open bookCommentary on
The Book of Job

Chapter Thirty: The Final Lament

chapter linkback chapter linknext


Job's Lament Returns

Job: chapter 30
1 But now they that are younger than I have me in derision, whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.
2 Yea, whereto might the strength of their hands profit me, in whom old age was perished?
3 For want and famine they were solitary; fleeing into the wilderness in former time desolate and waste.
4 Who cut up mallows by the bushes, and juniper roots for their meat.
5 They were driven forth from among men, (they cried after them as after a thief;)
6 To dwell in the cliffs of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks.
7 Among the bushes they brayed; under the nettles they were gathered together.
8 They were children of fools, yea, children of base men: they were viler than the earth.
9 And now am I their song, yea, I am their byword.
10 They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face.
11 Because he hath loosed my cord, and afflicted me, they have also let loose the bridle before me.
12 Upon my right hand rise the youth; they push away my feet, and they raise up against me the ways of their destruction.
13 They mar my path, they set forward my calamity, they have no helper.
14 They came upon me as a wide breaking in of waters: in the desolation they rolled themselves upon me.
15 Terrors are turned upon me: they pursue my soul as the wind: and my welfare passeth away as a cloud.
16 And now my soul is poured out upon me; the days of affliction have taken hold upon me.
17 My bones are pierced in me in the night season: and my sinews take no rest.
18 By the great force of my disease is my garment changed: it bindeth me about as the collar of my coat.
19 He hath cast me into the mire, and I am become like dust and ashes.
20 I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not.
21 Thou art become cruel to me: with thy strong hand thou opposest thyself against me.
22 Thou liftest me up to the wind; thou causest me to ride upon it, and dissolvest my substance.
23 For I know that thou wilt bring me to death, and to the house appointed for all living.
24 Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave, though they cry in his destruction.
25 Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor?
26 When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.
27 My bowels boiled, and rested not: the days of affliction prevented me.
28 I went mourning without the sun: I stood up, and I cried in the congregation.
29 I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls.
30 My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat.
31 My harp also is turned to mourning, and my organ into the voice of them that weep.

There is no question that self-satisfaction is blown apart for Job now. He is still satisfied with his righteousness; but, his life, once satisfying, is now a horror. Where before Job was held in the highest esteem, now he is derided by the lowest of the low (30:1-14). Job does not wish to admit it, but this sense of rejection by all those who formerly held him in honor, is the most painful blow of all. Job's estimation among men is so very important to him. “And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction” (Zechariah 1:15).

“Among the bushes they brayed” (30:7). Again Job uses the image of the wild ass for those whose call derides him (see my discussion on 6:5). Where in chapter 24 (verse 5) Job treats the poor with compassion as if their struggle was unjust, here Job implies that the poor who sneer at him are justifiably driven out to the wastelands. Job is not always consistent. The implication is that those who are despised of men, dare to insult him now.

They Spit in My Face

“Children of base men: they were viler than the earth. And now am I their song... They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spare not to spit in my face” (30:8-10). People shrink from Job, for fear of contamination with his blight, or they come to triumph over him. I think there are very few of us who cannot recall an incident in which some other child gloated over us when we had been injured or insulted. While this is more obvious on the playground, in more subtle fashion this happens in the workplace, the supermarket or the church all the time. Gossip is a mature expression of this evil. Do you not imagine that the gossip lines are burning up with Job's fall seemingly from grace. The greater the fall the more intense the gossip. When a president, prime minister or a CEO is chastised, everyone has an opinion as to how and why punishment should be handed out. Is this not an ugly sort of triumphalism? Though we have not changed our own stature at all, suddenly we feel much greater. The “children of base men” are simply parading their elevation, as a cat parades with a dead mouse. This triumph lurks even under the dialogues of Job's best friends. “Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now, if He will have him” (Matthew 27:41-43).

“But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him” (Psalm 22:6-8). As in this Psalm, Job feels the scorn of everyone and all he can do is appeal to God, but the heavens appear to have shut against him. Not only is Job in a worse condition than the poorest of the poor, but he cannot retaliate against his abusers. Those who would have shrunk from him before, now feel free to insult and abuse Job because “He hath loosed my cord, and afflicted me” (30:11). His bow is unstrung (Barnes, notes to 30:11).

“On my right the tribe attacks” (30:12, NIV). The NAS Bible translates ‘tribe’ above as ‘their brood’, which closely matches the Strong's definition. Jesse Penn-Lewis suggests ‘the rabble’ (Penn-Lewis, page 123). Perhaps crowds gather just to jeer at him or to trip him up. According to Barnes, “The word rendered ‘youth’ (pirchach) occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is probably from pârach, ‘to sprout, germinate, blossom’; and hence, would mean ‘a progeny,’ and would be probably applied to beasts” (Barnes, notes to 30:12). Job is not immune to the desire to sneer. Even in his misery, he does not spare his reproach towards those who huddle under bridges or push shopping carts full of cans. His complaint is that these ‘beasts’ are now sneering at him.

You Dissolve My Substance

It is almost impossible not to be on Job's side at this point, but Job is drawing away from God. Self-pity is getting the best of him. Job returns to bitter lament (30:15-19). And again, Job complains, “I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me” (30:20). And finally, Job accuses, “Thou art become cruel to me” (30:21), You “dissolvest my substance” (30:22), that is, my firm countenance is turned to jelly, I am in fear, “For I know that thou wilt bring me to death” (30:23).

Verse 24 gives the translators fits. “Howbeit he will not stretch out his hand to the grave, though they cry in his destruction” (30:24). The New International Version Bible reads a little different: “Surely no one lays a hand on a broken man when he cries for help in his distress (30:24, NIV). The New American Standard Bible is different again: “Yet does not one in a heap of ruins stretch out his hand, Or in his disaster therefore cry out for help?” (30:24, NASB). In fact, it seems that no two translators agree, and from their comments (NET Bible, footnotes to verse 30:24) it would seem that none are entirely satisfied. Barnes suggests that “Job means to state a general and important principle–that there was rest in the grave. He said he knew that God would bring him down there, but that would be a state of repose. The hand of God producing pain, would not reach there, nor would the sorrows experienced in this world be felt there, provided there had been a praying life” (Barnes, notes to 30:24). And more, in the grave the reproach of men will not reach him.

Job's faith is stymied by his reality. The two are at odds. Everything in him says that God will not leave him, that God is not cruel, but the opposite appears to be his situation. He doesn't abandon his faith, yet he feels it crumbling beneath him. He resolves that God will leave him peace in the grave. It is a highly diminished expectation. Think of the disciples, storm tossed, their own substance dissolving, they cry out in fear “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38). Like Job, their faith foundered on the sharp edges of what appeared to be immutable reality. “And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?(Mark 4:40). God, speaking to Job will tell him that freedom from his troubles has been at hand all along: “I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee” (40:14).

God does not see the world as we do. “And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake. But there shall not an hair of your head perish (Luke 21:16-18). Does this not seem to be a contradiction? Job is looking earthward and seeing his misery. But, God is looking to the eternal spirit and knows what a gift is in store for Job. Those tortured and killed for Christ are not diminished but receive an extra reward (Revelations 6:9-11). “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure” (James 5:10-11). This same verse goes on to speak of the patience of Job. Although Job is frustrated and his faith is taking some hard hits, he has not stopped believing that God's heart is faithful to him. Down to zero and lower than dirt, Job is still God's man.

The Churning Never Stops

Job is beyond frustration. Inside he is seething. “The churning inside me never stops” (30:27, NIV), or as the King James says, “My bowels boiled, and rested not” (30:27). “I am a brother to dragons” (30:29). Barnes suggests, “The word ‘brother’ is often used in this sense, to denote similarity in any respect. The word ‘dragons’ here (tannîyn), denotes properly a sea-monster, a great fish, a crocodile; or the fancied animal with wings called a dragon” (Barnes, notes to 30:29). Tannîyn is the same word rendered ‘whale’ in 7:12. It is also the word rendered ‘serpent’ when Moses casts down his rod in Pharaoh's court. And tannîyn is particularly associated with Leviathan. “Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength: thou brakest the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness” (Psalm 74:13-14). “Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death” (Psalm 44:19).

Job says, “My bowels boiled” (30:27). God describes Leviathan, “He maketh the deep to boil like a pot” (41:31). Paul describes his inner turmoil in a similar way: “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:23-24). While Paul seems to refer cheifly to the lusts of the flesh at war with his higher desires for God in this passage, the war within Job is more a lust of the soul. Job deeply desires to be seen as righteous, he wants justice, vindication and peace. Instead, it seems that all the hounds of hell are arrayed against him. All his pride is stripped away. Job sees God's hand in it, but not for his benefit. The war within Job is a battle against the perceived injustice of God.

Job is a man above all others in righteousness. Every bit of theology he knows says that God will bless him because of it. But it appears that the exact opposite is the situation. He tries to remind God, “Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? was not my soul grieved for the poor” (30:25)? This is not the reward Job expected (30:26). This argument comes to dominate Job's final speech, chapter thirty-one, as he lays out all of his good works.

chapter linkback chapter linknext
*All Bible quotes are from the King James Version unless otherwise indicated.

Monday, November 27, 2000

Copyright © 2003 Wm W Wells.