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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 14–22
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Verses 14–22

Here we have,

I. Job’s passionate complaints. On this harsh and unpleasant string he harps much, in which, though he cannot be justified, he may be excused. He complained not for nothing, as the murmuring Israelites, but had cause to complain. If we think it looks ill in him, let it be a warning to us to keep our temper better.

1. He complains of the strictness of God’s judgment and the rigour of his proceedings against him, and is ready to call it summum jus—justice bordering on severity. That he took all advantages against him: “If I sin, then thou markest me, Job 10:14. (1.) If I do but take one false step, misplace a word, or cast a look awry, I shall be sure to hear of it. Conscience, thy deputy, will be sure to upbraid me with it, and to tell me that this gripe, this twitch of pain, is to punish me for that.” If God should thus mark iniquities, we should be undone; but we must acknowledge the contrary, that, though we sin, God does not deal in extremity with us. (2.) That he prosecuted those advantages to the utmost: Thou wilt not acquit me from my iniquity. While his troubles he could not take the comfort of his pardon, nor hear that voice of joy and gladness; so hard is it to see love in God’s heart when we see frowns in his face and a rod in his hand. (3.) That, whatever was his character, his case at present was very uncomfortable, Job 10:15. [1.] If he be wicked, he is certainly undone in the other world: If I be wicked, woe to me. Note, A sinful state is a woeful state. This we should each of us believe, as Job here, with application to ourselves: “If I be wicked, though prosperous and living in pleasure, yet woe to me.” Some especially have reason to dread double woes if they be wicked. “I that have knowledge, that have made a great profession of religion, that have been so often under strong convictions, and have made so many fair promises—I that was born of such good parents, blessed with a good education, that have lived in good families, and long enjoyed the means of grace—if I be wicked, woe, and a thousand woes, to me.” [2.] If he be righteous, yet he dares not lift up his head, dares not answer as before, Job 9:15. He is so oppressed and overwhelmed with his troubles that he cannot look up with any comfort or confidence. Without were fightings, within were fears; so that, between both, he was full of confusion, not only confusion of face for the disgrace he was brought down to and the censures of his friends, but confusion of spirit; his mind was in a constant hurry, and he was almost distracted, Ps. 88:15.

2. He complains of the severity of the execution. God (he thought) did not only punish him for every failure, but punish him in a high degree, Job 10:16, 17. His affliction was, (1.) Grievous, very grievous, marvellous, exceedingly marvellous. God hunted him as a lion, as a fierce lion hunts and runs down his prey. God was not only strange to him, but showed himself marvellous upon him, by bringing him into uncommon troubles and so making him prodigy, a wonder unto many. All wondered that God would inflict and that Job could bear so much. That which made his afflictions most grievous was that he felt God’s indignation in them; it was this that made them taste so bitter and lie so heavy. They were God’s witnesses against him, tokens of his displeasure; this made the sores of his body wounds in his spirit. (2.) It was growing, still growing worse and worse. This he insists much upon; when he hoped the tide would turn, and begin to ebb, still it flowed higher and higher. His affliction increased, and God’s indignation in the affliction. He found himself no better, no way better. These witnesses were renewed against him, that, if one did not reach to convict him, another might. Changes and war were against him. If there was any change with him, it was not for the better; still he was kept in a state of war. As long as we are here in this world we must expect that the clouds will return after the rain, and perhaps the sorest and sharpest trials may be reserved for the last. God was at war with him, and it was a great change. He did not use to be so, which aggravated the trouble and made it truly marvellous. God usually shows himself kind to his people; if at any time he shows himself otherwise, it is his strange work, his strange act, and he does in it show himself marvellous.

3. He complains of his life, and that ever he was born to all this trouble and misery (Job 10:18, 19): “If this was designed for my lot, why was I brought out of the womb, and not smothered there, or stifled in the birth?” This was the language of his passion, and it was a relapse into the same sin he fell into before. He had just now called life a favour (Job 10:12), yet now he calls it a burden, and quarrels with God for giving it, or rather laying it upon him. Mr. Caryl gives this a good turn in favour of Job. “We may charitably suppose,” says he, “that what troubled Job was that he was in a condition of life which (as he conceived) hindered the main end of his life, which was the glorifying of God. His harp was hung on the willow-trees, and he was quite out of tune for praising God. Nay, he feared lest his troubles should reflect dishonour upon God and give occasion to his enemies to blaspheme; and therefore he wishes, O that I had given up the ghost! A godly man reckons that he lives to no purpose if he do not live to the praise and glory of God.” If that was his meaning, it was grounded on a mistake; for we may glorify the Lord in the fires. But this use we may make of it, not to be over-fond of life, since the case has been such sometimes, even with wise and good men, that they have complained of it. Why should we dread giving up the ghost, or covet to be seen of men, since the time may come when we may be ready to wish we had given up the ghost and no eye had seen us? Why should we inordinately lament the death of our children in their infancy, that are as if they had not been, and are carried from the womb to the grave, when perhaps we ourselves may sometimes wish it had been our own lot?

II. Job’s humble requests. He prays, 1. That God would see his affliction (Job 10:15), take cognizance of his case, and take it into his compassionate consideration. Thus David prays (Ps. 25:18), Look upon my affliction and my pain. Thus we should, in our troubles, refer ourselves to God, and may comfort ourselves with this, that he knows our souls in adversity. 2. That God would grant him some ease. If he could not prevail for the removal of his trouble, yet might he not have some intermission? “Lord, let me not be always upon the rack, always in extremity: O let me alone, that I may take comfort a little! Job 10:20. Grant me some respite, some breathing-time, some little enjoyment of myself.” This he would reckon a great favour. Those that are not duly thankful for constant ease should think how welcome one hour’s ease would be if they were in constant pain. Two things he pleads:—(1.) That life and its light were very short: “Are not my days few? Job 10:20. Yes, certainly they are, very few. Lord, let them not be all miserable, all in the extremity of misery. I have but a little time to live; let me have some comfort of life while it does last.” This plea fastens on the goodness of God’s nature, the consideration of which is very comfortable to an afflicted spirit. And, if we would use this as a plea with God for mercy (“Are not my days few? Lord, pity me”), we should use it as a plea with ourselves, to quicken us to duty: “Are not my days few? Then it concerns me to redeem time, to improve opportunities, what my hand finds to do to do it with all my might, that I may be ready for the days of eternity, which shall be many.” (2.) That death and its darkness were very near and would be very long (Job 10:21, 22): “Lord, give me some ease before I die,” that is, “lest I die of my pain.” Thus David pleads (Ps. 13:3), “Lest I slee ff1 p the sleep of death, and then it will be too late to expect relief; for wilt thou show wonders to the dead?” Ps. 88:10. “Let me have a little comfort before I die, that I may take leave of this world calmly, and not in such confusion as I am now in.” Thus earnest should we be for grace, and thus we should plead, “Lord, renew me in the inward man; Lord, sanctify me before I die, for otherwise it will never be done.” See how he speaks here of the state of the dead. [1.] It is a fixed state, whence we shall not return ever again to live such a life as we now live, Job 7:10. At death we must bid a final farewell to this world. The body must then be laid where it will lie long, and the soul adjudged to that state in which it must be for ever. That had need be well done which is to be done but once, and done for eternity. [2.] It is a very melancholy state; so it appears to us. Holy souls, at death, remove to a land of light, where there is no death; but their bodies they leave to a land of darkness and the shadow of death. He heaps up expressions here of the same import to show that he has as dreadful apprehensions of death and the grave as other men naturally have, so that it was only the extreme misery he was in that made him wish for it. Come and let us look a little into the grave, and we shall find, First, That there is no order there: it is without any order, perpetual night, and no succession of day. All there lie on the same level, and there is no distinction between prince and peasant, but the servant is there free from his master, Job 3:19. No order is observed in bringing people to the grave, not the eldest first, not the richest, not the poorest, and yet every one in his own order, the order appointed by the God of life. Secondly, That there is no light there. In the grave there is thick darkness, darkness that cannot be felt indeed, yet cannot but be feared by those that enjoy the light of life. In the grave there is no knowledge, no comfort, no joy, no praising God, no working out our salvation, and therefore no light. Job was so much ashamed that others should see his sores, and so much afraid to see them himself, that the darkness of the grave, which would hide them and huddle them up, would upon that account be welcome to him. Darkness comes upon us; and therefore let us walk and work while we have the light with us. The grave being a land of darkness, it is well we are carried thither with our eyes closed, and then it is all one. The grave is a land of darkness to man; our friends that have gone thither we reckon removed into darkness, Ps. 88:18. But that it is not so to God will appear by this, that the dust of the bodies of the saints, though scattered, though mingled with other dust, will none of it be lost, for God’s eye is upon every grain of it and it shall be forth-coming in the great day.