New European Commentary


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Job 16:1 Then Job answered- Job here despairs at how Eliphaz has merely repeated his earlier speech; and his disillusion with the friends leads him in this speech to therefore turn to God more strongly and directly. And this is where disillusion with fellow believers and religious structures will lead the truly spiritual person- to the God whom we know has the answers to our unaddressed issues and questions, even if for now He is not revealing them.

Job 16:2 I have heard many such things. You are all miserable comforters!-
The friends admit they are only saying what was generally accepted wisdom at the time. Job had heard this many times over. But it gave him no comfort. This leads him to seek "comfort" from God; and the restoration prophets promise such "comfort" direct from God to the exiles who had not found it in traditional answers (Is. 40:1; 66:13).

Job 16:3 Shall vain words have an end? Or what provokes you that you answer?-
Job is led by the annoying, empty answers of the friends to long for "an end". And that is what he is given when Elihu and then God appears at the end. His enquiry as to what was motivating them can be read as genuine pity for them, and a desire to help them forward spiritually- even from his own desperate position. This basic desire was rewarded at the end, when he is asked to pray for the friends and thereby save them from their own stupidity.

Job 16:4 I also could speak as you do. If your soul were in my soul’s place, I could join words together against you, and shake my head at you-
It was against the Lord Jesus that the Jews shook their head, as He died the death of the suffering servant (Ps. 22:7). Despite his own awful situation, with all the self-centeredness which is elicited by extreme physical pain and suffering, Job thinks himself into their very soul, imagining how he would react in their situation. This basic concern for them was turned into reality when God makes Job their saviour in the end.


Job 16:5 but I would strengthen you with my mouth. The solace of my lips would relieve you-
We can't be brethren in Christ who have no effect on the rest of the body. We all have an influence on others. Words of our brethren really can strengthen and relieve. Our behaviour, however passive, has a powerful effect on our brethren. We are all members of one body. See on :6. On the contrary, a whole community can be cursed for the sake of one man’s sin, even if he later repents (2 Kings 24:3,4). The fact we can be guilty of causing others to stumble means that we can limit God's gracious plan for them. "Strengthen" is exactly what God wanted to do for the exiles in their suffering (s.w. Is. 35:3; 41:10).

Job 16:6 Though I speak, my grief is not subsided. Though I forbear, what am I eased?-
"Relieve" in :5 is the same word translated  "subside" in :6. Job is therefore pointing out that the words of another can relieve grief in a way that ones’ own self-talk simply cannot (Job 16:5,6).  

Job 16:7 But now, God, you have surely worn me out-
Or, "wearied", the same word used of the weariness of sinful Judah (Jer. 9:5; 12:5; Ez. 24:12). Job was to be read as their representative, although not personally sinful.

You have made desolate all my company- Job had sought comfort from the friends, his "company", but he feels that the lack of comfort from them is also somehow God's testing of him. Those who despair at the lack of comfort from their fellow believers would do well to adopt this perspective; that this too is from God, and as in Job's case in this speech, it is designed to drive us the closer to Him personally. 

Job 16:8 You have shrivelled me up. This is a witness against me. My leanness rises up against me. It testifies to my face-
Job looked at his body, as the Lord looked upon His own body from His elevated position on the cross (Ps. 22:17). The once fat and full fleshed Job (see on Job 15:27) was now thin and emaciated.


Job 16:9 He has torn me in His wrath, and persecuted me. He has gnashed on me with His teeth-
Job 41:14 speaks of how terrible are the teeth of the creature God has made; but He alone can open the mouth of it and is fearless before its' teeth. The idea of the connection back to Job 16:9 is that God knows all about teeth. He has designed them, and even if Job thinks God is gnashing at Him like a beast, he must accept that God creates the beast and its teeth.

My adversary sharpens His eyes on me- Job sees God as his adversary / enemy; he understood God to be the Satan. God's eyes often refer to the Angels. For the connection between the satan and an Angel, see on Job 1:6.

Job 16:10 They have gaped on me with their mouth. They have struck me on the cheek reproachfully-
The exact language of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus, the ultimate "suffering servant" (Ps. 22:13; Mic. 5:1). I have earlier suggested that the "friends" morph with the Satan figure, adopting his mentality, and proceed to actually bring some of the sufferings upon Job. Their aggression was to the point of pulling faces and hitting him. Yet they originally came to see him to comfort him, apparently sincerely. This is how far and how quickly a false theological understanding can transform human relationships for the worse. They also spat in his face (see on Job 17:6).   

They gather themselves together against me- A reference to the friends gathering themselves together to supposedly comfort Job.

Job 16:11 God delivers me to the ungodly, and casts me into the hands of the wicked-
There is reason to think that Eliphaz, the leader of the friends, may have been the specific individual referred to as 'satan' in the prologue. God singles him out for especial condemnation at the end (Job 42:7). After one of Eliphaz's speeches, Job responds with what appears to be a comment upon him, rather than God, here in :9-11. Eliphaz was a Temanite, from where Job's afflicters came. See on Job 1:6. But Job perceives that God is working through the friends; and his thoughts about them in :9,10 now therefore merge into his thoughts about God, so clearly did He see God working through them. This is a sure example as to how we can see the difficult people in our lives- as used by God. This removes some amount of personal anger with them, even though God is not forcing them to behave as they do, and they will be ultimately accountable for it as the friends were.

Job 16:12 I was at ease, and He broke me apart-
There are some very evident ways in which Job spiritually grew. In Job 3:26 he originally says that his life previous to his afflictions had not been a life of ease; but as a result of his suffering, he realized that actually it had been "at ease".

Yes, He has taken me by the neck, and dashed me to pieces- Job perceives God as a lion or beast of prey, taking him off to His lair by the neck and now ripping him apart.

 He has also set me up for His target- Like the friends, Job is starting to repeat himself; for he has said this in Job 6:4; 7:20. Eliphaz blames Job's troubles upon the “sons of Resheph” (Job 5:7); but Job’s response is that the source of the evil in his life is ultimately from God and not any such being. Eliphaz there speaks of how man’s trouble comes “as the sons of Resheph fly upwards”. Resheph was known as “the lord of the arrow” and the Ugaritic tablets associate him with archery (William J. Fulco, The Canaanite God Resep (New Haven, CT: American Oriental Society, 1976)). We would therefore be justified in reading in an ellipsis here: man’s trouble comes “as the [arrows of] the sons of Resheph fly upwards”. Job’s response is that “The arrows of the Almighty are in me” (Job 6:4), and he lament that God is an archer using him as his target for practice (Job 7:20; 16:12,13). Job refuses to accept Eliphaz’s explanation that Job is a victim of Resheph’s arrows. For Job, if God is “the Almighty” then there is no space left for Resheph. Each blow he received, each arrow strike, was from God and not Resheph.

Job 16:13 His archers surround me. He splits my kidneys apart, and does not spare. He pours out my gall on the ground-
The prophets speak of archers surrounding Zion, and the language of gall and kidneys spilled on the ground is that of Jeremiah in Lamentations reflecting on the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians. God was to threaten His sinful people that He would "not spare" (Jer. 13:14; Lam. 2:2). He finally did, in His grace. Job has earlier hinted that God would have a tender desire to the work of his hands at the end (Job 14:15), but in his weakness he has for now lost that perspective. And yet at this very nadir of faith and understanding, he becomes the representative of God's people who felt He had not spared them. 

Job 16:14 He breaks me with blow after blow. He runs on me like a giant-
LXX "They...", as if Job saw God manifest in the abusers. This was the situation in the Babylonian overthrow of Judah. Just as Eliphaz had exaggerated Job's position to the point of accusing him of running upon God as a charging soldier (Job 15:26), so Job now makes the same mistake and does the same, exaggerating positions and extrapolating to make God like a giant charging at him. This was not at all the case. But once one party in a dialogue starts distorting things grossly, the partner in the dialogue tends to do the same in other contexts. And this is a lesson for us today.

It was so hard for Job to accept that God and not any orthodox ‘Satan’ figure was his adversary. It’s one thing to deduce from the Bible that both good and disaster comes from the Lord, as per Is. 45:5–7. It’s of course quite another to accept it in real life, and Job is an inspiring example. Job 16:9–14 is so powerful – the poetry speaks of Job’s awesome and even angry realization that God is in fact [in a sense] his enemy / adversary. “Here Job... identifies God as his enemy rather than his advocate. From his perspective he is led to wonder if the God in whom he trusted is not in reality his Satan” (J.E. Hartley, The Book of Job (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) p. 30). See on Job 19:26.


Job 16:15 I have sewed sackcloth on my skin-
The language of the Messianic Ps. 69:11 about the suffering of the Lord Jesus. Sinful Israel were called to do this in repentance (Jer. 6:26); they refused to do so, and so they were covered with sackcloth at the time of their judgment (Lam. 2:10). Job was sorry for himself, and didn't use sackcloth as a sign of repentance but of self pity. This was to be transformed at the end when he really repents unconditionally. 

And have thrust my horn in the dust- His horn may refer to his reproductive organ, so desperate was he to express his grief.

Job 16:16 My face is red with weeping. Deep darkness is on my eyelids-
"On my eyelids is the shadow of death" (Job 16:16 AV). Job felt he was facing death right before his eyes, and the shadow of that death was cast over his eyes. But God disagrees, challenging Job that he has not in fact seen "the doors of the shadow of death" (Job 38:17 s.w.). Job had only seen death from a personal, human perspective. God sees death for what it really is, and it is far more terrible than man perceives. For from God's perspective it carries with it the tragedy of the eternity which a man has missed, if he has rejected God. And God is saying that Job hasn't see death from that perspective.

Job 16:17 Although there is no violence in my hands, and my prayer is pure-
Job oscillates between accepting he has sinned, and protesting his innocence. The final appearance of God leads him to the unqualified conclusion that he is indeed a sinner, and this was God's intended outcome for the exiles in captivity. Job's oscillation however is understandable once we perceive that he is being set up as representative of God's sinful people, represented by the friends. He is suffering the judgment for sins when he himself is innocent, pointing forward to the Lord's representative sacrifice.

Job 16:18 Earth, don’t cover my blood-
Here he seems to associate himself with unfairly persecuted Abel, whose blood cried out for justice (Gen. 4:10). And yet he earlier compares his seeking of death and not finding it, as a marked man, with the judgment of Cain. He feels he is being treated as Cain when he is in fact as Abel. This is exactly what happened to the Lord in hearing our sins. See on Job 11:15.

Let my cry have no place to rest- Job makes the amazing comment: “Although He slays me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15). 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, continuing the allusions to the avenger of blood scenario. Job feels he is innocent blood. 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.

Job 16:19 Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven. He who vouches for me is on high-
See on :18. Job in his depths came to know God as his “witness in heaven”; in his former life, “when the eye saw me, it gave witness [s.w.] to me” (Job 29:11). But Job was brought to learn that the only ultimate witness in life is God, and it is His testimony and not man’s which is meaningful.

Job 16:20 My friends scoff at me. My eyes pour out tears to God-
The emphasis is upon "God"; he had poured out his tears to the friends and they had scoffed at him. So his experience of disillusion with his brethren didn't turn him away from God, as so often happens; instead it drove him to throw himself more intimately upon his God.

Job 16:21 that He would maintain the right of a man with God, of a son of man with his neighbour!-
Job sees his enemy as his "neighbour", surely referring to the friends. Again we have the hint that they had effectively morphed into the satan figure bringing some of the actual distresses upon him. Job felt like having a court case with them before God. But God's final appearance is to hold a court case against them all, Job included. Clearly the lesson is that instead of judging our brother and wanting justice established with him, we should concern ourselves with God's judgment of us, and our injustice before Him.

Maintaining the right is legal language. Job appeals for ‘witnesses’ (Job 9:33–35; 16:18–22; 19:20–27), an advocate in Heaven (Job 9:33), denies his guilt and demands a legal list of his sins (Job 13:19), he wishes for God to come to trial (Job 9:3), and thus Job is described as a man who has taken out a ‘case’ with God (Job 23:4; 40:2). Job 29–31 is effectively Job’s declaration of legal innocence and an appeal to God to hear his case more sympathetically (Job 31:35). And of course God pronounces a final legal verdict at the very end (Job 42:7), in response to Job’s earlier plea: “Sleeplessly I wait for His reply” (Job 16:22). It’s as if the whole experience of Job was [at least partly] in order to test out the Canaanite theories of ‘Satan’, suffering and evil in the court of Heaven; and also the various theories which arose to explain Judah's captivity in Babylon. The friends represent the traditional views of evil, and often make reference to the myths of their day about ‘Satan’ figures. They speak as if they are the final court – Eliphaz speaks of how the judges and elders of their day, the “holy ones”, had concluded Job was guilty, and that they, the friends, were right: “To which of the holy ones will you appeal [legal language]?... we have [legally] examined this, and it [Job’s guilt] is true” (Job 5:1,27). This is of great comfort to those who feel misjudged by man – above them in Heaven the ultimate Heavenly court is considering our case, and that is all that matters.

AV "O that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbour!". "Plead" is the same word translated "umpire" in Job 9:33. The word suggests 'one who is right', a reasoner, an advocate, one who pleads, a reprover (Job 40:2 s.w.). Job's request is not simply for a mediator; he would have used a different word if so. He seems to want to put God in the dock, but knows this is not appropriate; he wants someone else to do this who can legitimately do it. And he is rebuked for this in Job 40:2.

Job 16:22 For when a few years have come, I shall go the way of no return
- This may be a purposeful challenge to the statements of Eliphaz in the previous chapter, that Job is about to be smitten with death at any moment. Job instead gives himself a few years. We note that Job directly engages with the words of the friends, whereas they attack him in terms of vague generalities