Noisome weeds in smallest seeds

Noisome weeds in smallest seeds

31:33-40 Job clears himself from the charge of hypocrisy. We are loth to confess our faults, willing to excuse them, and to lay the blame upon others. But he that thus covers his sins, shall not prosper, Pr 28:13. He speaks of his courage in what is good, as an evidence of his sincerity in it. When men get estates unjustly, they are justly deprived of comfort from them; it was sown wheat, but shall come up thistles. What men do not come honestly by, will never do them any good. The words of Job are ended. They end with a bold assertion, that, with respect to accusation against his moral and religious character as the cause for his sufferings, he could appeal to God. But, however confident Job was, we shall see he was mistaken, chap. 40:4,5; 1Jo 1:8. Let us all judge ourselves; wherein we are guilty, let us seek forgiveness in that blood which cleanseth from all sin; and may the Lord have mercy upon us, and write his laws in our hearts!

Let thistles grow; – Genesis 3:18. Thistles are valueless; and Job is so confident of entire innocence in regard to this, that he says he would be willing, if he were guilty, to have his whole land overrun with noxious weeds.

And cockle – Cockle is a well known herb that gets into wheat or other grain. It has a bluish flower, and small black seed, and is injurious because it tends to discolor the flour. It is not certain by any means, however, that this is intended here. The margin is, noisome weeds. The Hebrew word באשׁה bo’shâh is from באשׁ bâ’ash, “to have a bad smell, to stink,” and was given to the weed here referred to on that account, compare Isaiah 34:3. The cockle however, has no unpleasant odor, and the word here probably means noxious weeds. So it is rendered by Herder and by Noyes. The Septuagint has βάτος batos, bramble; the Vulgate, spina, thorn; Prof. Lee, prunus sylvestris, “a bramble resembling the hawthorn;” Schultens, labrusca, wild vine.

The words of Job are ended – That is, in the present speech or argument; his discussions with his friends are closed. He spoke afterward, as recorded in the subsequent chapters, but not in controversy with them. He had vindicated his character, sustained his positions, and they had nothing to reply. The remainder of the book is occupied mainly with the speech of Elihu, and with the solemn and sublime address which God himself makes.

cockle—literally, “noxious weeds.”

The words … ended—that is, in the controversy with the friends. He spoke in the book afterwards, but not to them. At Job 31:37 would be the regular conclusion in strict art. But Job 31:38-40 are naturally added by one whose mind in agitation recurs to its sense of innocence, even after it has come to the usual stopping point; this takes away the appearance of rhetorical artifice. Hence the transposition by Eichorn of Job 31:38-40 to follow Job 31:25 is quite unwarranted.

To wit, in answer to his friends; for he speaks but little afterwards, and that is to God.

Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. This is an imprecation of Job’s, in which he wishes that if what he had said was not true, or if he was guilty of the crimes he denied, that when and where he sowed wheat, thorns or thistles might come up instead of it, or tares, as some Jewish writers (d) interpret it; and that when and where he should sow barley, cockle, or darnel, or any “stinking” or “harmful” weed (e), as the word signifies, might spring up in room of it; respect seems to be had to the original curse upon the earth, and by the judgment of God is sometimes the case, that a fruitful land is turned into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell in it, Genesis 3:18;

the words of Job are ended; which is either said by himself, at the close of his speech; thus far says Job, and no farther, having said enough in his own defence, and for the confutation of his antagonists, and so closes in a way of triumph: or else this was added by Moses, supposed to have written this book; or by some other hand, as Ezra, upon the revision of it, and other books of the Old Testament, when put in order by him: and these were the last words of Job to his friends, and in vindication of himself; for though there is somewhat more said afterwards by him, and but little, yet to God, and by way of humiliation, acknowledging his sin, and repentance for it with shame and abhorrence; see Job 40:3. Jarchi, and so the Midrash, understand this concluding clause as all imprecation of Job’s; that if he had done otherwise than he had declared, he wishes that these might be his last words, and he become dumb, and never open his mouth more; but, as Bar Tzemach observes, the simple sense is, that his words were now completed and finished, just as the prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are said to be, Psalm 72:20.

(d) Bar Tzemach, et alii. (e) “herba foetens”, Montanus, Bolducius; “spina foetida”, Drusius; “vitium frugum”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; “labrusca”, Cocceius, Schultens.

(f) That is, the talk which he had with his three friends.

40 . For “thistles” perhaps thorns is more accurate. The word translated “cockle” means perhaps any noisome weed. The concrete expressions, however, add to the vigour of the passage.

Some have thought that these last verses (38–40) have been misplaced, and ought to be introduced at some other point in the chapter, allowing Job’s challenge Job 31:35-37 to be the last words which he utters. To modern feeling the passage would thus gain in rhetorical effect; but it is not certain that the Author’s taste would have coincided with modern feeling in this instance. And it is difficult to find in the chapter a suitable place where the verses could be inserted. If the verses belong to the passage at all, which there is no reason to doubt, they seem to stand in the only place suitable for them.

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The concluding statement “the words of Job are ended” hardly belongs to the Author of the Book. It is the remark of some editor or copyist, who drew attention to the fact that Job’s connected discourses here come to an end. It is rather hazardous to draw any critical conclusion from it in reference to the immediately following speeches of Elihu.

Verse 40. – Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockles instead of barley . Then let me be appropriately punished by finding the land, whereof I have wrongfully become possessed, produce nothing but thistles (or thorns) and noxious weeds, such as cockles (Authorized Version) or hemlock (Professor Lee). The words of Job are ended . This may be regarded either as Job’s own conclusion of his long speech, or as a remark of the author’s. On the whole, the former view is to be preferred.

And all together its furrows weep;

39 If I have devoured its strength without payment,

And caused the soul of its possessor to expire:

40 May thistles spring up instead of wheat,

And darnel instead of barley.

The field which he tills has no reason to cry out on account of violent treatment, nor its furrows to weep over wrong done to them by their lord.

(Note: In a similar figure a Rabbinic proverb says (with reference to Malachi 2:13), that the altar of God weeps over him who separates himself from the wife of his youth.)

אדמה, according to its radical signification, is the covering of earth which fits close upon the body of the earth as its skin, and is drawn flat over it, and therefore especially the arable land; תּלם (Arab. telem, not however directly referable to an Arab. root, but as also other words used in agriculture, probably borrowed from the North Semitic, first of all the Aramaic or Nabataic), according to the explanation of the Turkish Kamus, the “ditch-like crack which the iron of the ploughman tears in the field,” not the ridge thrown up between every two furrows (vid., on Psalm 65:11). He has not unlawfully used (which would be the reason of the crying and weeping) the usufruct of the field (כּח meton., as Genesis 4:12, of the produce, proportioned to its capability of production) without having paid its value, by causing the life to expire from the rightful owner, whether slowly or all at once (Jeremiah 15:9). The wish in Job 31:40 is still stronger than in Job 31:8, Job 31:12 : there the loss and rooting out of the produce of the field is desired, here the change of the nature of the land itself; the curse shall and must come upon it, if its present possessor has been guilty of the sin of unmerciful covetousness, which Eliphaz lays to his charge in Job 22:6-9.

According to the view of the Capuchin Bolducius (1637), this last strophe, Job 31:38, stood originally after Job 31:8, according to Kennicott and Eichhorn after Job 31:25, according to Stuhlmann after Job 31:34. The modern expositors retain it in its present position. Hirzel maintains the counter arguments: (1) that none of the texts preserved to us favour the change of position; (2) that it lay in the plan of the poet not to allow the speeches of Job to be rounded off, as would be the case by Job 31:35 being the concluding strophe, but to break off suddenly without a rhetorical conclusion. If now we imagine the speeches of Elihu as removed, God interrupts Job, and he must cease without having come to an end with what he had to say. But these counter arguments are an insufficient defence: for (1) there is a number of admitted misplacements in the Old Testament which exceed the Masora (e.g., 1 Samuel 13:1; Jeremiah 27:1), and also the lxx (e.g., 1 Samuel 17:12, באנשׁים, lxx ἐν ἀνδράσιν, instead of בשׁנים); (2) Job’s speech would gain a rhetorical conclusion by Job 31:38, if, as Hirzel in contradiction of himself supposes, Job 31:35 ought to be considered as a parenthesis, and Job 31:40 as a grammatical conclusion to the hypothetical clauses from Job 31:24 onwards. But if this strange view is abandoned, it must be supposed that with Job 31:38 Job intends to begin the assertion of his innocence anew, and is interrupted in this course of thought now begun, by Jehovah. But it is improbable that one has to imagine this in the mind of such a careful poet. Also the first word of Jehovah, “Who is this that darkeneth counsel with words without knowledge?” Job 38:2, is much more appropriate to follow directly on Job 31:37 than Job 31:40; for a new course of thought, which Jehovah’s appearing interrupts, begins with Job 31:35; and the rash utterance, Job 31:37, is really a “darkening of the divine decree.” For by declaring he will give an account to God, his judge, concerning each of his steps, and approach Him like a prince, Job does not merely express the injustice of the accusations raised by his human opponents, but he casts a reflection of injustice upon the divine decree itself, inasmuch as it appears to him to be a de facto accusation of God.

Nevertheless, whether Elihu’s speeches are not be put aside as not forming an original portion of the book, or not, the impression that Job 31:38 follow as stragglers, and that Job 31:35 would form a more appropriate close, and a more appropriate connection for the remonstrance that follows, whether it be Jehovah’s or Elihu’s, remains. For the assertion in Job 31:38 cannot in itself be considered to be a justifiable boldness; but in Job 31:35 the whole condition of Job’s inner nature is once more mirrored forth: his longing after God, by which Satan’s prediction is destroyed; and his overstepping the bounds of humility, on account of which his affliction, so far as it is of a tentative character, cannot end before it is also become a refining fire to him. Therefore we cannot refrain from the supposition that it is with Job 31:38 just as with Isaiah 38:21 The lxx also found these two verses in this position; they belong, however, after Isaiah 38:6, as is clear in itself, and as is evident from 2 Kings 20:7 There they are accidentally omitted, and are now added at the close of the narration as a supplement. If the change of position, which is there an oversight, is considered as too hazardous here, Job 31:35 must be put in the special and close relation to the preceding strophe indicated by us in the exposition, and Job 31:38 must be regarded as a final rounding off (not as the beginning of a fresh course of thought); for instead of the previous aposiopeses, this concluding strophe dies away, and with it the whole confession, in a particularly vigorous, imprecative conclusion.

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Let us once more take a review of the contents of the three sharply-defined monologues. After Job, in Job 27:1, has closed the controversy with the friends, in the first part to this trilogy, Job 29:1, he wishes himself back in the months of the past, and describes the prosperity, the activity, for the good of his fellow-men, and the respect in which he at that time rejoiced, when God was with him. It is to be observed here, how, among all the good things of the past which he longs to have back, Job gives the pre-eminence to the fellowship and blessing of God as the highest good, the spring and fountain of every other. Five times at the beginning of Job 29:1 in diversified expressions he described the former days as a time when God was with him. Look still further from the beginning of the monologue to its close, to the likewise very expressive כאשׁר אבלים ינחם. The activity which won every heart to Job, and toward which he now looks back so longingly, consisted of works of that charity which weeps with them that weep, and rejoices not in injustice, Job 29:12-17. The righteousness of life with which Job was enamoured, and which manifested itself in him, was therefore charity arising from faith (Liebe aus Glauben). He knew and felt himself to be in fellowship with God; and from the fulness of this state of being apprehended of God, he practised charity. He, however, is blessed who knows himself to be in favour with God, and in return loves his fellow-men, especially the poor and needy, with the love with which he himself is loved of God. Therefore does Job wish himself back in that past, for now God has withdrawn from him; and the prosperity, the power, and the important position which were to him the means for the exercise of his charity, are taken from him.

This contrast of the past and present is described in Job 30:1, which begins with ועתה. Men who have become completely animalized, rough hordes driven into the mountains, with whom he sympathized, but without being able to help them as he had wished, on account of their degeneracy, – these mock at him by their words and acts. Now scorn and persecution for the sake of God is the greatest honour of which a man can be accounted worthy; but, apart from the consideration that this idea could not yet attain its rightful expression in connection with the present, temporal character of the Old Testament, it was not further from any one than from him who in the midst of his sufferings for God’s sake regards himself, as Job does now, as rejected of God. That scorn and his painful and loathesome disease are to him a decree of divine wrath; God has, according to his idea, changed to a tyrant; He will not hear his cry for help. Accordingly, Job can say that his welfare as a cloud is passed away. He is conscious of having had pity on those who needed help, and yet he himself finds no pity now, when he implores pity like one who, seated upon a heap of rubbish, involuntarily stretches forth his hand for deliverance. In this gloomy picture of the present there is not even a single gleam of light; for the mysterious darkness of his affliction has not been in the slightest degree lighted up for Job by the treatment the friends have adopted. Also he is as little able as the friends to think of suffering and sin as unconnected, for which very reason his affliction appears to him as the effect of divine wrath; and the sting of his affliction is, that he cannot consider this wrath just. From the demand made by his faith, which here and there breaks through his conflict, that God cannot allow him to die the death of a sinner without testifying to his innocence, Job nowhere attains the conscious conclusion that the motive of his affliction is love, and not wrath.

In the third part of the speech (Job 31:1), which begins with the words, “I had made a covenant,” etc., without everywhere going into the detail of the visible conjunction of the thought, Job asserts his earnest struggle after sanctification, by delivering himself up to just divine punishment in case his conduct had been the opposite. The poet allows us to gain a clear insight into that state of his hero’s heart, and also of his house, which was well-pleasing to God. Not merely outward adultery, even the adulterous look; not merely the unjust acquisition of property and goods, but even the confidence of the heart in such things; not merely the share in an open adoration of idols, but even the side-glance of the heart after them, is accounted by him as condemnatory. He has not merely guarded himself from using sinful curses against his enemies, but he has also not rejoiced when misfortune overtook them. As to his servants, even when he has had a dispute with any of them, he has not forgotten that master and servant, without distinction of birth, are creatures of one God. Towards orphans, from early youth onwards, he has practised such tender love as if he were their father; towards widows, as if he were their son. With the hungry he has shared his bread, with the naked his clothes; his subordinates had no reason to complain of niggardly sustenance; his house always stood open hospitably to the stranger; and, as the two final strophes affirm: he has not hedged in any secret sin, anxious only not to appear as a sinner openly, and has not drawn forth wailings and tears from the ground which he cultivated by avarice and oppressive injustice. Who does not here recognise a righteousness of life and endeavour, the final aim of which is purity of heart, and which, in its relation to man, flows forth in that love which is the fulfilling of the law? The righteousness of which Job (Job 29:14) says, he has put it on like a garment, and it has put him on, is essentially the same as that which the New Testament Preacher on the mount enjoins. As the work of an Israelitish poet, Job 31:1 is a most important evidence in favour of the assertion, that a life well-pleasing to God is not, even in the Old Testament, absolutely limited to the Israelitish nation, and that it enjoins a love which includes man as man within itself, and knows of no distinction.

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WEEDS. Etymologically, “weed” derives from the Old English word for “grass” or “herb,” but during the Middle Ages the meaning has changed to indicate an undesirable plant that grows where it is not wanted, especially among agricultural plots. This has historically been the primary meaning of the word, although in the nineteenth century, American writers grew increasingly aware that calling a plant a “weed” was an arbitrary human judgment, as there is no natural category of weeds. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a weed “is a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered.” Today, biologists tend to share that opinion, since many of the plants that are designated as weeds are, in fact, closely related to popular crops. Indeed, “weed” has fallen out of usage among biologists, although those who study agriculture still find the term useful in discussions of weed control and management.

American weed control only developed out of the manual methods of pulling and hoeing in the early twentieth century, when salts and other chemicals began to be used as herbicides. However, since the 1970s, as environmental and health concerns have been raised, less toxic methods of weed control have been explored, although it has been found that any interference can have unintended ecological effects. For example, the introduction of a natural predator of an unwanted species—termed “biological control”—can devastate other local species or even, by reducing competition, cause a different species to grow out of control.

Moreover, “weed” has recently developed a new meaning in North America as a term that is applied to socalled invasive species, or non-native plants. Throughout the history of the Americas, as people have immigrated they have tended to bring along the flora and fauna of their homeland, thus intentionally—and at times unintentionally—introducing new species to the continents. Some of these non-native species have multiplied to such an extent that they threaten, or have already destroyed, the biological balance of local environments. This problem has been especially pronounced in Hawaii, Florida, California, and New York State. However, the term “weed” is generally not applied to all introduced or non-native plants but rather to those that are doing the greatest harm to biodiversity and are least controllable through human interference.

Scientists have discovered certain common characteristics among many of the most successful invasive species. They tend to be able to flourish in a variety of climactic zones and to reproduce easily and quickly over long periods with small seeds that are less likely to be eaten. However, non-native plants may also have an advantage in that they can exploit unfilled niches in their new lands while perhaps avoiding traditional enemies. Modern mobility and faster forms of transportation are exacerbating the problem in America and around the world.

Some of the most notorious invasive weeds in America today include kudzu, tumbleweeds, and leafy spurge. Kudzu, from Japan and perhaps originally China, is a semi-woody vine that came to dominate much of the American Southeast in the later twentieth century. Its introduction was encouraged by the American government early in the century to help improve soil and stop erosion, and attempts have continued for decades to undo the ecological damage that its widespread planting and subsequent spread have caused.

Tumbleweeds are now considered to be emblematic of the American West, and some tumbleweed species are indeed native to North America, while others originated in Europe and Asia. They do well with little water and were once cultivated in the hopes of being a food source for livestock. Leafy spurge, which was introduced from Europe and Asia in the early nineteenth century, is believed to be harmful to cattle if eaten. As with kudzu, attempts are being made to control tumbleweeds, leafy spurge, and other invasive weeds through biological, chemical, and manual methods to prevent further environmental and economic damage.

The history of American weeds is not only the story of importations and largely unsuccessful attempts to control non-native species, for native American species have also traveled to new lands. Notoriously, native ragweed, whose pollen causes Americans with hay fever to suffer every fall, has made an appearance in Europe, where it is spreading despite attempts to control it.


Van Driesche, Jason, and Roy van Driesche. Nature Out of Place: Biological Invasions in the Global Age. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2000.

Zimdahl, Robert L. Fundamentals of Weed Science. San Diego, Calif.: Academic Press, 1993.