23 “Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
28 If you say, ‘How we will pursue him!’
and, ‘The root of the matter is found in him,’
29 be afraid of the sword,
for wrath brings the punishment of the sword,
that you may know there is a judgment.”
For I know that my Redeemer lives
In all the conferences between Job and his friends we do not find any more weighty and considerable lines than these; would one have expected it? Here is much both of Christ and heaven in these verses: and he that said such things as these declared plainly that he sought the better country, that is, the heavenly; as the patriarchs of that age did, Heb. 11:14. We have here Job’s creed, or confession of faith. His belief in God the Father Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, and the principles of natural religion, he had often professed: but here we find him no stranger to revealed religion; though the revelation of the promised Seed, and the promised inheritance, was then discerned only like the dawning of the day, yet Job was taught of God to believe in a living Redeemer, and to look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, for of these, doubtless, he must be understood to speak. T
hese were the things he comforted himself with the expectation of, and not a deliverance from his trouble or a revival of his happiness in this world, as some would understand him; for besides that the expressions he here uses, of the Redeemer’s standing at the latter day upon the earth, of his seeing God, and seeing him for himself, are wretchedly forced if they be understood of any temporal deliverance, it is very plain that he had no expectation at all of his return to a prosperous condition in this world. He had just now said that his way was fenced up, (v. 8) and his hope removed like a tree, v. 10. Nay, and after this he expressed his despair of any comfort in this life, ch. 23:8, 9; 30:23. So that we must necessarily understand him of the redemption of his soul from the power of the grave, and his reception to glory, which is spoken of, Ps. 49:15.
We have reason to think that Job was just now under an extraordinary impulse of the blessed Spirit, which raised him above himself, gave him light, and gave him utterance, even to his own surprise. And some observe that, after this, we do not find Job’s discourses such passionate, peevish, unbecoming, complaints of God and his providence as we have before met with: this hope quieted his spirit, stilled the storm and, having here cast anchor within the veil, his mind was kept steady from this time forward.
Let us observe,
I. To what intent Job makes this confession of his faith here.
Never did anything come in more pertinently, or to better purpose.
1. Job was now accused, and this was his appeal.
His friends reproached him as a hypocrite and contemned him as a wicked man; but he appeals to his creed, to his faith, to his hope, and to his own conscience, which not only acquitted him from reigning sin, but comforted him with the expectation of a blessed resurrection. These are not the words of him that has a devil. He appeals to the coming of the Redeemer, from this wrangle at the bar to the judgment of the bench, even to him to whom all judgment is committed, who he knew would right him.
The consideration of God’s day coming will make it a very small thing with us to be judged of man’s judgment, 1 Co. 4:3, 4. How easily may we bear the unjust calumnies and reproaches of men while we expect the glorious appearance of our Redeemer, and his redeemed, at the last day, and that there will then be a resurrection of names, as well as bodies!
2. Job was now afflicted, and this was his cordial;
When he was pressed above measure this kept him from fainting—he believed that he should see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living; not in this world, for that is the land of the dying.
II. With what a solemn preface he introduces it, v. 23, 24.
He breaks off his complaints abruptly, to triumph his comforts, which he does, not only for his own satisfaction, but for the edification of others. Those now about him, he feared, would little regard what he said, and so it proved, He, therefore, wished it might be recorded for the generations to come. O that my words were now written, the words I am now about to say! As if he had said, “I own I have spoken many unadvised words, which I could wish might be forgotten, for they will neither do me credit nor do others good. But I am now going to speak deliberately, and that which I desire may be published to all the world and preserved for the generations to come, in perpetuam rei memoriam—for an abiding memorial, and therefore that it may be written plainly and printed, or drawn out in large and legible characters, so that he that runs may read it; and that it may not be left in loose papers, but put into a book; or, if that should perish, that it may be engraven like an inscription upon a monument, with an iron pen in lead, or in the stone; let the engraver use all his art to make it a durable appeal to posterity.” That which Job here somewhat passionately wished for God graciously granted him. His words are written; they are printed in God’s book; so that, wherever that book is read, there shall this be told for a memorial concerning Job. He believed, therefore he spoke.
III. What his confession itself is;
What are the words which he would have to be written; we here have them written, v. 25–27. Let us observe them.
1. He believes the glory of the Redeemer and his own interest in him (v. 25):
I know that my Redeemer liveth, that he is in being and is my life, and that he shall stand at last, or stand the last, or at the latter day, upon (or above) the earth. He shall be raised up, or, He shall be, at the latter day, (that is, in the fulness of time: the gospel day is called the last time because that is the last dispensation) upon the earth: so it points at his incarnation; or, He shall be lifted up from the earth (so it points at his crucifixion), or raised up out of the earth (so it is applicable to his resurrection), or, as we commonly understand it, At the end of time he shall appear over the earth, for he shall come in the clouds, and every eye shall see him, so close shall he come to this earth. He shall stand upon the dust (so the word is), upon all his enemies, which shall be put a dust under his feet; and he shall tread upon them and triumph over them.
(1.) That there is a Redeemer provided for fallen man, and Jesus Christ is that Redeemer.
The word is Goël which is used for the next of kin, to whom, by the law of Moses, the right of redeeming a mortgaged estate did belong, Lev. 25:25. Our heavenly inheritance was mortgaged by sin; we are ourselves utterly unable to redeem it; Christ is near of kin to us, the next kinsman that is able to redeem; he has paid our debt, satisfied God’s justice for sin, and so has taken off the mortgage and made a new settlement of the inheritance. Our persons also want a Redeemer; we are sold for sin, and sold under sin; our Lord Jesus has wrought out a redemption for us, and proclaims redemption for us, and proclaims redemption to us, and so he is truly the Redeemer.
(2.) He is a living Redeemer.
As we are made by a living God, so we are saved by a living Redeemer, who is both almighty and eternal, and is therefore able to save to the uttermost. Of him it is witnessed that he liveth, Heb. 7:8; Rev. 1:18. We are dying, but he liveth, and hath assured us that because he lives we shall live also, Jn. 14:19.
(3.) There are those that through grace have an interest in this Redeemer, and can, upon good grounds, call him theirs.
When Job had lost all his wealth and all his friends, yet he was not separated from Christ, nor cut off from his relation to him: “Still he is my Redeemer.” That next kinsman adhered to him when all his other kindred forsook him, and he had the comfort of it.
(4.) Our interest in the Redeemer is a thing that may be known;
And, where it is known, it may be triumphed in, as sufficient to balance all our griefs: I know (observe with what an air of assurance he speaks it, as one confident of this very thing), I know that my Redeemer lives. His friends have often charged him with ignorance or vain knowledge; but he knows enough, and knows to good purpose, who knows Christ to be his Redeemer.
(5.) There will be a latter day, a last day, a day when time shall be no more, Rev. 10:6.
That is a day we are concerned to think of every day.
(6.) Our Redeemer will at that day stand upon the earth, or over the earth,
To summon the dead out of their graves, and determine them to an unchangeable state; for to him all judgment is committed. He shall stand, at the last, on the dust to which this earth will be reduced by the conflagration.
2. He believes the happiness of the redeemed, and his own title to that happiness,
That, at Christ’s second coming, believers shall be raised up in glory and so made perfectly blessed in the vision and fruition of God; and this he believes with application to himself.
(1.) He counts upon the corrupting of his body in the grave, and speaks of it with a holy carelessness and unconcernedness:
Though, after my skin (which is already wasted and gone, none of it remaining but the skin of my teeth, v. 20) they destroy (those that are appointed to destroy it, the grave and the worms in it of which he had spoken, ch. 17:14) this body. The word body is added: “Though they destroy this, this skeleton, this shadow (ch. 17:7), this that I lay my hand upon,” or (pointing perhaps to his weak and withered limbs) “this that you see, call it what you will; I expect that shortly it will be a feast for the worms.”
Christ’s body saw not corruption, but ours must. And Job mentions this, that the glory of the resurrection he believed and hoped for might shine the more brightly.
Note, It is good for us often to think, not only of the approaching death of our bodies, but of their destruction and dissolution in the grave;
Yet let not that discourage our hope of their resurrection, for the same power that made man’s body at first, out of common dust, can raise it out of its own dust. This body which we now take such care about, and make such provision for, will in a little time be destroyed. Even my reins (says Job) shall be consumed within me (v. 27); the innermost part of the body, which perhaps putrefies first.
(2.) He comforts himself with the hopes of happiness on the other side death and the grave:
After I shall awake (so the margin reads it), though this body be destroyed, yet out of my flesh shall I see God.
[1.] Soul and body shall come together again.
That body which must be destroyed in the grave shall be raised again, a glorious body: Yet in my flesh I shall see God. The separate soul has eyes wherewith to see God, eyes of the mind; but Job speaks of seeing him with eyes of flesh, in my flesh, with my eyes; the same body that died shall rise again, a true body, but a glorified body, fit for the employments and entertainments of that world, and therefore a spiritual body, 1 Co. 15:44. Let us therefore glorify God with our bodies because there is such a glory designed for them.
[2.] Job and God shall come together again:
In my flesh shall I see God, that is, the glorified Redeemer, who is God. I shall see God in my flesh (so some read it), the Son of God clothed with a body which will be visible even to eyes of flesh. Though the body, in the grave, seem despicable and miserable, yet it shall be dignified and made happy in the vision of God.
Job now complained that he could not get a sight of God (ch. 23:8, 9), but hoped to see him shortly, never more to lose the sight of him, and that sight of him will be the more welcome after the present darkness and distance.
Note, It is the blessedness of the blessed that they shall see God, shall see him as he is, see him face to face, and no longer through a glass darkly.
See with what pleasure holy Job enlarges upon this (v. 27): “Whom I shall see for myself,” that is, “see and enjoy, see to my own unspeakable comfort and satisfaction. I shall see him as mine, as mine with an appropriating sight,” Rev. 21:3. God himself shall be with them and be their God; they shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is, that is seeing for themselves, 1 Jn. 3:2. My eyes shall behold him, and not another. First, “He, and not another for him, shall be seen, not a type or figure of him, but he himself.”
Glorified saints are perfectly sure that they are not imposed upon; it is no deceptio visus—illusion of the senses. Secondly, “I, and not another for me, shall see him. Though my flesh and body be consumed, yet I shall not need a proxy; I shall see him with my own eyes.” This was what Job hoped for, and what he earnestly desired, which, some think, is the meaning of the last clause: My reins are spent in my bosom, that is, “all my desires are summed up and concluded in this; this will crown and complete them all; let me have this, and I shall have nothing more to desire; it is enough; it is all.” With this the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.
IV. The application of this to his friends.
His creed spoke comfort to himself, but warning and terror to those that set themselves against him.
1. It was a word of caution to them not to proceed and persist in their unkind usage of him, v. 28.
He had reproved them for what they had said, and now tells them what they should say for the reducing of themselves and one another to a better temper. “Why persecute we him thus? Why do we grieve him and vex him, by censuring and condemning him, seeing the root of the matter, or the root of the word, is found in him?”
Let this direct us,
(1.) In our care concerning ourselves.
We are all concerned to see to it that the root of the matter be found in us. A living, quickening, commanding, principle of grace in the heart, is the root of the matter, as necessary to our religion as the root to the tree, to which it owes both its fixedness and its fruitfulness. Love to God and our brethren, faith in Christ, hatred of sin—these are the root of the matter; other things are but leaves in comparison with these. Serious godliness is the one thing needful.
(2.) In our conduct towards our brethren.
We are to believe that many have the root of the matter in them who are not in everything of our mind—who have their follies, and weaknesses, and mistakes—and to conclude that it is at our peril if we persecute any such. Woe be to him that offends one of those little ones! God will resent and revenge it. Job and his friends differed in some notions concerning the methods of Providence, but they agreed in the root of the matter, the belief of another world, and therefore should not persecute one another for these differences.
2. It was a word of terror to them.
Christ’s second coming will be very dreadful to those that are found smiting their fellow servants (Mt. 24:49), and therefore (v. 29), “Be you afraid of the sword, the flaming sword of God’s justice, which turns every way; fear, lest you make yourselves obnoxious to it.” Good men need to be frightened from sin by the terrors of the Almighty, particularly from the sin of rashly judging their brethren, Mt. 7:1; Jam. 3:1. Those that are peevish and passionate with their brethren, censorious of them and malicious towards them, should know, not only that their wrath, whatever it pretends, works not the righteousness of God, but that,
(1.) They may expect to smart for it in this world:
It brings the punishments of the sword. Wrath leads to such crimes as expose men to the sword of the magistrate. God himself often takes vengeance for it, and those that showed no mercy shall find no mercy.
(2.) If they repent not, that will be an earnest of worse.
By these you may know there is a judgment, not only a present government, but a future judgment, in which hard speeches must be accounted for.
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible