JOB ATTACKS HIS COUNSELORS AND HIS GOD VIA LAMENTING AND COMPLAINING ABOUT HIS UNDESERVED SUFFERING
David Clines: In form the speech as a whole belongs to the appeal (often called the lament). In chap. 7, which is directed solely toward God, it conforms in many points to the psalmic models of the appeal; and chap. 7 also, where the friends are addressed in vv 14–30, is formally speaking an appeal to them to disclose what they believe to be the sin for which he is suffering (6:24). . . it is an appeal, with a prominence of elements from the disputation. . .
It is important to notice that, as distinct from the psalmic models, Job’s appeal is not for deliverance from his distress by restoration to life, but for death as the only means of escape from his suffering. And he does not appeal to God to pay attention to him, but to “look away” from him (7:19). . .
In function, the speech has a double focus. On the one hand, in its address to the friends, it offers them the opportunity of convincing Job that he does in fact deserve what is happening to him, and on the other, in its address to God, it calls upon God to desist from attacking him so that he may live out his few remaining days in comparative peace.
The nodal verses in this speech may then be identified in two places; for chap. 6, it is Job’s demand to the friends to “show [him] where [he] has erred” (6:24) that is crucial; for chap. 7, it is the cry to God to “Leave me alone” (7:16b) that is quintessential.
Elmer Smick: Job attacks the counselors (ch. 6) and God (ch. 7), giving as his excuse for his rage the depth of his misery (6:2–3; 7:11). His words, disturbing as they are, arise from a limited knowledge (38:2) and his determination to speak only the truth as he sees it. “How painful are honest words!” (6:25). He views God as the author of his misery and opens (6:4) and closes (7:20) the speech with a figure of God shooting arrows in him. He finds life an unbearable arena of torment.
Once again Job’s suffering is so intense that death will come as an exquisite release (6:8–10). Few have suffered as intensely as Job, so it is difficult for us to identify with his rage. But for those who have a similar experience, the words of Job can bring immense comfort for the simple reason that many sufferers have felt rage but have been too ashamed to express it. That a man who had experienced such faith should speak from the depth of his being such words of anguish can only strengthen those in anguish. The psalms of lament (e.g., Pss 77; 88) also suggest that God allows for and even encourages honest expression of one’s pain to him.
Job argues persuasively his case against the counselors. They have been no help. Their words are bad medicine or, as Job puts it, bad food (6:6–7). They are undependable (6:14–23) and cruel (6:27–30), and they view him as too great a risk to offer any help (6:21). Job challenges them to prove he is wrong (6:24) and pleads with them for the milk of human kindness (6:14, 28).
Warren Wiersbe: Job responded with two passionate appeals. First, he appealed to his three friends that they might show more understanding and sympathy (Job 6). Then he appealed to God, that He would consider his plight and lighten his sufferings before he died (Job 7).
Robert Alden: In this two-chapter response Job introduces some of the themes that characterize his speeches throughout the book: depression, disappointment, and desire for death.
John Hartley: The self-lament form dominates this speech, as attested by several elements: a vivid description of one’s suffering (6:2–4; 7:3–6), the expression of distress at the behavior of one’s friends (6:14–30), anticipation of death (6:11–13; 7:8–10), and accusations against God (6:4; 7:11–16). The friends take the place that the enemy usually occupies in a psalm of lament, for more agonizing than the taunting of enemies is the dismay caused by the betrayal of friends, a motif found in some psalms of lament (e.g., Ps. 35:13–15; 41:10 [Eng. 9]; 55:13–15 [Eng. 12–14]). Already the distance between the friends and Job is visible. Instead of upholding him they increase his burden by accusing and shaming him. Then in the latter part of this speech Job makes use of legal terms to strengthen his lament. In 7:12 he speaks as a plaintiff arguing his case before the court, and in 7:17–21 he interrogates God, his accuser. Job’s use of legal terms is rooted in his conviction that he is innocent.
(:1) PROLOGUE – FIRST REPLY OF JOB
“Then Job answered,”
I. (6:2-30) JOB ATTACKS HIS COUNSELORS
A. (:1-13) Lamenting His Hopeless Condition
1. (:1-7) Anguish over His Terrible Suffering
Brian Borgman: Job’s hope is that God would take his life (6:1-13)
A. The unbearable weight of my grief (6:2-4)
B. I have a right to complain (6:5-7)
C. I want God to end my life so I can have some comfort (6:8-10)
D. I have no more strength to live (6:11-13)
Warren Wiersbe: What didn’t Job’s friends fully understand?
– The heaviness of his suffering (6:1-3)
– The bitterness of his suffering (6:4-7)
– The hopelessness of his situation (6:8-13)
Elmer Smick: vv. 1-7 — The two themes of Job’s speech are introduced here. In vv.1–4 Job complains against God and in verses 5–7 against the counselors. First, he attempts to justify his own “impetuous” words (v.3) with an appeal to his overwhelming misery brought on by the arrows of God (v.4). Then he claims the right to bray like a donkey or bellow like an ox deprived of fodder and left to starve (v.5). Job starves for the right words that, like food (Am 8:11), can bring strength and nourishment. The food Eliphaz dishes out is absolutely tasteless; worse, it turns Job’s stomach (vv.6–7). Despite his bodily misery Job’s major concern is for the needs of his spirit. If only he could hear words that would nourish his soul rather than sicken him more!
a. (:2-3) Heavy Burden
“Oh that my vexation were actually weighed,
And laid in the balances together with my iniquity!
3 For then it would be heavier than the sand of the seas,
Therefore my words have been rash.”
David Clines: Job’s sufferings have not only been the losses depicted in chaps. 1–2; they have also been what he has experienced psychically. Together they form an unimaginable burden. If only that burden could be physically demonstrated on some cosmic scales, an Eliphaz would be convinced that Job’s outburst is not in the least excessive. . .
Job is not apologizing for anything, far less confessing to any indiscretion (contrast RSV “my words have been rash”), not even to the form of his language rather than its substance (as Duhm, Peake). He simply wishes that it could be demonstrated how words of such misery have been forced out of him. He cries out for an understanding of his incapacity for restraint to a man who has done nothing but urge restraint (in the form of patience) upon him.
b. (:4) Divine Target
“For the arrows of the Almighty are within me;
Their poison my spirit drinks;
The terrors of God are arrayed against me.”
David Clines: For the first time, Job explicitly names God as the ultimate (and immediate) cause of his suffering. Of course, he knows nothing of the events that have taken place in heaven that make his complaint only all the better founded. He simply knows that what happens to him does not arise from any guilt of his own, and since he presumably agrees with Eliphaz that trouble is not self-generating (5:6–7), there is only one direction in which he can look for the origin of his suffering.
Tremper Longman: Indeed, Job insists that God’s terrors are “ranged” against him. In this context, “ranged” (ʿrk) may have a military connotation, since the root can mean to “enter into battle.” God is at war against Job.
c. (:5-7) Repulsive Situation
“Does the wild donkey bray over his grass,
Or does the ox low over his fodder?
6 Can something tasteless be eaten without salt,
Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?
7 My soul refuses to touch them;
They are like loathsome food to me.”
David Clines: Vs. 5 — In this rhetorical question, the affirmation implied is that if one receives what is appropriate one does not complain about it. . . Job receives the very contrary of what is due to him as a righteous man; what wonder then if he cries out?
Vs. 6 — In the next question, the underlying affirmation is that there are substances too unappetizing to be eaten. One might be offered them as food but reject them with revulsion. This again is Job’s situation: he is refusing to swallow the pill that God has prescribed. His protests arise wholly from the revolting nature of what he has been offered in place of the wholesome nutriment of life.
Robert Alden: v. 6 — The point of the verse is that Job felt he had been served a tasteless and even repulsive diet by God.
John Hartley: vs. 7 — Just as Job’s appetite would refuse putrid food, so his inner being recoils before his suffering. No wonder such bitter words pour from his mouth. Lamenting is the natural expression of a person being repulsed by tragic misfortune.
2. (:8-10) Appeal to God for Release from Suffering via Death
a. (:8-9) Hoping for Death
“Oh that my request might come to pass,
And that God would grant my longing!
9 Would that God were willing to crush me;
That He would loose His hand and cut me off!”
John Hartley: If he knew his death were near and certain, the present suffering would be a little easier to bear, for the fact that God had answered this prayer would itself be some consolation. He would leap up, even though filled with unsparing pain (ḥilâ, a word used particularly for labor pains).
John MacArthur: This is a metaphor from a weaver, who cuts off the excess thread on the loom (cf. Is 38:12).
b. (:10) Hanging on to His Integrity
“But it is still my consolation,
And I rejoice in unsparing pain,
That I have not denied the words of the Holy One.”
David Clines: this is not merely a protestation of innocence by Job, but a desperate appeal for a speedy end to his life because he fears he cannot maintain his right behavior much longer (cf. vv 11–13).
3. (:11-13) Abandonment to Powerlessness and Hopelessness
a. (:11-12) Powerlessness
“What is my strength, that I should wait?
And what is my end, that I should endure?
12 Is my strength the strength of stones,
Or is my flesh bronze?”
David Clines: The feeling of weakness under the weight of suffering returns. This is a psychic lassitude, no doubt felt physically as well; it is essentially a conviction of a complete lack of inner resources (cf. v 13). It is not that he suffers so badly from his physical diseases and is so enfeebled by them that he no longer sees anything to live for and can only hope for death as a relief from his sufferings. On the contrary, his self-worth has been so radically undermined by the absence of desert in his suffering that his psyche or spirit has been totally drained of strength; he is as good as dead physically. Death would be just an outward and visible sign of his inward feeling. . .
It is not the insensitivity of stone and bronze that is the point, but Job’s feeling of weakness compared with these commonplace natural symbols of strength.
Elmer Smick: Job complains that he has no reason to be patient, for he has nothing to look forward to (v.11). As a vulnerable creature made of flesh, he has no human resources left (v.12). Even his natural ability, the gifts that have contributed to his success, has been driven from him (v.13). This is a reply to Eliphaz’s words in 4:2–6.
b. (:13) Hopelessness
“Is it that my help is not within me,
And that deliverance is driven from me?”
Tremper Longman: vv. 11-13 — In these verses, Job expresses his feeling of utter powerlessness. Again he uses rhetorical questions, five of them, followed by a climactic statement. In this case, the first four anticipated answers are negative; the final one is affirmative, but it contributes to the depressing mood of the unit. First, he has no strength that would allow him to endure any longer in hope of restoration and healing. Second, and flowing from the first, he has no end or resolution imaginable that would get him to make plans for (arrange) his life. Third, his strength is not the strength of stones. It is much softer than that. Fourth, his flesh is not bronze, able to resist the blows of Shaddai and others. The last question has an affirmative answer: indeed, there is no help for him, or so he thinks.
B. (6:14-30) Complaining about the Lack of Loyalty from His Friends
1. (:14-23) Rebuke for Their Treachery
a. (:14) Desire for Kindness
“For the despairing man there should be kindness
from his friend;
Lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.”
John Hartley: Job argues that in failing to show him loyalty they forsake the fear of Shaddai (cf. 1:1). In this phrase Job specifically uses the divine name Shaddai in response to Eliphaz’s use of Shaddai in the beatitude (5:17). The phrase “the fear of God” means both reverence toward God and living by a high ethical standard. Therefore, the friends are destroying the basis of their worship of God and the foundation of their wisdom. Whereas Eliphaz is shocked that Job’s fear of God does not sustain him during his misfortunes (4:6), Job is distressed that the friends’ fear of Shaddai does not move them to support him through his troubles. Both parties are thus attacking the center of the other’s worship of God.
b. (:15-20) Disappointed by Deceitfulness
“My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, Like the torrents of wadis which vanish, 16 Which are turbid because of ice, And into which the snow melts. 17 When they become waterless, they are silent, When it is hot, they vanish from their place. 18 The paths of their course wind along, They go up into nothing and perish. 19 The caravans of Tema looked, The travelers of Sheba hoped for them. 20 They were disappointed for they had trusted, They came there and were confounded.”
Meredith Kline: As the plural forms indicate, this chapter is addressed to all the friends. For they all concurred in the views of Eliphaz, and by glance and gesture had no doubt signified the “Amen” which would presently become vocal in their own speeches.
David Clines: What Job means by “loyalty” is plainly different from what the friends mean by it. He is looking for unqualified acceptance that takes his side whether he is in the right or the wrong. They offer sympathy and support, but only from what seems to them a realistic point of view; it is absurd, they would argue, to take the stance “my friend right or wrong” when the evidence (Job’s suffering) proves that—to some extent at least—Job is in the wrong. Are they to disregard the evidence of their eyes and their learning, and prop Job up in what they believe to be a falsely self-righteous position? Eliphaz has done his utmost to emphasize Job’s essential goodness, but he had to point out as delicately as he knew how that even the righteous are not perfect. Could any more be expected of a “loyal” friend?
In the first of two closely related triplets, Job compares his friends’ unreliability with that of the desert wadis whose water cannot be relied on from one season to the next. The natural image for such unreliability is the seasonal wadi of Palestine, full to overflowing in the rainy season, and a dry watercourse in the heat of summer (cf. Jer 15:18; Isa 58:11; cf. 33:16). The wadis overflow when their water is not needed; when it is needed they have nothing to offer. So it is with Job’s friends and their loyalty.
Francis Andersen: His friends (he calls them my brothers) have proved false like a wadi stream. In the Holy Land a sudden rain can fill a dry gulch with rushing flood-waters, but they vanish just as quickly into the porous rock. Jeremiah uses the same bold image for the fickleness of God (Jer. 15:18).
c. (:21) Deterrence of Dread
“Indeed, you have now become such,
You see a terror and are afraid.”
David Clines: The double image of the dried-up wadi applies to Job’s experience with his friends: not only has he found them unreliable and inconsistent (cf. vv 15–17), he has felt himself deceived by them (cf. vv 18–20). He suffers, like the traveler in the desert, not only a disappointment of expectation, but a danger to life.
Francis Andersen: There is a profound pastoral insight here; it is often fear that prevents a would-be counsellor from attaining much empathy with his client. On the face of it, Job is unreasonably severe. Eliphaz has just started, and is doing his best. Let us give him the benefit of the doubt. There is no act of pastoral care more unnerving than trying to say the right thing to someone hysterical with grief. It is early in the day for Job to lose patience with them. But the point is not whether Job is unfair: this is how he feels. The truth is already in sight that only God can speak the right word. And Job’s wits are sharp enough to forecast where Eliphaz’s trend of thought will end—in open accusation of sin. Hence he gets in first with a pre-emptive strike, anticipating in the following denials his great speech of exculpation in chapter 31.
John Hartley: Fear has dissolved their loyalty and preempted their efforts to console him.
d. (:22-23) Denial of Unrealistic Expectations
“Have I said, ‘Give me something,’
Or, ‘Offer a bribe for me from your wealth,’
23 Or, ‘Deliver me from the hand of the adversary,’
Or, ‘Redeem me from the hand of the tyrants ‘?”
David Clines: Job disclaims any excessive demands upon his friends; the little he asked from them is the “loyalty” (v 14) of friendship. If only Job knew that what he in fact desires from them, namely to take his part in a struggle against God for vindication, is a far more demanding test of loyalty than any of these four sarcastically worded requests he says he might have made! It seems that the first two claims that Job denies, in his battery of rhetorical questions, have to do with money. . . The second pair of claims Job says he has never made (v 23) is to have asked his friends to expose themselves to danger in order to rescue him from some adversary (whether at law or in battle) or from some tyrant or brigand.
Robert Alden: Job already had found their counsel unproductive and mean-spirited.
2. (:24-30) Reconsider Your Harsh Position
a. (:24) Counsel Me with the Facts and I Will Listen
“Teach me, and I will be silent;
And show me how I have erred.”
Warren Wiersbe: Job made two requests of his friends: “Teach me” (v. 24) and “Look upon me” (v 28). He didn’t need accusation; he needed illumination! But they wouldn’t even look him in the face and behold his plight. Physically, the three men were sitting with Job on the ash heap; but emotionally, they were like the priest and Levite, passing by “on the other side” (Luke 10:30-37).
b. (:25-27) Callousness is Hurtful
“How painful are honest words!
But what does your argument prove?
26 Do you intend to reprove my words,
When the words of one in despair belong to the wind?
27 You would even cast lots for the orphans,
And barter over your friend.”
Roy Zuck: The three friends seemed as opposed to him as if they were taking undue advantage of an orphan or even selling a friend!
Charles Swindoll: To be a good counselor requires enormous timing, great wisdom, a long rope, and great understanding. Job is pleading for all of that as he asks Eliphaz to consider his miserable plight.
c. (:28-30) Consider My Integrity and Discernment
“And now please look at me,
And see if I lie to your face.
Desist now, let there be no injustice;
Even desist, my righteousness is yet in it.
Is there injustice on my tongue?
Cannot my palate discern calamities?”
Robert Alden: One’s reputation for righteousness was crucial to one’s standing in the community. To attack it was tantamount to bearing false witness against a neighbor.
John Hartley: Job’s point is that since he can detect no wrong desire or deception on his part, he believes that the friends need to place some confidence in what he is saying.
David Clines: All criticism of the friends’ ineffectualness is here put aside for the time being while Job pleads with them to “look” at him, “return” or “turn” to him so that the most significant communication can occur. His death-wish is also stifled temporarily, so that his protestation of innocence may dominate the discussion. Job’s mood is not hopeful; he does not expect anything much of his friends beyond listening to him; but he must make this protestation of innocence.
II. (7:1-21a) JOB ATTACKS HIS GOD
John Hartley: In the second part of this speech Job leaves off addressing the comforters and speaks directly to God. After lamenting his fate, Job details his own physical agony and bemoans the hard lot of humanity in general. He complains bitterly to God for treating him so harshly, and he reminds God that he will soon die. Then he seeks to motivate God to ease his sufferings for the few days he has left before dying. He reasons that anything that he might have done could not have harmed God and that after his death God will seek him eagerly, but not be able to find him. That Job speaks realistically about his pains here, in contrast to the unrealistic wish never to have been born that he uttered in his curse-lament (ch. 3), means that he is beginning to cope with his real situation. He is reaching beyond his despair to find reconciliation with God.
John MacArthur: vv. 1-10 –
– He felt like a slave under tyranny of his master, longing for relief and reward (vv. 1, 2);
– he was sleepless (vv. 3, 4);
– he was loathsome because of worms and scabs, dried filth, and new running sores (v. 5);
– he was like a weaver’s shuttle, tossed back and forth (v. 6);
– he was like a breath or cloud that comes and goes on its way to death (vv. 7-10).
In this discourse, Job attempted to reconcile in his own mind what God was doing.
A. (:1-10) Lamenting the Futility of Life
1. (:1-3) Futility of Hard Service in Life
“Is not man forced to labor on earth,
And are not his days like the days of a hired man?
2 As a slave who pants for the shade,
And as a hired man who eagerly waits for his wages,
3 So am I allotted months of vanity,
And nights of trouble are appointed me.”
Francis Andersen: A man’s life-time (lit. days; cf. 1:5) is a period of harsh employment. In either context the burdensome thing is that the toil is not of one’s own choosing nor for one’s own benefit. Chapter 1 shows that Job did not mind hard work. It is the indignity of his present plight that he resents.
John Hartley: Job mourns that his sorrow is greater than that of these common laborers. Instead of receiving a reward, even a meager one, he has been made to inherit [Hophal of nāḥal] months of emptiness [šāwʾ]. The language of inheritance may allude to his fear that he is made to suffer for the sins of his forefathers. and nights of misery [ʿāmāl] are allotted to me. His personal feeling is underscored by the prepositional phrase to me (lî). He can find no relief or joy at all in his allotted position, in contrast to the slave who enjoys the shade or the worker who receives a wage. His lot has brought him lower than the lowest class of men. Allotted or “measured out” (minnâ) indicates his conviction that God has arbitrarily determined his fate.
2. (:4) Futility of Sleeplessness
“When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’
But the night continues,
And I am continually tossing until dawn.”
3. (:5) Futility of Physical Affliction
“My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt;
My skin hardens and runs.”
Elmer Smick: vv. 3-10 — These are the words of a chronic sufferer. There have been months of futility and nights of tossing in misery, nights that seem to drag on endlessly (vv.3–4). Yet almost in the same breath Job describes his purposeless life as passing with incredible speed (v.6)—a complaint heard on the lips of the aging or any who feel their days are numbered (vv.7–10). In v.5 Job describes one of the symptoms of his disease—scabs that crack and fester. What kind of disease is this? We cannot be sure. But worse than the disease itself, Job has lost all hope of being healed. He believes his only release from pain is death.
4. (:6) Futility of Purposelessness
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
And come to an end without hope.”
John Hartley: Thus Job’s request is simple and basic; he longs to experience again the joys of normal life before death robs him of life.
5. (:7-10) Futility of Brevity of Life
a. (:7-8) Extinguished – No More Experience of God’s Goodness
“Remember that my life is but breath,
My eye will not again see good.
8 The eye of him who sees me will behold me no more;
Thine eyes will be on me, but I will not be.”
David Clines: This cry to God to “remember” the brevity of his life is no indirect appeal to God to restore him to health (contrast Fohrer), but an appeal to God to ignore him; that is the only relief to his pain that Job can envisage.
b. (:9-10) Forgotten – No More Human Relationship
“When a cloud vanishes, it is gone,
So he who goes down to Sheol does not come up.
10 He will not return again to his house,
Nor will his place know him anymore.”
David Clines: Job has two grounds for this astonishing request that God should leave him alone. The first is the misery of his pain-ridden life (vv 1–5), the second the imminence and inevitability of his death (vv 6–10).
B. (:11-21a) Complaining against God’s Unending Harassment
David Clines: This final segment of the speech contains two strophes. The first (vv 11–16), after an introductory announcement (v 11), complains of God’s harassment of him, especially by nightmares (v 14), and comes to rest on the sentence “Let me alone” (v 16b). The second (vv 17–21), again after an introductory element consisting of a quotation (v 17), pleads for God to desist from his harassment (v 19), and then takes a bold step in challenging the rationale for God’s behavior toward him (vv 20–21a), before coming to rest finally on the sentence “Now I am about to lie in the dust of death” (v 2lb). . .
In this strophe (vv 11–16), as in the next (vv 17–21), the focus is upon God’s attack upon him; but the strophe ends on the more plaintive note of his assurance that he “will not live long (lit., forever)” and that his “days are a mere breath.” If God will not altogether forbear to close-guard him like a monster (v 12), or to disturb his sleep with terrifying visions (v 14), can he not grant Job some short intermission from these assaults? By the time God is ready to resume them, Job will certainly be dead.
1. (:11-16) Point of Job’s Complaint – Why Can’t You Just Let Me Die?
a. (:11) Honest Communication
“Therefore, I will not restrain my mouth;
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit,
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
b. (:12) Harmless Threat
“Am I the sea, or the sea monster,
That Thou dost set a guard over me?”
– I am no threat to You! (12)
– If I look for the smallest comfort, You take it away (13-14)
c. (:13-15) Horrific Dreams
“If I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
My couch will ease my complaint,’
14 Then Thou dost frighten me with dreams
And terrify me by visions;
15 So that my soul would choose suffocation,
Death rather than my pains.”
Robert Alden: The four Hebrew words of v. 14 form a simple, clear chiasmus:
A Then you scare me
B with dreams
B’ and with visions
A’ You terrify me.
d. (:16) Human Mortality
“I waste away; I will not live forever.
Leave me alone, for my days are but a breath.”
John Hartley: Truly the vanity of life itself should be punishment enough without having undeserved and painful woes added to his lot. If God leaves him alone, his pain might be alleviated and he might enjoy the good for his few remaining days.
Job’s affliction defies his every attempt to assign any meaning to his experience. This seemingly meaningless encounter with suffering challenges to the core his view of God, for he knows that God, the source of meaning, is ultimately responsible for his dilemma and must respond to him. Meanwhile, his search for an answer to his fate stretches to the limit his belief in a benevolent God. Because of his faith he earnestly seeks for the answer from God.
2. (:17-21a) Plea for a Reprieve – Why Do You Bother Hassling People?
Derek Kidner: vv. 17-21 – The final verses of chapter 7 sound a bit like Psalm 8, but it is in the form of a “bitter parody”. Instead of expressing wonder that the Almighty takes such care of so seemingly insignificant a creature as man, Job is angry that man has become the object of his scrutiny and, yes, it has now to be said, cruelty, even sadism. Job seems to be aware of an evil eye upon him and he cries out to God to leave him alone (7:14-16). His words become wild. In effect, he says, “If I have sinned, what harm have I done? You are too big to be hurt by a puny little thing like me; and in any case since I am a burden to you and to myself, why not be done with me?” What Job, of course, does not know is that there are more powerful creatures to be restrained than mythological sea creatures. Satan has challenged god’s order. He needs to be put down. In Job’s suffering, God’s honour is at stake.
a. (:17-19) Turn Your Attention Away from Me
“What is man that Thou dost magnify him,
And that Thou art concerned about him,
18 That Thou dost examine him every morning,
And try him every moment?
19 Wilt Thou never turn Thy gaze away from me,
Nor let me alone until I swallow my spittle?”
Robert Alden: Ordinarily it is a good thing to have God’s eye on you. But Job wished that God would stop watching him because it meant to him only condemnation and grief (although this was far from true; cf. 1:8).
John Hartley: But the psalmist’s ardor only deepens Job’s despair. Job experiences God’s vigilance as unrelenting oppression. So he turns these hymnic lines inside out. Instead of praising God with them Job uses them as a complaint against God’s continual effort to find and punish his every flaw. God’s testing becomes a burden too heavy for him, a mere moral, to bear.
b. (:20) Tell Me What I Have Done Wrong
“Have I sinned?
What have I done to Thee, O watcher of men?
Why hast Thou set me as Thy target,
So that I am a burden to myself?”
David Clines: The irony of disproportion (cf. on v 12) strikes Job again. Can the alleged sin of one dying man be so harmful to God that he must bend all his energies to the harassment of that man? Out of all the objects that deserve God’s wrath, is it not absurd that Job has been set up as the target (cf. 6:4; and see further on 16:12)? Is it not ironic that the man who is so light and insubstantial that his days are a breath (vv 7, 16) seems to have become a “burden” to God? Is not God’s preoccupation with Job, in short, totally disproportionate to Job’s significance?
c. (:21a) Take Away Any Hypothetical Sins
“Why then dost Thou not pardon my transgression
And take away my iniquity?”
David Clines: God must have something against Job to make him suffer as he does. Very well, says Job; I will not debate whether God is right in counting me a sinner; I will only ask that he should overlook and “forgive” (i.e., not punish) the sin of a feeble dying man like myself. The verse lies entirely in the shadow of the hypothesis of v 20, “If I have sinned”; that is, “my sin” means “my (hypothetical) sin,” the sin that must be hypothesized if my suffering is to be explained.
Elmer Smick: It is a mistake to think, however, that Job is wrestling with a purely intellectual problem. No, his concern is more experiential than cognitive, though he is also seeking a way to make his experience (suffering) agree with his theology (the justice of God). Hebrew sages in the OT were not trying to solve logical syllogisms. Job’s pathetic words at the end of this chapter show that he still entertains doubts about his own blameworthiness, but they also suggest that he feels as if God is being unjust. These are words he will eventually regret (40:4).
(:21b) EPILOGUE – RESIGNED TO DEATH
“For now I will lie down in the dust;
And Thou wilt seek me, but I will not be.”
Derek Kidner: Towards the end of this speech he says something quite extraordinary. Like a child who is angry with its parents and storms out, Job seems to say, “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone!” (7:21). He is bruised, his relationship with God under severe strain, and he throws out one final retort to the Almighty. Knowing that God essentially cares, Job says, “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” Despite all that is happening to him, Job still thinks of God as one who loves him, else he would not be angry. Despite the pain, the indignity, the unanswered questions, there is a relationship between the two that Job is still conscious of – even in the darkness of his soul’s present condition.