Subdivision 3. —

Job's closing monologue (Job 27 – 31.)

The direct controversy closed with Job's reply to Bildad, Job 26, but the sufferer has yet much to say before he has told out all his heart. The friends are apparently silenced, and he is left victor in the strife which has gone on so long. That there has been progress we have seen as we went along: on the part of the friends it has been a progress in failure to confirm their charges; with Job we have seen a progress upward, of faith laying hold on God in spite of all that seems so dark and inexplicable.

In this closing monologue we have the manifestation of Job's heart. He vindicates himself, refusing to acknowledge the charges of his friends, and by implication declares himself the possessor of the true wisdom — the fear of the Lord. He then reviews his past life of happiness, and contrasts it with his present degradation, and closes with renewed and complete protestations of righteousness.

This portion may be divided into three sections:
(1) Assertion of integrity, in contrast with the wicked and his doom (Job 27).
(2) The wisdom which is above all price (Job 28).
(3) Self-manifested (Job 29-31).

There are certain elements of confusion in this monologue. The first part is much of the same character with what had preceded. The closing part is a sad conclusion — self-occupation, self-vindication, self-righteousness. But embedded between these two parts we have, in grand poetic beauty, a statement of what is wisdom, the true riches, unknown to the natural man. We cannot but feel that, with all he has yet to unlearn, Job has the elements of this wisdom. The root of the matter is in him, the pure gold is there, and the dross will soon be removed.

Sub-section 1. — Assertion of integrity, in contrast with the wicked and his doom (Job 27).

This chapter while forming part of the monologue, is closely linked with the reply to Bildad.

We may consider it as addressed to the friends as a whole — a summing up of the controversy.

There are four main parts:
(1) He maintains his righteousness (vers. 1-7).
(2) The wicked's character contrasted (vers. 8–12).
(3) The sure doom of the ungodly (vers. 13-18).
(4) Driven away in his wickedness (vers. 19-23).

There is an apparent lack of evenness in this section, and some have thought a lack of consistency with what Job has previously declared. The self-vindication is familiar enough, but when he begins to describe the character and doom of the wicked, we might almost imagine that one of the friends was speaking. Indeed, the latter half of the chapter has been considered as the third speech of Zophar, inadvertently dropped from its place and inserted here, with chapter 28 as Job's answer. But there is not the slightest indication of any such disturbance of the text. It is a theory used to explain an imagined difficulty, a difficulty whose solution is found in the study of the chapter itself.

(1) Job declares that he will never surrender to the unrighteous charges of the friends. Boldly he declares that God has taken away his right (not as in our version, his judgment), that is, has acted unjustly toward him; He has brought bitterness into the soul of one who did not deserve it!

The next verse, 3, has been variously rendered. In the A.V. Job is made to say that so long as his breath is in him, he will persist in maintaining his righteousness. But many regard the verse as a parenthetic explanation; "for still all my breath is in me," etc. He is in full possession of his consciousness, and speaks the truth deliberately, as he believes. Such a rendering and explanation seems to accord with the original.

He will not allow himself to bear false witness; till he dies he will hold fast his integrity. His heart does not condemn him, and in the survey of his past life there is not a day whose record furnishes ground for reproach. "My heart reproacheth not any of my days." We must take this as the sober statement of one who had "lived in all good conscience." But there is a sound of self-righteousness which does not accord with the knowledge of one's self in the presence of God. Job is not there yet. It is the cry of an honest soul that does not fully see the light. Is there any unrighteousness? — it is in his enemy, not in himself. We see therefore that Job was speaking as between man and man.

(2) Job now turns to the end of the wicked. What hope has he when God cuts him off, and takes away his soul? What shall be the end of the man to whom God says, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee?" Will God hear his cry when it is too late? Or has He not given the solemn warning, "I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh" (Prov. 1:26)? Is it too late to call upon God when the present opportunities have been put off for a "more convenient season" — which never comes.

Is not all this self-evident? Job asks them. Do they not know the Lord's ways? Why then do they indulge in such foolish and wrong thoughts as they had expressed, and charge him (a man whose uprightness they knew, and who was conscious of his own integrity) with having a character like this which he describes?

Here we reach the explanation of the apparent change in Job's attitude. Hitherto he had withstood the friends in their contention as to the wicked, because they ever linked him with their descriptions. He will now take up the same language to show how impossible it was to confound such an one as himself with the wicked with whom they identified him. It becomes thus a most potent reply to their charges. He had dwelt upon the many exceptions to God's dealings with the wicked, because the friends were making such a wrong use of these dealings. The force of what he says comes out even more strongly in the next portion.

(3) He now goes into the terrible and irrevocable doom that awaits the ungodly, and, in language equal to that of the friends, tells how they will at last be overtaken.

"This is the portion of the wicked man with God." He has received wealth and pleasure and honor at the hands of man; but how different a heritage will they get from the Almighty whom they have despised. Have his children multiplied? They are left to the devouring sword. Did they once live in luxury? They will come to lack bread, and those who survive them will be swallowed up by death, and without friendly lamentations — "Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation" (Ps. 78:64).

Job thus dwells upon a sorrow in some respects similar to his own, and yet how different. He too had been bereft of his children, but was it as under the retributive wrath of God? And did Job act as these wicked men whom he here describes? They may gather silver and wealth as the dust, only to have the righteous enjoy it — "The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just." Was Job's case thus? Had the righteous obtained the wealth which once was his? The grand dwellings of the ungodly, like the frail tenement of the moth, shall crumble into nothingness, or be as the watchman's transient booth, "as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers." The fact that Job can speak thus of the perishing things of this world's greatness shows that he was conscious of a far different heritage for himself. Let moth and rust corrupt, he seems to say that he knows he has a better and more enduring substance.

(4) He follows in his solemn description the course of the wicked to the end. The rich man lieth down not realizing it is for the last time. He lies down in usual comfort, he opens his eyes upon a new day, but not to resume the old employments and pleasures. He opens his eyes only to pass away. Those eyes, so long closed to all that God has witnessed, at last open to another world — "In hell (hales) he lifted up his eyes, being in torment."

Terror, so long kept at a distance as the warning voice of conscience spoke, now sweeps down upon him; as by a tempest in the night he is carried away. God brings him down, and men rejoice at the removal of their oppressor.

Thus Job calmly describes an end which he knows is not his. What has made the difference? Is it not the faith which amidst all his distress has held fast to God? — a God whom he so little knew, and at whose afflictions he had repined.

Sub-section 2. — The wisdom which is above all price (Job 28.)

Continuing his monologue, Job next contrasts the doom of the ungodly rich, as described in the previous chapter, with the true riches, which can never be lost. The connection is clear, and the transition natural and striking. The opening part of the chapter describes the toil and care with which men search for the "delved gold," which so often brings but the "strife and curse which o'er it fall." He then passes on to the true riches — wisdom; where shall it be found? The search for it in earth or sea is vain; nor can all the wealth of the world be compared with it. Where is this priceless treasure to be found? Even the dark shades of death can only witness to its existence, but do not tell how or where to secure it. It can only be gained through the revelation of God; not only in His works, but in His Word, He appeals to the conscience and heart of man. The whole passage is beautiful and noble in its conception and expression, and indicates that the one who speaks knows that blessed One whom he describes. This chapter would prove that Job could not be the hypocrite his friends would make him out to be.

The entire chapter however is outside the atmosphere of controversy. Job is not here seeking to maintain his righteousness, but, for the time at least, loses sight of himself, and breathes the pure air of truth, unmarred by the noxious fumes of self-righteousness and unbelief. We can but feel the moral elevation of it all.

The chapter may be divided into seven portions.
(1) The treasures of earth (vers. 1-6).
(2) The hidden treasure (vers. 7-11).
(3) Not revealed by nature (vers. 12-14).
(4) Its priceless value tested (vers. 15-19).
(5) Its report (vers. 20-22).
(6) The Revealer (vers. 23-27).
(7) The Revelation (ver. 28).

(1) Job is evidently acquainted with all the processes of mining, whether from the rich deposits in the Sinai peninsula, or the nearer ones of the rocky regions of Bashan and Syria. He knows and describes the difficult and dangerous search for these treasures of earth, the "gold which perisheth." All this is knowledge acquired by man, who spares no toil nor danger to gain the coveted stores.

There is a mine for silver, the "current money with the merchant." How much labor is represented in that shining white metal used so largely in the East as the medium of exchange. Alas, of that of which it is a type (the redemption-price for the soul of man, Ex. 30:11-16; Ex. 38:25-28) men know little and care less. Of this however Job does not speak.

Gold, too, refined in the fire and made into ornaments of beauty and the kingly crown, men will travel to the ends of the earth for it. The true gold, the righteousness of God in Christ, is treated by most as valueless. Iron, so much needed in every department of labor, is laboriously prepared from the dust of the earth. Man labors for these earthly necessities, but forgets Him in whom alone is strength. Brass, or copper, with its unyielding strength, was and is melted from the containing stones; but the unchanging judgments of God are little valued by men.

In his search after these treasures, man delves into the dark recesses of the earth with his lamp, making an end to the darkness as he penetrates into the farthest extremities (rather than "perfection") of the mines, searching for those ore-laden "stones of darkness" — stones hidden in the darkness. The bowels of the earth are like the shadow of death, and often entomb the hardy miner in their depths, but nothing holds him back. Men will give their lives for gold. They are not content with the fertile earth yielding food for man's need; they tear it and search its depths as a fire burning and destroying. Such seems to be the clear meaning of verse 5. It is wealth, gold, jewels, glory, that man seeks after, and for which he is ready to barter his very life and soul. A glance at the history of the mining camps of modern times will confirm all that is said by the patriarch. What covetousness, lust, violence, reign in these places, in the arid mountains of the West and the frozen land of Yukon. What a contrast to the peaceful pursuits of gathering the bountiful harvests God has provided upon the very surface of the earth. The typical and spiritual teaching here is very clear: "Having food and raiment (covering), let us be therewith content." It is not meant of course that these precious things are sinful in themselves, nor that their proper use is not necessary. But the restless craving for them is significant of the poor heart of man, seeking for what can never satisfy. If he had but used the same earnestness in seeking for the true riches, how different would be the result. "My son … if thou criest after knowledge, … if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasure, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord" (Prov. 2:1-5).

(2) This portion (vers. 7-11) has been by Delitzsch connected closely with the preceding, as describing the search after earth's precious stores, and part of it does go into further details; but the similarity of ver. 21 to vers. 7, 8, suggests that even thus early in the chapter Job is hinting at his main theme — the true riches. Verse 12 confirms this thought. We therefore accept it.

There is a way — another way than in the depths of earth, or the loftiest mountain crags — the way of wisdom. We have seen that man does not get it in the mines; here it is unknown to the birds and beasts. As we see the eagle high in air, with vision far wider than ours, there may come into our hearts a longing to soar like it above the earth, and to see what we do not here.

But those heights do not reveal what man must know in order to be happy. The boundless deserts, where the proud lion roams unfettered by the fear of man, disclose no treasure which the heart craves. The hermits, "desert dwellers," have failed to get peace to their souls by their fastings and immolation of the body.

Returning to the search for treasure, Job describes this fruitless quest in which man takes hold upon the rocks (possibly pebbles), and overturns the mountains. We see him washing and sifting the pebbles and sand, or blasting in the solid mountains. He cuts his way deep down, following the vein as a river in its course, and looking with greedy eyes upon the rich shining treasures locked up therein. If waters flow in, he finds a way to divert them, that he may pursue the hidden wealth thus laid bare.

Again we ask, why will not men labor thus for the "hidden wisdom?" Why will they not seek to sift it out as it lies so close by, or, if need be, in faith remove the very mountains of difficulty. If the sweeping rush of "the course of this world," as a river, would engulf the true riches, why do men not stop it, or turn it from them, that they may possess themselves of this whose value is above all wealth? "He that seeketh findeth," is still true, though the seeking and the finding are different from what the toil for gold would indicate. The wisdom is hidden, the way to it is not known, because God is not known, and men will not hearken to Him.

(3) But while man is told to seek, this wisdom is not found in nature, nor by human effort. The question is asked, Where is wisdom found? Where is the place where understanding has its abode? Man, frail mortal, knows not and has not the price to obtain it, for it is not found in the land of the living. If it were within reach, then some would be able to attain to it; some rich man would have the price to pay for it. But it is beyond man; "It is high, I cannot attain unto it." In the fathomless depths of the abyss — "the waters under the earth" — the call for wisdom awakens but the reply, "It is not in me." The wide sea, in all its vast expanse, holds not this priceless treasure. Nature, in itself, is powerless to furnish a simple clue to this heavenly, this wondrous good.

What then is this wisdom, of such infinite value, and yet so unattainable? We shall be told in a little while by the Author of it. It must suffice us here to say it is the knowledge of the truth, the nature of all things, obtained from God Himself; a knowledge which does not puff up, nor separate from God, but gives the soul a living principle of peace and joy in communion with Him. No wonder man would search and toil in vain for this priceless treasure.

And yet, when once God is known, we find all nature eloquent of Him. Those depths below and above declare His glory and power. The "great and wide sea" tells of the depth of His wisdom, care and goodness. The earth, with its myriad forms of life, speaks of Him as the Author and maintainer of all life, from the lowest vegetable form up to the highest spiritual intelligence. The great creation psalm (Ps. 104) declares this: "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches" (ver. 24). How sad it is to see men of vast knowledge, of profound reasoning powers, gazing into the glorious heavens and failing to find God or wisdom there, or analyzing the dust of the earth yet not perceiving Him who "wrought by weight and measure." Truly the words of the apostle state the solemn fact: "The world by wisdom (human knowledge) knew not God" (1 Cor. 1:21). How blessed it is then to have the true wisdom — "Christ the wisdom of God, and the power of God;" to know Him through that Cross which sets aside all of man's pride, his wisdom and his righteousness, and gives in its place the key to all truth — "the unsearchable riches of Christ."

We do but anticipate the full Christian revelation in speaking thus. If Job had not so wide a view, he at least had the germ of that to be revealed later on.

(4) A thing of such priceless value is now tested by all that man counts treasure. Pure gold and silver, weighed out in unstinted measure cannot purchase it. The fine gold of Ophir, the precious onyx and the sapphire — "a king's ransom" — have no place here. Again gold is mentioned, along with transparent crystal — "pure gold, as it were transparent glass" — jewels as beautiful as rare; corals, pearls, rubies — wisdom's price exceeds them all. The topaz of far off Ethiopia finds its lustre dim beside this bright jewel of God's glory. Nature is ransacked in vain to find something to compare with that whose price is above all earthly treasures. Would that men realized this, that they might find the one jewel of eternal value. All else is nothing without it.
"Were the vast world our own,
With all its varied store,
And Thou, Lord Jesus, wert unknown,
We still were poor."

But why speak of that which all searching cannot find, or wealth cannot buy? The question of verse 12 is repeated, not hopelessly, but to show man the futility of a merely natural quest. "Whence then cometh wisdom, and where is the place of understanding?" Nature indeed speaks of wisdom, but does not communicate it —
"Stars o'er us are silent,
Graves silent beneath us."
And yet, had the poet but ears to hear, those graves would at least whisper back a hint that the present life was not all — that wisdom lies beyond time. "Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears." How true it is that those who consider their latter end are near to wisdom, ready to receive the revelation which God gives. This is the wisdom which cometh down from above, and is given to the meek.

(6) We turn now from nature to its Author, from creation to God. He knoweth the way, and He alone can reveal it to man. Nor is it merely God as Creator, but as Revealer in the person of His Son — "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." He has said, "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes … No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." He it is whose all-seeing eye sweeps the heavens, who has given its weight to the viewless air, and its appointed proportions to the water, who sends the gentle rain, and with it gives a course to the lightning's flash. He has seen wisdom; nay, He is that Wisdom.

We cannot but be reminded of the grand passage in Prov. 8, in which this divine Person, the true Wisdom, declares His character and power. "When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth when He established the clouds above … then I was by Him as one brought up with Him and I was daily His delight … And my delights were with the sons of men" (Prov. 8:27-31).*

{* The similarity of this and other passages in Proverbs to portions of Job, especially the chapter we are considering, has given color to the theory that both books date from the same period, of Chokma, or wisdom. Taken reverently, the word of God allows such questions; but when men go further, and doubt the authenticity or authorship of books declared to be written by certain men, as Moses, Solomon, Isaiah, etc., faith turns from the whole as dangerous and unholy speculation. It is also significant that as second in the Experience Books, Job is closely connected with the Chokma writings.}

(7) What then is the true wisdom? What does God declare it to be? It is most significant that it it is not mere truth, but truth applied to the conscience, truth which puts man in his true place, and thus fits and enables him to receive what God has to say. The fear of the Lord (Adonai, the supreme Ruler and Master) is wisdom — the bowing in humiliation before Him in whose presence seraphim veil their faces, before whom Isaiah cried, "Woe is me, for I am undone." This fear is not mere dread, but reverence, submission, worship. It includes repentance, as evidenced in the words of the thief: "Dost not thou fear God?" To know God thus is preparatory to and inclusive of the knowledge of His mercy and grace for us the full knowledge of the gospel, and accompanying Christian revelation. It is not knowledge of God, but being brought to Him, and learning His grace and love. This is more than mere knowledge; it is the key to it; it is eternal life.

That Job could speak thus, shows that he had in some measure this wisdom, could not therefore be classed with the wicked. But how feebly had he grasped the great fact of which he had spoken. A little later this fear of the Lord will lead him indeed "to depart from evil" — from an evil heart and from himself. That was for him, as it is for us, the true wisdom. With this wisdom we can pass over the earth, or search beneath its depths, can cross the seas, or soar towards heaven, only to find God and His witness everywhere.

It is this moral character which marks out God's word as distinct from all other writings. It is addressed to the conscience of man, producing that "fear of the Lord," which is clean, enduring forever."

Sub-section 3. — Self-manifested (Job 29 — 30).

As already pointed out, there is greater or less inconsistency in Job's monologue, corresponding to the state of his heart, in which conflicting emotions, of conscious integrity before man, and of the fear of the Lord, are mingled with unhealthy reminiscences of past greatness and laments over present degradation. The general tone, however, shows the need of God's dealing with his soul, and prepares us for what follows.

In this third section we have the manifestation of the man, the thoughts that nestled in his bosom, and while he concludes with unanswerable protestations of integrity, the impression left upon our mind is painful. The section may be divided into three parts, manifesting progressive stages of self-occupation.
(1) Past greatness (Job 29).
(2) Present shame (Job 30).
(3) I am clean (Job 31).

We may remark upon the entire section that Job is occupied with the wrong person. Even if all that he said were true — and we have no reason to doubt it was sincerely spoken — it ill becomes a man to dwell upon his own state. Unfallen man's happiness was to continue in God's goodness; turning from that, he fell into disobedience. For a sinner to dwell upon his own goodness — of which he has none — is repulsive; and for a child of God to follow the same course, shows clearly that he has not yet learned his lesson. All this comes out clearly in the chapters we are considering.

1. Past greatness

Taking up these in order, we find in chapter 29 a number of distinctly marked divisions.
(1) Prosperity at home (vers. 1-6).
(2) Honor abroad (vers. 7-10).
(3) His benefactions praised him (vers. 11-17).
(4) Abiding prosperity in view (vers. 18-20).
(5) A comforter for the distressed (vers. 21-25).

(1) It is nearly always a sign of present decrepitude if we are obliged to look backward to the past for marks of God's favor. It is apt to be connected with pride in that past, as well as with discouragement in the present. In the things of God, we enjoy His personal favor; His lamp shines about us now; His blessing is upon our tribulation, and the future opens out sweetly before us — "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." If we dwell upon the past, it is rather upon the grace which has saved us. The Christian's motto is, "Reaching forth unto those things which are before" (Phil. 3). Paul's past, in which he had gloried — in Judaism — he now counted loss for Christ. Even past service, communion and joy in Christ, is left behind. The manna of yesterday will not do for today. The bright light of yesterday's candle is the burnt wick of today. A present Christ in all His fulness; a present Spirit ministering the Word to our need — these are the believer's proper theme and occupation. Job thus at the outset is looking in the wrong direction.

Ver. 4 is literally, "in the days of autumn," and does not refer to the beginning of the civil year, but rather to the rich time of ingathering, of ripe maturity, when all was prosperous about him. His children, as described in the first chapter, were about him; he luxuriated in the abundance of his resources.

(2) Having surveyed his former prosperity at home, Job now, in memory, passes out of his gates to take his preeminent place among his fellows. It is pitiful to hear a truly great man describing his supremacy over others. The young men hid themselves, the elders rose up and remained standing until he took his seat. Ah, had not this sense of his greatness fostered a pride in Job which made his downfall a necessary dealing of God? He was a prince of princes; nobles were struck dumb in his presence! He is describing his place among the councilors of the city; he was their president and chief.

(3) But this eminence was not due to wisdom and dignity alone. The ear which heard his voice blessed him; the eye looked upon a benefactor and a friend. It is indeed a beautiful picture, but marred by the pride of personal recital. "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth." Job had won the respect and affection of all. He had been a succorer of the helpless, a friend of the orphan and the widow. He clothes himself with righteousness as with a garment, and binds it as a crown upon his brow. Verily, these are strong words, savoring little of the humility which becomes us. Job was a combination of the "righteous" man for whom one would scarcely die, and of the "good," benevolent man for whom, perhaps, some would even dare to die. Eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, diligently seeking out obscure cases of need; and withal meting out severe penalty upon the wrong-doer — truly he was a model man! But, for us, let it be far from us to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(4) All this honor, coupled with beneficence on his part, made life very attractive to Job. The inevitable end, put off to a great distance, would find him comfortable in his "nest." He would prolong the days of his life as a multitude of grains of the sand, or, as some would have it, as the phoenix — the immortal bird of fable. The rendering of our version gives a simple and more worthy rendering, and one conformed to the usage of Scripture (1 Kings 4:29; Gen. 22:17). Another suggestion is that Job refers to the palm tree — "The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree." In any case the meaning is obvious: he would live on uninterruptedly and as a well-watered tree. So would the freshness of the dew be his, and his bow would abide in strength.

(5) The remainder of the chapter seems to recur to his greatness and wisdom. But there is a slight advance over the former expressions. The effect of his decisions is seen upon his beneficiaries rather than his fellow-councilors. His decision was for them the final word, calling for no response; and yet his words were not like the withering sentence of an inexorable judge, but like the gentle dew or the rain. His smile was as a ray of light to them. The thought here is slightly obscure. Does Job mean to say that his smile was a blessing to them; or the token of his abiding self-complacency? The usual thought, however, is not obscure. If they were in doubt and trouble, his smile reassured them, and no grief on their part could alter his imperturbable cheerfulness. He was as a king among them, regarded with a reverence akin to worship.

Ah, but where was all this honor now? It could but intensify Job's present misery.
"This is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow's crown of sorrow
Is remembering happier things."

The ashes of his past joys can give no warmth to his poor comfortless heart today; they can but feed the flame of that pride which burns all the more brightly amid the ruin of its past.

2. — Present shame (Job 30).

Dwell upon the past as long he may, Job is at last forced to turn to the present with its wretched contrast. This portion may be divided into seven parts, giving the thought of complete misery, which thus exceeds his former greatness.
(1) His wretched mockers (vers. 1-8).
(2) Their scorn (vers. 9-12).
(3) Their persecution (vers. 13-15).
(4) His sufferings (vers. 16-19).
(5) No help from God (vers. 20-23).
(6) The triumph of misery (vers. 24-27).
(7) Complete woe (vers. 28-31).

(1) Job's words as to his former greatness were in description of his beneficent pity for the wretched outcasts to whom he ministered comfort and cheer. Passing into the present, he seems to have changed places with these, or those like them, and in turn speaks of them not with the language of sympathy but of deepest contempt. Pride speaks of them "whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock." Their elders were beneath his contempt, and now the younger have him in derision. The verses following describe these wretched persons who now exalt themselves above him. They are weak and unprofitable — as decrepit old age. Withered up from hunger, they gnaw the roots of weeds growing in the waste which for long has ceased to yield true food for man. The mallows, or salt wort, and the sedge, or juniper, have become their food. These are the contemptible wretches which mock him who once was so great. Driven from men as thieves, their habitation in valleys and dark holes, croaking or braying as beasts — these outcasts pour their contempt upon him! It is a hideous picture, reminding us of One who in a far different spirit said, "I was the song of the drunkards" (Ps. 69:12). But in Job there is no turning to God in such unjust treatment. Evidently the wound to his pride, in having such a rabble mock him, is the deepest of his mental sufferings. He had previously described persons like these (Job 24) as illustrating the unequal lot that comes upon men and as showing the oppression of the prosperous wicked. But he is not here the advocate of these downtrodden men; his own soul is writhing under their contempt. It is a sad picture of pride, which grows bitter as it dwells upon its wrongs.

(2) Scorn them as he may, Job is compelled to acknowledge that he is mocked by them, their song and their byword. We can but compare his anger at their taunts with the meekness of Him "who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not." All through life our Lord had the shadows of man's rejection falling upon Him, but in His darkest hour — "your hour and the power of darkness" — they poured out their maledictions and their taunts. But He, as One that heard not, "gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isa. 50:6). Who is it that said this? Not a man lamenting over former grandeur, but one who had voluntarily relinquished His glory in love for His enemies,who could at any moment have delivered Himself from His troubles by an appeal to His Father or by the putting forth of His own power. "But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?" (Matt. 26:54). We need only to meditate upon such words to see the pitiful petulance of Job in painful contrast. In all his sufferings Job felt, as he had frequently declared, the hand of God upon him, and he connects this with the scorn of these abject men who took advantage of God's dealings to vent their hatred upon him. "God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him." The "rabble" (as the word has been rendered) press upon his right hand, they thrust his feet away from their only standing-place, and lift up their own destructive ways. We can only again remark how unlike Job was to our blessed Lord in similar circumstances.

(3) The scorn and mockery, which we have seen increasing in violence, now bursts out in a storm of persecution. These puny, helpless men turn now in violence upon him; they tear down his path — destroy the way of one whose footsteps had "well-nigh slipped." They would contribute to his overthrow. They burst upon him like a flood breaking through restraining banks; they roll over him with the deafening noise of their tramp. "The floods of ungodly men made me afraid." Like a pack of cowardly wolves they pounce upon the fallen man, whose soul, or rather "nobility," is swept aside as by a fierce hurricane; "Like a cloud my prosperity passed away." This is beautiful poetry, abounding in bold images; but Job does not show himself to advantage. The weakness of his spirit is seen in the lack of dignity with which he undergoes his misfortunes. Evidently his faith is in eclipse. This is apparent in what follows.

(4) His soul is poured out, and days of suffering are his portion. The nights are no better, for the gnawing disease does not sleep as it bares his bones out of his very flesh. His garment is no longer an adornment, but clings to his emaciated body, as his collar discloses the poor bony neck. It is all vivid as a picture, and as repulsive. All this Job ascribes to God. It is His great force which has thus emaciated him and laid his honor in the dust. He has brought him into the mire and made him as worthless as the dust and ashes in which he sits. Do we hear him taking counsel with his soul in this time of suffering? — "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance, and my God" (Ps. 42:11). No; instead of encouraging himself thus, he accuses his Maker.

(5) He cries to Him for help, but no answer comes from above. He stands in all his wretchedness before God, who looks upon him but does not pity. This is the force of ver. 20. It is not merely "Thou regardest me not;" the negative is not in the original; God does regard him, in the sense of looking upon him and remaining unmoved by his woes. "Thou changest Thyself to a cruel being toward me." Oh, if Job had but known the tender love which would have spared him from all this suffering, but for his own good! He knows not that "the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy." That will come when he sees "the end of the Lord" — the purpose that is in view (James 5:11). Now he can only see that strong hand reached out to make war against him. It is this stormy wind which lifts up the frail sufferer as chaff and drives him along to vanish in the warring storm. Beautiful poetry indeed, but wretched unbelief this is. Job sees nothing before him but death, the house appointed for all living. His faith seems to have suffered a great eclipse. May we not see the reason of this in that self-occupation which marks these two chapters and the next?

(6) His misery is complete; it rises over all other thoughts. Verse 24 — whose meaning is obscure in the A. V. has been rendered: "No prayer availeth when He stretcheth out His hand; though they cry when He destroyeth." That is, it is useless to cry to Him for pity, for He will not regard the prayer of those upon whose destruction He is bent. It is a most hopeless view of God, of which Job has shown he is quite capable. Delitzsch, however, renders it as though Job is explaining his cries. Is it not natural for one to reach forth his hand for help? So he translates: "Doth not one, however, stretch out the hand in falling; doth he not raise a cry for help on that account, in his ruin?" This suits with what follows: he is only asking what he had shown to others in their time of stress — he has wept for those in trouble and grieved for the needy. He sums up his misery in verses 26, 27. In his prosperity he had looked forward for good all his days; instead of that, misery had overtaken him, darkness instead of the wished-for light. Instead of a heart at rest, his inner man was a seething cauldron of anguish — "Days of misery met me."

(7) At last we reach the end of the wail — the last of those laments which pierce the heart. He pictures himself as a lonely wanderer in the dark, a companion of beasts and birds which shun the face of man. He might well hide from them, for his skin drops off his putrid flesh; his very bones are parched and dry. Such misery must surely appeal to the most stolid. Must these friends not listen to such woe, and have pity? Job has sounded all the depths of his suffering and grief; his harp has no notes but the sad wail of mourning; his pipe leads in no dance, it is turned alone to notes of sorrow.

Thus the wail ends in a threnody of sadness, without a note of faith. Oh, let us thank our God that Another has lifted His voice out of deeper darkness than all that pressed upon Job with words of sweet assurance, "The cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit" (John 18:1 1; Luke 23:46). To Him — our Saviour, our Lord, our all — we turn, and learn in our grief to say, "Thy will be done."

"For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

3. — I am clean (Job 31).

We come now to the closing portion of Job's monologue. In the first part he had dwelt upon his former greatness and goodness; in the second part he contrasted it with his present wretched state; in both these he finds food for pride; its climax is reached in the present chapter, where he asserts his purity, goodness and righteousness in the completest way. There is no bitterness as when in his former replies he resented the accusations of his friends, nor vain crying of injustice at the hands of God. quickly, deliberately and thoroughly he surveys his life and character, and comes to the conclusion that he welcomes both the indictment of man and the judgment of God.

We cannot question the truth and the sincerity of all that he says, but, we may well ask, is his conclusion a happy one even for himself? He closes Ow mouths of his friends, be seems abundantly satisfied with himself; suppose God were to let it go at that, is the spectacle of a completely self-vindicated man a pleasant one? Ah, divine truth, as well as divine love, will not suffer him to wrap himself in these weeds of self-righteousness. They are, for the most part, borrowed garments belonging to God, to whom Job gives not one whit of glory; and all the rest is but "filthy rags" which belong to the dust and ashes where Job is soon to put himself.

In other words, God is left out save as related to Job's righteousness: His greatness, goodness, holiness, as themes of worship and joy are ignored. At the close of all that he has to say, Job is as far from God as at the beginning; nay, further. When we remember that all God's ways with man are to bring him close to Himself, we see the folly and sin of Job's course. No wonder that other voices with other themes must be heard before the "end of the Lord" is reached.

But let us seek to analyze this last portion of Job's monologue, and gather sober lessons for ourselves from the vain effort of this best of men. Surely the lesson must be, "Cease ye from man."

The main subjects of the chapter group themselves under seven heads:
(1) Asseveration of chastity and uprightness (vers. 1-12).
(2) Kindness at home and abroad (vers. 13-23).
(3) Refusal of all forms of idolatry (vers. 24-28).
(4) Friendship and hospitality (vers. 29-32).
(5) No hypocrisy or fear of man (vers. 33, 34).
(6) A challenge to man and to God (vers. 35-37).
(7) His very land a witness for him (vers. 38-40).

(1) In opening this sevenfold protestation of purity and integrity, Job dwells upon a side of his character and conduct which even his friends had not openly challenged. Whatever intimations they have made of general wickedness — turning from God, violent dealings with the needy and others — the subject of personal purity had not been touched upon.

But if Job is to be vindicated before man and God, surely this department of his life must be investigated. He approaches it with the boldness of conscious innocence. His eyes, the avenue to the heart, had been closed by full purpose — a "covenant," against even a look at what might stir up passion. Our Lord in the "sermon on the mount," had shown that essential purity must lie in the heart, and not merely in abstinence in outward conduct (Matt. 5:27-28). Asserting his purity, Job points out that he was moved by the fear of God, who would surely recompense sin upon the wicked. "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" said Joseph when assailed by the temptress (Gen. 39:9). In an hour of spiritual sloth, David had allowed his eyes to wander, and had fallen (2 Sam. 11:2). Job was conscious that God watched his every step, and appeals to Him to be tested,weighed in the balance (vers. 5, 6). He seems here to speak of general integrity, and in the two following verses, but returns to the general subject with which he began, and dwells upon the sin of adultery against a neighbor (vers. 9-12). In all he was pure — willing to have his own home violated if such were not the case. We get here a glimpse of his family life, equaling in sanctity that of Isaac, Joseph, and the purest of the patriarchs.

But we must take note of the self-righteousness which moved Job to speak of himself thus. He was arraying himself rather than giving glory to God. Doubtless at bottom he was a man of genuine piety, but it is not glory to set forth one's own glory.

(2) He enlarges here on what he had already dwelt upon — denied by his friends — his benevolence, kindness and uprightness. Beginning with the household whose well-ordered character was the outgrowth of the inherent purity of its master, he asserts his equity in all his dealings with his servants, recognizing their common nature and standing before God "who is no respecter of persons." Passing out to the needy poor, the fatherless and the widow had shared his food, and he had warmed them with his clothing. In brief he was as a father to the orphan, and as a son to the widow. Surely we have here an illustration of "pure religion and undefiled" (James 1:27).

While dwelling upon his beneficence, Job shows how he had not taken advantage of any legal technicality which would have exonerated him in any severe dealing with the needy. When he saw his "help in the gate," — the judges disposed to decide in his favor, not as bribed, but giving him his just dues — he had not carried his case against the orphans. If he had lifted his hand against them, he says, "let mine arm drop from my shoulder-blade."

To all of this we can but say, True and excellent, but why should he speak of it? Why not let his fear of God keep him from these things, rather than boast of them?

(3) Having declared his benevolence, Job naturally passes on to speak of wealth, and disclaims the love of gold so common to man; that "covetousness which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5). When his riches had increased, he had not set his heart upon them; gold had not allured him. And when he lifted up his eyes to the resplendent heavens, he had not given the glory to the sun, a creature of God, nor to the moon, "queen of heaven," walking in splendor; nor even secretly wafted a kiss of worship to them, for God would have been denied thereby; he would have been a hypocrite, well deserving punishment.

(4) Job's strong point is his kindness to his fellow-men. Here he declares that even to his enemies he had been just. He had not been glad at their calamity, nor even in secret wished a curse to blight their life. He could call the men of his own household to bear witness. Had any one ever said they knew a hungry man whom he had not satisfied with his own food? No stranger was ever left beside his home in the street; his door was ever open to them — in our modern colloquialism, "the latch string was always outside."

(5) Job now declares his complete openness. He was not afraid of the great, did nothing behind closed doors which he would not have declared publicly. He had not acted as men so generally do, hiding their sins from the eye of man — or, as our version and many render the words, "as Adam," who hid from the presence of God to conceal the shame of his guilt, Job walked in the light, where all could see him.

(6) He thus reaches the climax: he is chaste, just, God-fearing, kind, sincere — what has he to fear? He challenges all; would that he had one to hear him. "Behold my signature!" he cries. I sign my name to the catalogue of my virtues. "Let the Almighty answer me!" "Let mine adversary produce his charges in writing."

We cannot believe that any but a true man could thus challenge his accusers. If God be his adversary, let Him write the charges in a book! Job would carry it on his shoulder in triumph, as a mark of dignity, or as a diadem upon his brow! He would disport himself as a prince with it!

Yet we need only wait a little to hear this "prince" saying: "I have heard of Thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee."

Job's thoughts are mixed: he is not exactly meeting God as a sinner, but as one who is conscious of "the root of the matter" in his heart. His mistake is to confound this with his own personal worthiness, and thus mar the very thought of grace. Who of all the sons of men could stand before a thrice holy God, and say "I am clean?" "In Thy sight shall no man living be justified."

(7) The conclusion seems almost tame, for after the appeal to God and man, Job descends to inanimate earth. He appeals to his land to bear witness if he has acquired it unjustly, or used its yield as his own which belonged to another; if he has taken away property from another (as Ahab took the vineyard and life of Naboth), let the very furrows weep out their charge, let the fertile soil yield thistles instead of wheat, tares instead of barley.

It has even been suggested that Job appeals to the land to declare if he has treated it unkindly, so that it needed a Sabbath-rest — "Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths;" but the first meaning seems the simplest.

"The words of Job are ended." He had called upon earth and man, yea, upon God, to declare his righteousness. He would have all unite to sing his praise! How different from that happy time when all nature shall speak forth the praises of the Lord, the King. "Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth" (Ps. 96:12-13). Let us turn from the self-praise of Job to pay our tribute of worship "Unto Him that loveth us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen" (Rev. 1:5-6).

Job's words will be rightly ended when he is ready to give praise to the One who alone is worthy of it. We are glad to be through with Job's words as uttered here.