New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Job 29:1 Job again took up his parable and said- In what sense is Job's pouring out of his very personal reflections about his situation "a parable"? I suggest the answer is that we are intended to understand his situation as parabolic or representative of other situations; particularly that with the exiles in Babylon, who would also be led to restoration if they followed Job's path.

Job 29:2 Oh that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me-
That Job was indeed depressed can be seen by the vast number of times Job speaks of "I" or "myself". There are some 40 occurrences of these words in Chapter 29 alone. "Watched over" is the same word used for how God had set the parameters for Job's trials in the prologue; his life was to be preserved (s.w., Job 2:6). But Job like the friends became obsessed with immediate suffering and issues to the point that he overlooked these basic parameters set by God. We can do the same. He complains that God watches over him too closely (Job 13:6; 33:11 s.w.), and yet complains that God isn't watching over him (Job 29:2). God's response is to direct him again to the natural creation, where God's constant 'watching over' His creation is evident. He even watches over the exact gestation time of mountain goats, who were invisible to human eyes (Job 39:1 s.w.). And likewise Job was to understand that the time of his sufferings, like the period of exile for the captives, was likewise intensely noted by God and had not been forgotten.

Job 29:3 when His lamp shone on my head, and by His light I walked through darkness-
Job had experienced the darkness of trial before (see on Job 3:26), but felt he had been led by God's light through the darkness. This walking in darkness was exactly the experience of an apostate Israel (s.w. Is. 9:2; 59:9; Lam. 3:2). Job understandably struggles with being treated as wicked, and under judgment for serious sin; when he knew he was "perfect" in God's eyes, according to the prologue. And at this point he appears to be on the pole of focusing upon his being judged for sin which he hadn't committed. But this was all because he was suffering as representative of sinners, as the Lord Jesus did to a far greater extent, seeing He unlike Job was actually sinless.  

Job 29:4 as I was in the ripeness of my days, when the friendship of God was in my tent- "
Friendship" is 'secret'. Job was a prophet (Job 29:4 cp. 15:8;  23:12; Prov. 3:32; Amos 3:7; the secret of God being with him made Job a prophet) and it is in his role as such that he is commended in James 5:10,11- i.e. for the words concerning God which he spoke. The words for which God and Elihu rebuked him were perhaps therefore about other things. We can conclude from this that the gift of prophecy had been withdrawn from Job whilst he was passing through his affliction, and something similar happened with the exiles; the sun went down on their prophets (Mic. 3:6), but that didn't mean that the previous prophetic words of restoration would not come true for them.

Job 29:5 when the Almighty was yet with me, and my children were around me-
The same phrase is found in Job 6:4, "the arrows of the Almighty are with me". Job is struggling to accept that the presence of God "with" him was manifest through his afflictions, just as much as it had been in God's more visible, tangible presence with him he had experienced in the past.


Job 29:6 when my steps were washed with butter, and the rock poured out streams of oil for me-
Loss of the blessings of oil and butter makes Job representative of an Israel who lost those blessings through their rebellion (Dt. 28:40,51; Dt. 32:13,14). Again and again we see Job set up as representative of God's people, and achieving the salvation of his friends through suffering for their sins whilst innocent (see on Job 42:6). The whole story of Job is designed to encourage Israel's faith in a representative saviour, the Lord Jesus, who bore the judgment for their sins whilst personally sinless.

Job 29:7 when I went forth to the city gate, when I prepared my seat in the street-
Job recalls in great detail his former greatness, and laments his loss of power. This is all absolutely credible and appropriate to a real historical male figure who was cast down from a position of power and respect.

Job 29:8 The young men saw me and hid themselves. The aged rose up and stood-
The fact those older than Job respected him is perhaps an oblique self justification against the idea of the friends that the wisdom of the aged condemned Job.

Job 29:9 The princes refrained from talking, and laid their hand on their mouth-
Job was later to be the one who laid his hand upon his mouth (Job 40:4). In this part of the dialogues, Job seems to come very low. He is consumed with self pity and regret concerning the power and prestige he has lost.


Job 29:10 The voice of the nobles was hushed, and their tongue stuck to the roof of their mouth-
By implication, Job's voice was now hushed and his tongue stuck to the roof of his dried mouth, just as was to happen to the Lord Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant after the pattern of Job (Ps. 22:15), and to a condemned Israel (Lam. 4:4). Ezekiel passed through the same experience (Ez. 3:26), again as a representative sufferer for the sake of Israel's sins- likewise in an attempt to save them by bearing the judgment of their sins.   

Job 29:11 For when the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it commended me-
Job in his depths came to know God as his “witness in heaven” (Job 16:19); 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. He confesses that he had only heard of God by the ear, and only upon recognizing his humanity did he 'see' God (Job 42:5). The fact others' eyes and ears had seen and heard him with respect was to become of no value to him at all.

Job 29:12 because I delivered the poor who cried, and the fatherless also, who had none to help him-
Bildad assumes Job must have done the very opposite, to deserve his sufferings (Job 20:19). Job engages with what Bildad says and denies it (Job 29:12; 31:17). Again we note that Job engages with the actual words of the friends, whereas they tend to attack him in terms of the straw man image of him they had built up in their minds, ignoring him as a person and the actual words he says. This is typical of how dialogue goes wrong.

Job feels he has 'cried out' to God for justice and not been heard (Job 19:7; 30:20); and that there is nothing wrong with crying out to God in distress, it is a perfectly natural reaction (Job 24:12). One comment upon this is that the young ravens cry out to God for food and yet are not always heard (Job 38:41 s.w.). But God in the wider picture sustains all of creation by grace. Job did well to cry out to God even if there was no answer, because the hypocrites do not 'cry out' to God when they are facing judgment (Job 36:13 s.w.). Job feels hurt that God has not responded to his 'crying out' because he says that when the needy cried out to him, he had heard (Job 29:12 s.w.). But here we see his works based approach; he thought that his response to those who cried out to him meant that therefore God must respond to his crying out. And God is not so primitive. His apparent silence is because His response is not predicated upon human works and charity. It is by grace alone, as is taught in His final appearance to Job. The exiles likewise were to finally see the response to their crying out to God in the restoration (Is. 58:9), just as their representative Jonah cried out to God from the belly of sheol amidst the sea of nations, and was heard (s.w. Jonah 2:2).

Job 29:13 the blessing of him who was ready to perish came on me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy-
"I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy (by his charity). I (thereby) put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgement was as a robe and a diadem" (29:13,14). This has clear reference to the clothing of the Mosaic High Priest with his outward show of righteousness. Job was probably the family priest, seeing that the head of the household appears to have been the priest in patriarchal times; thus Job could offer a sacrifice for the sins of his children (Job 1:5). Job's likening of himself to a moth-eaten garment due to God's changing of his circumstances (Job 13:26-28) must connect with the disciples of the Law as an old, decaying garment in Heb. 8:13. The priestly clothing " for glory and for beauty" (Ex. 28:2) is certainly alluded to by God when He challenges Job "Deck thyself now (i.e. like you used to) with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty... then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee" (Job 40:10,14)- as if God is saying that Job's previous life represented the Mosaic priestly system with its external pomp and implication that ones own righteousness can bring salvation ("that thine own right hand can save thee"). Job's humiliation meant that, by implication, he no longer felt able to clothe himself with the priestly garments of glory and beauty; he had learnt the spirit of the Christian dispensation, to trust on the grace of God rather than a system of salvation depending on personal righteousness. The descriptions of Job rending his "mantle" (priestly robes) recalls that of Caiaphas; his falling on his face perhaps  indicates his recognition that reliance on the outward show of the Law needed to be replaced by humble faith. Job thus described his experiences as God leading "priests away stripped" of their robes (Job 12:19 N.I.V.). 

Job 29:14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me. My justice was as a robe and a diadem-
This would mean that his merciful acts to the poor were done in a 'charitable' spirit, thinking that such public acts declared him outwardly righteous: "I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy (by his charity). I (thereby) put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgement was as a robe and a diadem" (Job 29:13,14 AV). And yet Job's words of Job 30:1 certainly smack of arrogance: "Whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock". His charity was done to some whilst despising others and judging them. This works based, judgmental righteousness can so easily be our weakness. See on :13.

Job 29:15 I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame-
This is quoted in Rom. 2. It is in the context of Paul's rebuke of the Jews in Rom. 2:17-23 for their reliance on a mixture of worldly wisdom and the Mosaic law. The passage has many similarities with Job: ""Thou art called a Jew... and makest thy boast of God, and knowest His will, and triest the things that differ (AVmg.) ["Doth  not the ear try words?" (Job 12:11)], being instructed out of the law [A fair description of Job before his trials]... and art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness ["I was eyes to the blind" (Job 29:15)], an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and of the truth in the law... Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? ["Thou hast instructed many... thy words have upholden him that was falling... but now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest" (Job 4:3-5)]. Thou that preachest a man should not steal... commit adultery... (worship) idols... dost thou? [These were the three main things of which the friends accused Job]. Thou that makest thy boast of the Law, through breaking the Law dishonourest thou God?" [Elihu, on God's behalf, says that Job's boasting of his righteousness implied God was doing wickedly in punishing Job (Job 34:10).

Their belief that they possessed such great wisdom led the Jews to be self-righteous, in that they reasoned that if they were wicked, then their wisdom would reveal this to them. Job and the Jews were in this sense similar. But as ever, Job is being set up as representative of sinful Israel, bearing their judgments (see on :3,6); and yet personally innocent.


Job 29:16 I was a father to the needy. The cause of him who I didn’t know, I searched out-
It is one thing to meet needs which come right before our face on life's path; but Job went beyond that, in searching out the needs of others. "The cause" could be legal language; Job expected his legal case against God and man to be upheld, because he has taken the side of others in legal matters and upheld the downtrodden. But again, we have here a legalistic attitude. He expects better from life right now, because of his previous good deeds. He has at this point forgotten his conclusions about a future recompense at a point of future resurrection and judgment.

Job 29:17 I broke the jaws of the unrighteous, and plucked the prey out of his teeth-
This suggests Job was proactive in even orchestrating physical punishment and violence against the wicked. But now he feels as if he is the prey within the teeth of his abusers and of God Himself. Again, he expects better from life right now, because of his previous good deeds. He has at this point forgotten his conclusions about a future recompense at a point of future resurrection and judgment.

Job 29:18 Then I said, ‘I shall die in my own house, I shall number my days as the sand-
Job lived in patriarchal times, and so we can legitimately detect here an allusion to the promises to Abraham of a seed as numerous as the sand. Job had thought that the promises spoke of a long life in this world. He was to come to realize that they rather spoke of eternal inheritance of the earth at a future point, thanks to the work of Abraham's great seed, the Lord Jesus.

Job 29:19 My root is spread out to the waters. The dew lies all night on my branch-
This connects with the thought of Job's words in Job 14:8: "Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stock dies in the ground". "Earth" is eretz, the land (of Israel). If merely "soil" was intended, a different word would have been used. Again, we see the drama of Job has been tweaked, under Divine inspiration, to become the narrative for the exiles. The root had indeed largely died in the land at the time of the Babylonian invasion, but it still had some life and would "bud" again (Job 14:9). Job was the man with great roots who had been cut down but hadn't completely died (Job 8:17); his roots had been dried up (Job 18:16; 29:19). He represented Judah, whose roots were throughout the land as a tree transplanted by God (s.w. Ps. 80:9). Those roots were withered by the invasions (Is. 5:24), but out of those dry roots would grow up a "tender plant / branch" (Is. 11:1,10; 53:2), using the same word for "tender" as in Job 14:7. This Messianic suffering servant was to be based upon Job, and representative of all God's restored people. They were to again spread their roots in the land of promise in a restored Kingdom (Is. 37:31; Jer. 17:8), after the pattern of Job's restoration.

Job 29:20 My glory is fresh in me. My bow is renewed in my hand’-
Perhaps as GNB "Everyone was always praising me, and my strength never failed me". Job's bow or strength was however broken, just as Israel's was (Hos. 1:5); he was their representative.

Job 29:21 Men listened to me, waited, and kept silence for my counsel-
We note the parallel with how Elihu on God's behalf listened, waited, and only then spoke (Job 32:4). Job was to be taught that the fact men listened, waited and kept silence before him needed to be reversed; so that he would wait, listen and keep silence before God, laying his hand upon his mouth (Job 40:4).

Job 29:22 After my words they didn’t speak again. My speech fell on them-
This is what happened at the end of the book; God's speech through Elihu fell upon Job, and after God's words Job didn't want to speak again (Job 40:4). Job was to be taught that it was God's word and greatness and not his which was of the essence.

Job 29:23 They waited for me as for the rain. Their mouths drank as with the spring rain-
Job was to realize that men should wait for God's word as the rain, and the latter rain of His blessings. Job had previously functioned as those blessings for men, and he was to realize the utter insignificance of this. For he needed Divine blessing and grace, rather than being an apparent provider of that blessing to others. All his good works were therefore given a quite different context when he was made to realize his need for blessing. GNB "they had nothing to add when I had finished. My words sank in like drops of rain; everyone welcomed them just as farmers welcome rain in spring" (:22,23).

Job 29:24 I smiled on them when they had no confidence. They didn’t reject the light of my face-
GNB "I smiled on them when they had lost confidence; my cheerful face encouraged them". But Job was to realize that it was God's face smiling upon man which was the only important thing; the smiling of man's face upon man was therefore of no account compared to that.

Job 29:25 I chose out their way, and sat as chief. I lived as a king in the army, as one who comforts the mourners
- Job was to realize that it was God and not him who chooses out the way of men (Ps. 25:12); like Job, the exiles failed through choosing out their own way (s.w. Is. 66:3) rather than seeking God's way.