on Job 8 :11
Can the rush grow - The word גמא gome, which we translate rush, is, without doubt, the Egyptian flag papyrus, on which the ancients wrote, and from which our paper derives its name. The Septuagint, who made their Greek translation in Egypt, (if this book made a part of it), and knew well the import of each word in both languages, render גמא gome by παπυρος papyrus, thus: Μη θαλλει παπυρος ανευ ὑδατος; Can the Papyrus flourish without water? Their translation leaves no doubt concerning the meaning of the original. They were probably writing on the very substance in question, while making their translation. The technical language of no science is so thoroughly barbarous as that of botany: the description of this plant by Linnaeus, shall be a proof. The plant he calls "Cyperus Papyrus; Class Triandria; Order Monogynia; Culm three-sided, naked; umbel longer than the involucres; involucels three-leaved, setaceous, longer; spikelets in threes - Egypt, etc. Involucre eight-leaved; general umbel copious, the rays sheathing at the base; partial on very short peduncles; spikelets alternate, sessile; culm leafy at the base; leaves hollow, ensiform." Hear our plain countryman John Gerarde, who describes the same plant: "Papyrus Nilotica, Paper Reed, hath many large flaggie leaves, somewhat triangular and smooth, not much unlike those of cats-taile, rising immediately from a tuft of roots, compact of many strings; amongst the which it shooteth up two or three naked stalkes, square, and rising some six or seven cubits high above the water; at the top whereof there stands a tuft or bundle off chaffie threds, set in comely order, resembling a tuft of floures, but barren and void of seed;" Gerarde's Herbal, p. 40. Which of the two descriptions is easiest to be understood by common sense, either with or without a knowledge of the Latin language? This plant grows in the muddy banks of the Nile, as it requires an abundance of water for its nourishment.
Can the flag grow without water? - Parkhurst supposes that the word אחו achu, which we render flag, is the same with that species of reed which Mr. Hasselquist found growing near the river Nile. He describes it (p. 97) as "having scarcely any branches, but numerous leaves, which are narrow, smooth, channelled on the upper surface; and the plant about eleven feet high. The Egyptians make ropes of the leaves. They lay the plant in water, like hemp, and then make good and strong cables of them." As אח ach signifies to join, connect, associate, hence אחי achi, a brother, אחו achu may come from the same root, and have its name from its usefulness in making ropes, cables, etc., which are composed of associated threads, and serve to tie, bind together, etc.
on Job 8 :11
Can the rush - This passage has all the appearance of being a fragment of a poem handed down from ancient times. It is adduced by Bildad as an example of the views of the ancients, and, as the connection would seem to imply, as a specimen of the sentiments of those who lived before the life of man had been abridged. It was customary in the early ages of the world to communicate knowledge of all kinds by maxims, moral sayings, and proverbs; by apothegms and by poetry handed down from generation to generation. Wisdom consisted much in the amount of maxims and proverbs which were thus treasured up; as it now consists much in the knowledge which we have of the lessons taught by the past, and in the ability to apply that knowledge to the various transactions of life. The records of past ages constitute a vast storehouse of wisdom, and the present generation is more wise than those which have gone before, only because the results of their observations have been treasured up, and we can act on their experience, and because we can begin where they left off, and, taught by their experience, can avoid the mistakes which they made. The word "rush" here גמא gôme' denotes properly a bulrush, and especially the Egyptian papyrus - papyrus Nilotica; see the notes at Isaiah 18:2. It is derived from the verb גמא gâmâ', to absorb, to drink up, and is given to this plant because it absorbs or drinks up moisture. The Egyptians used it to make garments, shoes, baskets, and especially boats or skiffs; Pithy, Nat. His. 13. 21-26; see the notes at Isaiah 18:2. They also derived from it materials for writing - and hence, our word paper. The Septuagint renders it here, πάπυρος papuros.
Without mire - Without moisture. It grew in the marshy places along the Nile.
Can the flag - Another plant of a similar character. The word אחוּ 'âchû, flag, says Gesenius, is an Egyptian word, signifying marsh-grass, reeds, bulrushes, sedge, everything which grows in wet grounds. The word was adopted not only into the Hebrew, but also into the Greek idiom of Alexandria, where it is written, ἄχι achi, ἄχει achei. Jerome says of it, "When I inquired of the learned what this word meant, I heard from the Egyptians, that by this name everything was intended in their language which grew up in a pool." The word is synonymous with rush, or bulrush, and denotes a plant which absorbs a great quantity of water. What is the exact idea which this figure is designed to convey, is not very clear. I think it probable that the whole description is intended to represent a hypocrite, and that the meaning is, that he had in his growth a strong resemblance to such a rush or reed. There was nothing solid or substantial in his piety. It was like the soft, spongy texture of the water-reed, and would wilt under trial, as the papyrus would when deprived of water.
on Job 8 :11
8:11 Can, and c. - The hypocrite cannot build his hope, without some false, rotten ground or other, any more than the rush can grow without mire, or the flag without water.