Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. God. Job answers both his friends, and with admirable humility acknowledges that in God’s sight he is full of defects; but not of such a nature as to fall (Calmet) under the cognizance of man. I am not conscious to myself of anything; but….God is the judge, 1 Corinthians iv. 4. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Thousand. Psalm cxlii. 2. “Woe even to the praise-worthy life of man, if God judge without mercy.” (St. Augustine) (Haydock)
Ver. 4. Resisted. Hebrew and Septuagint, “hardened himself against him.”
Ver. 5. Removed, by earthquakes. (Pliny, [Natural History?] ii. 83.) (Calmet) — In Calabria, 5th February, &c., 1783, during the most destructive and dreadful earthquake, a level valley was removed entire about a mile, and a hill, with the trees still growing, was projected down a declivity half a mile, and another above four miles. (Sir W. Hamilton) — Septuagint, “who makes the mountains grown old, and they know not who overturns them in his wrath.” (Haydock) — Kings and empires fall to ruin at his command. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. Pillars. These are represented as fixed in the waters, Proverbs viii. 29., and Psalm xxvii. 16., &c.
Ver. 7. Seal. So that they appear not. He alludes (Calmet) to masters confining their servants with seals, before locks were invented. (Macrob. vii. 3.) — From these noble effects of God’s power, Job takes occasion to humble himself. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. Heavens, like a tent, Psalm ciii. 2. These nations lived under tents; (Calmet) and beholding the magnificent one which God had spread over the heads of all, Job, in rapture, (Haydock) wonders that he should have created such a pavilion for his servants.
Ver. 9. Arcturus, &c. These are names of stars or constellations. In Hebrew, Hash, Cesil, and Cima. (Challoner) — And chadre theman, (Haydock) the “bottom or seals of the south,” which were to him invisible, being the Antarctic constellations. The ancients were acquainted only with these four, (Homer; Virgil, Æneid iii., &c.) which denoted the four quarters and seasons. (Calmet) — Ash, Arcturus, “the bear’s tail,” near the north pole, (Haydock) rules in autumn, when the year begins (Calmet) in Arabia. Cesil, (Haydock) or Orion, on the west, styled by astronomers “the heart of the scorpion,” rises about the autumnal equinox, and presides over winter; (Calmet) and Cima, (Haydock) the Hyades, or the seven “rainy” stars, do over spring, the “pleasing” season, as Cima denotes, (chap. xxxviii. 31.) when navigation commences. “The seals of the south,” designate summer. (Calmet) — We must not, however, imagine that Job countenances poetical fables; (St. Jerome in Amos v. 8.) or that he called the constellations by these names, Arcturus, &c. (Calmet) — Hebrew, “who makes the fire, the spirit, and the light,” Cima, chap. xxxviii. 31. (Haydock) — The creation of these seems grander than the making of any constellation, and all the stars had been asserted to be the work of God, ver. 7. What connection is there between the names assigned by the Rabbins and the Hebrew terms? R. Abraham observes that the last is “a northern star, causing heat, and producing fruit.” (Parkhurst) — The Arabs were convinced of the influence of the stars; (chap. xxxviii. 31.) and living under a sky generally without clouds, could easily observe them. (Roger. ii. 2., and 15.) — Sanchez asserts, that the peasants in Spain can point out the stars by name. (Calmet) — Inner. Protestants, “the chambers.” They agree with the Vulgate in the other names. Septuagint, “who makes the Pleiads, and Hesper, and Arcturus, and the store-rooms of the south?[“] (Haydock) — They are styled inner with respect to us, who cannot see them.
Ver. 11. Understand, as he is a spirit; (Menochius) and not that God is changeable, but his works and judgments are above our comprehension, and we are always liable to change. Hence the proud erroneously think themselves to be in favour; while the humble, on the contrary, keep at a distance, and still sue for pardon, when their sins have been forgiven, Luke xviii. 13., and Ecclesiasticus ii. 1. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. God. Protestants, “If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.” Septuagint, “For he is not turned aside by wrath;” (or Roman edition) “God, whose anger cannot be averted,” (Haydock) unless we repent: (Calmet) “under him the whales below heaven bend.” (Haydock) — Perhaps they may have had some notions, like the Rabbins, respecting Leviathan; and St. Jerome may have alluded to the fable of the giants placed under mountains; (Virgil, Æneid iii., and ix.; Calmet) or to Atalas propping the skies. (Haydock) — World. Great heroes, (Calmet) Kings, (Pineda) angels, (Menochius) who move the spheres, (Worthington) or devils, Ephesians vi. 12. (Cajetan)
Ver. 14. What? Hebrew, “Much less shall I answer him, choosing even my words with him.” (Haydock) — This is the conclusion from the display of God’s power. (Calmet) — No eloquence will persuade him. (Haydock) — Though not conscious of any sin, Job will not justify himself (1 Corinthians iv.; Worthington) before God. (Haydock)
Ver. 16. Voice. So much am I beneath his notice. How unjust were the aspersions of Job’s friends, who accused him of presumption and blasphemy! (Calmet) — No one ever spoke with greater humility (Haydock) and respect of God’s absolute dominion. (Calmet) — He will attribute nothing to his own prayers, as he is still in the dark. (Menochius)
Ver. 17. Without cause. That is, without my knowing the cause; or without any crime of mine. (Challoner) — To argue from my afflictions, that I am a criminal, is unjust, chap. ii. 3.
“Notions mistaken, reasonings ill apply’d,
And sophisms that conclude on either side.” (Pope, Pleasures, &c.)
Ver. 19. Equity. Hebrew, “if judgment, who will appoint me a time,” (Haydock) or “set me before him,” and undertake my defence? Who will dare to sit as judge between us?
Ver. 20. Condemn me, as this conduct would appear presumptuous. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “if I be just, my mouth will utter impiety,” (Haydock) in declaring it. (Olymp.)
Ver. 21. Life, under this uncertainty and affliction. (Menochius)
Ver. 22. Consumeth. Ecclesiastes ix. 2. (Haydock) — This principle is incontrovertible. (Worthington) — I do not retract it. (Menochius) — The misery inflicted on the just, is not contrary to the goodness of the Almighty. Job perfectly discovered this truth, which puzzled his enlightened friends, and most of those who lived before Christ; (Psalm lxxii. 2., and Jeremias xii. 1.; Calmet) and even Job himself was not fully convinced of the motives of the Providence, till God had explained them. (Houbigant) (Chap. xlii.)
Ver. 23. Innocent. Having expressed his sentiments clearly, now he mentions what he could desire under the pressure of misery. (Menochius) — Seeing the danger of falling, to which he was exposed, he begged to be delivered by death. We are taught by our Saviour to pray, Lead us not into temptation, Matthew vi. 13. God does not laugh at our sufferings, but he acts like a surgeon, and cuts without minding our complaints. Ridere Dei est humanæ nolle afflictioni misereri. (St. Gregory) (Calmet) — Hebrew, “If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.” (Protestants) (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Wicked one, (Haydock) the devil, (Menochius) or any impious person who enjoys prosperity. He, (Calmet) or even God permissively, covered the face, (Haydock) by bribes; so that judges pass sentence unjustly. — Then. If it be not the devil, (Menochius) or God. (Calmet)
Ver. 25. Good, of late. Hebrew, “they see no good.”
Ver. 26. Carrying. Hebrew literally, “of desire,” belonging to one person, or full of goods, which he desires to carry quickly to market. (Menochius) — Chaldean agrees with us. But most interpreters vary. Pagnin retains the original, ebe; (Haydock) supposing the river Abeh, or Avah, is meant. It certainly implies expedition; “they have hastened like (Calmet) the eagle to its prey.” Septuagint, “Is there any trace of ships, or of an eagle flying in quest of food?” (Haydock)
Ver. 27. Sorrow. I cannot entirely repress it. (Calmet) — The more I strive, (Haydock) the greater is my pain. (Menochius)
Ver. 28. Works. Hebrew, “sorrows.” I dread their increase, and fear impatience. Even in the midst of prosperity, Job offered sacrifice, lest the sins of his children should be laid to his charge.
Ver. 29. Vain. Why have I endeavoured to repress my grief in silence? God does not forbid us to complain, but only to murmur. (Calmet) — Septuagint, “Since I am wicked, why did I not die?” (Haydock) — Should a wretch be even suffered to live? (St. Chrysostom)
Ver. 30. Snow. Nitre brings off the dirt better. Chaldean, “soap.” Hebrew bor, is supposed by many to be the Borith of Jeremias ii. 22. Snow-water was also used through delicacy in summer. (Petronius; Sat.)
Ver. 31. Abhor me. This striking expression intimates something extremely filthy. God will make his servants discern many stains, even when they have aimed at the greatest purity. (Calmet)
Ver. 33. There. Septuagint, “O that an umpire, (or mediator) were between us, and one arguing and giving ear in the midst of both!”
Ver. 35. Fear him. Septuagint, “and I shall not fear, but speak. For I am not conscious to myself of injustice.” (Haydock) — The dread of incurring God’s displeasure makes me prefer to be silent; and if I had no other reason, this fear would suffice, as I should not be master of myself under such anxiety and pain. (Calmet) — If my sufferings were at an end, I should take courage, and speak in my own defence, (Menochius) in answer to my false friends. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Job acknowledges God’s justice: although he often afflicts the innocent.
1 And Job answered, and said:
2 Indeed I know it is so, and that man cannot be justified, compared with God.
3 If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one for a thousand.
4 He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath resisted him, and hath had peace?
5 Who hath removed mountains, and they whom he overthrew in his wrath, knew it not.
6 Who shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.
7 Who commandeth the sun, and it riseth not: and shutteth up the stars, as it were, under a seal:
8 Who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and walketh upon the waves of the sea.
9 Who maketh Arcturus, and Orion, and Hyades, and the inner parts of the south.
10 Who doth things great and incomprehensible, and wonderful, of which there is no number.
11 If he come to me, I shall not see him: if he depart, I shall not understand.
12 If he examine on a sudden, who shall answer him? or who can say: Why dost thou so?
13 God, whose wrath no man can resist, and under whom they stoop that bear up the world.
14 What am I then, that I should answer him, and have words with him?
15 I, who although I should have any just thing, would not answer, but would make supplication to my judge.
16 And if he should hear me when I call, I should not believe that he had heard my voice.
17 For he shall crush me in a whirlwind, and multiply my wounds even without cause.
18 He alloweth not my spirit to rest, and he filleth me with bitterness.
19 If strength be demanded, he is most strong: if equity of judgment, no man dare bear witness for me.
20 If I would justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me: if I would shew myself innocent, he shall prove me wicked.
21 Although I should be simple, even this my soul shall be ignorant of, and I shall be weary of my life.
22 One thing there is that I have spoken, both the innocent and the wicked he consumeth.
23 If he scourge, let him kill at once, and not laugh at the pains of the innocent.
24 The earth is given into the hand of the wicked, he covereth the face of the judges thereof: and if it be not he, who is it then?
25 My days have been swifter than a post: they have fled away and have not seen good.
26 They have passed by as ships carrying fruits, as an eagle flying to the prey.
27 If I say: I will not speak so: I change my face, and am tormented with sorrow.
28 I feared all my works, knowing that thou didst not spare the offender.
29 But if so also I am wicked, why have I laboured in vain?
30 If I be washed, as it were, with snow-waters, and my hands shall shine ever so clean:
31 Yet thou shalt plunge me in filth, and my garments shall abhor me,
32 For I shall not answer a man that is like myself: nor one that may be heard with me equally in judgment.
33 There is none that may be able to reprove both, and to put his hand between both.
34 Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me.
35 I will speak, and will not fear him: for I cannot answer while I am in fear.