Job 29 Summary: I think that many or probably all of us have heard people wistfully speak of the “good old days.” Maybe you yourself have engaged in that kind of speech.
And I think the older we get, the more likely we are to longingly think of times gone by. And one reason for that is simply that the older we get, the harder – generally – life is for us. The more trials we have.
And as we have more and harder trials – our past with its relative ease looks more and more attractive.
And I believe it’s this kind of dynamic that Job expresses in the 29th chapter of the book named after him. So, let’s turn our attention to Job, chapter 29.
And here in the 29th chapter of Job, Job takes this whole chapter to lament that God isn’t treating him like he used to. He longingly looks back on his “good old days” for 25 verses.
Job 29 Summary Verse 1
And in verses 1-10 Job reminisces over all the blessings that he used to have – and he wishes that that were still the case with him.
KJV Job 29:1 [Moreover/And/Then] Job [continued/took up] his [parable/discourse/speech], and said,
2 Oh that I were as in months [past/gone by/now gone],
as in the days when God [preserved/watched over] me;
So Job is lamenting that God – in his estimation – isn’t preserving and watching over him. And so, what we have throughout this entire chapter is Job looking back fondly at his life before chapters 1 and 2 of this book – before Satan comes before God and God points out Satan to Job.
Job 29 Summary Verse 3
Well, what was happening in Job’s life when God was preserving and watching over him? Job says that that was a time…
3 When his [candle/lamp] shined upon my head,
and when by his light I walked through darkness;
So, Job remembers this time in his life as one marked by light.
And of course, Job is not speaking of physical light. He’s not lamenting the fact that the Sun no longer shines on him.
But Job is picturing the way God treated him in the old days and he’s expressing the feeling he has about it. In his recollection, it’s as if God was lighting his way. God was expelling darkness all around him.
And of course, by contrast, Job at this point in his life is feeling like he’s walking around in darkness – confusion – not knowing where the next step will lead him.
Job 29 Summary Verse 4
And then Job continues and he admits that the days before his awful trial were extremely productive and marked by close communion with God.
4 As I was in [the days of my youth/the prime of my days/my most productive time],
when the [secret/intimate friendship] of God was [upon/experienced in] my [tabernacle/tent];
Job 29 Summary Verse 5
And Job continues to speak of the relational closeness that he experienced before his trial – both with God – and now he even remembers his beloved departed children.
5 When the Almighty was [yet/still] with me,
when my children were [about/around] me;
Job 29 Summary Verse 6
And, as Job moves on, he claims that his life before this trial of his was characterized by “fatness.”
6 When [I washed my steps/my steps were bathed] with butter,
and the rock poured me out rivers of [olive…] oil;
And we tend to think in our day that fat is bad. But that’s just not how Job or the rest of Scripture presents things like butter and oil.
Instead, these foods are a sign of richness – a sign of smoothness – of abundance. It’s a good thing in Scripture.
In contrast, Job is characterizing his life during this trial as lean and course and gaunt.
Job 29 Summary Verse 7
And Job continues to reminisce about what his life was like before his trial. And in verse 7 Job starts to remember his place of prominence in the social and judicial realms.
7 When I went out to the gate [through/of] the city,
when I [prepared/took/secured] my seat in the [street/public square]!
So, in Job’s time, the city gate is where business was conducted. It’s where disputes were heard and judicial rulings were given.
And Job was an integral part of that environment. He took his seat in that setting – meaning that he was in some way in charge of the proceedings.
Job 29 Summary Verse 8
And Job admits that everyone – no matter how young or old – respected and revered him – that is, before he moved his operations from the city gate to the city’s trash heap.
8 The young men saw me, and hid themselves:
and the [aged/old men] [arose, and stood up/would get up and remain standing].
So, that was the reaction from young and old to Job. From the young – fear. From the old – a deep reverence and respect.
And I’ll admit that it’s hard to know if Job is making us of hyperbole here. Or he might just be engaging in wishful thinking that isn’t quite accurate at this point after so long a time of suffering.
So, this is Job speaking. He’s a fallen human. He’s a righteous man – but capable of dishonesty. And even if it’s not that bad – Job is capable of a phenomenon that’s very common among us. And that is – when remembering the past – remembering only the good and forgetting practically all of the bad – especially when your current situation is largely negative and difficult.
But thankfully, we don’t need to spend a lot of time guessing and surmising as to whether Job is speaking the absolute truth here. We know that what he’s saying is exactly how he feels. And that’s really all that’s important to know in this particular chapter.
Job is not giving us a theological lecture here. He’s simply describing how he perceives his past to be. And we’re going to see that what he ultimately wants to do – in the next chapter – is to contrast how things used to be with how things are right now for him.
Job 29 Summary Verse 9
Well, so, it’s not just young and old that respected and revered Job in the old days. Even princes and chief men of his society stood in awe of this man – as Job recalls.
9 The [princes/chief men] [refrained/stopped] talking,
and laid their hand on their mouth.
So, Job is picturing himself as something of a chief of the chief men. He was preeminent.
And that goes along with what we heard in chapter 1. This man was righteous. He was “the greatest of all the men of the east.”
And so, wise men even would be awed by Job’s wisdom. He was the best of the best. The brightest of the brightest. He knew it – God knew it – everyone knew it.
Job 29 Summary Verse 10
And Job continues to furnish evidence of that fact in verse 10.
10 The nobles [held their peace/voices were hushed/voices fell silent],
and their tongue [cleaved/stuck] to [the roof of their mouth/their palate].
So, it’s like no one could answer Job in the days before his trial.
And of course – contrast that to what Job has been experiencing for the last twenty-some chapters of this book. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are certainly not holding their peace. Their tongues are doing anything but cleaving to the roof of their mouths.
They all suspect Job of secret sin. No one has any respect for him any more.
So, Job has taken verses 1 through 10 to reminisce on how good God used to be to him. And of course, he’s lamenting the fact that God now seems to be doing just the exact opposite in his life.
Job 29 Summary Verses 11-17
And you know people in this life who receive this kind of response. Think of Kim Jong Un the ruler of North Korea – how do you think people respond when he walks into a room in the capital Pyeongyang?
Or what about some of these henchmen for the Islamic State – who rose to prominence based upon the degree of their brutality.
Do you suppose that young and old – wise and naïve all respond when these people come into their presence? I think so.
But why? And is the reason that people fear and respect brutal dictators and bloodthirsty Islamic clerics the same reason that people used to respond to Job the way that they did?
Well – we don’t need to guess. Because Job addresses in verses 11-17 why people responded to him the way they did and why he believes he received the blessing that he did before his trial began.
Job 29 Summary Verse 11
And Job introduces this section with verse 11 where he sets us up for what he’s about to tell us.
11 When the ear heard [me/these things], then it blessed me;
and when the eye saw [me/them], it [gave/bore] witness to me:
And you see in the KJV the word “me” in italics. But what that’s admitting is that that word isn’t in the Hebrew. But it’s something they added to make sense of the statements that Job is making.
But what others (the NET Bible) have suggested is that what Job is actually saying that “the ear heard” and “the eye saw” is not Job himself – but the godly righteous deeds that he admits to performing in the next several verses.
Job 29 Summary Verse 12
And so, Job starts this list of his historical righteous deeds that he thinks account for why God blessed him formerly.
12 [Because/For] I delivered the poor that cried [for help…],
and the fatherless, [and him/(blank)] that had none to help him.
So – here we have it. Job wasn’t eliciting fear and respect from others because of his violent despotic tendencies. He was feared and respected because he cared for the needy. And we can assume that he was doing this in some of his official legal and judicial capacities at the city gate.
In Job’s day, as it still is the case in many places in this world, those who have the least power have the least access to justice. But Job didn’t work that way. He feared God and turned away from evil. And one of the many results would have been that he delivered the poor that cried for help – even though he could have done otherwise.
Job 29 Summary Verse 13
And because Job acted with such integrity, he pictures it as if dying blessings were uttered upon him.
13 The blessing of [him that was ready to perish/the dying man] came upon me:
and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.
So, both the one who was in the process of dying and the one who would shortly be left behind in that relationship were blessing Job. And this was surely due to the various righteous things that Job did on their behalf.
Job 29 Summary Verse 14
And that’s what Job says in verse 14. He lived and operated in such a way that he could say that he actually wore righteousness as if it were clothing.
14 I put on righteousness, and it clothed me:
my [judgment/justice] was as a robe and a [diadem/turban].
Job 29 Summary Verse 15
And again, Job reminds the ways he treated those who were needy in his society in verse 15.
15 I was eyes to the blind,
and feet was I to the lame.
So, he helped these individuals. On his watch he would not allow them to be abused and mistreated – as much as was in his power.
Job 29 Summary Verse 16
And Job continues to testify to his own blameless behavior toward the needy in verse 16.
16 I was a father to the [poor/needy]:
and the [cause/case] [of the person…] which I knew not I [searched out/investigated].
And I think that second assertion that Job makes is not him claiming that he was a good lawyer – like, he really looked into every case he took. I don’t think that’s it.
I think Job is saying that even if he didn’t know – not the cause – but the person – he would search out and investigate that person’s case – the case of the person he didn’t even know. He wouldn’t immediately dismiss it. He would do his best to make sure that person got justice.
Job 29 Summary Verse 17
So, Job has been speaking a lot about justice. He’s been asserting that he’s done so much to protect the innocent.
But – you know – justice is two-sided. There’s the matter of defending and protecting the innocent. But on the other side of the equation is prosecuting the perpetrators. And it’s that side to which Job turns in verse 17.
17 And I [brake/broke] the [jaws/fangs] of the wicked,
and [plucked/snatched away/made him drop] the spoil [out of/from] his teeth.
So, Job executed justice in his former days – and that’s why he believes God was blessing him.
And – by the way – I think Job is pointing to these realities to defend himself against his friends and their accusing him of secret wickedness against the poor and needy. He also probably has in mind that God maybe needs to hear this defense that he’s issuing – since it seems that God is treating him as if these things weren’t the case anymore.
Job 29 Summary Verse 18
But, because Job perceived that his situation was so good in the old days, he admits in verses 18-20 that he thought it would last forever.
18 Then I [said/thought],
I shall die in my [nest/own home],
and I shall multiply my days as the sand.
So, Job thought that he would die at home – not off at war or as a result of being punished for any crime. He would die in his nest – evoking images of a bird’s nest with its attendant comfort and security.
And then he thought that his days on this earth would be numerous – just like sand on the seashore.
Job 29 Summary Verse 19
And then I think that verse 19 is a continuation of Job’s self-talk – it’s a continuation of the matters concerning which he was extremely confident before God sent him this trial.
19 My root [was spread out by/is spread out to/reaches] the waters,
and the dew [lay/lies] all night upon my [branch/branches].
So, Job is comparing himself to a tree. And water in the form of rivers and dew would be very welcome to such a tree. Without water, trees die.
But Job had no concern for those depressing realities. He was just like a vibrant healthy tree soaking in all of the wonderful water – water from the earth in the form of rivers and water from the sky in the form of dew.
Job 29 Summary Verse 20
And then Job finishes this retelling of what he said in his prosperity in verse 20.
20 My glory [was/is ever/will always be] fresh in me,
and my bow [was renewed/ever new] in my hand.
So, Job thought that he would always be glorious – uniquely excellent. And in a related thought, he believed that his bow would never grow old – that is, his ability to defend and to conquer. That thing that’s made of wood and subject to becoming dry and old – Job thought that would never happen.
That’s what he’s been telling us in these last few verses.
Job 29 Summary Verses 21-25
Then Job closes this chapter by continuing to reminisce on how good life was for him in the old days before his trial from God.
Job 29 Summary Verse 21
And once again, Job focuses on the reactions that other people had to him. And I think he’s again wanting to remind these friends of how men who are more excellent than they are used to treat this man that they now despise.
21 Unto me men [gave ear/listened], and waited [silently…],
and kept silence [at/for] my [counsel/advice].
So, people listened for Job to speak. And then when he spoke and gave them advice they kept quiet.
Job was such a man that people sought advice from, then – which is always a sign that at least others perceive a person to be wise.
Job 29 Summary Verse 22
And then Job continues to describe how people used to love to hear him speak with a metaphor that’s really kind of humorous if you picture it literally – like most metaphors are…
22 After [my words/I had spoken] they [spake not again/did not respond];
and my [speech/words] [dropped/fell drop by drop] upon them.
So, once again Job references the fact that people just didn’t respond after Job declared something. He was so wise that no one had anything to add. They wouldn’t disagree with him – they’d make no contradictions – like these three friends are doing to him now.
And then the metaphor – his words were like refreshing rain drops to the people.
Now, let me say that we might feel kind of “rained-out” – like we’ve had enough of all the rain already. We’re just coming off an unusually wet spring. Farmers’ fields in the area are oversaturated with rain to the point of puddles standing in the fields.
So, erase that picture from your mind, and imagine the surface of the moon. Because oftentimes, that’s exactly what the ground looks like in the Middle East – with the exception of a few small shrubs here and there in the furrows where the minimal water that does fall tends to flow.
People in the Middle East are far less likely to get tired of rain than we are. And so, Job is saying that people would receive his advice and judgements on matters just like people who need water to survive would welcome a rain shower.
Job 29 Summary Verse 23
And that’s what Job goes on to say more explicitly in verse 23.
23 And they waited for me as [people wait…] for the rain;
and they opened their mouth wide as for the [latter/spring] rain.
So, in addition to giving water for their crops, Job’s contemporaries would be looking for rain for the purpose of drinking water. And if they didn’t get it they’d thirst to death. And that’s how Job compares his speech – it’s as if the people didn’t get his counsel, they would perish!
Job 29 Summary Verse 24
And if that’s how people perceived Job – almost as a super-human kind of character whose advice was as valuable and sought-after as life-sustaining rain, then it’s no surprise as to the reaction that he claims he would often get from people if he showed them some form of attention.
24 If I [laughed on/smiled at] them, they believed it [not/hardly];
and the light of my countenance they [cast not down/did not cause to darken].
So, even though common people couldn’t believe their good fortune to have the legendary Job smile at them, yet they warmly accepted that smile. In that sense, they didn’t “cast down” that demonstration of friendliness.
Job 29 Summary Verse 25
And then I think that the last verse in this chapter has Job sort of summarizing what he’s just been saying.
25 I chose out [their way/the way for them], and sat [as their…] chief,
and dwelt as a king [in the army/among his troops],
[as/ I was like] one that comforteth the mourners.
So, Job was advising people and basically choosing the way that they would go. He’s leading them like a king would lead his people. And he was merciful to the needy – he comforted the mourners.
And that last point is exactly what Job wants from these friends – some comfort. That’s why they came – but they have completely abandoned their original intent and are now just accusing Job of some nebulous and speculator wrongdoing.
Job 29 Summary Conclusion
And on top of that, all of these people – and even the lowest of them – whom Job used to treat right – well, they’re treating him poorly now that he’s the one in need. And we’ll see Job lament that fact next time.