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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Job 42

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 2

I know that thou canst do everything - This is said by Job in view of what had been declared by the Almighty in the previous chapters. It is an acknowledgment that God was omnipotent, and that man ought to be submissive, under the putting forth of his infinite power. One great object of the address of the Almighty was to convince Job of his majesty, and that object was fully accomplished.

And that no thought - No purpose or plan of thine. God was able to execute all his designs.

Can be withholden from thee - Margin, “or, of thine can be hindered.” Literally, “cut off” - בצר bâtsar. The word, however, means also “to cut off access to,” and then to prevent, hinder, restrain. This is its meaning here; so Genesis 11:6, “Nothing will be restrained (יבצר yibâtsar) from them, which they have imagined to do.”

Verse 3

Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? - This is repeated from Job 38:2. As used there these are the words of the Almighty, uttered as a reproof of Job for the manner in which he had undertaken to explain the dealings of God; see the notes at that verse. As repeated here by Job, they are an acknowledgment of the truth of what is there implied, that “he” had been guilty of hiding counsel in this manner, and the repetition here is a part of his confession. He acknowledges that he “had” entertained and expressed such views of God as were in fact clothing the whole subject in darkness instead of explaining it. The meaning is, “Who indeed is it, as thou saidst, that undertakes to judge of great and profound purposes without knowledge? I am that presumptuous man? Ilgen.”

Therefore have I uttered that I understood not - I have pronounced an opinion on subjects altogether too profound for my comprehension. This is the language of true humility and penitence, and shows that Job had at heart a profound veneration for God, however much he had been led away by the severity of his sufferings to give vent to improper expressions. It is no uncommon thing for even good people to be brought to see that they have spoken presumptuously of God, and have engaged, in discussions and ventured to pronounce opinions on matters pertaining to the divine administration, that were wholly beyond their comprehension.

Verse 4

Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak - This is the language of humble, docile submission. On former occasions he had spoken confidently and boldly of God; he had called in question the equity of his dealings with him; he had demanded that he might be permitted to carry his cause before him, and argue it there himself; Notes, Job 13:3, and notes Job 13:20-22. Now he is wholly changed. His is the submissive language of a docile child, and he begs to be permitted to sit down before God, and humbly to inquire of him what was truth. “This is true religion.”

I will demand of thee - Or rather, “I will ask of thee.” The word “demand” implies more than there is of necessity in the original word (שׁאל shâ'al). That means simply “to ask,” and it may be done with the deepest humility and desire of instruction. That was now the temper of Job.

And declare thou unto me - Job was not now disposed to debate the matter, or to enter into a controversy with God. He was willing to sit down and receive instruction from God, and earnestly desired that he would “teach” him of his ways. It should be added, that very respectable critics suppose that in this verse Job designs to make confession of the impropriety of his language on former occasions, in the presumptuous and irreverent manner in which he had demanded a trial of argument with God. It would then require to be rendered as a quotation from his own words formerly.

“I have indeed uttered what I understood not,

Things too wonderful for me, which I know not,

(When I said) Hear now, I will speak,

I will demand of thee, and do thou teach me”

This is adopted by Umbreit, and has much in its favor that is plausible; but on the whole the usual interpretation seems to be most simple and proper.

Verse 5

I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear - Referring to the indistinct views which we have of anything by merely hearing of it, compared with the clear apprehension which is furnished by sight. Job had had such views of God as one may obtain by being told of him; he now had such views as are furnished by the sight. The meaning is, that his views of God before were dark and obscure.

But now mine eye seeth thee - We are not to suppose that Job means to say that he actually “saw” God, but that his apprehensions of him were clear and bright “as if” he did. There is no evidence that God appeared to Job in any visible form. He is said, indeed, to have spoken from the whirlwind, but no visible manifestation of Yahweh is mentioned.

Verse 6

Wherefore I abhor myself - I see that I am a sinner to be loathed and abhorred. Job, though he did not claim to be perfect, had yet unquestionably been unduly exalted with the conception of his own righteousness, and in the zeal of his argument, and under the excitement of his feelings when reproached by his friends, had indulged in indefensible language respecting his own integrity. He now saw the error and folly of this, and desired to take the lowest place of humiliation. Compared with a pure and holy God, he saw that he was utterly vile and loathsome, and was not unwilling now to confess it. “And repent.” Of the spirit which I have evinced; of the language used in self-vindication; of the manner in which I have spoken of God. Of the general sentiments which he had maintained in regard to the divine administration as contrasted with those of his friends he had no occasion to repent, for they were correct Job 42:8, nor had he occasion to repent “as if” he had never been a true penitent or a pious man. But he now saw that in the spirit which he had evinced under his afflictions, and in his argument, there was much to regret; and he doubtless saw that there had been much in his former life which had furnished occasion for bringing these trials upon him, over which he ought now to mourn.

In dust and ashes - In the most lowly manner, and with the most expressive symbols of humiliation. It was customary in times of grief, whether in view of sin or from calamity, to sit down in ashes (see the notes at Job 2:8; compare Daniel 9:3; Jonah 3:6; Matthew 11:21); or on such an occasion the sufferer and the penitent would strew ashes over himself; compare Isaiah 58:5. The philosophy of this was - like the custom of wearing “black” for mourning apparel - that the external appearance ought to correspond with the internal emotions, and that deep sorrow would be appropriately expressed by disfiguring the outward aspect as much as possible. The sense here is, that Job meant to give expression to the profoundest and sincerest feelings of penitence for his sins. From this effect produced on his mind by the address of the Almighty, we may learn the following lessons:

(1) That a correct view of the character and presence of God is adapted to produce humility and penitence; compare Job 40:4-5. This effect was produced on the mind of Peter when, astonished by a miracle performed by the Savior which none but a divine being could have done, he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord;” Luke 5:8. The same effect; was produced on the mind of Isaiah after he had seen Yahweh of Hosts in the temple: “Then said I, Wo is me, for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of Hosts;” Isaiah 6:5. No man can have any elevated views of his own importance or purity, who has right apprehensions of the holiness of his Creator.

(2) Such a view of the presence of God will produce what no argument can in causing penitence and humility. The friends of Job had reasoned with him in vain to secure just this state of mind; they had endeavored to convince him that he was a great sinner, and “ought” to exercise repentance. But he met argument with argument; and all their arguments, denunciations, and appeals, made no impression on his mind. When, however, God manifested himself to him, he was melted into contrition, and was ready to make the most penitent and humble confession. So it is now. The arguments of a preacher or a friend often make no impression on the mind of a sinner. He can guard himself against them. He can meet argument with argument, or can coolly turn the ear away. But he has no such power to resist God, and when “he” manifests himself to the soul, the heart is subdued, and the proud and self-confident unbeliever becomes humbled, and sues for mercy.

(3) A good man will be willing to confess that he is vile, when he has any clear views of God. He will be so affected with a sense of the majesty and holiness of his Maker, that he will be overwhelmed with a sense of his own unworthiness.

(4) The most holy men may have occasion to repent of their presumptuous manner of speaking of God. We all err in the same way in which Job did. We reason about God with irreverence; we speak of his government as if we could comprehend it; we discourse of him as if he were an equal; and when we come to have any just views of him, we see that there has been much improper boldness, much self-confidence, much irreverence of thought and manner, in our estimation of the divine wisdom and plans. The bitter experience of Job should lead us to the utmost carefulness in the manner in which we speak of our Maker.

Verse 7

And it was so, that after the Lord had spoken these words unto Job - Had the matter been left according to the record in Job 42:6, a wholly erroneous impression would have been made. Job was overwhelmed with the conviction of his guilt, and had nothing been said to his friends, the impression would have been that he was wholly in the wrong. It was important, therefore, and was indeed essential to the plan of the book, that the divine judgment should be pronounced on the conduct of his three friends.

The Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite - Eliphaz had been uniformly first in the argument with Job, and hence, he is particularly addressed here. He seems to have been the most aged and respectable of the three friends, and in fact the speeches of the others are often a mere echo of his.

My wrath is kindled - Wrath, or anger, is often represented as enkindled, or burning.

For ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right, as my servant Job hath - This must be understood comparatively. God did not approve of all that Job had said, but the meaning is, that his general views of his government were just. The main position which he had defended in contradistinction from his friends was correct, for his arguments tended to vindicate the divine character, and to uphold the divine government. It is to be remembered, also, as Bouiller has remarked, that there was a great difference in the circumstances of Job and the three friends - circumstances modifying the degrees of blameworthiness chargeable to each. Job uttered indeed, some improper sentiments about God and his government; he expressed himself with irreverence and impatience; he used a language of boldness and complaint wholly improper, but this was done in the agony of mental and bodily suffering, and when provoked by the severe and improper charges of hypocrisy brought by his friends. What “they” said, on the contrary, was unprovoked. It was when they were free from suffering, and when they were urged to it by no severity of trial. It was, moreover, when every consideration required them to express the language of condolence, and to comfort a suffering friend.

Verse 8

Therefore take unto you - Or, FOR yourselves.

Seven bullocks and seven rams - The number “seven” was a common number in offering animals for sacrifice; see Leviticus 23:18; Numbers 29:32. It was not a number, however, confined at all to Jewish sacrifices, for we find that Balaam gave the direction to Balak, king of Moab, to prepare just this number for sacrifice. “And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams;” Numbers 23:1, Numbers 23:29. The number “seven” was early regarded as a perfect number, and it was probably with reference to this that that number of victims was selected, with an intention of offering a sacrifice that would be complete or perfect.

And go to my servant Job - An acknowledgment of his superiority. It is probably to be understood, also, that Job would act as the officiating priest in offering up the sacrifice. It is observable that no allusion is made in this book to the priestly office, and the conclusion is obvious that the scene is laid before the institution of that office among the Jews; compare the notes at Job 1:5.

And offer up for yourselves - That is, by the aid of Job. They were to make the offering, though Job was evidently to be the officiating priest.

A burnt-offering - Notes, Job 1:5.

And my servant Job shall pray for you - In connection with the offering, or as the officiating priest. This is a beautiful instance of the nature and propriety of intercession for others. Job was a holy man; his prayers would be acceptable to God, and his friends were permitted to avail themselves of his powerful intercession in their behalf. It is also an instance showing the nature of the patriarchal worship. It did not consist merely in offering sacrifices. Prayer was to be connected with sacrifices, nor is there any evidence that bloody offerings were regarded as available in securing acceptance with God, except in connection with fervent prayer. It is also an instance showing the nature of the patriarchal “piety.” It was “presumed” that Job would be ready to do this, and would not hesitate thus to pray for his “friends.” Yet it could not be forgotten how much they had wounded his feelings; how severe had been their reproaches; nor how confidently they had maintained that he was an eminently bad man. But it was presumed now that Job would be ready to forgive all this; to welcome his friends to a participation in the same act of worship with him, and to pray for them that their sins might be forgiven. Such is religion, alike in the patriarchal age and under the gospel, prompting us to be ready to forgive those who have pained or injured us, and making us ready to pray that God would pardon and bless them.

For him will I accept - Margin, “his face,” or “person.” So the Hebrew. So in Genesis 19:21 (“margin,”) compare Deuteronomy 28:50. The word “face” is thus used to denote the “person,” or man. The meaning is, that Job was so holy and upright that God would regard his prayers.

Lest I deal with you after your folly - As their folly had deserved. There is particular reference here to the sentiments which they had advanced respecting the divine character and government.

Verse 9

The Lord also accepted Job - Margin, as in Job 42:8, “the face of.” The meaning is, that he accepted his prayers and offerings in behalf of his friends.

Verse 10

And the Load turned the captivity of Job - Restored him to his former prosperity. The language is taken from restoration to country and home after having been a captive in a foreign land. This language is often applied in the Scriptures to the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, and some writers have made use of it as an argument to show that Job lived “after” that event. But this conclusion is unwarranted. The language is so general that it might be taken from the return from “any” captivity, and is such as would naturally be employed in the early periods of the world to denote restoration from calamity. It was common in the earliest ages to convey captives in war to the land of the conqueror, and thus make a land desolate by the removal of its inhabitants; and it would be natural to use the language expressive of their return to denote a restoration from “any” great calamity to former privileges and comforts. Such is undoubtedly its meaning as applied to the case of Job. He was restored from his series of protracted trials to a state of prosperity.

When he prayed for his friends - Or after he had prayed for his friends. It is not implied of necessity that his praying for them had any particular effect in restoring his prosperity.

Also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before - Margin, “added all that” had been to “Job unto the double.” The margin is a literal translation, but the meaning is the same. It is not to be understood that this occurred at once - for many of these blessings were bestowed gradually. Nor are we to understand it in every respect literally - for he had the same number of sons and daughters as before; but it is a general declaration, and was true in all essential respects.

Verse 11

Then came there unto him all his brethren ... - It seems remarkable that none of these friends came near to him during his afflictions, and especially that his “sisters” should not have been with him to sympathize with him. But it was one of the bitter sources of his affliction, and one of the grounds of his complaint, that in his trials his kindred stood aloof from him; so in Job 19:13-14, he says, “He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me.” It is not easy to account for this. It may have been, however, that a part were kept from showing any sympathy, in accordance with the general fact that there are always professed friends, and sometimes kindred, who forsake a man in affliction; and that a part regarded him as abandoned by God, and forsook him on that account - from a mistaken view of what they regarded as duty, that they ought to forsake one whom God had forsaken. When his calamities had passed by, however, and he again enjoyed the tokens of the divine favor, all returned to him full of condolence and kindness; part, probably, because friends always cluster around one who comes out of calamity and rises again to honor, and the other portion because they supposed that as “God” regarded him now with approbation, it was proper for “them” to do it also. A man who has been unfortunate, and who is visited with returning prosperity, never lacks friends. The rising sun reveals many friends that darkness had driven away, or brings to light many - real or professed - who were concealed at midnight.

And did eat bread with him in his house - An ancient token of friendship and affection; compare Psalms 41:9; Proverbs 9:5; Proverbs 23:6; Jeremiah 41:1.

And every man also gave him a piece of money - This is probably one of the earliest instances in which money is mentioned in history. It is, of course, impossible now to determine the form or value of the “piece of money” here referred to. The Hebrew word (קשׂיטה qeśı̂yṭâh), occurs only in this place and in Genesis 33:19, where it is rendered “pieces of money,” and in Joshua 24:32, where it is rendered “pieces of silver.” It is evident, therefore, that it was one of the earliest names given to coin, and its use here is an argument that the book of Job is of very early origin. Had it been composed at a later age, the word “shekel,” or some word in common use to denote money, would have been used. The Vulgate here renders the word “ovem,” a sheep; the Septuagint in like manner, ἀμνάδα amnada, “a lamb;” and so also the Chaldee. In the margin, in both the other places where the word occurs Genesis 33:19; Joshua 24:32, it is also rendered “lambs.”

The reason why it is so rendered is unknown. it may have been supposed that in early times a sheep or lamb having something like a fixed value, might have been the standard by which to estimate the value of other things; but there is nothing in the etymology of the word to support this interpretation. The word in Arabic (kasat) means to divide out equally, to measure; and the Hebrew word probably had some such signification, denoting that which was measured or weighed out, and hence became the name of a certain “weight” or “amount” of money. It is altogether probable that the first money consisted of a certain amount of the precious metals “weighed out,” without being “coined” in any way. It is not an improbable supposition, however, that the figure of a sheep or lamb was the first figure stamped on coins, and this may be the reason why the word used here was rendered in this manner in the ancient versions. On the meaning of the word, Bochart may be consulted, “Hieroz.” P. i. Lib. c. xliii. pp. 433-437; Rosenmuller on Genesis 33:19; Schultens “in loc;” and the following work in Ugolin’s “Thes. Antiq. Sacr.” Tom. xxviii., “Otthonis Sperlingii Diss. de nummis non cusis,” pp. 251-253, 298-306. The arguments of Bochart to prove that this word denotes a piece of money, and not a lamb, as it is rendered by the Vulgate, the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Arabic, and by Onkelos, are briefly:

(1) That in more than an hundred places where reference is made in the Scriptures to a lamb or a sheep, this word is not used. Other words are constantly employed.

(2) The testimony of the rabbis is uniform that it denotes a piece of money. Akiba says that when he traveled into Africa he found there a coin which they called kesita. So Rabbi Solomon, and Levi Ben Gerson, in their commentaries, and Kimchi, Pomarius, and Aquinas, in their Lexicons.

(3) The authority of the Masoretes in relation to the Hebrew word is the same. According to Bochart, the word is the same as קשׁט qāshaṭ or קשׁט qosheṭ, changing the Hebrew letter שׁ for the Hebrew letter שׂ. The word means true, sincere, Psalms 60:6; Proverbs 22:21. According to this, the name was given to the coin because it was made of pure metal - unadulterated silver or gold. See this argument at length in Bochart.

(4) The feminine form of the noun used here shows that it does not mean a lamb - it being wholly improbable that the friends of Job would send him ewe lambs only.

(5) In the early times of the patriarchs - as early as the time of Jacob - money was in common use, and the affairs of merchandise were conducted by that as a medium; Genesis 17:12-13; Genesis 47:16.

(6) The statement in Acts 7:16, leads to the supposition that “money” is referred to by the word as used in Genesis 33:19. If, as is there supposed, the purchase of the same field is referred to in Genesis 23:16; Genesis 23:19, then it is clear that money is referred to by the word. In Genesis 23:16 it is said that Abraham paid for the field of Ephron iu Macpelah “four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.” And if the same purchase is referred to in both these places, then by a comparison of the two, it appears that the kesita was heavier than the shekel, and contained about four shekels. It is not easy, however, to determine its value.

And every one an earring of gold - The word rendered “earring” (נזם nezem) may mean a ring for the nose Genesis 24:47; Isaiah 3:21; Proverbs 11:22; Hosea 2:13, as well as for the ear, Genesis 35:4. The word “ring” would better express the sense here without specifying its particular use; compare Judges 8:24-25; Proverbs 25:12. Ornaments of this kind were much worn by the ancients (compare Isaiah 3:0; Genesis 24:22), and a contribution of these from each one of the friends of Job would constitute a valuable property; compare Exodus 32:2-3. It was not uncommon for friends thus to bring presents to one who was restored from great calamity. See the case of Hezekiah, 2 Chronicles 32:23.

Verse 12

So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job - To wit, by giving him double what he had possessed before his calamities came upon him; see Job 42:10.

For he had fourteen thousand sheep ... - The possessions which are here enumerated are in each instance just twice as much as he possessed in the early part of his life. In regard to their value, and the rank in society which they indicated, see the notes at Job 1:3. The only thing which is omitted here, and which it is not said was doubled, was his “household,” or “husbandry” (Job 1:3, “margin”), but it is evident that this must have been increased in a corresponding manner to have enabled him to keep and maintain such flocks and herds. We are not to suppose that these were granted to him at once, but as he lived an hundred and forty years after his afflictions, he had ample time to accumulate this property.

Verse 13

He had also seven sons and three daughters - The same number which he had before his trials. Nothing is said of his wife, or whether these children were, or were not, by a second marriage. The last mention that is made of his wife is in Job 19:17, where he says that “his breath was strange to his wife, though he entreated her for the children’s sake of his own body.” The character of this woman does not appear to have been such as to have deserved further notice than the fact, that she contributed greatly to increase the calamities of her husband. It falls in with the design of the book to notice her only in this respect, and having done this, the sacred writer makes no further reference to her. The strong presumption is, that the second family of children was by a second marriage. See Prof. Lee on Job, p. 26. It would not, however, have fallen in with the usual manner in which “a wife” is mentioned in the Scriptures, to represent her removal as “in any circumstances” a felicitous event, and, as it could have been represented in no other light, if it had actually occurred, it is delicately passed over in silence. Even under all these circumstanccs - with a former wife who was impious and unfeeling; who served only to aggravate the woes of her holy and much afflicted husband; who saw him pass through his trials without sympathy and compassion - a second marriage is not mentioned as a desirable event, nor is it referred to as one of the grounds on which Job could felicitate himself on his return to prosperity. The children are mentioned; the whole reference to the second marriage relation, if it occurred, is delicately passed over. Under no circumstances would the sacred penman mention it as an event laying the ground for felicitation.

Verse 14

And he called the name of the first, Jemima - It is remarkable that in the former account of the family of Job, the names of none of his children are mentioned, and in this account the names of the daughters only are designated. “Why” the names of the daughters are here specified, is not intimated. They are significant, and they are “so” mentioned as to show that they contributed greatly to the happiness of Job on the return of his prosperity, and were among the chief blessings which gladdened his old age. The name Jemima (ימימה yemı̂ymâh) is rendered by the Vulgate “Diem,” and by the Septuagint, Ἡμέραν Hēmeran, “Day.” The Chaldee adds this remark: “He gave her the name Jemima, because her beauty was like the day.” The Vulgate, Septuagint, and Chaldee, evidently regarded the name as derived from יום yôm, “day,” and this is the most natural and obvious derivation. The name thus conferred would indicate that Job had now emerged from the “night” of affliction, and that returning light shone again on his tabernacle. It was usual in the earliest periods to bestow names because they were significant of returning prosperity (see Genesis 4:25), or because they indicated hope of what would be in their time Genesis 5:29, or because they were a pledge of some permanent tokens of the divine favor; see the notes at Isaiah 8:18. Thomas Roe remarks (“Travels,” 425), that among the Persians it is common to give names to their daughters derived from spices, unguents, pearls, and precious stones, or anything which is regarded as beautiful or valuable. See Rosenmuller, “Alte u. neue Morgenland,” No. 779.

And the name of the second Kezia - The name Kezia (קציעה qetsı̂y‛âh) means cassia, a bark resembling cinnamon, but less aromatic. “Gesenius.” It grew in Arabia, and was used as a perfume. The Chaldee paraphrasist explains this as meaning that he gave her this name because “she was as precious as cassia.” Cassia is mentioned in Psalms 45:8. as among the precious perfumes. “All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.” The agreeableness or pleasantness of the perfume was the reason why the name was chosen to be given to a daughter.

And the name of the third, Keren-happuch - Properly, “horn of stibium.” The “stibium” (פוך pûk), was a paint or dye made originally, it is supposed, from sea-weed, and afterward from antimony, with which females tinged their eye-lashes; see the notes at Isaiah 54:11. It was esteemed as an ornament of great beauty, chiefly because it served to make the eye appear larger. Large eyes are considered in the East as a mark of beauty, and the painting of black borders around them gives them an enlarged appearance. It is remarkable that this species of ornament was known so early as the time of Job, and this is one of the cases, constantly occurring in the East, showing that fashions there do not change. It is also remarkable that the fact of painting in this manner should have been considered so respectable as to be incorporated into the name of a daughter; and this shows that there was no attempt at “concealing” the habit. This also accords with the customs which prevail still in the East. With us, the materials and instruments of personal adorning are kept in the back-ground, but the Orientals obtrude them constantly on the attention, as objects adapted to suggest agreeable ideas. The “process” of painting the eye is described by a recent traveler to be this: “The eye is closed, and a small ebony rod smeared with the composition is squeezed between the lids so as to tinge the edges with the color. This is considered to add greatly to the brilliancy and power of the eye, and to deepen the effect of the long black eye-lashes of which the Orientals are proud. The same drug is employed on their eye-brows; used thus, it is intended to elongate, not to elevate the arc, so that the inner extremities are usually represented as meeting between the eyes. To Europeans the effect is at first seldom pleasing; but it soon becomes so.” The foregoing cuts give a representation of the vessels of stibium now in use.

Verse 15

And their father gave them inheritance among their brethren - This is mentioned as a proof of his special regard, and is also recorded because it was not common. Among the Hebrews the daughter inherited only in the case where there was no son, Numbers 27:8. The property was divided equally among the sons, with the exception that the oldest received a double portion; see Jahn’s “Bib. Arch.” section 168. This custom, prevailing still extensively in the East, it seems existed in the time of Job, and it is mentioned as a remarkable circumstance that he made his daughters heirs to his property with their brothers. It would also be rather implied in the passage before us that they were equal heirs.

Verse 16

After this Job lived an hundred and forty years - As his age at the time his calamities commenced is not mentioned, it is of course impossible to determine how old he was when he died. The Septuagint, however, has undertaken to determine this, but on what authority is unknown. They render this verse, “And Job lived after this affliction an hundred and seventy years: so that all the years that he lived were two hundred and forty.” According to this, his age would have been seventy when his afflictions came upon him; but this is a mere conjecture. Why the authors of that version have added thirty years to the time which he lived after his calamities, making it an hundred and seventy instead of an hundred and forty as it is in the Hebrew text, is unknown. The supposition that he was about seventy years of age when his calamities came upon him, is not an unreasonable one.

He had a family of ten children, and his sons were grown so as to have families of their own, Job 1:4. It should be remembered, also, that in the patriarchal times, when people lived to a great age, marriages did not occur at so early a period of life as they do now. In this book, also, though the age of Job is not mentioned, yet the uniform representation of him is that of a man of mature years; of large experience and extended observation; of one who had enjoyed high honor and a wide reputation as a sage and a magistrate; and when these circumstances are taken into the account, the supposition of the translators of the Septuagint, that he was seventy years old when his afflictions commenced, is not improbable. If so, his age at his death was two hundred and ten years. The age to which he lived is mentioned as remarkable, and was evidently somewhat extraordinary. It is not proper, therefore, to assume that this was the ordinary length of human life at that time, though it would be equally improper to suppose that there was anything like miracle in the case.

The fair interpretation is, that he reached the period of old age which was then deemed most honorable; that he was permitted to arrive at what was then regarded as the outer limit of human life; and if this be so, it is not difficult to determine “about” the time when he lived. The length of human life, after the flood, suffered a somewhat regular decline, until, in the time of Moses, it was fixed at about threescore years and ten, Psalms 90:10. The following instances will show the regularity of the decline, and enable us, with some degree of probability, to determine the period of the world in which Job lived. Noah lived 950 years; Shem, his son, 600; Arphaxad, his son, 438 years; Salah, 433 years; Eber, 464; Peleg, 239; Reu, 239; Serug, 230; Nahor, 248; Terah, 205; Abraham, 175; Isaac, 180; Jacob, 147; Joseph, 110; Moses, 120; Joshua, 110. Supposing, then, the age of Job to have been somewhat unusual and extraordinary, it would fall in with the period somewhere in the time between Terah and Jacob; and if so, he was probably contemporary with the most distinguished of the patriarchs.

And saw his sons,... - To see one’s posterity advancing in years and honor, and extending themselves in the earth, was regarded as a signal honor and a proof of the divine favor in the early ages. Genesis 48:11, “and Israel said unto Joseph, I had not thought to see thy face; and lo, God hath also showed me thy seed.” Proverbs 17:6, “children’s children are the crown of old men.” Psalms 128:6, “yea, thou shalt see thy children’s children;” compare Psalms 127:5; Genesis 12:2; Genesis 17:5-6; Job 5:25; and the notes at Isaiah 53:10.

Verse 17

So Job died, being old and full of days - Having filled up the ordinary term of human life at that period of the world. He reached an honored old age, and when he died was not prematurely cut down. He was “regarded” as an old man. The translators of the Septuagint, at the close of their version, make the following addition: “And it is written that he will rise again with those whom the Lord will raise up.” This is translated out of a Syrian book. “He dwelt indeed in the land of Ausitis, on the confines of Idumea and Arabia. His first name was Jobab; and having married an Arabian woman, he had by her a son whose name was Ennon. He was himself a son of Zare, one of the sons of Esau; and his mother’s name was Bosorra; so that he was the fifth in descent from Abraham. And these were the kings who reigned in Edom, over which country he also bore rule. The first was Balak, the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dannaba. And after Balak, Jobab, who is called Job; and after him, Asom, who was governor (ἡγεμών hēgemōn) from the region of Thaimanitis; and after him, Adad, son of Barad, who smote Madian in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Getham. And the friends who came to him were Eliphaz of the sons of Esau, the king of the Thaimanites; Bildad, the sovereign (τύραννος turannos) of the Saueheans; and Sopher, the king of the Manaians.” What is the authority for this statement is now entirely unknown, nor is it known from where it was derived. The remark with which it is introduced, that it is written that he would be raised up again in the resurrection, looks as if it were a forgery made after the coming of the Savior, and has much the appearance of being an attempt to support the doctrine of the resurrection by the authority of this ancient book. It is, at all events, an unauthorized addition to the book, as nothing like it occurs in the Hebrew.

Concluding Remarks

We have now gone through with an exposition of the most ancient book in the world, and the most difficult one in the sacred volume. We have seen how sagacious men reason on the mysterious events of Divine Providence, and how little light can be thrown on the ways of God by the profoundest thinking, or the acutest observation. We have seen a good man subjected to severe trials by the loss of all his property and children, by a painful and loathsome disease, by acute mental sorrows, by the reproaches of his wife, by the estrangement of his surviving kindred, and then by the labored efforts of his friends to prove that he was a hypocrite, and that all his calamities had come upon him as a demonstration that he was at heart a bad man. We have seen that man struggling with those arguments; embarrassed and perplexed by their ingenuity; tortured by the keenness of the reproaches of his friends; and under the excitement of his feelings, and the pressure of his woes, giving vent to expressions of impatience and irreverent reflection on the government of God, which he afterward had occasion abundantly to regret. We have seen that man brought safely through all his trials; showing that, after all that “they” had said and that “he” had said and suffered, he was a good man. We have seen the divine interposition in his favor at the close of the controversy; the divine approbation of his general character and spirit; and the divine goodness shown him in the removal of his calamities, in his restoration to health, in the bestowment on him of double his former possessions; and in the lengthening out his days to an honored old age. In his latter days we have seen his friends coming around him again with returning affection and confidence; and a happy family growing up to cheer him in his declining years, and to make him honored in the earth. In view of all these things, and especially of the statements in the chapter which closes the book, we may make the following remarks:

(1) The upright will be ultimately honored by God and man. God may bring afflictions upon them, and they may “seem” to be objects of his displeasure; but the period will arrive when he will show them marks of his favor. This may not “always,” indeed, be in the present life, but there will be a period when all these clouds will be dissipated, and when the good, the pious, the sincere friends of God, shall enjoy the returning tokens of his friendship. If his approbation of them is declared in no intelligible way in this life, it will be at the day of judgment in a more sublime manner even than it was announced to Job; if the whole of this life should be dark with storms, yet there is a heaven where, through eternity, there will be pure and unclouded day. In like manner, honor will be ultimately shown to the good and just by the world. At present friends may withdraw; enemies may be multiplied; suspicions may attach to a man’s name; calumny and slander may come over his reputation like a mist from the ocean.

But things will ultimately work themselves right. A man in the end will have all the reputation which he ought to have. He who has a character that “ought” to be loved, honored, and remembered, will be loved, honored, and remembered; and he who has such a character that he ought to be hated or forgotten, will be. It may not “always,” indeed, be in the present life; but there is a current of public favor and esteem setting toward a good man while living, which always comes up to him when he is dead. The world will do justice to his character; and a holy man, if calumniated while he lives, may safely commit his character to God and to the “charitable speeches” (“Bacon,”) of men, and to distant times, when he dies. But in most instances, as in the case of Job, if life is lengthened out, the calumniated, the reproached, and the injured, will find justice done them before they die. Reproaches in early or middle life will be succeeded by a fair and wide reputation in old age; the returning confidence of friends will be all the compensation which this world can furnish for the injury which was done, and the evening of life spent in the enjoyment of friendship and affection, will but precede the entrance on a better life, to be spent in the eternal friendship of God and of all holy beings.

(2) We should adhere to our integrity when passing through trials. They may be long and severe. The storm that rolls over us may be very dark, and the lightning’s flash may be vivid, and the thunder deep and long. Our friends may withdraw and reproach us; those who should console us may entreat us to curse God and die; one woe may succeed another in rapid succession, and each successive stroke be heavier than the last; years may roll on in which we may find no comfort or peace; but we should not despair. We should not let go our integrity. We should not blame our Maker. We should not allow the language of complaint or murmuring to pass our lips, nor ever doubt that God is good and true. There is a good reason for all that he does; and in due time we shall meet the recompense of our trials and our fidelity. No pious and submissive sufferer ever yet failed of ultimately receiving the tokens of the divine favor and love.

(3) The expressions of divine favor and love are not to be expected in the midst of angry controversy and heated debate. Neither Job nor his friends appear to have enjoyed communion with God, or to have tasted much of the happiness of religion, while the controversy was going on. They were excited by the discussion; the argument was the main thing; and on both sides they gave vent to emotions that were little consistent with the reigning love of God in the heart, and with the enjoyment of religion. There were high words; mutual criminations and recriminations; strong doubts expressed about the sincerity and purity of each other’s character; and many things were said on both sides, as there usually is in such cases, derogatory to the character and government of God. It was only after the argument was closed, and the disputants were silenced, that God appeared in mercy to them, and imparted to them the tokens of his favor.

Theological combatants usually enjoy little religion. In stormy debate and heated discussion there is usually little communion with God and little enjoyment of true piety. It is rare that such discussions are carried on without engendering feelings wholly hostile to religion; and it is rare that such a controversy is continued long, in which much is not said on both sides injurious to God - in which there are not severe reflections on his government, and in which opinions are not advanced which give abundant occasion for bitter regret. In a heated argument a man becomes insensibly more concerned for the success of his cause than for the honor of God, and will often advance sentiments even severely reflecting on the divine governmcnt, rather than confess the weakness of his own cause, and yield the point in debate. In such times it is not an inconceivable thing that even good people should be more anxious to maintain their own opinions than to vindicate the cause of God, and would be more willing to express hard sentiments about their Maker than to acknowledge their own defeat.

(4) From the chapter before us Job 42:11, we are presented with an interesting fact, such as often occurs. It is this: friends return to us, and become exceedingly kind “after” calamity has passed by. The kindred and acquaintances of Job withdrew when his afflictions were heavy upon him; they returned only with returning prosperity. When afflicted, they lost their interest in him. Many of them, perhaps, had been dependent on him, and when his property was gone, and he could no longer aid them, they disappeared of course. Many of them, perhaps, professed friendship for him “because” he was a man of rank, and property, and honor; and when he was reduced to poverty and wretchedness, they also disappeared of course. Many of them, perhaps, had regarded him as a man of piety; but when these calamities came upon him, in accordance with the common sentiments of the age, they regarded him as a bad man, and they also withdrew from him of course.

When there were evidences of returning prosperity, and of the renewed favor of God, these friends and acquaintances again returned. Some of them doubtless came back “because” he was thus restored. “Swallow-friends, that are gone in the winter, will return in the spring, though their friendship is of little value.” “Henry.” That portion of them who had been sincerely attached to him as a good man, though their confidence in his piety had been shaken by his calamities, now returned, doubtless with sincere hearts, and disposed to do him good. They contributed to his needs; they helped him to begin the world again they were the means of laying the foundation of his future prosperity; and in a time of real need their aid was valuable, and they did all that they could to minister consolation to the man who had been so sorely afflicted. In adversity, it is said, a man will know who are his real friends. If this is true, then this distinguished and holy patriarch had few friends who were truly attached to him, and who were not bound to him by some consideration of selfishness. Probably this is always the case with those who occupy prominent and elevated situations in life. True friendship is oftenest found in humble walks and in lowly vales.

(5) We should overcome the unkindness of our friends by praying for them; see Job 42:8, note; Job 42:10, note. This is the true way of meeting harsh reproaches and unkind reflections on our character. Whatever may be the severity with which we are treated by others; whatever charges they may bring against us of hypocrisy or wickedness; however ingenious may be their arguments to prove this, or however cutting their sarcasm and retorts, we should never refuse to pray for them. We should always be willing to seek the blessing of God upon them, and be ready to bear them on our hearts before the throne of mercy. It is one of the privileges of good people thus to pray for their calumniators and slanderers; and one of our highest honors, and it may be the source of our highest joys, is that of being made the instruments of calling down the divine blessing on those who have injured us. It is not that we delight to triumph over them; it is not that we are now proud that “we” have the evidence of divine favor; it is not that we exult that they are humbled, and that we now are exalted; it is that we may be the means of permanent happiness to those who have greatly injured us.

(6) The last days of a good man are not unfrequently his best and happiest days. The early part of his life may be harassed with cares; the middle may be filled up with trials; but returning prosperity may smile upon his old age, and his sun go down without, a cloud. His heart may be weaned from the world by his trials; his true friends may have been ascertained by their adhering to him in reverses of fortune, and the favor of God may so crown the evening of his life, that to him, and to all, it shall be evident that he is ripening for glory. God is often pleased also to impart unexpected comforts to his friends in their old age; and though they have suffered much and lost much, and thought that they should never “again see good,” yet he often disappoints the expectations of his people, and the most prosperous times come when they thought all their comforts were dead. In the trials through which we pass in life, it is not improper to look forward to brighter and better days, as to be yet possibly our portion in this world; at all events, if we are the friends of God, we may look forward to certain and enduring happiness in the world that is to come.

(7) The book, through whose exposition we have now passed, is a most beautiful and invaluable argument. It relates to the most important subject that can come before our minds - the government of God, and the principles on which his administration is conducted. It shows how this appeared to the reflecting people of the earliest times. It shows how their minds were perplexed with it, and what difficulties attended the subject after the most careful observation. It shows how little can be accomplished in removing those difficulties by human reasoning, and how little light the most careful observation, and the most sagacious reflections, can throw on this perplexing subject. Arguments more beautiful, illustrations more happy, sentiments more terse and profound, and views of God more large and comprehensive, than those which occur in this book, can be found in no works of philosophy; nor has the human mind in its own efforts ever gone beyond the reasonings of these sages in casting light on the mysterious ways of God. They brought to the investigation the wisdom collected by their fathers and preserved in proverbs; they brought the results of the long reflection and observation of their own minds; and yet they threw scarce a ray of light on the mysterious subject before them, and at the close of their discussions we feel that the whole question is just as much involved in mystery as ever. So we feel at the end of all the arguments of man without the aid of revelation, on the great subjects pertaining to the divine government over this world. The reasonings of philosophy now are no more satisfactory than were those of Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad, and it may be doubted whether, since this book was written, the slightest advance has been made in removing the perplexities on the subject of the divine administration, so beautifully stated in the book of Job.

(8) The reasonings in this book show the desirableness and the value of revelation. It is to be remembered that the place which the reasonings in this book should be regarded as occupying, is properly “before” any revelation had been given to people, or before any was recorded. If it is the most ancient book in the world, this is clear; and in the volume of revealed truth it should be regarded as occupying the first place in the order in which the books of revelation were given to man. As introductory to the whole volume of revelation - for so it should be considered - the book of Job is of inestimable worth and importance. It shows how “little” advance the human mind can make in questions of the deepest importance, and what painful perplexity is left after all the investigations that man can make. It shows what clouds of obscurity rest on the mind, whenever man by himself undertakes to explain and unfold the purposes of Deity. It shows how little philosophy and careful observation can accomplish to explain the mysteries of the divine dealings, and to give the mind solid peace in the contemplation of the various subjects that so much perplex man.

There was no better way of showing this than that adopted here. A great and good man falls. His comforts all depart. He sinks to the lowest degree of wretchedness. To explain this, and all kindred subjects, his own mind is taxed to the utmost, and four men of distinguished sagacity and extent of observation are introduced - the representatives of the wisdom of the world - to explain the fact. They adduce all that they had learned by tradition, and all that their own observation had suggested, and all the considerations which reason would suggest to them; but all in vain. They make no advances in the explanation, and the subject at the close is left as dark as when they began. Such an effect, and such a train of discussion, is admirably fitted to prepare the mind to welcome the teachings of revelation, and to be grateful for that volume of revealed truth which casts such abundant light on the questions that so perplexed these ancient sages. Before the book of revelation was given, it was well to have on record the result of the best efforts which man could make to explain the mysteries of the divine administration.

As a specimen of early poetry, and an illustration of the early views of science and the state of the arts, of incomparable beauty and sublimity, also, this book is invaluable. Almost four thousand years have passed away since this patriarch lived, and since the arguments recorded in the book were made and recorded. Men have made great advances since in science and the arts. The highest efforts, probably, of which the human mind is capable, have since been made in the department of poetry, and works have been produced destined certainly to live on to the consummation of all things. But the sublimity and beauty of the poetry in this book stand still unsurpassed, unrivaled. As a mere specimen of composition, apart from all the questions of its theological bearing; as the oldest book in the world; as reflecting the manners, habits, and opinions of an ancient generation; as illustrating more than any other book extant the state of the sciences, the ancient views of astronomy, geology, geography, natural history, and the advances made in the arts, this book has a higher value than can be attached to any other record of the past, and demands the profound attention of those who would make themselves familiar with the history of the race.

The theologian should study it as an invaluable introduction to the volume of inspired truth; the humble Christian, to obtain elevated views of God; the philosopher, to see how little the human mind can accomplish on the most important of all subjects without the aid of revelation; the child of sorrow, to learn the lessons of patient submission; the man of science, to know what was understood in the far distant periods of the past; the man of taste, as an incomparable specimen of poetic beauty and sublimity. It will teach invaluable lessons to each advancing generation; and to the end of time true piety and taste will find consolation and pleasure in the study of the Book of Job. God grant that this effort to explain it may contribute to this result. To that God who inclined my heart to engage in the attempt to explain this ancient book, and who has given me health, and strength, and the means to prosecute the study with advantage, I now devote this exposition. I trust it may do good to others; it has been profitable and pleasant to my own soul.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 42". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/job-42.html. 1870.
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