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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Job 17

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Job Confronts both God and His Friends

A. Job directs a complaint both towards earth and towards heaven.

1. (Job 17:1-2) Job's broken spirit.

"My spirit is broken,
My days are extinguished,
The grave is ready for me.
Are not mockers with me?
And does not my eye dwell on their provocation?"

a. My spirit is broken, my days are extinguished: Job continued his same sense of defeat and brokenness as described in the previous chapter.

b. Are not mockers with me? The lack of sympathy and help from Job's friends - that they started out as sympathetic sufferers (as in Job 2:11-13) but became mockers when Job did not respond to their wisdom as they thought he should - was an especially painful aspect of his crisis.

2. (Job 17:3-5) Job begs heaven to sustain and support him.

"Now put down a pledge for me with Yourself.
Who is he who will shake hands with me?
For You have hidden their heart from understanding;
Therefore You will not exalt them.
He who speaks flattery to his friends,
Even the eyes of his children will fail."

a. Who is he who will shake hands with me? Job felt - rightly so, according to his circumstances - that heaven was against him. Here he plead for an agreement of peace between himself and heaven.

i. The NIV translation of Job 17:3 is helpful: Give me, O God, the pledge you demand. Who else will put up security for me? The idea is that Job cried out to God and said, "You will have to set this right God; it is beyond me to do it." This is especially meaningful in light of the main idea of Job's friends, that it was his responsibility to repent and set things right between himself and God.

ii. In a small way, Job grasped the whole tone of salvation under the New Covenant: God has made the atonement and the reconciliation; we do not have to do it ourselves.

b. You have hidden their heart from understanding: Job understood that if God had wanted to inform the hearts of Job's friends, He was fully capable of doing so. Ultimately even the unsympathetic manner of his friends was an aspect of Job's crisis allowed by God.

c. Therefore You will not exalt them: At the same time, Job's friends were accountable for their lack of understanding. God's withholding of understanding from them was an evidence of His displeasure towards them.

d. He who speaks flattery to his friends, even the eyes of his children will fail: Job here seemed to justify his harsh words towards his friends. He recognizes that it would be a bad reflection on his character if he were to simply flatter them.

i. "Verse 5 is a proverb. Job was reminding his counselors of the dire consequences of slander." (Smick)

B. A faint bright glimmer in the hopeless condition of Job.

1. (Job 17:6-9) Job explains his present condition and the ultimate resolution he trusts in.

"But He has made me a byword of the people,
And I have become one in whose face men spit.
My eye has also grown dim because of sorrow,
And all my members are like shadows.
Upright men are astonished at this,
And the innocent stirs himself up against the hypocrite.
Yet the righteous will hold to his way,
And he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger."

a. He has made me a byword of the people, and I have become one in whose face men spit: Job here spoke with poetic power of his own humiliation, and how greatly he had been humbled. It reminds us of the universal principle of the humiliation of man.

i. Job's own humiliation was so complete that he could say, "Upright men are astonished at this." Onlookers found it hard to believe that this righteous man had been so seriously afflicted.

ii. Our own humiliation is inevitable. The frailty of humanity and the fallen nature of this world combine together to make the humiliation of man certain, yet it may come in many forms. Our humiliation may come to us through our own sin, through our own weaknesses, through circumstances beyond our control, or by what others put upon us.

iii. Thankfully, the humiliation of humanity has its model and sympathy in the life of Jesus. He climbed the ladder down from heaven's glory to the lowest of human experience (Philippians 2:5-8) to give both meaning and dignity to the humiliation of man.

iv. We are also thankful that humiliation serves as a gateway to grace. The principle stands true: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

b. He has made me a byword of the people: Though Job recognized his own humiliation, he also proclaimed the sovereignty of God. He did not find the cause of his crisis in blind fate or even human cruelty. He understood that if he was indeed a byword of the people and a man in whose face men spit, it was because God had made him so.

i. Job and his friends did not agree on much, but they did agree on this. They disagreed on the reasons why God had made him so, but all saw the sovereign and great hand of God behind it.

ii. Understanding this can help us - though it was obviously difficult for Job and for us in similar circumstances - that God has a good and loving plan even in allowing our humiliation.

iii. Job indeed became a byword of the people. "My afflictions and calamities have become a subject of general conversation, so that my poverty and affliction are proverbial. As poor as Job, As afflicted as Job, are proverbs that have even reached our times and are still in use." (Clarke)

c. Yet the righteous will hold to his way, and he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger: In this section Job added a final, emphatic point, declaring the victory of the righteous. Even in his crisis he had flashes of faith that lit up the night of his misery.

i. This victory comes in endurance, as the righteous will hold to his way. Job would himself experience this victory as he endured through his severe and long season of crisis.

ii. This victory comes in progression, as he who has clean hands will be stronger and stronger. Job's situation did not get better in an instant. There were flashes of inspiration and clarity, but overall God brought him through the crisis in a prolonged experience.

iii. "In several of these verses Job is supposed to speak prophetically of his future restoration, and of the good which religious society should derive from the history of his original affluence, consequent poverty and affliction, and final restoration to health, peace, and prosperity." (Clarke)

iv. Yet the righteous will hold to his way: F.B. Meyer gave several reasons why this was so.

- "You shall hold on your way because Jesus holds you in his strong hand. He is your Shepherd; He has vanquished all your foes, and you shall never perish."
- "You shall hold on your way because the Father has designed through you to glorify His Son; and there must be no gaps in his crown where jewels ought to be."
- "You shall hold on your way because the Holy Spirit has designed to make you his residence and home; and He is within you the perennial spring of a holy life."

2. (Job 17:10-16) Job's sense of hopelessness.

"But please, come back again, all of you,
For I shall not find one wise man among you.
My days are past,
My purposes are broken off,
Even the thoughts of my heart.
They change the night into day;
'The light is near,' they say, in the face of darkness.
If I wait for the grave as my house,
If I make my bed in the darkness,
If I say to corruption,
'You are my father,'
And to the worm,
'You are my mother and my sister,'
Where then is my hope?
As for my hope, who can see it?
Will they go down to the gates of Sheol?
Shall we have rest together in the dust?"

a. For I shall not find one wise man among you: Job here threw down the rhetorical challenge to his friends once more, insulting them as they had insulted him.

b. My days are past, my purposes are broken off: Job accepted now that his good years and strong years were behind him, and anticipated not the quick death he once longed for, but perhaps a progressive loss of strength and ability until he simply perished.

c. They change the night into day; 'The light is near,' they say, in the face of darkness: Job thought of his approaching death and took comfort in it. It would transform his current night into day. The corruption of the grave would be as close to him as a family member.

i. "The counselors had said that night would be turned to day for Job if only he would get right with God (cf. Job 11:17). In Job 17:12-16 Job made a parody of their advice. It was like going to the grave with the notion that all you have to do is treat it like home where warmth and loved one are and it will become so." (Smick)

ii. "See how he bespeaks corruption and the worms, as if he were of family with them, and nearest of kin to them; so doth he court them, as it were, that they might be willing to receive him; showing withal how willing he was to die." (Trapp)

d. Where then is my hope? At the same time, this comfort did not sit well with Job. He recognized that it was a slender and frail hope to trust in the grave; he could not be confident that hope would follow him down to Sheol and give him rest.

i. Job therefore concludes this speech with a conflicted hope; wishing for death but not being satisfied or confident in that hope. What he really wanted was a resolution from God, but seems to have given up hope for that.

ii. "Job himself, though sometimes strongly confident, is often harassed with doubts and fears upon the subject, insomuch that his sayings and experience often appear contradictory. Perhaps it could not be otherwise; the true light was not then come: Jesus alone brought life and immortality to light by his Gospel." (Clarke)

© 2007 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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