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Wherein after the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Job has been explained, beginning at the fifth verse, the fifteenth chapter entire is explained for the most part in a moral sense.


[i]                                         [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


IT is the practice of the righteous, to think of the present life, how transitory it is, so much the more heedfully in proportion as they are taught more earnestly to take thought of the eternal blessings of the heavenly Country; for by those things, which they see lasting within, they more exactly mark the flight of things passing away without.  Whence blessed Job, when he had delivered a sentence on the transition of man’s time, saying, Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live; and again, He seeth also as a shadow, and never continueth in the same state; further adds of the shortness of his life;

Ver. 5.  The days of man are short, the number of his months is with Thee.


1.  For he sees that that as it were is not with us, which runs by with such great rapidity, but seeing that even things passing away stand with Almighty God, he declares that ‘the number of our months is with Him.’  Or, indeed, by the ‘days,’ the shortness of time is denoted, but by the ‘months’ the spaces of the days are multiplied.  Thus to ourselves ‘the days are short;’ but seeing that our life is further extended afterwards, ‘the number of our months’ is recorded ‘to be with God.’  Hence also it is said by Solomon, Length of days is in her right hand. [Prov. 3, 16]  It goes on;

Thou hast appointed his bounds, that he cannot pass.




2.  Of the things that happen to men in this world, none come to pass without the secret counsel of Almighty God; for God, foreseeing all things that should follow, before the ages of the world decreed how they should be ordered in the ages of the world.  Since it is already appointed to man both to what extent the prosperity of the world shall attend him, or in what degree adversity shall fall upon him, that His Elect neither unbounded prosperity may exalt, nor overmuch adversity sink them too low; moreover it is appointed in this very life of mortality how long he shall live with the conditions of time.  For although Almighty God added fifteen years to the life of King Hezekiah, yet at that moment that he suffered him to die, He foresaw he would die.  Wherein a question presents itself, viz.  how it is that it should be said to him by the Prophet, Set thine house in order for thou shalt die, and not live? [2 Kings 20, 1]  For he, to whom sentence of death was declared, immediately upon his tears had life added to him.  Now, the Lord said by the Prophet at what time he in himself deserved to die, but by the bountifulness of mercy, He kept him for the undergoing death at that time, which He Himself foreknew before the ages began.  Nor even therefore was the Prophet deceptive, because he made known the time of death, at which that man deserved to die, nor were the appointments of the Lord rent and torn, forasmuch as this also, that the years of life should be added to by the bountifulness of God, was foreordained before the ages began; and the period of life, which was added contrary to expectation without, was inwardly appointed without increase upon foreknowledge; and so it is well said, Thou hast appointed his bounds which he cannot pass.




3.  Which may also be taken according to the spirit, in that we sometimes endeavour to advance in virtuous attainments, and some gifts we are vouchsafed, but being kept off from some, we lie prone in things below.  For there is no man who masters that degree of goodness which he desires, in that Almighty God, Who discerneth the inward parts, sets bounds to the very spiritual attainments themselves; that by reason of that which man tries to master, and is unable, he may not exalt himself in those things, in which he has the power.  Whence too that great Preacher, that had been carried up into the third heaven, and penetrated the secrets of Paradise, after that revelation, was not left the power to be at rest, and without temptation; but whereas Almighty God has ‘appointed man his bounds, which he cannot pass,’ he both exalted him to know things on high, and set him down again to be subject to weak things, that he looking at the measure of his compass, whilst he endeavoured to lay hold on security, and could not, that he might not be carried out of himself in pride, might be forced in humility ever to return back within his own bounds.  It proceeds;

Ver. 6.  Turn from him a little while, that he may rest, till his longed for day come, as an hireling’s.




4.  In this place, Turn from him, means, ‘remove from him the force of the stroke,’ for who can rest when He turns away from him, when He Himself alone is rest, and the further off a man is from Him, he is also rendered void of rest in proportion?  Thus it is in such sort said, Turn from him, that you should understand, ‘from smiting;’ for it is fitly added, till his longed for day come as an hireling’s.  In proportion as an hireling is far from the end of his work, so is he far from the recompense of his wages.  Thus every holy man being set in this life, whilst he sees that he is far from departing out of the present life, laments that he is far from the eternal bliss.  What then is it to say, Turn from him a little while, that he may rest; but, ‘withdraw now the strokes of the present life, and shew the blessings of eternal rest?’  Whence too it is added concerning that rest itself; till his longed for day come, as an hireling’s; for then the longed for day as of an hireling comes to man, when he receives eternal rest in compensation for his labour.  But as far as relates to the aspect of the present life, how despicable is the race of man, so full of miseries, blessed Job yet further tells, and describes how greatly the very things without sense seem to surpass him, when he says;

Ver. 7-10.  For there is a hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will be green again; and that the tender branches thereof will sprout forth.  Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth foliage as when it was planted.  But man, when he is dead, and stripped, and consumed, where is he?


[iv]                                       [MYSTICAL INTERPRETATION]


5.  Now because this is self-evident according to the letter, we must refer the sense to the things of the interior, and search how they are to be made out after the spiritual signification.  Thus in Holy Scripture by the name of ‘tree’ we have represented sometimes the Cross, sometimes the righteous man, or even the unrighteous man, and sometimes the Wisdom of God Incarnate.  Thus the Cross is denoted by ‘the tree,’ when it is said, Let us put the tree into his bread [Jer. 11, 19, V.]; for to ‘put the tree into the bread’ is to apply the Cross to the Body of our Lord.  Again by the title of ‘the tree’ we have the just man, or even the unjust man, set forth, as the Lord saith by the Prophet, I the Lord have brought down the high tree, and exalted the low tree. [Ez. 17, 24]  Forasmuch as according to the word of the self-same Truth, Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted [Luke 14, 11]: Solomon also saith, If the tree fall towards the South, or toward the North, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. [Ecc. 11, 3]  For in the day of their death the just man does ‘fall to the South,’ and the unjust ‘to the North,’ in that both the just man in favour of the Spirit is brought to joy, and the sinner, together with the apostate Angel, who said, I will sit also upon the mount of the testimony, in the sides of the North [Is. 14, 13], is cast away in his frozen heart.  Again, the Wisdom of God Incarnate is represented by ‘the Tree,’ as where it is written thereon, She is a tree of life to them that lay hold on Her. [Prov. 3, 18]  And as She Herself says, If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? [Luke 23, 31] And so in this place whereas a tree is preferred before man, what is man taken for but every carnal person?  and what is denoted by the title of ‘the tree,’ but the life of the righteous?  For there is a hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will be green again.  For when in a death of painful endurance the just man is hard bestead for the truth, in the greenness of everlasting life he is recovered again; and he who here proved green by faith, there becomes green in actual sight [speciem].  ‘And his branches shoot,’ in that it is most often the case that by the sufferings of the just man, all faithful persons are redoubled in the love of the heavenly country, and they receive the greenness of the spiritual life, while they are glad that he did courageously here in God’s behalf.  It goes on;

Ver. 8, 9.  Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the dust; yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth leaves as when it was first planted.




6.  What is ‘the root’ of the righteous, but holy preaching, since it is that he springs out of, and that he holds on in? and what is meant by the name of ‘the earth’ or of ‘dust,’ but the sinner? to whom it is said by the voice of the Creator, Earth thou art, and unto earth shalt thou return [m] [Gen. 3, 19].  Or, indeed, as our Translation reads, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. [so V.]  Thus ‘the root of the righteous waxes old in the earth, and his stock dies in the dust,’ in that in the hearts of the wicked his preaching is despised, and thought dried of all goodness, and ‘his stock dies in the dust,’ in that amidst the hands of the persecutors his body is bereft of life; for according to the words of Wisdom, In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, and their departure is taken for misery. [Wisd. 3, 2]  But this one, whose ‘root waxed old in the earth, and whose trunk died in the dust,’ through the smell of water, buddeth; in that through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, by the example of his conduct he causes the budding of virtue in the hearts of the Elect.  For by the designation of water sometimes the watering of the Holy Spirit is used to be understood, as where it is written, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. [John 7, 37]  But whosoever drinketh of the water that shall give him, shall never thirst. [John 4, 14]  It follows; And bring forth foliage as when it was first planted.  To ‘bring forth foliage on the stock being cut down’ is, when the just man is put an end to in the body, by the mere example of his suffering to raise up the hearts of many, and out of a right faith to shew forth the greenness of truth.  And it is well said, As when it was first planted.  All that is done by the righteous here is a second planting; in that clearly the first planting does not consist in the practice of the good, but in the foreknowledge of the Creator; and whereas all that the Elect do, as it is first seen and settled interiorly, so afterwards is executed outwardly, it is well said, And bring forth foliage as when it was first planted, i.e.  it shews its greenness in the executing of practice, such as it had before in the foreknowledge of the Creator.


7.  The ‘root of the righteous’ may also be taken for the very nature itself of a human being, by virtue whereof he subsists, which same root waxes old in the earth, when the natural frame of flesh comes to nought being reduced to dust, whose ‘stock dies in the dust,’ in that the body dismantled of its own form and fashion crumbles to nought; but at the ‘scent of water it buds,’ in that through the coming of the Holy Spirit it rises again; and it will bring forth boughs as when it was first planted, in that it returns to that form, which it was created to receive, if, when he was set in Paradise, he had refused to sin.




8.  Which perhaps may also be taken of the Lord Himself, Who is the Head of all the good; for according to that which we have said before, whereas He saith of Himself, For if they have done these things in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry? [Luke 23, 31]  He said that Himself was the green tree, and we the dry tree, forasmuch as He contained in His own Person the power of the Divine Nature, but we that are mere men are called a dry tree.  And so ‘there is hope of a tree if it be cut down, that it will sprout again,’ in that even if He was able to be put to death by His Passion, yet by the glory of His Resurrection, He came to the greenness of life again; ‘His branches shoot,’ in that the faithful being multiplied by His Resurrection grew out far and wide; His root as it were waxed old in the earth, in that the preaching of Him was to the unbelief of the Jews a despicable thing; ‘and His stock dried in the dust,’ in that in the heart of those that persecuted Him, which was uplifted by the wind of their unbelief, He was held as an object of scorn and contempt, in that He was capable of being put to death in the flesh; but ‘at the scent of water He budded,’ in that through the power of God His Flesh after demise returned to life, according to that which is written, Whom God hath raised from the dead. [Acts 3, 15]  For in that God is a Trinity, the Holy Trinity, i.e.  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, raised up to life the extinct Flesh of the Only-Begotten Son.  And ‘It brought forth foliage as when It was first planted,’ in that the feebleness of the Apostles, which in the season of His death was afraid and denied, and by denying turned dry, by the glory of His Resurrection was again quickened in faith.  In comparison with which Tree what is every man but dust?  Hence it is added;

Ver. 10.  But when man is dead, and stripped, and consumed, where, I pray, is he?




9.  There is no man without sin, save Him Who came not into this world by sin; and whereas all we are tied fast in the bonds of guilt, we die by the mere loss of righteousness.  Of the robe of innocence given us aforetime in Paradise, we are stripped naked, and we are yet further consumed by the subsequent dissolution of the flesh.  Thus man being a sinner dies in guilt, is stripped bare of righteousness, is consumed in punishment.  This nakedness of his erring son the Father vouchsafed to cover, who said, on his returning to him, Bring forth quickly the first robe.  For ‘the first robe’ is the robe of innocence, which man being created aright received, but being persuaded wrongly by the serpent forfeited.  Against this same nakedness it is said, Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked.  For we ‘keep our garments,’ when we keep the precepts of innocency in our hearts, that whereas guilt strips us naked to the Judge, penance should cover us returning to the innocence we had forfeited.  And it is well said, Where, I pray, is he?  in that the sinner, man, refused to stand there where he was created; while here, where he fell, he is forbidden to stay for long.  Willingly he forfeited his country, unwillingly he is driven forth from his exile, which he delights in.  Where then is he, who is not in His love, where only it is truly to be?  It proceeds;

Ver. 11, 12.  As if the waters fail from the sea, and the river being emptied drieth up: so man lieth down, and riseth not.




10.  The mind of man is the sea, and the thoughts of his mind, as it were, a wave of the sea; which sometimes swell in anger, are made calm by grace, and from hatred run out in bitterness; but when man dieth, ‘the waters of the sea fail,’ in that according to the words of the Psalmist, In that very day his thoughts perish. [Ps. 146, 4]  And again it is written concerning the dying soul, Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy shall perish together. [Eccl. 9, 6]  Thus ‘the river being emptied drieth up,’ in that, when the soul is withdrawn, the body remains empty.  For the lifeless body is as it were the empty channel of a river, wherein it is to be marked with an attentive eye that the present life, i.e. the time while the soul stays in the body, is likened to the sea and to a river, for the water of the sea is bitter, of a river sweet.  And because we that are living here are at one time under the influence of certain bitternesses, and at another time are seen to be serene and gentle with sweetness, the course of the present life is set forth by the similitude of the sea and a river.


11.  But herein that seems to be exceedingly hard which is added, So man lieth down, and riseth not.  Wherefore do we so toil and labour, if we are not straining after the recompense of the Resurrection?  And how is it said, and riseth not, when it is written: We shall all rise again, but we shall not all be changed? [1 Cor. 15, 51 Vulg.]  And again, If in this life only we have hope of life in Christ, we are of all men most miserable [ver. 19]: and when ‘Truth’ says by Itself, All that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation. [John 5, 28. 29.]  But the sentence subjoined points out what distinction there is concealed in the sentence preceding.  For it is added;

Till the heavens be no more they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.




12.  For it is plain that they shall not rise again, that is, till the heavens be no more, in that except the end of the world come, the race of mankind shall not wake to life from the sleep of death.  Not, then, that he shall not rise again at all, but that before the crumbling of the heavens the human race shall not rise again, is what he teaches.  Moreover it is a thing to be marked, why after he had called man dead above, below he designates him not dead, but sleeping, and tells that he shall never rise again from his sleep until the heaven be crumbled in pieces, which is no otherwise than that it is plainly given us to understand, that by the likeness of the tree quickened afresh to life, he designates man a dead sinner, i.e. extinct from the life of righteousness; but when he speaks of the death of the flesh, he preferred to call this not death but sleep, teaching us surely the hope of the Resurrection; in that as a man quickly awakes out of sleep, so shall he rise in a moment at the nod of his Creator from the death of the body.  For the name of death is horribly feared by weak minds, but the title of sleep is not feared.  Hence Paul in charging his disciples saith, But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not as men without hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring again with Him. [1 Thess. 4, 13. 14.]  How is it that the great Preacher calls the death of the Lord death, but the death of the servants of the Lord he names not death, but sleep; but that, having regard to the weak hearts of his hearers, he mixes the medicine of his preaching with wonderful art, and Him, Whom they knew to have risen already, he does not doubt to teach them was dead, while those, who had not as yet risen again, that he might teach the hope of the Resurrection, he calls not dead, but sleeping?  For he did not fear to call Him dead Whom his hearers knew to have already risen, and He was afraid to call those dead, whose rising again they scarcely believed.  Thus blessed Job, seeing that he does not doubt of those that are dead in the flesh waking again to life, calls them sleeping rather than dead.  It goes on;

Ver. 13.  O that Thou wouldest defend me in hell!




13.  That before the coming of the Mediator between God and man, every person, though he might have been of a pure and approved life, descended to the prisons of hell, there can be no doubt; in that man, who fell by his own act, was unable by his own act to return to the rest of Paradise, except that He should come, Who by the mystery of His Incarnation should open the way into that same Paradise.  For hence after the sin of the first man it is recorded, that a flaming sword was placed at the entrance of Paradise [Gen. 3, 24], which is also called ‘moveable,’ [versatilis, V.] in that the time should come one day, that it might even be removed.  Nor yet do we maintain that the souls of the righteous did so go down into hell, that they were imprisoned in places of punishment; but it is to be believed that there are higher regions in hell and that there are lower regions apart, so that both the


righteous might be at rest in the upper regions, and the unrighteous be tormented in the lower ones.  Hence the Psalmist, by reason of the grace of God preventing him, says, Thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. [Ps. 86, 13]  Thus blessed Job before the coming of the Mediator, knowing of his going down into hell, implores the protecting hand of his Maker there, in order that he might be a stranger to the places of punishment; where, while he is brought to enjoy rest, he might be kept hidden from punishment.  Hence he subjoins;

That thou wouldest keep me secret, until Thy wrath quite [pertransiit, V.] pass by.




14.  For the wrath of Almighty God does herein execute the force of its severity every day, that those who live unworthily it swallows up in most worthy punishments.  Which wrath now indeed ‘passes by,’ but at the end it ‘quite passes by,’ in that now it is executed, but at the end of the world it is finally consummated.  Yet this wrath as to the souls of the righteous ‘quite passed by’ on the coming of our Redeemer, in that those the Mediator between God and man brought back from the prisons of hell to the joys of Paradise, when He did Himself go down there in pity.  And on this subject it is necessary to be known, that the term ‘wrath’ does not suit the Divine Being, in that no disquieting influence disorders the simple nature of God.  Whence it is said to Him, But Thou, Ruler of power, judgest with tranquillity, and orderest us with exceeding great regard. [Wisd. 12, 18]  But because the souls of the righteous were one day to be set free by the coming of the Mediator from the regions of hell, though not the places of punishment, this too the righteous man foresees, and beseeching adds;

And appoint me a set time, when Thou shouldest remember me.




15.  But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law, to redeem them that were under the Law. [Gal. 4, 4. 5.]  Thus the man of the Lord foreseeing this redemption, wherein many of the Gentile world as well were destined to be set free, as he himself says; Though these things Thou dost hide in Thine heart, yet I know that Thou dost remember all things; [Job 10, 13] prays for a time for the remembering of him, to be appointed him with Almighty God.  For it is hence that the Lord saith in the Gospel, And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all things unto Me [John 12, 32], i.e.  ‘all things Elect;’ for neither did the Lord, when He returned from hell, draw the Elect and the lost together, but He bore off all those things from thence, which He did foreknow would have attached themselves to Him.  Hence He also says by the Prophet Hosea, I will be thy death, O death; I will be the biting of thee, O hell. [Hos. 13, 14]  Now what we put to death, we do our best that it should not be at all, and of that which we bite, a part we take away, and a part we leave.  Therefore whereas the Lord wholly destroyed death in His Elect members, He proved Himself the ‘Death of death;’ but whereas He took a part from hell, and left a part, He did not wholly destroy but did ‘bite hell.’  Therefore He says, I will be thy Death, O death; i.e.  ‘in Mine Elect, I utterly destroy thee.—I will he the biting of thee, O hell; in that in taking those away, I pierce thee in part.’  And so let blessed Job, knowing of this coming of our Redeemer to hell, pray for what he foresaw in the future, and let him say, And that Thou shouldest appoint me a set time wherein Thou wouldest remember me.  It goes on;

Ver. 14.  Thinkest thou that a dead man shall live again?




16.  It is common with righteous men, in that which they themselves feel to be sure and well grounded, to urge something as if in doubting, so as to put the words of the weak into their own lips; and again by a strong sentence they gainsay utterly him that halts in doubtfulness, that by that which they are seen to put forth doubtfully, they may in some degree condescend to the weak, and hereby, that they deliver a sure sentence, they may draw the doubtful minds of the weak to firm ground.  Which whilst they do, they are following the pattern of our Head.  For our Lord, when He was near to His passion, took up the voice of those that were weak in Himself, saying, O My Father, if it be Possible; let this cup pass from Me; [Matt. 26, 39] and that He might remove their fear, He took it in Himself.  And again shewing by obedience the force of strength, He saith, Nevertheless, not as I wilt, but as Thou wilt.  That so when that thing threatens us which we would not have take place, we should so in weakness pray that it may not, as that in strength we may be ready for the will of our Creator to be done, even in opposition to our own will.  After this pattern, then, the words of weakness are sometimes proper to be adopted by the strong, that by their strong preachings afterwards the hearts of the weak may be more acceptably strengthened.  Hence blessed Job when he uttered words as of one in doubt, saying, Thinkest thou that a dead man shall live again? presently added the sentence of his sure belief, whereby he saith,

All the days that I now serve militant will I wait, till my change come.




17.  He that waits for his change with such ardent longing, shews how great his certainty was of the Resurrection, and he makes it appear how greatly he looks down upon the course of the present life, who designates it a ‘service militant.’  For in the militant state there is the going on continually to an end, day by day the finishing of the conclusion is expected.  Thus he despises the course of this life, and looks for the settling of fixedness, who hereby, that he is serving subject to changeableness, is in haste to attain to his change.  For to the just man in this life the very load of his corruption is burthensome.  Because watchings exhaust with weariness, sleep is sought, that the labour and harassing effect of watchings may be moderated: but sometimes even sleep kills.  Hunger wastes the body, and that its craving may be banished, victuals are sought after: but frequently even the very victuals oppress, which had been sought in order to banish the oppression of debility.  And so the load of corruption is a heavy burthen, which except it were so heavy, Paul would never have said, For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of Him Who hath subjected the same in hope.  Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. [Rom. 8, 20—22]  So let the holy man, longing for the state of incorruption, say, All the days that I now serve militant will I wait till my change come.  In which same change what it is that takes place, he adds;

Ver. 15.  Thou shalt call me, and I will answer Thee.




18.  We are said to answer anyone, when we do works in turn answerable to his deeds.  Thus in that change the Lord ‘calls,’ and man ‘answers,’ in that, before the brightness of The Incorrupt, man is shewn forth incorrupt after corruption.  For now so long as we are subject to corruption, we do not in any wise ‘answer’ our Creator, seeing that whereas corruption is far from incorruption, there is no similarity suitable to our answering.  But of that change it is written, When He shall appear, we shall be like Him: for we shall see Him as He is. [1 John 3, 2]  Then therefore we shall truly ‘answer God,’ Who ‘calleth,’ when at the bidding of the Supreme Incorruption we shall arise incorruptible; and because the creature is not able to earn this by itself, but it is brought to pass by the gift of Almighty God alone, that it should be changed to that exceeding glory of incorruption, it is rightly subjoined;

Thou wilt stretch forth Thy right hand to the work of Thine hands.




19.  As if he said in plain words; ‘For this reason Thy corruptible creature is able to hold fast unto incorruption, because he is lifted up by the hands of Thy power, and is kept by the grace of Thy regard, that he should hold fast.’  For the human creature by this alone, that it is a creature, has it inherent in itself to sink down below itself, but man has obtained it from his Creator, that he should both be caught above himself by contemplation, and held fast in himself by incorruption.  And so that the creature may not fall away beneath himself, but hold on in incorruption, he is lifted to the stedfastness of immutability by the right hand of His Maker.  Moreover it may be that by the title of ‘the Right Hand’ the Son may be designated; in that, All things were made by Him. [John 1, 3]  Thus Almighty God ‘stretched out His Right Hand to the work of His hands,’ because, that He might lift on high the human race, become refuse and grovelling in the lowest things, He sent the Only-Begotten One, made Incarnate for this end.  By Whose Incarnation it has been vouchsafed to us that we, who fall into incorruption of our own will, should one time be enabled to answer God when He calls us in the glory of incorruption.  Wherein who can estimate the bountifulness of Divine Mercy, that He should bring man after sin to such a height of glory?  God takes account of the bad things we do, yet by the grace of His lovingkindness He remits them to us in mercy.  And hence it is added;

Ver. 16.  For now Thou numberest my steps, but Thou sparest my sins.




20.  God ‘numbers our steps,’ when He marks each one of our several deeds for the recompensing them.  For what is denoted by the steps, but each particular act of ours?  Thus Almighty God both ‘numbers our steps’ and ‘spares our sins,’ in that He at once surveys our actions with exactness, and yet remits them in mercy to those that repent, Who both sees obduracy in those that sin, and yet softens it into penitence by preventing grace.  Thus He ‘numbers sins,’ in that He turns us ourselves to bewail the several things which we have done.  And He remits them in mercy, in that whilst we our own selves punish them, He Himself never judges them in the last reckoning, as Paul testifies, who saith, For if we should judge ourselves, we should not be judged. [1 Cor. 11, 31]  Hence it is further added;

Ver. 17.  Thou hast sealed up as it were in a bag my transgressions; but Thou hast healed mine iniquity.




21.  Our ‘transgressions are sealed up as it were in a bag,’ in that that thing which we ourselves do in outward act, except we wash away by penance in the mean while, is kept in the secresy of God’s judgments under a kind of hiding, that one day it may also come forth out of the bag of secresy into the publicity of the Judgment.  Hence it is said by Moses too; Is not this laid up in store with Me, and sealed up among My treasures?  In the day of vengeance I will repay them. [Deut. 32, 34]  But when for the evil things that we have done, we are bruised with the stroke of discipline, and lament the same by penance, He ‘sealeth up,’ and ‘healeth’ our iniquity, in that He neither leaves things unpunished here, nor reserves them to be punished in the Judgment.  Thus He ‘seals transgressions,’ in that He marks them with exactness here, to chastise them with the rod, but He ‘heals’ them, in that He wholly remits them in the stroke.  Hence the iniquity of that persecutor of Him, whom He laid prostrate on the ground, He did also by sealing heal, seeing that He said concerning him to Ananias; He is a chosen vessel unto Me to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake. [Acts 9, 15]  For to that man, whom on account of past transgressions He still threatens with future sufferings, what he had done wrong, surely He kept sealed in the heart; but as surely in so sealing He had healed his transgressions, in that He called him ‘a chosen vessel.’  Or, surely, ‘our transgressions are sealed in a bag,’ when the evil things we have been guilty of, we reflect on continually with a heedful heart.  For what is the heart of man, but God’s ‘bag?’ wherein whilst we earnestly look to see how much we transgress, we carry our sins as it were ‘sealed up in God’s bag.’  Did not David keep his sin ‘sealed up in a bag,’ when he said, For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. [Ps. 51, 3]  And because the faults, which we are made acquainted with in reviewing and repeating, the pitiful Creator remits to us, after the ‘transgressions being sealed in a bag,’ it is rightly subjoined, But Thou hast healed mine iniquity: as if he said in plain speech, ‘What things Thou dost now seal, so that I in repenting should see, doubtless Thou doest it, that in the retribution they should never be seen.’  It follows;

Ver. 18, 19.  And surely the mountain falling slippeth away, and the rock is removed out of his place.  The waters wear the stones, and by washing little by little the earth is consumed, and so Thou wilt in a like way destroy man.


[xviii]                                  [MORAL INTERPRETATION]


22.  This is very often the case, that upon rocks falling, a piece of rock is removed to other places; that waters wear stones, and little by little the ground is wasted by the washings of the flood: but we have need to make out with great diligence that which is brought in; and man Thou wilt in a like way destroy.  For what is that, that to a mountain falling, a rock removed, a stone worn hollow, and ground consumed by the washing of the flood, the ruin of man is likened, but this, which we are plainly given to understand, that there are two sorts of temptations, one sort, which passes in the mind even of the good man by sudden accident, that he should be so tempted of a sudden, that by the unexpectedness of the event it should make him reel, and bring him to the ground, and that he does not see his falling, until after he has fallen; while there is another which comes by little and little into the mind, and by gentle suggestions corrupts the resisting soul, and not by its excessiveness but by its importunity wastes all the powers of righteousness therein?  And so, whereas there is one sort of temptation, which by a sudden assault very often brings the good down to the ground, let it be said, And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place, i.e.  the holy mind, whose place was righteousness, is by a sudden impulse removed into sin.  Again, because there is another sort of temptation, which infuses itself gently into the heart of man, and wears and wastes all the hardness of its resolution, let it be said, The waters wear the stones; in this way, viz.  that the unremitted and soft flatteries of lust suck away the hardness of the soul, and the slow and penetrating evil habit corrodes the hard and forcible purpose of the mind.  Hence it is added, And by washing the ground is consumed little by little.  For as when water flows in, ‘the ground is consumed little by little,’ so when bad habit creeps on [n] by gentle degrees, even the strong mind is engulphed.  Hence it is well added, And Thou wilt in a like way destroy man, i.e. in this way, that when Thou by a righteous appointment sufferest temptation of a sudden to get the dominion over the mind of him, who is seen to have his stand on high, Thou causes; ‘the mountain to fall and slip away,’ and when the will is changed to evil, it is as if ‘the rock were removed to a new place,’ but whilst Thou lettest a gentle and fine yet unremitting temptation prevail over the minds of those, who are accounted strong, ‘the waters in a manner wear the stones, and by washing, the ground is consumed little by little,’ in that the hardness of the mind being subdued by gentle suggesting is made soft.


23.  Let us see how that David was a ‘high mountain,’ who was enabled to contemplate such great mysteries of God by the Spirit of prophecy; but let us mark how he ‘slipped down,’ by a sudden fall, who whilst walking on the solar, lusted after and carried off another man’s wife, and killed her husband with loss to his own army.  Then ‘fell a mountain with a sudden fall,’ when that mind which was used to dwell with heavenly mysteries, was overcome by sudden temptation, and brought under to such most monstrous pollution.  And so ‘the rock was removed from its place,’ when the mind of the prophet being shut out from the mysteries of prophecy came to imagine filthy things.  Let us see moreover how ‘the waters wear the stones, and by washing the ground is consumed little by little,’ in that Solomon by an immoderate intercourse and frequency with women was brought to this pass, that he built a temple to idols: and he who had before erected a temple to God, by frequency of lust, being even bowed down under misbelief, was not afraid to erect idol temples.  And so it came to pass, that by unremitting wantonness of the flesh, he was brought even to misbelief of the spirit.  What else then, but that the ‘waters did wear away the stone, and by washing the ground was consumed little by little,’ in that by the encroaching [surripiente] of sin as it flowed in little by little, the ground of his heart crumbled away unto wasting?  Thus let blessed Job consider both sorts of temptation, whether the sudden and excessive, or the gentle and prolonged sort, let him contemplate the falls of his fellow-creatures, and from those things which take place outwardly let him catch the keynote of his contemplation within, saying, And surely the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place: the waters wear the stones, and by washing little by little the earth is wasted; and Thou wilt in like manner destroy men; i.e.  ‘as these things without sense at one time are brought to the ground suddenly, at one time are worn little by little by the softness of water being let in; so likewise him, whom Thou hast created a reasoning creature, Thou dost either overthrow by sudden temptation, or permittest to be worn and wasted by a long and gentle one;’ and that reasoning creature he directly describes in the following words, saying,

Ver. 20.  Thou hast strengthened him for a little space, that the might pass by for ever.


[xix]                                  [LITERAL INTERPRETATION]


24.  Man has been ‘strengthened here for a little space,’ in that he has received here powers of living for a while, that he should for ever pass away thither, where no end should bound and shut in his life, but in this moment’s space where he has been ‘strengthened,’ he extracts that wherefrom in the everlasting world he may either find how always to have joy, or not ever escape the punishments he has entered upon.  And for this reason, that ‘he has been strengthened for a little space,’ to ‘pass away for everlasting,’ it is fitly added immediately;

Thou wilt change his countenance, and send him away.




25.  ‘The face of man is changed,’ when his form is wasted by death; but ‘he is sent away,’ in that from those things which he kept willingly he is necessitated to pass away to the eternal world against his will, and while he is brought thereunto, these things which he held long and thought on, how it will be with them now left behind him he knows nothing.  Hence it is added;

Ver. 21.  Whether his sons be in honour or dishonour, he perceiveth not.




26.  For as they, who are still living, know nothing of the souls of the dead, in what place they are held; so the dead, concerning the life of those living after them in the flesh, know not at all how it is ordered; in that both the life of the spirit is far from the life of the flesh, and as the corporeal and incorporeal are things different in kind, so are they parted in knowledge.  Which however is not to be imagined concerning holy souls, in that they which behold the brightness of Almighty God within, we cannot for a moment suppose that there is any thing without that they know not [b].  But because carnal persons bestow their chief affection on their children, blessed Job declares that they are hereafter ignorant of that, which they loved here with all their heart, so that ‘whether their sons be in honour or dishonour they know not,’ whereas their care for these was always preying upon their minds. 




Which however if it is to be understood in a spiritual sense, with no unfitness by the title of sons we have works denoted, as Paul saith of woman, Notwithstanding, she shall be saved in childbearing. [1 Tim. 2, 15]  Not that a woman, who being devoted to continency never bears children, shall not be saved, but she is said to be ‘saved by childbearing,’ because by the operation of good works she is united to everlasting salvation.  Thus the children in honour are good deeds, and the children in dishonour are bad deeds.  And often man strives to do things with a good intention, yet by reason of the many occasions that creep upon him, how his actions are accounted of in the sight of Almighty God is a thing uncertain.  And so ‘whether his sons be in honour or dishonour he perceiveth not,’ in that his works being sifted with a searching scrutiny, whether they be approved or condemned he cannot tell.  Thus here man is placed in the painfulness of labour, and thither he is brought in the fearfulness of misgiving.  Hence it is yet further subjoined concerning the labour of the present life itself,

Ver. 22.  But his flesh while he liveth shall have pain, and His soul shall mourn over himself.




27.  Concerning the married Paul saith, Nevertheless, such shall have trouble in the flesh. [1 Cor. 7, 28]  But they may ‘have trouble in the flesh here,’ who are even now leading spiritual lives.  Wherefore then is it said as it were in a special sense, that there is ‘trouble of the flesh’ to married persons, seeing that it is not far removed even from the life of the spiritual; excepting that those commonly meet with worse troubles from the flesh, who delight themselves with the pleasures of the flesh?  And it is well said, And his soul within him shall mourn over himself; in that whosoever desires to rejoice in himself, by this alone is henceforth in woe, viz. that he has gone far from the true joy.  For the true joy of the soul is the Creator.  Therefore it is meet that man should ever find in himself sorrow, who, forsaking His Creator, sought joy in himself.  It proceeds;

Chap. xv. 1.  Then answered Eliphaz the Temanite, and said, Should a wise man answer as if speaking into the wind, and fill his belly with burning?


[xxiii]                               [ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION]


28.  We have already said frequently that blessed Job bears a type of the Holy Church universal, and that his friends bear the likeness of heretics, who as it were on the plea of defence of the Lord find occasion of foolish talking, and let loose insulting words against good men; to whom all is displeasing that is thought by the faithful, as though it were uttered to the wind.  Whence it is said now, Should a wise man answer as if speaking into the wind?  Nor do they account the words of the good as the sayings of reason, but as the stingings of madness.  Whence it is added, And shall he fill his belly with burning? in that those things even which they know themselves to say by way of insult, they are ever bent to palliate, as has been said, on the ground of defending the Lord.  Whence Eliphaz adds;

Thou reprovest with words him that is not equal to thee, and thou speakest what is not expedient for thee.




29.  Now they suppose that no one has the fear of the Lord, saving him whom they can draw into the foolishness of their own confession.  Hence he adds, Yea, thou castest off fear, and hast taken, prayer before God.  ‘Taken’ means ‘taken away;’ as if he said in plain terms, ‘Presuming on Thine own righteousness, thou scornest to implore the grace of Thy Creator.’  For when heretics do not find real evils to urge against the good, they feign things to reproach them with, that they may seem righteous, and it very often happens, that they come to open words of insult.  Whence it is still further added,

For thine iniquity teacheth, thy mouth, and thou followest the tongue of the crafty.


30.  ‘Iniquity teaches the mouth,’ when there is conceived by a bad life somewhat to be spoken of a worse kind.  Now because blessed Job was free in speech in proportion as he was holy in action, by his friends, who hold the type of heretics, he is found fault with at once on the grounds of a wicked life and of a bold mouth, so that it should be said, Thine iniquity teacheth thy mouth.  As if it were said to him in plain words, ‘What thou speakest wickedly, thou hast learnt of a more wicked life.’  But it often happens that heretics, whilst in seeming they venerate God, oppose His mysteries, and they think it humility if they deny the truth.  For there are some, who imagine that they are bringing injury upon God, if they confess that He took true flesh, or if they should think that He was capable of really dying for us in the flesh.  And whilst they endeavour as it were to bestow upon God a greater degree of honour, they are enforced to deny the real praises of His goodness.  For in praise of His charity what is there more efficacious, than that in our behalf He should make those things meet to Himself for the undertaking them, which seem for Him unworthy.  But Holy Church confesses His very and true Flesh, His very and true Death, but in declaring these things she is thought by Heretics to put an indignity upon God.  Whence it is said now, And thou followest the tongue of them that blaspheme.  And if any piece of adversity befall her in this world, they say that it was brought upon her by this very injuriousness of her confession.  Hence it is yet further added;

Ver. 6.  Thine own mouth shall condemn thee, and not I; yea, thine own lips shall answer thee.




31.  For because they suppose that the evils of adversity break out in consequence of the erroneousness of confession; that say that ‘her own lips shall answer her,’ so that fault of utterances should be the cause of the scourge.  But sometime they desire to repress it as if by reasoning; whence Eliphaz sets himself to reprove blessed Job as it were on principles of reason, saying,

Ver. 7, 8.  Art thou the first man that was born?  or wast thou made before the hills?  Hast thou heard the secret of God?  and shall His wisdom be inferior to thee?




32.  As if He said in plainer words, ‘Thou, who speakest of the Eternal One, consider that thou art a creature of time.  Thou that arguest concerning His wisdom, remember that Thou knowest not His counsel.’  But that Heretics for this take up the words of the defence of the Lord, that they may appear to be learned, and whilst they seem to defend the glory of God, are making known their knowledge to men, the very words of Eliphaz subjoined bear witness, who began indeed to speak of the wisdom of God, but immediately fell into self-elation, saying,

Ver. 9.  What knowest thou that we know not?  What understandest thou which is not in us?


Which same sentences plainly shew in what exaltation of mind all that comes forth, which sounds as if it were for defence of the Lord.  It goes on;

Ver. 10.  With us are both the gray headed and very aged men, much elder than thy father.


33.  That all Heretics are gone out of the Holy Church Universal, John testifies, when he says, They went out from us, but they were not of us. [1 John 2, 19]  But that those things which they maintain they may recommend to the weak minds of their fellow-creatures as on the grounds of antiquity, they testify that they have ancient fathers, and the very Doctors of the Church themselves they declare are the masters of their school; and whilst they look down upon present preachers, they pride themselves with unfounded presumption on the tutorage of the ancient fathers, so that they avouch that the things they themselves assert the old fathers held as well, in order that what they are not able to build up in truth and right, they may strengthen as by the authority of those.  But because it is written, Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth, oftentimes Holy Church travails with countless adversities in this life, and the life of the children of perdition is let to go free of the scourge, in proportion as it is not reserved for any rewards.  But Heretics seeing the tribulations of Holy Church, look down upon her, and fancy that she is bruised by such a multitude of strokes, in due of a false creed [professionis].  Hence it is yet further added;

Ver. 11.  Is it a great thing that God should console thee?  But thine evil words prevent this.




34.  As if he said to him in plain words; ‘If thou wouldest amend thy profession of faith, thou mightest long ago have had consolation in thy scourges.’  It goes on;

Ver. 12.  Why does thine heart lift thee up, and hast thou thine eyes astonished as thinking of great things?




35.  Often the mind of the righteous is so suspended in contemplating things on high, that outwardly their face seems to have been struck with stupefaction.  But because Heretics are not taught to enforce the power of contemplation in secret, they think that it is done by the just, and those that are imbued with a right understanding, more in hypocrisy than in truth, in that what they cannot themselves obtain the possession of, they do not suppose exists in others in a genuine way.  It goes on;

Ver. 13.  Why dost thy spirit swell against God, that thou lettest such words go out of thy mouth?




36.  Very often when the righteous are afflicted with any woes, they are forced to confess their works, as blessed Job had done, who after just living was pressed down by the strokes of the rod; but when the unrighteous hear their sayings, they think that they are uttered in self-exaltation rather than in truth.  For they weigh the words of the righteous by their own feelings, and do not think that good words can be said in a humble spirit.  For as it is a great sin, for a man to ascribe to himself what there is not, so it is commonly no sin at all if he speaks with humility the good that there is.  Hence it often happens that the just and unjust have words that are like, but always a heart that is widely unlike, and the same sayings for which the Lord is offended by the unrighteous, He is even propitiated by the righteous.  Thus the Pharisee when he entered the temple said, I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess. [Luke 18, 12]  But the publican went out justified more than he.  Hezekiah too, the king, when he was afflicted with sickness of the body, and brought to the last point of life, said with his heart pierced in prayer, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before Thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, Nor yet did the Lord disregard this confession of his perfectness, or refuse him, whom He immediately heard effectually in his prayers.  See, the Pharisee justified himself in act, and Hezekiah maintained himself to be just in thought as well, and by the same act by which the one offended, the other propitiated God.  Wherefore then was this, but that Almighty God estimates the words of each by the thoughts within, and in His ear those are not high, which are uttered with a lowly heart?  Hence blessed Job, where he put forward his deeds, did not in the least degree swell out against God, in that those things which he had really done, he spoke with a humble spirit.  Now Heretics are accustomed to mix some true points with the statements of their erroneous persuasions.  And the friends of blessed Job, though in the reproving of him they are altogether deceived, may yet even say some things true, which they learnt by frequent communication with him, whose words were they all to be contradicted, the Apostle Paul would never have brought forward the sentence of Eliphaz saying, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. [1 Cor. 3, 19]  And so, because those things which they say right, they do not rightly say against blessed Job, let us in their sayings at once tread under our feet the mischief of indiscretion, and sift the marrow of rightness.  It goes on;

Ver. 14.  What is man, that he should be clean?


[xxxii]                                     [MORAL INTERPRETATION]


37.  For hereby alone that he is called ‘man’ he is described as earthly and weak; for man is so named [‘homo’ from ‘humus,’ as Hebrew ‘Adam’] from the earth.  And how is it possible for him to be free from stain, who being made of earth of his own will fell into infirmity?  where it is added; And he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?  For the first piece of unrighteousness the woman proffered to the man in Paradise.  And so how shall he appear righteous, who was born of her that proved the bidder of unrighteousness?  It goes on;

Ver. 15.  Behold, among His saints there is no one that is unchangeable; the heavens are not clean in His sight.


[xxxiii]                                  [MYSTICAL INTERPRETATION]


38.  He repeated that with the title of ‘the heavens,’ which he before denoted by the appellation of the ‘Saints.’  For it is written concerning those very Saints; The heavens are telling the glory of God [Ps. 19, 1]; all of whom have by nature in themselves changeableness proper to them, but while they earnestly desire to attach themselves always to the unchangeable ‘Truth,’ in attaching themselves they bring it to pass that they become unchangeable; and whilst they keep themselves fixed thereto with a full affection, they one day obtain that being carried above themselves, they get the better of this, that in themselves they were changeable.  For what is changeableness but a kind of death?  which while it changes one thing into another, as it were kills that which was, that that should begin to be which was not.  And it is written concerning the Author of all things, Who only hath unchangeableness [1 Tim. 6, 16], in that He only is unchangeable in Himself.  Concerning whom it is written by James; With Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of changing [Jam. 1, 17].  For changeableness itself is a shadow, which if it altered the light by any changes, would as it were obscure it.  But because in God changeableness entereth not, ‘no shadow of changing’ intercepts His Light.  Now it is well said, the heavens are not clean in His sight, in that by themselves before the strict cognizance of God not even they can be clean to perfection, who are preachers of cleanness, as John testifies, who saith, If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves. [1 John 1, 8]  If then ‘among His Saints there is no one unchangeable, and the heavens are not clean in His sight,’ who may presume in himself upon the practice of righteousness?  Hence it is further added;

Ver. 16.  How much more abominable and useless is man, which drinketh iniquity like water?




39.  He who first said it was impossible that man should of himself be clean from sin, and righteous, calls him ‘abominable’ and ‘useless;’ ‘abominable’ on account of the uncleanness of his stain, but ‘useless’ on account of the unrighteousness of an imperfect life; who however may be understood as ‘abominable and useless’ in another sense.  For often a bad man seems to do some things rightly, but by those things which are wrong, even those which are right belonging to him are brought to nought; and because the evil ones are very displeasing to God, neither are those pleasing which seem to be good.  And so he, that is ‘abominable’ before God in his evil things, is ‘useless’ in the good; in that whilst he shews himself an object of execration to God by wicked deeds, neither is that which seems right proceeding from him well-pleasing.  And it is well said, Which drinketh iniquity like water.  For what is eaten is swallowed not without delay, seeing that it is chewed in order to be swallowed; but what is drunk has no hindrance to be swallowed, in proportion as it hath again no need to be chewed.  And so because sin is committed by the foolish man without any drawing back, iniquity is drunk like water.  For because he does unlawful things without fear, he swallows the draught of iniquity without let or hindrance.  It goes on;

Ver. 17.  I will shew it thee, hear me; and that which I have seen I will declare to thee.




40.  All arrogant persons have this proper to them, that when they have a right notion, though the thing be little, they wrest it to serve the turn of pride, and by the same act whereby from understanding they might to themselves be raised higher, from swoln pride they only fall into the pit of self exalting, account themselves better instructed than the learned, and they exact respect for themselves from their betters, and stand upon it to teach as with authority those that are holier men.  Hence it is now said, I will shew thee, hear me.  And because he teaches with less authority who tells things that he has heard, than he who tells those things which he has seen, in order that Eliphaz may claim to himself the stronger kind of authority, he says, And that which I have seen I will declare.  But because Heretics are sometimes confounded by their fathers being condemned, and yet bring forward as it were with authority the sentences of those, by whose folly they are deservedly rejected; the very audacity of Heretics is itself rightly introduced, when it is said,

Ver. 18.  Wise men confess, and do not hide their fathers.




41.  And at once they leap out in praise of them, and boast that they had been as it were the only rulers of the Church.  Hence it is yet further added, Unto whom alone the earth was given, and the stranger passed not among them.  They think that ‘the earth was given to their fathers alone,’ in that the masters of their erroneous teaching alone really had rule in the Church.  And who is termed ‘the stranger,’ but the Apostate Angel?  Whence too it is said by the Psalmist concerning all the wicked spirits together; For strangers are risen up against me, and oppressors seek after my soul. [Ps. 54, 3]  And so Heretics, because they think that the hearts of their doctors were not subject to the Apostate Angel, say that ‘the stranger passed not among them.’  For which same stranger to pass through each individual, is his putting wicked thoughts into his heart.  And hence it is said by the voice of the Prophet of the evil spirits arrayed against the soul standing erect, Which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over. [Is. 51, 23]  But whereas Eliphaz the Temanite, when going to tell some things, wishes to be heard, though he knows many things which were proper to be said, and yet does not know that they were not proper to be said to blessed Job, let us hear the sentences which he uttered against blessed Job.  For neither ought we to consider the person to whom, but only what it was that he said.  It goes on;

Ver. 20.  The wicked man feels proud all his days.


[xxxvii]                         [LITERAL AND MORAL INTERPRETATION]


42.  The Elect also are apt to feel pride in some of their thoughts and actions.  But because they are Elect persons, they cannot feel pride all their days, because before they end their lives, they turn their hearts from self-exaltation to the fearing of humility.  But ‘the wicked man feels pride all his days,’ in that he so brings his life to an end, that he never departs from self-exalting.  He looks round him on all that is flourishing in time, and he neglects to consider whither he is being carried for ever.  He puts his trust in the life of the flesh, and thinks that those things continue for long, which he holds at the moment.  His mind is set firm in self-exaltation, every one of his kin is brought into contempt, how suddenly death creeps upon him he never takes thought, how certain his happiness he never reflects; whereas if he did but turn his eyes to the uncertainty of fleeting life, he would never keep for a certainty things uncertain.  And hence it is well added;

And the number of the years of his tyranny is uncertain.




43.  For he ought not to have felt pride at all, even if he might have had the number of his years assured, so that knowing how long he should live, he might know beforehand when to withdraw himself from self-exaltation.  But since the present life is always uncertain, death’s creeping upon him ought always to be apprehended the more, insomuch as it can never be foreseen.  And he rightly calls the pride of the wicked, ‘tyranny.’  For he is justly styled a tyrant, who in the commonwealth takes the lead without right.  And be it known that every proud man, according to his several measure, exercises tyranny.  For what sometimes one person practises in the commonwealth, in this case, by power of high office accorded to him, another in a province, another in a city, another in his own family, this same another by concealed wickedness practises to himself in the thought of his own heart.  Nor does the Lord regard what amount of evil each person may be able to do, but what amount he may have the mind to do.  And when the power is wanting without, he is, a tyrant within himself, whom iniquity lords it over within; for though he does not oppress his neighbours outwardly, yet inwardly he seeks to possess power, in order to oppress them; and because Almighty God considers the hearts of men, the wicked man has already done in his eyes the thing that he conceived.  Now our Creator willed that our end should be hidden from us with this view, that whereas we are uncertain when we may die, we may always be found ready for death.  Hence after it has been said, All his days the wicked man feels proud, he rightly adds, and the number of the years of his tyranny is uncertain.  As if it were said in plain words, ‘Wherefore is he lifted up as if on the grounds of a certainty, the tenure of whose life is held under the penalty of uncertainty?’  But Almighty God not only reserves future punishments for those that live wickedly, but even here, where they go wrong, he besets their hearts with punishments, that by this alone, viz. that they sin, they should be smiting themselves, and that always trembling, always full of suspicion, they should be afraid of meeting with those mischiefs from others, which they remember themselves to have done to others.  Whence it is yet further added of this wicked one;

Ver. 21.  A dreadful sound is alway in his ears, and when there is peace, he suspecteth plots.




44.  But there is nothing more happy than simplicity of heart, in that in proportion as it shews forth innocency towards others, there is nothing it dreads to meet with from others.  For it has its simplicity as a kind of citadel of strength, nor is it suspicious of undergoing what it has no remembrance of having itself done.  Whence it is well said by Solomon, In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence.  Who also says again, A secure mind is like a perpetual feast.  For the mere repose of security is like the continuance of refreshment.  Whereas, on the other hand, the evil mind is always set in pains and labours, since it is either contriving mischiefs that it may bring down, or fearing lest these be brought down upon it by others; and whatever plot it hatches against neighbours, it is afraid of being hatched by neighbours against itself.  It is on every side full of suspicions, on every side full of alarms.  Everyone that occurs to mind is supposed to be making out things hostile to him, and so he, to whom the repose of security is wanting, has surely ‘a dreadful sound in his ears’ always.  And it often happens that his neighbour, whoever he be, speaks to him with a single intention, and designs nothing hostile, but ‘when there is peace, he suspecteth plots;’ in that he, who is always dealing craftily, calculates that there is not single dealing towards himself.  And whereas it is written, When the wicked man cometh into the pit of sinners, he contemneth, he being encompassed with the darkness of his iniquity henceforth despairs of light.  Hence too it follows;

Ver. 22.  He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness, and he is waited for of the sword.




45.  For because he believes himself to be on all sides stricken from ambush, despairing of salvation, he is ever growing on in wickedness.  Now there are times too when this ungodly man turns his eyes to judgments from above as well, and dreads their coming upon him.  But whilst he seeks the wages of the present life, these same judgments which he had begun to fear, being conquered by the madness of avarice, he sets at nought.  And be thinks indeed that it is possible he may die in sin, but yet he does not cease from sin.  Hence it is subjoined;

Ver. 28.  When he has stirred himself to seek bread, he knoweth that the day of darkness is ready in his hand.




46.  For ‘bread’ is the wages of the present life, and ‘the day of darkness’ is taken for the time of vengeance.  And so in the course of his conduct, the wicked man at times weighs well the present wrath of the Judge Above, but he is not diverted from wickedness, so that it too should be itself diverted from his destruction.  But his conscience accusing him, he fears to be smitten, yet be is ever increasing that whereby he should be smitten.  He makes slight of his return, he despairs of pardon, he carries himself high in sin, yet he has fear within, a witness of his wickedness.  And though he seem outwardly to be doing wicked things with a bold front, yet for these in his own heart he is untrained to tremble.  Whence it is written; For whereas wickedness is timorous, she gives witness to condemnation. [Wisd. 17, 11]  For when a man does unlawful things, he is in dread of the thing that he does; and the open witness for his condemning is the very fearfulness of wickedness itself, in that both the thing that is done is feared, and yet the evil that is feared is not overcome.  Of which it is yet further added,

Ver. 24.  Trouble shall make him afraid, straits shall besiege him, as a king ready to the battle.




47.  In all that the wicked man does, he is hedged in with anguish, and tribulation, and straits; in that his soul is confounded with anxiety and misgiving.  One man secretly longs to seize another’s goods by force, and he toils and strains in the thoughts of his heart, that he may not be found out.  Another man, forsaking truth, makes up his mind to tell a lie, that he may deceive the mind of those that hear him; but what great labour it is to guard with sufficient heed, that his deceit itself may not be found out!  For he sets before his eyes what answer may be made to him by those that know the truth, and with great effort of thought he makes out how by the appliances of falsehood he may surpass the evidences of truth.  He cloaks himself about on this side and on that, and against that wherein he might have been found out, he looks about for an answer resembling truth, whereas if he had been minded to tell the truth, assuredly he might have done it without pains.  For the path of truth is smooth, and the road of falsehood grievous.  And hence it is said by the Prophet, They have taught their tongue to speak lies, and wearied themselves to commit iniquity. [Jer. 9, 5]  Therefore it is well said, Trouble shall make him afraid, and straits besiege him; in that in himself he is undone in the toilsomeness of fear, who forsakes the way of truth, which is the companion of security.  And he is rightly compared to a king prepared for battle, seeing that in that very evil that he does he is at once alarmed and presses on; at once made to tremble by conscience, and to pant from desire; fears, and swells high; is scared with misgivings, and lifts up his spirit in audacity.  Moreover, we are to know that ‘a king who is prepared for battle’ is so apprehensive against the enemy, that he also fears for that very army which he is leading, lest it should be seduced, lest by the desertion of his soldiers he be laid open to the darts of the enemy.  And so ‘the wicked man is besieged with straits, like a king ready to the battle;’ in that whilst practising false things and uttering false words, he dreads lest he should lose his own soldiers; i.e.  the appliances of falsehoods; and lie exposed to the darts of truth, if it chance that that be lacking to him, which he might have to oppose on the side of deceit.  But though the Spirit trembles, though conscience accuses, yet the wicked man is mastered by his own passion; and forcing under fear, he assumes hardihood from his iniquities.  And often when revenge is set before his mind, he lifts himself up against God; he determines to undergo any inflictions at His hands, so long as in this life, while he has the power, he may do all that he pleases.  And hence it is added;

Ver. 25, 26.  For he hath stretched out his hand against God, and is strengthened against the Almighty; He runneth upon Him with erected neck, and he is armed with a stout neck.




48.  These things are more plainly understood of the head of the wicked himself, i.e. Antichrist, who, while lifting up his hand against God, is said to be ‘strengthened,’ in that for a little time he is permitted to be exalted; that in proportion as he is let to glory for a while, he may be punished the more pitilessly for everlasting; but seeing that all the wicked are his members, this, which he then in the end of the world shall do alone in a preeminent way, let us see how it is done now by each one of the wicked severally.  Thus there are some who even if they do ever set themselves to do things in opposition to the judgment of Almighty God, disabled by the very impossibility of putting their will in execution, look to themselves, are made to turn themselves to Him Whom they were minded to despise, and they, who might have gone far from Him, if they had been able to execute what they were minded to do, are sometimes hereby saved, because they could not execute what they wickedly had the mind for; and hence being brought back to themselves, they see what condition they are of, and mourn that they had the mind to do things contrary to ‘Truth.’  And there are some who by the just judgment of God are suffered to execute with worse wickedness that which they wickedly desire to do in opposition to God.  And whilst an evil disposition inflames, and power strengthens them, they are henceforth unable to attain to know themselves in their erring course, in proportion as in the affluence of their fortunes they are by power ever being drawn out of themselves.  Concerning the bent of whose mind it is here said, For he stretcheth forth his hand against God, and is strengthened against the Almighty.  For ‘to stretch forth the hand against God,’ is to persevere in evil doing, setting at nought the judgments of God.  And because God is then more wroth, when He suffers that to be fulfilled, which thing ought not to have been conceived at all in thought, this wicked man is ‘strengthened against the Almighty,’ in that he is suffered to prosper in his wicked course of conduct, so that he should both do wicked things, and yet live in happiness, Of whom it is yet further added, He runneth upon Him with erected neck.


49.  To ‘run against God with erected neck’ is to commit with shamelessness such things as are displeasing to the Creator.  Of whom it is rightly said, He ran, i.e, in doing evil, he had no let or hindrance from adversity.  Concerning whom it is yet further added; And he is armed with a stout neck [pingui cervice].  ‘A stout neck’ is wealthy pride, as being buttressed up with overflowing stores, as it were with a quantity of flesh.  And so the bad man with power ‘is armed against God with a stout neck,’ in that swollen with temporal good things he is set up as by a great bulk of flesh against the precepts of truth.  For what is poverty but a sort of leanness, and what is the abundance of stores but the fatness of the present life?  And so he lifts himself up ‘with a stout neck against God,’ who takes temporal abundance to serve the end of pride.  For the powerful and wicked have this thing proper to them, that being engrossed with deceitful riches they neglect the true riches of God, and in proportion as they investigate the less what is true, they are the more lifted up by false acquisitions.  For the care and concern of earthly things, because it engrosses, utterly blinds the sight.  Whence it is yet further added with justness,

Ver. 27.  Fatness hath covered his face.




50.  For the sight is in the face, wherein too is the first more honourable part of the body.  Therefore the best of the mind is not unjustly denoted by the face, which wherever we turn it, there we see.  And so ‘fatness covers the face,’ in that the earnestly coveted abundance of earthly good things presses down the eyes of the mind, and that which should be honourable [A.B.C.D. more honorable] in them, it makes foul in the eyes of God, in that it weighs it to the earth with a multitude of concerns.  Who do not however find it enough that they themselves should be full of pride, unless those too that are united to them, themselves also are made boastful by their fatness.  For there are some who on being countenanced by the patronage of the greater ones, are set up with pride, and on the strength of their power uplifted against the destitute.  Hence it is yet further subjoined;

And the fat hangs from his sides. 




51.  Because the fat is the richness of the flesh, and we are accustomed to call those persons the ‘sides’ [latera] of the rich, whom we see united to them, ‘the fat hangs down from his sides,’ in that every one that attaches himself to the powerful and wicked man is by his power himself also as it were swollen with the fatness of good things, so that following the wickedness of an evil patron he has no fear of God, he distresses the poor, whom he is able, and as much as he is able, and uplifts his heart on the strength of temporal glory.  So when there is such an one who is attached to a powerful wicked man, ‘from his side,’ surely enough, ‘the fat hangs down.’  Concerning whom it is yet further added;

Ver. 28.  And he dwelleth in desolate communities, and in deserted houses, which are become heaps.




52.  For as a ‘community’ has its name from the intercourse of persons living together in common, ‘desolate communities’ are the actual throngs of wicked followers, by whose shouts this bad man is commended, when he is hurried away by his wickedness into evil deeds.  Whence it is written; The sinner is commended in the desires of his soul, and he that doeth unrighteousness is blessed. [Ps. 10, 3]  But ‘deserted houses’ are bad thoughts, which this wicked man inhabits, in that by all that he does he seeks to please the thoughts of the wicked.  Which communities are rightly called ‘desolate,’ and houses ‘deserted,’ in that except Almighty God had abandoned the dealings and thoughts of such on account of their previous sins, they would never arrive at, the commission of worse ones.  And it is well said, Which are reduced to heaps.  For the ruined buildings of houses and cities make heaps; in that whilst the wicked severally are joined to one another for wicked deeds in confused courses of conduct, they shew without doubt, that they have fallen from the edifice of life.  It goes on;

Ver. 29.  He shall not be inhabited, neither shall his substance continue, neither shall he send forth his root into the earth.




53.  That which is here expressed, He shall not be inhabited, I have found in some copies, He shall not be enriched; but the sense is not at variance, though the phraseology is at variance.  For he is ‘enriched’ with virtuous attainments whose mind is ‘inhabited’ by Almighty God.  But because the thought of the proud man is not ‘inhabited’ by the grace of his Maker, hereby surely he is not ‘enriched’ with virtues.  On this account then that he is empty within, let it be said, He shall not be inhabited.  But in respect to that which is swollen up without, being of a transitory nature, it is rightly added, Nor shall his substance continue.  As though it were said in plain speech, ‘This which he seems to have outwardly passes away, and what was not capable of passing away, he has not within.’  And hence it is fitly subjoined, Neither shall he send his root into the earth.  Which if we take as spoken of this earth, doubtless it is plain, that the tree which has no root in the earth, is brought to the ground on being shaken by the very slightest gales of wind; and every proud man while he is ‘strengthened against the Almighty Lord,’ while he ‘runs with erected neck,’ and is ‘uplifted with a stout neck against his Maker,’ is seen to stand like a tree; but his standing is without root, in that as it were at a light breath, so at the stirring of the secret sentence, his life is rooted up.  But if in this passage we take ‘the earth’ for the recompensing of the Eternal Country, concerning which the Prophet saith, My portion is in the land of the living [Ps. 142, 5], this wicked man does not ‘send forth his root in the earth,’ in that he never plants the thoughts of his heart into the desire of the eternal life.  For what the root is to the tree, the same is the thought of his own heart to each one of mankind; for in the case of that which is seen outwardly, there is a holding by that which is not seen outwardly [al. ‘which (being) within is not seen.’].  And hence it is said by the Prophet, Shall again take root downwardly, and bear fruit upwards. [Is. 37, 31]  For when we stretch our thought in sympathizing with a poor neighbour; ‘we as it were send a root downwards, that we may bear the fruit of recompense above.’  It follows;

Ver. 30.  He shall not depart out of darkness.




54.  If this proud man had been minded to turn back from sin to righteousness, he might ‘depart out of darkness.’  But because he seeks not the light of righteousness, he does not depart out of darkness.  After whose example, those likewise, who ‘attach themselves to him out breathe themselves in making earthly advancements, are kindled with the torches of avarice, and scorched with the fires of carnal desires.  And hence it is added,

The flame shall dry up his branches.




55.  For if he united to himself any that were searching after the Eternal Country, he would have green ‘branches’ in himself.  But because they that are joined to him, are also heated with earthly passions, and the flame of passions kindles the hearts of his followers, it doth surely ‘dry up his branches,’ that they should not bear the fruit of good works, seeing that for the chace after the lowest objects they pant in wickedness.  And it is well added,

And by the breath of his mouth shall he be taken away.




56.  For the proud man, in proportion as he is more strong in this life, the more shamelessly lets loose for himself the reins of his tongue, so as to utter bad things of every sort, to apprehend no man for his words, to wound these with insults, to cast at those with curses.  But sometimes he is carried away into blasphemy against his Creator, as it is said by the Psalmist of such persons, They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. [Ps. 73, 9]  And hence the rich man, being set in the fire, implores to have water dropped for him on his tongue by the finger of Lazarus.  By which circumstance it is perceived that in that part where a man has sinned most, there he was the more fiercely burned.  Therefore it is rightly said now, And by the breath of his mouth shall he go away; in that he received sentence of smiting, in proportion as he did not restrain the breath of his mouth under the fear of God.  It goes on;

Ver. 31.  Let him not believe, being vainly deceived, that he is to be redeemed with any price.




57.  As often as we do alms after sin, we as it were pay a price for bad actions.  Whence too it is said by the Prophet concerning him who doeth these things not, He will not give God his propitiation, nor the price of the redemption of the soul. [Ps, 49, 7. 8.]  But sometimes the rich being elated oppress those below them, seize on the things of another, and yet in a certain way give somewhat to others, and whilst they bear down multitudes, they sometimes render the support of defence to particular persons, and for the iniquities which they never abandon they seem to offer a price.  But the price of alms then frees us from sins, when we lament and renounce things we have been guilty of.  For he who would both always be sinning, and as it were always bestowing alms, gives a price in vain, in that he does not redeem his soul, which he does not keep from evil habits.  Hence it is now said, Let him not believe, being vainly deceived, that he is to be redeemed with any price.  For the alms of the rich and proud man has no efficacy to redeem him, seeing that his robbery of the poor man committed at the same moment, will not allow it to rise up before the eyes of God.  Which same may likewise be understood in another sense; in that it often happens that proud men of riches, when they bestow alms, do not give it for the desire of the eternal life, but for the extending of the temporal life; they think that they can put off death by gifts, but let him not think, being vainly deceived, that he is to be redeemed with any price; in that he is not able to secure by the gift bestowed, that he should escape the end that is due to him, when his very wickedness cuts asunder his life.  Hence too it is added;

Ver. 32.  Before his days are fulfilled he shall perish, and his hands shall wither.




58.  The days foreordained to each individual by the Divine Prescience can neither be increased nor lessened, except it happen that they be so foreknown as either to be longer if they be accompanied with the most perfect works, or shorter with the most wicked, just as Hezekiah obtained increase of days by the bestowing of tears, and as it is written concerning the wicked, Death meets the undisciplined. [Ed. Ben. suggests that this may be taken from Ecclus. 20, 9]  Yet oftentimes the wicked man, though in the secret foreknowledge of God no protracted periods of life may be predestined him, himself, forasmuch as he desires to live after the flesh, sets length of days before his imagination.  And because he cannot attain to that time that he looks forward to, he, as it were, ‘perishes before his days are fulfilled.’  Which same we may likewise understand in another sense also.  For very commonly we see persons that both lead wicked lives, and attain to the very extreme of old age.  How then is it said, Before his days are fulfilled, he shall perish; when in the case of particular persons we often see, that their limbs already fail from age, and yet their passions do not cease to carry out their wickedness?




59.  For there are some, who after a lost way of life turn back to themselves, and their conscience accusing them, forsake their froward ways, alter their doings, withstand their old wickedness, flee earthly courses, and pursue heavenly aims, but before they be firmly rooted in those holy aims, from deadness of mind they return to the things which they began to pass sentence on, and fall back to the evil habits which they had determined to eschew.  For whereas it often happens that for the profit of many, even holy men bow their necks to external actions, and are busied with the governance of a people, the weak seeing this, and, from their former pride still by them, seeking to follow their example, set themselves in outward ways of action; but in proportion as they do not come thereto well imbued with the things of the Spirit, they execute them in a carnal manner.  For except the heart be first confirmed in heavenly desires by long application and a continued conversation, when it is poured back again for the executing of things exterior, it is rooted out from all its standing in good practice.  Whence too it is rightly said of this wicked man, Before his days are fulfilled, he shall perish.  In that even if he begin perchance to do any thing good, before he is strengthened therein by length of time, he falls back to outward things, and wickedly abandons what he appeared to have entered upon rightly.  And hence it is fitly added; And his hands shall wither; in that whilst he is prematurely involved in exterior actions, he is dried up of all good practice.  Hence it is yet further added aright;

Ver. 33, 34.  His cluster shall be spoilt like a vine in the first flower, and like an olive casting its flower.  For the congregation of the hypocrite shall be barren.




60.  It is to be observed that the Divine Word so speaks of this wicked man in general terms, that yet it comes down to his particular wickedness.  For he that on saying, His cluster shall be spoilt like a vine in the first flower, and like an olive casting its flower; directly adds, For the congregation of the hypocrite shall be barren, plainly makes it appear that in this wicked man it is against his hypocrisy that he passes sentence of condemnation.  Now we have to consider how it is that the hypocrite is ‘spoilt like a vine in the first flower, or like an olive casting its flower.’  If the vine in flowering be touched by excessive cold in an inequality of the weather, it forthwith makes it dry of all moistness of verdure.  And there are some, who after bad courses long to follow ways of holiness, but before that good desires are confirmed in them, as we have said, some piece of good fortune of the present life comes upon them, which entangles them with outward concerns, and whilst it withdraws their mind from the heat of interior love, as it were puts it out by cold, and whatever seemed to be shewing itself of the blossom of virtue in them, it kills.  For in earthly courses of action the mind grows very cold, if it be not yet by the interior gifts firmly settled.  Whence it follows that higher stations or exterior works, which are intended to be of use to the necessities of man, those persons should take upon them to put them in execution, who have skill to judge of them, and to force them to bow beneath themselves in the power of interior virtue.  For when any frail person is drawn away either to the post of government or to execute exterior employments, in proportion as he is as it were carried out of himself, he is rooted up, in that the tree, which does not first send roots deep below, is the sooner laid low by the impulse of the winds, if it lifts itself on high in its top; and is the more speedily brought down to the very lowest, in proportion as it grew higher in the air without roots.  But sometimes the vine in flower is dried, not by the cold but by the heat, and when it is touched by excessive heat, its flower being shed, the cluster is made to wither.  And it very often happens that they who do not come to good works with a right intention, when they see that they please their fellow-creatures, are the more vehemently inflamed to execute the same good works, anxiously set themselves to do what is calculated to please the eyes of men, and are as it were heated in a holy devotedness.  What then but heat in the time of the blossom has come upon these, whom the appetite of human applause has made bare of fruit?  Hence it is well added, And like the olive casting his flower.  For when the olive is in flower, If it be touched by an immoderate fog, it is bared of the fulness of fruit.  And as often as people that are entering on good works, begin to be extolled by, those that behold them, and to take delight in the commendations of themselves, there is caused a mist of the understanding in the thoughts, that they can now no longer discern with what intention they do a thing, and lose the fruit of practice as it were by the fog of applause.  Hence it is well said by Solomon, Let us get up early to the vineyards; let us see if the vines flower, if the blossoms bear fruit.  ‘The vines flower,’ when the minds of the faithful put forth good works; but they do not ‘bear fruit,’ if in what they may have purposed, they are disabled, from being overcome by certain erring practices.


61.  We have not then to look whether the vines flourish, but if the blossoms are strong for the bearing of fruit, in that it is not any thing to admire if a man begins good works, but it is much to be admired, if with a right intention he holds on in good works.  Whence it very often happens that if in good practice a right intention is not kept, even the very work itself which is supposed good is lost.  For we have often seen persons abandon the earthly things which they possessed, and henceforth seek nought transitory, and be mixed up with no jarrings for the sake of this life.  When then the believing mind exhibits this in itself, it is as if the olive put forth blossom, but when any of this sort begin to seek the glory of the world which they, had contemned, and to pant with insatiable desire after the earthly things which they appeared to have disdained, to give themselves to brawls, to seek out mischiefs upon their neighbours; then indeed the olive has cast her flower, which she put forth, in that she never brought to perfect works the beginnings of a good purpose.  But we are to bear in mind that such things are often happening to those who do not follow God with a pure and single aim.  Hence it is rightly added, For the gathering of the hypocrite is barren.  For the good things he has begun he would not lose, if he had not been a hypocrite.  Now hypocrites gather together good works, but their gathering itself is barren, in that in the things they do they never make it their object to receive fruit in the eternal recompensing.  They look fruitful and green to the eyes of their fellow-creatures, but in the sight of the hidden Judge they appear unfruitful and blasted.  But oftentimes, being inflamed with the fever of avarice, they display greater works of their own before the eyes of men, in proportion as they desire to have larger rewards offered them by their fellow-creatures.  Hence it is yet further added;

And fire shall consume the tabernacles of those who are ready to take rewards.




62.  For as the body dwells in a tabernacle, so the mind dwells in thought.  But the ‘fire consumes the tabernacles,’ when the heat of avarice wastes the thoughts.  And it very commonly happens that the hypocrite scorns to receive gold, or the several good things of the body, at the hands of his fellow-creatures, but because he does not take these, he aims to win greater commendations from them; and perhaps he does not reckon that he has ‘received a reward,’ because he refuses to take the good things of the body.  Hence it is proper to be known that a gift is sometimes proffered by the hand, and sometimes by the mouth.  Thus one who presents money, has given a reward with the hand; but he that bestows the word of applause, has put forward a reward from the mouth.  Though, then, the hypocrite refuse to take external gifts, which may perhaps answer earthly necessity, yet that is a greater thing which he aims to have paid him in return, when desiring to be extolled beyond his desert, he seeks a reward from the mouth.  And because in the mere appetite of praise his heart is kindled with overmuch heat, let it be rightly said, And fire shall consume the tabernacles of those that are ready to take rewards.


63.  But if we are to understand by their ‘tabernacles’ the bodies which their souls inhabit, then the fire consumes the ‘tabernacles,’ because those who here are on fire in the soul with the flames of avarice, are there consumed in the flesh too by the fires of hell, and because the mind of the hypocrite is never at rest from the thinking of wickedness, in that whether he goes after the things of earth, or applause, he grudges those things to others, which he pants to have awarded to himself, and strives to make others appear wicked in proportion as he desires to appear more holy to all the world, so that by means of this, that others are rendered contemptible, he may himself at all times appear more worthy of respect.  Whence it comes to pass, that as touching his credit with his neighbour, he spreads out the nets of his tongue before the judgments of his fellow-creatures, that he by himself may catch the good opinion of those whom he seeks to please.  Whence too it follows;

Ver. 35.  They conceive woe, and bring forth iniquity, and their womb prepareth deceit.




64.  For he conceives ‘woe,’ when he devises wicked things; he ‘brings forth iniquity,’ when he has begun to fulfil what he has devised; by entertaining envy, he ‘conceives woe;’ by uttering slanders, he ‘brings forth iniquity.’  For it is grievous wickedness when he who is wicked strives to make others appear wicked, that he may himself thereby appear as holy, because he has shewn that others are not holy.  But we ought to bear in mind, that in Holy Writ by the title of the ‘belly’ or the ‘womb’ the mind is used to be understood.  Hence it is that it is said by Solomon, For the candle of the Lord is the breathway of man, searching all the inward parts of the belly. [Prov. 20, 27]  For the light of grace, which comes from above, affords a ‘breathway’ to man unto life, which same light is said to ‘search all the inward parts of the belly,’ in that it penetrates all the secrets of the heart, that the things which were hidden from the soul touching itself it may bring back before the eyes thereof with weeping.  Hence Jeremiah saith, My bowels! my bowels! I am pained. [Jer. 4, 19]  Who, that he might shew what he had called his belly, added, the senses of my heart are troubled.  So by the title of the womb the mind is rightly understood, in that like as the offspring is conceived in the womb, so is thought engendered in the mind.  And as meats are contained in the belly, so are thoughts in the mind; and so the ‘womb’ of the hypocrite ‘prepares deceits,’ in that he is ever conceiving in his mind the greater wickedness against his neighbours, in proportion as he aims to appear by himself above all men innocent.  Eliphaz therefore put forward these things, in that he looked upon blessed Job as stricken with that great scourge on account of his hypocrisy.  But his words, though they apply to many, are at odds with him alone, for whom alone they were said, in that the holy man had nought of double-dealing in his conduct, whom Truth being witness to him praised for the singleness of his heart.