Job’s discourse here is called a parable (mashal), the title of Solomon’s proverbs, because it was grave and weighty, and very instructive, and he spoke as one having authority. It comes from a word that signifies to rule, or have dominion; and some think it intimates that Job now triumphed over his opponents, and spoke as one that had baffled them. We say of an excellent preacher that he knows how dominari in concionibus—to command his hearers. Job did so here. A long strife there had been between Job and his friends; they seemed disposed to have the matter compromised; and therefore, since an oath for confirmation is an end of strife (Heb. 6:16), Job here backs all he had said in maintenance of his own integrity with a solemn oath, to silence contradiction, and take the blame entirely upon himself if he prevaricated. Observe,
I. The form of his oath (Job 27:2): As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment. Here, 1. He speaks highly of God, in calling him the living God (which means everliving, the eternal God, that has life in himself) and in appealing to him as the sole and sovereign Judge. We can swear by no greater, and it is an affront to him to swear by any other. 2. Yet he speaks hardly of him, and unbecomingly, in saying that he had taken away his judgment (that is, refused to do him justice in this controversy and to appear in defence of him), and that by continuing his troubles, on which his friends grounded their censures of him, he had taken from him the opportunity he hoped ere now to have of clearing himself. Elihu reproved him for this word (Job 34:5); for God is righteous in all his ways, and takes away no man’s judgment. But see how apt we are to despair of favour if it be not shown us immediately, so poor-spirited are we and so soon weary of waiting God’s time. He also charges it upon God that he had vexed his soul, had not only not appeared for him, but had appeared against him, and, by laying such grievous afflictions upon him had quite embittered his life to him and all the comforts of it. We, by our impatience, vex our own souls and then complain of God that he has vexed them. Yet see Job’s confidence in the goodness both of his cause and of his God, that though God seemed to be angry with him, and to act against him for the present, yet he could cheerfully commit his cause to him.
II. The matter of his oath, Job 27:3, 4. 1. That he would not speak wickedness, nor utter deceit—that, in general, he would never allow himself in the way of lying, that, as in this debate he had all along spoken as he thought, so he would never wrong his conscience by speaking otherwise; he would never maintain any doctrine, nor assert any matter of fact, but what he believed to be true; nor would he deny the truth, how much soever it might make against him: and, whereas his friends charged him with being a hypocrite, he was ready to answer, upon oath, to all their interrogatories, if called to do so. On the one hand he would not, for all the world, deny the charge if he knew himself guilty, but would declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and take to himself the shame of his hypocrisy. On the other hand, since he was conscious to himself of his integrity, and that he was not such a man as his friends represented him, he would never betray his integrity, nor charge himself with that which he was innocent of. He would not be brought, no, not by the rack of their unjust censures, falsely to accuse himself. If we must not bear false witness against our neighbour, then not against ourselves. 2. That he would adhere to this resolution as long as he lived (Job 27:3): All the while my breath is in me. Our resolutions against sin should be thus constant, resolutions for life. In things doubtful and indifferent, it is not safe to be thus peremptory. We know not what reason we may see to change our mind: God may reveal to us that which we now are not aware of. But in so plain a thing as this we cannot be too positive that we will never speak wickedness. Something of a reason for his resolution is here implied—that our breath will not be always in us. We must shortly breathe our last, and therefore, while our breath is in us, we must never breathe wickedness and deceit, nor allow ourselves to say or do any thing which will make against us when our breath shall depart. The breath in us is called the spirit of God, because he breathed it into us; and this is another reason why we must not speak wickedness. It is God that gives us life and breath, and therefore, while we have breath, we must praise him.
III. The explication of his oath (Job 27:5, 6): “God forbid that I should justify you in your uncharitable censures of me, by owning myself a hypocrite: no, until I die I will not remove my integrity from me; my righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go.” 1. He would always be an honest man, would hold fast his integrity, and not curse God, as Satan, by his wife, urged him to do, Job 2:9. Job here thinks of dying, and of getting ready for death, and therefore resolves never to part with his religion, though he had lost all he had in the world. Note, The best preparative for death is perseverance to death in our integrity. “Until I die,” that is, “though I die by this affliction, I will not thereby be put out of conceit with my God and my religion. Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” 2. He would always stand to it that he was an honest man; he would not remove, he would not part with, the conscience, and comfort, and credit of his integrity; he was resolved to defend it to the last. “God knows, and my own heart knows, that I always meant well, and did not allow myself in the omission of any known duty or the commission of any known sin. This is my rejoicing, and no man shall rob me of it; I will never lie against my right.” It has often been the lot of upright men to be censured and condemned as hypocrites; but it well becomes them to bear up boldly against such censures, and not to be discouraged by them nor think the worse of themselves for them; as the apostle (Heb. 13:18): We have a good conscience in all things, willing to live honestly.
Hic murus aheneus esto, nil conscire sibi. Be this thy brazen bulwark of defence, Still to preserve thy conscious innocence. Job complained much of the reproaches of his friends; but (says he) my heart shall not reproach me, that is, “I will never give my heart cause to reproach me, but will keep a conscience void of offence; and, while I do so, I will not give my heart leave to reproach me.” Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifies. To resolve that our hearts shall not reproach us when we give them cause to do so is to affront God, whose deputy conscience is, and to wrong ourselves; for it is a good thing, when a man has sinned, to have a heart within him to smite him for it, 2 Sam. 24:10. But to resolve that our hearts shall not reproach us while we still hold fast our integrity is to baffle the designs of the evil spirit (who tempts good Christians to question their adoption, If thou be the Son of God) and to concur with the operations of the good Spirit, who witnesses to their adoption.