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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Job 1

 

 

Verses 1-22


The Prologue

Job 1, 2, which form the Prologue to the book, describe (a) the prosperity and piety of Job; (b) a scene in heaven in which the Satan questions the motives of his piety; and (c) his subsequent trials, which are permitted by God in order to test and confirm His servant's righteousness, and to show to angels and men that a man may serve God for His own sake and not from self-interest. So far from being dependent on outside conditions the true servant of God will endure the severest trials which can befall human nature, and yet retain his faith and uprightness. It should be observed that whilst the author reveals to his readers the source and purpose of Job's trials these are unknown to Job and his friends. It is the mystery of his suffering which forms the problem of the book.

Job 1, 2 are in prose. The rest of the book, except Job 32:1-5 and Job 42:7-17, is in poetry. See on Job 3.

1-5. The prosperity and piety of Job.

1. The land of Uz] a district to the E. of Palestine, and near Arabia and Edom: cp. Jeremiah 25:20; Lamentations 4:21. The word Uz occurs (a) as the name of a son of Aram (Genesis 10:23); (b) as a descendant of Seir (Genesis 36:28); (c) as a son of Nahor (Genesis 22:21). The names 'Aram' and 'Seir' seem to point to the lands of Syria and Edom, but the exact position of Uz cannot be exactly defined. From various allusions in the book we must probably think of 'the red sandstones of Edom' (the 'red' land),' and of the remote desert city in the hollow of the hills—Sela, afterwards Petra; of the broad grey plain of the Arabah to the west; of the dark rugged peaks rising high to the east, their summits white with snow in winter, and beyond this the high desert plateau with its great pilgrim and trading road to Arabia' (see on Job 6:15-20;). 'a region with few springs, where the white broom grows' (see on Job 30:4); 'and where the ostrich still runs and the wild ass scours the plain seeking the scanty green patches in spring' (Job 39:5-8, Job 39:13-18). (Conder.)

Job] Meaning uncertain; either 'persecuted' or 'pious.' Perfect] Not sinless; rather, 'single-hearted,' blameless: cp. Noah (Genesis 6:9).

2. Seven.. three] sacred numbers indicating perfection. We are dealing with ideal history, as the rest of the numbers and other features here and in the Epilogue show.

3. Job was a prince of the desert. He possessed herds of camels yielding milk and food and hair for making tents; asses for riding, and fetching water; cattle and sheep. He even possessed fields (Job 31:38). The description corresponds in each respect to the life of a free Arab chief E. of Jordan today. The term men of the east is applied to the tribes dwelling on the borders of Palestine, e.g. Syria and Arabia (cp. Genesis 29:1; Judges 6:3).

4. RV 'And his sons went and held a feast in the house of each one upon his day.' They took it in turns to entertain each other at their respective homes.

5. When the days.. were gone about] i.e. when all seven sons had given their feast. It appears that it was Job's pious custom to gather together his children at stated intervals that atonement might be made for any neglect of God at their feasts. He sanctified them, i.e. prepared them by ablutions, etc., for taking part in the sacrifices he afterwards offered (cp. Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10; Leviticus 9:7; 1 Samuel 16:5). Here we have an instance of the piety alluded to in Job 1:1. Burnt offerings] Observe that it was not the sin offering of the Mosaic Law which Job offered, but a burnt offering wholly given to God, which was common to many peoples (cp. Numbers 23 Micah 6:5-8). As head of the family Job acted as priest: cp. Jethro (Exodus 2:16; Exodus 3:1). Cursed] RV 'renounced'; 'blasphemed 'or 'blamed 'may be better.

6-12. The first interview between God and Satan. The scene in heaven is based on the conceptions of the spirit world prevailing in the author's time (cp. 1 Kings 22:19-22; Zechariah 3:1-2), and introduced by him to explain the origin and purpose of Job's trials. See last section of Intro.

6. Now there was a day] better, 'Now it was the day,' as if at a special season. The sons of God] i.e. the angels: cp. Job 38:7. They come before God to give account of their ministry: cp. 1 Kings 22:19.

Satan] rather, 'the Satan,' lit. 'the adversary.' The word is in common use today among Orientals. The presence of the definite article shows that it is not used in this book as a proper name. The Satan is again spoken of in 1 Chronicles 21:1 and in Zechariah 3:1-2 (see note). In the Adversary we have presented to us a spirit whose mission it is to try and test the lives of men and the motives of their acts: cp. Zechariah 2:3. He sees the bad side of life and therefore opposes man's standing with God. Naturally the constant discovery of evil motives underlying good actions has destroyed his faith in human nature. He is not represented as opposed to God, he is rather His loyal servant, who will not see His kindness abused, and zealously fulfils his duties by leaving no part of the earth unvisited. Malignant motives are, however, already attributed to him; he seems to delight in opposing men, and tortures Job without compunction to justify his own cynicism. But he is not yet regarded as a fallen and evil being, opposed to God. The personality and character of the Devil had not yet been fully revealed.

9-12. In answer to God's challenge the Satan makes the slanderous suggestion that Job's religion is based on selfishness. He serves God for reward. The Satan obtains leave to put Job to the test.

9. The principles of Job's conduct are questioned. Perhaps his integrity is only skin deep. Will he continue his righteous life if he is called on to suffer? 10. An hedge] i.e. God's protecting care.

11. Curse thee to thy face] see on Job 1:5.

12. God permits the Adversary to try Job in order to test his integrity and manifest his piety. Observe that Job's person is exempt from attack in this first trial. In view of the Satan's eagerness to prove his judgment of Job correct, God knows that this limitation of his power is necessary.

'Between Job 1:12 and Job 1:13 there is an interval, an ominous stillness like that which precedes the storm. The poet has drawn aside the curtain to us, and we know what is impending. Job knows nothing' (Davidson).

13-22. The first trial of Job's integrity arising from the loss of his property and children. The way in which the messengers are introduced, and the similarity of their message, shows that we are not reading actual history, but a drama. The poet represents the catastrophe as falling on the day when the feast was at the eldest brother's house, because on the morning of that day the sacrifices had been offered for Job's children after the feast in the youngest brother's house on the day before. The death of the children cannot therefore be explained as due to their sin, for this had just been atoned for. Each catastrophe is worse than the previous one.

15. Sabeans] Arab tribes. Saba is the great S. Arabian kingdom of which inscriptions going back to an early date are preserved. The Bedouin Arabs still make raids on tribes at a distance, and also, when strong enough, on the settled population.

16. The fire of God] i.e. lightning.

17. Chaldeans] Heb. Kasdim, from the neighbourhood of the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf.

20. Rent his mantle] Tearing the robe has always been an Eastern sign of mourning, as was also shaving the head or pulling out the hair (see Jeremiah 7:29; Micah 1:16). Worshipped] lit. 'prostrated himself': cp. Genesis 18:2; Matthew 8:2. The first act of worship is submission, humility.

21. Thither] i.e. to the womb of mother earth. This v. (but somewhat differently rendered, cp. 1 Timothy 6:7) is used in the Burial Service. All is from God, and He has the right to do what He will with His own.

The lord] It will be noticed as a rule the Hebrew author only uses in the dialogues such names for the Deity as were common to other peoples besides the Hebrews, e.g. 'God,' 'the Almighty.' The occurrence of the Heb. title 'Jehovah' here and in Job 12:9 is commonly explained on the supposition that it was a slip on his part. It is keenly disputed whether the name may not have been much older than the time of Moses, and known in Babylonia and Assyria. The evidence must at present be regarded as indecisive, though such a wide diffusion is not antecedently unlikely: see on Genesis 2:4; Exodus 3:13.

22. Charged God foolishly] lit. 'and did not offer (or, attribute) folly to God.' Thus Job successfully withstands the first test of the Adversary and remains loyal to God.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Job 1:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/job-1.html. 1909.

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Monday, January 27th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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