Explaining the Book

Bible Study Guide

Job

Job 17 Commentary, Summary

Open to Job 17 for this Job 17 commentary.

The Old Testament book of Job and the 17th chapter.

We studied Job, chapter 16 last time where Job was responding to Eliphaz.

And there, in chapter 16, Job had ended there speaking of how he despaired of life.

Job 17 Commentary: Focused on Dying

And so, Job continues into chapter 17 the way he ended chapter 16 – that is, still focused on dying.

17:1 My [breath/spirit] is [corrupt/broken],
my days [are extinct/are extinguished/have faded out],
the [graves are/grave is] ready for me.

And so, Job focuses on his prospects – which he can only conclude will be his physical demise.

Job 17 Commentary: Friends are Mockers

And yet, the only thing worse than death for Job are these friends of his who continue to provoke Job by their unhelpful counsel and demeanor.

2 Are there not mockers with me? [i.e., Surely there are!…]
and doth not mine eye [continue in/gaze on/dwell on] their [provocation/hostility]? [i.e., it does!…]

Can you imagine the looks on the faces of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar as Job says this about them? Do you think they would look shocked? Maybe angry even?

Job is calling them mockers and saying that they are provoking him – and he’s saying this to their faces.

This is the result of their failed attempt to comfort this man with their worldly man-made wisdom – that just doesn’t apply to Job in this situation in his life.

Job 17 Commentary: Asking God for a Pledge

Well, next it seems that Job directly addresses God and asks him to defend him before these accusing friends.

3 Lay down now, [put me in a surety/a pledge for me] with thee;
who is he that will [strike hands with me/be my guarantor/put up security for me]?

So, the wording in verse 3 is rather difficult to understand at first. But basically, it’s Job lacking anyone else who can vouch for his righteousness. And so, Job turns to the one who is seemingly punishing him – and asking him to testify to Job’s righteousness to these accusing men.

Job 17 Commentary: God Punishing via Friends

And in Job’s mind – in addition to punishing Job with painful physical ailments and taking his children and all his earthly possessions from him – God has crowned all of this trouble by sending these dreadful friends to him. And in Job’s mind, it’s actually God who is hiding the truth of Job’s situation from them.

4 For thou hast [hid/kept/closed] their [heart/minds] from understanding:
therefore shalt thou not exalt them.

And so, even though God – according to Job – is causing these friends to totally miss the truth concerning Job’s innocence – their reckless and unloving accusations against this man will not be blessed by God.

God can use individuals for his purpose without actually endorsing what they’re doing. And that’s what Job is saying here about these friends. God is using them to beat Job down. And yet, just because God is utilizing them for this task doesn’t mean that he’s happy with their actions and words.

Kind of like how the Lord used Babylon to chasten Judah in the Old Testament. He used Babylon – but they took things too far and so they ended up being punished by the Lord as well.

Job 17 Commentary: Threats to the Friends

And with all of that mind, Job uses this opportunity to speak a word of threatening and denunciation against these so-called friends of his.

5 He that [speaketh flattery to/informs against for a share of the spoil/denounces for personal gain] his friends,
even the eyes of his children shall [fail/languish].

Now, “flattery” is from a Hebrew word that seems to have two forms. In one form it can speak of what the KJV says – “flattery” – speaking swelling words that are untrue or embellished for the sake of winning someone over.

But the other form of this word means “a share of property.” So, in that case, Job is accusing these men of speaking against him for the sake of gaining something out of the situation.

And so, we wonder what Job is talking about. Didn’t he just lose everything? What s Job thinking that these men would be looking to take from him?

Well, although Job lost his livestock and children and servants – he probably still owned property. His wife apparently still was living somewhere – probably not in the garbage dump with him. She was probably living at the home that they had on the property that they owned.

And, Job – for whatever reason – is insinuating that these men are speaking lies about him by accusing him of secret sin that doesn’t actually exist in his life – and that they’re doing this to get what little earthly possessions he still has – in particular, apparently, his land.

And Job just wants these gentlemen to know that God will not look kindly on that type of behavior. He will cause the eyes of their children to fail. That’s what Job is threatening and warning these friends of his about.

Job 17 Commentary: Back to God

But Job can’t stay with this thought of his friends experiencing retribution for their abuse of himself for very long. And so, we’ll see him a few times switch back and forth between taking jabs at his friends and then addressing how God is – in his mind – mistreating him. So, verse 6 is where he switches his focus from his friends to God.

6 He hath made me also a byword of the people;
and aforetime I was as a tabret.

So, Job is a byword to people. That is, he’s become a proverb of suffering to those who know of him. He is the classic case of one who suffers.

And then Job says that he’s a tabret. That word appears once in the Old Testament and that’s of course right here. There are two possibilities as to what this word means.

First, it could be something into which people would spit. And that idea is bolstered by the fact that aforetime in verse 6 is the word for face. So, then Job is saying that he’s a proverb of suffering – and in fact, people are spitting in his face, as it were.

The other possibility as to what this word tabret means as we have it in the KJV is that it’s a small drum. And what do people do with drums? They beat them. And so, if that’s what this word means, then Job is saying that people are beating on him, so to speak.

Either way, Job is lamenting the fact that people are not being kind to him. They’re using him as a proverbial example of one who suffers. And then in light of that they’re either beating on him or spitting on him.

Job 17 Commentary: Eye Problems

And even though Job a few verses ago threatened his friends that their pursuit of his property through their lying about him was going to result in their children having eye problems – Job has to now admit in verse 7 that it’s he himself who is currently having his eyes affected by his current predicament.

7 Mine eye also [is/has grown] dim by reason of [sorrow/grief],
and [all my members/my whole frame] [are as/is but] a shadow.

And I’ll just remind us that when people in the Old Testament speak of their eyes being dim, they’re indicating that they’re weeping often.

And isn’t that a good way to describe the way your eyes get when you cry? With all the tears and puffiness that tends to attend crying – preventing light from coming into the eye like normal – the way you see tends to dim a bit.

But of course, Job would have been experiencing these dynamics to an extreme that few of us might know of on a personal level.

And then, when Job claims that all his body parts put together are just like a shadow, he’s apparently referring to his gaunt appearance – no doubt due to his physical ailments and lack of desire to eat.

So, Job’s eyes are puffy and dim. And he’s thin as a rail.

Job 17 Summary: Shocking

And Job says next that what’s happening to him in these areas and others will shock his fellow-righteous people.

8 Upright men shall be [astonied/appalled] at this,
and the innocent [shall stir up himself/is in trouble] [against/with] the [hypocrite/godless].

So, what is Job saying that upright men will be appalled at? Well – certainly his physical appearance. But I think as well in that statement, Job is including his treatment at the hands of his friends. Upright people will be appalled – astonished – when we hear about how his friends are treating Job.

And in fact, Job is envisioning a time when – as innocent people hear about Job’s abuse by his friends – they will start to stir themselves up against these men – whom Job is now labeling as hypocrites or even godless men.

That’s certainly not how these friends are viewing themselves. They would naturally think of themselves as godly and innocent and upright. I mean – these men have ancient wisdom on their sides and they’re trying their hardest to stop Job from sinning and to get him back to praying. Neither of which is the issue for Job, of course. But they’re trying!

And yet, Job is categorizing these men in a very different way. They’re godless hypocrites in Job’s mind. They’re not helping him to Trust God’s Wisdom. They’re instead errantly trying to force him to Understand God’s Ways. And that’s proving impossible and frustrating to Job.

Job 17 Summary: Contra Friends, Pro Self

And so, Job continues to make a case against his friends and for his own righteousness.

9 The righteous [also/nevertheless/but] shall hold [on/to] his way,
and he that hath clean hands shall [be/grow] stronger and stronger.

And so, Job is saying that he himself – as well as any who are appalled at what is happening to him at the hands of his friends – he and they will continue to just keep on doing what they have been doing.

Even though righteous men like Job are accused wrongfully, they will rise up against their accusers – verse 8 – and now in verse 9 he says that they will just keep on being righteous – despite the attacks from these gainsayers.

And as a result, Job contends that he will grow stronger and stronger. He won’t quit. He’s resolved to keep fighting for his integrity.

Job isn’t going to lie and claim that he has some secret sin that God is punishing him for. No – he’s going to continue to live in integrity.

Job 17 Summary: Friends Are Fools

So, that’s Job’s story.

On the other hand – these friends – according to Job are total fools.

10 But as for you all, [do ye return, and come now/come again now/turn and come now]:
for I cannot find one wise man among you.

So, Job sets up a contrast between himself and these friends. He says that he will grow stronger and stronger as he continues to hold to his righteous ways and contends with hypocrites like them.

And the other hand though – these friends are found lacking by Job. He finds no wise men among them. Job is accusing them of being fools.

And that’s pretty direct and provocative, I’d say! I’m thinking that we’ve transitioned from the point where Job could legitimately call these men friends and would instead need to recognize them as enemies.

Job 17 Summary: A Lamentable Plight

But it’s not as though Job delights in cutting people down – even these three former-friends who have been such a nuisance to him. And so, Job goes back to considering his own lamentable plight.

11 My days [are/have] past,
my [purposes/plans] are [broken off/torn apart/shattered],
even the [thoughts/wishes/desires] of my heart.

So, all of Job’s plans and desires are destroyed and have come to nothing. Life is so hard for him. He feels as though his prime days are gone and that he’s waiting only for death to come to finish him off.

Job 17 Summary: Friends are Oversimplifying

And yet, in light of Job’s pitiable situation, his friends are trying to smooth everything over and tell him that things will be alright if he just confesses to his supposed secret sins and starts praying once more. And so, Job calls out their oversimplification of his ordeal.

12 [They/These men] [change the/make] night into day:
[i.e., saying…/they say…] the light is [short/near] [because/in the face/in the presence] of darkness.

So, all that Job sees is darkness. But these three men who have come to comfort Job – they see the darkness in Job’s life – but they have a fool-proof answer in their minds that will turn night into day for him. The only problem is that Job isn’t suffering for his sins or lack of prayer. And so, ultimately, the suggestions of these friends will not work out for him.

Job 17 Summary: Death and Hopelessness

And since there’s no counsel or advice that can help the poor suffering Job, that leaves him assuming that what’s in store for him is only death. And that leaves him feeling utterly hopeless.

And so, Job starts with two verses of the “if” part of a conditional clause…

13 If I wait, [i.e., for…] the grave [is/to be] mine house:
[i.e., if…] I have [made/spread out] my bed in the darkness.

14 [i.e., if…] I [have said/call/cry] to [corruption/the pit], Thou art my father:
[i.e., and…] to the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister.

So, that was the “if” – here’s the “then”…

15 [And/Then] where is now my hope?
as for my hope, who shall [see/regards] it?

16 [They/It] shall go down to the [bars/barred gates] of [the pit/Sheol/death][,/?]
when our rest together is in the dust[./?]

So, both Job and his hope will be in the grave soon enough. That’s the only conclusion that Job can reach. Because God is not answering his pleas for mercy and help. And his friends are actually answering him – but in ways that are totally unhelpful for him.

And so, next time we’ll see more unhelpfulness from the second of these three friends – Bildad.

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