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There was a man - This has all the appearance of being a true history. Many have regarded the whole book as a fiction, and have supposed that no such person as Job ever lived. But the book opens with the appearance of reality; and the express declaration that there was such a man, the mention of his name and of the place where he lived, show that the writer meant to affirm that there was in fact such a man. On this question see the Introduction, Section 1.
In the land of Uz - On the question where Job lived, see also the Introduction, Section 2.
Whose name was Job - The name Job (Hebrew איוב 'ı̂yôb, Gr. Ἰώβ Iōb means properly, according to Gesenius, “one persecuted,” from a root (איב 'âyab) meaning to be an enemy to anyone, to persecute, to hate. The primary idea, according to Gesenius, is to be sought in breathing, blowing, or puffing at, or upon anyone, as expressive of anger or hatred, Germ. “Anschnauben.” Eichhorn (Einleit. section 638. 1,) supposes that the name denotes a man who turns himself penitently to God, from a sense of the verb still found in Arabic “to repent.” On this supposition, the name was given to him, because, at the close of the book, he is represented as exercising repentance for the improper expressions in which he had indulged during his sufferings. The verb occurs only once in the Hebrew Scriptures, Exodus 23:22 : But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then “I will be an enemy” אויב 'ôyêb “unto thine enemies” אויב את 'êth 'ôyêb.
The participle איב 'oyēb is the common word to denote an enemy in the Old Testament, Exodus 15:6, Exodus 15:9; Leviticus 26:25; Numbers 35:23; Deuteronomy 32:27, Deuteronomy 32:42; Psalms 7:5; Psalms 8:2; Psalms 31:8; Lamentations 2:4-5; Job 13:24; Job 27:7; Job 33:10, “et soepe al.” If this be the proper meaning of the word “Job,” then the name would seem to have been given him by anticipation, or by common consent, as a much persecuted man. Significant names were very common among the Hebrews - given either by anticipation (see the notes at Isaiah 8:18), or subsequently, to denote some leading or important event in the life; compare Genesis 4:1-2, Genesis 4:25; Genesis 5:29; 1 Samuel 1:20. Such, too, was the case among the Romans, where the “agnomen” thus bestowed became the appellation by which the individual was best known. Cicero thus received his name from a wart which he had on his face, resembling a “vetch,” and which was called by the Latins, “cicer.” Thus also Marcus had the name “Ancus,” from the Greek word ανκὼν ankōn, because he had a crooked arm; and thus the names Africanus, Germanicus, etc., were given to generals who had distinguished themselves in particular countries; see Univer. Hist. Anc. Part ix. 619, ed. 8vo, Lond. 1779. In like manner it is possible that the name “Job” was given to the Emir of Uz by common consent, as the man much persecuted or tried, and that this became afterward the appellation by which he was best known. The name occurs once as applied to a son of Issachar, Genesis 46:13, and in only two other places in the Bible except in this book; Ezekiel 14:14; James 5:11.
And that man was perfect - (תמם tâmam). The Septuagint have greatly expanded this statement, by giving a paraphrase instead of a translation. “He was a man who was true (ἀληθινός alēthinos), blameless (ἄμεμπτος amemptos), just (δίκαιος dikaios), pious (θεοσεβής theosebēs), abstaining from every evil deed.” Jerome renders it, “simplex - simple,” or “sincere.” The Chaldee, שׁלם shālam, “complete, finished, perfect.” The idea seems to be that his piety, or moral character, was “proportionate” and was “complete in all its parts.” He was a man of integrity in all the relations of life - as an Emir, a father, a husband, a worshipper of God. Such is properly the meaning of the word תם tâm as derived from תמם tâmam, “to complete, to make full, perfect” or “entire,” or “to finish.” It denotes that in which there is no part lacking to complete the whole - as in a watch in which no wheel is missing. Thus, he was not merely upright as an Emir, but he was pious toward God; he was not merely kind to his family, but he was just to his neighbors and benevolent to the poor. The word is used to denote integrity as applied to the heart, Genesis 20:5 : לבבי בתם betām lebābı̂y, “In the honesty, simplicity, or sincerity of my heart (see the margin) have I done this.” So 1 Kings 22:34, “One drew a bow לתמוּ letumô in the simplicity (or perfection) of his heart;” that is, without any evil intention; compare 2 Samuel 15:11; Proverbs 10:9. The proper notion, therefore, is that of simplicity. sincerity, absence from guile or evil intention, and completeness of parts in his religion. That he was a man absolutely sinless, or without any propensity to evil, is disproved alike by the spirit of complaining which he often evinces, and by his own confession, Job 9:20 :
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me;
If I say I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse.
So also Job 42:5-6 :
I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear,
But now mine eye seeth thee;
Wherefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.
Compare Ecclesiastes 7:20.
And upright - The word ישׁר yâshâr, from ישׁר yâshar, to be straight, is applied often to a road which is straight, or to a path which is level or even. As used here it means upright or righteous; compare Psalms 11:7; Psalms 37:14,; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 33:4.
And one that feared God - Religion in the Scriptures is often represented as the fear of God; Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 1:29; Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 8:13; Proverbs 14:26-27; Isaiah 11:2; Acts 9:31, “et soepe al.”
And eschewed evil - “And departed from (סוּר sûr) evil.” Septuagint, “Abstaining from every evil thing.” These then are the four characteristics of Job’s piety - he was sincere; upright; a worshipper of God; and one who abstained from all wrong. These are the essential elements of true religion everywhere; and the whole statement in the book of Job shows Job was, though not absolutely free from the sins which cleave to our nature, eminent in each of these things.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters - The same number was given to him again after these were lost, and his severe trials had been endured; see Job 42:13. Of his second family the names of the daughters are mentioned, Job 42:14. Of his first, it is remarkable that neither the names of his wife, his sons nor his daughters are recorded. The Chaldee, however, on what authority is unknown, says that the name of his wife was דינה dı̂ynâh, Job 2:9.
His substance - Margin, or “cattle.” The word used here מקנה mı̂qneh is derived from קנה qânâh, to gain or acquire, to buy or purchase, and properly means anything acquired or purchased - property, possessions, riches. The wealth of nomadic tribes, however, consisted mostly in flocks and herds, and hence the word in the Scripture signifies, almost exclusively, property in cattle. The word, says Gesenius, is used “strictly” to denote sheep, goats, and neat cattle, excluding beasts of burden (compare Greek κτῆνος ktēnos, herd, used here by the Septuagint), though sometimes the word includes asses and camels, as in this place.
Seven thousand sheep - In this verse we have a description of the wealth of an Arab ruler or chief, similar to that of those who are at this day called “Emirs.” Indeed the whole description in the book is that which is applicable to the chief of a tribe. The possessions referred to in this verse would constitute no inconsiderable wealth anywhere, and particularly in the nomadic tribes of the East. Land is not mentioned as a part of this wealth; for among nomadic tribes living by pasturage, the right to the soil in fee simple is not claimed by individuals, the right of pasturage or a temporary possession being all that is needed. For the same reason, and from the fact that their circumstances require them to live in movable tents, houses are not mentioned as a part; of the wealth of this Emir. To understand this book, as well as most of the books of the Old Testament, it is necessary for us to lay aside our notions of living, and transfer ourselves in imagination to the very dissimilar customs of the East. The Chaldee has made a very singular explanation of this verse, which must be regarded as the work of fancy, but which shows the character of that version: “And his possessions were seven thousand sheep - a thousand for each of his sons; and three thousand camels - a thousand for each of his daughters; and five hundred yoke of oxen - for himself; and five hundred she-asses - for his wife.”
And three thousand camels - Camels are well-known beasts of burden, extensively used still in Arabia. The Arabs employed these animals anciently in war, in their caravans, and for food. They are not unfrequently called “ships of the desert,” particularly valuable in arid plains because they go many days without water. They carry from three to five hundred pounds, in proportion to the distance which they have to travel. Providence has adapted the camel with wonderful wisdom to sandy deserts, and in all ages the camel must be an invaluable possession there. The driest thistle and the barest thorn is all the food that he requires, and this he eats while advancing on his journey without stopping or causing a moment’s delay. As it is his lot to cross immense deserts where no water is found, and where no dews fall, he is endowed with the power of laying in a store of water that will suffice him for days - Bruce says for thirty days.
To effect this, nature has provided large reservoirs or stomachs within him, where the water is kept pure, and from which he draws at pleasure as from a fountain. No other animal is endowed with this power, and were it not for this, it would be wholly impracticable to cross those immense plains of sand. The Arabians, the Persians, and others, eat the flesh of camels, and it is served up at the best tables in the country. One of the ancient Arab poets, whose hospitality grew into a proverb, is reported to have killed yearly, in a certain month, ten camels every day for the entertainment of his friends. In regard to the hardihood of camels, and their ability to live on the coarsest fare, Burckhardt has stated a fact which may furnish an illustration. In a journey which he made from the country south of the Dead Sea to Egypt, he says, “During the whole of this journey, the camels had no other provender than the withered shrubs of the desert, my dromedary excepted, to which I gave a few handfuls of barley each evening.” Trav. in Syria, p. 451; compare Bruce’s Travels, vol. iv. p. 596; Niebuhr, Reise-beschreibung nach Arabien, 1 Band, s. 215; Sandys, p. 138; Harmer’s Obs. 4:415, ed. Lond. 1808, 8vo; and Rob. Cal.
And five hundred yoke of oxen - The fact that Job had so many oxen implies that he devoted himself to the cultivation of the soil as well as to keeping flocks and herds; compare Job 1:14. So large a number of oxen would constitute wealth anywhere.
And five hundred she-asses - Bryant remarks (Observations, p. 61) that a great part of the wealth of the inhabitants of the East often consisted of she-asses, the males being few and not held in equal estimation. She-asses are early mentioned as having been in common use to ride on; Numbers 22:25; Jdg 5:10. 2 Kings 4:24 (Hebrew). One reason why the ass was chosen in preference to the horse, was that it subsisted on so much less than that animal, there being no animal except the camel that could be so easily kept as the ass. She-asses were also regarded as the most valuable, because, in traversing the deserts of the country they would furnish travelers with milk. It is remarkable that “cows” are not mentioned expressly in this enumeration of the articles of Job’s wealth, though “butter” is referred to by him subsequently as having been abundant in his family, Job 29:6. It is possible, however, that “cows” were included as a part of the “five hundred yoke of בקר bâqâr.” here rendered “oxen;” but which would be quite as appropriately rendered “cattle.” The word is in the common gender, and is derived from בקר bâqar, in Arabic to cleave, to divide, to lay open, and hence, to plow, to cleave the soil. It denotes properly the animals used in plowing; and it is well known that cows are employed as well as oxen for this purpose in the East; see Judges 14:18; Hosea 4:10; compare Deuteronomy 32:14, where the word בקר bâqâr is used to denote a cow - “milk of kine,” Genesis 33:13 (Hebrew).
And a very great household - Margin, “husbandry.” The Hebrew word here (עבדה ‛ăbûddâh)ambiguous. - It may denote service rendered, that is, work, or the servants who performed it; compare Genesis 26:14, margin. The Septuagint renders it ὑπηρεσία hupēresia, Aquila δουλεία douleia, and Symmachus, οἰκετία oiketia; all denoting “service,” or “servitude,” or that which pertained to the domestic service of a family. The word refers doubtless to those who had charge of his camels, his cattle, and of his husbandry; see Job 1:15. It is not implied by the word here used, nor by that in Job 1:15, that they were “slaves.” They may have been, but there is nothing to indicate this in the narrative. The Septuagint adds to this, as if explanatory of it, “and his works were great in the land.”
So that this man was the greatest - Was possessed of the most wealth, and was held in the highest honor.
Of all the men of the East - Margin as in Hebrew “sons.” The sons of the East denote those who lived in the East. The word “East” קדם qedem is commonly employed in the Scriptures to denote the country which lies east of Palestine. For the places intended here, see the Introduction, Section 2, (3). It is of course impossible to estimate with accuracy the exact amount of the value of the property of Job. Compared with many persons in modern times, indeed, his possessions would not be regarded as constituting very great riches. The Editor of the Pictorial Bible supposes that on a fair estimate his property might be considered as worth from thirty to forty thousand pounds sterling - equivalent to some 200,000 (circa 1880’s). In this estimate the camel is reckoned as worth about 45.00 dollars, the oxen as worth about five dollars, and the sheep at a little more than one dollar, which it is said are about the average prices now in Western Asia. Prices, however, fluctuate much from one age to another; but at the present day such possessions would be regarded as constituting great wealth in Arabia. The value of the property of Job may be estimated from this fact, that he had almost half as many camels as constituted the wealth of a Persian king in more modern times.
Chardin says, “as the king of Persia in the year 1676 was in Mesandera, the Tartars fell upon the camels of the king and took away three thousand of them which was to him a great loss, for he had only seven thousand.” - Rosenmuller, Morgenland, “in loc.” The condition of Job we are to regard as that of a rich Arabic Emir, and his mode of life as between the nomadic pastoral life, and the settled manner of living in communities like ours. He was a princely shepherd, and yet he was devoted to the cultivation of the soil. It does not appear, however, that he claimed the right of the soil in “fee simple,” nor is his condition inconsistent with the supposition that his residence in any place was regarded as temporary, and that all his property might be easily removed. “He belonged to that condition of life which fluctuated between that of the wandering shepherd, and that of a people settled in towns. That he resided, or had a residence, in a town is obvious; but his flocks and herds evidently pastured in the deserts, between which and the town his own time was probably divided. He differed from the Hebrew patriarchs chiefly in this, that he did not so much wander about “without any certain dwelling place.”
This mixed condition of life, which is still frequently exhibited in Western Asia, will, we apprehend, account sufficiently for the diversified character of the allusions and pictures which the book contains - to the pastoral life and the scenes and products of the wilderness; to the scenes and circumstances of agriculture; to the arts and sciences of settled life and of advancing civilization.” - Pict. Bib. It may serve somewhat to illustrate the different ideas in regard to what constituted wealth in different countries, to compare this statement respecting Job with a remark of Virgil respecting an inhabitant of ancient Italy, whom he calls the most wealthy among the Ausonian farmers:
Dum paci medium se offert; justissimus unus
Qui fuit, Ausoniisque olim ditissimus arvis:
Quinque greges illi balantum. quina redibant
Armenta, et terram centurn vertebat aratris.
Among the rest, the rich Galaesus lies;
A good old man, while peace he preached in vain,
Amid the madness of the unruly train:
Five herds, five bleating flocks his pasture filled,
His lands a hundred yoke of oxen tilted.
And his sons went and feasted in their houses - Dr. Good renders this, “and his sons went to hold a banquet house.” Tindal renders it, “made bankertea.” The Hebrew means, they went and made a “house-feast;” and the idea is, that they gave an entertainment in their dwellings, in the ordinary way in which such entertainments were made. The word used here (משׁתה mı̂shteh) is derived from שׁתה shâthâh, “to drink;” and then to drink together, to banquet. Schultens supposes that this was merely designed to keep up the proper familiarity between the different branches of the family, and not for purposes of revelry and dissipation; and this seems to accord with the view of Job. He, though a pious man, was not opposed to it, but he apprehended merely that they might have sinned in their hearts, Job 1:5. He knew the danger, and hence, he was more assiduous in imploring for them the divine guardianship.
Every one his day - In his proper turn, or when his day came round. Perhaps it refers only to their birthdays; see Job 3:1, where the word “day” is used to denote a birthday. In early times the birthday was observed with great solemnity and rejoicing. Perhaps in this statement the author of the Book of Job means to intimate that his family lived in entire harmony, and to give a picture of his domestic happiness strongly contrasted with the calamities which came upon his household. It was a great aggravation of his sufferings that a family thus peaceful and harmonious was wholly broken up. - The Chaldee adds, “until seven days were completed,” supposing that each one of these feasts lasted seven days, a supposition by no means improbable, if the families were in any considerable degree remote from each other.
And sent and called for their three sisters - This also may be regarded as a circumstance showing that these occasions were not designed for revelry. Young men, when they congregate for dissipation, do not usually invite their “sisters” to be with them; nor do they usually desire the presence of virtuous females at all. The probability, therefore, is, that this was designed as affectionate and friendly family conversation. In itself there was nothing wrong in it, nor was there necessarily any danger; yet Job felt it “possible” that they might have erred and forgotten God, and hence, he was engaged in more intense and ardent devotion on their account; Job 1:5.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about - Dr. Good renders this, “as the days of such banquets returned.” But this is not the idea intended. It is, when the banquets had gone round as in a circle through all the families, “then” Job sent and sanctified them. It was not from an anticipation that they “would” do wrong, but it was from the apprehension that they “might” have sinned. The word rendered “were gone about” (נקף nâqaph) means properly to join together, and then to move round in a circle, to revolve, as festivals do; see the notes at Isaiah 29:1 : “Let the festivals go round.” Here it means that the days of their banqueting had gone round the circle, or had gone round the several families. Septuagint “When the days of the entertainment (or drinking, πότου potou) were finished.” A custom of feasting similar to this prevails in China. “They have their fraternities which they call the brotherhood of the months; this consists of months according to the number of the days therein, and in a circle they go abroad to eat at one another’s houses by turns. If one man has not conveniences to receive the fraternity in his own house, he may provide for them in another; and there are many public houses well furnished for this purpose.” See Semedo’s History of China, i chapter 13, as quoted by Burder in Rosenmuller’s Morgenland. “in loc.”
That Job sent - Sent for them, and called them around him. He was apprehensive that they might have erred, and he took every measure to keep them pure, and to maintain the influence of religion in his family.
And sanctified them - This expression, says Schultens, is capable of two interpretations. It may either mean that he “prepared” them by various lustrations, ablutions, and other ceremonies to offer sacrifice; or that he offered sacrifices for the purpose of procuring expiation for sins which they might actually have committed. The former sense, he remarks, is favored by the use of the word in Exodus 19:10; 1 Samuel 16:5, where the word means to prepare themselves by ablutions to meet God and to worship him. The latter sense is demanded by the connection. Job felt as every father should feel in such circumstances, that there was reason to fear that God had not been remembered as he ought to have been, and he was therefore more fervent in his devotions, and called them around him, that their own minds might be affected in view of his pious solicitude. What father is there who loves God, and who feels anxious that his children should also, who does not feel special solicitude if his sons and his daughters are in a situation where successive days are devoted to feasting and mirth? The word here rendered “sanctified” (קדשׁ qâdash) means properly to be pure, clean, holy; in Pihel, the form used here, to make holy, to sanctify, to consecrate, as a priest; and here it means, that he took measures to make them holy on the apprehension that they had sinned; that is, he took the usual means to procure for them forgiveness. The Septuagint renders it ἐκάθαριζεν ekatharizen, he purified them.
And rose up early in the morning - For the purpose of offering his devotions, and procuring for them expiation. It was customary in the patriarchal times to offer sacrifice early in the morning. See Genesis 22:3; Exodus 32:6.
And offered burnt-offerings - Hebrew “and caused to ascend;” that is, by burning them so that the smoke ascended toward heaven. The word rendered “burnt-offerings” (עולה ‛ôlâh) is from עלה ‛âlâh, “to ascend” (the word used here and rendered “offered”), and means that which was made to ascend, to wit, by burning. It is applied in the Scriptures to a sacrifice that was wholly consumed on the altar, and answers to the Greek word ὁλόκαυστον holokauston, “Holocaust.” See the notes at Isaiah 1:11. Such offerings in the patriarchal times were made by the father of a family, officiating as priest in behalf of his household. Thus, Noah officiated, Genesis 8:20; and thus also Abraham acted as the priest to offer sacrifice, Genesis 12:7-8; Genesis 13:18; Genesis 22:13. In the earliest times, and among pagan nations, it was supposed that pardon might be procured for sin by offering sacrifice. In Homer there is a passage which remarkably corresponds with the view of Job before us; Iliad 9:493:
The gods (the great and only wise)
Are moved by offerings, vows, and sacrifice;
Offending man their high compassion wins,
And daily prayers atone for daily sins.
According to the number of them all - Sons and daughters. Perhaps an additional sacrifice for each one of them. The Septuagint renders this, “according to their numbers, καί μόσχον ἕνα περὶ ἁμαπτίας περὶ τῶν ψυχῶν αὐτῶν kai moschon hena peri hamartias peri tōn psuchōn autōn - a young bullock for sin or a sin-offering for their souls.”
It may be that my sons have sinned - He had no positive or certain proof of it. He felt only the natural apprehension which every pious father must, that his sons might have been overtaken by temptation, and perhaps, under the influence of wine, might have been led to speak reproachfully of God, and of the necessary restraints of true religion and virtue.
And cursed God in their hearts - The word here rendered curse is that which is usually rendered “bless” ברך bārak. It is not a little remarkable that the same word is used in senses so directly opposite as to “bless” and “to curse.” Dr. Good contends that the word should be always rendered “bless,” and so translates it in this place, “peradventure my sons may have sinned, “nor” blessed God in their hearts,” understanding the Hebrew prefix ו (v) as a disjunctive or negative participle. So too in Job 2:9, rendered in our common translation, “curse God and die,” he translates it, “blessing God and dying.” But the interpretation which the connection demands is evidently that of cursing, renouncing, or forgetting; and so also it is in Job 2:9. This sense is still more obvious in 1 Kings 21:10 : “Thou didst “blaspheme” ברך bārak God and the king.” So also 1 Kings 21:13 of the same chapter - though here Dr. Good contends that the word should be rendered “bless,” and that the accusation was that Naboth “blessed” or worshipped the gods, even Moloch - where he supposes the word מלך melek, should be pointed מלך môlek and read “Molech.” But the difficulty is not removed by this, and after all it is probable that the word here, as in Job 2:9, means to “curse.” So it is understood by nearly all interpreters. The Vulgate indeed renders it singularly enough, “Lest perhaps my sons have sinned, and have blessed God (et benedixerint Deo) in their hearts.” The Septuagint, “Lest perhaps my sons in their mind have thought evil toward God” - κακὰ ἐνεόησαν πρὸς Θεόν kaka enenoēsan pros Theon. The Chaldee, “Lest my sons have sinned and provoked yahweh (יהוה וארגיזדקדם) in their hearts.” Assuming that this is the sense of the word here, there are three ways of accounting for the fact that the same word should have such opposite significations.
(1) One is that proposed by Taylor (Concor.), that pious persons of old regarded blasphemy as so abominable that they abhorred to express it by the proper name, and that therefore by an “euphemism” they used the term “bless” instead of “curse.” But it should be said that nothing is more common in the Scriptures than words denoting cursing and blasphemy. The word אלה 'âlâh, in the sense of cursing or execrating, occurs frequently. So the word גדף gâdaph, means to blaspheme, and is often used; 2 Kings 19:6, 2 Kings 19:22; Isaiah 37:6, Isaiah 37:23; Psalms 44:16. Other words also were used in the same sense, and there was no necessity of using a mere “euphemism” here.
(2) A second mode of accounting for this double use of the word is. that this was the common term of salutation between friends at meeting and parting. It is then supposed to have been used in the sense of the English phrase “to bid farewell to.” And then, like that phrase, to mean “to renounce, to abandon, to dismiss from the mind, to disregard.” The words χαίρειν chairein, in Greek, and “valere” in Latin, are used in this way. This explanation is suggested by Schultens, and is adopted by Rosenmuller and Noyes, who refer to the following places as parallel instances of the use of the word. Virg. Ecl. 8, 58. “Vivite Sylvoe” - a form, says the Annotator on Virgil (Delphin), of bidding farewell to, like the Greek χαίρετε chairete - “a form used against those whom we reject with hatred, and wish to depart.” Thus, Catull. 11. 17: Cum suis vivat, valeatque moechis. So Aesch. Agam. 574:
Kai polla chairein cumforais kataciō.
Thus, Plutarch, Dion. p. 975. So Cicero in a letter to Atticus (Psalms 8:8), in which he complains of the disgraceful flight of Pompey, applies to him a quotation from Aristophanes; πολλὰ χαίρειν εἰπὼν τῷ καλῷ polla chairein eipōn tō kalō - “bidding farewell to honour he fled to Brundusium;” compare Ter. And. 4:2. 14. Cicero de Nat. Deor. 1. 44. According to this interpretation, it means that Job apprehended they had renounced God in their hearts. that is, had been unmindful of him, and had withheld from him the homage which was due. - This is plausible: but the difficulty is in making out the use of this sense of the word in Hebrew. That the word was used as a mode of “parting salutation” among the Hebrews is undoubted. It was a solemn form of invoking the divine blessing when friends separated; compare Genesis 28:3; Genesis 47:10. But I find no use of the word where it is applied to separation in the sense of “renouncing,” or bidding farewell to “in a bad sense;” and unless some instances of this kind can be adduced, the interpretation is unsound, and though similar phrases are used in Greek, Latin, and other languages, it does not demonstrate that this use of the word obtained in the Hebrew.
(3) A third, and more simple explanation is that which supposes that the original sense of the word was “to kneel.” This, according to Gesenius, is the meaning of the word in Arabic. So Castell gives the meaning of the word - “to bend the knees for the sake of honour;” that is, as an act of respect. So in Syriac, “Genua flexit̂ procubuit.” So “Genu.” the “knee.” Then it means to bend the knee for the purpose of invoking God, or worshipping. In the Piel, the form used here, it means
(1) to bless God, to celebrate, to adore;
(2) to bless men - that is, to “invoke” blessings on them; to greet or salute them - in the sense of invoking blessings on them when we meet them; 1 Samuel 15:13; Gen 47:7; 2 Samuel 6:20; or when we part from them; Gen 47:10; 1 Kings 8:66; Genesis 24:60;
(3) to “invoke evil,” in the sense of “cursing others.” The idea is, that punishment or destruction is from God, and hence, it is “imprecated” on others. In one word, the term is used, as derived from the general sense of kneeling, in the sense of “invoking” either blessings or curses; and then in the general sense of blessing or cursing. This interpretation is defended by Selden, de jure Nat. et Gent. Lib. II. 100:11:p. 255, and by Gesenius, Lexicon. The idea here is, that Job apprehended that his sons, in the midst of mirth, and perhaps revelry, had been guilty of irreverence, and perhaps of reproaching God inwardly for the restraints of virtue and piety. What is more common in such scenes? What was more to be apprehended?
Thus did Job continually - It was his regular habit whenever such an occasion occurred. He was unremitted in his pious care; and his solicitude lest his sons should have sinned never ceased - a beautiful illustration of the appropriate feelings of a pious father in regard to his sons. The Hebrew is, “all day;” that is, at all times.
Now there was a day - Dr. Good renders this, “And the day came.” Tindal.” Now upon a time.” The Chaldee paraphrasist has presumed to specify the time, and renders it, “Now it happened in the day of judgment (or scrutiny, דדינא ביומא), “in the beginning of the year,” that hosts of angels came to stand in judgment before yahweh, and Satan came.” According to this, the judgment occurred once a year, and a solemn investigation was had of the conduct even of the angels. In the Hebrew there is no intimation of the frequency with which this occurred, nor of the time of the year when it happened. The only idea is, that “the sons of God” on a set or appointed day came to stand before God to give an account of what they had done, and to receive further orders in regard to what they were to do. - This is evidently designed to introduce the subsequent events relating to Job. It is language taken from the proceedings of a monarch who had sent forth messengers or ambassadors on important errands through the different provinces of his empire, who now returned to give an account of what they had observed, and of the general state of the kingdom. Such a return would, of course, be made on a fixed day when, in the language of the law, their report would be “returnable,” and when they would be required to give in an account of the state of the kingdom. If it be said that it is inconsistent with the supposition that this book was inspired to suppose such a poetic fiction, I reply,
(1) That it is no more so than the parables of the Savior, who often supposes cases, and states them as real occurrences, in order to illustrate some important truth. Yet no one was ever led into error by this.
(2) It is in accordance with the language in the Scripture everywhere to describe God as a monarch seated on his throne, surrounded by his ministers, and sending them forth to accomplish important purposes in different parts of his vast empire.
It is not absolutely necessary, therefore, to regard this as designed to represent an actual occurrence. It is one of the admissible ornaments of poetry; - as admissible as any other poetic ornament. To represent God as a king is not improper; and if so, it is not improper to represent him with the usual accompaniments of royalty, - surrounded by ministers, and employing angels and messengers for important purposes in his kingdom. This supposition being admitted, all that follows is merely in “keeping,” and is designed to preserve the verisimilitude of the conception. - This idea, however, by no means militates against the supposition that angels are in fact really employed by God in important purposes in the government of his kingdom, nor that Satan has a real existence, and is permitted by God to employ an important agency in the accomplishment of his purposes toward his people. On this verse, however, see the Introduction, Section 1, (4).
The sons of God - Angels; compare Job 38:7. The whole narrative supposes that they were celestial beings.
Came to present themselves - As having returned from their embassy, and to give an account of what they had observed and done.
Before the Lord - Before יהוה yehovâh. On the meaning of this word, see the notes at Isaiah 1:2. A scene remarkably similar to this is described in 1 Kings 22:19-23. Yahweh is there represented as “sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.” He inquires who would go and persuade Ahab that he might go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? “And there came forth a spirit and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.” This he promised to do by being “a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.”
And Satan came also among them - Margin, “The adversary” came “in the midst of them.” On the general meaning of this passage, and the reasons why Satan is introduced here, and the argument thence derived respecting the age and authorship of the book of Job, see the Introduction, Section 4, (4). The Vulgate renders this by the name “Satan.” The Septuagint: ὁ διάβολος ho diabolos - the devil, or the accuser. The Chaldee, סטנא saṭenā', “Satan.” So the Syriac. Theodotion, ὁ ἀντικείμενος ho antikeimenos - “the adversary.” The word rendered “Satan” שׂטן śâṭân is derived from שׂטן śâṭan “Satan,” to lie in wait, to be an adversary, and hence, it means properly an adversary, an accuser. It is used to denote one who “opposes,” as in war 1 Kings 11:14, 1Ki 11:23, 1 Kings 11:25; 1 Samuel 29:4; onc who is an adversary or an accuser in a court of justice Psalms 109:6, and one who stands in the way of another; Numbers 22:22, “And the angel of yahweh stood in the way for an adversary against him” לה לשׂטן leśâṭân lôh, “to oppose him.”
It is then used by way of eminence, to denote the “adversary,” and assumes the form of a proper name, and is applied to the great foe of God and man - the malignant spirit who seduces people to evil, and who accuses them before God. Thus, in Zechariah 3:1-2, “And he showed me Joshua the priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Loan said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan;” compare Revelation 12:10, “Now is come salvation - for the accuser ὁ κατηγορῶν ho katēgorōn - that is, Satan, see Revelation 12:9) of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” - The word does not often occur in the Old Testament. It is found in the various forms of a verb and a noun in only the following places. As a verb, in the sense of being an adversary, Psalms 71:13; Psalms 109:4, Psalms 109:20, Psalms 109:29; Zechariah 3:1; Psalms 38:20; as a noun, rendered “adversary” and “adversaries,” 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Kings 11:14, 1 Kings 11:23, 1 Kings 11:25; Numbers 22:22, Numbers 22:32; 1Sa 29:4; 2 Samuel 19:22; rendered “Satan,” 1 Chronicles 21:1; Psalms 109:6; Job 1:6-9, Job 1:12; Job 2:1-4, Job 2:6-7; Zechariah 3:2; and once rendered “an accusation,” Ezra 4:6.
It was a word, therefore, early used in the sense of an adversary or accuser, and was applied to anyone who sustained this character, until it finally came to be used as a proper name, to denote, by way of eminence, the prince of evil spirits, as the adversary or accuser of people. An opinion has been adopted in modern times by Herder, Eichhorn, Dathe, Ilgen, and some others, that the being here referred to by the name of Satan is not the malignant spirit, the enemy of God, the Devil, but is one of the sons of God, “a faithful, but too suspicious servant of yahweh.” According to this, God is represented as holding a council to determine the state of his dominions. In this council, Satan, a zealous servant of yahweh, to whom had been assigned the honorable office of visiting different parts of the earth, for the purpose of observing the conduct of the subjects of yahweh, makes his appearance on his return with others.
Such was the piety of Job, that it had attracted the special attention of yahweh, and he puts the question to Satan, whether in his journey be had remarked this illustrious example of virtue. Satan, who, from what he has observed on earth, is supposed to have lost all confidence in the reality and genuineness of the virtue which man may exhibit, suggests that he doubts whether even Job serves God from a disinterested motive; that God had encompassed him with blessings, and that his virtue is the mere result of circumstances; and that if his comforts were removed he would be found as destitute of principle as any other man. Satan, according to this, is a suspicious minister of yahweh, not a malignant spirit; he inflicts on Job only what he is ordered to by God, and nothing because he is himself malignant. Of this opinion Gesenius remarks (Lexicon), that it “is now universally exploded.”
An insuperable objection to this view is, that it does not accord with the character usually ascribed to Satan in the Bible, and especially that the disposition attributed to him in the narrative before us is wholly inconsistent with this view. He is a malignant being; an accuser; one delighting in the opportunity of charging a holy man with hypocrisy, and in the permission to inflict tortures on him, and who goes as far in producing misery as he is allowed - restrained from destroying him only by the express command of God. - In Arabic the word Satan is often applied to a serpent. Thus, Gjauhari, as quoted by Schultens, says, “The Arabs call a serpent Satan, especially one that is conspicuous by its crest, head, and odious appearance.” It is applied also to any object or being that is evil. Thus, the Scholiast on Hariri, as quoted by Schultens also, says, “Everything that is obstinately rebellious, opposed, and removed from good, of genii, human beings, and beasts, is called Satan.” - The general notion of an adversary and an opponent is found everywhere in the meaning of the word. - Dr. Good remarks on this verse, “We have here another proof that, in the system of patriarchal theology, the evil spirits, as well as the good, were equally amenable to the Almighty, and were equally cited, at definite periods, to answer for their conduct at his bar.”
Rosenmuller remarks well on this verse, “It is to be observed, that Satan, no less than the other celestial spirits, is subject to the government of God, and dependent on his commands (compare Job 2:1) where Satan equally with the sons of God (אלהים בן bên 'ĕlohı̂ym) is said to present himself before God (לחהיצב lehı̂tyatsēb; that is, λειτουργεῖν leitourgein), to minister. Yahweh uses the ministry of this demon (hujus daemonis) to execute punishment, or when from any other cause it seemed good to him to send evil upon men. But he, although incensed against the race of mortals, and desirous of injuring, is yet described as bound with a chain, and never dares to touch the pious unless God relaxes the reins. Satan, in walking round the earth, could certainly attentively consider Job, but to injure him he could not, unless permission had been given him.”
And the Lord said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? - This inquiry does not appear to have been made as if it was improper that Satan should have appeared there, for no blame seems to have been attached to him for this. He came as a spirit that was subject to the control of yahweh; he came with others, not to mingle in their society, and partake of their happiness, but to give an account of what he had done, and of what he had observed. The poetic idea is, that this was done periodically, and that “all” the spirits employed by yahweh to dispense blessings to mortals, to inflict punishment, or to observe their conduct, came and stood before him. Why the inquiry is directed particularly to “Satan,” is not specified. Perhaps it is not meant that there was any “special” inquiry made of him, but that, as he was to have so important an agency in the transactions which follow, the inquiry that was made of him only is recorded In respect to the others, nothing occurred pertaining to Job, and their examination is not adverted to. Or it may be, that, as Satan was known to be malignant, suspicious, and disposed to think evil of the servants of God, the design was to direct his attention particularly to Job as an illustrious and indisputable example of virtue and piety.
From going to and fro in the earth - Dr. Good renders this, “from roaming round.” Noyes, “from wandering over.” The word which is here used (שׁוּט shûṭ) means properly,
(1.) to whip, to scourge, to lash;
(2.) to row, that is, to lash the sea with oars;
(3.) to run up and down, to go here and there, or to and fro, so as to lash the air with one’s arms as with oars, and hence, to travel over a land, or to go through it in order to see it, 2 Samuel 24:2, 2 Samuel 24:8.
Dr. Good, in conformity with the interpretation proposed by Schultens, says that “the word imports, not so much the act of going forward and backward, as of making a circuit or circumference; of going round about. The Hebrew verb is still in use among the Arabic writers, and in every instance implies the same idea of gyration or circumambulation.” In Arabic, according to Castell, the word means “to heat, to burn, to cause to boil, to consume:” then to propel to weariness, as e. g. a horse, and then to make a circuit, to go about at full speed, to go with diligence and activity. Thus, in Carnuso, as quoted by Schultens, “a course made at one impulse to the goal is called שׁוט shôṭ. In 2 Samuel 24:2, the word is used in the sense of passing around through different places for the purpose of taking a census. “Go now (Margin, “compass”) through all the tribes of Israel.” In Numbers 11:8, it is applied to the Israelites going about to collect manna, passing rapidly and busily in the places where it fell for the purpose of gathering it.
In Zechariah 4:10, it is applied to “the eyes of Yahweh,” which are said to “run to and fro through the earth,” that is, he surveys all things as one does whose eye passes rapidly from object to object. The same phrase occurs in 2 Chronicles 16:9. In Jeremiah 5:1, it is applied to the action of a man passing rapidly through the streets of a city. “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem “compare Jeremiah 49:3. From these passages it is clear that the idea is not that of going “in a circuit” or circle, but it is that of passing rapidly; of moving with alacrity and in a hurry; and it is not improbable that the “original” idea is that suggested in the Arabic of “heat” - and thence applied to a whip or scourge because it produces a sensation like burning, and also to a rapid journey or motion, because it produces heat or a glow. It means that Satan had been active and diligent in passing from place to place in the earth to survey it. The Chaldee adds to this, “to examine into the works of the sons of men.”
And from walking - That is, to investigate human affairs. On this verse it is observed by Rosenmullcr, that in the life of Zoroaster (see Zendavesta by John G. Kleukner, vol. 3: p. 11,) the prince of the evil demons, the angel of death, whose name is “Engremeniosch,” is said to go far and near through the world for the purpose of injuring and opposing good people.
Hast thou considered my servant Job? - Margin, “Set thine heart on.” The margin is a literal translation of the Hebrew. Schultens remarks on this, that it means more than merely to observe or to look at - since it is abundantly manifest from the following verses that Satan “had” attentively considered Job, and had been desirous of injuring him. It means, according to him, to set himself against Job, to fix the heart on him with an intention to injure him, and yahweh means to ask whether Satan had done this. But it seems more probable that the phrase means to consider “attentively,” and that God means to ask him whether he had carefully observed him. Satan is represented as having no confidence in human virtue, and as maintaining that there was none which would resist temptation, if presented in a form sufficiently alluring. God here appeals to the case of Job as a full refutation of this opinion. The trial which follows is designed to test the question whether the piety of Job was of this order.
That there is none like him in the earth - That he is the very highest example of virtue and piety on earth. Or might not the word כי kı̂y here be rendered “for?” “For there is none like him in the earth.” Then the idea would be, not that he had considered “that” there was none like him, but God directs his attention to him “because” he was the most eminent among mortals.
A perfect and an upright man - See the Notes at Job 1:1. The Septuagint translates this verse as they do Job 1:1.
Doth Job fear God for nought? - “Is his religion disinterested? Would not anyone be willing to worship God in such circumstances?” The idea is that there was nothing genuine about his piety; that religion could not be tried in prosperity; that Job had an abundant compensation for serving God, and that if the favors conferred on him were taken away, he would be like the rest of mankind. Much of the apparent virtue and religion of the world is the result of circumstances, and the question here proposed “may,” it is to be feared, be asked with great propriety of many professors of religion who are rich; it “should” be asked by every professed friend of the Most High, whether his religion is not selfish and mercenary. Is it because God has blessed us with great earthly advantages? Is it the result of mere gratitude? Is it because he has preserved us in peril, or restored us from sickness? Or is it merely because we hope for heaven, and serve God because we trust he will reward us in a future world? All this may be the result of mere selfishness; and of all such persons it may be appropriately asked, “Do they fear God for nought?” True religion is not mere gratitude, nor is it the result of circumstances. It is the love of religion for its own sake - not for reward; it is because the service of God is right in itself, and not merely because heaven is full of glory; it is because God is worthy of our affections and confidence, and not merely because he will bless us - and this religion will live through all external changes, and survive the destruction of the world. It will flourish in poverty as well as when surrounded by affluence; on a bed of pain as well as in vigorous health; when we are calumniated and despised for our attachment to it, as well as when the incense of flattery is burned around us, and the silvery tones of praise fall on our ear; in the cottage as well as the palace; on the pallet of straw as well as on the bed of down.
Hast thou not made an hedge about him? - Dr. Good remarks, that to give the original word here its full force, it should be derived from the science of engineering, and be rendered, “Hast thou not raised a “palisado” about him?” The Hebrew word used here (שׂוּך śûk) properly means “to hedge”; to hedge in or about; and hence, to protect, as one is defended whose house or farm is hedged in either with a fence of thorns, or with an enclosure of stakes or palisades. The word in its various forms is used to denote, as a noun, “pricks in the eyes” Numbers 33:55; that is, that which would be like thorns; “barbed irons” Job 41:7, that is, the barbed iron used as a spear to take fish; and a hedge, and thorn hedge, Micah 7:4; Proverbs 15:19; Isaiah 5:5. The idea here is, that of making an enclosure around Job and his possessions to guard them from danger. The Septuagint renders it περιέφραξας periephracas, to make a defense around,” to “circumvallate” or inclose, as a camp is in war. In the Syriac and Arabic it is rendered, “Hast thou not protected him with thy hand? The Chaldee, “Hast thou protected him with thy word? The Septuagint renders the whole passage, “Hast thou not encircled the things which are without him” (τὰ ἔξω αὐτοῦ ta exō autou) that is, the things abroad which belong to him, “and the things within his house.” The sense of the whole passage is, that he was eminently under the divine protection, and that God had kept himself, his family, and property from plunderers, and that therefore he served and feared him.
Thou hast blessed the work of his hands - Thou hast greatly prospered him.
And his substance is increased in the land - His property, Job 1:3. Margin, “cattle.” The word “increased” here by no means expresses the force of the original. The word פרץ pârats means properly to break, to rend, then to break or burst forth as waters do that have been pent up; 2 Samuel 5:20, compare Proverbs 3:10, “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses “shall burst out” פרץ pârats with new wine;” that is, thy wine-fats shall be so full that they shall overflow, or “burst” the barriers, and the wine shall flow out in abundance. The Arabians, according to Schultens, employ this word still to denote the mouth or “embouchure” - the most; rapid part of a stream. So Golius, in proof of this, quotes from the Arabic writer Gjanhari, a couplet where the word is used to denote the mouth of the Euphrates:
“His rushing wealth o’er flowed him with its heaps;
So at its mouth the mad Euphrates sweeps.”
According to Sehultens, the word denotes a place where a river bursts forth, and makes a new way by rending the hills and rocks asunder. In like manner the flocks and herds of Job had burst, as it were, every barrier, and had spread like an inundation over the land; compare Genesis 30:43; 2 Chronicles 31:5; Exodus 1:7; Job 16:14.
But put forth thine hand now - That is, for the purpose of injuring him, and taking away his property.
And touch all that he hath - Dr. Good renders this, “and smite.” The Vulgate and the Septuagint, “touch.” The Hebrew word used here נגע nâga‛ means properly to “touch;” then to touch anyone with violence Genesis 26:11; Joshua 9:19, and then to smite, to injure, to strike; see Genesis 32:26, 33; 1 Samuel 6:9; Job 19:21; compare the notes at Isaiah 53:4. Here it means evidently to smite or strike; and the idea is, that if God should take away the property of Job, he would take away his religion with it - and the trial was to see whether this effect would follow.
And he will curse thee to thy face - He will do it openly and publicly. The word rendered “curse” here ברך bārak is the same as that used in Job 1:5, and which is usually rendered “bless;” see the notes at Job 1:5. Dr. Good contends that; it should be rendered here “bless,” and translates it as a question: “Will he then, indeed, bless thee to thy face?” But in this he probably stands alone. The evident sense is, that Job would openly renounce God, and curse him on his throne; that all his religion was caused merely by his abundant prosperity, and was mere gratitude and selfishness; and that if his property were taken away, he would become the open and avowed enemy of him who was now his benefactor.
All that he hath is in thy power - Margin, as in Hebrew “hand.” That is, all this is now committed to thee, for it is manifest that hitherto Satan had no power to injure even his property. He complained that God had made a hedge around all that Job possessed. Now it was all entrusted to him in order that he might make full trim of the faith of Job. The grant extended to his sons and daughters as well as to his property.
Only upon himself put not forth thine hand - Job himself was not to be visited with sickness nor was his life to be taken. The main accusation of Satan was, that Job was virtuous only because God encompassed him with so many blessings, and especially because he had endowed him with so much property. The trial, therefore, only required that it should be seen whether his piety was the mere result of these blessings.
So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord - That is from the council which had been convened; see the notes at Job 1:6.
And there was a day - That is, on the day on which the regular turn came for the banquet to be held in the house of the older brother; compare the notes at Job 1:4.
And drinking wine - This circumstance is omitted in Job 1:4. It shows that wine was regarded as an essential part of the banquet, and it was from its use that Job apprehended the unhappy results referred to in Job 1:5.
And there came a messenger unto Job - Hebrew מלאך mal'âk; the word usually rendered “angel,” appropriately rendered “messenger” here. The word properly means “one who is sent.”
The oxen were plowing - Hebrew “the cattle” (בקר bâqâr) including not merely “oxen,” but probably also “cows;” see the notes at Job 1:3.
And the asses - Hebrew אתון 'âthôn “she-asses.” The “sex” is here expressly mentioned and Dr. Good maintains that it should be in the translation. So it is in the Septuagint αἱ θήλειαι ὄνοι hai thēleiai onoi. So Jerome, “asinoe.” The reason why the sex is specified is, that female asses, on account of their milk, were much more valuable than males. On this account they were preferred also for traveling; see the notes at Job 1:3.
Beside them - Hebrew “By their hands,” that is, by their sides, for the Hebrew יד yâd is often used in this sense; compare the notes at Isaiah 33:21.
And the Sabeans - Hebrew שׁבא shebâ', Vulgate, “Suboei.” The Septuagint gives a paraphrase, καὶ ἐλθόντες οἱ αἰχμαλωτεύοντες ἠχμαλώτευσαν kai elthonia hoi aichmalōteuontes ēchmalōteusan, “And the plunderers coming, plundered them,” or made them captive. On the situation of Sheba and Seba, see Isaiah 43:3, note; Isaiah 45:14, note; Isaiah 9:6, note. The people here referred to were, undoubtedly, inhabitants of some part of Arabia Felix. There are three persons of the name of Sheba mentioned in the Scriptures.
(1) A grandson of Cush; Genesis 10:7.
(2) A son of Joktan; Genesis 10:28.
(3) A son of Jokshan, the son of Abraham by Keturah.
“Calmet.” The Sheba here referred to was probably in the southern part of Arabia, and from the narrative it is evident that the Sabeans here mentioned were a predatory tribe. It is not improbable that these tribes were in the habit of wandering for purposes of plunder over the whole country, from the banks of the Euphrates to the outskirts of Egypt. The Bedawin Arabs of the present day resemble in a remarkable manner the ancient inhabitants of Arabia, and for many centuries the manners of the inhabitants of Arabia have not changed, for the habits of the Orientals continue the same from age to age. The Syriac renders this simply, “a multitude rushed” upon them;” omitting the word “Sabean.”
Fell upon them - With violence; or rushed unexpectedly upon them. This is the way in which the Arab tribes now attack the caravan, the traveler, or the village, for plunder.
And took them away - As plunder. It is common now to make such sudden incursions, and to carry off a large booty.
They have slain the servants - Hebrew נערים na‛arı̂ym, “the young men.” The word נער na‛ar, properly means a “boy,” and is applied to an infant just born, Exodus 2:6; Judges 13:5, Judges 13:7; or to a youth, Genesis 34:19; Genesis 41:12. It came then to denote a servant or slave, like the Greek παῖς pais; Genesis 24:2; 2 Kings 5:20; compare Acts 5:6. So the word “boy” is often used in the Southern States of North America to denote a slave. Here it evidently means the servants that were employed in cultivating the lands of Job, and keeping his cattle. There is no intimation that they were slaves. Jerome renders it “pueros, boys;” so the Septuagint τοῦς παὶδας tous paidas.
And I only am escaped alone - By myself, בד bad. There is no other one with me. It is remarkable that the same account is given by each one of the servants who escaped, Job 1:16-17, Job 1:19. The Chaldee has given a very singular version of this - apparently from the desire of accounting for everything, and of mentioning the “names” of all the persons intended. “The oxen were plowing, and Lelath, queen of Zamargad, suddenly rushed upon them, and carried them away.”
While he was yet speaking - All this indicates the rapidity of the movement of Satan, and his desire to “overwhelm” Job with the suddenness and greatness of his calamities. The. object seems to have been to give him no time to recover from the shock of one form of trial before another came upon him. If an interval had been given him he might have rallied his strength to bear his trials; but afflictions are much more difficult to be borne when they come in rapid succession. - It is not a very uncommon occurrence, however, that the righteous are tried by the rapidity and accumulation as well as the severity of their afflictions. It has passed into a proverb that “afflictions do not come alone.”
The fire of God. - Margin, “A great fire;” evidently meaning a flash of lightning, or a thunderbolt. The Hebrew is “fire of God;” but it is probable that the phrase is used in a sense similar to the expression, “cedars of God,” meaning lofty cedars; I or “mountains of God,” meaning very high mountains. The lightning is I probably intended; compare Numbers 16:35; see the note at Isaiah 29:6.
From heaven - From the sky, or the air. So the word heaven is often used in the Scriptures; see the notes at Matthew 16:1.
And hath burnt up the sheep - That lightning might destroy herds and men no one can doubt; though the fact of their being actually consumed or burned up may have been an exaggeration of the much affrighted messenger. - The narrative leads us to believe that these things were under the control of Satan, though by the permission of God; and his power over the lightnings and the winds Job 1:19 may serve to illustrate the declaration, that he is the “Prince of the power of the air,” in Ephesians 2:2.
The Chaldeans - The Septuagint translates this, αἱ ἱππεῖς hai hippeis), “the horsemen.” Why they thus expressed it is unknown. It may be possible that the Chaldeans were supposed to be distinguished as horsemen, and were principally known as such in their predatory excursions. But it is impossible to account for all the changes made by the Septuagint in the text. Tho Syriac and the Chaldee render it correctly, “Chaldeans.” The Chaldeans (Hebrew כשׂדים kaśdı̂ym) were the ancient inhabitants of Babylonia. According to Vitringa (Commentary in Isa. tom. i. p. 412, c. xiii. 19), Gesenius (Commentary zu Isaiah 23:13), and Rosenmailer (Bib. Geog. 1, 2, p. 36ff), the Chaldees or Casdim were a warlike people who orignally inhabited the Carduchian mountains, north of Assyria, and the northern part of Mesopotamia. According to Xenophon (Cyrop. iii. 2, 7) the Chaldees dwelt in the mountains adjacent to Armenia and they were found in the same region in the campaign of the younger Cyrus, and the retreat of the ten thousand Greeks. Xen. Anaba. iv. 3, 4; v. 5, 9; viii. 8, 14.
They were allied to the Hebrews, as appears from Genesis 22:22, where כשׂד keśed (whence “Kasdim”) the ancestor of the people is mentioned as a son of Nabor, and was consequently the nephew of Abraham. And further, Abraham himself emigrated to Canaan from Ur of the Chaldees כשׂדים אוּר 'ûr kaśdı̂ym, “Ur of the Kasdim”), Genesis 11:28; and in Judith 5:6, the Hebrews themselves are said to be descended from the Chaldeans. The region around the river Chaboras, in the northern part of Mesopotamia, is called by Ezekiel Ezekiel 1:3 “the land of the Chaldeans;” Jeremiah Jeremiah 5:15 calls them “an ancient nation;” see the notes at Isaiah 23:13. The Chaldeans were a fierce and warlike people, and when they were subdued by the Assyrians, a portion of them appear to have been placed in Babylon to ward off the incursions of the neighboring Arabians. In time “they” gained the ascendency over their Assyrian masters, and grew into the mighty empire of Chaldea or Babylonia. A part of them, however, appear to have remained in their ancient country, and enjoyed under the Persians some degree of liberty. Gesenius supposes that the Kurds who have inhabited those regions, at least since the middle ages, are probably the descendants of that people. - A very vivid and graphic description of the Chaldeans is given by the prophet Habakkuk, which will serve to illustrate the passage before us, and show that they retained until his times the predatory and fierce character which they had in the days of Job; Job 1:6-11 :
For lo I raise up the Chaldeans,
A bitter and hasty nation,
Which marches far and wide in the earth.
To possess the dwellings which are not theirs.
They are terrible and dreadful,
Their judgments proceed only from themselves.
Swifter titan leopards are their horses,
And fiercer than the evening wolves.
Their horsemen prance proudly around;
And their horsemen shall come from afar and fly,
Like the eagle when he pounces on his prey.
They all shall come for violence,
In troops their glance is ever forward!
They gather captives like the sand!
And they scoff at kings,
And princes are a scorn unto them.
They deride every strong hold;
They cast up mounds of - earth and take it.
This warlike people ultimately obtained the ascendency in the Assyrian empire. About the year 597 B.C. Nabopolassar, a viceroy in Babylon, made himself independent of Assyria, contracted an alliance with Cyaxares, king of Media, and with his aid subdued Nineveh, and the whole of Assyria. From that time the Babylonian empire rose, and the history of the Chaldeans becomes the history of Babylon. - “Rob. Calmet.” In the time of Job, however, they were a predatory race that seem to have wandered far for the sake of plunder. They came from the North, or the East, as the Sabeans came from the South.
Made out three bands - literally, “three heads.” That is, they divided tbemselves, for the sake of plunder, into three parties. Perhaps the three thousand camels of Job Job 1:3 occupied three places remote from each other, and the object of the speaker is to say that the whole were taken.
And fell upon the camels - Margin, “And rushed.” The word is different from that which in Job 1:15 is rendered “fell.” The word used here פשׁט pâshaṭ means to spread out, to expand. It is spoken of hostile troops, 1 Chronicles 14:9, 1 Chronicles 14:13; of locusts which spread over a country, Nahum 3:15; and of an army or company of marauders. Judges 9:33, Jdg 9:44; 1 Samuel 27:8. This is its sense here.
Eating and drinking wine - ; the notes at Job 1:4, Job 1:13.
There came a great wind - Such tornadoes are not less common in Oriental countries than in the United States. Indeed they abound more in regions near the equator than they do in those which are more remote; in hot countries than in those of higher latitude.
From the wilderness - Margin, “From aside.” That is, from aside the wilderness. The word here rendered “from aside” in the margin (מדבר mı̂dbâr ) means properly “from across,” and is so rendered by Dr. Good. The word עבר ‛âbar means literally a region or country beyond, or on the other side, sc. of a river or a sea, which one must “pass;” Judges 11:18; Genesis 2:10-11; Deuteronomy 1:1, Deuteronomy 1:5. Then it means on the other side, or beyond; see the notes at Isaiah 18:1. Here it means that the tornado came sweeping across the desert. On the ample plains of Arabia it would have the opportunity of accumulating its desolating power, and would sweep everything before it. The Hebrew word here rendered “wilderness,” מדבר mı̂dbâr, does not express exactly what is denoted by our word. We mean by it usually, a region wholly uncultivated, covered with forests, and the habitation of wild beasts. The Hebrew word more properly denotes a “desert;” an uninhabited region, a sterile, sandy country, though sometimes adapted to pasture. In many places the word would be well translated by the phrases “open fields,” or “open plains;” compare Joel 2:22; Psalms 65:13; Jeremiah 23:10; Isaiah 42:11; Genesis 14:6; Genesis 16:7; Exodus 3:1; Exodus 13:18; Deuteronomy 11:24; compare Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 35:1-2.
And smote the four corners of the house - Came as a tornado usually does, or like a whirlwind. It seemed to come from all points of the compass, and prostrated everything before it.
And it fell upon the young men - The word here rendered” young men” is the same which is rendered in Job 1:15, Job 1:17, servants הנערים hana‛arı̂ym. There can be no reasonable doubt, however, that the messenger by the word here refers to the children of Job. It is remarkable that his daughters are not particularly specified, but they may be included in the word used here נערים na‛arı̂ym, which may be the same in signification as our phrase “young people,” including both sexes. So it is rendered by Etchhorn: Es sturtzo tiber den jungen Leuten zusammen.
Then Job arose - The phrase to arise, in the Scriptures is often used in the sense of beginning to do anything. It does not necessarily imply that the person had been previously sitting; see 2 Samuel 13:13.
And rent his mantle - The word here rendered “mantle” מעיל me‛ı̂yl means an upper or outer garment. The dress of Orientals consists principally of an under garment or tunic - not materially differing from the “shirt” with us - except that the sleeves are wider, and under this large and loose pantaloons. Niebuhr, Reisebescreib. 1. 157. Over these garments they often throw a full and flowing mantle or robe. This is made without sleeves; it reaches down to the ankles; and when they walk or exercise it is bound around the middle with a girdle or sash. When they labor it is usually laid aside. The robe here referred ire was worn sometimes by women, 2 Samuel 13:18; by men of birth and rank, and by kings, 1 Samuel 15:27; 1Sa 18:4; 1 Samuel 24:5, 1 Samuel 24:11; by priests, 1 Samuel 28:14, and especially by the high priest under the ephod, Exodus 28:31. See Braun de vest Sacerd. ii. 5. Schroeder de vest. muller.
Hebrew p. 267; Hartmann Ilcbraerin, iii. p. 512, and Thesau. Antiq. Sacra. by Ugolin, Tom. i. 509, iii. 74, iv. 504, viii. 90, 1000, xii. 788, xiii. 306; compare the notes at Matthew 5:40, and Niebuhr, as quoted above. The custom of rending the garment as an expression of grief prevailed not only among the Jews but also among the Greeks and Romans. Livy i. 13. Suetonius, in “Jul. Caes.” 33. It prevailed also among the Persians. Curtius, B. x. c. 5, section 17. See Christian Boldich, in Thesau. Antiq. Sacra. Tom. xii. p. 145; also Tom. xiii. 551, 552, 560, xxx. 1105, 1112. In proof also that the custom prevailed among the Pagan, see Diod. Sic. Lib. i. p. 3, c. 3, respecting the Egyptians; Lib. xvii. respecting the Persians; Quin. Curt. iii. 11; Herod. Lib. iii. in Thalia, Lib. viii. in Urania, where he speaks of the Persians. So Plutarch in his life of Antony, speaking of the deep grief of Cleopatra, says, περίεῤῥηξατο τοῦς πέπλους επ ̓ αὐτῷ perierrēcato tous piplous ep' autō. Thus, Herodian, Lib. i.: καῖ ῥηξαμένη εσθῆτα kai rēcamenē esthēta. So Statius in Glaucum:
Tu mode fusus humi, lucem aversaris iniquam,
Nunc torvus pariter vestes, et pectora rumpis.
Tune pins Aeneas humeris abscindere vestem,
Auxilioque vocare Deos, et tendere palmas.
Aeneid v. 685.
Demittunt mentes; it scissa veste Latinus,
Conjugis attonitus fatis, urbisque ruina,
So Juvenal, Sat. x.:
ut primos edere planctus
Cassandra inciperet, scissaque Polyxena palla.
Numerous other quotations from the Classical writers, as well as from the Jewish writings, may be seen in Ugolin’s Sacerdotium Hebraicum, cap. vi. Thesau. Antiq. Sacrar. Tom. xiii. p. 550ff.
And shaved his head - This was also a common mode of expressing great sorrow. Sometimes it was done by formally cutting off the hair of the head; sometimes by plucking it violently out by the roots, and sometimes also the beard was plucked out, or cut off. The idea seems to have been that mourners should divest themselves of that which was usually deemed most ornamental; compare Jeremiah 7:29; Isaiah 7:20. Lucian says that the Egyptians expressed their grief by cutting off their hair on the death of their god Apis, and the Syrians in the same manner at the death of Adonis. Olympiodorus remarks on this passage, that the people among whom long hair was regarded as an ornament, cut it off in times of mourning; but those who commonly wore short hair, suffered it on such occasions to grow long. See Rosenmuller, Morgenland, “in loc.” A full description of the customs of the Hebrews in times of mourning, and particularly of the custom of plucking out the hair, may be seen in Martin Geier, de Hebraeorum Luctu, especially in chapter viii.
Thesau. Antiq. Sacra. xxxiil. p. 147ff. The meaning here is that Job was filled with excessive grief, and that he expressed that grief in the manner that was common in his day. Nature demands that there should be “some” external expression of sorrow; and religion does not forbid it. He pays a tribute to the nature with which God has endowed him who gives an appropriate expression to sorrow; he wars against that nature who attempts to remove from his countenance, conversation, dress, and dwelling, everything that is indicative of the sorrows of his soul in a time of calamity. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus; and religion is not designed to make the heart insensible or incapable of grief. Piety, like every kind of virtue, always increases the susceptibility of the soul to suffering. Philosophy and sin destroy sensibility; but religion deepens it. Philosophy does it on principle - for its great object is to render the heart dead to all sensibility; sin produces the same effect naturally. The drunkard, the licentious man, and the man of avarice, are incapable of being affected by the tender scenes of life. Guilt has paralyzed their feelings and rendered tthem dead. But religion allows people to feel, and then shows its power in sustaining the soul, and in imparting its consolations to the heart that is broken and sad. It comes to dry up the tears of the mourner, not to forbid those tears to flow; to pour the balm of consolation into the heart, not to teach the heart to be unfeeling.
And fell down upon the ground - So Joshua in a time of great calamity prostrated himself upon the earth and worshipped, Joshua 7:6. - The Orientals were then in the habit, as they are now, of prostrating themselves on the ground as an act of homage. Job seems to have done this partly as an expression of grief, and partly as an act of devotion - solemnly bowing before God in the time of his great trial.
And worshipped - Worshipped God. He resigned himself to his will. A pious man has nowhere else to go in trial; and he will desire to go nowhere else than to the God who has afflicted him.
And said, Naked came I out - That is, destitute of property, for so the connection demands; compare 1 Timothy 6:7; “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” A similar expression also occurs in Pliny, “Hominem natura tanturn nudism.” Nat. Hist. proem. L. vii. Job felt that he was stripped of all, and that he must leave the world as destitute as he entered it.
My mother’s womb - The earth - the universal mother. That he refers to the earth is apparent, because he speaks of returning there again. The Chaldee adds קבוּרתא לבית lebēyt qebûratā' - “to the house of burial.” The earth is often called the mother of mankind; see Cic. de Nat. Deor. ii. 26; compare Psalms 139:15. Dr. Good remarks, that “the origin of all things from the earth introduced, at a very early period of the world, the superstitious worship of the earth, under the title of Dameter, or the “Mother-goddess,” a Chaldee term, probably common to Idumea at the time of the existence of Job himself. It is hence the Greeks derive their Δημήτνρ Dēmētēr (Demeter), or as they occasionally wrote it Γημήτηρ Gēmētēr (Ge-meter), or Mother Earth, to whom they appropriated annually two religious festivals of extraordinary pomp and solemnity. Thus, Lucretius says,
Linquitur, ut merito materhum nomen adepta
Terra sit, e terra quoniam sunt cuneta creata.
- “Whence justly earth
Claims the dear name of mother, since alone
Flowed from herself whate’er the sight enjoys.”
For a full account of the views of the ancients in regard to the “marriage” (ἱερός γάμος gamos hieros)of the “heaven” and the “earth,” from which union all things were supposed to proceed, see Creuzer’s Symbolik und Mythologie der alt. Volk. Erst. Theil, p. 26, fg.
And naked - Stripped of all, I shall go to the common mother of the race. This is exceedingly beautiful language; and in the mouth of Job it was expressive of the most submissive piety. It is not the language of complaint; but was in him connected with the deep feeling that the loss of his property was to be traced to God, and that he had a right to do as he had done.
The Lord gave - Hebrew יהוה yehovâh. He had nothing when he came into the world, and all that he had obtained had been by the good providence of God. As “he” gave it, he had a right to remove it. Such was the feeling of Job, and such is the true language of submission everywhere. He who has a proper view of what he possesses will feel that it is all to be traced to God, and that he has a right to remove it when he pleases.
And the Lord hath taken away - It is not by accident; it is not the result of haphazard; it is not to be traced to storms and winds and the bad passions of people. It is the result of intelligent design, and whoever has been the agent or instrument in it, it is to be referred to the overruling providence of God. Why did not Job vent his wrath on the Sabeans? Why did he not blame the Chaldeans? Why did he not curse the tempest and the storm? Why did he not blame his sons for exposing themselves? Why not suspect the malice of Satan? Why not suggest that the calamity was to be traced to bad fortune, to ill-luck, or or to an evil administration of human affairs? None of these things occurred to Job. He traced the removal of his property and his loss of children at once to God, and found consolation in the belief that an intelligent and holy Sovereign presided over his affairs, and that he had removed only what he gave.
Blessed be the name of the Lord - That is, blessed be yahweh - the “name” of anyone in Hebrew being often used to denote the person himself. The Syriac, Arabic, and some manuscripts of the Septuagint here adds “forever.” - “Here,” says Schmid, “the contrast is observable between the object of Satan, which was to induce Job to renounce God, and the result of the temptation which was to lead Job to bless God.” Thus, far Satan had been foiled, and Job had sustained the shock of the calamity, and showed that he did not serve God on account of the benefits which be had received from him.
In all this - In all his feelings and expressions on this occasion.
Job sinned not - He expressed just the feelings and manifested just the submission which he ought to do.
Nor charged God foolishly - Margin, “Attributed folly to God.” Vulgate, “Neither did he speak any foolish thing against God.” The Septuagint renders it, “and he did not impute (or give, ἐδωκεν edōken) folly (ἀφροσύνην aphrosunēn) (indiscretion, ‘Thompson’) to God.” Good renders this, “nor vented a murmur against God;” and remarks that the literal rendering would be, “nor vented froth against God. Tindal renders it, “nor murmured foolishly against God.” The Hebrew word תפלה tı̂phlâh is derived from the obsolete root תפל tâphêl, “to spit out;” and hence, to be insipid, tasteless, not seasoned. The noun, therefore, means properly that which is spit out; then that which is insipid or tasteless; and then folly. Wit and wisdom are represented by Oriental writers as pungent and seasoned; compare the expression among the Greeks of “Attic salt,” meaning wit or wisdom. The word “folly” in the Scriptures often means wickedness, for this is supreme folly. Here it has this sense, and means that Job did not say anything “wrong.” Satan was disappointed and had borne a false accusation before God. He did “not” charge God foolishly, and he did “not” curse him to his face.
From this instructive narrative of the manner in which Job received afflictions, we may learn
(1) That true piety will bear the removal of property and friends without murmuring. Religion is not based on such things, and their removal cannot shake it. It is founded deeper in the soul, and mere external changes cannot destroy it.
(2) When we are afflicted, we should not vent our wrath on winds and waves; on the fraud and perfidy of our fellow-men; on embarrassments and changes in the commercial world; on the pestilence and the storm. Any or all of these may be employed as instruments in taking away our property or our friends, but we should trace the calamity ultimately to God. Storms and winds and waves, malignant spirits and our fellow-men, do no more than God permits. They are all restrained and kept within proper limits. They are not directed by chance, but they are under the control of an intelligent Being, and are the wise appointment of a holy God.
(3) God has a right to remove our comforts. He gave them - not to be our permanent inheritance, but to be withdrawn when he pleases. It is a proof of goodness that we have been permitted to tread his earth so long - though we should be allowed to walk it no more; to breathe his air so long - though we should be permitted to inhale it no more; to look upon his sun and moon and stars so long - though we should be permitted to walk by their light no more; to enjoy the society of the friends whom he has given us so long - though we should enjoy that society no longer. A temporary gift may be removed at the pleasure of the giver, and we hold all our comforts at the mere good pleasure of God.
(4) We see the nature of true resignation. It is not because we can always see the “reason” why we are afflicted; it consists in bowing to the will of a holy and intelligent God, and in the feeling that he has a “right” to remove what he has given us. It is his; and may be taken away when he pleases. It may be, and should be yielded, without a complaint - and to do this “because” God wills it, is true resignation.
(5) We see the true source of “comfort” in trials. It is not in the belief that things are regulated by chance and hap-hazard; or even that they are controlled by physical laws. We may have the clearest philosophical view of the mode in which tempests sweep away property, or the pestilence our friends; we may understand the laws by which all this is done, but this affords no consolation. It is only when we perceive an “intelligent Being” presiding over these events, and see that they are the result of plan and intention on his part, that we can find comfort in trial. What satisfaction is it for me to understand the law by which fire burns when my property is swept away; or to know “how” disease acts on the human frame when my child dies; or how the plague produces its effects on the body when friend after friend is laid in the grave? This is “philosophy;” and this is the consolation which this world furnishes. I want some higher consolation than that which results from the knowledge of unconscious laws. I want to have the assurance that it is the result of intelligent design, and that this design is connected with a benevolent end - and that I find only in religion.
(6) We see the “power” of religion in sustaining in the time of trial. How calm and submissive was this holy man! How peaceful and resigned! Nothing else but piety could have done this. Philosophy blunts the feelings, paralyses the sensibilities, and chills the soul; but it does not give consolation. It is only confidence in God; a feeling that he is right; and a profound and holy acquiescence in his will, that can produce support in trials like these. This we may have as well so Job; and this is indispensable in a world so full of calamity and sorrow as this is.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany