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Adam Clarke Commentary

Job 11

Verse 1

Zophar answers Job, and reproves him severely for his attempts to justify himself; charges him with secret iniquity, and contends that God inflicts less punishment on him than his iniquities deserve, Job 11:1 -6. Shows the knowledge and perfections of God to be unsearchable, and that none can resist his power, Job 11:7 -11. Warns him against vanity of mind, and exhorts him to repentance on the ground that his acceptance with God is still a possible case, and that his latter days may yet become happy and prosperous, Job 11:12 -20.

Verse 2

Should not the multitude of words be answered? - Some translate, "To multiply words profiteth nothing."And should a man full of talk be justified - איש שפתים ish sephathayim, "a man of lips," a proper appellation for a great talker: he is "a man of lips," i.e., his lips are the only active parts of his system.

Verse 3

Should thy lies make men hold their peace? - This is a very severe reproof, and not justified by the occasion.And when thou mockest - As thou despisest others, shall no man put thee to scorn? Zophar could never think that the solemn and awful manner in which Job spoke could be called bubbling, as some would translate the term לעג laag. He might consider Job's speech as sarcastic and severe, but he could not consider it as nonsense.

Verse 4

My doctrine is pure - לקחי likchi, "my assumptions." What I assume or take as right, and just, and true, are so; the precepts which I have formed, and the practice which I have founded on them, are all correct and perfect. Job had not exactly said, My doctrine and way of life are pure, and I am clean in thine eyes; but he had vindicated himself from their charges of secret sins and hypocrisy, and appealed to God for his general uprightness and sincerity: but Zophar here begs the question, in order that he may have something to say, and room to give vent to his invective.

Verse 5

But O that God would speak - How little feeling, humanity, and charity is there in this prayer!

Verse 6

The secrets of wisdom - All the depths of his own counsels; the heights, lengths, and breadths, of holiness. That they are double to that which is, תושיה tushiyah, which we translate that which is, is a word frequent in Job and in the Book of Proverbs, and is one of the evidences brought in favor of Solomon as the author of this book. It signifies substance or essence, and is translated by a great variety of terms; enterprise, completeness, substance, the whole constitution, wisdom, law, sound wisdom, solid complete happiness, solidity of reason and truth, the complete total sum, etc., etc. See Taylor's Hebrew and English Concord., under ישה. In this place the versions are various. Coverdale, following the Vulgate, translates: That he might shewe the (out of his secrite wissdome) how manyfolde his lawe is. The Septuagint, ὁτι διπλους εσται των κατα σε, that it is double to what it is with thee. Mr. Good translates, "For they are intricacies to Iniquity." This is a meaning never before given to תושיה tushiyah, and a meaning which even his own learned note will not make generally prevalent. Perhaps Zophar is here, in mind, comparing the wisdom which has been revealed with the wisdom not revealed. The perfection and excellence of the Divine nature and the purity of his law, are, in substance and essence, double or manifold to the revelation already made.Less than thine iniquity deserveth - Mr. Good translates, And the knowledge hath withdrawn from thee because of thy sins; and represents Zophar as praying that God would reveal to him the secrets of wisdom, and the knowledge which he had withdrawn from him because of his transgressions. That Zophar intends to insinuate that God afflicted Job because of his iniquities, is evident; and that he thought that God had inflicted less chastisement upon him than his sins deserved, is not less so; and that, therefore, Job's complaining of harsh treatment was not at all well founded.

Verse 6

With him is strength and wisdom - עז ותושיה oz vethushiyah, strength and sufficiency. Strength or power, springing from an exhaustless and infinite source of potency. In the thirteenth verse it is said, With him is wisdom and strength; but the expressions are not the same, חכמה וגבורה chochmah ugeburah, intelligence and fortitude, or strength in action, the wisdom ever guiding the exertions of power; but here is strength or power in essence, and an eternal potentiality. With him is every excellence, in potentia and in esse. He borrows nothing, he derives nothing. As he is self-existent, so is he self-sufficient. We have had the word tushiyah before. See the note on Job 11:6 .The deceived and the deceiver are his - Some think this refers to the fall; even Satan the deceiver or beguiler, and Adam and Eve, the deceived or beguiled, are his. Satan, as this book shows, cannot act without especial permission; and man, whom the seducer thought to make his own property for ever, is claimed as the peculium or especial property of God, for the seed of the woman was then appointed to bruise the head of the serpent; and Jesus Christ has assumed the nature of man, and thus brought human nature into a state of fellowship with himself. Thus he who sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren; Hebrews 2:11 .

Verse 7

Canst thou by searching find out God? - What is God? A Being self-existent, eternal, infinite, immense, without bounds, incomprehensible either by mind, or time, or space. Who then can find this Being out? Who can fathom his depths, ascend to his heights, extend to his breadths, and comprehend the infinitude of his perfections?

Verse 8

It is as high as heaven - High as the heavens, what canst thou work? Deep below sheol, (the invisible world), what canst thou know? Long beyond the earth, and broad beyond the sea, is its measure. These are instances in the immensity of created things, and all out of the reach of human power and knowledge; and if these things are so, how incomprehensible must he be, who designed, created, preserves, and governs the whole!We find the same thought in Milton: - Almighty! Thine this universal frame:How wondrous fair! Thyself how wondrous then!"

Verse 10

If he cut off - As he is unlimited and almighty, he cannot be controlled. He will do whatsoever he pleases; and he is pleased with nothing but what is right. Who then will dare to find fault? Perhaps Zophar may refer to Job's former state, his losses and afflictions. If he cut off, as he has done, thy children; if he shut up, as he has done, thyself by this sore disease; or gather together hostile bands to invade thy territories and carry away thy property; who can hinder him? He is sovereign, and has a right to dispose of his own property as he pleases.

Verse 11

He knoweth vain men - מתי שוא methey shau, "men of falsehood."He seeth wickedness - He sees as well what is in man, as what man does; and of his actions and propensities he cannot be an indifferent spectator.

Verse 12

For vain man would be wise - The original is difficult and uncertain, ואיש נבוב ילבב veish nabub yillabeb, "And shall the hollow man assume courage," or "pride himself?" Or, as Mr. Good rather paraphrases it, Will he then accept the hollow-hearted person? The Chaldee gives two renderings: An eloquent man shall become wiser in his heart, and the colt of the wild ass is born as the son of man. Or, The wise man shall ponder it; and the refractory youth, who at last becomes prudent, shall make a great man. Coverdale - A vayne body exalteth him self; and the son of man is like a wylde asse's foale. Houbigant translates thus: - A man who hath understanding will become prudent; but he who is as the wild ass hath no heart, i.e., sense. According to this critic, the meaning is this: - A man of sense, should he at any time transgress, will learn wisdom from it; but a man of a brutish mind, uncultivated and unreflecting, will plunge yet deeper into iniquity.Though man be born like a wild ass's colt - Is translated by Mr. Good, Or shall the wild ass colt assume the man? This is making a sense, but such as I fear the original will never allow. There is no end to the translations of this verse, and conjectures relative to its meaning. I shall conclude with the Vulgate - Vir vanus in superbiam erigitur, et tanquam pullum onagri se liberum natum putat, "Vain man is puffed up with pride; and he supposes himself to be born free like the wild ass's colt." Man is full of self-conceit; and imagines himself born to act as he pleases, to roam at large, to be under no control, and to be accountable to none for his actions.

Verse 13

If thou prepare thine heart - Make use of the powers which God has given thee, and be determined to seek him with all thy soul.

Verse 13

There is a sentiment in Proverbs 16:1 , very similar to that in the Job 11:13 , which we translate very improperly: - To man are the preparations of the heart:But from Jehovah is the answer to the tongue.It is man's duty to pray; it is God's prerogative to answer. Zophar, like all the rest, is true to his principle. Job must be a wicked man, else he had not been afflicted. There must be some iniquity in his hand, and some wickedness tolerated in his family. So they all supposed.

Verse 14

And stretch out thine hands toward him - Making fervent prayer and supplication, putting away iniquity out of thy hand, and not permitting wickedness to dwell in thy tabernacle; then thou shalt lift up thy face without a blush, thou wilt become established, and have nothing to fear, Job 11:14 , Job 11:15 .

Verse 16

Because thou shalt forget thy misery - Thou shalt have such long and complete rest, that thou shalt scarcely remember thy labor.As waters that pass away - Like as the mountain floods, which sweep every thing before them, houses, tents, cattle, and the produce of the field, and are speedily absorbed by the sandy plains over which they run, so shalt thou remember thy sufferings: they were wasting and ruinous for the time, but were soon over and gone.

Verse 17

Thine age shall be clearer than the noonday - The rest of thy life shall be unclouded prosperity.Thou shalt shine forth - Thou shalt be in this unclouded state, as the sun in the firmament of heaven, giving light and heat to all around thee.Thou shalt be as the morning - Thus the sun of thy prosperity shall arise, and shine more and more unto the perfect day. This is the image which the sacred writer employs, and it is correct and elegant.

Verse 17

Yea, he fleeth as a shadow, and endureth not.And dost thou cast thine eyes upon such a one?And wouldst thou bring me into judgment with thyself?Yet now art thou numbering my steps;Thou overlookest nothing of my sins: - And for ever, as the crumbling mountain dissolveth,And the rock mouldereth away from his place,So consumest thou the hope of man,Thou harassest him continually till he perish.Why wilt thou not turn away from my transgression,And let my calamity pass by?If the iniquity of thy hand thou put away evil,And let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles,Lo! then shalt thou forget affliction;As waters passed by shalt thou remember it:And brighter shall the time be than noontide;Thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt grow vigorous, like the day-spring. Psalms 90:5 In the morning it springeth up and groweth:In the evening it is cut down and withereth.For we are consumed by thine anger,And by thy wrath are we troubled.Thou hast set our iniquities before thee:Our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.Behold, all our days are passed away in thy wrath,We spend our years as a tale that is told.Their strength is labor and sorrow;It is soon cut off, and we flee away.So teach us to number our daysThat we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.O satisfy us early with thy mercy,That we may rejoice and be glad all our days,Make us glad according to the days of our affliction,To the years we have seenLet thy wonders be shown unto thy servantsAnd thy glory unto their children;And let the beauty of Jehovah, our God, be upon us,And establish thou the work of our hands. "The strictly and decidedly acknowledged productions of Moses are but few; and in the above examples I have taken a specimen from by far the greater number. It is, indeed, not a little astonishing that, being so few, they should offer a resemblance in so many points.Thus far Mr. Good; who has, on his own side of the question, most certainly exhausted the subject. The case he has made out is a strong one: we shall next examine whether a stronger cannot be made out in behalf of Solomon, as the second candidate for the authorship of this most excellent book.2. That this book was the work of Solomon was the opinion of some early Christian writers, among whom was Gregory Nazianzen; and of several moderns, among whom were Spanheim and Hardouin. The latter has gone so far as to place the death of Job in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of David; and he supposes that Solomon wrote the work in question, about the second or third year of his reign. On this last opinion no stress whatever should be placed.As the argument for Moses has been supported by supposed parallelisms between his acknowledged works and the Book of Job, so has that which attributes the latter to Solomon. That Solomon, from his vast learning and wisdom, was capable of such a work, none can deny. His knowledge in astronomy, natural history, politics, theology, languages, and the general science of his age, must have given him at least equal qualifications to those possessed by Moses. And if he was the author of the Song of Solomon, which most men believe, he had certainly a poetic mind, equal, if not superior, to all the writers who had existed previously to his time. The Book of Proverbs and that of Ecclesiastes are almost universally attributed to him: now, in the Book of Job, there are a multitude of sentiments, sentences, terms, and modes of speech, which are almost peculiar to Solomon, as will appear from the whole books.

Verse 18

And thou shalt be secure - Thou shalt not fear any farther evils to disturb thy prosperity, for thou shalt have a well-grounded hope and confidence that thou shalt no more be visited by adversity.

Verse 20

The eyes of the wicked shall fail - They shall be continually looking out for help and deliverance; but their expectation shall be cut off.And they shall not escape - They shall receive the punishment due to their deserts; for God has his eye continually upon them. מנהם ומנוס אבד umanos abad minnehem, literally, "And escape perishes from them." Flight from impending destruction is impossible.And their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost - ותקותם מפח נפש vethikratham mappach naphesh, "And their hope an exhalation of breath," or a mere wish of the mind. They retain their hope to the last; and the last breath they breathe is the final and eternal termination of their hope. They give up their hope and their ghost together; for a vain hope cannot enter into that place where shadow and representation exist not; all being substance and reality. And thus endeth Zophar the Naamathite; whose premises were in general good, his conclusions legitimate, but his application of them to Job's case totally erroneous; because he still proceeded on the ground that Job was a wicked man, if not ostensibly, yet secretly; and that the sufferings he was undergoing were the means by which God was unmasking him to the view of men. But, allowing that Job had been a bad man, the exhortations of Zophar were well calculated to enforce repentance and excite confidence in the Divine mercy. Zophar seems to have had a full conviction of the all-governing providence of God; and that those who served him with an honest and upright heart would be ever distinguished in the distribution of temporal good. He seems however to think that rewards and punishments were distributed in this life, and does not refer, at least very evidently, to a future state. Probably his information on subjects of divinity did not extend much beyond the grave; and we have much cause to thank God for a clearer dispensation. Deus nobis haec otia fecit. God grant that we may make a good use of it!

Job 11


  1 Then answered Zophar the Naamathite, and said,
  2 Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified?
  3 Should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?
  4 For thou hast said, My doctrine is pure, and I am clean in thine eyes.
  5 But oh that God would speak, and open his lips against thee;
  6 And that he would shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know therefore that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth.
  7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?
  8 It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?
  9 The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.
  10 If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?
  11 For he knoweth vain men: he seeth wickedness also; will he not then consider it?
  12 For vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt.
  13 If thou prepare thine heart, and stretch out thine hands toward him;
  14 If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles.
  15 For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be stedfast, and shalt not fear:
  16 Because thou shalt forget thy misery, and remember it as waters that pass away:
  17 And thine age shall be clearer than the noonday; thou shalt shine forth, thou shalt be as the morning.
  18 And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope; yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take thy rest in safety.
  19 Also thou shalt lie down, and none shall make thee afraid; yea, many shall make suit unto thee.
  20 But the eyes of the wicked shall fail, and they shall not escape, and their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.

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