Page images
PDF
EPUB

1849.]

Mingling of Hope and Melancholy.

499

posit in the spirit-land; that he would there appoint him his set time and remember hiin. How unnatural the supposition that the next thought, suggested by all this, should be simply the prospect of again attaining to a state of worldly riches. It is equally at war, too, with the sombre pictures that follow, in which he describes the gradual decay of all terrestrial things, -how the powers and changes of the natural world continually prevail against man, blighting all his hopes, and finally changing his countenance, and laying him low in the dust. Such a picture would not have naturally followed an exulting expression of confidence in some restoration to temporal wealth. At all events, it would not have succeeded it so suddenly, that we are hardly cheered by the dawning of worldly hope, before being again visited by a deeper darkness than before. All this, however, is perfectly consis. tent with a sudden expression of hope beyond the tomb. Even our most joyous conceptions of a spiritual world of blessedness, or of a final resurrection to a more glorious existence, may very naturally connect themselves with mournful thoughts of the grave that intervenes. We cannot think of the glorious promised land, with its never-withering flowers, without also bringing in the swelling flood, and the gloomy Jordan that rolls between. The transition is most natural from such ideas of future blessedness to those serious thoughts, which are connected with a view of our frailty, and of death regarded physically as the dark termination of our weary pilgrimage upon earth.

“How can it possibly be accounted for,” says Mr. Noyes (in his Commentary, p. 123), “ that he should sink into despair, because he could not hope to enjoy the doubtful good of living again in this world of sin and misery, whilst, at the same time, he believed in the existence of a world of happiness and purity to which the righteous were to be admitted.” Modify the terms of this a little; put despondency or melancholy for despair, and hope in place of fixed belief, and Mr. Noyes's query may be explained on the best known principles of human nature, even as they appear at times in the exercises of the Christian. Should we even call it despondency, or weakness of faith, the transition from spiritual hopes to a species of serious melancholy, conuected with thoughts of death and the grave, is certainly far more natural and usual, than that any such sudden change of feeling should follow the hope of great worldly prosperity, which, from its nearness, and consequently distorting magnitude, is so apt to blind the mind to all considerations of a more serious kind.

V. 15. xpm. Thou wilt call and I will answer. This language is used in reference to judicial proceedings. There will be a day when my case shall be called up, and I shall answer to the summons. Mr. Barnes thinks it refers to the present time. There is nothing however strongly leading to such a view; whereas the entire context shows that the mind of Job, however weak and indefinite his faith, was brooding over the thoughts of the distant future, in fact in just the condition, spiritually and physically, in which the ideas of another life, and of a future deliverance would most naturally, if ever, present themselves.

Thou will have a desire to the work of thy hands. soon. This is a very peculiar verb, occurring but few times in the Hebrew Bible. It is from the same root with the noun for silver, although the connection of meaning is far from being obvious. It is, however, unquestionably one of the strongest words to express the emotion of longing desires. As in Niphal, Ps. 84:3, My soul longs for the courts of the Lord. In Genesis 31: 30, it denotes the powerful feeling of homesickness, or love to one's native land-Because thou sore longedst after thy father's house ; as Ulysses (Odyss. I. 58) is represented as almost ready to die for the longing desire he had to see his father-land

' Iέμενος και καπνόν αποθρώσκοντα νοήσαι
ής γαίης θανέειν εμείρεται-

Such a peculiar word as this, and indeed the whole expression, seems altogether out of place when regarded as referring to no higher change than a restoration of worldly wealth or prosperity. But what an intense beauty has it when thus interpreted of God's watchful care over the righteous dead? If Job did not mean the remains of the body as deposited in the grave, still it may with great propriety have been spoken of his rudimentary humanity, as laid up in Sheol, and awaiting the summons for trial and deliverance. But why should it be thought a thing incredible that even the fornier idea may have suggested itself to one who, as we may judge from such cries and lamentations as we find ch. xvii. verse 1, had evidently no hope of any such reviviscence in the present life. In the 139th Psalın, v. 16, God is represented as taking most careful note of the future rudiments of the human body before birth, and even before conception - Thine eyes did see my substance yet unwrought, and in thy book all my members were written, when as yet there were none of them. If this thought is so natural to a soul in elevated meditation, why may not one equally natural and affecting have suggested itself to the mind of the afflicted righteous man, —the thought that even when " he made his bed in Sheol,He who had formed him and fashioned him would still have regard to the work of his hands? This last expression would have little or no meaning considered as referring to outward worldly prosperity ; but its application to the bodily frame, or at least to his humanity in general, would

1819.]
Comment on verse 16.

501 seem to be almost certain in view of the similar language he is so fond of using, and of which we have a specimen ch. 10: 10— Thy hands have fashioned me and made me, and wilt thou let me be swallowed up ? Hast thou not poured me out as milk, and curdled me as cheese? With skin and flesh hast thou clothed me ; with bones and sinews hast thou fenced me. Thy providence (7777?) hath preserved my spirit.

V. 16. nạp "?Truly now—as the particle is best rendered when followed by rms—as Gen. 26: 22. Num. 22. 29. Job 6: 3 etc. Or no may have an adversative sense; as in Hab. 3: 17, 18— Though the figtree shall not blossom, yet will I rejoice. And so here— Though now thou dost number my steps, yet thou wilt not (always) keep wrath on account of my sins. There seems to be an emphasis on any. There will come a time when thou wilt no longer cherish wrath against me. He would appear to have in mind that future judicial deliverance, when all the mysterious dealings of God's providence should be cleared up.

A contrast of times seems certainly intended, and even if we suppose that Job had in view only a future deliverance in the present life, it makes a far more natural rendering than that which violently converts the latter clause into a question, and thus brings out an opposite sense. To effect this, Rosenmüller regards x3 as for xm?(nonne), for which usage he cites Lam. 3: 36 and Jonah 4: 11. In the first example the sense is much better without the supposition of any interrogation at all; and in the second, the interrogative, or rather exclamatory aspect (which any reader of the Hebrew must see more properly belongs to it) is imparted by the tone of the context, irrespective of the negative particle. hion x3 is best taken here as an ellipsis for the usual expression,

1 or 077; as in Jer. 3:5-mass man ex-Will he keep forever --that is, his wrath forever. This ellipsis, however, is more frequent with the

very

similar verb 27.

. Rosenmüller renders this-et concinnas super iniquitatem meam. Gesenius regards it as equivalent to the Latin-mendacia concinnavit, or the Greek phrase 8ólov Øunter. The primary sense of the verb is unquestionably-sarsit-assuit; and we would venture to suggest, whether in this word, and in any of the preceding clause, there is not a reference to the sealing up and enclosing of a tale or account. The allusion then would be to that same judicial process, to which he had previously referred in his prayer, v. 13, and in his confident declaration, v. 15. The other view, which represents Job as charging, not only injustice, but fraud upon the Almighty, seems certainly inconsistent with the previous submission, and the confident hope of some deliverance, whether it refer to this life or to another.

. תִּטְפל

V. 18. 59. Bax? —And surely the mountain falling, etc. There has been much discussion respecting the true bearing of the verses that follow to the end of the chapter. Some regard the figures here employed as denoting very much the same with those of the 8th and 11th verses, namely, the completeness and irreparableness of death. Thus Rosenmüller-Irreparabilis, inquit, est occasus hominis, ejusque fatalis, illa ruina, haud secus ac montis collapsi, rupis a radicibus revulsae, lapidum a fluxu exesorum, quin et terrae alluvionibus attritae et absorptae. Ita nulla spes reviviscendi plane relicta est ei qui semel occubuit. It is perfectly consistent with the view we have taken of the previous train of thought, to admit that Job here returns to a sombre is not wholly desponding state of mind. Such a transition, too, we would regard as probable and natural. There is, however, danger of false interpretation, if we persist in applying here the principles and rules of a direct, uninterrupted, logical, or rhetorical discourse. We are not, therefore, to look for a well connected train of thought, nor for regular transitions denoted by their appropriate particles and grammatical forms. Especially is this remark applicable to the discourses of Job. These, as we have said, partake largely, in some parts, of the nature of soliloquies. Mingled with appeals, now to God, and again to his interlocutors, together with occasional direct notices of their arguments, there is, throughout, a continued communing with his own soul, and with the wondrous thoughts concerning his present and future destiny which God's dealings were suggesting to him. He turns them over and over ; surveys them in many varied aspects, now in the shade of his despondency, and again in the light of his hope. The transitions, of course, are sudden, apparently abrupt, sometimes seemingly contradictory; and in this lies much of the dramatic power of the unknown author of this wondrous production. Imagine the aged mourner lying on the earth, -sackcloth on his body, and ashes on his head, his “face soiled with weeping,” his “horn in the dust,” the “shadow of death upon his eyelids”—now cursing his day, now sinking in despondency, now rising in hope, now humbled in prayer, now patient in tribulation. Long intervals of silence intervene between his passionate ejaculations ; during which his friends forbear to disturb the current of his thoughts,—as when at first they sat with him in silence three uninterrupted days and nights. In this way his silent meditations may carry him very far from apparent connection with the previous current of the discourse, until at length from his surcharged heart he again " takes up his parable”-it may be in a strain quite different from that which formed the closing cadence of what, to the eye, seemed immediately to precede it. The 1849.] Weak and Decaying Nature of Man.

503 introductory words of transition, in such cases, may be regarded as referring to, or as suggested by, these silent, intervening thoughts, just as though they had been spoken aloud in the continuity of the discourse, -or the new commencement may sometimes be startling and abrupt. In some such way as this, may we suppose a musing pause, brief yet crowded with serious thought, to have followed the preceding strong expression of faith and hope. In the rapid transitions of his soul, the sombre ideas arising from the contemplation of his physical humanity again return, and he breaks out here with the abrupt argumentative particle sux, just as though he had been contending in spirit with some imagined opponent. Oů uijn , vhad as the Greeks would say– No indeedthere is nothing permanent in our mere physical or earthly existence ; All nature is ever manifesting the law of phenomenal change and decay. For verily even the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of its place.'

We do not, however, think that irreparability is the main thought intended to be suggested by the figures that follow. There is in all of them, rather, an idea of gradualness, if we may use the term, which seems inconsistent with the other view, or to have, at least, no necessary connection with it. It looks like a representation of the powers of an external world, gradually, yet irresistibly prevailing against man, destroying all his works, disappointing all his hopes, and, finally, after a protracted struggle bringing him down to the dust of death. Slowly, but surely, is he decaying and dying through the greater part, if not the whole, of his earthly existence. His life is inefficient. He accomplishes nothing compared with his hopes and purposes. He is as the Greek poet describes him-ολιγοδραίος, άκικυς, ισόνειρος. He cannot contend with nature. His mortal existence is like the troubled dream of a sick man, in which he is ever doing, ever striving, yet never effecting the object at which he aims

Veluti in somnis oculos ubi languida pressit
Nocte quies, nequicquam avidos extendere cursus
Velle videmur, et in mediis conatibus aegri
Succidimus; non lingua valet, non corpore notae
Sufficiunt vires nec vox, nec verba sequuntur.'

The mind of the muser returns here to the earthly and mortal aspect of humanity. Slowly but irresistibly, as the mountain crumbles, as the rock is removed from its place, as the waters wear the stones, so God, through the appointed powers of the physical world, prevails

Aeneid XII. 908.

« PreviousContinue »