Resources » Matthew Henry's Commentary » Job » Chapter 6 » Verses 14–21

Verses 14–21

Eliphaz had been very severe in his censures of Job; and his companions, though as yet they had said little, yet had intimated their concurrence with him. Their unkindness therein poor Job here complains of, as an aggravation of his calamity and a further excuse of his desire to die; for what satisfaction could he ever expect in this world when those that should have been his comforters thus proved his tormentors?

I. He shows what reason he had to expect kindness from them. His expectation was grounded upon the common principles of humanity (Job 6:14): “To him that is afflicted, and that is wasting and melting under his affliction, pity should be shown from his friend; and he that does not show that pity forsakes the fear of the Almighty.” Note, 1. Compassion is a debt owing to those that are in affliction. The least which those that are at ease can do for those that are pained and in anguish is to pity them,—to manifest the sincerity of a tender concern for them, and to sympathize with them,—to take cognizance of their case, enquire into their grievances, hear their complaints, and mingle their tears with theirs,—to comfort them, and to do all they can to help and relieve them: this well becomes the members of the same body, who should feel for the grievances of their fellow-members, not knowing how soon the same may be their own. 2. Inhumanity is impiety and irreligion. He that withholds compassion from his friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty. So the Chaldee. How dwells the love of God in that man? 1 John 3:17. Surely those have no fear of the rod of God upon themselves who have no compassion for those that feel the smart of it. See Jas. 1:27. 3. Troubles are the trials of friendship. When a man is afflicted he will see who are his friends indeed and who are but pretenders; for a brother is born for adversity, Prov. 17:17; 18:24.

II. He shows how wretchedly he was disappointed in his expectations from them (Job 6:15): “My brethren, who should have helped me, have dealt deceitfully as a brook.” They came by appointment, with a great deal of ceremony, to mourn with him and to comfort him (Job 2:11); and some extraordinary things were expected from such wise, learned, knowing men, and Job’s particular friends. None questioned but that the drift of their discourses would be to comfort Job with the remembrance of his former piety, the assurance of God’s favour to him, and the prospect of a glorious issue; but, instead of this, they most barbarously fall upon him with their reproaches and censures, condemn him as a hypocrite, insult over his calamities, and pour vinegar, instead of oil, into his wounds, and thus they deal deceitfully with him. Note, It is fraud and deceit not only to violate our engagements to our friends, but to frustrate their just expectations from us, especially the expectations we have raised. Note, further, It is our wisdom to cease from man. We cannot expect too little from the creature nor too much from the Creator. It is no new thing even for brethren to deal deceitfully (Jer. 9:4, 5; Mic. 7:5); let us therefore put our confidence in the rock of ages, not in broken reeds-in the fountain of life, not in broken cisterns. God will out-do our hopes as much as men come short of them. This disappointment which Job met with he here illustrates by the failing of brooks in summer.

1. The similitude is very elegant, Job 6:15-20. (1.) Their pretensions are fitly compared to the great show which the brooks make when they are swollen with the waters of a land flood, by the melting of the ice and snow, which make them blackish or muddy, Job 6:16. (2.) His expectations from them, which their coming so solemnly to comfort him had raised, he compares to the expectation which the weary thirsty travellers have of finding water in the summer where they have often seen it in great abundance in the winter, Job 6:19. The troops of Tema and Sheba, the caravans of the merchants of those countries, whose road lay through the deserts of Arabia, looked and waited for supply of water from those brooks. “Hard by here,” says one, “A little further,” says another, “when I last travelled this way, there was water enough; we shall have that to refresh us.” Where we have met with relief or comfort we are apt to expect it again; and yet it does not follow; for, (3.) The disappointment of his expectation is here compared to the confusion which seizes the poor travellers when they find heaps of sand where they expected floods of water. In the winter, when they were not thirsty, there was water enough. Every one will applaud and admire those that are full and in prosperity. But in the heat of summer, when they needed water, then it failed them; it was consumed (Job 6:17); it was turned aside, Job 6:18. When those who are rich and high are sunk and impoverished, and stand in need of comfort, then those who before gathered about them stand aloof from them, those who before commended them are forward to run them down. Thus those who raise their expectations high from the creature will find it fail them when it should help them; whereas those who make God their confidence have help in the time of need, Heb. 4:16. Those who make gold their hope will sooner or later be ashamed of it, and of their confidence in it (Ezek. 7:19); and the greater their confidence was the greater their shame will be: They were confounded because they had hoped, Job 6:20. We prepare confusion for ourselves by our vain hopes: the reeds break under us because we lean upon them. If we build a house upon the sand, we shall certainly be confounded, for it will fall in the storm, and we must thank ourselves for being such fools as to expect it would stand. We are not deceived unless we deceive ourselves.

2. The application is very close (Job 6:21): For now you are nothing. They seemed to be somewhat, but in conference they added nothing to him. Allude to Gal. 2:6. He was never the wiser, never the better, for the visit they made him. Note, Whatever complacency we may take, or whatever confidence we may put, in creatures, how great soever they may seem and how dear soever they may be to us, one time or other we shall say of them, Now you are nothing. When Job was in prosperity his friends were something to him, he took complacency in them and their society; but “Now you are nothing, now I can find no comfort but in God.” It were well for us if we had always such convictions of the vanity of the creature, and its insufficiency to make us happy, as we have sometimes had, or shall have on a s 2f98 ick-bed, a death-bed, or in trouble of conscience: “Now you are nothing. You are not what you have been, what you should be, what you pretend to be, what I thought you would have been; for you see my casting down and are afraid. When you saw me in my elevation you caressed me; but now that you see me in my dejection you are shy of me, are afraid of showing yourselves kind, lest I should thereby be emboldened to beg something of you, or to borrow” (compare Job 6:22); “you are afraid lest, if you own me, you should be obliged to keep me.” Perhaps they were afraid of catching his distemper or of coming within smell of the noisomeness of it. It is not good, either out of pride or niceness, for love of our purses or of our bodies, to be shy of those who are in distress and afraid of coming near them. Their case may soon be our own.