Here Job makes a very large and sad complaint of the great disgrace he had fallen into, from the height of honour and reputation, which was exceedingly grievous and cutting to such an ingenuous spirit as Job’s was. Two things he insists upon as greatly aggravating his affliction:—
I. The meanness of the persons that affronted him. As it added much to his honour, in the day of his prosperity, that princes and nobles showed him respect and paid a deference to him, so it added no less to his disgrace in his adversity that he was spurned by the footmen, and trampled upon by those that were not only every way his inferiors, but were the meanest and most contemptible of all mankind. None can be represented as more base than those are here represented who insulted Job, upon all accounts. 1. They were young, younger than he (Job 30:1), the youth (Job 30:12), who ought to have behaved themselves respectfully towards him for his age and gravity. Even the children, in their play, played upon him, as the children of Bethel upon the prophet, Go up, thou bald-head. Children soon learn to be scornful when they see their parents so. 2. They were of a mean extraction. Their fathers were so very despicable that such a man as Job would have disdained to take them into the lowest service about his house, as that of tending the sheep and attending the shepherds with the dogs of his flock, Job 30:1. They were so shabby that they were not fit to be seen among his servants, so silly that they were not fit to be employed, and so false that they were not fit to be trusted in the meanest post. Job here speaks of what he might have done, not of what he did: he was not of such a spirit as to set any of the children of men with the dogs of his flock; he knew the dignity of human nature better than to do so. 3. They and their families were the unprofitable burdens of the earth, and good for nothing. Job himself, with all his prudence and patience, could make nothing of them, Job 30:2. The young were not fit for labour, they were so lazy, and went about their work so awkwardly: Whereto might the strength of their hands profit me? The old were not to be advised with in the smallest matters, for in them was old age indeed, but their old age was perished, they were twice children. 4. They were extremely poor, Job 30:3. They were ready to starve, for they would not dig, and to beg they were ashamed. Had they been brought to necessity by the providence of God, their neighbours would have sought them out as proper objects of charity and would have relieved them; but, being brought into straits by their own slothfulness and wastefulness, nobody was forward to relieve them. Hence they were forced to flee into the deserts both for shelter and sustenance, and were put to sorry shifts indeed, when they cut up mallows by the bushes, and were glad to eat them, for want of food that was fit for them, Job 30:4. See what hunger will bring men to: one half of the world does not know how the other half lives; yet those that have abundance ought to think sometimes of those whose fare is very coarse and who are brought to a short allowance of that too. But we must own the righteousness of God, and not think it strange, if slothfulness clothe men with rags and the idle soul be made to suffer hunger. This beggarly world is full of the devil’s poor. 5. They were very scandalous wicked people, not only the burdens, but the plagues, of the places where they lived, arrant scoundrels, the scum of the country: They were driven forth from among men, Job 30:5. They were such lying, thieving, lurking, mischievous people, that the best service the magistrates could do was to rid the country of them, while the very mob cried after them as after a thief. Away with such fellows from the earth; it is not fit they should live. They were lazy and would not work, and therefore they were exclaimed against as thieves, and justly; for those that do not earn their own bread by honest labour do, in effect, steal the bread out of other people’s mouths. An idle fellow is a public nuisance; but it is better to drive such into a workhouse than, as here, into a wilderness, which will punish them indeed, but never reform them. They were forced to dwell in caves of the earth, and they brayed like asses among the bushes, Job 30:6, 7. See what is the lot of those that have the cry of the country, the cry of their own conscience, against them; they cannot but be in a continual terror and confusion. They groan among the trees (so Broughton) and smart among the nettles; they are stung and scratched there, where they hoped to be sheltered and protected. See what miseries wicked people bring themselves to in this world; yet this is nothing to what is in reserve for them in the other world. 8. They had nothing at all in them to recommend them to any man’s esteem. They were a vile kind; yea, a kind without fame, people that nobody could give a good word to nor had a good wish for; they were banished from the earth as being viler than the earth. One would not think it possible that ever the human nature should sink so low, and degenerate so far, as it did in these people. When we thank God that we are men we have reason to thank him that we are not such men. But such as these were abusive to Job, (1.) In revenge, because when he was in prosperity and power, like a good magistrate, he put in execution the laws which were in force against vagabonds, and rogues, and sturdy beggars, which these base people now remembered against him. (2.) In triumph over him, because they thought he had now become like one of them. Isa. 14:10, 11. The abjects, men of mean spirits, insult over the miserable, Ps. 35:15.
II. The greatness of the affronts that were given him. It cannot be imagined how abusive they were.
1. They made ballads on him, with which they made themselves and their companions merry (Job 30:9): I am their song and their byword. Those have a very base spirit that turn the calamities of their honest neighbours into a jest, and can sport themselves with their griefs.
2. They shunned him as a loathsome spectacle, abhorred him, fled far from him, (Job 30:10), as an ugly monster or as one infected. Those that were themselves driven out from among men would have had him driven out. For,
3. They expressed the greatest scorn and indignation against him. They spat in his face, or were ready to do so; they tripped up his heels, pushed away his feet (Job 30:12), kicked him, either in wrath, because they hated him, or in sport, to make themselves merry with him, as they did with their companions at foot-ball. The best of saints have sometimes received the worst of injuries and indignities from a spiteful, scornful, wicked world, and must not think it strange; our Master himself was thus abused.
4. They were very malicious against him, and not only made a jest of him, but made a prey of him—not only affronted him, but set themselves to do him all the real mischief they could devise: They raise up against me the ways of their destruction; or (as some read it), They cast upon me the cause of their woe; that is, “They lay the blame of their being driven out upon me;” and it is common for criminals to hate the judges and laws by which they are punished. But under this pretence, (1.) They accused him falsely, and misrepresented his former conversation, which is here called marring his path. They reflected upon him as a tyrant and an oppressor because he had done justice upon them; and perhaps Job’s friends grounded their uncharitable censures of him (Job 22:6-10) upon the unjust and unreasonable clamours of these sorry people; and it was an instance of their great weakness and inconsideration, for who can be innocent if the accusations of such persons may be heeded? (2.) They not only triumphed in his calamity, but set it forward, and did all they could to add to his miseries and make them more grievous to him. It is a great sin to forward the calamity of any, especially of good people. In this they have no helper, nobody to set them on or to countenance them in it, nobody to bear them out or to protect them, but they do it of their own accord; they are fools in other things, but wise enough to do mischief, and need no help in inventing that. Some read it thus, They hold my heaviness a profit, though they be never the better. Wicked people, though they get nothing by the calamities of others, yet rejoice in them.
5. Those that did him all this mischief were numerous, unanimous, and violent (Job 30:14): They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters, when the dam is broken; or, “They came as soldiers into a broad breach which they have made in the wall of a besieged city, pouring in upon me with the utmost fury;” and in this they took a pride and a pleasure: They rolled themselves in the desolation as a man rolls himself in a soft and easy bed, and they rolled themselves upon him with all the weight of their malice.
III. All this contempt put upon him was caused by the troubles he was in (Job 30:11): “Because he has loosed my cord, has taken away the honour and power with which I was girded (Job 12:18), has scattered what I had got together and untwisted all my affairs—because he has afflicted me, therefore they have let loose the bridle before me,” that is, “have given themselves a liberty to say and do what they please against me.” Those that by Providence are stripped of their honour may expect to be loaded with contempt by inconsiderate ill-natured people. “Because he hath loosed his cord” (the original has that reading also), that is, “because he has taken off his bridle of restraint from off their malice, they cast away the bridle from me,” that is, “they make no account of my authority, nor stand in any awe of me.” It is owing to the hold God has of the consciences even of bad men, and the restraints he lays upon them, that we are not continually thus insulted and abused; and, if at any time we meet with such ill treatment, we must acknowledge the hand of God in taking off those restraints, as David did when Shimei cursed him: So let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him. Now in all this, 1. We may see the uncertainty of worldly honour, and particularly of popular applause, how suddenly a man may fail from the height of dignity into the depth of disgrace. What little cause therefore have men to be ambitious or proud of that which may be so easily lost, and what little confidence is to be put in it! Those that to-day cry Hosannah may to-morrow cry Crucify. But there is an honour which comes from God, which if we secure, we shall find it not thus changeable and loseable. 2. We may see that it has often been the lot of very wise and good men to be trampled upon and abused. And, 3. That those who look only at the things that are seen despise those whom the world frowns upon, though they are ever so much the favourites of Heaven. Nothing is more grievous in poverty than that it renders men contemptible. Turba Remi sequitur fortunam, ut semper odit damnatos—The Roman populace, faithful to the turns of fortune, still persecute the fallen. 4. We may see in Job a type of Christ, who was thus made a reproach of men and despised of the people (Ps. 22:6; Isa. 53:3), and who hid not his face from shame and spitting, but bore the indignity better than Job did.