New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 17:1 My spirit is consumed. My days are extinct, and the grave is ready for me- LXX "I seek for burial, and obtain it not". To have no burial and to have their corpse thrown on the open field was the very punishment several times threatened to Judah's leadership. Again Job oscillates; in Job 16:22 he has just given himself a few years, but now within the same speech he considers himself already as without spirit and at death's door. This is typical of a depressed sufferer, and confirms that there was a historical Job who suffered these things.

Job 17:2 Surely there are mockers with me. My eye dwells on their provocation- 
Even in deep illness, a man can still dwell on the unkind words of others. This is one lesson of Job- the power of words. LXX "strangers have stolen my goods", also relevant to the captivity at the hands of Babylon. This further confirms the idea that the satan figure of the prologue has morphed into the friends, and it was they personally who brought some of the sufferings upon him. 

Job 17:3 Now give a pledge, be collateral for me with Yourself. Who is there who will strike hands with me?-
The person in view is clearly God, as :4 continues to address Him. To strike hands is parallel with giving a pledge as in Prov. 6:1. Job is here inviting God to enter court with him, and to pay a pledge, a kind of caution money required before the court sits, in case He is indeed found guilty. And that bond money is to be God Himself. This is indeed arrogant of Job. He is asking God to stake His very own Divine self, all He stands for, and risk losing it if Job is right. When God finally appears in judgment, Job is quite rightly humbled. But for all this arrogance of a moment, it is the friends whom God condemns and justifies Job. We cannot justify arrogance or sins of depression or hot blood, they remain as sins. But we notice, we are forced to notice, that God passes over them in Job's case and sees the man's core devotion to Him. It is the arrogance and lies of the friends, their hatred of their brother, which is to Him so hard to forgive unless, as it were, He has the 'help' of Job in forgiving them himself and praying to Him for their restoration. We learn so very much from all this.

Job 17:4 For You have hidden their heart from understanding, therefore You shall not exalt them-
Job considers the friends have been stopped from understanding the real facts and truths about Job's case, because God doesn't want to exalt them. God can indeed close eyes of understanding, but He does so in response to the attitudes of the people concerned; just as He hardened Pharaoh's already hardened heart. We see that God is capable of working directly upon the mind of man, to give or take understanding.

Job 17:5 He who denounces his friends for a prey, even the eyes of his children shall fail-
Perhaps the idea is that in the envisioned court case of :3, Job is not going to denounce the friends before God. Job may here be quoting a proverb known at the time. Job is angry with the friends in his speeches, but has a basic desire to save them and not to see them dragged by him into court for condemnation. This basic desire to save people needs to be in us too, and if it is, as with Job at the end (Job 42:7,8), then God will use us to save people. This is what is so essential in all evangelism; technique and evangelism materials may be as perfect as man can make them, but without this basic desire to save others, it is all useless.

Job 17:6 But He has made me a byword of the people. They spit in my face-
The friends have earlier been accused of striking Job (see on Job 16:10), and the "they" here refers likewise to the friends (:5). They were so furious with him that they spat in his face, thereby again connecting him with the future sufferings of the Lord Jesus, the suffering servant after the pattern of Job. Their aggression was to the point of spitting at 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.

Job 17:7 My eye also is dim by reason of sorrow. All my members are as a shadow-
Failing eyesight appears to also have been experienced by the Lord on the cross. "Shadow" is literally a shade, and is very often used in the sense of giving shade and comfort to others. Through his sufferings, Job was to become a shade for salvation to the friends who were abusing him, just as the Lord achieved for His enemies through His crucifixion. 

Job 17:8 Upright men shall be astonished at this. The innocent shall stir up himself against the godless-
This matches the astonishment of the Jews at the ghastly physical appearance of Christ on the cross (Is. 52:14). Job begins to have the sense that his sufferings are somehow for the sake of others; and this is revealed as the key to his suffering, as an innocent man suffering as if he has committed sins he hasn't, so that he might thereby become a representative saviour. Just as the Lord Jesus did, to a far greater extent. So now he muses that his sufferings will stir up other innocent people to action. He is starting to come towards the climax of the book, when he is asked to pray for and intercede to save the friends (Job 42:7,8).

Job 17:9 Yet shall the righteous hold on to his way. He who has clean hands shall grow stronger and stronger-
Job has been lamenting the decline of his physical health, to the point he feels he is now facing death (:11). But he has held on to his way spiritually and insists he has clean hands. So he knows that at some future point, he must "grow stronger and stronger". This implies a resurrection. See on :17.

Job 17:10 But as for you all, come on now again; I shall not find a wise man among you-
Paul alludes to these word sin lamenting that there was not found a wise man amongst the church at Corinth, who could correctly judge his brother (1 Cor. 6:5). This is an identical context- the friends couldn't judge their brother Job rightly because they were themselves morally compromised and lacked wisdom. We can infer that Paul understood Job to mean that there was not a wise man amongst the friends to judge him rightly. For that is how Paul uses this quotation. 

Job 17:11 My days are past, my plans are broken off, as are the thoughts of my heart-
The word  for "plans" is not the Hebrew word which would be used if "plans" were simply meant. In nearly all of the other 28 occurrences of the word in the Old Testament, the word means "wickedness" or "lewdness". Job again moves closer towards the final confession of sin he will make, and away from his earlier self righteousness. He seems to be saying that death will finally end his sin, because his sin is parallel with his thoughts, and they will perish at death. Or it could be that he was so carrying the guilt of others, as their sin bearer, that he feels a wicked sinner when in fact he wasn't; just as the Lord was to carry the sin of His people in Himself on the cross. The difference of course was that although Job is presented as "perfect" before God in Job 1:1, he was not Jesus, and he had sinned, and he minimized that sin- until the final appearance of God elicits this realization from him.

Job 17:12 They change the night into day, saying ‘The light is near’ in the presence of darkness-
The argument was that because Job was in darkness, then light had to come soon; whereas Job felt he was about to die, before the dawn broke (:11,13). The friends never deploy this argument; Job is transferring his own thoughts onto the friends, and then knocking down the argument. And they then do just the same to him (see on Job 18:3). This again is an example to us of what happens when dialogue goes wrong. The whole dialogues are a masterful example to us in this respect. The restoration prophets again seize upon Job's words here and reframe them; the darkness of the exile was indeed to soon end in the day of Zion's glad morning of restoration. And so it happened with Job.

Job 17:13 If I look for Sheol as my house, if I have spread my couch in the darkness-
Job was lying on a couch (Job 7:13), and felt that he was already lying in the darkness of the grave. The deserted house he was lying in (see on Job 15:28) was effectively sheol, the grave, for him.

Job 17:14 if I have said to corruption, ‘You are my father’; to the worm, ‘My mother’, and ‘my sister’-
Job felt he was in a living death and therefore the idea that hope was just around the corner (12,15) was meaningless, because death had already come effectively, and he felt as if already in sheol.

Job 17:15 where then is my hope? As for my hope, who shall see it?-
Originally, Job believed that his "hope" was predicated upon his upright ways (Job 4:6). But Job through his sufferings comes to feel he now has no "hope" (Job 7:6; 14:19; 17:15; 19:10). The friends suggest that Job had only the "hope" of the hypocrite, and this "hope" would perish (Job 4:6; 8:13; 27:8). Job had integrity, and on that basis he thought he had "hope". He suffered, and he lost that "hope", because he assumed that his sufferings meant that he was not in fact righteous. And yet he often reflects that he is righteous and is suffering unjustly. And so he is led to the realization that the "hope" of the righteous is by God's grace and not because of the "integrity of [Job's] ways". Judah in captivity likewise lost their "hope" (Ez. 19:5; 37:11). But the message of the restoration prophets was that "there is hope in your end" (Jer. 31:17); they were prisoners or exiles in "hope" (Zech. 9:12).

Job 17:16 Shall it go down with me to the gates of Sheol, or descend together into the dust?
- Job saw sheol as death, the grave, the time of turning back to dust. And he felt he could take no hope with him there. Here again we have Job at the low point of his oscillation between believing in a resurrection, as he does in :9 and often, and yet denying it. Or at best, placing it under serious question. But for all his fluctuating faith and spirituality, he is the one justified in the end; and the self confident friends are condemned. We learn at least that perfectly consistent maintenance of faith and hope is not necessary for God to impute righteousness and save us by grace. Job is rightly condemned at the end and does repent, but the up points of his faith cycle are noted by God.