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THE BOOK of JOB.
THERE is, perhaps, no book of Scripture, that has so much divided interpreters, and afforded such a field of controversy, as the book of JOB: some supposing it of the remotest antiquity, written by Moses or Job himself; others bringing it down to a very low date; supposing it written by Ezra, at the time of the return from the Babylonish captivity. I shall not trouble my reader with a discussion of these various opinions: but, having given the matter the most impartial and mature consideration that I am able, shall lay before him the result of my inquiry, respecting the author, the time of writing, and the subject matter of this book. First, with respect to the author, I cannot help subscribing to their opinion, who believe him and his performance to be of the remotest antiquity, before Moses, and of the patriarchal age. That Job was a real person, and that his sufferings were real, I think, is universally agreed: but whether he himself, Elihu, or some other of his friends, were the relators of his sufferings, appears to me impossible to determine. Many learned men believe that Job himself was the writer: I am rather induced to think that it was some other person of his own age or time. That the book, secondly; is of the remotest antiquity; there appear, as I apprehend, many indisputable testimonies, which will occur in the course of our observations. Thirdly concerning the subject of this book in general, we agree with the learned Bishop Lowth, who determines it to contain the third and last trial of Job, which was made upon him by his three friends; the principal design whereof is, to teach men, that, considering the corruption, ignorance, and weakness of human nature, on the one hand; and the infinite wisdom and immense greatness of God on the other; they should renounce their own will, put their full trust in God, and submit themselves to him in all things with the deepest humility and reverence. This is the general end or argument of the poem: but the whole history, taken together, properly contains a high example of consummate and rewarded patience. We have called the book a poem; and such it is, of the dramatic kind, though by no means a complete drama. The interlocutory parts of the work are in metre. Respecting the place or scene of action, see the note on the first verse. Possibly we shall be thought not just to the argument, if we omit to mention, that Bishop Warburton has strongly endeavoured to prove this book a dramatic allegory, composed by Ezra for the consolation of the Jews returning from Babylon; wherein, under the characters of Job and his friends, are figured those Jews and their three great enemies, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem. Attracted by the lure of this allegory, another writer has carried it so far as to allegorize those parts which the bishop wisely omitted to touch upon, and by his friendly efforts has done more, perhaps, to confute the bishop's system than any of his direct opposers. But on this head we refer our readers to the ingenious Mr. Peters's Critical Dissertation on the book of Job, and to Bishop Lowth's excellent 32nd and following Lectures.
CHARACTER OF JOB.
The character of Job affords us such a spectacle, as Seneca, alluding to the shews of gladiators so common among the Romans, says, was worthy of the Deity himself to look upon; viz. that of a pious and good man, combating adversity; and, among other miseries of an extraordinary kind, vexed with the unjust suspicions and peevish accusations of his mistaken friends.
And here we find him using every argument that could be thought of in his own defence; to cure them, if possible, of their mistake, and to persuade them of his innocence; appealing to the general course of Providence, which, for the most part, deals out things promiscuously, and often involves the good and bad in the same common calamity; directing them to instances, within their own knowledge, of those who had been as wicked as they were great, and yet had lived a long course of years in prosperity, and died at last in peace, and been buried with great pomp; so that no visible judgment had overtaken them, in their lives, or in their deaths.
When this view of Providence, so true and evident to experience, still wanted force to remove an obstinate error, he puts them in mind of the future judgment, which was the proper season for reward and punishment; and declares, in the most solemn manner, his hopes of being acquitted there.
When all this would not do, but they still disbelieve and persecute him, he is driven to the last argument which a modest man would make use of, and appeals to his own public and private behaviour in the whole course of his life: and upon this occasion he displays such a set of admirable virtues, and shews the piety, the prudence, the humanity of his conduct, in so amiable a light, with such a noble freedom, and, at the same time, such an air of truth, that I question whether there be any thing of the kind more beautiful or instructive in all antiquity; perhaps a finer picture of a wise and good man was never drawn. How prudent and upright in his decisions, as a magistrate or judge! How just and benevolent in his domestic character, as a father of a family! How untractable to all the allurements of pleasure, in the height of his prosperity, and how sensible to the complaints and miseries of others! And, above all, how remarkably pious in his principles! How careful to build his virtue upon its own solid basis, religion, or the fear of God! If I were to produce the proofs of this, I must transcribe the whole 29th and 31st chapters. But with all these great and excellent qualities, we cannot but take notice of some little mixture of allay and imperfection. For, a perfect character, however it may have existed in idea, it is certain, never yet appeared above once upon the real stage of the world.
We must forgive this good man, therefore, the little excursions and passionate complaints which the extremity of his sufferings now and then forced from him. His despair and weariness of life; his often wishing for death; his eagerness to come upon his trial; his earnest requests, and even expostulations with his judge, to bring him to it, or, at least, to acquaint him with the reasons of these severe inflictions. These and the like, it must be owned, appear as shades and blemishes in the character of this great man, and may argue somewhat of impatience, even in this heroic pattern of patience.
A great deal, however, might be said in his excuse: as that his afflictions had something in them very astonishing, and beyond the common measure; that the distempers of the body have oftentimes a natural tendency to produce black thoughts, and a despondency of mind: to which may be added, the rash censures and suspicions of his friends, as they affected his reputation, which, to a generous mind, is the most valuable thing in the world, next to his integrity: it is no wonder that a treatment so inhuman, so undeserved, so unexpected, should provoke to an extremity a person borne down already with the weight of his misfortunes.
These things might certainly be offered in excuse for the little blemishes which appear in the speeches and conduct of this great man. But, after all, the best thing that can be pleaded in his behalf, and that which covers all his imperfections, is his own behaviour upon this occasion, and his making no excuse at all for them; but as soon as he was brought to recollect his errors, immediately confessing them with great simplicity, and the most profound humility and contrition. Chap. Job 40:3-18.40.4. Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile, what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth:—And again, chap. Job 42:3, &c. I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. But now mine eye seeth thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
The complacency and favour with which this humble acknowledgment was accepted by the Supreme Judge, and the bountiful reward bestowed upon this good man, as a present earnest of a still greater to be expected by him hereafter, will teach us this very acceptable and important truth: how ready God is to pass by the little weaknesses of human nature in one in whom there is a tried and resolute integrity still bent upon the doing of his duty, and determined, whatever may befal him, to adhere to God in all his trials and temptations.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Job had begun his humbling acknowledgments, chap. Job 40:4-18.40.5.; but now his convictions, much deeper and stronger, produce lowlier abasement before God.
1. He submits himself entirely to God. I know that thou canst do every thing; these wondrous instances of thy power convince me, that it is madness to contend with the Almighty, and folly to despair of what his power can do: none are so high that he cannot abase, none so low that he cannot restore and exalt them; and that no thought can be withholden from thee; the secrets of the soul are known to him; not a corrupt, fretful, or unbelieving thought rises without his notice.
2. He confesses his ignorance, sin, and folly. Who is he that hideth consel without knowledge? pretends to be wise above God. Let him take warning, and be admonished by me; it has been my case, with shame I acknowledge it: therefore have I uttered that I understood not. I have not had a right knowledge either of God's purity, or my own pollution; of his power, or my own weakness; of his wisdom, or my own ignorance: things too wonderful for me, which I knew not, have I spoken concerning the dispensations of his providence, and the mysteries of his government, mistaking his designs, and finding fault with God foolishly; in which my presumption, wilfulness, and pride, have appeared to my guilt and confusion.
3. He resolves now to change his tone, and turn the voice of contention into the language of prayer, as his only proper method of approaching God. Hear, I beseech thee, though I own myself undeserving of thy notice and regard, and I will speak; not in self-defence, but in humbling confession; I will demand of thee or make my request to thee; and declare thou unto me, answer my petition in pardoning my sin, and instruct me in the right way, that I may not err again.
4. He feels and owns the deep sense he had of his sinfulness. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; his parents and teachers had given him good instructions concerning the perfections of God; and he had probably received revelations from him; but now mine eye seeth thee; never before was such a discovery made to his mind, of the sovereignty, power, wisdom, and justice of God, in all his providential dispensations. Probably now also in the human form God appeared visible, while he opened Job's understanding to a clear view of his nature, glory, and infinite perfections, and manifested them to him in the appearance or figure of an incarnate Redeemer. Wherefore, I abhor myself, and all the hard speeches that I have spoken, and repent in dust and ashes, desiring to testify my grief and shame, and renounce henceforward every thought and deed contrary to thy holy will. Thus must every real penitent return to God, (1.) under a divine conviction, which no human arguments can produce without the spirit of God. (2.) This sense of sin will be deep and lasting, yea, increasing with clearer views of God's purity. (3.) We must come with heart-felt anguish for the dishonour we have brought on God, and heart-felt shame and self-loathing, which are the genuine expressions of true repentance. (4.) With an humble hope, that, vile and loathsome as we are, God will not reject us, but pity and pardon us, through the Redeemer of lost souls.
2nd, We must not think, because Job is first rebuked, that the cause is given against him, and his accusers justified. No. Though he deserved reproof, they deserved it more. God, while he brings Job to acknowledge what he had spoken amiss, will justify him from their unjust aspersions, and cover them with confusion.
1. Job is exalted. After the Lord had spoken these words unto Job, convinced and humbled him, pardoned and accepted him, then he appears to justify and honour him. [1.] He acknowledges him his servant, repeatedly calling him by this respectable title, as a testimony of his fidelity in the main, though through temptation and infirmity he had erred, and spoken unadvisedly. [2.] He declares, that in the controversy Job had come nearest to the truth, and spoken more wisely and honourably of him and his providences, than his friends; in denying that prosperity was the criterion of godliness, or affliction in this world of hypocrisy and wickedness; and extending his views to a future state, where the retribution of every man's work was to be expected. [3.] He appoints him to be their advocate; putting this honour upon him, well knowing the spirit of charity in his heart, and how ready he would be to pray for his persecutors. Note; (1.) Whom God pardons, he delights to honour. (2.) A faithful servant of Christ may err, or be overtaken with a fault; but God, who sees the heart, and the root of the matter in him, will not disclaim his relation to him. (3.) Where there is much wrong mixed with what is right, we must not condemn the whole for a part, any more than we should cast away the ore, because it comes from the earth mixed with dross. (4.) They who have tasted God's pardoning love to their own souls, will think no injury too great to be forgiven or forgotten; or refuse to open the arms of love to their bitterest enemy. (5.) Job was herein a lively figure of the Saviour of sinners, who alone could offer the sacrifice that God would accept, in his deepest distress prayed for his murderers, and ever lives to intercede for the transgressors.
2. Job's friends are cast down, and brought to his feet in abasement. Perhaps while they heard God's address to Job alone, they thought the verdict was for them; but now God would make them know, that, though Job had offended, they had exceeded in offence. He had spoken some things wrong, but they many more; laying down false hypotheses of his general dealings with men; condemning the righteous unjustly, and misinterpreting the rod of love into the stroke of judgment; making him sad, whom they should have comforted. For this, God's wrath was kindled against them; and, though they were good men, in this they had deserved to be punished; and therefore they must bring a sacrifice of atonement, as the expiation of their guilt. They must humble themselves, not only before God, but before Job, acknowledging their evil, desiring his prayers, and bringing their sacrifices to him, whose prayers for them should be accepted. Note; (1.) It is a dangerous thing to judge rashly of men's spiritual state, except in cases of open vice; and a high provocation against God, as well as an injury to our brethren. (2.) The best of God's saints are exposed to the severest censures, and even good men will be sometimes criminally severe. (3.) We must not expect forgiveness from God, unless we have, to the uttermost, made our brother satisfaction for the injuries that we have done him. (4.) It is a mercy that we have one Advocate to go to, who, highly as we have offended him, never rejects the suit of the humbled soul.
3. We see all happily reconciled. Job's friends, without delay, submit to the divine injunction: he heartily forgives them, and prays for them. They who were lately so sharp in contention, now lift up together the voice of humble supplication, and, united in love, surround a throne of grace. God, well pleased, accepts the offering, and perfect reconciliation ensues on every side. Note; (1.) It is a blessed thing to see differences thus ended, and friends, separated by mistakes or folly, forgetting, forgiving, and embracing. (2.) How much more agreeable were it, instead of warmth of theological dispute about opinions allowedly not essential to salvation, to unite in love, where all true Christians are agreed, in prayer and praise, and to labour to walk more holily and humbly before God! (3.) There is but one way of reconciliation for the sinner, the Blood of Atonement: unless we plead that, we must be undone. (4.) While we are waiting on God in his instituted ways, we may take the comfort of our services, and rejoice in are acceptance, through the sacrifice and intercession of our adored Jesus.
3rdly, Better, says Solomon, is the end of a thing than the beginning; and we see it in Job's case abundantly verified. The restoration and increase of his prosperity were as astonishing as the suddenness and depth of his afflictions.
1. God eminently appeared for him. When he prayed for his friends, blessings came upon his own head; the Lord turned his captivity, restored his body from Satan's bands, and his mind from the terrors and distress with which it had been agitated; and, withal, doubled the possessions of which he had been deprived. Thus his fidelity was rewarded in this life, his credit restored in the eyes of men, and his comforts secured on a more solid basis than before. Note; Though this life, to a faithful believer, may in temporal matters sometimes be compared with Job's situation in his afflictions, at least in some degree, yet he may expect a deliverance from his captivity, where his prosperity will be beyond even Job's here, unspeakable and eternal.
2. His friends and acquaintance, who had been estranged from him, returned to visit and to comfort him, sympathizing in his affliction; and, not content with empty pity, each, according to their ability, made him handsome presents. God now inclined their hearts to assist him: probably, the approbation that God had given of his character removed their suspicions of his integrity, which had led them to neglect him; and the fear of God's displeasure, testified against his three friends who had been so severe upon him, made them desirous of an interest in Job's prayers for themselves also. Note; (1.) God has all men's hearts in his hands, and can strangely incline them to execute his designs. (2.) True charity and friendship will not merely bring the kind wish, but the ready generous assistance.
3. A remarkable increase attended him. His cattle, from the stock with which his friends furnished him, soon doubled the number that he had lost; and, above all his riches, the blessing of God upon them made them especially valuable. And thus his latter end was greater than his beginning; more wealthy, more respected, and more happy. Note; (1.) God's blessing upon honest endeavours will make a little to afford great increase. (2.) Respecting outward prosperity, a good man often finds a provision made for him in his aged days beyond the most sanguine expectations of his youth; while his soul also, fraught with the riches of divine grace, which are the best portion, shines brighter as he draws to his end; till his glorious inheritance comes, and he leaves a perishing world for an everlasting kingdom.
4. His family was wonderfully restored; he had the same number of sons and daughters as before. The names of the latter are recorded: Jemima, the day; Kezia, a fragrant spice; Kerenhappuch, the horn of paint. It is remarked of them, that they were persons of singular beauty, like their names; fair as the day, fragrant as Cassia, and blooming brighter in their native hue than the tint of vermillion. And we may presume, that their mental accomplishments, and the exemplariness of their piety, were equal to the exquisiteness of their form, from the honourable distinction shewn them, in appointing them an inheritance with their brethren.
5. He enjoyed a long life, crowned with mercies. He saw his children to the fourth generation; an hundred and forty years he lived in a course of uninterrupted prosperity; and then gently bending to the grave, as the ripe corn in the time of harvest, he departed full of days, satisfied with life, and willing to exchange his possessions on earth for more enduring riches in the better world of glory.
Job, a just and a wealthy man, is accused by Satan before God, as if he worshipped God for reward. God delivers all the fortune of Job into the power of Satan; which being taken from him at once, he blesses God, with the most perfect submission.
Before Christ 1645.
Job 1:1. In the land of Uz— Uz is Edom, as plainly appears from Lamentations 4:21. Uz was the grandson of Seir the Horite, Genesis 20:18. 1Ch 1:38; 1 Chronicles 1:42. Seir inhabited the mountainous country called after him, before the time of Abraham; but, his posterity being driven out, the Edomites seized that country, Genesis 14:6. Deuteronomy 2:12. Two other persons are mentioned, of the same name of Uz; the one descended from Shem, the other the son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham; but it does not appear whether any country was named from either of these. Edom is part of Arabia Petraea, bordering upon the tribe of Judah to the south: Numbers 34:3. Jos 1:18 and therefore the land of Uz is properly placed between Egypt and the Philistines in Jer 25:20 where the order of places in enumerating the people, from Egypt even to Babylon, seems to be observed very accurately. The same people are placed in nearly the same order. Jeremiah 46:0.—l. See Bishop Lowth.
Whose name was Job— The name of Job, in the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, may, with the greatest probability, be derived from a root that signifies to love or desire; and might be rendered, the beloved or desired one. As to the stock from whence he sprung, it is most likely that he was descended from Uz, the eldest son of Nahor, brother to Abraham; but how far removed can only be conjectured from the age of his friends; the eldest of whom, Eliphaz the Temanite, could not be nearer than great-grand-son to Esau; for Esau begat Eliphaz, and the son of Eliphaz was Teman: so that, supposing this Eliphaz to be the son of Teman, (and higher it will be impossible to place him,) he will then be five generations from Abraham; but as Eliphaz was very much older than Job, nay older than his father, as appears from chap. Job 15:10 and considering that Abraham was very old before he had a son by Sarah, and that Rebecca, grand-daughter to Nahor by Bethuel, perhaps his youngest son, was of an age proper to be wife to Isaac; we shall, probably, not be wide of the mark, if we allow Job to be at least six, if not seven, generations removed from Nahor. The age, therefore, in which he lived, must have coincided with the latter years of the life of Jacob, with those of Joseph, and the descent into and sojourning in Egypt; his afflictions must have happened during the sojourning, about ten years before the death of Joseph; and his life must have been prolonged to within fourteen years before the departure of the Israelites from Egypt; that is, the year of the world 2499. The number of the years of the life of Job will be, according to this calculation, about 200; which, for that age of the world, and especially considering that Job was blessed with a remarkably long life as a reward for his suffering and integrity, will not appear very extraordinary; for Jacob lived 147 years; Levi, his son, 137; Kohath, his grandson, 133; and Amram, his great-grandson, and father of Moses, 137; Moses also lived 120 years. All these were his cotemporaries, some older, some younger than Job; so that this seems to agree extremely well with that circumstance of his history. Heath.
Job 1:3. The greatest of all the men of the east— Grotius and others observe, that Job's being here called the greatest of all the men of the east, is an argument that the book must have been written by some Israelite, or inhabitant of the land of Canaan; Job's country lying eastward from thence, and it being usual with the Hebrews to call Arabia the east. But if it was usual with any other people beside the Hebrews to call Arabia the east, then this can be no argument that the writer of the book was a Hebrew; and here, therefore, I must borrow a conjecture from Mr. Mede, that the Israelites learned this language while they sojourned among the Egyptians. It appears probable from this circumstance, that Arabia lay due east from Egypt, but not from Canaan; moreover, it was hither chiefly that the commerce of the eastern countries flowed. The spices of Arabia, in particular, were carried in great quantities to Egypt, and that as anciently as Jacob's days, as we learn from Genesis 37:25. Now an intercourse of commerce, carried on from Arabia to Egypt, that is, from east to west, might make it as customary for the Arabians to call themselves, with respect to these western parts, the east, as for the Egyptians, or any other people, to call Arabia so: I think we have a plain example of this, Mat 2:2 where the wise men, supposed by Grotius himself to be inhabitants of Arabia, call their own country the east; Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east; which cannot be meant of the place or site of the star, for that, probably, stood west from them, but of the country from whence they came. If an Arabian, therefore, in our Saviour's time, might call his country the east, why not an Arabian in Job's time? See Peters. Bishop Lowth observes, that all those different nations, and mingled people, as they are called Jer 25:20 who dwelt between Egypt and the Euphrates, bordering upon Judea to the south and east, particularly the Edomites, Amalekites, Midianites, Moabites, and Ammonites, were styled easterns, (see Jdg 6:3 and Isaiah 11:14.) and of these, certainly, the Edomites and Amalekites were situated to the south of Judea. See Numbers 34:3; Numbers 13:29. 1 Samuel 8:10. The case seems to be this: the whole country between Egypt and the Euphrates was called the east, first with respect to Egypt, and then absolutely, without any reference to the situation of the speaker. See 1 Kings 4:30.
Job 1:4. Every one his day— Schultens has shewn, that the word יומו iomo, imports his birth-day. So ch. Job 3:1. Job is said to have cursed his day; i.e. the day of his birth. The verse might be rendered, And his sons had a constant custom to make a family-feast, every one on his birth-day; and they sent and invited their three sisters, &c. Herodotus informs us, that the Orientals in general, and the Persians in particular, were remarkable for celebrating their birthdays with great festivity and luxury.
Job 1:5. When the days of their feasting were gone about— As the days of their feasting went about. By sanctifying them is meant, his preparing them, by lustrations and other ritual ceremonies, to perform divine service with him, and to render God propitious to them; see Exo 19:10 and 1Sa 16:5 where to sanctify, or cleanse, is used for the care of approaching to sacred rites, washed and clean. The Hebrew word כרךֶ barek, signifies, to bless; but it here implies, to renounce, or bid adieu to, because we bid adieu to, or take our leave of, those things which we abandon or renounce. It is therefore used with great elegance in this sense, to signify, they renounced God; and this signification is still softened, and rendered more elegant, by the addition of the words in their hearts. Thus did Job continually, means every year; that is, on every annual return of each of his sons' birth-days. See Schultens.
Job 1:6. Now there was a day— It came to pass on the day when, &c. Heath. Thus denoting some determinate time, when the sons of God, i.e. the angels, (called the sons of God, because they were like unto God, in being immortal, see Luke 20:36.) came to present themselves. The verb להתיצב lehithiatseb, rendered present themselves, expresses the attendance and assiduity of ministers appearing before their king to receive his commands. This account of the angels and Satan's appearing before God, must be understood as a prophetical representation, similar to that in 1 Kings 22:19. The scripture speaks of God after the manner of men; for there is a necessity of condescending to our capacities, and of suiting the revelation to our apprehensions. As kings, therefore, transact their most important affairs in a solemn council or assembly, so God is pleased to represent himself as having his council likewise, and as passing the decrees of his providence in an assembly of his holy angels. We have here, in the case of Job, the same grand assembly held, as was before in that of Ahab, 1 Kings 22:0 the same host of heaven, called here the sons of God, presenting themselves before Jehovah; as in the vision of Micaiah, they are said to stand on his right hand, and on his left. A wicked spirit appeared among them, here called שׂטן Satan, or the adversary, and there a lying spirit; bent on mischief both, and ready to do all the hurt that they were able, or as far as God would give them leave; but, nevertheless, both under the control of his power, and suffered to go thus far and no farther, as might best serve the wise ends of his justice and his providence. The imagery, in short, is just the same; similis διατυπωσις, as Grotius observes: and the only difference is in the manner of the relation. Micaiah, as a prophet, and in the actual exercise of his prophetic office, delivers it as he received it, that is, as in vision. I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, &c. The other, as an historian, interweaves it with the history, and tells us, in the same plain narrative stile, There was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, as he does, There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job. The things delivered to us by these two sacred writers are in substance the same, equally high, and above the reach of mere human sight and knowledge: but the manner of delivering them is different; by each as suited best their several purposes, and both, no doubt, by inspiration and direction of Almighty God. This, then, is the prophetical way of representing things, as to the manner of doing them; which, whether done exactly in the same manner or not, concerns not us to know, but which are really done; and God would have them described as done in this manner, to make the more lively and more lasting impression on us. At the same time it must not be forgotten, that representations of this kind are founded in a well-known and established truth, I mean the doctrine of angels good and bad: a point revealed, no doubt, from the beginning; and without a previous knowledge whereof, the visions of the prophets could scarcely be intelligible: see Genesis 28:0. We would just observe, that from the prophetical stile being used by the writer of this book, we have reason to conclude, that he must have been a prophet, i.e. an inspired person; for, otherwise, a man of that sense and piety which the book shews him to be, would never presume to counterfeit the prophetic stile, or usurp a privilege or character which did not belong to him. See Peters, p. 121 who, in his 89th and following pages, has largely endeavoured to disprove what Bishop Warburton observes respecting the word Satan. See 1Ki 22:21 and the note on the next chapter of this book, Job 1:7.
Job 1:8. Hast thou considered my servant Job, &c.?— The Hebrew, לבךֶ השׂמת hasamta libbeka, literally signifies, hast thou put thy heart, &c. The words going to and fro, &c. in the preceding verse, imply roving about with an evil intention, and with a determined resolution of doing mischief; in allusion to which, Satan is now questioned by the Deity, whether he had viewed Job with his natural malignity, and with an intention to involve him in misery. Schultens.
Job 1:10. Hast not thou made an hedge about him, &c.— i.e. Hast thou not protected him with a thorny and inaccessible defence? The word rendered increased, is a metaphor, taken from waters which have burst their bounds, and spread themselves on all sides round; so Job's substance had largely increased, and spread itself like a flowing torrent over the adjacent land. Schultens.
Job 1:11. He will curse thee to thy face— He will blaspheme thee, &c. He will, with the highest degree of insolence and contumacy, intirely renounce thee and religion, says Schultens. See the note on chap. Job 2:9.
Job 1:14. Feeding beside them— Feeding near them. Houbigant. Feeding as usual. Heath and Schultens. Job 1:15. The Sabeans fell upon them] Hebrew, שׁבא. Sheba fell upon them; Sheba was the general name of the nation; so the two kingdoms of the posterity of Jacob were called Judah and Israel. These spoilers seem to have been Job's near neighbours; for the Sabeans lay at the north-west of his country. The Chaldee says, he was plundered by Lilith, queen of Zamargad and Barthinnon; this last is undoubtedly the Barathena of Ptolemy, and Zamargad was probably the name of the city of the Sabeans, called by Ptolemy σταυη . The name Lilith is supposed to be a name of dignity, as Pharaoh was among the Egyptians. The Sabeans were the descendants of Abraham by Keturah, whose son Jokshan begat Sheba. The sons of Keturah were by Abraham sent into the east, Gen 25:6 inhabited Arabia the desart, and were notorious plunderers, as the Arabs are to this day. The Chaldeans, mentioned in the 17th verse, lay on the east and south-east of the Regio Ausitis, and were descended from Chesed, another son of Nahor; whence they are called Chesdim. Heath.
The fire of God— i.e. The lightning. It has been thought scarcely reconcileable with the truth of history, that lightning should have destroyed seven thousand sheep at once: but let it be remembered, that we do not pretend to account for this or the other particulars here mentioned in a natural and ordinary way. It is evident from the history, that there was something supernatural in it. It was the prince of the power of the air who raised this storm of thunder, and caused perhaps an extraordinary hail-shower with it; such as that recorded Exodus 9:0 which destroyed both man and beast that were left without shelter in the field; or that which destroyed the army of the confederate kings, Jos 10:11 or who shall say how far the power of this evil spirit may extend, when he is suffered to exert it? Peters.
Job 1:19. From the wilderness— From the further part, or across; whence it appears that Job's situation was on the northerly side of the Arabian desart; the stormy winds in those countries blowing from the southerly quarters. Heath. It has been urged by some, that it is very unlikely that so many misfortunes should fall at once upon this good man, as that the messenger of one bad piece of news had no sooner done speaking, than another and another comes. But it should be observed, that the unlikelihood of a thing, or its very rarely happening, is no argument against the truth or credibility of it; especially in a case so extraordinary as this, where the great adversary of mankind, who delights in doing mischief, had so large a scope permitted him. But, suppose we should here claim an allowance for the poetical way of describing things in expressions somewhat figurative and hyperbolical. It is very usual in common speech to say, when a man's misfortunes succeed each other very quick, that they followed close upon the heels of each other. Job's messengers here perhaps do the same; and the poet, as I take it, may have the privilege of drawing out a figure of speech to its full length. Further, as to the remarkable circumstance of only one servant escaping with the news of each calamity, it may be exactly according to the fact, for any thing that appears to the contrary. Besides, it is not told us by the historian, but by each messenger who brought the bad news, and who probably might think so in the hurry of his fears, though there were others saved beside himself; for, when people are dispersed in a fright, and run different ways, one who finds himself alone after a long flight, may easily conclude himself the only person that escaped. Peters.
Job 1:21. Naked shall I return thither— That is, into my mother's womb; used figuratively, for the bowels of the earth, the common mother of us all.
Job 1:22. Nor charged God foolishly— Nor spoke any thing inconsiderately against God. Houbigant. Any thing unreasonable or absurd against God. Heath.
REFLECTIONS.—We have here, 1st, the character and greatness of that venerable patriarch Job.
1. His pity was remarkable and eminent; and the more so, probably, because of the generally abounding wickedness. He was a perfect man, not in an absolute sense; but accepted in the Saviour, and holy and sanctified in heart before him. No allowed guile was entertained within, or known evil indulged in his conversation: one that feared God, continually influenced by a regard to his holy will, and diligently engaged in the exercises of his worship; and eschewed evil, or departed from evil, as abominable in the sight of God, and carefully abstained not only from the open acts, but from the appearances of evil.
2. His prosperity was as singular as his piety. His children were numerous, his household large, and his substance vast in flocks and herds, wherein at that time the riches of men consisted; so that in all the east there was none so great as Job. Note; (1.) Though it is not common, it is not impossible, to be very great and very good; abounding in the riches of the world, yet more with riches of grace from heaven. (2.) Worldly possessions are then valuable blessings, when in their hands who study to make them subservient to the interests of God, and the good of mankind.
2nd, Of his children. Though children are generally coveted among the first blessings, yet it is their conduct and behaviour that stamp them with real value; else they are troubles instead of comforts. Job had not only a pleasing number of both sexes, but,
1. He saw all his sons happily settled in the world; and, though each had his separate family, yet they lived together in that harmony which is so desirable among brethren. At stated times they visited each other in turn, and invited their sisters to join in their entertainment. Note; (1.) There is no evil in entertaining our friends, while in the fear and love of God we eat our bread with a cheerful heart. (2.) Brethren and near relations are especially bound to cultivate mutual love.
2. He continued to watch over them with pious care and holy jealousy, and they continued to pay him all dutiful respect and submission, and readily joined with him in his solemn exercises of devotion. When, therefore, the days of their feasting were ended, fearing lest in the midst of youthful mirth they had sinned, and some irregularity might have been committed; or cursed God in their hearts, that is, had entertained some unbecoming apprehension of God or of his providence, or been guilty of some neglect in their religious services; he sends to sanctify them, enjoins them to prepare for the sacrifice he was about to offer in their behalf; to examine themselves, and, seriously reflecting on the past days, to bring their humble confessions before the God of mercy, and lay their sins on the head of the beast, the type and figure of that one great sacrifice which should be offered for the sins of the world. Accordingly, early in the morning he arose, and offered for each a sacrifice of atonement; while they attended, and joined in the holy worship, expecting remission of sin through the atoning blood: and thus did Job continually, or every year, after every close of their annual circuit of entertainment: a remarkable instance of his paternal care and sincere godliness, and an evidence also of the true seriousness of his children, who so readily joined in the sacred service. Note; (1.) In the midst of feasting we are in danger of forgetting God and godliness, and need a double guard over our hearts. (2.) Job's example should be every parent's pattern; not rigidly severe, yet watchfully jealous over their children for good. (3.) They who serve God truly, serve him continually. (4.) We see from the beginning, that one grand point of true religion consisted in the vicarious substitution of the beast for the sinner, as pointing to the great atonement. The gospel thus was preached to them, even as unto us, according to their dispensation.
3rdly, We have seen Job great and good, and, to appearance, most firmly established; but this is a changing world, and nothing is certain to us beneath the sun. His piety and prosperity could not but provoke the envy of the devil, who waited impatiently for an occasion to gratify his malice upon this holy man. We have here,
1. Satan appearing among the sons of God. Some think that this is to be understood of God's people at their solemn seasons of devotion; for, even in their assemblies, the devil, who is yet permitted to range about the earth, finds a place, and watches, seeking whom he may devour: but my judgment on this point is different, as I have shewn before in the critical annotations.
2. God's inquiry, whence he came: not as unacquainted with his walks or designs, but as resenting his bold intrusion; or to lead him to what he saw was his malicious purpose concerning Job.
3. Satan's answer; which may be construed as the boast of pride, as though the earth were his own, and he stalked over the vast circumference, as a king in progress through his dominions; or it may refer to his restless misery, which suffers him nowhere to find ease; or to his indefatigable diligence in his hellish work of tempting and destroying the sons of men. Note; There is one who ever wakes and watches, and no time or place is secure from his snares: how wakeful then and watchful should we be, that we enter not into temptation!
4. God questions him concerning Job. Hast thou considered my servant Job, observed his piety, or set thine heart upon him, to do him some mischief? I know thou hast. God calls him my servant, the most honourable of all titles, and expressive of his high approbation of Job's fidelity in his service: that there is none like him in the earth; not only in the land of Uz, but probably among the sons of men, his fellow was not found for true piety; a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil. Such a character could not but awaken Satan's malice, and God knew what was his present design upon him. Note; (1.) God knows all the devices of the wicked one, and is able to disappoint them. (2.) They who approve themselves faithful servants to him, will find him a faithful God to them, to preserve them from the snares of the devil.
5. Satan's base insinuation and proposal. He had nothing whereof to accuse him; his character was allowedly sincere and upright; but, by a sly interrogation, Doth Job fear God for nought? he would insinuate, that his views were mercenary, and his service at bottom hypocritical. He enumerates, with a kind of envious grief, the many and singular mercies that he enjoyed; and therefore would infer, that if Job did serve God, he was well paid for it; but let God strip him of his worldly comforts, and he would soon see an alteration: He will curse thee to thy face. Such a severe trial Satan hoped would shake his fidelity; at least, his own malice would be gratified in Job's misery. Note; (1.) The commendations of others in the ears of envy grate harsh discord. (2.) Worldly ends and mercenary motives are still made, by Satan's instruments, the accusations against those whose conduct admits no evil thing justly to be said of them. They cannot prove them vile like themselves, therefore they will call them hypocrites. (3.) A sly question often conveys the vilest insinuation. (4.) They who use imprecations and oaths in common, shew with what master they have been, though even the devil here speaks with more reserve than many profane swearers, who openly blaspheme God, and invocate horrid vengeance on their souls.
6. God permits the trial that he suggested; all that he hath is in thy power. And this he does, not to gratify Satan's malice, or as doubting of Job's integrity; but to confound the devil, to make Job's graces appear more eminent, and to glorify the greatness of his own power and love in his support and salvation. Only upon himself put not forth thine hand. The devil's power is limited: He who permits his wickedness saith to him, Thitherto mayest thou go, but no farther; and this should ever encourage the children of God against despair.
7. Satan immediately proceeds to put in force the permission that he had received; eager to do mischief, and hoping, it may be, to prevail against this holy man, who sat secure, and little apprehended the impending storm. Note; Every moment we are in jeopardy, nor can foresee what is plotting against us by the prince of the power of the air.
4thly, We have,
1. The deceitful calm which preceded the terrible storm. The days of feasting were begun, the tillage going forward, the cattle grazing in fat pastures, and peace and prosperity seemed to reign in all Job's house. Note; In our happiest estate we had need ever rejoice with trembling.
2. The sudden storm arises, and successive messengers bring the most doleful tidings, each on the other's heels pursuing, till the last completes the wretched tale, and adds to the universal destruction of his substance, the utter desolations of his family. His cattle and servants at plough are attacked by a roving band of Sabeans; the men slain, the oxen and asses taken; his sheep, with the shepherds, burnt up with lightning; his camels seized, and his servants slaughtered by the Chaldeans; and last, and worst of all, his children buried together under the ruins of their elder brother's house, struck by the resistless whirlwind: afflictions so many, great, and aggravated, in which not only the hand of man appeared, but the fire of God was employed, that they seemed to bespeak his displeasure, and the vanity of all that integrity and uprightness which Job had so carefully maintained. Note; (1.) The children of God must not count it strange if evil upon evil pursue them; it is not to destroy, but to prove them. (2.) There are great depths in God's providential dealings, which now we cannot fathom. (3.) If the devil had but permission, he could soon arm his instruments for our destruction; but he is bound. (4.) The loss of a child is a bitter trial, his sudden death still more afflictive; but to lose many, all at once, in the midst of gaiety, and after every other earthly comfort was gone, this, to nature, would seem quite insupportable; but what cannot divine grace enable us to bear? Are any thus afflicted? let them remember the patience of Job.
5thly, Now behold the awful change which one short day has made; the greatest man of the east stripped of every comfort, naked and destitute. Well may we say of all this world, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Yet hath not Satan gained the least advantage; the darker the scene, the brighter shine the graces of the holy sufferer.
1. He felt with deepest sensibility the afflicting tidings, and with the most expressive signs of bitter anguish rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground. His grief was great; and was there not a cause? yet no indecent rage, no rash extravagance appears: he felt as a man, he mourned as a believer. Note; (1.) Religion never requires stoical apathy, but patient submission. (2.) Mourning for the dead is the tribute that we owe to humanity; only let us not sorrow as those who have no hope.
2. His resignation and piety appear most distinguished. He worshipped: far from being driven to curse God, as Satan vaunted he would, he blesses the hand which smote him, and humbly submits to the divine disposal. He said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and brought nothing into this world, and naked shall I return thither, to the dust from whence I came, and can carry nothing out of the world: if God, therefore, please to strip him of all, he is but as he was born, and as he must be when he dies. He acknowledges God's sovereign right to all that he possessed; The Lord gave, out of his undeserved bounty, and, when he pleases, may resume his gifts: the Lord hath taken away, nor have we any cause to complain: they were his own; and that he hath lent them to us so long, deserves our thankful acknowledgment; blessed be the name of the Lord. Note; (1.) No afflictions must indispose us for God's worship; the more we feel, the more need have we of his grace to support us. (2.) The consideration of the near approach of death, when we must be stripped of all, should wean our affections from a perishing world. (3.)
Every blessing is God's gift, and every suffering from his hand, or by his permission, whatever instrument is employed. This, therefore, should make us acknowledge him in all, bless the gracious giver for the loan, and restore it, without murmuring, whenever he demands it. (4.) Whatever we lose, enough is left to deserve our thankfulness, and to engage our praise. (5.) Where God bestows a spirit of meekness and patient submission, he leaves a greater blessing behind than any outward thing of which his providence deprives us.
3. God bears testimony to Job's gracious disposition. In all this Job sinned not: his grief was not excessive, his patience was exemplary, and his faith unshaken: nor charged God foolishy; did not blaspheme as Satan hoped, nor arraign the wisdom, mercy, or goodness of God in this afflictive dispensation. Note; In great trials, God gives his believing people great grace, and then we can do all things through Christ strengthening us.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Job 1". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany