Adam Clarke Commentary
Character of Job, Job 1:1. His family, Job 1:2. His substance, Job 1:3. Care of has family, Job 1:4, Job 1:5. Satan accuses him to God as a selfish person, who served God only for the hope of secular rewards, Job 1:6-11. Satan is permitted to strip him of all his children and property, Job 1:12-19. Job‘s remarkable resignation and patience, Job 1:20-22.
In the land of Uz - This country was situated in Idumea, or the land of Edom, in Arabia Petraea, of which it comprised a very large district. See the preface.
Whose name was Job - The original is איוב (Aiyob); and this orthography is followed by the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. From the Vulgate we borrow Job, not very dissimilar from the Ιωβ (Iob) of the Septuagint. The name signifies sorrowful, or he that weeps. He is supposed to have been called Jobab. See more in the preface.
Perfect and upright - תם וישר (tam veyashar); Complete as to his mind and heart, and Straight or Correct as to his moral deportment.
Feared God - Had him in continual reverence as the fountain of justice, truth, and goodness.
Eschewed evil - סר מרע (sar mera), departing from, or avoiding evil. We have the word eschew from the old French eschever, which signifies to avoid. All within was holy, all without was righteous; and his whole life was employed in departing from evil, and drawing nigh to God. Coverdale translates an innocent and vertuous man, soch one as feared God, an eschued evell. From this translation we retain the word eschew.
His substance also was seven thousand sheep - A thousand, says the Chaldee, for each of his sons. Three thousand camels: a thousand for each of his daughters. Five hundred yoke of oxen for himself. And five hundred she-asses for his wife. Thus the Targum divides the substance of this eminent man.
A very great household - עבדה רבה מאד (abuddah rabbah meod), “a very great estate.” The word עבדה (abuddah) refers chiefly to husbandry, including all manner of labor in the field, with cattle, and every description of servants.
The greatest of all the men of the East - He was more eminent than any other person in that region in wisdom, wealth, and piety. He was the chief emir of that district.
Feasted in their houses, every one his day - It is likely that a birthday festival is here intended. When the birthday of one arrived, he invited his brothers and sisters to feast with him; and each observed the same custom.
When the days of their feasting were gone about - At the conclusion of the year, when the birthday of each had been celebrated, the pious father appears to have gathered them all together, that the whole family might hold a feast to the Lord, offering burnt-offerings in order to make an atonement for sins of all kinds, whether presumptuous or committed through ignorance. This we may consider as a general custom among the godly in those ancient times.
And cursed God in their hearts - וברכו אלהים (uberechu Elohim). In this book, according to most interpreters, the verb ברך (barach) signifies both to bless and to curse; and the noun אלהים (Elohim) signifies the true God, false gods, and great or mighty. The reason why Job offered the burnt-offerings appears to have been this: in a country where idolatry flourished, he thought it possible that his children might, in their festivity, have given way to idolatrous thoughts, or done something prescribed by idolatrous rites; and therefore the words may be rendered thus: It may be that my children have blessed the gods in their hearts. Others think that the word ברך (barach) should be understood as implying farewell, bidding adieu - lest my children have bidden adieu to God, that is, renounced him, and cast off his fear. To me this is very unlikely. Mr. Mason Good contends that the word should be understood in its regular and general sense, to bless; and that the conjunction ו (vau) should be translated nor. “Peradventure my sons may have sinned, nor blessed God in their hearts.” This version he supports with great learning. I think the sense given above is more plain, and less embarrassed. They might have been guilty of some species of idolatry. This is possible even among those called Christians, in their banquets; witness their songs to Bacchus, Venus, etc., which are countless in number, and often sung by persons who would think themselves injured, not to be reputed Christians. Coverdale, in his translation, (1535), renders the passage thus: Peradventure my sonnes have done some offense, and have been unthankful to God in their hertes.
Thus did Job continually - At the end of every year, when all the birthday festivals had gone round.
There was a day when the sons of God - All the versions, and indeed all the critics, are puzzled with the phrase sons of God; בני האלהים (beney haelohim), literally, sons of the God, or sons of the gods. The Vulgate has simply filii dei, sons of God. The Septuagint, οἱ αγγελοι του θεου , the angels of God. The Chaldee, כתי מלאכיא (kittey malachaiya), troops of angels. The Syriac retains the Hebrew words and letters, only leaving out the demonstrative ה (he) in the word האלהים (haelohim), thus, (Syriac) (baney Elohim). The Arabic nearly copies the Hebrew also, (Arabic) (banoa Iloheem); to which, if we give not the literal translation of the Hebrew, we may give what translation we please. Coverdale (1535) translates it, servauntes of God. The Targum supposes that this assembly took place on the day of the great atonement, which occurred once each year. And there was a day of judgment in the beginning of the year; and the troops of angels came, that they might stand in judgment before the Lord. But what are we to make of this whole account? Expositions are endless. That of Mr. Peters appears to me to be at once the most simple and the most judicious: “The Scripture speaks of God after the manner of men, for there is a necessity of condescending to our capacities, and of suiting the revelation to our apprehension. As kings, therefore, transact their most important affairs in a solemn council or assembly, so God is pleased to represent himself as having his council likewise; and as passing the decrees of his providence in an assembly of his holy angels. We have here, in the case of Job, the same grand assembly held, as was before in that of Ahab, 1 Kings 22:6-23; the same host of heaven, called here the sons of God, presenting themselves before Jehovah, as in the vision of Micaiah they are said to stand on his right hand and on his left. A wicked spirit appearing among them, here called Satan or the adversary, and there a lying spirit; both bent on mischief, and ready to do all the hurt they were permitted to do; for both were under the control of his power. The imagery is just the same; and the only difference is in the manner of the relation. That mentioned above, Micaiah, as a prophet, and in the actual exercise of his prophetic office, delivers, as he received it, in a vision. “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the Host of Heaven standing by him, on his right hand and on his left, and there came forth a Lying Spirit, and stood Before the Lord, and said,” 1 Kings 22:19-22. The other, as a historian, interweaves it with his history; and tells us, in his plain narrative style, “There was a day when the sons of God came to Present themselves Before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.” And this he delivers in the same manner as he does, There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.
And Satan came also - This word also is emphatic in the original, השטן (hassatan), the Satan, or the adversary; translated by the Septuagint ὁ Διαβολος . The original word is preserved by the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic; indeed, in each of them the word signifies an adversary. St. Peter, 1 Peter 5:8, plainly refers to this place; and fully proves that השטן (hassatan), which he literally translates ὁ αντιδικος , the Adversary, is no other than ὁ Διαβολος , the Devil, or chief of bad demons, which he adds to others by way of explanation. There are many διαμονες , demons, mentioned in Scripture, but the word Satan or devil is never found in the originals of the Old and New Testaments in the plural number. Hence we reasonably infer, that all evil spirits are under the government of One chief, the Devil, who is more powerful and more wicked than the rest. From the Greek Διαβολος comes the Latin Diabolus, the Spanish Diablo, the French Diable, the Italian (Diavolo), the German Teuffel, the Dutch (Duivel), the Anglo-Saxon and the English Devil, which some would derive from the compound The - Evil; ὁ πονηρος , the evil one, or wicked one.
From going to and fro in the earth - The translation of the Septuagint is curious: Περιελθων την γην και εμπεριπατησας την ὑπ ‘ ουρανον, παρειμι ; “Having gone round the earth, and walked over all that is under heaven, I am come hither.” The Chaldee says, “I am come from going round the earth to examine the works of the children of men; and from walking through it.” Coverdale, who generally hits the sense, translates thus: I have gone aboute the londe ond walked thorow it. Mr. Good has it, from roaming round the earth, and walking about it.
Hast thou considered my servant Job - Literally, Hast thou placed thy heart on my servant Job? Hast thou viewed his conduct with attention, whilst thou wert roaming about, seeking whom thou mightest devour? viz., the careless, prayerless, and profligate in general.
Doth Job fear God for naught? - Thou hast made it his interest to be exemplary in his conduct: for this assertion Satan gives his reasons in what immediately follows.
Hast not thou made a hedge about him - Thou hast fortified him with spikes and spears. Thou hast defended him as by an unapproachable hedge. He is an object of thy peculiar care; and is not exposed to the common trials of life.
But put forth thine hand - Shoot the dart of poverty and affliction against him.
And he will curse thee to thy face - אם לא על פניך יברכך (im lo al paneycha yebarechecca), “If he will not bless thee to thy appearances.” He will bless thee only in proportion to the temporal good thou bestowest upon him; to the providential and gracious appearances or displays of thy power in his behalf. If thou wilt be gracious, he will be pious. The exact maxim of a great statesman, Sir Robert Walpole: Every man has his price. “But you have not bought such a one?” “No, because I would not go up to his price. He valued himself at more than I thought him worth; and I could get others cheaper, who, in the general muster, would do as well.” No doubt Sir R. met with many such; and the devil many more. But still God has multitudes that will neither sell their souls, their consciences, nor their country, for any price; who, though God should slay them, will nevertheless trust in him; and be honest men, howsoever tempted by the devil and his vicegerents. So did Job; so have done thousands; so will all do, in whose hearts Christ dwells by faith.
All that he hath is in thy power - Satan cannot deprive a man even of an ass, a sheep, or a pig, but by especial permission of God. His power and malice are ever bounded, and under control.
So Satan went forth - The Targum adds, with authority from the presence of the Lord.
There was a day - The first day of the week, says the Targum. It no doubt refers to one of those birthday festivals mentioned before.
The asses feeding beside them - אתנות (athonoth), the she-asses, which appear to have been more domesticated, as of more worth and use than the others, both for their milk and their work.
And the Sabeans fell - The Vulgate alone understands this of a people. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic, understand it as implying a marauding party. The Chaldee says, “Lilith, queen of Zamargad, rushed suddenly upon them, and carried them away.” The Sabeans mentioned here are supposed to have been the same with those who were the descendants of Abraham by Keturah, whose son Jokshan begat Sheba. The sons of Keturah were sent by Abraham into the east, Genesis 25:6, and inhabited Arabia Deserta, on the east of the land of Uz. Hordes of predatory banditti were frequent in those countries and continue so to the present day. They made sudden incursions, and carried off men, women, children, cattle, and goods of every description; and immediately retired to the desert, whither it was in vain to pursue them.
The fire of God is fallen - Though the fire of God may mean a great, a tremendous fire, yet it is most natural to suppose lightning is meant; for as thunder was considered to be the voice of God, so lightning was the fire of God. And as the prince of the power of the air was permitted now to arm himself with this dreadful artillery of heaven, he might easily direct the zigzag lightning to every part of the fields where the sheep were feeding, and so destroy the whole in a moment.
The Chaldeans made out three bands - The Chaldeans inhabited each side of the Euphrates near to Babylon, which was their capital. They were also mixed with the wandering Arabs, and lived like them on rapine. They were the descendants of Chesed, son of Nahor and brother of Huz, from whom they had their name Casdim, which we translate Chaldeans. They divided themselves into three bands, in order the more speedily and effectually to encompass, collect, and drive off the three thousand camels: probably they mounted the camels and rode off.
A great wind from the wilderness - Here was another proof of the influence of the prince of the power of the air. What mischief might he not do with this tremendous agent, were he not constantly under the control of the Almighty! He seems to have directed four different currents, which, blowing against the four corners or sides of the house, crushed it together, and involved all within in one common ruin.
Rent his mantle - Tearing the garments, shaving or pulling off the hair of the head, throwing dust or ashes on the head, and fitting on the ground, were acts by which immoderate grief was expressed. Job must have felt the bitterness of anguish when he was told that, in addition to the loss of all his property, he was deprived of his ten children by a violent death. Had he not felt this most poignantly, he would have been unworthy of the name of man.
Worshipped - Prostrated himself; lay all along upon the ground, with his face in the dust.
Naked came I out of my mother‘s womb - I had no earthly possessions when I came into the world; I cannot have less going out of it. What I have the Lord gave: as it was his free gift, he has a right to resume it when he pleases; and I owe him gratitude for the time he has permitted me to enjoy this gift.
Naked shall I return thither - Whither? Not to his mother‘s womb surely; nor does he call the earth his mother in this place. In the first clause of the verse he speaks without a metaphor, and in the latter he speaks in reference to the ground on which he was about to fall. As I came out of my mother‘s womb destitute of the earthly possessions, so shall I return שמה (shammah), There; i.e., to the earth on which he was now falling. That mother earth was a common expression in different nations, I allow; but I believe no such metaphor was now in the mind of Job.
The Lord gave - The Chaldee has, “The Word of the Lord, מימרא דיי (meymera dayai), gave; and the Word of the Lord and the house of his judgment, have taken away!” Word is used here personally, as in many other places of all the Targums.
Blessed be the name of the Lord - The following is a fine paraphrase on the sentiment in this verse: -
Seeing I have lost my temporal goods, and all my domestic comforts, may God alone be all my portion! The Vulgate, Septuagint, and Coverdale, add, The Lord hath done as he pleased.
In all this Job sinned not - He did not give way to any action, passion, or expression, offensive to his Maker. He did not charge God with acting unkindly towards him, but felt as perfectly satisfied with the privation which the hand of God had occasioned, as he was with the affluence and health which that hand had bestowed. This is the transaction that gave the strong and vivid colouring to the character of Job; in this, and in this alone, he was a pattern of patience and resignation. In this Satan was utterly disappointed; he found a man who loved his God more than his earthly portion. This was a rare case, even in the experience of the devil. He had seen multitudes who bartered their God for money, and their hopes of blessedness in the world to come for secular possessions in the present. He had been so often successful in this kind of temptation, that he made no doubt he should succeed again. He saw many who, when riches increased, set their hearts on them, and forgot God. He saw many also who, when deprived of earthly comforts, blasphemed their Maker. He therefore inferred that Job, in similar circumstances, would act like the others; he was disappointed. Reader, has he, by riches or poverty, succeeded with thee? Art thou pious when affluent, and patient and contented when in poverty?
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