Job here warmly expresses his resentment of the unkindness of his friends.
I. He comes up with them as one that understood the matter in dispute as well as they, and did not need to be taught by them, Job 13:1, 2. They compelled him, as the Corinthians did Paul, to commend himself and his own knowledge, yet not in a way of self-applause, but of self-justification. All he had before said his eye had seen confirmed by many instances, and his ear had heard seconded by many authorities, and he well understood it and what use to make of it. Happy are those who not only see and hear, but understand, the greatness, glory, and sovereignty of God. This, he thought, would justify what he had said before (Job 12:3), which he repeats here (Job 13:2): “What you know, the same do I know also, so that I need not come to you to be taught; I am not inferior unto you in wisdom.” Note, Those who enter into disputation enter into temptation to magnify themselves and vilify their brethren more than is fit, and therefore ought to watch and pray against the workings of pride.
II. He turns from them to God (Job 13:3): Surely I would speak to the Almighty; as if he had said, “I can promise myself no satisfaction in talking to you. O that I might have liberty to reason with God! He would not be so hard upon me as you are.” The prince himself will perhaps give audience to a poor petitioner with more mildness, patience, and condescension, than the servants will. Job would rather argue with God himself than with his friends. See here, 1. What confidence those have towards God whose hearts condemn them not of reigning hypocrisy: they can, with humble boldness, appear before him and appeal to him. 2. What comfort those have in God whose neighbours unjustly condemn them: if they may not speak to them with any hopes of a fair hearing, yet they may speak to the Almighty; they have easy access to him and shall find acceptance with him.
III. He condemns them for their unjust and uncharitable treatment of him, Job 13:4. 1. They falsely accused him, and that was unjust: You are forgers of lies. They framed a wrong hypothesis concerning the divine Providence, and misrepresented it, as if it did never remarkably afflict any but wicked men in this world, and thence they drew a false judgment concerning Job, that he was certainly a hypocrite. For this gross mistake, both in doctrine and application, he thinks an indictment of forgery lies against them. To speak lies is bad enough, though but at second hand, but to forge them with contrivance and deliberation is much worse; yet against this wrong neither innocency nor excellency will be a fence. 2. They basely deceived him, and that was unkind. They undertook his cure, and pretended to be his physicians; but they were all physicians of no value, “idol-physicians, who can do me no more good than an idol can.” They were worthless physicians, who neither understood his case nor knew how to prescribe to him—mere empirics, who pretended to great things, but in conference added nothing to him: he was never the wiser for all they said. Thus to broken hearts and wounded consciences all creatures, without Christ, are physicians of no value, on which one may spend all and be never the better, but rather grow worse, Mark 5:26.
IV. He begs they would be silent and give him a patient hearing, Job 13:5, 6. 1. He thinks it would be a credit to them if they would say no more, having said too much already: “Hold your peace, and it shall be your wisdom, for thereby you will conceal your ignorance and ill-nature, which now appear in all you say.” They pleaded that they could not forbear speaking (Job 4:2; 11:2, 3); but he tells them that they would better have consulted their own reputation if they had enjoined themselves silence. Better say nothing than nothing to the purpose or that which tends to the dishonour of God and the grief of our brethren. Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is accounted wise, because nothing appears to the contrary, Prov. 17:28. And, as silence is an evidence of wisdom, so it is a means of it, as it gives time to think and hear. 2. He thinks it would be a piece of justice to him to hear what he had to say: Hear now my reasoning. Perhaps, though they did not interrupt him in his discourse, yet they seemed careless, and did not much heed what he said. He therefore begged that they would not only hear, but hearken. Note, We should be very willing and glad to hear what those have to say for themselves whom, upon any account, we are tempted to have hard thoughts of. Many a man, if he could but be fairly heard, would be fairly acquitted, even in the consciences of those that run him down.
V. He endeavours to convince them of the wrong they did to God’s honour, while they pretended to plead for him, Job 13:7, 8. They valued themselves upon it that they spoke for God, were advocates for him, and had undertaken to justify him and his proceedings against Job; and, being (as they thought) of counsel for the sovereign, they expected not only the ear of the court and the last word, but judgment on their side. But Job tells them plainly, 1. That God and his cause did not need such advocates: “Will you think to contend for God, as if his justice were clouded and wanted to be cleared up, or as if he were at a loss what to say and wanted you to speak for him? Will you, who are so weak and passionate, put in for the honour of pleading God’s cause?” Good work ought not to be put into bad hands. Will you accept his person? If those who have not right on their side carry their cause, it is by the partiality of the judge in favour of their persons; but God’s cause is so just that it needs no such methods for the support of it. He is a God, and can plead for himself (Jdg. 6:31); and, if you were for ever silent, the heavens would declare his righteousness. 2. That God’s cause suffered by such management. Under pretence of justifying God in afflicting Job they magisterially condemned him as a hypocrite and a bad man. “This” (says he) “is speaking wickedly” (for uncharitableness and censoriousness are wickedness, great wickedness; it is an offence to God to wrong our brethren); “it is talking deceitfully, for you condemn one whom yet perhaps your own consciences, at the same time, cannot but acquit. Your principles are false and your arguings fallacious, and will it excuse you to say, It is for God?” No, for a good intention will not justify, much less will it sanctify, a bad word or action. God’s truth needs not our lie, nor God’s cause either our sinful policies or our sinful passions. The wrath of man works not the righteousness of God, nor may we do evil that good may come, Rom. 3:7, 8. Pious frauds (as they call them) are impious cheats; and devout persecutions are horrid profanations of the name of God, as theirs who hated their brethren, and cast them out, saying, Let the Lord be glorified, Isa. 66:5; John 16:2.
VI. He endeavours to possess them with a fear of God’s judgment, and so to bring them to a better temper. Let them not think to impose upon God as they might upon a man like themselves, nor expect to gain his countenance in their bad practices by pretending a zeal for him and his honour. “As one man mocks another by flattering him, do you think so to mock him and deceive him?” Assuredly those who think to put a cheat upon God will prove to have put a cheat upon themselves. Be not deceived, God is not mocked. That they might not think thus to jest with God, and affront him, Job would have them to consider both God and themselves, and then they would find themselves unable to enter into judgment with him.
1. Let them consider what a God he is into whose service they had thus thrust themselves, and to whom they really did so much disservice, and enquire whether they could give him a good account of what they did. Consider, (1.) The strictness of his scrutiny and enquiries concerning them (Job 13:9) “Isa. it good that he should search you out? Can you bear to have the principles looked into which you go upon in your censures, and to have the bottom of the matter found out?” Note, It concerns us all seriously to consider whether it will be to our advantage or no that God searches the heart. It is good to an upright man who means honestly that God should search him; therefore he prays for it: Search me, O God! and know my heart. God’s omniscience is a witness of his sincerity. But it is bad to him who looks one way and rows another that God should search him out, and lay him open to his confusion. (2.) The severity of his rebukes and displeasure against them (Job 13:10): “If you do accept persons, though but secretly and in heart, he will surely reprove you; he will be so far from being pleased with your censures of me, though under colour of vindicating him, that he will resent them as a great provocation, as any prince or great man would if a base action were done under the sanction of his name and under the colour of advancing his interest.” Note, What we do amiss we shall certainly be reproved for, one way or other, one time or other, though it be done ever so secretly. (3.) The terror of his majesty, which if they would duly stand in awe of they would not do that which would make them obnoxious to his wrath (Job 13:11): “Shall not his excellency make you afraid? You that have great knowledge of God, and profess religion and a fear of him, how dare you talk at this rate and give yourselves so great a liberty of speech? Ought you not to walk and talk in the fear of God? Neh. 5:9. Should not his dread fall upon you, and give a check to your passions?” Methinks Job speaks this as one that did himself know the terror of the Lord, and lived in a holy fear of him, whatever his friends suggested to the contrary. Note, [1.] There is in God a dreadful excellency. He is the most excellent Being, has all excellencies in himself and in each infinitely excels any creature. His excellencies in themselves are amiable and lovely. He is the most beautiful Being; but considering man’s distance from God by nature, and his defection and degeneracy by sin, his excellencies are dreadful. His power, holiness, justice, yea, and his goodness too, are dreadful excellencies. They shall fear the Lord and his goodness. [2.] A holy awe of this dreadful excellency should fall upon us and make us afraid. This would awaken impenitent sinners and bring them to repentance, and would influence all to be careful to please him and afraid of offending him.
2. Let them consider themselves, and what an unequal match they were for this great God (Job 13:12): “Your remembrances (all that in you for which you hope to be remembered when you are gone) are like unto ashes, worthless and weak, and easily trampled on and blown away. Your bodies are like bodies of clay, mouldering and coming to nothing. Your memories, you think, will survive your bodies, but, alas! they are like ashes which will be shovelled up with your dust.” Note, the consideration of our own meanness and mortality should make us afraid of offending God, and furnishes a good reason why we should not despise and trample upon our brethren. Bishop Patrick gives another sense of this verse: “Your remonstrances on God’s behalf are no better than dust, and the arguments you accumulate but like so many heaps of dirt.”