Job 14:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. Job 14:1. In the last verse of ch. 13. Job thought of himself as one of the race of men, and now he speaks of the characteristics of this race.
Having ordered his cause and challenged his friends to observe how he will plead, Job now enters, with the boldness and proud bearing of one assured of victory, upon his plea itself. There is strictly no break between the passage which follows and the foregoing; the division is only made here for convenience’ sake. It would scarcely be according to the author’s intention to make Job 13:23 the plea, and assume that, as God did not answer the demand there made, Job’s plea took another turn. The question whether Job actually did expect that he would be replied to out of heaven can hardly be answered. We must, however, take into account the extreme excitation of his mind, and the vividness with which men in that age realized the nearness of God and looked for His direct interference in their affairs and life. According to the modes of conception which appear everywhere in the Poem, there was nothing extravagant in Job’s expecting a direct reply to his appeal; for that such an answer might be given is evidently the meaning of Zophar’s words, ch. Job 11:6; and in point of fact the Lord does at last answer Job by a voice from heaven, ch. 38. seq.
The plea itself has a certain resemblance to that in chaps. 7 and 10, but is more subdued and calm. The crisis is now really over in Job’s mind. Though he has not convinced his friends, he has fought his way through any doubts which their suspicions and his afflictions might have raised in his own thoughts. The courage with which he is ready to go before God he feels to be but the reflection of his innocence; and this feeling throws a general peace over his spirit, which regrets over the brevity of his life, and perplexity at beholding God treat so severely so feeble a being as himself, are able only partially to disturb. After the few direct demands at the beginning to know what his sins are ( Job 13:23), his plea becomes a pitiful appeal unto God, from which the irony of former appeals is wholly absent. As before, he contrasts the littleness of man and the greatness of God, but his conception both of God and man is not any more, so to speak, merely physical, but moral. He speaks of the sins of his youth (ch. Job 13:26), and of the universal sinfulness of man (ch. Job 14:4), and appeals to the forbearance of God in dealing with a creature so imperfect, and shortlived.
First, Job demands to know what his sins are, and wonders that God who is so great would pursue a withered leaf like him, and bring up now after so long the sins of his youth one who wastes away like a garment that is moth-eaten (ch. Job 13:23-28).
Second, this reference to his own natural feebleness widens his view to the condition of the race of man to which he belongs, whose two characteristics are: that it is of few days, and filled with trouble. And he wonders that God would bring such a being into judgment with Him; when the race of man is universally imperfect and a clean one cannot be found in it. And he founds an appeal on the fated shortness of man’s life that God would not afflict him with strange and uncommon troubles, but leave him to take what comfort he can, oppressed with only the natural hardships of his short and evil “day” (ch. Job 14:1-6).
Third, this appeal is supported by the remembrance of the inexorable “nevermore” which death writes on man’s life. Sadder is the fate of man even than that of the tree. The tree if cut down will bud again, but man dieth and is gone without return as wholly as the water which the sun sucks up from the pool; his sleep of death is eternal ( Job 13:7-12).
Fourth, step after step Job has gone down deeper into the waters of despair the universal sinfulness of mankind and the inexorable severity of God; the troubles of life of which one must sate himself to the full; its brevity; and last of all its complete extinction in death. The waters here reach his heart; and human nature driven back upon itself becomes prophetic: the vision rises before Job’s mind of another life after this one, and he pursues with excited eagerness the glorious phantom ( Job 13:13-15).
Finally, the prayer that such another life might be is supported by a new and dark picture which he draws of his present condition ( Job 13:16-22).
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".