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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 17–21
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Verses 17–21

Job here reasons with God,

I. Concerning his dealings with man in general (Job 7:17, 18): What is man, that thou shouldst magnify him? This may be looked upon either, 1. As a passionate reflection upon the proceedings of divine justice; as if the great God did diminish and disparage himself in contending with man. “Great men think it below them to take cognizance of those who are much their inferiors so far as to reprove and correct their follies and indecencies; why then does God magnify man, by visiting him, and trying him, and making so much ado about him? Why will he thus pour all his forces upon one that is such an unequal match for him? Why will he visit him with afflictions, which, like a quotidian ague, return as duly and constantly as the morning light, and try, every moment, what he can bear?” We mistake God, and the nature of his providence, if we think it any lessening to him to take notice of the meanest of his creatures. Or, 2. As a pious admiration of the condescensions of divine grace, like that, Ps. 8:4; 144:3. He owns God’s favour to man in general, even when he complains of his own particular troubles. “What is man, miserable man, a poor, mean, weak creature, that thou, the great and glorious God, shouldst deal with him as thou dost? What is man,” (1.) “That thou shouldst put such honour upon him, shouldst magnify him, by taking him into covenant and communion with thyself?” (2.) “That thou shouldst concern thyself so much about him, shouldst set thy heart upon him, as dear to thee, and one that thou hast a kindness for?” (3.) “That thou shouldst visit him with thy compassions every morning, as we daily visit a particular friend, or as the physician visits his patients every morning to help them?” (4.) “That thou shouldst try him, shouldst feel his pulse and observe his looks, every moment, as in care about him and jealous over him?” That such a worm of the earth as man is should be the darling and favourite of heaven is what we have reason for ever to admire.

II. Concerning his dealings with him in particular. Observe,

1. The complaint he makes of his afflictions, which he here aggravates, and (as we are all too apt to do) makes the worst of, in three expressions:—(1.) That he was the butt to God’s arrows: “Thou hast set me as a mark against thee,” Job 7:20. “My case is singular, and none is shot at as I am.” (2.) That he was a burden to himself, ready to sink under the load of his own life. How much delight soever we take in ourselves God can, when he pleases, make us burdens to ourselves. What comfort can we take in ourselves if God appear against us as an enemy and we have not comfort in him. (3.) That he had no intermission of his griefs (Job 7:19): “How long will it be ere thou cause thy rod to depart from me, or abate the rigour of the correction, at least for so long as that I may swallow down my spittle?” It should seem, Job’s distemper lay much in his throat, and almost choked him, so that he could not swallow his spittle. He complains (Job 30:18) that it bound him about like the collar of his coat. “Lord,” says he, “wilt not thou give me some respite, some breathing time?” Job 9:18.

2. The concern he is in about his sins. The best men have sin to complain of, and the better they are the more they will complain of it. (1.) He ingenuously owns himself guilty before God: I have sinned. God had said of him that he was a perfect and an upright man; yet he says of himself, I have sinned. Those may be upright who yet are not sinless; and those who are sincerely penitent are accepted, through a Mediator, as evangelically perfect. Job maintained, against his friends, that he was not a hypocrite, not a wicked man; and yet he owned to his God that he had sinned. If we have been kept from gross acts of sin, it does not therefore follow that we are innocent. The best must acknowledge, before God, that they have sinned. His calling God the observer, or preserver, of men, may be looked upon as designed for an aggravation of his sin: “Though God has had his eye upon me, his eye upon me for good, yet I have sinned against him.” When we are in affliction it is seasonable to confess sin, as the procuring cause of our affliction. Penitent confessions would drown and silence passiona 10b4 te complaints. (2.) He seriously enquires how he may make his peace with God: “What shall I do unto thee, having done so much against thee?” Are we convinced that we have sinned, and are we brought to own it? We cannot but conclude that something must be done to prevent the fatal consequences of it. The matter must not rest as it is, but some course must be taken to undo what has been ill done. And, if we are truly sensible of the danger we have run ourselves into, we shall be willing to do any thing, to take a pardon upon any terms; and therefore shall be inquisitive as to what we shall do (Mic. 6:6, 7), what we shall do to God, not to satisfy the demands of his justice (that is done only by the Mediator), but to qualify ourselves for the tokens of his favour, according to the tenour of the gospel-covenant. In making this enquiry it is good to eye God as the preserver or Saviour of men, not their destroyer. In our repentance we must keep up good thoughts of God, as one that delights not in the ruin of his creatures, but would rather they should return and live. “Thou art the Saviour of men; be my Saviour, for I cast myself upon thy mercy.” (3.) He earnestly begs for the forgiveness of his sins, Job 7:21. The heat of his spirit, as, on the one hand, it made his complaints the more bitter, so, on the other hand, it made his prayers the more lively and importunate; as here: “Why dost thou not pardon my transgression? Art thou not a God of infinite mercy, that art ready to forgive? Hast not thou wrought repentance in me? Why then dost thou not give me the pardon of my sin, and make me to hear the voice of that joy and gladness?” Surely he means more than barely the removing of his outward trouble, and is herein earnest for the return of God’s favour, which he complained of the want of, Job 6:4. “Lord, pardon my sins, and give me the comfort of that pardon, and then I can easily bear my afflictions,” Matt. 9:2; Isa. 33:24. When the mercy of God pardons the transgression that is committed by us the grace of God takes away the iniquity that reigns in us. Wherever God removes the guilt of sin he breaks the power of sin. (4.) To enforce his prayer for pardon he pleads the prospect he had of dying quickly: For now shall I sleep in the dust. Death will lay us in the dust, will lay us to sleep there, and perhaps presently, now in a little time. Job had been complaining of restless nights, and that sleep departed from his eyes (Job 7:3, 4, 13, 14); but those who cannot sleep on a bed of down will shortly sleep in a bed of dust, and not be scared with dreams nor tossed to and fro: “Thou shalt seek me in the morning, to show me favour, but I shall not be; it will be too late then. If my sins be not pardoned while I live, I am lost and undone for ever.” Note, The consideration of this, that we must shortly die, and perhaps may die suddenly, should make us all very solicitous to get our sins pardoned and our iniquity taken away.