Job 17:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
1. my breath ] Rather as margin, my spirit is spent, i. e. consumed. The “spirit” is the principle of life.
the graves are ready for me ] lit. graves are mine; the meaning being: the grave is my portion; cf. Job 17:13 seq. Coverdale: I am harde at deathes dore.
In Job 16:12-14 Job described the terrible hostility of God, who dashed him to pieces, laid him in ruins and poured out his soul to the ground brought him unto death. Then the other thought rose in his mind that all this befell him though he was innocent both in life and in spirit. Here he comes to the point at which he always loses self-control when he realizes that in spite of his innocence he is held guilty. This is an overwhelming feeling, and under it Job either wildly challenges the rectitude of God, as in the first cycle of speeches; or he flings off from him altogether the form of things in the present world, and forces his way into another region, where such perversions cannot prevail and where the face of God, clouded here, must be clear and propitious. This second direction, entered upon first in ch. 14, is pursued in the present passage, and reaches its highest point in ch. 19. Already in ch. 10. Job had drawn a distinction between God of the present, who persecuted him as guilty though he was innocent, and God of the past, whose gracious care of him had been wonderful; though there he grasped at a frightful reconciliation of the contradiction: God of the present, who destroyed him, seemed the real God, and His past mercies were no true expression of His nature (see on Job 10:13 seq.). In ch. 14. Job reached out his hand into the darkness and clutched at another idea, a distinction between God of the present who would pursue him unto death, and God of the future God when His anger should be over-past and He would yearn again towards His creature, the work of His hands (see on Job 14:13 seq.). This God of the future was God as He is in truth, true to His own past dealing and to man’s conceptions of Him. It is on this line of thought that the present passage moves.
The two great ideas which fill Job’s mind in all this discourse are, first, the certainty of his speedy death under God’s afflicting hand; and second, the moral infamy and the inexplicable contradiction to his conscience which death in such circumstances carries with it. The first, his speedy death, Job accepts as inevitable, and he cannot restrain his contemptuous indignation at the foolishness of his friends, who talk as if something else were possible (Job 17:2-4; Job 17:10-16). But such a death under the hand of God meant to Job the reprobation of God and the scorn and abhorrence of men. And it is against this idea, not his mere death, that Job wrestles with all his might. This is the meaning of such a death; but it cannot be that God will allow this obloquy and injustice to overwhelm His innocent creature for ever. His blood will utter a ceaseless cry for reparation. And even now he has in heaven one who will witness to his innocence. And he prays to God that He would maintain his right with God and against men.
It is impossible to escape the conclusion that Job prays or hopes for this vindication not before but after death. For he contemplates dying an unjust death his blood will cry for vengeance. His present unjust afflictions will bring him to the grave. But these fatal afflictions are just God’s witness to his guilt. Any interference of God, therefore, to declare his innocence cannot take place in this life, for an intervention of God to declare his innocence, all the while that He continued to declare him guilty by His afflictions, could not occur to Job’s mind.
The passage Job 16:18 to Job 17:9 embraces two sections similar to one another, each of which contains a fervent appeal to God, followed by words which support it, Job 16:18 to Job 17:2, and Job 17:3-9.
22 17:2. What Job sought with tears was that God would cause his innocence to be acknowledged by God, and made manifest against men. Now he adds words in support of his prayer, or gives the reason for it. He so prays, for here in this life he has no hope of restoration. God’s anger will pursue him to the grave, which is already his portion.
16:22. For a few years shall come,
And I shall go the way whence I shall not return!
17:1. My spirit is spent,
My days are extinct.
The grave is ready for me!
17:2. Surely mockeries encompass me,
And mine eye must dwell on their provocation!
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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".