New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 13:1 Behold, my eye has seen all this. My ear has heard and understood it- This may be in direct reference to what Job has just said in Job 12, he is saying that he has worked these things out by his own reflections, and this has led him to an understanding which is no less valid than that of the friends. Job would later confess that he has indeed heard of God by the hearing of the ear; but only at the end did he join the dots, to the point where he could say that "now my eye sees You" (Job 42:5).

Job 13:2 What you know, I know also. I am not inferior to you-
As noted on :1, Job is not saying that his knowledge or understanding is identical to that of the friends, but rather that his path to knowledge is no less valid than theirs. "Inferior" is better 'to fall down'. Job may mean that he is not falling down before them, but before God. For he uses the same word in :11 to urge the friends to fall down ['be inferior to'] God, rather than assuming they know His game plan and thereby lifting themselves up above Him.

Job 13:3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty. I desire to reason with God-
Job has heard their demand that he turn to God, and he says that indeed he wishes to do so. But he implies that God will not speak to him. All this builds up towards the final wonder of God Himself appearing and speaking at the end of the book.

Job 13:4 But you are forgers of lies. You are all physicians of no value-
"Physicians" is the same word as "make[rs] whole" in Job 5:18: "He injures, and His hands make whole". His disillusion with the members of his religion, his brethren, led him to seek the more earnestly to God as the only one whose hands could "make whole" (s.w. "physician").

Job 13:5 Oh that you would be completely silent! Then you would be wise-
This was true, but Job himself was not being silent. At the end, he puts his hand upon his mouth and is silent (Job 40:4). When Job finally lays his hand upon his mouth, he is only doing what he had earlier told the friends to do in recognition of their folly (Job 13:5; 21:5). Through the pain and irritation of their speeches, Job came to value and appreciate the need for silence before God. But it was only when personally confronted by God at the end that he realizes that he too had spoken too much and he repents of that in silence. 

Job 13:6 Hear now my reasoning. Listen to the pleadings of my lips-
These appeals to hear and listen may not be simply asking them to hear his words; they may be an appeal to them to hear and repent. This desire for their repentance and understanding builds up within Job as the speeches progress. And again, this is preparing him for the Lord's final request to him- to pray for the friends and bring about their salvation (Job 42:8).

Job 13:7 Will you speak unrighteously for God, and talk deceitfully for Him?-
LXX "Do ye not speak before the Lord...", another hint that the friends were represented by the Satan figure of the prologue, who likewise appeared "before the Lord". Job warns them as many need warning today- that they were wrong to express their own gut feelings and assumptions in the name of God, as if they were talking on His behalf. Job differs from them in that he makes no claim to be speaking by Divine inspiration; he is simply bemoaning his lot and trying to reason through it, and that record of his words is noted down in the drama by an inspired writer.

Job 13:8 Will you show partiality to Him?-
Perhaps the idea is that they were acting as if God were in the dock, and they were being generous to Him in their judgment of Him.

Will you contend for God?- God was not contending with Job through the friends as His representatives. The wonder of the final appearance of God is that He Himself appears and contends directly, not through any representatives such as the friends claimed to be.

Job 13:9 Is it good that He should search you out? Or as one deceives a man, will you deceive Him?-
The idea seems to be that if God searched out the friends, they would have to try to deceive Him, lest He find the truth about them. But Job later realizes that God does indeed search out all things (s.w. Job 28:27). He begins here by saying that if He were to search things out, He would not find a nice scene in the hearts of the friends. But Job moves on to realize that indeed this is what God is doing, on a cosmic scale- searching out all things.

Job 13:10 He will surely reprove you if you secretly show partiality-
"Reprove" is a legal term, used for legal 'pleading' in court (s.w. Job 16:21; 40:2). Job clearly considers the friends to be guilty, and we are set up to expect that therefore God is going to open a legal case against the friends. And this is exactly what happens when God finally appears at the end of the book.

Job 13:11 Shall not His majesty make you afraid, and His dread fall on you?-
"Fall" is the same word translated "inferior" in :2: "I am not inferior to you". Job may mean that he is not falling down before them, but before God. For he uses the same word in :11 to urge the friends to fall down ['be inferior to'] God, rather than assuming they know His game plan and thereby are lifting themselves up above Him. At the end of the book, as noted on :10, God does appear in majesty, and they are indeed afraid before Him.

Job 13:12 Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes, your defences are defences of clay-
LXX "And your glorying shall prove in the end to you like ashes, and your body like a body of clay". They were bodies of clay; but only through their humiliation at the end of the book would they appreciate this in reality rather than merely as theory. And we see this happening in the events at the end of the book. And it is so with us today; the mortality of man can never be a mere theological proposition. It must be believed and felt, with an appropriate humility, rather than having to be reminded of it through Divine humiliation.

Job 13:13 Be silent, leave me alone, that I may speak. Let come on me what will-
LXX "Be silent, that I may speak, and cease from mine anger". In this case Job is wrongly thinking that his anger is legitimate because once he has blown it all out, he will then be silent. This was wrong, because at the end of the book he lays his hand on his mouth and recognizes that he has spoken wrongly. We too can falsely justify sin or unwise talking on the basis that once we've done it, we will then somehow stop being angry and get over our problem. 

Job 13:14 Why should I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in my hand?-
The simple sense is as in GNB "I am ready to risk my life". That risk of life was in order to justify himself before God (:15). This was demonstrated at the end as being indeed wrong and punishable by death. Job did indeed risk his life, and was saved from condemnation by grace alone. However, taking "my flesh in my teeth" may be a figure drawn from a wild beast taking its prey in its teeth and carrying it off to safety; meaning therefore 'Why should I seek anxiously to preserve my life?'.

Job 13:15 Even if He slays me, still I will trust in Him-
The language of ‘slaying’ takes us back to the Mosaic commands about how a ‘slayer’ of a man might be killed by the ‘avenger of blood’. Job saw God as slaying him; yet he also sees God as the ‘witness’ in the case (Job 16:19), and the avenger of Job’s blood (Job 19:25). Job even asks God to not let the earth cover his blood, so that God as the avenger of Job’s blood may avenge Job’s death (Job 16:18). Job does not see ‘Satan’ as his slayer, and God as the avenger of his blood. Instead Job – in a quite breathtaking set of associations – sees God in all these things: the slayer, the legal witness to the slayer, the avenger of blood, and the One who will enforce the doing of justice in this case, the One who will not let the earth cover Job’s blood. If Job really believed in a superhuman Satan, in Satan as the bad guy and God as the avenger of the injustice, he surely would’ve expressed himself differently. As Job imagines God as it were taking vengeance on Himself, so he came to portray for all time the way that evil and good are indeed both ultimately from God.

"Trust" here is the usual Hebrew word translated to wait or be patient (Job 13:15; 14:14; 30:26). Even if God slew him, Job would still be patient or wait (Job 13:15), he would patiently wait for his "change" to come at some point after his death (Job 14:14), and waited for light to somehow come out of his current darkness (Job 30:26). This was the legendary "patience of Job" which we are bidden follow (James 5:11). He was impatient, but he was "patient" in the Hebrew sense of enduring in faith; faith that even if things didn't work out at all in this life, even if God was apparently unfair in this life, he would be finally restored at the resurrection. This was his 'endurance', and it is a parade example for all who struggle with the justice of God and the incomprehensible problem of suffering.   

Nevertheless, I will justify my ways before Him- This was what was the matter with Job, and it was this weakness which was removed from him by Yahweh's final appearance. The connection between the two halves of the verse, and the preceding verse, is that Job was willing to be slain by God for justifying himself before God. And he would die, he says, still trusting in God, but willing to die for the sake of self justification. So many are like this today. To accept God's justification of us, His imputed righteousness by grace, is so deeply counter instinctive to men.


Job 13:16 This also shall be my salvation-
LXX "And this shall turn to me for salvation". See on Phil. 1:19, where this is quoted by Paul. The referent of "this..." is unclear. It could be Job's enduring hope that he would be saved finally, despite life not working out for him in this life (see on :15). This would fit the context in which Paul quotes this in Phil. 1:19.

In that a Godless man shall not come before Him- Job concludes at this point that he will finally be saved, even though God is apparently against him in this life. And he concludes that therefore he must be Godly and not Godless, seeing no Godless man would be accepted "before Him" finally. Job may be making an oblique reference to how the friends as the "sons of God" came "before Him" in worship (Job 1:6); but Job implies they would not ultimately do this at the last day. As it happened, Job's intercession for them "before Him" was to mean that they did.

Job 13:17 Hear diligently my speech. Let my declaration be in Your ears-
This may not merely be an appeal for them to pay attention to what he is saying; but rather an appeal for them to "hear" him and repent, taking his appeal deeply within themselves.

Job 13:18 See now, I have set my cause in order. I know that I am righteous-
Job had judged himself, setting in order his legal case ["cause"], but declaring himself righteous (Job 13:8). By Job 23:4, Job is realizing that he needs to set his case in order before God; but he can't find God, or get God to engage in this game of judgment. He needed the final appearance of God at the end of the book to review his case, and declare that he is in fact wrong and condemned. But by grace, God will count him as right. He was prepared for this by Elihu's speech in Job 37:19: "Teach us what we shall tell Him, for we can’t make our case by reason of darkness". "Make our case" is s.w. "set my cause in order".

Job 13:19 Who is he who will contend with me? For then would I hold my peace and give up the spirit-
Job is challenging anyone to come forward and contend with him in court by proving him wrong. If they did, then he would be silent ["hold my peace"] and willingly die. This of course is exactly what happens at the end. God does contend with Job, and he is proven guilty. He lays his hand upon mouth in silence (Job 40:4), and we can deduce from his challenge here that he wanted to die. He saw then saved from that position by grace alone. The connection with the exiles is in Is. 50:8, where a similarly convicted Israel would be justified by Divine grace to the point they could again challenge any to convict them of sin, seeing that "He is near that justifies me".

Or we can read this quite differently: “If I hold my peace, I shall give up the spirit” (Job 13:19 RVmg.). Job felt that the situation he was in forced him to use the words he did, and certainly justified it [we may well have used this reasoning ourselves when justifying the use of bad language]. Job fell into the trap of thinking that his terrible situation somehow allowed him to speak whatever words came into his head. Job felt he hadn’t been ‘fed’ and so he was entitled to “bray” and “low” over his misfortune (Job 6:5). Because of the weight of his sufferings, he thereby justified the fact that "Therefore have my words been rash (Job 6:3). Likewise “Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit” (Job 7:11). “I will give free course to my complaint. I will speak in the bitterness of my soul” (Job 10:1 RV). Zophar criticizes Job being “full of talk” and speaking “the multitude of words”, “for thou sayest, my doctrine is pure” (Job 11:1-4)- as if Job felt that because he held true doctrine he was justified in pouring out words as he did. “Why should I not be impatient?” (Job 21:4 RV). “Today is my complaint bitter. My stroke is heavier than my groaning” (Job 23:2)- i.e. his complaining was due to his sufferings. But in the end, Elihu on God’s behalf rebuked him for his wrong words. And Job himself recognized: “I am vile. I will lay mine hand upon my mouth” in regret of his words (Job 40:4). “Wherefore I loathe my words and repent” (Job 42:6 RVmg.). He realized his mistake: he had thought that the situation justified his words. Now he hung his head and admitted that there was no justification for speaking in the way he had. Especially in the matter of the tongue, we can so easily justify ourselves; ‘I only said / did it [or didn’t do it] because…’. And it is all so child-like. Once we leave off all attempts at self-justification, we will face up to our sins.

Job 13:20 Only don’t do two things to me; then I will not hide myself from Your face-
This is so arrogant, to think that he could himself from God. The allusion is to Adam hiding in Eden from God. Job seeks a guarantee from God that he will not be condemned, and then says he will agree to respond to God's call (:22)- another allusion to Adam, who was 'called' to account by God after his sin. It would appear that Job was recognizing that he had sinned, that he knew that the sense of spiritual limbo he was in paralleled Adam's hiding from God in Eden, but that he would only respond to God's call and come out of hiding to confess his sin as he knew God wanted him to, if God withdrew His hand- i.e. relieved him of the immediate trials he was then experiencing. Thus Job was trying to barter with God- wanting Him to withdraw the trials in return for Job making the confession which he knew God wanted. See on Job 10:9; 9:17.


Job 13:21 withdraw Your hand far from me- From here to the end of the chapter could be addressed to God, or to the friends. If the latter, then it would appear that Job considers the friends guilty for bringing his sufferings upon him. This would confirm the connection suggested between the friends and the Satan figure. For as soon as Satan is as it were off the stage, the friends appear. See on :20.

And don’t let Your terror make me afraid- Job repeats this fear in Job 9:34, and Elihu alludes to it when he uses the same phrase in assuring Job that his terror will not make Job afraid (Job 33:7). The terror is perhaps "the terror of the Lord", the fear of condemnation at the last day (so Paul uses the phrase, 2 Cor. 5:11). That terror should "persuade men" to accept grace, Paul argues. To have that terror unexperienced by men would mean they had no persuasion toward grace.


Job 13:22 Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and You answer me-
See on :20. In the end, God does call Job; and he lays his hand upon his mouth in silence. For he has no answer, nor does he desire to speak. For God has already answered him.

Job 13:23 How many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my disobedience and my sin-
This seems an arrogant denial of sinfulness and a false accusation of God. Job, like the friends, cannot understand suffering as having any reason apart from sin. And he indignantly insists that he has not sinned. This insistence upon never moving beyond the paradigm whereby suffering reflects sin led Job to thereby falsely accuse God. And we can so easily do the same.

Job 13:24 Why do You hide Your face, and hold me for Your enemy?-
The implication of the argument is that Job had a right to see God's unhidden face, because God (so Job thinks) cannot convict Job of sin. Cain was hidden from God's face (s.w. Gen. 4:14); Job again feels he is being treated like Cain, with a mark set upon him (:27); when he is innocent. He totally failed to perceive his sinfulness, and was convicted of it only by the revelation of God at the end- whereby, by grace alone, God no longer hid His face but revealed Himself. God hid His face from the exiles (s.w. Dt. 31:17,18; 32:20; Is. 8:17; 54:8; 59:2; 64:7; Jer. 33:5; Ez. 39:23), and again, His apparent hiding of His face from Job was not because Job had sinned but because he was suffering as representative of his people.

Job 13:25 Will You harass a driven leaf? Will You pursue the dry stubble?-
Job argues that he is so dead and insignificant that God should stop bothering with him. But this is exactly the point- that God is indeed to interested in the dead and insignificant. The leaf driven by the autumn wind and the stubble after harvest being blown away are all pictures of judgment, and again connect Job to the judged people of Judah in captivity.

Job 13:26 For You write bitter things against me, and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth-
see on Job 29:13,14. Job's denial of sin was to be totally overcome by Yahweh's final appearance. Here he reasons as many do today: 'I am not a sinner, if I did sin, well that was years ago'. We make the passage of years a kind of pseudo atonement for sin. But sin needs atoning, and "just" one sin means death. That is the lesson of Eden.

Job 13:27 You also put my feet in the stocks, and mark all my paths. You set a mark on the soles of my feet-
Job complains that although he is associated with Cain (as in :24), this is not really fair. The mark on him that was a witness wherever he went echoes that which God put on Cain. God's preservation of Cain from death also finds a parallel in Job's feeling that God is preserving him unnaturally (Job 3:21-23; 10:9-15). See on Job 11:15; 16:17,18; 31:39. The exiles felt as Job- marked, unable to die, miraculously preserved, and yet imprisoned in stocks. The restoration prophets have the message of deliverance from the stocks, and paths directed back to Zion- towards a restoration as Job experienced. But most of them refused this and remained in Babylon, and those who did return precluded the fulfilment of the restoration prophecies.

Job 13:28 though I am decaying like a rotten thing, like a garment that is moth-eaten
- This is parallel in reference to Is. 50:9: "Behold, all they shall wax old as a garment, the moth shall eat them up". The "they" are any possible adversaries who might bring charges against us. This had particular relevance to all the adversaries to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. With Yahweh justifying the returned exiles, the court room was effectively empty of adversaries, all charges were to be seen in the perspective of God's ultimate justification of His people (see on Is. 50:8). These words are also found in Job 13:28, where it is God who consumes them, as it were manifesting Himself in a tiny moth. We find the same ideas in Is. 51:6, where the "they" is the 'heavens and earth' of any system, be it Persia / Babylon or an unbelieving Jewish system, which is adversarial to God's people and purpose. The contrast is with how the clothing of Israel in the wilderness did not "wax old" (s.w. Dt. 8:4; 29:5; Neh. 9:21). The exodus and journey to the promised land is repeatedly alluded to in Isaiah as a pattern for the exiles to follow in returning to Judah, and for us in our exodus from this world and journey towards the Kingdom.