was hurting emotionally. He could think about all the positive things he once previously experienced, but that did not change the reality of the way life really was. He was a hurting man and this chapter of Job makes that point very clear.
Growing out of chapter 29, Job 30 dwells on the complete reversal of all Job’s relationships. What God has done to him (verses 16–23) is set in the middle of what men have done to him (1–15; 24–31); but these are not two distinguishable experiences, and the whole poem is a tumult. Conflicting emotions gather in Job’s soul. He is abject, scornful, outraged, forlorn. . .
Job was presently without respect (vv. 1-15), disregarded (vv. 16-23), and despondent (vv. 24-31). He had formerly enjoyed the respect of the most respectable, but now he experienced the contempt of the most contemptible (vv. 1-15; cf. 29:8, 21-25).
Elmer Smick: The contrast between chapter 29 and chapter 30 is purposeful and forceful. The threefold use of “But/and now” in 30:1, 9, 16 ties the chapter together and reveals the author’s contrastive intention. Moreover, the first verb seems to be used to heighten the contrastive effect. In 29:24 Job said (lit.), “I laughed [śḥq] at them” (at his people who were discouraged) and now (30:1) a brood of ruffians (lit.) “laugh [śḥq] at me.” . . . Throughout 30:1–15 Job expands this theme: the loss of his dignity. If one feels he has exaggerated his honor in chapter 29, the hyperbole on his loss of honor in chapter 30 is even more extreme. Verses 3–8 are typical. Having your peers mock you is bad; but to prove how honorless he is, Job tells how boys, whose fathers he could not trust to handle his sheepdogs, mock him.
To achieve a full measure of contrast, Job dwelt on the negative side of the three themes of chapter 29 in the following order: honor, blessing, and benevolence. The removal of God’s blessing is far worse than affliction by people, so it is put in the climactic central position. The contrastive arrangement is as follows:
I. No Honor from Men (vv.1–15)
A. Young mockers and their elders (vv.1–8; cf. 29:7–11)
B. Job assaulted (vv.9–15; cf. 29:21–25)
II. No Blessing from God (vv.16–23; cf. 29:2–6, 18–20)
A. Job suffers (vv.16–17)
B. God afflicts (vv.18–19)
C. Job pleads (v.20)
D. God afflicts (vv.21–23)
III. No Benevolence for Job (vv.24–31; cf. 29:12–17)
A. Plea for mercy and help (v.24)
B. Reminder of his benevolence (v.25)
C. No benevolence for Job (v.26)
D. Result: his present condition (vv.27–31)
Joseph Benson: Job’s honour is turned into contempt, Job 30:1-14. His prosperity into fears, pains, and a sense of the wrath of God, Job 30:15-22. He looks for nothing but death, Job 30:23. And rest therein, Job 30:24. Reflects on his former sympathy with the afflicted, Job 30:25. And describes his own present calamities, Job 30:26-31.
John Hartley: After recounting his past blessings and the respect he had in the assembly, Job laments the depths of his shame and the severity of his suffering. He is deeply distressed that he is scorned by all, even the desert rabble. He also cries out from the piercing pains that torment him. It is very distressing to Job that he sees God’s mighty hand behind his suffering. Moreover, God’s silence to his pleas exasperates him. In. anguish he laments like a psalmist who sings a psalm of lament to the tune of the harp and flute.
This lament is artfully structured in relationship to his remembrance (ch. 29). In the lament Job speaks of the shame caused by external forces, then of his personal blessings and then the honor others bestowed on him. The three sections of this lament are
– Job’s present disgrace (vv. 1-15);
– an accusation against God (vv. 16-23) and
– a self-lament (vv. 24-31).
Roy Zuck: Job bewailed his present misery, which contrasted so starkly with his pre-disease days. He now was
• Disrespected socially (vv. 1-15),
• In pain physically (vv. 16-19),
• Abandoned spiritually (vv. 20-23),
• Opposed socially (vv. 24-26), and
• Exhausted physically and emotionally (vv. 27-31).
I. (:1-15) ASSAULTED BY CONTEMPTIBLE MOCKERS
A. (:1-8) Ridiculed by the Dregs of Society
Francis Andersen: Job has exchanged the respect of the most respectable for the contempt of the most contemptible. Something of patrician pride comes through Job’s disdain for the dregs of society who now (1) make him their laughing-song. Such despicable persons are in no position to look down on Job, for they are the lowest of society, living like animals (3, 4, 6, 7). Less than human, this gang is rightly expelled from where decent people live (5, 8).
1. (:1) Contemptible by Virtue of Their Youth and Lowly Status
“But now those younger than I mock me,
Whose fathers I disdained to put with the dogs of my flock.”
Tremper Longman: Job feels ridiculed by youths who are more contemptible than their fathers, more contemptible than dogs.
John Hartley: The displaced desert rabble deride Job, hurling taunts at him as they pass by. These mockers are doubly odious to him by reason of their youth and their lowly status. In those days the young were to show respect to their elders. But the most deplorable youths mock Job, who had been the most respected person in the community. . . Job also makes a play on the word deride (sahaq). Whereas he had smiled (sahaq) on the assembly inspiring confidence (29:24), now the rabble deride or smile derisively (sahaq) at him.
Poole: Dogs are everywhere mentioned with contempt, as filthy, unprofitable, and accursed creatures; as 2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Kings 8:13; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15.
2. (:2-8) Contemptible by Virtue of Their Despicable Characteristics
John MacArthur: Job described these mockers as dissipated vagabonds who, because of their uselessness and wickedness, were not welcome in society, so were driven out of the land. These base men had made Job the object of their sordid entertainment (vv. 9-15).
John Hartley: To stress his outrage at such mockery Job enumerates the despicable characteristics of those who reproach him. They lack strength and vigor. Gaunt from want and hunger, they have become outcasts, roaming the desolate, dry steppe in search of food and shelter. They pluck saltwort, a perennial shrub identified as atriplex halimus, which because of its saltiness is eaten only in dire circumstances. From the broom tree, retama roetam, one of the larger plants in the desolate regions of Sinai and the Dead Sea, they collect roots, possibly to make into charcoals (cf. Ps. 120:4).
When these scoundrels enter a city, the citizens are appalled, fearing that such riffraff might snatch anything in sight. As soon as they spot them, they drive them out, shouting “Thief!” Never extending any courtesy to them, the citizens refuse to let them dwell in the village. These vagabonds, therefore, must find shelter in the rugged terrain of the steppe, which, being cut through with deep wadis, offers hiding places under cliffs and in caves. Huddled among the shrubs for shelters, they bray from their deep-seated hunger.
These repulsive outcasts are called a foolish, nameless brood (lit. “sons of a fool” and “sons without a name”). Belonging to the class of hardened fools (nebalim), they continually manifest their incorrigible folly. Noted for their impious, surly nature (Isa. 32:5-6) and haughty speech (Prov. 17:7), they are men without a name, i.e., they have not honor.
a. (:2-4) Weak and Wasted
“Indeed, what good was the strength of their hands to me?
Vigor had perished from them.
3 From want and famine they are gaunt
Who gnaw the dry ground by night in waste and desolation,
4 Who pluck mallow by the bushes,
And whose food is the root of the broom shrub.”
b. (:5-8) Wandering and Whimpering
“They are driven from the community;
They shout against them as against a thief,
6 So that they dwell in dreadful valleys,
In holes of the earth and of the rocks.
7 Among the bushes they cry out;
Under the nettles they are gathered together.
8 Fools, even those without a name,
They were scourged from the land.”
Tremper Longman: Job pictures people in a desperate search for food to keep themselves alive. They are “in want and hunger” (v. 3). They “gnaw the desert,” obviously a place with few resources to sustain them. They do their best, though, as they gather mallow from bushes and eat the root of the broom tree (v. 4). They are not out of the city by their own decision, but they have been compelled to leave by those who live there (“they are driven out from human society,” v. 5a). Their treatment may be the result of criminal activity (“they shout at them as if they are robbers,” v. 5b). As mentioned, they have no permanent homes. Rather they live in the many caves that may be found in wadi walls in Israel. In other words, they live like animals. Job even likens them to the donkey when he says they “bray among the bushes.”
It is these types of people who treat him so badly. They sing songs about him, and he has become a byword among them.
B. (:9-15) Rebuffed by Their Unrestrained Taunts and Attacks
1. (:9-10) Unrestrained Taunts
“And now I have become their taunt,
I have even become a byword to them.
10 They abhor me and stand aloof from me,
And they do not refrain from spitting at my face.”
2. (:11-14) Unrestrained Attacks
a. (:11) Imagery of Loosed Bowstring
“Because He has loosed His bowstring and afflicted me,
They have cast off the bridle before me.”
Thomas Constable: God loosed His bowstring against Job (v. 11a) by shooting an arrow at him (i.e., by afflicting him). Another way to read the Hebrew of this part of verse 11 is that God, or Job’s enemies, had loosed Job’s bowstring, that is, He, or they, had incapacitated or disarmed him. Job’s enemies cast off the figurative bridle that had previously restrained them in their contacts with him (v. 11b). Job described his soul as poured out within him (v. 16) in the sense that he felt drained of all zest for life. Verse 18 probably means he felt that God was grabbing him by the lapels, so to speak, or perhaps that his sickness had discolored, rather than disheveled, his clothing.
John Hartley: Job looks beyond these dregs and names God as the cause of his disgrace. God has loosed his cord [yeter] and afflicted him. In this metaphor Job compares his body to a tent. Since God has slackened the central cord, the tent sags. In response to God’s action against his own servant, the wicked cast off restraint and freely abuse God’s servant. By vividly recounting the misery that God’s harsh treatment causes him, Job is desperately seeking to arouse God’s sympathy for him.
Albert Barnes: According to this translation, the reference here is to God, and the sense is, that the reason why he was thus derided and contemned by such a worthless race was, that God had unloosened his cord. That is, God had rendered him incapable of vindicating himself, or of inflicting punishment. The figure, according to this interpretation, is taken from a bow, and Job means to say that his bow was relaxed, his vigor was gone, and they now felt that they might insult him with impunity. But instead of the usual reading in the Hebrew text יתרי yithriy – “my nerve,” another reading יתרוּ yithriv – “his nerve,” is found in the qeri (margin). This reading has been adopted in the text by Jahn, and is regarded as genuine by Rosenmuller, Umbreit, and Noyes. According to this, the meaning is, that the worthless rabble that now treated him with so much contempt, had relaxed all restraint, and they who had hitherto been under some curb, now rushed upon him in the most unbridled manner. They had cast off all restraint arising from respect to his rank, standing, moral worth, and the dread of his power, and now treated him with every kind of indignity.
b. (:12-14) Imagery of Besieged City
“On the right hand their brood arises;
They thrust aside my feet
and build up against me their ways of destruction.
13 They break up my path,
They profit from my destruction,
No one restrains them.
14 As through a wide breach they come,
Amid the tempest they roll on.”
Elmer Smick: These verses begin with a line that takes us right back to 29:20, where Job mused on his former life as a hero with his bow ever new in his hand. But here God has unstrung his bow, resulting in the opposite situation as pictured in 29:21–25. Job’s tribe had gathered about to hear every good word that fell from the lips of their benevolent leader. But here he is no longer leading the way like “a king among his troops” (29:25). Instead, he sees himself like a city under siege.
Tremper Longman: Job points the finger at God: God is responsible for the fact that Job is at the mercy of such despicable people. God has “loosened his bowstring.” Of course, to loosen a bowstring makes the bow ineffective as a weapon. Job uses the image to describe his uselessness. His ineffectiveness is a cause for shame on his part and the occasion for the mob to rise up against him. When he was strong, these vicious people needed to be careful around him, but no more. Nothing restrains them from attacking him directly. Indeed, in much of the description of their assault in the following verses, Job describes himself as a besieged city. But first they lay him prone by knocking his feet out from under him. He is lying flat when they build paths up to him. Modern readers might here think of Gulliver’s Travels and the Lilliputians’ assault on Gulliver. In Job, the mob builds up paths (probably a reference to siege ramps) against him. In v. 13b, though, Job uses the term “path” to refer to his life. While they build up their paths to attack him, they tear down his paths. They do this for their own advantage and do not need the help of anyone else since Job is so weak (v. 13c).
3. (:15) Unrestrained Terrors
“Terrors are turned against me,
They pursue my honor as the wind,
And my prosperity has passed away like a cloud.”
Tremper Longman: In the face of this onslaught, Job feels great terror. Such fear transforms him from a confident and strong individual to a sniveling fearful man (“they put my dignity in flight like the wind”). Finally, he remarks that he has lost all hope. It has passed quickly and without tangible effect like a cloud.
John Hartley: As a result of this attack, his dignity has been driven away and his well-being has vanished like a cloud. Job laments that he has lost not only the dignity of his position as leading elder but also the serenity his vast estate provided.
II. (:16-23) AFFLICTED BY UNRESPONSIVE GOD
Elmer Smick: Job shifts from this sorry relationship with people to an even sorrier subject, the removal of God’s blessing from his life. He cries out to God but gets no answer. When God was his friend, it was like having a light over him in the midst of darkness (29:3). But at this time his days are full of suffering and his nights of misery (v.16). These verses are important in that they show us that Job’s basic complaint still remains. It is not only God’s silence (v.20) but especially his violent treatment of Job that has become the sufferer’s greatest problem. It would be no problem at all if only Job’s concept of God were limited. That not being the case, in Job’s mind, it must be God who is responsible for all this.
A. (:16-19) Unrelieved Agony While Afflicted by God
1. (:16-17) Agony of Job
“And now my soul is poured out within me;
Days of affliction have seized me.
17 At night it pierces my bones within me,
And my gnawing pains take no rest.”
Francis Andersen: In a final burst of grief, Job wrestles with the sheer pain of his disease as if it were objectively a terrifying monster, chewing at his flesh day and night.
2. (:18-19) Afflicted by God
“By a great force my garment is distorted;
It binds me about as the collar of my coat.
He has cast me into the mire,
And I have become like dust and ashes.”
B. (:20-23) Unanswered Appeal While Afflicted by God
1. (:20) Appeal of Job
“I cry out to Thee for help,
but Thou dost not answer me;
I stand up,
and Thou dost turn Thy attention against me.”
2. (:21-23) Afflicted by God
“Thou hast become cruel to me;
With the might of Thy hand Thou dost persecute me.
22 Thou dost lift me up to the wind and cause me to ride;
And Thou dost dissolve me in a storm.
23 For I know that Thou wilt bring me to death
And to the house of meeting for all living.”
David Atkinson: The silence of God is the hardest of all. ‘I cry out to you, O God, but you do not answer’ (30:20). That is the hardest cruelty – what seems to be the cruelty of God.
Tremper Longman: God does not respond to him. Job now turns to God and speaks to him directly, but as he quickly points out, God does not answer him. Job needs help, but God does not pay any attention to the sufferer. God barely acknowledges him as Job tries to get his attention. Job takes this unresponsiveness as a sign of displeasure. God hates him and is cruel toward him. According to v. 22, he feels as if God has just blasted him with the wind of the storm, perhaps an anticipation of the coming theophany, where God will speak to Job out of a whirlwind (38:1). Job ends by saying that he is certain God is trying to kill him, though he also acknowledges that all living things end up in that “house.”
Elmer Smick: Job sees his problem with God as twofold.
– First, God will not answer him; and,
– Second, God actively afflicts him.
This is exactly the bifold nature of his complaint in 13:20–27, even including the point of his being tossed about by the wind (13:25). As reflected in that speech (chs. 13–14), Job’s only prospect for the future is death (v.23). What is so devastating to Job is not the fear of death, for he has already asked for it as a relief (6:8–10; 14:3), but that he should have to face it with God as his enemy (13:24). God’s constant attack, his ruthless might (v.21), is so completely the opposite of Job’s “intimate friendship” with God in those bygone days when he still perceived that God was on his side (29:4–5).
John Hartley: Job complains boldly that God has grown cruel (‘akzar) toward him. Because he has assailed Job with such might, Job believes that God acts hatefully (satam) against him. Most likely the author is making a play on the verb satam, “act hatefully,” and the title Satan (satan; cf. 1:6; 16:9). God has acted so bitterly against him that Job feels that God is his foe, his satan. That is, Job is poignantly accusing God of cherishing animosity against him.
Spurgeon: Under depression of spirit he felt sure that he must very soon die; he feared that God would not relax the blows of his hand until his body became a ruin, and then he would have rest. But he did not die at that time. He was fully recovered, and God gave him twice as much as he had before. A life of usefulness, and happiness, and honor lay before him; and yet he had set up his own tombstone, and reckoned himself a dead man.
III. (:24-31) AGONIZED OVER UNJUST SUFFERING
Francis Andersen: The remaining strophe (24–31) is a counterpoise to the opening lament, and highlights once more the contrast between his ‘days of affliction’ (27) and his ‘autumn days’ (29:4). . .
The main cause of his distress is the unaccountable injustice of his present plight. Although the meaning of verse 24 is quite obscure, in the light of verse 25 it could present the picture of a person ‘in ruins’ stretching out a hand for help which no common humanity would deny. Certainly Job had never ignored such an appeal; indeed, my soul grieved for the poor. Verses 28–31 enlarge on his plight. Only the wild animals offer him hideous company (29); his appearance is repulsive (28, 30); his voice harsh and hoarse (31).
Elmer Smick: These verses complete the contrast with chapter 29. Here Job is in the position of those poor wretches to whom his heart and strength went out in 29:12–17. As a summation of his case, he packs his argument with emotion and righteous indignation. Justice is all on his side. The very benevolence he so freely had dispensed (v.25) he now looks for in vain (v.26). Verse 26 also reminds us of his expectations in 29:18–20. So here (vv.27–31) he presents himself to the court as he is, his body marred and burning with fever; he himself is exhibit A. As he often does, Job closes the stanza (v.31) with a strong figure of speech (cf. 29:6, 14, 17, 25; 30:15). His “path [had been] drenched with cream” (cf. 29:6), now his “harp is tuned to mourning and [his] flute to the sound of wailing” (30:31).
A. (:24-25) Agony of Being Denied Deliverance after Helping Others
1. (:24) Personal Cry for Help
“Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand,
Or in his disaster therefore cry out for help?”
2. (:25) Practical Compassion Displayed towards the Afflicted
“Have I not wept for the one whose life is hard?
Was not my soul grieved for the needy?”
B. (:26) Agony of Frustrated Expectations
“When I expected good, then evil came;
When I waited for light, then darkness came.”
C. (:27-30) Agony of Intense Suffering and Lonely Mourning
“I am seething within, and cannot relax;
Days of affliction confront me.
28 I go about mourning without comfort;
I stand up in the assembly and cry out for help.
29 I have become a brother to jackals,
And a companion of ostriches.
30 My skin turns black on me,
And my bones burn with fever.”
Tremper Longman: Job is in tremendous turmoil, which he describes as his innards boiling. He is deeply agitated because he is suffering with no apparent way out of his mess (v. 27). Verse 28 gives us a picture of listless wandering in deep sadness. He mourns “without passion,” which I take to mean that he is stunned, bewildered. It is possible, though, that the phrase translated “without passion” could mean “without sunlight.” In other words, he walks around mourning at night. The phrase is literally “without heat,” and my translation takes the heat as a reference to his state of mind, while the alternate takes it as a reference to the sun. While admittedly Job has just referred to the boiling inside him, he could now be referring to this stunned astonishment at his condition. He appeals for help in the assembly, which had previously listened in silence to his every word (29:8–10).
He ends the chapter by describing his suffering yet again. He relates himself to the jackal and the eagle owl, creatures that inhabit ruins (see v. 24; Ps. 44:19; Jer. 9:11; 10:22; Isa. 34:13; Lam. 5:18). They are scavenger animals that haunt lonely places. Verse 30 describes the horrible effects of his disease on his body, both externally (“my skin turns black”) and internally (“my bones burn from the heat”). His music is a dirge that accompanies his weeping and mourning.
John Hartley: The jackal’s howl is a doleful, mourning sound, said to sound like the wailing of a child, while the ostrich gives out a hissing moan. Their moaning cries convey the stark loneliness of the steppe. Job feels so lonely that he senses that his only companions are these animals in their doleful crying.
D. (:31) Agony of Funeral Dirge
“Therefore my harp is turned to mourning,
And my flute to the sound of those who weep.”