Behold, I go forward - These two verses paint in vivid colors the distress and anxiety of a soul in search of the favor of God. No means are left untried, no place unexplored, in order to find the object of his research. This is a true description of the conduct of a genuine penitent.
Behold, I go forward - The meaning of these verses is, I go in all directions, but I cannot find God. I am excluded from the trial which I seek, and I cannot bring my cause to his throne. Job expresses his earnest desire to see some visible manifestation of the Deity, and to be permitted to argue his cause in his presence. But he says he sought this in vain. He looked to all points of the compass where he might rationally expect to find God, but all in vain. The terms here used refer to the points of the compass, and should have been so rendered. The Oriental geographers considered themselves as facing the East, instead of the North, as we do. Of course, the West was behind them, the South on the right hand, and on the left the North. This was a more natural position than ours, as day begins in the East, and it is natural to turn the face in that direction. There is no reason why our maps should be made so as to require us to face the “North,” except that such is the custom.
The Hebrew custom, in this respect, is found also in the notices of geography in other nations. The same thing prevails among the Hindoos. Among them, Para, or Purra, signifying “before,” denotes the East; Apara and Paschima, meaning “behind,” the West; Dacshina, or “the right hand,” the South; and Bama, or “the left hand,” the North; see Wilford‘s Inquiry respecting the Holy Isles in the West, Asiatic Researches, vol. viii. p. 275. The same thing occurred among the ancient Irish; see an Essay on the Antiquity of the Irish language, by an unknown author, Dublin, 1772; compare on this subject, Rosenmuller‘s Alterthumskunde i. s. 136-144. The same custom prevailed among the Mongols. “Gesenius.” On the notices of the science of geography exhibited in the book of Job, compare Introduction, Section 8. The phrase, therefore, “Behold, I go forward,” means, “I go to the East. I look toward the rising of the sun. I see there the most wonderful of the works of the Creator in the glories of the sun, and I go toward it in hopes of finding there some manifestation of God. But I find him not, and, disappointed, I turn to other directions.” Most of the ancient versions render this the East. Thus, the Vulgate, “Si ad Orientem iero.” The Chaldee למדינא, “to the sun-rising.”
But he is not there - There is no manifestation of God, no coming forth to meet me, and to hear my cause.
And backward - (ואחור ve'âchôr ). To the West - for this was “behind” the individual when he stood looking to the East. Sometimes the West is denoted by this term “behind” (אחור 'âchôr ), and sometimes by “the sea” (ים yâm ), because the Mediterranean was at the West of Palestine and Arabia; see the notes at Isaiah 9:12; compare Exodus 10:19; Exodus 27:13; Exodus 38:12; Genesis 28:14.
But I cannot perceive him - The meaning is, “Disappointed in the East, the region of the rising sun, I turn with longing to the West, the region of his setting, and hope, as his last beams fade from the view, that I shall be permitted to behold some ray that shall reveal God to my soul. Before the night settles down upon the world, emblem of the darkness in my soul, I would look upon the last lingering ray, and hope that in that I may see God. In that vast region of the West, illuminated by the setting sun, I would hope somewhere to find him; but I am disappointed there. The sun withdraws his beams, and darkness steals on, and the world, like my soul, is enveloped in gloom. I can see no indications of the presence of God coming forth to give me an opportunity to argue my cause before him.”
“Behold, I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard:
I cry for help, but there is no judgment....
He hath stripped me of my glory,
And taken the crown from my head....
My kinsfolk have failed,
And my familiar friends have forgotten me....
They whom I loved are turned against me....
Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends;
For the hand of God hath touched me.” Ed 156.1
“Oh that I knew where I might find Him,
That I might come even to His seat!...
Behold, I go forward, but He is not there;
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him:
On the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot
He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see
But He knoweth the way that I take;
When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Ed 156.2
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Ed 156.3Read in context »