Gone Are the Good Old Days (Job 29-30) April 1-2
Job continues his speech in chapter 29, longing for the "good old days" when it was clear that God was with him—when things were going well and people highly respected him. In verse 2 we see again that Job has been suffering his present condition for a number of months (compare 7:3).
Chapter 29 shows that Job was a ruler. We earlier saw that he wore a crown (19:9). Now we learn more about his role. He sat as judge (29:7-17), "as chief" and "as a king in the army" (verse 25). The public square adjoining the city gate (verse 7) was the center of town government and commerce. When Job took his seat here, everyone demonstrated great respect for his position. Young men scattered—as it was inappropriate for them to be prominent before him—and the city elders all stood up (verse 8). Princes and nobles demonstrated their respect for him by remaining silent (verses 9-10)—presumably until invited to speak.
Job says the people appreciated his rule (verse 11) because he was a righteous and just ruler who stood up for the little guy—who rescued the vulnerable and helpless from those who sought to take advantage of them or cause them harm (verses 12-17). The citizens valued his counsel (verses 21-23). Some have translated verse 24 as saying, "I laughed at them when they had no confidence [in a kindly, encouraging way perhaps], and the light of my countenance they did not cast down" (see Expositor's Bible Commentary, footnote on verse 24). Others see the word translated here as laughed or mocked as meaning smiled (see the NIV for example). Yet the same word occurs just two verses later in 30:1, where it clearly means laugh or mock.
Regarding verse 25, Expositor's states: "The last line of this verse ['as one who comforts mourners'] is awkward [in context] as currently translated, but there is no need to drop the line as NEB [the New English Bible] does nor to emend the text. Not a single consonant or word needs to be changed. Only a change in the vowels of the last two words creates the line...'as I conducted them they were led'" (footnote on verse 25). Recall that in the original Hebrew, there were no vowels, only consonants.
Chapter 30 snaps back to the grim hear and now. Rather than respect, Job now receives contempt even from those viewed as the lowlife of that society, the sons of outcast ruffians (verses 1-11). "To demonstrate the unfairness of God Job takes each of the themes he introduced in chap. 29 and contrasts his past and present state. Now [in chapter 30] Job is mocked by young and old (vv. 1-8) and verbally attacked (vv. 9-15). Now there is no blessing from God, but only suffering (vv. 16-17) and affliction (vv. 18-19), however urgently Job pleads (vv. 20-23). Perhaps worst of all, there is no compassion for one who constantly showed his compassion for others (vv. 24-31). No matter how great Job's suffering, there is no relief" (Lawrence Richards, The Bible Reader's Companion, 1991, note on chap. 30).
Job's statements in chapters 29-30 regarding his help and compassion for others in need rebuts Eliphaz's contrived charges against him in 22:5-9. We have no reason to doubt Job's description of himself, as it is well in keeping with God's description of him as blameless and upright. Job will have more to say on the issue of his treatment of others when he concludes this summary discourse in the next chapter.