on Job 8 :9
For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing - It is evident that Bildad refers to those times in which human life was protracted to a much longer date than that in which Job 54ed; when men, from the long period of eight or nine hundred years, had the opportunity of making many observations, and treasuring up a vast fund of knowledge and experience. In comparison with them, he considers that age as nothing, and that generation as being only of yesterday, not having had opportunity of laying up knowledge: nor could they expect it, as their days upon earth would be but a shadow, compared with that substantial time in which the fathers had lived. Perhaps there may be an allusion here to the shadow projected by the gnomon of a dial, during the time the sun is above the horizon. As is a single solar day, so is our life. The following beautiful motto I have seen on a sundial: Umbrae Sumus! "We are shadows!" referring to the different shadows by which the gnomon marked the hours, during the course of the day; and all intended to convey this moral lesson to the passengers: Your life is composed of time, marked out by such shadows as these. Such as time is, such are you; as fleeting, as transitory, as unsubstantial. These shadows lost, time is lost; time lost, soul lost! Reader take heed! The writer of this book probably had before his eyes these words of David, in his last prayer, 1 Chronicles 29:15 : "For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as all our fathers were; our days upon earth are as a Shadow, and there is no expectation. There is no reason to hope that they shall be prolonged; for our lives are limited down to threescore years and ten, as the average of the life even of old men.
on Job 8 :9
For we are but of yesterday - That is, we are of short life. We have had but few opportunities of observation compared with those who have gone before us. There can be no doubt that Bildad here refers to the longevity of the antecedent ages compared with the age of man at the time when he lived; and the passage, therefore, is of importance in order to fix the date of the poem. It shows that human life had been reduced in the time of Job within comparatively moderate limits, and that an important change had taken place in its duration. This reduction began not long after the flood, and was probably continued gradually until it reached the present limit of seventy years. This passage proves that Job could not have lived in the time of the greatest longevity of man; compare the Introduction, Section 3.
And know nothing - Margin, not. So the Hebrew literally, "we do not know." The sense is, "we have had comparatively few opportunities for observation. From the comparative brevity of our lives, we see but little of the course of events. Our fathers lived through longer periods, and could mark more accurately the result of human conduct." One suggestion may be made here, perhaps of considerable importance in explaining the course of argument in this book. The friends of Job maintained that the righteous would be rewarded in this life, and that the wicked would be overtaken by calamity. It may seem remarkable that they should have urged this so strenuously, when in the actual course of events as we now see them, there appears to be so slender a foundation for it in fact. But may this not be accounted for by the remark of Bildad in the verse under consideration? They appealed to their fathers.
They relied on the results of experience in those ancient times. When people lived 900 or 1,000 years; when one generation was longer than twelve generations are now, this fact would be much more likely to occur than as human life is now ordered. Things would have time to work themselves right. The wicked in that long tract of time would be likely to be overtaken by disgrace and calamity, and the righteous would outlive the detractions and calumnies of their enemies, and meet in their old age with the ample rewards of virtue. Should people now live through the same long period, the same thing substantially would occur. A man's character, who is remembered at all, is fully established long before a thousand years have elapsed, and posterity does justice to the righteous and the wicked. If people lived during that time instead of being merely remembered, the same thing would be likely to occur. Justice would be done to character, and the world would, in general, render to a man the honor which he deserved. This fact may have been observed in the long lives of the people before the flood, and the result of the observation may have been embodied in proverbs, fragments of poems, and in traditionary sayings, and have been recorded by the sages of Arabia as indubitable maxims. With these maxims they came to the controversy with Job, and forgetful of the change necessarily made by the abbreviation of human life, they proceed to apply their maxims without mercy to him; and because he was overwhelmed with calamity, they assumed that therefore he must have been a wicked man.
Our days upon earth are a shadow - Comparisons of this kind are quite common in the Scriptures; see the notes at Job 7:6. A similar figure occurs in 1 Chronicles 29:15 :
For we are strangers before thee,
And sojourners, as were all our fathers:
Our days upon earth are as a shadow,
Yea, there is no abiding.
An expression similar occurs in Aeschylus, Agam. v. 488, as quoted by Drusius and Dr. Good:
- εἴδωλον σκιᾶς eidōlon skias -
- The image or semblance of a shade -
So in Pindar, man is called σκιᾶς ὄναρ skias onar - the dream of a shade; and so by Sophocles, καπνοῦ σκιὰ kapnou skia - the shadow of smoke. All these mean the same thing, that the life of man is brief and transitory. Bildad designs to apply it not to man in general, but to the age in which he lived, as being disqualified by the shortness of life to make extended observations.
on Job 8 :9
8:9 We, and c. - But lately born, and therefore have but little knowledge and experience. We live not so long as they did, to make observations on the methods of Divine Providence.