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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 17–22
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Verses 17–22

Job’s condition was very deplorable; but had he nothing to support him, nothing to comfort him? Yes, and he here tells us what it was.

I. He had the testimony of his conscience for him that he had walked uprightly, and had never allowed himself in any gross sin. None was ever more ready than he to acknowledge his sins of infirmity; but, upon search, he could not charge himself with any enormous crime, for which he should be made more miserable than other men, Job 16:17.

1. He had kept a conscience void of offence, (1.) Towards men: “Not for any injustice in my hands, any wealth that I have unjustly got or kept.” Eliphaz had represented him as a tyrant and an oppressor. “No,” says he, “I never did any wrong to any man, but always despised the gain of oppression.” (2.) Towards God: Also my prayer is pure; but prayer cannot be pure as long as there is injustice in our hands, Isa. 1:15. Eliphaz had charged him with hypocrisy in religion, but he specifies prayer, the great act of religion, and professes that in that he was pure, though not from all infirmity, yet from reigning and allowed guile: it was not like the prayers of the Pharisees, who looked no further than to be seen of men, and to serve a turn.

2. This assertion of his own integrity he backs with a solemn imprecation of shame and confusion to himself if it were not true, Job 16:18. (1.) If there were any injustice in his hands, he wished it might not be concealed: O earth! cover thou not my blood, that is, “the innocent blood of others, which I am suspected to have shed.” Murder will out; and “let it,” says Job, “if I have ever been guilty if it,” Gen. 4:10, 11. The day is coming when the earth shall disclose her blood (Isa. 26:21), and a good man as far from dreading that day. (2.) If there were any impurity in his prayers, he wished they might not be accepted: Let my cry have no place. He was willing to be judged by that rule, If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me, Ps. 66:18. There is another probable sense of these words, that he does hereby, as it were, lay his death upon his friends, who broke his heart with their harsh censures, and charges the guilt of his blood upon them, begging of God to avenge it and that the cry of his blood might have no place in which to lie hid, but might come up to heaven and be heard by him that makes inquisition for blood.

II. He could appeal to God’s omniscience concerning his integrity, Job 16:19. The witness in our own bosoms for us will stand us in little stead if we have not a witness in heaven for us too; for God is greater than our hearts, and we are not to he our own judges. This therefore is Job’s triumph, My witness is in heaven. Note, It is an unspeakable comfort to a good man, when he lies under the censure of his brethren, that there is a God in heaven who knows his integrity and will clear it up sooner or later. See John 5:31, 37. This one witness is instead of a thousand.

III. He had a God to go to before whom he might unbosom himself, Job 16:20, 21. See here, 1. How the case stood between him and his friends. He knew not how to be free with them, nor could he expect either a fair hearing with them or fair dealing from them. “My friends (so they call themselves) scorn me; they set themselves not only to resist me, but to expose me; they are of counsel against me, and use all their art and eloquence” (so the word signifies) “to run me down.” The scorns of friends are more cutting than those of enemies; but we must expect them, and provide accordingly. 2. How it stood between him and God. He doubted not but that, (1.) God did now take cognizance of his sorrows: My eye pours out tears to God. He had said (Job 16:16) that he wept much; here he tells us in what channel his tears ran, and which way they were directed. His sorrow was not that of the world, but he sorrowed after a godly sort, wept before the Lord, and offered to him the sacrifice of a broken heart. Note, Even tears, when sanctified to God, give ease to troubled spirits; and, if men slight our grief, this may comfort us, that God regards them. (2.) That he would in due time clear up his innocency (Job 16:21): O that one might plead for a man with God! If he could but now have the same freedom at God’s bar that men commonly have at the bar of the civil magistrate, he doubted not but to carry his cause, for the Judge himself was a witness to his integrity. The language of this wish is like that in Isa. 50:7, 8, I know that I shall not be ashamed, for he is near that justifies me. Some give a gospel sense of this verse, and the original will very well bear it; and he will plead (that is, there is one that will plead) for man with God, even the Son of man for his friend, or neighbour. Those who pour out tears before God, though they cannot plead for themselves, by reason of their distance and defects, have a friend to plead for them, even the Son of man, and on this we must bottom all our hopes of acceptance with God.

IV. He had a prospect of death which would put a period to all his troubles. Such confidence had he towards God that he could take pleasure in thinking of the approach of death, when he should be determined to his everlasting state, as one that doubted not but it would be well with him then: When a few years have come (the years of number which are determined and appointed to me) then I shall go the way whence I shall not return. Note, 1. To die is to go the way whence we shall not return. It is to go a journey, a long journey, a journey for good and all, to remove from this to another country, from the world of sense to the world of spirits. It is a journey to our long home; there will be no coming back to out state in this world nor any change of our state in the other world. 2. We must all of us very certainly, and very shortly, go this journey; and it is comfortable to those who keep a good conscience to think of it, for it is the crown of their integrity.