"For I Know That My Redeemer Lives, and...I Shall See God" (Job 19) March 17-18
The words of Job's friends do not bounce right off him. They wound him deeply—leaving him shattered—on top of what he's already going through. His friends have wronged him with all their accusation and lack of pity and comfort (verses 1-3).
Job's response to their using the disgrace of his disease to plead the case that he is guilty of sin is to say that God has wronged him (verses 5-6). Perhaps softening this accusation is the fact that the word translated "wronged" could also be rendered "overthrown," as it is in the earlier King James Version and in Green's Literal Translation. Either way, while it is true that God bears responsibility for what is happening to Job, Job's understanding of what is occurring is gravely mistaken. Furthermore, as has already been stated, people in great suffering often blurt out things they don't fully mean. The great God of perfect compassion understands.
Job goes on to relate more of his unrelenting sufferings—unable to comprehend why God would afflict him with these things. Verse 9 shows him stripped of glory and crown—demonstrating that Job was probably a king (see also Job 29).
In 19:20, after Job says, "My bone clings to my skin and to my flesh," we see words that have become an idiom in the English language for a narrow escape: "I have escaped by the skin of my teeth" or, as it is more properly rendered in the earlier King James Version, "with the skin of my teeth." The idea that a narrow escape is meant here is probably incorrect. In context, perhaps he is simply saying that of all his bones, his teeth alone do not cling to skin—as they have no skin. On the other hand, some see the skin of the teeth as meaning the gums—and that Job is saying that only his gums are unaffected by his illness. John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible offers this intriguing possibility: "Some have thought that Satan, when he smote Job from head to feet with ulcers, spared his mouth, lips, and teeth, the instruments of speech, that he might therewith curse God, which was the thing he aimed at, and proposed to bring him to, by getting a grant from God to afflict him in the manner he did."
Suffering as he does, having described his abandonment by friends and family (verses 13-19) and seemingly by God, he cries out from his isolation to his three visiting friends for pity (verses 21-22).
Then in verses 23-24 Job wishes that his words would be written down, engraved as a permanent record. His thought here was the same as in 16:18, where he asked that the earth not cover his blood when he died—that it would remain as a witness. Bildad had warned how death would remove the memory of Job from the earth (18:12). The amazing fact is that Job's words have remained for all time—preserved through this book of Job we are now reading.
Surprisingly, in the midst of his despair, we learn that Job is confident that God will not forget him. He looks forward to the far future when his "Redeemer"—the divine Kinsman who would buy him back from suffering and death and ultimately vindicate him—would at last stand on the earth (verse 25).
Job seems immediately to relate this to his own resurrection at that time. The NKJV says: "And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God" (verse 26). The last clause here is disputed. As The Expositor's Bible Commentary notes, "The debate centers around whether it is 'in the flesh' or 'apart from the flesh' that Job [will have] this experience. The Hebrew could go either way" (note on verses 25-27). The Holy Scriptures translation by the Jewish Publication Society (JPS), renders it: "Then without my flesh shall I see God." Many insist that the meaning here must be "in my flesh" because Job mentions his eyes then beholding God (verse 27), which is only possible with a body. The truth of the matter, however, is that it is possible to have a body that is not made of flesh. Indeed, 1 Corinthians 15 explains that the resurrection bodies of the saints will be composed of spirit, as "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God" (verse 50; compare verses 45, 49).
Yet there is another possible translation of this passage that does allow for "in my flesh"—and fits in context with Job's lamenting. Note it in the new JPS translation: "But I know that my Vindicator lives; in the end He will testify on earth—this, after my skin will have been peeled off. But I would behold God while still in my flesh, I myself, not another, would behold Him; would see with my own eyes" (verses 25-27, Tanakh). In other words, this translation sees Job as basically saying, "I know I will see God at the resurrection, but I would really like to face Him right now—to confront Him with my situation."
Job ends in verses 28-29 with a warning to his friends. Rather than be all concerned with trying to establish the fact of his sin, they should be worried about their own wrong in how they are dealing with him. For they are right about one thing—a judgment is coming.