‘Is there not an appointed time to man, upon Earth? Are not his days also like those of a hireling?…. A slave earnestly desires a shadow…. I am made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me! When I lie down, I say: “When shall I arise, and the night be gone?”…. I am full of tossings to and fro, until the dawning of the day. My flesh is clothed with worms, and clods of dust. My skin is broken, and has become loathsome. My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are getting spent!’ Job 7:1-6.
In his Tracts and Treatises III:433, Calvin remarks that “believers have…peace, on receiving the Gospel. When they see that God, Whom they dreaded as their Judge, has become their Father…. But since human life on Earth is a warfare (Job 7:1) — those who feel both the stings of sin and the remains of the flesh, must feel depression in the world, though with consolation from God. Such consolation…does not leave the mind perfectly calm and undisturbed. But when they shall be divested of flesh and the desires of the flesh…, then at length will they rest and recline with God.”
Human life is short, and evil. It is a time of heavy, forced toil in which one longs for discharge — the release and the night of death. Job chiefly describes the regrets that accompany having lived, and ceasing to live. He waits for death as refreshing rest, after hard labour.
Job throws his eye over all mankind, and sees them too as doomed by an inexorable destiny to a life that is brief and filled with pain. The phrase ‘an appointed time’ refers to the hard service of a soldier in which there are two elements — the fixed period, and the hard toil of the campaign. The ‘hireling’ might be a mercenary soldier whose fate, far from home and at the disposal of an alien power, might be thought harder even than that of an ordinary soldier.
A slave in the heat, and under his hard toil, pants for the shadow of evening. Job is one of the afflicted human race. But the universal misery, increases his own. The point of comparison between Job’s life and the day of the hireling, lies in their common toil and longing for the end of it. Job describes his time as ‘months of vanity’ and ‘nights of trouble’ and weariness — indicating that his disease had already endured for a long period. Months, one after the other, disappoint the sick.
At evening, Job longs for the morning. But the night seems to him to prolong itself, and he tosses restlessly till daybreak. His ulcers bred worms. And the hard earth-like crust of his sores, Job calls lumps of dust. His skin is broken, and has become loathsome. It closed, and then broke open afresh. His sores constantly gathered, and then ran continually. Such is deadly elephantiasis!
This describes Job’s life and its pains — as well as its brevity, and extinction in death. By his ‘days,’ he means his life as a whole — which was far from passing away quickly. His days were being ‘spent’ — and seemed to be coming to an end. Job regarded his life as near to a close. For his disease — elephantiasis — was incurable, and without hope of recovery or relief.
Such, he then felt, is man’s appointed time on Earth!