on Job 4 :17
Shall mortal man - אנוש enosh; Greek βροτος poor, weak, dying man.
Be more just than God? - Or, האנוש מאלוה יצדק haenosh meeloah yitsdak; shall poor, weak, sinful man be justified before God?
Shall a man - גבר gaber, shall even the strong and mighty man, be pure before his Maker? Is any man, considered merely in and of himself, either holy in his conduct, or pure in his heart? No. He must be justified by the mercy of God, through an atoning sacrifice; he must be sanctified by the Holy Spirit of God, and thus made a partaker of the Divine nature. Then he is justified before God, and pure in the sight of his Maker: and this is a work which God himself alone can do; so the work is not man's work, but God's. It is false to infer, from the words of this spectre, (whether it came from heaven or hell, we know not, for its communication shows and rankles a wound, without providing a cure), that no man can be justified, and that no man can be purified, when God both justifies the ungodly, and sanctifies the unholy. The meaning can be no more than this: no man can make an atonement for his own sins, nor purify his own heart. Hence all boasting is for ever excluded. Of this Eliphaz believed Job to be guilty, as he appeared to talk of his righteousness and purity, as if they had been his own acquisition.
on Job 4 :17
Shall mortal man - Or, shall feeble man. The idea of "mortal" is not necessarily implied in the word used here, אנושׁ 'ĕnôsh. It means man; and is usually applied to the lower classes or ranks of people; see the notes at Isaiah 8:1. The common opinion in regard to this word is, that it is derived from אנשׁ 'ânash, to be sick, or ill at ease; and then desperate, or incurable - as of a disease or wound; Jeremiah 15:18; Micah 1:9; Job 34:6. Gesenius (Lex) calls this derivation in question; but if it be the correct idea, then the word used here originally referred to man as feeble, and as liable to sickness and calamity. I see no reason to doubt that the common idea is correct, and that it refers to man as weak and feeble. The other word used here to denote man (גבר geber) is given to him on account of his strength. The two words, therefore, embrace man whether considered as feeble or strong - and the idea is, that none of the race could be more pure than God.
Be more just than God - Some expositors have supposed that the sense of this expression in the Hebrew is, "Can man be pure before God, or in the sight of God?" They allege that it could not have been made a question whether man could be more pure than God, or more just than his Maker. Such is the view presented of the passage by Rosenmuller, Good, Noyes, and Umbreit:
"Shall mortal man be just before God?
Shall man be pure before his Maker?"
In support of this view, and this use of the Hebrew preposition מ (m), Rosenmuller appeals to Jeremiah 51:5; Numbers 32:29; Ezekiel 34:18. This, however, is not wholly satisfactory. The more literal translation is that which occurs in the common version, and this accords with the Vulgate and the Chaldee. If so understood, it is designed to repress and reprove the pride of men, which arraigns the equity of the divine government, and which seems to be wiser and better than God. Thus, understood, it would be a pertinent reproof of Job, who in his complaint Job 3 had seemed to be wiser than God. He had impliedly charged him with injustice and lack of goodness. All people who complain against God, and who arraign the equity and goodness of the divine dispensations, claim to be wiser and better than he is. They would have ordered flyings more wisely, and in a better manner. They would have kept the world from the disorders and sins which actually exist, and would have made it pure and happy. How pertinent, therefore, was it to ask whether man could be more pure or just than his Maker! And how pertinent was the solemn question propounded in the hearing of Eliphaz by the celestial messenger - a question that seems to have been originally proposed in view of the complaints and murmurs of a self-confident race!
on Job 4 :17
4:17 More just - Pretend more strictly to observe the laws of justice? Shall (enosh) mortal, miserable man (so the word signifies) be thus insolent? Nay, shall geber, the strongest and most eminent man, stand in competition with God? Those that find fault with the directions of the Divine law, the dispensations of the Divine grace, or the disposal of the Divine providence, do make themselves more just and pure than God: who being their maker, is their Lord and owner: and the author of all the justice and purity that is in man.