Poor Job goes on here to upbraid his friends with their unkindness and the hard usage they gave him. He here appeals to themselves concerning several things which tended both to justify him and to condemn them. If they would but think impartially, and speak as they thought, they could not but own,
I. That, though he was necessitous, yet he was not craving, nor burdensome to his friends. Those that are so, whose troubles serve them to beg by, are commonly less pitied than the silent poor. Job would be glad to see his friends, but he did not say, Bring unto me (Job 6:22), or, Deliver me, Job 6:23. He did not desire to put them to any expense, did not urge his friends either, 1. To make a collection for him, to set him up again in the world. Though he could plead that his losses came upon him by the hand of God and not by any fault or folly of his own,—that he was utterly ruined and impoverished,—that he had lived in good condition, and that when he had wherewithal he was charitable and ready to help those that were in distress,—that his friends were rich, and able to help him, yet he did not say, Give me of your substance. Note, A good man, when troubled himself, is afraid of being troublesome to his friends. Or, 2. To raise the country for him, to help him to recover his cattle out of the hands of the Sabeans and Chaldeans, or to make reprisals upon them: “Did I send for you to deliver me out of the hand of the mighty? No, I never expected you should either expose yourselves to any danger or put yourselves to any charge upon my account. I will rather sit down content under my affliction, and make the best of it, than sponge upon my friends.” St. Paul worked with his hands, that he might not be burdensome to any. Job’s not asking their help did not excuse them from offering it when he needed it and it was in the power of their hands to give it; but it much aggravated their unkindness when he desired no more from them than a good look, and a good word, and yet could not obtain them. It often happens that from man, even when we expect little, we have less, but from God, even when we expect much, we have more, Eph. 3:20.
II. That, though he differed in opinion from them, yet he was not obstinate, but ready to yield to conviction, and to strike sail to truth as soon as ever it was made to appear to him that he was in an error (Job 6:24, 25): “If, instead of invidious reflections and uncharitable insinuations, you will give me plain instructions and solid arguments, which shall carry their own evidence along with them, I am ready to acknowledge my error and own myself in a fault: Teach me, and I will hold my tongue; for I have often found, with pleasure and wonder, how forcible right words are. But the method you take will never make proselytes: What doth your arguing reprove? Your hypothesis is false, your surmises are groundless, your management is weak, and your application peevish and uncharitable.” Note, 1. Fair reasoning has a commanding power, and it is a wonder if men are not conquered by it; but railing and foul language are impotent and foolish, and it is no wonder if men are exasperated and hardened by them. 2. It is the undoubted character of every honest man that he is truly desirous to have his mistakes rectified, and to be made to understand wherein he has erred; and he will acknowledge that right words, when they appear to him to be so, though contrary to his former sentiments, are both forcible and acceptable.
III. That, though he had been indeed in a fault, yet they ought not to have given him such hard usage (Job 6:26, 27): “Do you imagine, or contrive with a great deal of art” (for so the word signifies), “to reprove words, some passionate expressions of mine in this desperate condition, as if they were certain indications of reigning impiety and atheism? A little candour and charity would have served to excuse them, and to put a better construction upon them. Shall a man’s spiritual state be judged of by some rash and hasty words, which a surprising trouble extorts from him? Isa. it fair, is it kind, is it just, to criticize in such a case? Would you yourselves be served thus?” Two things aggravated their unkind treatment of him:—1. That they took advantage of his weakness and the helpless condition he was in: You overwhelm the fatherless, a proverbial expression, denoting that which is most barbarous and inhuman. “The fatherless cannot secure themselves from insults, which emboldens men of base and sordid spirits to insult them and trample upon them; and you do so by me.” Job, being a childless father, thought himself as much exposed to injury as a fatherless child (Ps. 127:5) and had reason to be offended with those who therefore triumphed over him. Let those who overwhelm and overpower such as upon any account may be looked upon as fatherless know that therein they not only put off the compassions of man, but fight against the compassions of God, who is, and will be, a Father of the fatherless and a helper of the helpless. 2. That they made a pretence of kindness: “You dig a pit for your friend; not only you are unkind to me, who am your friend, but, under colour of friendship, you ensnare me.” When they came to see and sit with him he thought he might speak his mind freely to them, and that the more bitter his complaints to them were the more they would endeavour to comfort him. This made him take a greater liberty than otherwise he would have done. David, though he smothered his resentments when the wicked were before him, would probably have given vent to them if none had been by but friends, Ps. 39:1. But this freedom of speech, which their professions of concern for him made him use, had exposed him to their censures, and so they might be said to dig a pit for him. Thus, when our hearts are hot within us, what is ill done we are apt to misrepresent as if done designedly.
IV. That, though he had let fall some passionate expressions, yet in the main he was in the right, and that his afflictions, though very extraordinary, did not prove him to be a hypocrite or a wicked man. His righteousness he holds fast, and will not let it go. For the evincing of it he here appeals, 1. To what they saw in him (Job 6:28): “Be content, and look upon me; what do you see in me that bespeaks me either a madman or a wicked man? Nay, look in my face, and you may discern there the indications of a patient and submissive spirit, for all this. Let the show of my countenance witness for me that, though I have cursed my day, I do not curse my God.” Or rather, “Look upon my ulcers and sore boils, and by them it will be evident to you that I do not lie,” that is, “that I do not complain without cause. Let your own eyes convince you that my condition is very sad, and that I do not quarrel with God by making it worse than it is.” 2. To what they heard from him, Job 6:30. “You hear what I have to say: Isa. there iniquity in my tongue? that iniquity that you charge me with? Have I blasphemed God or renounced him? Are not my present arguings right? Do not you perceive, by what I say, that I can discern perverse things? I can discover your fallacies and mistakes, and, if I were myself in an error, I could perceive it. Whatever you think of me, I know what I say.” 3. To their own second and sober thoughts (Job 6:29): “Return, I pray you, consider the thing over again without prejudice and partiality, and let not the result be iniquity, let it not be an unrighteous sentence; and you will find my righteousness is in it,” that is, “I am in the right in this matter; and, though I cannot keep my temper as I should, I keep my integrity, and have not said, nor done, nor suffered, any thing which will prove me other than an honest man.” A just cause desires nothing more than a just hearing, and if need be a re-hearing.