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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 16–22
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Verses 16–22

Job here returns to his complaints; and, though he is not without hope of future bliss, he finds it very hard to get over his present grievances.

I. He complains of the particular hardships he apprehended himself under from the strictness of God’s justice, Job 14:16, 17. Therefore he longed to go hence to that world where God’s wrath will be past, because now he was under the continual tokens of it, as a child, under the severe discipline of the rod, longs to be of age. “When shall my change come? For now thou seemest to me to number my steps, and watch over my sin, and seal it up in a bag, as bills of indictment are kept safely, to be produced against the prisoner.” See Deut. 32:34. “Thou takest all advantages against me; old scores are called over, every infirmity is animadverted upon, and no sooner is a false step taken than I am beaten for it.” Now, 1. Job does right to the divine justice in owning that he smarted for his sins and transgressions, that he had d 1cb1 one enough to deserve all that was laid upon him; for there was sin in all his steps, and he was guilty of transgression enough to bring all this ruin upon him, if it were strictly enquired into: he is far from saying that he perishes being innocent. But, 2. He does wrong to the divine goodness in suggesting that God was extreme to mark what he did amiss, and made the worst of every thing. He spoke to this purport, Job 13:27. It was unadvisedly said, and therefore we will not dwell too much upon it. God does indeed see all our sins; he sees sin in his own people; but he is not severe in reckoning with us, nor is the law ever stretched against us, but we are punished less than our iniquities deserve. God does indeed seal and sew up, against the day of wrath, the transgression of the impenitent, but the sins of his people he blots out as a cloud.

II. He complains of the wasting condition of mankind in general. We live in a dying world. Who knows the power of God’s anger, by which we are consumed and troubled, and in which all our days are passed away? See Ps. 90:7-9, 11. And who can bear up against his rebukes? Ps. 39:11.

1. We see the decays of the earth itself. (1.) Of the strongest parts of it, Job 14:18. Nothing will last always, for we see even mountains moulder and come to nought; they wither and fall as a leaf; rocks wax old and pass away by the continual beating of the sea against them. The waters wear the stones with constant dropping, non vi, sed saepe cadendo—not by the violence, but by the constancy with which they fall. On this earth every thing is the worse for the wearing. Tempus edax rerum—Time devours all things. It is not so with the heavenly bodies. (2.) Of the natural products of it. The things which grow out of the earth, and seem to be firmly rooted in it, are sometimes by an excess of rain washed away, Job 14:19. Some think he pleads this for relief: “Lord, my patience will not hold out always; even rocks and mountains will fail at last; therefore cease the controversy.”

2. No marvel then if we see the decays of man upon the earth, for he is of the earth, earthy. Job begins to think his case is not singular, and therefore he ought to reconcile himself to the common lot. We perceive by many instances, (1.) How vain it is to expect much from the enjoyments of life: “Thou destroyest the hope of man,” that is, “puttest an end to all the projects he had framed and all the prospects of satisfaction he had flattered himself with.” Death will be the destruction of all those hopes which are built upon worldly confidences and confined to worldly comforts. Hope in Christ, and hope in heaven, death will consummate and not destroy. (2.) How vain it is to struggle against the assaults of death (Job 14:20): Thou prevailest for ever against him. Note, Man is an unequal match for God. Whom God contends with he will certainly prevail against, prevail for ever against so that they shall never be able to make head again. Note further, The stroke of death is irresistible; it is to no purpose to dispute its summons. God prevails against man and he passes away, and lo he is not. Look upon a dying man, and see, [1.] How his looks are altered: Thou changest his countenance, and this in two ways:—First, By the disease of his body. When a man has been a few days sick what a change is there in his countenance! How much more when he has been a few minutes dead! The countenance which was majestic and awful becomes mean and despicable—that was lovely and amiable becomes ghastly and frightful. Bury my dead out of my sight. Where then is the admired beauty? Death changes the countenance, and then sends us away out of this world, gives us one dismission hence, never to return. Secondly, By the discomposure of his mind. Note, The approach of death will make the strongest and stoutest to change countenance; it will make the most merry smiling countenance to look grave and serious, and the most bold daring countenance to look pale and timorous. [2.] How little he is concerned in the affairs of his family, which once lay so near his heart. When he is in the hands of the harbingers of death, suppose struck with a palsy or apoplexy, or delirious in a fever, or in conflict with death, tell him then the most agreeable news, or the most painful, concerning his children, it is all alike, he knows it not, he perceives it not, Job 14:21. He is going to that world where he will be a perfect stranger to all those things which here filled and affected him. The consideration of this should moderate our cares concerning our children and families. God will know what comes of them when we are gone. To him therefore let us commit them, with him let us leave them, and not burden ourselves with needless fruitless cares concerning them. [3.] How dreadful the agonies of death are (Job 14:22): While his flesh is upon him (so it may be read), that is, the body he is so loth to lay down,: it shall have pain; and while his soul is within him, that is, the spirit he is so loth to resign, it shall mourn. Note, Dying work is hard work; dying pangs are, commonly, sore pangs. It is folly therefore for men to defer their repentance to a death-bed, and to have that to do which is the one thing needful when they are really unfit to do any thing: but it is true wisdom by making our peace with God in Christ and keeping a good conscience, to treasure up comforts which will support and relieve us against the pains and sorrows of a dying hour.