on Job 9 :20
If I justify myself - God must have some reason for his conduct towards me; I therefore do not pretend to justify myself; the attempt to do it would be an insult to his majesty and justice. Though I am conscious of none of the crimes of which you accuse me; and know not why he contends with me; yet he must have some reason, and that reason he does not choose to explain.
on Job 9 :20
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me - That is, referring still to the form of a judicial trial, if I should undertake to manage my own cause, I should lay myself open to condemnation even in my argument on the subject, and should show that I was far from the perfection which I had undertaken to maintain. By passionate expressions; by the language of complaint and murmuring; by a want of suitable reverence; by showing my ignorance of the principles of the divine government; by arguments unsound and based on false positions; or by contradictions and self-refutations, I should show that my position was untenable, and that God was right in charging me with guilt. In some or in all of these ways Job felt, probably, that in an argument before God he would be self-condemned, and that even an attempt to justify himself, or to prove that he was innocent, would prove that he was guilty. And is it not always so? Did a man ever yet undertake to repel the charges of guilt brought against him by his Maker, and to prove that he was innocent, in which he did not himself show the truth of what he was denying? Did not his false views of God and of his law; his passion, complaining, and irreverence; his unwillingness to admit the force of the palpable considerations urged to prove that he was guilty, demonstrate that he was at heart a sinner, and that he was insubmissive and rebellious? The very attempt to enter into such an argument against God, shows that the heart is not right; and the manner in which such an argument is commonly conducted demonstrates that he who does it is sinful.
If I say, I am perfect - Should I attempt to maintain such an argument, the very attempt would prove that my heart is perverse and evil. It would do this because God had adjudged the contrary, and because such an effort would show an insubmissive and a proud heart. This passage shows that Job did not regard himself as a man absolutely free from sin. He was indeed said Job 1:1 to be "perfect and upright;" but this verse proves that that testimony in regard to him was not inconsistent with his consciousness of guilt. See the notes at that verse. And is not the claim to absolute perfection in this world always a proof that the heart is perverse? Does not the very setting up of such a claim in fact indicate a pride of heart, a self-satisfaction, and an ignorance of the true state of the soul, which is full demonstration that the heart is far from being perfect? God adjudges man to be exceedingly sinful; and if I do not mistake the meaning of the Scriptures, this is his testimony of every human heart - totally until renewed - partially ever onward until death. If this be the account in the Scriptures, then the claim to absolute perfection is prima facie, if not full proof, that the heart is in some way perverse. It has come to a different conclusion from that of God. It sets up an argument against him - and there can be no more certain proof of a lack of perfection than such an attempt. There is in this verse an energy in the original which is very feebly conveyed by our translation. It is the language of strong and decided indignation at the very idea of asserting that he was perfect. תם אני tâm 'ănı̂y - "perfect I!" or, "I perfect! The thought is absurd! It can only prove that I am perverse to attempt to set up any such claim!" Stuhlman renders this,
"However good I may be, I must condemn myself;
However free from guilt, I must call myself evil:"
And explains it as meaning, "God can through the punishments which he inflicts constrain me to confess, against the clear consciousness of my innocence, that I am guilty."
on Job 9 :20
9:20 Justify - If I plead against God mine own righteousness and innocency.