A. The comfortless suffering of Job.
1. (1-5) The hard service of Job’s suffering.
“Is there not a time of hard service for man on earth?
Are not his days also like the days of a hired man?
Like a servant who earnestly desires the shade,
And like a hired man who eagerly looks for his wages,
So I have been allotted months of futility,
And wearisome nights have been appointed to me.
When I lie down, I say,
‘When shall I arise,
And the night be ended?’
For I have had my fill of tossing till dawn.
My flesh is caked with worms and dust,
My skin is cracked and breaks out afresh.”
a. I have been allotted months of futility: Job saw his present suffering like the futile, discouraging work of a servant or a hired man. He felt there was no hope or reward, only weariness.
i. The words hard service in Job 7:1 are (according to Adam Clarke and others) descriptive of military service. The Latin Vulgate translates, The life of man is a warfare upon earth. The early English Coverdale translation has it, Is not the life of man upon earth a very battle? With this, Job communicated both the struggle of life, together with the idea that he has been drafted unwillingly into this battle.
b. Wearisome nights have been appointed to me: Job described his physical condition in painful terms. He suffered from insomnia and his skin affliction came back again and again.
i. Clarke on My flesh is caked with worms: “The figure is too horrid to be farther illustrated.”
2. (6-10) Job mourns the futility of life.
“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,
And are spent without hope.
Oh, remember that my life is a breath!
My eye will never again see good.
The eye of him who sees me will see me no more;
While your eyes are upon me, I shall no longer be.
As the cloud disappears and vanishes away,
So he who goes down to the grave does not come up.
He shall never return to his house,
Nor shall his place know him anymore.”
a. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle: Job did not mean this in a positive sense, as in saying, “My, look how fast the time is going by.” As described in the previous verses, in this season of affliction time is dragging by for Job through his sleepless and painful nights. Yet when he looked at his life in totality, it seemed to be a meaningless blur, spent without hope and as a breath.
i. “Ibn Ezra noted long ago the play on the word [tiqwah, ‘hope’], which can also mean ‘thread.’ Job’s days move fast like a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end through want of thread. Both meanings were equally intended. This is the kind of overtone in meaning that cannot be reflected in a translation without a footnote.” (Smick)
ii. “Worse than the disease itself, Job lost all hope of being healed. He believed his only release from pain was death.” (Smick)
b. So he who goes down to the grave does not come up: This is one of Job’s statements about the afterlife that are sprinkled throughout the book. These statements are a combination of uncertainty (as here) and triumphant confidence (as in Job 19:25-26).
B. Job’s complaint to God.
1. (11-16) Job’s anguish: “My soul chooses strangling.”
“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.
Am I a sea, or a sea serpent,
That You set a guard over me?
When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me,
My couch will ease my complaint,’
Then You scare me with dreams
And terrify me with visions,
So that my soul chooses strangling
And death rather than my body.
I loathe my life;
I would not live forever.
Let me alone,
For my days are but a breath.”
a. I will speak in the anguish of my spirit: Job here cried out to God, first wondering if he were not a dangerous creature (as sea, or a sea serpent) that needed to be guarded and restrained by God.
i. “We hear of persons being ‘shadowed’ by the police, and certain people feel as if they were shadowed by God; they are mysteriously tracked by the great Spirit, and they know and feel it. Wherever they go, an eye is upon them, and they cannot hide from it.” (Spurgeon)
ii. “Listen. To argue from our insignificance is poor pleading; for the little things are just those against which there is most need to watch. If you were a sea, or a whale, God might leave you alone; but as you are a feeble and sinful creature, which can do more hurt than a sea, or a whale, you need constant watching… Do not say, ‘Am I a sea, or a sea-monster, that thou settest a watch over me?’ for the Lord may answer, ‘You are more capacious for evil than a sea, and more wild than a sea-monster.’” (Spurgeon)
iii. Indeed, we are more like the sea or the sea-monster than we would like to admit.
· The sea is restless, and so is our nature.
· The sea can be furious and terrible, and so can we.
· The sea can never be satisfied, and neither can sinful man.
· The sea is mischievous and destructive, and so is sinful man.
· The sea will not obey, and neither will sinful man.
iv. Job’s words here remind us of something remarkable. Though his physical suffering was intense and prolonged, as John Trapp wrote, “His greatest troubles were inward.” Job’s spiritual crisis was deeper than his physical or material crisis.
b. You scare me with dreams: Job was denied even the comfort of sleep and rest. When he did lay down to sleep (upon his bed or couch), he was disturbed with nightmarish dreams and terrifying visions.
i. “He needed rest by sleep, but was afraid to close his eyes because of the horrid images which were presented to his imagination. Could there be a state more deplorable than this?” (Clarke)
c. So that my soul chooses strangling… I loathe my life: Job’s condition is so miserable that, at this point, his soul would prefer the release of death.
i. Job was so miserable that he just said to God, “Let me alone.” “At this moment it appears to Job that God is the tormentor. The reader knows God was using in secondary means and that Job’s conception of God as tormentor was askew.” (Smick)
2. (17-21) Job appeals to God: “Have I sinned?”
“What is man, that You should exalt him,
That You should set Your heart on him,
That You should visit him every morning,
And test him every moment?
Will You not look away from me,
And let me alone till I swallow my saliva?
Have I sinned?
What have I done to You, O watcher of men?
Why have You set me as Your target,
So that I am a burden to myself?
Why then do You not pardon my transgression,
And take away my iniquity?
For now I will lie down in the dust,
And You will seek me diligently,
But I will no longer be.”
a. What is man, that You should exalt him… And test him every moment: Job felt at this moment that God’s attention was unwelcome. If all his calamity was from the hand of God, Job wondered why God could not simply leave him alone.
i. “The language of verse 17 is too similar to that of Psalm 8 to be a coincidence. Scholars are divided as to which came first.” (Andersen) It would seem best to say that the lines from Job came first, and that David in Psalm 8 re-worked Job’s painful theme into one filled with praise.
ii. Job asked, “What is man?” but he didn’t wait for the answer. “Man is more than we guess, else God would never take such time and pains with him. When a lapidary spends years over a single diamond, the most careless observer begins to appraise properly its intrinsic value.” (Meyer)
iii. Till I swallow my saliva: “An Arabic idiom, for one instant; Just as we say ‘The twinkling of an eye’ to express the same idea.” (Bullinger) Job wondered why God could not look away from him for just the smallest moment.
b. What have I done to You, O watcher of men: “Please, God, just leave me alone. How have I wronged You?” Job could not understand why he seemed to be God’s target; and if Job had sinned to cause all his suffering, he asked God “Why then do You not pardon my transgression?”
i. Job was so honest with God in passages like Job 7:20 that they seem to have been altered by Jewish scribes who were uncomfortable with his bold honesty with God. According to Smick, “Ancient scribal tradition and the LXX show the original reading” to be Have I become a burden to you? Most translations, following later Hebrew manuscripts, have it I am burden to myself. Yet probably the original text shows how deep Job’s grief is, feeling himself to be a burden to what feels like an unloving and uncaring God.
ii. Job wondered why God bothered with him at all. “Its simple meaning was that God is so great that even if a man did sin, it cannot affect Him. The answer is that this was altogether too small a thought of God: the truth being that God is so great that He is affected, wounded, robbed by human sin. Job was, like his friends, hindered by a philosophy too narrow.” (Morgan)
iii. Once more, we benefit from knowing the story-behind-the-story, which Job and his friends do not know at this point in the narrative. Job believed that God was against him and was punishing him, but it wasn’t true. “Job was not being punished; he was being honored. God was giving to him a name like that of the great ones of the earth. The Lord was lifting him up, promoting him, putting him into the front rank, making a great saint of him, causing him to become one of the fathers and patterns in the ancient Church of God. He was really doing for Job such extraordinarily good things that you or I, in looking back upon his whole history, might well say, ‘I would be quite content to take Job’s afflictions if I might also have Job’s grace, and Job’s place in the Church of God.’” (Spurgeon)
c. Now I will lie down in the dust, and You will seek me diligently, but I will no longer be: Job wished he could escape both life and God by going to the dust (his grave). This is one of his obviously pessimistic passages about the afterlife.
i. “All Job has known about God he still believes. But God’s inexplicable ways have his mind perplexed to the breaking-point. Job is in the right; but he does not know that God is watching with silent compassion and admiration until the test is fully done and it is time to state His approval publicly (Job 42:8).” (Andersen)
ii. “We like to talk about ‘having the faith to be healed,’ but what about having the faith to be sick?” (Mason)
©2019 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission