"Oh, That One Might Plead for a Man With God" (Job 16-17) March 13-14
Job reproaches his friends for their treatment of him, calling them "miserable comforters" (16:2) or, literally, "comforters of trouble"—people who make matters worse rather than better. If the shoe were on the other foot, he would not act like they are now acting but would try to be a source of encouragement and comfort to them (verses 4-5), in keeping with godly character.
"The phrase shake my head at you indicates a mocking posture (as in Ps. 22:7). However, the word comfort, meaning 'to nod the head sympathetically,' is used in [Job] 2:11 of the friends who came to console him. [Yet they obviously failed in their mission.] In effect, Job is saying: 'Please nod your head with understanding instead of mocking and ridiculing me'" (The Nelson Study Bible, note on 16:4-5).
But they would not. Job sinks back into mourning his condition. Shockingly, he seems to refer to God as his tearing, hating, gnashing adversary or enemy (verse 9), though it is possibly that he is personifying his illness—continuing from the previous verse where he said, "My leanness rises up against me." The Hebrew word for "adversary" here can mean "a narrow or tight place," figuratively meaning trouble or affliction (Strong's Lexicon, No. 6862). Of course, it is clear, as we have seen, that Job thinks God counts him as if an enemy (13:24; see also 19:11). Interestingly, however, in chapter 18 Bildad seems to think that Job is referring to him and the other two counselors as tearing beasts (and thus Job's enemy referred to here) and retorts that Job is the one tearing himself (see 18:3-4). It is true that Job saw himself as a fallen man who was being kicked while he was down—seemingly something only enemies would do. It is also conceivable that Job realized that Satan, as the enemy of humanity and God, was particularly his own enemy.
In any case, whoever or whatever Job is labeling as his devastating enemy, there is no question in his mind that his illness and even the torment from his friends is ultimately from God—either directly or because God has allowed it. And this was in fact so. Job is correct in verse 11 when he states: "God has delivered me to the ungodly, and turned me over to the hands of the wicked." For as we know, God had told the very king of the wicked, Satan the devil, "Behold, he is in your hand" (2:6).
Yet by the wicked here, Job probably had particular people in mind—passersby perhaps—who were taunting and even striking him and spitting on him, though he may be using these terms metaphorically for mistreatment (16:10; 17:6; see also 30:1, 9-12). Indeed, if metaphorical, it is possible that Job is referring to his friends, classifying them among the wicked.
Job 16:9-11 seems to also be a foreshadowing of the suffering of Jesus Christ. The words "They gape at me with their mouth" are later used by David in Psalm 22:13—this psalm picturing the future suffering of the Messiah. In His time of greatest torment, Jesus finally came to the point where He, like David, cried out, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). Christ obviously felt some of what Job was feeling.
"[Job 16] verses 18, 22, and 17:1 indicate that Job thought he would die before he could be vindicated before his peers; so he was concerned that the injustice done to him should never be forgotten. That is what he meant when he called on the earth never to cover his blood or bury his cry (v. 18). In Genesis 4:10-11 Abel's innocent blood was crying out to God as a witness against Cain. So Job was consoled to think his cry would continue after his death. And there is one in heaven who would listen to it (vv. 19-21)" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on 16:18-17:2).
In 16:21, Job longs for someone to intercede for him with God. On one level, this was probably a desire for Job's friends to cease from their accusations and start praying for him. Yet it may also anticipate the role of Jesus Christ, our Intercessor and Advocate (see Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1).
In praying to God in Job 17:3, "Job uses the language of ancient business contracts and asks some 'pledge' (down payment) from God as security against the vindication that will surely come. Only God can demonstrate Job's innocence and despite his despair and ambivalence he believes that God will" (The Bible Reader's Companion, note on verses 3-9).
The translation of verses 8-9 is disputed. Some see the meaning as truly righteous people being unhappy with the hypocritical friends—or that they would be if they were made aware of the situation. Yet others see Job as being sarcastic here—speaking of "the innocent" (his friends) stirred up against "the hypocrite" (himself). In context, the latter seems more likely. The Good News Bible paraphrases the passage this way: "Those who claim to be honest are shocked, and they all condemn me as godless. Those who claim to be respectable are more and more convinced that they are right." This flows right into verse 10: "As for all of you, come back and try again! But I will not find a wise man among you" (New Living Translation).
In the Hebrew wording of verses 11-16, it is not clear if Job is entertaining the possibility of hope and realizing the foolishness of wishing for death or if he is belittling the idea of hope and is in fact wishing for the relief death would bring.