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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 6–16
Verses 6–16

Job’s complaint is here as bitter as any where in all his discourses, and he is at a stand whether to smother it or to give it vent. Sometimes the one and sometimes the other is a relief to the afflicted, according as the temper or the circumstances are; but Job found help by neither, Job 16:6. 1. Sometimes giving vent to grief gives ease; but, “Though I speak” (says Job), “my grief is not assuaged, my spirit is never the lighter for the pouring out of my complaint; nay, what I speak is so misconstrued as to be turned to the aggravation of my grief.” 2. At other times keeping silence makes the trouble the easier and the sooner forgotten; but (says Job) though I forbear I am never the nearer; what am I eased? If he complained he was censured as passionate; if not, as sullen. If he maintained his integrity, that was his crime; if he made no answer to their accusations, his silence was taken for a confession of his guilt.

Here is a doleful representation of Job’s grievances. O what reason have we to bless God that we are not making such complaints! He complains,

I. That his family was scattered (Job 16:7): “He hath made me weary, weary of speaking, weary of forbearing, weary of my friends, weary of life itself; my journey through the world proves so very uncomfortable that I am quite tired with it.” This made it as tiresome as any thing, that all his company was made desolate, his children and servants being killed and the poor remains of his great household dispersed. The company of good people that used to meet at his house for religious worship, was now scattered, and he spent his sabbaths in silence and solitude. He had company indeed, but such as he would rather have been without, for they seemed to triumph in his desolation. If lovers and friends are put far from us, we must see and own God’s hand in it, making our company desolate.

II. That his body was worn away with diseases and pains, so that he had become a perfect skeleton, nothing but skin and bones, Job 16:8. His face was furrowed, not with age, but sickness: Thou hast filled me with wrinkles. His flesh was wasted with the running of his sore boils, so that his leanness rose up in him, that is, his bones, that before were not seen, stuck out, Job 33:21. These are called witnesses against him, witnesses of God’s displeasure against him, and such witnesses as his friends produced against him to prove him a wicked man. Or, “They are witnesses for me, that my complaint is not causeless,” or “witnesses to me, that I am a dying man, and must be gone shortly.”

III. That his enemy was a terror to him, threatened him, frightened him, looked sternly upon him, and gave all the indications of rage against him (Job 16:9): He tears me in his wrath. But who is this enemy? 1. Eliphaz, who showed himself very much exasperated against him, and perhaps had expressed himself with such marks of indignation as are here mentioned: at least, what he said tore Job’s good name and thundered nothing but terror to him; his eyes were sharpened to spy out matter of reproach against Job, and very barbarously both he and the rest of them used him. Or, 2. Satan. He was his enemy that hated him, and perhaps, by the divine permission, terrified him with apparitions, as (some think) he terrified our Saviour, which put him into his agonies in the garden; and thus he aimed to make him curse God. It is not improbable that this is the enemy he means. Or, (3.) God himself. If we understand it of him, the expressions are indeed as rash as any he used. God hates none of his creatures; but Job’s melancholy did thus represent to him the terrors of the Almighty: and nothing can be more grievous to a good man than to apprehend God to be his enemy. If the wrath of a king be as messengers of death, what is the wrath of the King of kings!

IV. That all about him were abusive to him, Job 16:10. They came upon him with open mouth to devour him, as if they would swallow him alive, so terrible were their threats and so scornful was their conduct to him. They offered him all the indignities they could invent, and even smote him on the cheek; and herein many were confederate. They gathered themselves together against him, even the abjects, Ps. 35:15. Herein Job was a type of Christ, as many of the ancients make him: these very expressions are used in the predictions of his sufferings, Ps. 22:13; They gaped upon me with their mouths; and (Mic. 5:1), They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek, which was literally fulfilled, Matt. 26:67. How were those increased that troubled him!

V. That God, instead of delivering him out of their hands, as he hoped, delivered him into their hands (Job 16:11): He hath turned me over into the hands of the wicked. They could have had no power against him if it had not been given them from above. He therefore looks beyond them to God who gave them their commission, as David did when Shimei cursed him; but he thinks it strange, and almost thinks it hard, that those should have power against him who were God’s enemies as much as his. God sometimes makes use of wicked men as his sword to one another (Ps. 17:13) and his rod to his own children, Isa. 10:5. Herein also Job was a type of Christ, who was delivered into wicked hands, to be crucified and slain, by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, Acts 2:23.

VI. That God not only delivered him into the hands of the wicked, but took him into his own hands too, into which it is a fearful thing to fall (Job 16:12): “I was at ease in the comfortable enjoyment of the gifts of God’s bounty, not fretting and uneasy, as some are in the midst of their prosperity, who thereby provoke God to strip them; yet he has broken me asunder, put me upon the rack of pain, and torn me limb from limb.” God, in afflicting him, had seemed, 1. As if he were furious. Though fury is not in God, he thought it was, when he took him by the neck (as a strong man in a passion would take a child) and shook him to pieces, triumphing in the irresistible power he had to do what he would with him. 2. As if he were partial. “He has distinguished me from the rest of mankind by this hard usage of me: He has set me up for his mark, the butt at which he is pleased to let fly all his arrows: at me they are directed, and they come not by chance; against me they are levelled, as if I were the greatest sinner of all the men of the east or were singled out to be made an example.” When God set him up for a mark his archers presently compassed him round. God has archers at command, who will be sure to hit the mark that he sets up. Whoever are our enemies, we must look upon them as God’s archers, and see him directing the arrow. It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good. 3. As if he were cruel, and his wrath as relentless as his power was resistless. As if he contrived to touch him in the tenderest part, cleaving his reins asunder with acute pains; perhaps they were nephritic pains, those of the stone, which lie in the region of the kidneys. As if he had no mercy in reserve for him, he does not spare nor abate any thing of the extremity. And as if he aimed at nothing but his death, and his death in the midst of the most grievous tortures: He pours out my gall upon the ground, as when men have taken a wild beast, and killed it, they open it, and pour out the gall with a loathing of it. He thought his blood was poured out, as if it were not only not precious, but nauseous. 4. As if he were unreasonable and insatiable in his executions (Job 16:14): “He breaketh me with breach upon breach, follows me with one wound after another.” So his troubles came at first; while one messenger of evil tidings was speaking another came: and so it was still; new boils were rising every day, so that he had no prospect of the end of his troubles. Thus he thought that God ran upon him like a giant, whom he could not possibly stand before or confront; as the giants of old ran down all their poor neighbours, and were too hard for them. Note, Even good men, when they are in great and extraordinary troubles, have much ado not to entertain hard thoughts of God.

VII. That he had divested himself of all his honour, and all his comfort, in compliance with the afflicting providences that surrounded him. Some can lessen their own troubles by concealing them, holding their heads as high and putting on as good a face as ever; but Job could not do so: he received the impressions of them, and, as one truly penitent and truly patient, he humbled himself under the mighty hand of God, Job 16:15, 16. 1. He now laid aside all his ornaments and soft clothing, consulted not either his ease or finery in his dress, but sewed sackcloth upon his skin; that clothing he thought good enough for such a defiled distempered body as he had. Silks upon sores, such sores, he thought, would be unsuitable; sackcloth would be more becoming. Those are fond indeed of gay clothing that will not be weaned from it by sickness and old age, and, as Job was (Job 16:8), by wrinkles and leanness. He not only put on sackcloth, but sewed it on, as one that resolved to continue his humiliation as long as the affliction continued. 2. He insisted not upon any points of honour, but humbled himself under humbling providences: He defiled his horn in the dust, and refused the respect that used to be paid to his dignity, power, and eminency. Note, When God brings down our condition, that should bring down our spirits. Better lay the horn in the dust than lift it up in contradiction to the designs of Providence and have it broken at last. Eliphaz had represented Job as high and haughty, and unhumbled under his affliction. “No,” says Job, “I know better things; the dust is now the fittest place for me.” 3. He banished mirth as utterly unseasonable, and set himself to sow in tears (Job 16:16): “My face is foul with weeping so constantly for my sins, for God’s displeasure against me, and for my friends unkindness: this has brought a shadow of death upon my eyelids.” He had not only wept away all his beauty, but almost wept his eyes out. In this also he was a type of Christ, who was a man of sorrows, and much in tears, and pronounced those blessed that mourn, for they shall be comforted.