By all this Job was stirred to reply, and he begins by acknowledging
that the arrows that had smitten him were from the Almighty but these
friends of his had no proper sense of the weight of his calamity and
grief. Well fed animals do not express distress by braying or lowing,
so he did not cry out without ample cause. He was being fed on
"sorrowful meat," and he desired that God would cut him off completely
rather than prolong his misery.
From verses 14-23, Job upbraids his friends. He was the afflicted
one to whom his friends should show pity, if they desired to walk in
the fear of God, but on the contrary they were beginning to deal
deceitfully with him. They were like streams that dried up in the heat,
just when they were most needed by caravans of Tema or Sheba.
At verse 24 a more direct appeal begins. He challenged his friends
to leave vague insinuations for direct accusation. Let them show where
he had erred, so that, taught by them, he might hold his tongue. He
rightly remarked, "How forcible are right words," but what did
Eliphaz's "arguing," or "upbraiding," effect? How often among brethren
in Christ have vague insinuations, or even accusations, wrought havoc,
where "right words," based on specific facts, would have proved
forcible and wrought good.
Job's reply continues into
Job 7, and here his discourse seems to
divide into two parts verses 1-10, and, 11-21. One cannot read the
first section without being struck by the pathos of his plight. He felt
it deeply himself and hence expressed it in moving fashion. "Months of
vanity" and "wearisome nights" had been his portion, so that, just as a
servant or hireling longed for the shadow of evening and the wages, he
was longing for the end. Like the weaver's shuttle his days fled away
and he was hopeless. His pathetic state is most vividly described and
his friends should have been more filled with compassion.
But in the second part Job evidently turned Godward, and began to
address Him with his bitter complaint. He realized his own littleness.
He was not something great as a sea or a sea-monster, and, in verses
13-16, he cries out that his very nights are a torment with dreams and
visions of terror which, he feels, come to him from God. He loathes his
present life and tells God that he desires to die.
But it is noticeable how the tone of his complaint and cry changes,
when he turns to God from the presence of his friends. He at once is
made to realize the insignificance and even the sinfulness of mankind.
His cry is, "What is man . . .?" and though he could not answer the
question with the clearer light vouch-safed to David in Psalm 8, or the
full light of the New Testament, he knew enough to admit that man is
not what he ought to be, and that it is a wonder that God should set
His heart upon him.
In verse 20, he goes even further. He realized God would not let him
alone and he confesses to sin. The New Translation renders the opening
of that verse, "Have I sinned, what do I unto Thee, Thou Observer of
men?" and we understand that "Observer" and not "Preserver" is the
correct translation. He knew he was under God's eye, who could perceive
error where he was hardly aware of it. And why did God not grant pardon
and remove the weight of his load?
Thus from the outset Job admitted some consciousness of guilt, but
as yet, fortified by a life of piety and outward correctness, he did
not realize its greatness. God was beginning the process which would
lead him to see how deep and black it was.
What have we seen of the same thing in ourselves? Have we reached
Paul's confession, "I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth
no good thing" (Rom. 7: 18)?