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Bible Commentaries

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

- Job

by Adam Clarke

This is the most singular book in the whole of the Sacred Code: though written by the same inspiration, and in reference to the same end, the salvation of men, it is so different from every other book of the Bible, that it seems to possess nothing in common with them, for even the language, in its construction, is dissimilar from that in the Law, the Prophets, and the historical books. But on all hands it is accounted a work that contains "the purest morality, the sublimest philosophy, the simplest ritual, and the most majestic creed." Except the two first chapters and the ten last verses, which are merely prose, all the rest of the book is poetic; and is every where reducible to the hemistich form, in which all the other poetic books of the Bible are written: it is therefore properly called a Poem; but whether it belongs to the dramatic or epic species has not been decided by learned men. To try it by those rules which have been derived from Aristotle, and are still applied to ascertain compositions in these departments of poetry, is, in my opinion, as absurd as it is ridiculous. Who ever made a poem on these rules? And is there a poem in the universe worth reading that is strictly conformable to these rules? Not one. The rules, it is true, were deduced from compositions of this description: - and although they may be very useful, in assisting poets to methodize their compositions, and to keep the different parts distinct; yet they have often acted as a species of critical trammels, and have cramped genius. Genuine poetry is like a mountain flood: it pours down, resistless, bursts all bounds, scoops out its own channel, carries woods and rocks before it, and spreads itself abroad, both deep and wide, over all the plain. Such, indeed, is the poetry which the reader will meet with in this singular and astonishing book. As to Aristotle himself, although he was a keen-eyed plodder of nature, and a prodigy for his time; yet if we may judge from his poetics, he had a soul as incapable of feeling the true genie createur, as Racine terms the spirit of poetry, as he was, by his physics, metaphysics, and analogies, of discovering the true system of the universe.

As to the book of Job, it is most evidently a poem, and a poem of the highest order; dealing in subjects the most grand and sublime; using imagery the most chaste and appropriate; described by language the most happy and energetic; conveying instruction, both in Divine and human things, the most ennobling and useful; abounding in precepts the most pure and exalted, which are enforced by arguments the most strong and conclusive, and illustrated by examples the most natural and striking.

All these points will appear in the strongest light to every attentive reader of the book; and to such its great end will be answered: they will learn from it, that God has way every where: that the wicked, though bearing rule for a time, can never be ultimately prosperous and happy; and that the righteous, though oppressed with sufferings and calamities, can never be forgotten by Him in whose hands are his saints, and with whom their lives are precious; that in this world neither are the wicked ultimately punished, nor the righteous ultimately rewarded; that God's judgments are a great deep, and his ways past finding out; but the issues of all are to the glory of his wisdom and grace, and to the eternal happiness of those who trust in him. This is the grand design of the book, and this design will be strikingly evident to the simplest and most unlettered reader, whose heart is right with God, and who is seeking instruction, in order that he may glorify his Maker, by receiving and by doing good.

Notwithstanding all this, there is not a book in Scripture on the subject of which more difficulties have been started. None, says Calmet, has furnished more subjects of doubt and embarrassment; and none has afforded less information for the solution of those doubts. On this subject the great questions which have been agitated refer, principally,

1. To the person of Job.

2. To his existence.

3. To the time in which he lived.

4. To his country.

5. To his stock or kindred.

6. To his religion.

7. To the author of the book.

8. To its truth.

9. To its authenticity; and,

10. To the time and occasion on which it was written.

With respect to the first and second, several writers of eminent note have denied the personality of Job; according to them, no such person ever existed; he is merely fabulous, and is like the Il penseroso, or sorrowful man of Milton; sorrow, distress, affliction, and persecution personified, as the name imports. According to them, he is a mere ideal being, created by the genius of the poet; clothed with such attributes, and placed in such circumstances, as gave the poet scope and materials for his work.

Thirdly, as to the time in which those place him who receive this as a true history, there is great variety. According to some, he flourished in the patriarchal age; some make him contemporary with Moses; that he was in the captivity in Egypt, and that he lived at the time of the exodus. Some place him in the time of the Israelitish judges; others in the days of David; others, in those of Solomon; and others, in the time of the Babylonish captivity, having been teacher of a school at Tiberias in Palestine, and, with the rest of his countrymen, carried away into Babylon; and that he lived under Ahasuerus and Esther. Fourthly, as to his country: some make him an Arab; others, an Egyptian; others, a Syrian; some an Israelite; and some, an Idumean. Fifthly, as to his origin: some derive him from Nachor, and others from Esau, and make him the fifth in descent from Abraham. Sixthly, as to his religion: some suppose it to have been Sabaeism; others, that it was patriarchal; and others, that he was bred up in the Jewish faith. Seventhly, as to the author of the work, learned men are greatly divided: some suppose the author to have been Elihu; others, Job; others, Job and his friends; others, Moses; some, Solomon; others, Isaiah; and others, Ezra, or some unknown Jew, posterior to the captivity. Eighthly, as to the book: some maintain that it is a history of fact, given by one best qualified to record it; and others, that it is an instructive fiction-facts, persons, dialogues and all, being supposititious; given, however, by the inspiration of God, in a sort of parabolic form, like those employed in the Gospel; and similar to that of the rich man and Lazarus. Ninthly, as to its authenticity: while some, and those not well qualified to judge, have asserted it to be a mere human production, of no Divine authority; others have clearly shown that the book itself, whatever questions may arise concerning the person, author, time, place, etc., was ever received by the Jewish Church and people as authentic, genuine, and divinely inspired; and incorporated, with the highest propriety, among the most instructive, sublime, and excellent portions of Divine revelation. Tenthly, as to the occasion on which it was written, there are considerable differences of opinion: some will have it to be written for the consolation of the Hebrews in their peregrinations through the wilderness; and others, for the comfort and encouragement of the Israelites in the Babylonish captivity: these state that Job represents Nehemiah, and that his three professed friends, but real enemies, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, represent Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian! and that the whole book should be understood and interpreted on this ground; and that, with a little allowance for poetic colouring, all its parts perfectly harmonize, thus understood; showing, in a word, that into whatsoever troubles or persecutions God may permit his people to be brought, yet he will sustain them in the fire, bring them safely through it, and discomfit all their enemies: and that whatsoever is true on this great scale, is true also on that which is more contracted; as he will equally support, defend, and finally render conqueror, every individual that trusts in him.

I shall not trouble my readers with the arguments which have been used by learned men, pro and con, relative to the particulars already mentioned: were I to do this, I must transcribe a vast mass of matter, which, though it might display great learning in the authors, would most certainly afford little edification to the great bulk of my readers. My own opinion on those points they may naturally wish to know; and to that opinion they have a right: it is such as I dare avow, and such as I feel no disposition to conceal. I believe Job to have been a real person, and his history to be a statement of facts.

As the preface to this book (I mean the first chapter) states him to have lived in the land of Uz, or Uts, I believe, with Mr. Good and several other learned men, this place to have been "situated in Arabia Petraea, on the south-western coast of the lake Asphaltites, in a line between Egypt and Philistia, surrounded with Kedar, Teman, and Midian; all of which were districts of Arabia Petraea; situated in Idumea, the land of Edom or Esau; and comprising so large a part of it, that Idumea and Ausitis, or the land of Uz, and the land of Edom, were convertible terms, and equally employed to import the same region: thus, Lamentations 4:21 : 'Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz."' See Mr. Good's Introductory Dissertation; who proceeds to observe: "Nothing is clearer than that all the persons introduced into this poem were Idumeans, dwelling in Idumea; or, in other words, Edomite Arabs. These characters are, Job himself, dwelling in the land of Uz; Eliphaz of Teman, a district of as much repute as Uz, and (upon the joint testimony of Jeremiah 49:7, Jeremiah 49:20; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:11-12, and Obadiah 1:8-9) a part, and a principal part, of Idumea; Bildad of Shuah, always mentioned in conjunction with Sheba and Dedan, all of them being uniformly placed in the vicinity of Idumea; Zophar of Naamah, a city whose name imports pleasantness, which is also stated, in Joshua 15:21, Joshua 15:41, to have been situated in Idumea, and to have lain in a southern direction towards its coast, or the shores of the Red Sea; and Elihu of Buz, which as the name of a place occurs but once in sacred writ, but is there (Jeremiah 25:22-23) mentioned in conjunction with Teman and Dedan; and hence necessarily, like themselves, a border city upon Ausitis, Uz, or Idumea. It had a number of names: it was at first called Horitis, from the Horim or Horites, who appear to have first settled there. Among the descendants of these, the most distinguished was Seir; and from him the land was known by the name of the Land of Seir. This chief had a numerous family, and among the most signalized of his grandsons was Uz, or Uts; and from him, and not from Uz the son of Nahor, it seems to have been called Ausitis, or the Land of Uz. The family of Hor, Seir, or Uz, were at length dispossessed of the entire region by Esau, or Edom; who strengthened himself by his marriage with one of the daughters of Ishmael; and the conquered territory was denominated Idumea, or the land of Edom." I think this is conclusive as to the country of Job and his friends. See Mr. Good as above.

The man and his country being thus ascertained, the time in which he lived is the point next to be considered.

I feel all the difficulties of the various chronologies of learned men: all that has been offered on the subject is only opinion or probable conjecture; and, while I differ from many respectable authors, I dare not say that I have more to strengthen my opinion than they have to support theirs.

I do not believe that he lived under the patriarchal dispensation; nor in any time previous to the giving of the Law, or to the death of Moses. I have examined the opposite arguments, and they have brought no conviction to my mind. That he lived after the giving of the Law appears to me very probable, from what I consider frequent references to the Mosaic institutions occurring in the book, and which I shall notice in their respective places. I know it has been asserted there are no such references; and I am astonished at the assertion: the reader will judge whether a plain case is made out where the supposed references occur. An obstinate adherence to a preconceived system is like prejudice; it has neither eyes nor ears.

With this question, that relative to the author of the book is nearly connected. Were we to suppose that Job himself, or Elihu, or Job and his friends, wrote the work, the question would at once be answered that regards the time; but all positive evidence on this point is wanting: and while other suppositions have certain arguments to support them, the above claimants who are supported only by critical conjecture, must stand where they are for want of evidence. The opinions that appear the most probable, and have plausible arguments to support them, are the following:

1. Moses was the author of this book, as many portions of it harmonize with his acknowledged writings.

2. Solomon is the most likely author, as many of the sentiments contained in it are precisely the same with those in the Proverbs; and they are delivered often in nearly the same words.

3. The book was written by some Jew, in or soon after the time of the Babylonish captivity.

1. That Moses was the author has been the opinion of most learned men; and none has set the arguments in support of this opinion in so strong a light as Mr. Mason Good, in his Introductory Dissertation to his translation and notes on this book. Mr. G. is a gentleman of great knowledge, great learning, and correct thinking; and whatever he says or writes is entitled to respect. If he have data, his deductions are most generally consecutive and solid. He contends, "that the writer of this poem must in his style have been equally master of the simple and of the sublime; that he must have been minutely and elaborately acquainted with Astronomy, Natural History, and the general science of his age; that he must have been a Hebrew by birth and native language, and an Arabian by long residence and local study; and, finally, that he must have flourished and composed the work before the exodus." And he thinks that "every one of these features is consummated in Moses, and in Moses alone; and that the whole of them give us his complete lineaments and portraiture. Instructed in all the learning of Egypt, it appears little doubtful that he composed it during some part of his forty years' residence with the hospitable Jethro, in that district of Idumea which was named Midian." In addition to these external proofs of identity, Mr. Good thinks, "a little attention will disclose to us an internal proof, of peculiar force, in the close and striking similarity of diction and idiom which exists between the book of Job and those pieces of poetry which Moses is usually admitted to have composed. This point he proceeds to examine; and thinks that the following examples may make some progress toward settling the question, by exhibiting a very singular proof of general parallelism.

"The order of creation, as detailed in the first chapter of Genesis, is precisely similar to that described in Job 38:1-20, the general arrangement that occupied the first day; - the formation of the clouds, which employed the second; - the separation of the sea, which took up a part of the third; - and the establishment of the luminaries in the skies, which characterized the fourth.

"In this general description, as given in Genesis, the vapor in the clouds, and the fluid in the sea, are equally denominated waters: thus, Genesis 1:5-7, 'And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.'

"Let us compare this passage with Job 26:8-10 : -

Which contains.—

1. A brief narrative of Job.

2. The tribunal of the Almighty.

3. His remarks to Satan concerning Job's fidelity.

4. Satan's reply.

5. The Almighty consents to his temptation.

6. Return of the celestial tribunal.

7. The fidelity of Job proved and declared.

8. Satan insinuates that he would not have proved true had the attack been made on his person.

9. The Almighty consents to a second trial.

10. The trial made.

11. Job's utter misery.

12. The visit of his three friends to condole with him.

Job 1:0 and Job 2:0.

1. Exclamation of Job on his miserable condition.

2. Speech of Eliphaz, accusing him of want of firmness, and suspecting his integrity, on account of the affliction with which he is visited.

3. Job's reply, reproaching his friends with cruelty; bewailing the disappointment he had felt in them; calling for death as the termination of his miseries; then longing for life, expostulating with the Almighty, and supplicating his forgiveness.

4. Bildad resumes the argument of Eliphaz with great severity; openly accuses Job of hypocrisy; and exhorts him to repentance, in order that he may avoid utter ruin.

5. Job in reply longs to plead his cause before God, but is overwhelmed at his majesty.

6. He again desponds, and calls for death as the only refuge from his sorrows.

7. Zophar continues the argument on the side of his companions; condemns Job acrimoniously for still daring to assert his innocence; and once more exhorts him to repentance, as the only means of obtaining a restoration to the favour of the Almighty.

8. Job is stimulated to a still severer reply.

9. Accuses his companions of declaiming on the part of God, with the base hope of propitiating him.

10. Boldly demands his trial at the tribunal of the Almighty; and, realizing the tribunal before him, commences his pleading, in an address variegated on every side by opposite feelings: fear, triumph, humiliation, expostulation, despondency.

Chap. iii.-xiv.

1. Eliphaz commences the discussion in his regular turn; accuses Job of vehemence and vanity; asserts that no man is innocent; and that his own conduct sufficiently proves himself not to be so.

2. Job replies; and complains bitterly of the unjust reproaches heaped upon him; and accuses his companions of holding him up to public derision.

3. He pathetically bemoans his lot; and looks forward to the grave with glimmering, through despair, of a resurrection from its ruins.

4. Bildad perseveres in his former argument of Job's certain wickedness, from his signal sufferings; and, in a string of lofty traditions, points out the constant attendance of misery upon wickedness.

5. Job rises superior to this attack; appeals to the piety and generosity of his friends; asserts the Almighty to have afflicted him for purposes altogether unknown; and then soars to a full and triumphant hope of a future resurrection, and vindication of his innocence.

6. Zophar repeats the former charge; and Job replies, by directly controverting his argument, and proving, from a variety of examples, that in the

present world the wicked are chiefly prosperous, and the just for the most part subject to affliction.

Chap. xv.-xii.

1. Eliphaz, in direct opposition to Job's last remarks, contends that certain and utter ruin is the uniform lot of the wicked; and adduces the instances of the deluge, and of Sodom and the other cities of the plain.

2. Job supports his position by fresh and still more forcible examples. Though he admits that, in the mystery of Providence, prosperity and adversity are often equally the lot of both the righteous and the wicked; yet he denies that this ought to be held as an argument in favour of the last, whose prosperity is in the utmost degree precarious, and who in calamity are wholly destitute of hope and consolation.

3. Bildad replies in a string of lofty but general apophthegms, tending to prove that Job cannot be without sin, since no man is so in the sight of God. 4. Job rejoins with indignation; takes a general survey of his life, in the different capacities of a magistrate, a husband, and a master; and challenges his companions to point out a single act of injustice he had committed.

Chap. xxii.-xxxi.

1. Zophar, who ought to have concluded the last series, having declined to prosecute the debate any farther, the general argument is summed up by Elihu, who has not hitherto spoken, though present from the first.

2. He condemns the subject matter of the opponents of Job, as altogether irrelevant; accuses Job himself, not of suffering for any past impiety, but of speaking irreverently during the controversy.

3. He contests several of Job's positions; asserts that afflictions are often sent by the Almighty for the wisest and most merciful purposes; and that, in every instance, our duty is submission.

4. He closes with describing the Creator as supreme and uncontrollable; and as creating, upholding, and regulating all nature according to his own will and pleasure; incomprehensibly and mysteriously yet ever wisely and benevolently.

Chap. xxxii.-xxxvii.

1. The Almighty appears to pronounce judgment; speaks to Job in a sublime and magnificent address out of a whirlwind.

2. Job humbles himself before God, and is accepted.

3. His friends are severely reproved for their conduct during the controversy, a sacrifice is demanded of them, and Job is appointed their intercessor.

4. He prays for his friends, and his prayer is accepted.

5. He is restored to his former state of prosperity, and his substance in every instance doubled.

Chap. xxxviii.-xlii.

On this plan Mr. Good has constructed his learned translation and excellent observations on this book. The following Synopsis or general view of this book is very intelligible and may serve as an index to the work:—

I. The Historical Exordium, written in prose.—Chap. i., ii.

II. The threefold Series of Controversy written in poetry.—Chap. iii.-xlii. ver. 1-6.

III. The issue of Job's trial; restoration to health and prosperity in prose.—Chap. xlii. ver. 7-17.

1. Job's Disputation with his three friends who came to visit him is a threefold series, chap. iii.:-xvi.; including Job's speech in which he curses the day of his birth, chap. iii.: this gives rise to the FIRST Series of Controversy, comprehended in chap. iv.:-xiv.

1. With ELIPHAZ, chap. iv:-vii.

a. The Speech of Eliphaz, chap. iv., v.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. vi., vii.

2. With BILDAD, chap. viii.:-x.

a. The Speech of Bildad, chap. viii.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. ix., x.

3. With ZOPHAR, chap. xi.-xiv.

a. The Speech of Zophar, chap. xi.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. xii.-xiv.

SECOND Series of Controversy, included in chap. xv.-xxi.

1. With ELIPHAZ, chap. xv., xvii.

a. The Speech of Eliphaz, chap. xv.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. xvi., xvii.

2. With BILDAD, chap. xviii., xix.

a. The Speech of Bildad, chap. xviii.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. xix.

3. With ZOPHAR, chap. xx., xxi.

a. Zophar's Speech, chap. xx.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. xxi.

THIRD Series of Controversy, included in chap. xxii.-xxxi.

1. With ELIPHAZ, chap. xxii.-xxiv.

a. The Speech of Eliphaz, chap. xxii.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. xiii., xxiv.

2. With BILDAD, chap. xxv.-xxxi.

a. The Speech of Bildad, chap. xxv.

b. The Answer of Job, chap. xxvi.,-xxxi.

ELIHU'S judgment concerning the Controversy, delivered at four different intervals, pausing for Job's answer, chap. xxxii.-xxxvii.

a. Elihu's first Speech, chap. xxxii., xxxiii.

b. Elihu's second Speech, chap. xxxiv.

c. Elihu's third Speech, chap. xxxv.

d. Elihu's fourth Speech, chap. xxxvi., xxxvii.

The ALMIGHTY appears, speaks out of a whirlwind, and determines the Controversy, chap. xxxviii.-xli.

a. The first Speech of the Almighty, chap. xxxviii., xxxix.

b. The second Speech of the Almighty, chap. xl., xli.

c. The Answer and humiliation of Job, chap. xlii., ver. 1-6.

Historical Narration concerning the restoration of Job to health and great worldly prosperity; with the account of his age and death, chap. xlii., ver. 7-17.

Some have contended that the whole of this book is written in verse; but I can see no rule or method by which the two first chapters, and the ten last verses of chap. xlii. can be reduced to poetry or poetic arrangement. They are merely narrative; and are utterly destitute of that dignity and pathos everywhere evident in this poem, and in every part of the Hebrew hemistich poetry wherever it occurs. I could almost suppose these places the work of another hand; a Preface and a Conclusion written by some person who was well acquainted with the fact of Job's temptation, and who found such additions necessary to cast light upon the poem. But they are most probably the work of the same hand. There are, in different parts of the body of the poem, sentences in prose, which are the headings to the different speeches. This is frequent among the Arabic and Persian poets. Such headings are generally in rubric, and should here stand by themselves.

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