on Job 23 :9
On the left hand, where he doth work - In these two verses Job mentions the four cardinal points of the heavens: the East, by the word קדם kedem, which signifies before; the West, by אחור achor, which signifies after, or the back part; the North, by שמאל semol, which signifies the left; and the South, by ימין yamin, which signifies the right. Such is the situation of the world to a man who faces the east; see Genesis 13:9, Genesis 13:11; Genesis 28:14. And from this it appears that the Hebrews, Idumeans, and Arabs had the same ideas of these points of the heavens. It is worthy of remark that Job says, He hideth himself on the right hand, (the south), that I cannot see him: for in fact, the southern point of heaven is not visible in Idumea, where Job was. Hence it comes that when he spake before, Job 9:9, of the constellations of the antarctic pole, he terms them the hidden chambers of the south; i.e., those compartments of the celestial concave that never appeared above the horizon in that place - See Calmet.
Mr. Good translates these verses as follows: -
Behold! I go forward, and he is not there;
And backward, but I cannot perceive him.
On the left hand I feel for him, but trace him not:
He enshroudeth the right hand, and I cannot see him.
The simple rendering of Coverdale is nervous and correct: -
For though I go before, I fynde hym not:
Yf I come behynde, I can get no knowledge of him:
Yf I go on the left syde to pondre his workes,
I cannot atteyne unto them:
Agayne, yf I go on the right syde, he hydeth himself,
That I cannot se him.
on Job 23 :9
On the left hand - That is, in the North - at the left hand when the face was turned to the East. So the Chaldee, בצפונא - "on the North." The other versions, the Vulgate, the Septuagint, the Syriac, Castellio, Luther, etc., render it "on the left hand." The common term among the Hebrews for the "North" is צפון tsâphôn - (from צפן tsâphan - "to hide," or "conceal"), meaning the hidden, concealed, or dark region, since the ancients regarded the North as the seat of gloom and darkness, (Homer, Odyssey ix. 25ff), while they supposed the South to be illuminated by the sun. "Gesenius." Frequently, however, as here, the word "left," or "left hand," is used. The region of the North is intended.
Where he doth work - Where there are such wonderful manifestations of his majesty and glory. May Job here not refer to the "Aurora Borealis," the remarkable display of the power of God which is seen in those regions? May he not have felt that there was some special reason why he might hope to meet with God in that quarter, or to see him manifest himself amidst the brilliant lights that play along the sky, as if to precede or accompany him? And when he had looked to the splendor of the rising sun, and the glory of his setting, in vain, was it not natural to turn his eye to the next remarkable manifestation, as he supposed, of God, in the glories of the Northern lights, and to expect to find him there? There is reason to think that the ancient Chaldeans, and other pagans, regarded the regions of the North, illuminated with these celestial splendors, as the special residence of the gods (see the notes at Isaiah 14:13), and it seems probable that Job may have had allusion to some such prevailing opinion.
But I cannot behold him - I can see the exhibition of remarkable splendor, but still "God" is unseen. He does not come amidst those glories to give me an opportunity to carry my cause before him. The meaning, then, of this is, "Disappointed in the East and the West. I turn to the North. There I have been accustomed to witness extraordinary manifestations of his magnificence and glory. There beautiful constellations circle the pole. There the Aurora plays, and seems to be the manifestation of the glory of God. Next to the glory of the rising and setting sun, I turn to those brilliant lights, to see if there I may not find my God, but in vain. Those lights are cold and chilly, and reveal no God to my soul. Disappointed, then I turn to the last point, the South, to see if I can find him there."
He hideth himself on the right hand - On the South. The South was to the ancients an unknown region. The deserts of Arabia, indeed, stretched away in that region, and they were partially known, and they had some knowledge that the sea was beyond. But they regarded the regions farther to the South, if there was land there, as wholly impassable and uninhabitable on account of the heat. The knowledge of geography was slowly acquired, and, of course, it is impossible to tell what were the views which prevailed on the subject in the time of Job. That there was little accuracy of information about remote countries must be regarded as an indisputable fact; and, probably, they had little conception of distant parts of the earth, except that formed by conjecture. Interesting details of the views of the ancients, on this subject, may be found in the Encyclopedia of Geography, vol. i. pp. 10-68; compare particularly the notes at Job 26:10.
The earth was regarded as encompassed with waters, and the distant southern regions, on account of the impossibility of passing through the heat of the torrid zone, were supposed to be inaccessible. To those hidden and unknown realms, Job says he now turned, when he had in vain looked to each other quarter of the heavens, to see if he could find some manifestation of God. Yet he looked to that quarter equally in vain. God "hid" or "concealed" himself in those inaccessible regions so that he could not approach him. The meaning is, "I am also disappointed here. He hides himself in that distant land. In the burning and impassable wastes which stretch themselves to an unknown extent there, I cannot find him. The feet of mortals cannot traverse those burning plains, and there I cannot approach him. To whatever point of the compass I turn, I am left in equal darkness." What a striking description is this of the darkness that sometimes comes over the Christian's soul, prompting to the language, "O that I knew where I might find him! That I could come to his throne!"
on Job 23 :9