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This chapter divides itself into three distinct portions. In the first, which extends to the end of Job 27:6, Job is engaged in maintaining, with the utmost possible solemnity (verse 2), both his actual integrity (verse 6) and his determination to hold fast his integrity as long as he lives (verses 4-6). In the second (verses 7-10) he implicates a curse upon his enemies. In the third (verses 11-23) he returns to the consideration of God's treatment of the wicked, and retracts the view which he had maintained controversially in Job 24:2-24, with respect to their prosperity, impunity, and equalization with the righteous in death. The retractation is so complete, the concessions are so large, that some have been induced to question whether they can possibly have been made by Job, and have been led on to suggest that we have here a third speech of Zophar's, such as "the symmetry of the general form" requires, which by accident or design has been transferred from him to Job. But the improbability of such a transfer, considering how in the Book of Job the speech of each separate interlocutor is introduced, is palpable; the dissimilarity between the speech and the other utterances of Zophar is striking; and.
Moreover Job continued his parable, and said. The word translated "parable" (משׁל) is only used previously in Numbers 23:1-30, and Numbers 24:1-25. It is thought to "comprehend all discourses in which the results of discursive thought are concisely or figuratively expressed" (Cook). The introduction of a new term seems to imply that the present discourse occupies a position different from that of all the preceding ones. It is not tentative, controversial, or emotional, but expresses the deliberate judgment of the patriarch on the subjects discussed in it. Note the repetition of the term in Job 29:1.
As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment, Job has not previously introduced any form of adjuration. His "yea has been yea, and his nay nay." Now, however, under the solemn circumstances of the occasion, when he is making his last appeal to his friends for a favourable judgment, he thinks it not inappropriate to preface what he is about to say by an appeal to God as his Witness. "As God liveth," or "As the Lord liveth," was the customary oath of pious Israelites and of God-fearing men generally in the ancient world (see Judges 8:19; Ruth 3:13; 1 Samuel 14:39; 1Sa 20:3; 2 Samuel 4:9; 2 Samuel 12:5; 1Ki 2:24; 1 Kings 17:21; 2 Kings 5:20; 2 Chronicles 18:13; Jeremiah 38:16). Job adds that the God to whom he appeals is he who has "taken away," or "withheld," his judgment, i.e. who has declined to enter with him into a controversy as to the justice of his doings (Job 9:32-35; Job 13:1-28 :31; Job 23:3-7). And the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; or, made my soul bitter. Though he slays him, yet does Job trust in God (Job 13:15). He is his Witness, his Helper, his Redeemer (Job 19:25).
All the while my breath is in me. This verse is parenthetic. Job claims in it to be in possession of all his faculties, notwithstanding his sufferings. The right translation would seem to be, "For my life is yet whole within me" (see the Revised Version). And the spirit of God is in my nostrils. The spirit of God, originally breathed into man's nostrils, whereby he became a living soul (Genesis 2:7), is still, Job says, within him, and makes him capable of judging and declaring what is right.
My lips shall not speak wickedness. Nothing shall induce him, Job says, to speak knowingly wicked words. Nor my tongue utter deceit. Neither will he be induced, whatever happens, to utter untruth. A confession of guilt, such as his friends have endeavoured to extort from him, would be both wicked and false.
God forbid that I should justify you; i.e. allow that you have been right all along, and that I have drawn these judgments down upon me by secret sins. Till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me. So long as he continues to live, Job will not cease to maintain his innocence. It has been repeatedly pointed out that he does not mean to declare himself absolutely without sin, but only to deny such heinous guilt as his friends imputed to him (see Job 22:5-9).
My righteousness I held fast, and will not let it go. Not only will Job never cease to maintain his integrity in the past, but he will hold fast to the same course of blameless life in the future. He will not "curse God, and die." Resolutely he will maintain his faith in God, and his dependence on him. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." My heart shall not reproach me so long as I live. This is probably the true meaning, though some suggest "My heart doth not reproach me for any of my days" Job determines to "have always a conscience void of offence, both toward God and toward man" (Acts 24:16; comp. Acts 23:1; 1Co 4:4; 2 Timothy 1:3; 1 John 3:21).
Let mine enemy be as the wicked. The nexus of this passage with what goes before is uncertain. Some suppose Job's full thought to have been, "Ye try to persuade me to act wickedly by making a false representation of my feelings and convictions; but I absolutely refuse to do so. Let that rather be the act of my enemy." Others regard him as simply so vexed by his pretended friends, who are his real enemies, that he is driven to utter an imprecation against them. And he that riseth up against me as the unrighteous. This is another instance of a mere pleonastic hemistich—a repetition of the preceding clause in different words.
For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained. The hypocrite and liar may get advantage in this life by his lies and his hypocrisy. He may deceive men; he may raise himself in their opinion; he may derive worldly advantage from having secured their approval But what will he have to look forward rein the end, when God taketh away (i.e. removeth from earth) his soul? Job evidently regards the soul that is "taken away" or removed from earth as still existing, still conscious, still capable of hope or of despair, and asks what hope of a happy future could the man who had lived a hypocrite entertain, when God required his soul, and he felt under God's judgment. The question reminds us of those words of our blessed Lord' "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?".
Will God hear his cry when trouble cometh upon Him? Can he expect that in the day of trouble, "when distress and anguish come upon him" (Proverbs 1:27), God will hear his cry, and respond to it, and give him relief? No; conscious hypocrisy—living a lie—cuts off from God, severs between a man and his Maker, makes all prayers for help vain, until it is repented of and put away from us. The man who dies in it is in a desperate case.
Will he delight himself in the Almighty? A further ill result of hypocrisy is noted. Not only does it alienate God from us, but it nile,ares us from God. The hypocrite cannot "delight in the Almighty." He must shriek from him, tear him, dislike to dwell on the thought of his presence and realize it. His natural inclination must be to withdraw his thoughts from God, and give himself up to the worldliness which has been his attraction to assume the hypocrite's part. Will he always call upon God? Can be even be depended on not to renounce the service of God altogether? The mutual alienation above spoken of must tend to check communion, to disincline to prayer and calling upon God, to erect a barrier between the hypocrite and the Almighty, which, though for a while it may be insufficient to withstand the force of use and wont, will yet, in the long run, be sure to tell, and will either put an end to prayer altogether, or reduce it to a formality.
It is impossible to deny that this passage directly contradicts Job's former utterances, especially Job 24:2-24. But the hypotheses which would make Job irresponsible for the present utterance and fix on him, as his steadfast conviction, the opposite theory, are unsatisfactory and have no solid basis. To suppose that Zophar is the real speaker is to imagine the absolute loss and suppression of two entire verses—one between verses 10 and 11, assigning the speech to him, and another at the beginning of Job 28:1-28; reintroducing Job and making him once more the interlocutor. That this should have happened by accident is inconceivable. Τὰ κατὰ τύχην οὐ πάνυ συνδυάζεται To ascribe it to intentional corruption by a Hebrew redactor, bent on maintaining the old orthodox view, and on falsely and wickedly giving the authority of Job to it, is to take away all authority from the existing text of the Hebrew Scriptures, and to open a door to any amount of wild suggestion and conjectural emendation. The other hypothesis—that of Eichhorn—that Job is here simply anticipating what his adversaries will say, though a less dangerous view, is untenable, since Job never does this without following up his statement of the adversaries' ease with a reply, and here is no reply whatever, but a simple turning away, after verse 23, to another subject. The explanation of the contradiction by supposing that Job's former statement was tentative and controversial, or else hasty and ill-considered, and that now, to prevent misconception, he determines to set himself right, is, on the other hand, thoroughly defensible, and receives a strong support from the remarkable introduction in verse 11, which "prepares us, if not for a recantation, yet (at any rate) for a modification of statements wrung from the speaker when his words flowed over from a spirit drunk with the poison of God's arrows".
I will teach you by (or, concerning) the hand of God. Job is now at last about to deliver his real sentiments respecting God's dealings with men in the world, and prefaces his. remarks with this solemn introduction, to draw special attention to them. He is aware that his previous statements on the subject, especially in Job 24:2-24, have been overstrained and exaggerated, and wishes, now that he is uttering his last words (Job 31:40), to correct his previous hasty utterances, and put on record his true views. That which is with the Almighty will I not conceal. By "that which is with the Almighty" Job means the Divine principles of action.
Behold, all ye yourselves have seen it. The true Divine scheme of action has been so long and so frequently made manifest—openly set forth in the sight o! men—that Job cannot believe that those whom he addresses are ignorant of it. They must themselves have seen the scheme at work. Why then are ye thus altogether vain? Why, then, do they not draw true inferences from the facts that come under their notice?
This is the portion of a wicked men with God. In "this" Job includes all that follows from verse 14 to verse 23—"this, which I am going to lay down." He pointedly takes up the words of Zophar in Job 20:29, admitting their general truth. And the heritage of oppressors, which they shall receive of the Almighty. Retribution is "their portion," "their heritage," i.e. the natural result and consequence of their precedent sin.
If his children be multiplied, it is for the sword. Among the items of prosperity which Job had assigned to the wicked man in one of his previous discourses (Job 21:8, Job 21:11) was a numerous and flourishing offspring. Now he feels forced to admit that, frequently at any rate, this flourishing offspring is overtaken by calamity (Job 21:19)—it falls by the sword, either in predatory warfare, to which it was bred up, or as the consequence of a blood-feud inherited from its progenitor. They who "take the sword," either in their own persons or in their posterity, "perish with the sword." And his offspring shall not be satisfied with bread. If they escape this fate, then, mostly, they fall into poverty, and suffer want, no one caring to relieve them, since they have an ill reputation, the memory of their parent's wickedness clinging to them long after his decease.
Those that remain of him shall be buried in death. Not simply "shall die," but shall "be buried," i.e. lost sight of, and forgotten, "in death." And his widows shall not weep (comp. Psalms 78:64). The deaths of his offspring shall not be lamented by their widows—a very grievous omission in the eyes of Orientals.
Though he heap up silver as the dust. The city of Tyro, we are told by Zechariah, "heaped up silver as the dust" (Zechariah 9:3), i.e. in vast quantities, beyond count. So might the wicked man do. He might also prepare raiment as the clay; i.e. fill his house with rich dresses, partly for his own wear, partly to be given as robes of honour to his friends and boon companions (setup. Genesis 45:22; 2Ki 5:22; 2 Kings 10:22, Matthew 6:19; James 5:2). Robes of honour are still kept in store by Eastern monarchs, and presented as marks of favour to visitors of importance,
He may prepare it, but the just shall put it on. The raiment thus accumulated shall pass from the wicked into the hands of the just, who at his death shall enter upon his inheritance (Job 20:18, Job 20:28). And the innocent shall divide the silver (see the first clause of Job 27:16).
He buildeth his house as a moth. The moth is the symbol of fragility, decay, and weakness. The wicked man's attempt to build himself up a house, and establish a powerful family, is no better than a moth's attempt to make itself a permanent habitation. As moths do not construct dwellings for themselves, it has been proposed (Merx) to read כעכבישׁ, "as a spider," for מעשׁ, "as a moth;" but the change is too great to be at all probable. May not the cocoon, from which the moth issues as. from a house, have been in Job's mind? The hawk-moth buries itself in a neat cave for the pupa stage; and there may have been even better examples in Uz. But we ourselves have not known these facts long, and therefore we need not be surprised to find Job making a mistake in natural history. And as a booth that the keeper maketh. Huts or lodges of boughs were set up in vineyards and orchards by those who had to watch them (see Isaiah 1:8; Lamentations 2:6). They were habitations of the weakest and frailest kind.
The rich man lieth down; rather, he lieth down rich (see the Revised Version). But he shall not be gathered. If we accept the present text, we may translate, But it (i.e. his wealth) shall not be gathered' and suppose his wealth to have consisted in agricultural produce. Or we may alter יאסף into יוֹסיף, and translate, He lieth down rich, but he shall do so no more—a correction to which the οὐ προσθήσει of the Septuagint points. He openeth his eyes, and he is not. Some translate, "It is not;" i.e. the harvest, in which his wealth consisted, is not—it has been all destroyed by blight or robbers Those who render, "He is not," generally suppose that he opens his eyes only to find himself in the hands of murderers.
Terrors take hold on him as waters (comp. Job 18:11). Terrors sweep over the wicked man like a flood of waters—vague terrors with respect to the past, the present, and the future. He fears the vengeance of these whom he has oppressed and injured, the loss of his prosperity at any moment by a reverse of fortune, and a final retribution at the hand of God commensurate with his ill desert. He is at all times uneasy; sometimes he experiences a sudden rush upon him of such gloomy thoughts, which overwhelms him, and sweeps him away like a mighty stream. A tempest stealeth him away in the night. While he is off his guard, as it were, in the night, a sudden storm bursts on him, and removes him from his place.
The east wind carrieth him away, and he departeth. The khamsin wind, coming with all its violence and burning heat, drives him before it, and is irresistible. And as a storm hurleth him out of his place. This is little more than a repetition of the previous hemistich. The man is swept from the earth by a storm of calamity
For God shall out upon him, and not spare. Some commentators regard the storm as still the subject, and translate, "For it shall east itself upon him [or, 'rush upon him'] and not spore" (Sohultens, Merx). The difference is not great, since the storm represents God's judgment. He would fain flee out of his hand; or, if the storm is meant, out of its hand.
Men shall clap their hands at him. Applauding, i.e. the just judgment of God upon him. And shall hiss him out of his place. Accompany with hisses his final ruin and downfall—hissing him, while they applaud the action of God in respect to him.
Job's first parable: 1. The transgressions of a godly man.
I. A DARING ACCUSATION.
1. Against whom directed? Against Eloah, the All-sufficient One; Shaddai, the All-powerful One, the Self-existent, Living One, whose universal dominion, resistless might, and ineffable majesty Bildad (Job 25:1-3) and Job himself (Job 26:5-14) had eloquently pictured. With exalted conceptions of the transcendent greatness of the invisible Supreme, whose continual presence also he vividly realized (Job 23:8, Job 23:9, Job 23:15), Job should have feared to speak rashly, much more accusingly, before him (Deuteronomy 28:58; Psalms 76:7, Psalms 76:11; Jeremiah 5:22). But clear and accurate notions of Divine truth do not always possess that moral force, even over good men, that they should. Job a little while ago was afraid of God and troubled at his presence (Job 23:15); now, having lost, perhaps, his former luminous sense of the Divine presence, he hesitates not to bring against him a serious accusation.
2. By whom uttered? Job, a man who had not only been fashioned by the hands of Shaddai (Job 10:8, Job 10:9), but depended for life every moment on the breath of Eloah in his nostrils (verse 3), and therefore should have paused ere he called into question the conduct of a Being who could any instant cause him to return to the dust; a feeble man, wasted into a skeleton, shivering on the edge of the tomb, expecting every second to pass into God's presence in the world of spirits—hence one who should have feared to affront the Eternal; a guilty man, i.e. a man who, however conscious of integrity, was yet sinful in God's sight, and whom accordingly it ill became to question the proceedings of God; and likewise a pardoned man, whom God hath accepted as righteous, in proof thereof sending answers to his prayers (verse 9), which only added to the rashness of Job in impeaching Eloah as he did.
3. Of what composed? The charge preferred against God was twofold in appearance, vexing Job's soul, and taking away Job's judgment, though in reality the two things were connected as cause and effect. What irritated and inflamed the patriarch's spirit was the thought which he here, indirectly indeed but none the less really on that account, utters, viz. that God, the righteous Judge of all the earth, had denied him justice. Already had he complained that God seemed to treat him as an enemy (Job 9:28; Job 13:24; Job 14:16, Job 14:17); never until now does he in terms so explicit accuse God of withholding from him justice. For this sin Job was afterwards reproved by Elihu (Job 34:5) and by God (Job 40:8).
II. AN OVERWEENING ASSUMPTION.
1. To declare the truth about himself. There was nothing wrong or extravagantly self-asserting in the declaration that "his lips should not speak wickedness, nor his tongue utter deceit" (verse 4; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 1:20). Not only should good men tell no lies (Exodus 20:16; Le Exodus 19:11; Psalms 34:13), though, alas! they sometimes do (Genesis 12:13; Genesis 26:7), but they should so hate untruthfulness (Proverbs 13:5) as to render the utterance of falsehoods impossible (Isaiah 63:8; Colossians 3:9). Job, however, claimed that he would state the exact truth about his own inward integrity, forgetting that "the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9), that God alone is competent to pronounce an accurate verdict on its character (Jeremiah 17:10; Job 36:4; Psalms 7:9; Proverbs 15:11), and that not even a saint can be trusted to deliver a perfectly unblessed judgment about himself.
"If self the wavering balance shake,
It's rarely right adjusted."
2. To reveal the mind of God concerning others. With an air of authority Job avows his ability to give what he had often stormed at his friends for professing to deliver—an oracular exposition of the Divine mode of action in dealing with ungodly men (verse 11). Though "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him" (Psalms 25:14; Proverbs 3:32), it is not absolutely certain that good men do not sometimes mistake their own cogitations for Heaven's inspirations. Under any circumstances good men, in setting forth what they believe to be Divine truth, should avoid the appearance and tone of dogmatical assertion. Least of all should they speak dictatorially to those whom they have already charged with the same offence (Romans 2:21).
III. AN OVERBOLD PROTESTATION.
1. With solemn adjuration. That Job should have maintained his integrity against the calumniations of his friends was both legitimate and reasonable. That he should even have exhibited a degree of warmth in repelling their accusations was perhaps excusable. But that he should have deemed it fitting to preface his self-vindication by an oath betrayed a degree of confidence, if not of self-righteousness, which was unbecoming in a humble-hearted and truly pious man. The matter was one that did not require more than calm, quiet, modest affirmation. Yet Job, in at least two different forms, adds an oath for confirmation (verses 2, 5), as if the vindication of his (i.e. the creature's) righteousness were, and ought to be, the supreme end of his existence, and not rather the maintenance of the unchallengable righteousness of God. Nevertheless, Job's conduct in thus asserting with an oath that he faithfully followed God compares favourably with that or Peter, who with curses affirmed that he knew not the Man (Mark 14:71).
2. With vehement repetition. Not content with one affirmation of his integrity, Job insists upon it with a fourfold asseveration (verses 5, 6), declaring
(1) that he could not justify his friends, i.e. admit the truth of their contention with regard to himself without profanity;
(2) that he would continue to assert his innocence while he lived;
(3) that his righteousness he would on no account let go; and
(4) that his heart should not reproach him even one of his days. So Paul protested to the Sanhedrin that he had lived in all good conscience before God up till then (Acts 23:1); and, writing to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 1:12), rejoiced in the testimony of his conscience theft in simplicity and godly sincerity he had had his conversation in the world. The words, "not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God," exhibit the difference between St. Paul's assertion of his personal integrity and Job's.
IV. A WICKED IMPRECATION.
1. The persons upon whom it is pronounced. Job's "enemy;" not the ungodly in general, but the men who rose up against him to impeach his integrity (verse 7). While it is well-nigh certain that a good man will have enemies (Matthew 10:22; John 15:19), who hate him because they first dislike his principles (1 Peter 3:16; 1 Peter 4:4), it is a splendid testimony to a good man's character when he has no enemies except the ungodly. The mere fact, however, that his integrity is challenged by another is no proof that that other is either wicked in himself or hostilely disposed toward him. Though keenly resenting, therefore, the unjust imputations of his friends, it was wrong in Job to denounce them, as they had denounced him, as inherently ungodly.
2. The malediction of which it consists. Nothing is really gained by endeavouring to soften down Job's language into a prediction. Supposing him to merely signify that the man who spoke against him was a wicked person who would eventually meet the wicked person's recompense, he asserts it with a degree of confidence which was not warranted by the facts of the case, and which painfully suggests that the wish was father to the thought. The language of Job towards Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar finds an echo in the terrific outburst of David against his adversaries in the imprecatory psalms (Psalms 69:22-28; Psalms 109:6-15; Psalms 140:8-11), which, in so far as it was directed against individuals, we are not required to regard as entirely free from blame.
V. A SELF-EXALTING COMPARISON. In order further to set forth his integrity, Job tacitly contrasts his own case with that of the hypocrite, indirectly exhibiting himself as possessed of:
1. A better hope. However prosperous the wicked man may be in life, however successful in heaping up wealth, when he comes to die he has no hope whatever to sustain him (cf. Job 8:13; Job 20:5, homiletics), no expectation of acceptance with God; while be, Job, though standing on the verge of the grave, has. Worldly success cannot provide, and will not suffice as a substitute for, hope in death. Accumulated wealth prevents not death's approach. If God does not cut off a man's gains before death, he will certainly cut off a wicked man's soul at death. It is a poor bargain to gain the world which one must soon leave, and lose the soul which one cannot regain throughout eternity (Matthew 16:26).
2. A better privilege. When trouble comes upon the wicked man so severely as to make him cry unto the Lord, the Lord turns a deaf ear to his entreaty (Proverbs 1:28). But the good man, i.e. Job, can reckon that his prayer will find an entrance into God's ear (Psalms 34:17; Psa 1:1-6 :15; Psalms 107:13; Psalms 145:18, Psalms 145:19); the good man's supplication being breathed forth in penitence, humility, and faith, the outcry of the hypocrite being merely an exclamation of alarm.
3. A better spirit. The imperilled hypocrite may cry to God when the fear of death is on him, or when trouble crushes him; but he has no true delight in fellowship with God. The good man derives his principal felicity from such communion with Heaven (Isaiah 58:14; 1 John 1:3), as Eliphaz had already admitted (Job 22:15); and such a good man Job distinctly claims to be. Delight in God expresses itself in happy meditation on and cheerful obedience to God's Law (Psalms 119:16, Psalms 119:35, Psalms 119:47, Psalms 119:70); it is an indispensable condition of receiving answers to prayers (Psalms 37:4).
4. A better practice. The devotion of the hypocrite is only exceptional, whereas Job's was habitual (verse 10) An occasional prayer is no true mark of piety. The child of God should be instant in prayer (Romans 12:12), and should pray without ceasing (Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Christ's disciples should pray always, and not faint (Luke 18:1).
1. That the most eminent saints are not beyond the danger of falling into grievous sins.
2. That good men, while conscious of their integrity, should guard against self-exaltation on that account.
3. That piety as little as impiety stands in need of oaths to support it.
4. That good men should never renounce their integrity while they live, however they may sometimes forbear from asserting it.
5. That however much a wicked man may gain on earth, he loses all at death.
6. That that hope only is good which extends beyond the grave.
7. That God delights in them who delight in him.
8. That a man's piety can be pretty accurately gauged by the intensity and frequency of his prayers.
Job's first parable: 2. The portion of a wicked man with God.
I. JOB'S LANGUAGE EXPLAINED. The lot, or earthly inheritance, of the ungodly Job exhibits in three particulars.
1. The wicked man's family. However numerous the children that gather round a sinner's hearth, they will all be overwhelmed in eventual destruction.
(1) Designed. If his sons and daughters multiply, it is not because of any special favour with which they are regarded by Heaven, but only to meet their appointed portion. If the wicked send forth their little ones like a flock (Job 21:11), it is purely that, like oxen, they may be fattened for the slaughter.
(2) Violent. Instead of dying peacefully in the course of nature after long, prosperous, and happy lives, they shall perish by the sword, by famine, or by pestilence—the three most usual forms of calamity in the East, and the three customary modes of inflicting Divine punishment (2 Samuel 24:13; Jeremiah 14:12). Job's children were not removed in either of these ways.
(3) Humiliating. Such indignity will fall upon his offspring, when they in turn follow him to the grave, that they shall be "buried in death," meaning either left unburied, or, as is more probable, totally forgotten the instant they are dead. Contrast the picture of the wicked man's funeral in a previous oration (Job 21:9, Job 21:32).
(4) Appalling. Either so complete will the ruin of this ungodly person's family be that no widows shall remain to mourn for himself and children; or so sudden will be the shock of bereavement, that, paralyzed with grief, they will be unable to weep; or so attended with indications of Divine displeasure that they will fear to indulge in outward tokens of sorrow.
2. The wicked man's wealth. This also shall be dissipated.
(1) His money. Should it be plentiful as the dust (Zechariah 9:3; cf. 1 Kings 10:27), he must leave it behind him, but not to his children, for "his silver the innocent shall divide" (verse 17). The dying millionaire cannot calculate, or secure, that his accumulated treasures will be enjoyed by his family (Psalms 39:6; Luke 12:20). God can scatter a man's wealth as easily as destroy a man's life or extinguish a man's house.
(2) His raiment. This is another form of Oriental wealth (vide Exposition), which, though abundant as the mire, must share the same fate, and become the property of the righteous.
(3) His palace. Strongly built and gorgeously decorated, it yet is frail and brittle, as easily destroyed and as quickly removed as a moth-web (Job 8:15) or a watchman's hut (Isaiah 1:8).
3. The wicked man's person. Equally with his family and possessions, the wicked man himself is engulfed in an awful doom.
(1) Surprised by sudden death. At night retiring to bed rich, he knows not that before morning he shall be removed from life and fiches at a stroke; or, if permitted to see the dawn, he is quite unconscious that he does so for the last time, and that, ere the night falls, he shall be no more (verse 19). Death, which comes to all men suddenly (Matthew 24:44), is no surprise to them who habitually look for its approach (2 Timothy 4:6), but a fearful awakening to them who live in careless unconcern about their latter end (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
(2) Terrified by impending judgment. While the violent surprise with which death seizes on the sinner is represented by three more metaphors—of a flood from which it is impossible to run (Psalms 18:4), a tempest or whirlwind which stealeth one away by night (Job 21:18; Proverbs 10:25), and an east wind accompanied by destructive storms (Isaiah 41:16), sometimes "so severe as to smite down whole villages and uproot the largest trees" (Cox)—the effect produced upon the sinner's mind is depicted as one of paralyzing, overwhelming, devouring consternation (Psalms 73:19). This fear is probably the apprehension of something after death (cf. 'Macbeth,' Acts 1:0. so. 7).
(3) Overtaken by merited punishment. Upon the head of this unhappy wretch God shall rain down calamities so fast and furious that every attempt to escape his doom will be in vain. Such also David thought would be the portion of the wicked (Psalms 11:6); and such St. Paul asserts will be the ultimate reward of the unbelieving and impenitent (Romans 2:9).
(4) Pursued by universal execration. Even if we read (Carey) it, i.e. the wind, shall clap its hands at him, and whistle at him in derision, the image must be interpreted to mean that the storm-chased sinner will be beheld with malignant joy and withering scorn; that, in fact, men will clap their hands with infinite delight over his tragic fate, and hunt his guilty spirit from the world with expressions of bitter hatred and contempt.
II. JOB'S MEANING CLEARED.
1. The difficulty. The above exposition of the wicked man's portion bears so close a resemblance to the pictures already sketched by the friends, that much perplexity has been occasioned by Job's seeming inconsistency; in at this stage admitting the very dogma he had so powerfully assailed in his previous contendings. If this were true, it would only prove that great men sometimes change their rain, Is and modify their opinions. But the contradiction is more apparent than real.
2. The solution. For a detailed statement of the different schemes proposed with a view to either bridge over or remove this difficulty, the Exposition may be consulted. Here it may suffice to say that either we may understand Job as recapitulating the theory of the friends, which he has just characterized as "foolish notions" (verse 12); or, holding that the sentiments he delivers are his own, we may affirm that in previously painting the prosperous fortunes of the ungodly (e.g. Job 12:6; Job 21:7) he was merely placing exceptional cases against the exclusive theory of the friends, that ungodly men have always evil fortunes, which was all that strict logic required as its refutation, but that here he desires to intimate his acquiescence in the main element of their dogma, viz. that as a rule "the retributive justice of God is manifest in the case of the evil-doer" (Delitzsch).
1. That every man's portion from God is twofold, relating to the life that is to come as well as to that which now is.
2. That the higher a wicked man rises in worldly prosperity, the more ignominious will be his final overthrow.
3. That God can effect sudden and surprising translers of property on earth.
4. That sudden death may overtake the person who appears best secured against it.
5. That sudden death is not the same thing to a wicked man that it is to a good one.
6. That the wicked man cannot face the future without a fear.
7. That if a wicked man's death is a cause of joy to the world, the departure of a saint should be a source of lamentation.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Job a victor in the controversy.
After the last speech of Job the friends appear to be completely overcome and silenced, and the third of them does not venture to renew the attack. The sufferer therefore continues, in a speech of high poetic beauty, to instruct the friends, while once more insisting on his own innocence.
I. INNOCENCE MAINTAINED. (Verses 2-10.)
1. Conscious rectitude of resolve. (Verses 2-4.) In the profoundest sense that his thoughts are open to the eye of the all-seeing God, and that he need not fear to have his words overheard, Job speaks. He declares that he has still strength and sanity enough to know what he is saying, and to speak as a responsible witness on this quest on of his innocence. And although it has pleased God, as he thinks, to withhold justice from him, and to distress his soul, the light of duty and of conscience shines as brightly as ever. He will be true in word and deed to the last. Truth is the supreme duty we owe to ourselves, to our fellows, to our God, to eternity. The resolve to be true should be inseparable from the resolve to live; and we should part with life sooner than with truth. And no suffering should be allowed to disturb our genuine convictions about ourselves. The discouragement of others' harsh opinion may well lead us to cast more searching glances into the state of our heart, but ought not to extort confessions of guilt which are exaggerated and unreel. It is only superstition which can suppose such to be acceptable to God. But this is the language of a man who has found, deep below all his doubts, an immovable ground of confidence in God. This makes him bold in the presence of his fellow-men. Happy those whose hearts condemn them not, and who have confidence with God. A false humility is an affectation of being worse than we really are. A genuine humility teaches us to see ourselves as we are; and every recognition of facts as facts, truths as truths, gives confidence.
2. The steadfastness of a good conscience. (Verses 5-7.) Job will never give way to his friends, nor own them in the right. The language of dogged egotism and stupid obstinacy imitates that of conscious right: "I will never give in!" But the one is the mark of folly and weakness, the other is the evidence of vitality and strength. He will not part with the sense of his integrity; it is as the jewel for which he has sold everything, which represents, amidst poverty and suffering and shame, all the property he has in the world. "Conscience is the great magazine and repository of all those pleasures that can afford any solid refreshment to the soul. When this is calm and serene and absolving, then properly a man enjoys all things, and what is more, himself; for that he must do before he can enjoy anything else. But it is only a pious life, led exactly by the rules of a severe religion, that can authorize a man's conscience to speak comfortably to him; it is this that must word the sentence before the conscience can pronounce it, and then it will do it with majesty and authority; it will not whisper, but proclaim a jubilee to the mind; it will not drop, but pour in oil upon the wounded heart" (South).
3. Inward peace and joy denied to the wicked. (Verses 8-10.) This is a further argument of innocence. How can Job be numbered amongst the wicked? No hypocrite can possibly enjoy this serenity and unshaken hope in God which have been the portion of his soul amidst all calamities, and in the approach of death (Job 17:1-16. and 19.). When the cords of his life-tent are cut (comp. Job 4:21), the wick d man has nothing more to hope for. His prayers will receive no answer, and joyous and trustful intimacy with God is denied him. Whatever disturbs innocence, in the same degree makes inroad upon 'the comfort of the soul. To be in the dark; to find that the gate of prayer is closed; to carry about a sick, ulcerated mind; to be harassed by the returning paroxysms of diffidence and despair; to be haunted with the dismal apparitions of a reviving guilt—the old black sores of past forgotten sins; to have the merciless handwriting against him, presented in new and flowing characters to his apprehension—is the case and condition of the sinner. But "why should a man choose to go to heaven through sloughs and ditches, briars and thorns, diffidence and desertion, trembling and misgiving, and by the very borders of hell, with death staring him in the face, when he might pass from comfort to comfort, and have all his way paved with assurance, and made easy and pleasant to him by the inward invaluable satisfaction of a well-grounded peace'? (South).
II. INSTRUCTION ON THE FATE OF THE WICKED. (Verses 11-23.)
1. Introduction (Verses 11-13; comp. Job 20:29; Job 16:20.) The theme of discourse is to be the "hand of God"—his power and his mode of moral government as seen by daily examples in the lives of men; and the "sense" or mind of the Almighty—the contents of his thoughts and counsels (Job 10:13; Job 23:10). And experience is to furnish the evidence and the illustrations (verse 12). The facts are open to the view of all, but what was wanting in the friends of Job, as in many others, is a correct understanding and appreciation of them. Wisdom to mark the signs of the times, the hints of God's will, his meanings, his judgments, not only in the course of nations, the great crises of history, but in the smaller sphere of every day, is what we need. Then the theme is announced (verse 13): "the lot of the wicked man—the heritage of the tyrant." Compare the words of Zopbar (Job 20:29).
2. The instability of the wicked man's condition His household and family are first mentioned. The corruption working outward is first felt in the nearest circle and surrounding of his life. The sins of the father are visited upon the children. The sword, or famine, or pestilence makes them a prey. All modern as well as ancient experience confirms this law. The doctrine of "heredity" throws light upon many diseases, many vices, many woes. The children's teeth are set on edge because the fathers have eaten sour grapes. And this law of eternal retribution would seem intolerably stern and harsh did we not perceive that it is thus God constantly warns the world. The connection of causes and effects, constant, unbroken, alike in the physical, the moral, and the spiritual sphere, is the natural revelation of the will of God. But there are compensations, redeeming agencies at work for the individual. He suffers often as the scapegoat of others' sins externally; he is the victim of a solemn necessity; but in the large realm of inward freedom he may be emancipated, redeemed, and blessed. "His widows weep not" (verse 15) behind his bier, perhaps because in the fearful raw, gee of the pestilence the funeral rites are suspended. The plural is used to indicate the wives of the heads of other families and relatives of the deceased generally. Then, not only is the wicked cursed in his family, but in his property. A picture of immense wealth and profuse display follows (verse 16)—his silver being heaped up like dust, and fine raiment being as common as dirt. Yet there is no more real substantiality in all this than in the frail cocoon of the moth, or the hut which the watchman puts up in the vineyard or orchard (Isaiah 1:8). The striking story is told by Herodotus (6:86) of one Glaucus, the son of Epicydes, who was requested by a man of Miletus to take charge of the half of his fortune. When the sons el the Milesian claimed the money, Olaucus denied all knowledge of it, and consulted the oracle as to the results of perjury, and whether he could safely retain the money. The oracle replied, "Glaucus, son of Epicydes, for the present moment, indeed, it is more profitable to prevail by an oath, and to make the money thy booty. Swear; for death in truth awaits the man who is true to his oath. But, on the other hand, the child of the oath is nameless, and hath neither hands nor feet; yet he swiftly comes on, until he has ruined and destroyed thy whole race, yea, all thy house. With the race of the faithful man it shall fare better hereafter." He restored the money, but was told it was too late; and Leotychides, who related the story to the Athenians, says, "There is now no descendant of Glaucus living, no hearth that owns his name; he has been utterly rooted out, and has passed away from Sparta."
3. Insecurity of life. (Verses 19-23.) "He lies down rich, and—doth it not again," according to the best reading. This is a picture of the evening. The next is a picture of the morning. "Opens his eyes, and—is gone!" Both depict the suddenness of the wicked man's end (verse 19). A multitude of terrors rush in upon him, like the waters of an inundation (verse 20; comp. Job 20:28; Psalms 18:5; Jeremiah 47:2), and fill his death-bed with horror (comp. Job 18:14; Job 20:25), and the east wind carries him away (verse 21)—the east wind being often mentioned as one of great violence (Job 1:19; Job 15:2; Job 38:24; Isaiah 27:8; Ezekiel 27:26). God slings without sparing the bolts of his wrath against him, and he must flee before his hand (verse 22). The fearful scene closes amidst the scornful laughter and clapping of hands of those who exult in the tyrant's doom (verse 23; comp. Job 34:37; Lamentations 2:15; Nahum 3:19), and he departs from his place amidst the hisses of execration. The powerful picture of the great moralist, Juvenal, may be compared with this passage ('Sat.,' 13:210, sqq.). Alter depicting the sufferings of a guilty conscience, he proceeds, "What, then, if the sinner has achieved his purpose? A respiteless anxiety is his, that ceases not, even at the hours of meals; his jaws are parched as though with fever, and the food he loathes swells between his teeth. All wines the miserable wretch spits out; old Alban wine, of highly prized antiquity, disgusts him. At night, if anxious care has granted him perchance some brief slumber, and his limbs, that have been tossing over the whole bed, at length are at rest, immediately he sees in dreams the temple and altar of the deity he has insulted; and, what weighs upon his soul with especial terror, he sees thee [the wronged one]! Thy awful form, of more than human bulk, confounds the trembling wretch, and wrings confession from him!" These pictures of the doom of the godless are fitted to teach patience to all the ill-used and the suffering in this world. God forgets nothing; neither the work of faith and labour of love of his children, nor the rank offences of the rebels against his laws. In due time he will both reward and punish, commonly even in this life (Exodus 32:34; Romans 2:1-29.). Calamity is not a mere accident, as the worldly and the infidel think. It follows sin, according to a fixed connection, by the will of God (Amos 3:6).—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
Job 27:5, Job 27:6
Job is resolved to retain his integrity in spite of every rude assault. He will not suffer himself to be withdrawn from his fixed resolve. By firm resolution integrity may be preserved, though a boastful spirit exposes itself to temptation. Between the perils of presumptuous boasting on the one hand and timid irresolution on the other, lies the path of safety in a lowly, humble determination.
I. RESOLUTION FORTIFIES THE MIND AGAINST THE ATTACKS OF TEMPTATION. Evil finds its easiest prey in the irresolute and undetermined. Subtle and sudden suggestions of wrong are instantly rejected by the determined mind. They are cast off. There is a spirit of antagonism—a cherished antipathy to wrong; and before temptation has power to draw away the feet of the unwary, the determined one casts back the oftenting presence. He waits not to parley. There is a law established to cleave to the right; and the presence of the wrong becomes the watchword for an uprising of the whole strength against the usurper.
II. RESOLUTION, BY ITS DECISIONS, PREVENTS THE MIND FROM THE INJURIOUS EFFECTS OF VACILLATION. The mind is kept braced up to its duty. Its judgments are formed beforehand. It has not to wait for any mental process. The instant wrong is suggested, that instant its reply is at hand. While the wavering and uncertain are being overcome, the resolute man walks on his plain path fearlessly and safe.
III. RESOLUTION TO MAINTAIN INTEGRITY ARISING OUT OF A JUST ESTIMATE OF ITS WORTH PRESERVES FROM DECEPTION BY FALSE VIEWS. Low estimates of the worth of personal integrity make a man the sport of the trafficker in evil. Personal rectitude being held cheaply would be bartered away for any gilded bait.
IV. THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF RESOLUTENESS OF SPIRIT BECOMES AN OBVIOUS AND PRESSING DUTY. No one can be neglectful of this without doing great wrong to himself. To stand firm, entrenched by a strong will, guards the soul from the delusions that are rife enough; but that the will may be well supported, it is needful to encourage the spirit of resolute, unyielding determination. Then, with a high sense of the preciousness of conscious integrity, and with a mind adjusted to an attitude of proposed resistance against whatever would threaten to impair that integrity, the faithful one holds fast to his possession, and gains, in addition to his own quiet approval, that of all observers, and, above all, that of the great Judge of human conduct. In this Job succeeds, and becomes a pattern to all tempted ones. From the depth of his acute and prolonged suffering arises the cry of holy resolve, "Till I die will I not remove mine integrity from me." So that from his inmost heart cometh no reproach upon his days.
He that. thus acts secures
(1) peace of mind;
(2) consciousness of the Divine approval;
(3) the benefit of daily growth in goodness;
(4) the final reward of fidelity.—R.G.
The hope of the hypocrite.
Job, the man of integrity, who was determined to hold fast his integrity until death, saw plainly that the hypocrite had no ground of confidence, and he boldly makes the demand," What is the hope of the hypocrite?" It is an appeal that can receive no satisfying answer. There is no hope for him, indeed; whatever he may imagine it to be, it is as a bubble that floats on the water for a short time, then bursts, and no trace is left of it. His confidence is placed on an unsafe foundation; he may build his expectations upon it, but the inevitable flood of time will wash it away. It is a vain, groundless, lost, disappointed hope. Job directs his inquiry into one channel—What is the hypocrite's hope as towards God? The earthly hopes of the hypocrite are not safe, though for a time he may prosper. But his hopes towards God are vain indeed. The hypocrite is estranged from God.
I. HE HAS NO HOPE IN GOD IN DEATH. When the righteous man filleth his bosom with sheaves, the hope of the wicked is found to be cut off. Beyond the grave all is darkness.
II. HE CANNOT TURN TO GOD IN TIME OF TROUBLE. When affliction falls upon the humble and righteous one, he whom he has sought to know and obey proves to be a reality to him. But the hypocrite has made God to be a sham. He has not known or obeyed him, or acted towards him as though he were a reality. To him, indeed, there is no God. How can he call on him in trouble whom he has denied in health?
III. HE CANNOT FIND IN GOD A SPRING OF JOY. He cannot delight himself in him whom he has represented to himself as an unreality. God has not been really G-d in the estimate of the hypocrite. The man who is himself conscious of being false makes all false around him. He does not live in a real but a deceitful world. He has deceived himself in respect of it.
IV. HE CANNOT CALL UPON GOD IN PRAYER. Thus the hope of the hypocrite perishes. It is vain. In the exigencies of life, when he most needs help, the false foundation which he has laid for himself fails him. The man who acts falsely towards God really acts falsely towards himself, and turns the most substantial grounds of hope into airy nothingness.—R.G.
The reward of iniquity.
Job's eye had been open to behold the ways of God with men. He had seen the effects of righteous living and of wickedness. His own suffering, coupled with his consciousness of integrity, would quicken his inquiries and his observations on the relative results of these two methods of living. He now pronounces his judgment on the fruits of ungodly living: "This is the portion of a wicked man." Whatever may be the temporary prosperity of the wicked (and of such prosperity Job had already spoken), yet it lacks permanence, and it is associated with much sorrow. He traces the sorrow in the following particulars.
I. AFFLICTION UPON HIS FAMILY. A curse is upon his home. The sword, the famine, the pestilence, carry off his children, even if they be multiplied.
II. INSECURITY OF HIS WEALTH. Yea, "though he heap up silver as the dust." The Divine retributions are everywhere acknowledge
. This, in Job's view, is the lot of the ungodly; and though he himself has Suffered many things at the hands of the Lord, he is conscious of his righteousness, and has confident hope of final vindication.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Job now almost loses sight of his vexatious friends as he breaks out into a long discourse. His first thought is to assert his integrity, without flinching before the charges that have been so recklessly flung at him. He will not confess sins of which he is not guilty. It required some courage for him to take this stand, for he was sorely pressed to yield to insincerity.
I. THE TEMPTATION TO INSINCERITY. This is many-sided, springing from various sources.
1. The desire to conciliate God. Job is persuaded that it is the Almighty who has vexed his soul. If he will abase himself and confess his utter unworthiness, it would seem that perhaps God would be propitiated.
2. The persuasive urgency of others. Each of the three friends had set before Job the same picture, and had suggested that the only security, the only hope, lay in abject penitence. It is difficult to hold to our course when it is resisted and reprobated by our friends.
3. The true humility of a good man. Job knew that he was a frail creature, and that he was as nothing before the might and holiness of God (Job 7:1-8). Good men are more or less conscious of their own littleness. It seems a mark of modesty to depreciate one's self. Job must have been deeply pained at the unfairness that drove him to take the opposite course and vindicate his own uprightness. We are all tempted to insincere confession of guilt which we do not feel in order to please God or men, or as a sign of humility.
II. THE WEAKNESS OF YIELDING TO THIS TEMPTATION. All the inducements that may be brought to urge a person to insincerity are just temptations to sin. They are attacks upon the conscience. To yield to them is a sign of weakness. The important point is that insincerity is always wrong, even when it is in the direction of self-humiliation. There may be a hypocritical penitence as well as a hypocritical pride. We cannot be too deeply humble; when the thought of our sin dawns upon us we cannot grieve over the guilt and shame of it too intensely. But if we do not feel this profound penitence it is nothing but falsehood and empty pretence to make a confession of it with our lips. For the language of penitence to exceed the feeling of it is not a mark of real humility. Any insincerity is injurious to the conscience and wrong in the sight of God, and the fact that it tends to self-depreciation rather than to self-exaltation does not alter its essential character.
III. THE MORAL HONESTY OF RESISTING THE TEMPTATION TO INSINCERITY. We cannot but admire the manliness of Job. It was difficult for him not to be cowed before the array of adverse influences brought to bear upon him. His sickness of body, his mental distress and perplexity, and the unanimous opinion of his friends, might well have deprived him of all courage. Yet he holds up his head and asserts the right. On what is such moral honesty based?
1. Reverence for truth. Truth is imperious and must be respected at any cost.
2. Belief in justice. In the end right must prevail. It cannot be well to renounce it in favour of temporary appearances.
3. Trust in God. Job still clings to his faith, although he believes that all his troubles come from God. Now, no insincerity can please God or deceive him. If we think of our standing in his sight, rather than our position in the eyes of men, we must be true and honest.—W.F.A.
An empty hope.
The wicked man may have gained much of earthly goods. But all he has is temporal and external. Therefore it is useless to him at death, and in regard to all his spiritual needs. We can see the dark features of his miserable prospect in the picture that Job has drawn.
I. HE HAS EARTHLY POSSESSIONS. The foolish man has made gain; but it is useless to him. He is like the rich man in the parable, who was about to build new barns lot his goods when his life was taken and all his wealth lost at a stroke. If a person trusts to his earthly prosperity he is not prepared to confess his true needs. He thinks he is rich when he is miserable and blind and naked (Revelation 3:17). If he has acquired his wealth for himself, if it is his gain, he is in the greater danger of over-estimating it. Self-made men are tempted to think too much of what they have won by their own hard toil.
II. HE HAS NO CLAIM ON THE HEAVENLY INHERITANCE. There is nothing for the future. Yet life is brief and uncertain. It must end soon; it may end at any moment. Riches may have been got by a man's own energy; but life is dependent on the will of God. Thus a man gains earthly things; but God disposes of his life. The greater concerns are altogether outside his powers, as they are beyond the region of his calculations.
III. HE HAS NO ACCESS TO GOD IN PRAYER. The wicked man has no right to expect God to hear him in trouble.
1. He will have trouble. All his prosperity cannot exclude the possibility, nay, the certainty, of adversity.
2. He will need God. In trouble he may shriek to Heaven for help, though he never dreams of acknowledging God in times of prosperity. Prayer is so natural to man that it is forced out of the most unaccustomed lips by the pressure of great distress.
3. He will not be heard. Job is right. There are men whose prayers God will not hear. The reason is simply that they do not fulfil the necessary conditions of successful prayer. No man can fall so low, but that if he humble himself and turn and repent, God will hear him. But God will not hear the prayer of the impenitent. When the wicked man fails into trouble, very naturally he will desire to be saved from it. But possibly he may not repent of his sin nor desire to be saved from that; then all his prayer comes from a low, selfish desire to escape what hurts him. Such a prayer cannot be heard.
IV. HE HAS NO DELIGHT IN GOD.
1. He misses the one source of perfect good. Though he gains much, his possessions are external; they do not help or Iced his soul. They are but temporal; when he dies he will leave them all behind. But God, as the Portion of his people, is a satisfying and permanent possession. He, and he alone, both fills all their real need now and endures for ever. To miss God in pursuit of any other aim is to light on an empty hope.
2. He will not continue to seek God. In the agony of the moment a miserable, selfish cry to Heaven is wrung from his heart. But when the trouble is past he forgets his prayer. He will not "always call upon God." So-called death-bed repentances are justly viewed with suspicion. Too often the dying man is only afraid of the dread unknown, naturally desirous of being delivered from its terrors. Too often, if he recovers, his penitence is forgotten with his fears of death, and he lives his old evil life again.—W.F.A.
Teachings concerning God.
I. THE HIGHEST TEACHINGS. Our thoughts am too much chained to the earths and too much centred in self. Even in religion we tend to subjective feelings rather than to worship—the contemplation and the service of God. Now, the chief end of revelation is to make God known to us, and the highest occupation for our minds is to rise to the thought of God. The character of God should make this clear to us.
1. His greatness. Knowledge should seek a worthy object. We should desire to know what is greatest, rather than petty details.
2. His holiness. Teachings about God are teachings about goodness. Here we come to the source of true ethics. We cannot study "the good" till we know God.
3. His love. That is supreme in God, and it is supreme in the universe. To know the love of God is to know what is highest and best of all things.
II. PRACTICAL TEACHINGS. It may be urged that we cannot afford to spend our time in contemplation, that we want to know how to live our present life, and that therefore earthly and human knowledge is the most important knowledge. But this is a mistake. For God is not separated from this world and the affairs of daily life. The knowledge of God is not abstract theology. God is our Father, our Master, our Guide. To know God is to know how to live; it is to know what character and conduct are in harmony with the mind of our supreme King. We cannot live aright without knowing him. Moreover, it is a matter of profound interest to know how God is disposed towards us. Is he gracious and forgiving? how may we best please him? These are practical questions. But apart from the ends of knowledge, the knowledge of God is itself a source of blessedness. To know God is eternal life (John 17:3).
III. DIFFICULT TEACHINGS. Experience shows how grievously men have erred in their teachings about God. Not only has heathenism gone astray in its manifold and monstrous perversions of Divinity, but Christians have set forth the most erroneous conceptions of God. With some he has been regarded as a stern despot, an arbitrary autocrat; with others he has been represented as a mere personification of amiable and compliant good will, without regard to moral considerations. It is not wonderful that the teachings are difficult, considering:
1. The greatness of God. One can know but a very little of so awful a Being. We see but "parts of his ways;" "but the thunder of his power who can understand?"
2. The blindness of men. Sin blinds us; prejudice perverts our notions of God instead of allowing us to see the truth about him.
IV. POSSIBLE TEACHINGS.
1. From revelation. God has not hidden himself in the thick darkness. He has made himself known in his works, by the inspiration of prophecy, and above all in the Person of Christ. Agnosticism is only defensible if all revelation is discarded, and agnosticism cannot account for Christ.
2. By spiritual grace. The knowledge of God is an inward revelation. We can only read nature, the Bible, and Christ aright when the Spirit of God is in our hearts. By the gift of his Spirit God opens our eyes to the knowledge of himself.—W.F.A.
The portion of a wicked man.
Job seems to be echoing the teaching of his friends which he has previously repudiated. Now he urges that the wicked man does meet with trouble as the wages of his misdeeds. But Job looks further than his friends. He does not associate particular and immediate troubles with guilt as they do; he takes a large view of life; he embraces the whole career; and from that he draws his conclusions. The striking thing about this picture is that success is converted into disappointment. The wicked man prospers. He is not poor and miserable, as the old, conventional, orthodox creed assumed. But his very wealth and success are turned to failure and wretchedness.
I. FAMILY DISAPPOINTMENTS. (Verses 13-15.) The wicked man is not childless. He has children who are to be regarded as "a heritage from the Lord." His family grows up about him. But wait for the end. Clouds gather and break over the home. Brave sons are slain by the sword. Famine visits the land, or business failure impoverishes the store, and then many children only mean many mouths to feed. If the calamity does not always come in this visible way, in some way or other the bad man must miss the true blessings of family life, for he has not the pure and generous spirit out of which they are produced.
II. USELESS WEALTH. (Verses 16, 17.) He may heap up silver as the dust, but he will not be able to enjoy it. Mere money is not happiness. Money may be married to misery, while peace may dwell with poverty. The wealth may not be forfeited; yet the life of its owner is but brief. After he has gone another will enjoy the product of his labours, Thus, while he has it, it will not satisfy his deepest wants, and at best his tenure of it is temporary and hazardous.
III. DANGER IN THE MIDST OF SECURITY. (Verses 18, 19.) He has built him a house. But in the day of trial this will prove flimsy as a silken cocoon spun by a moth, frail as a booth of green boughs. Thus he deceives himself. If he had not been prosperous he would have been more ready to confess his helplessness. But his very success has blinded him, and lulled him to sleep in a false sense of ease and safety. Yet his ruin is preparing for him, and it will burst over him when he least expects it. Such a sudden and startling surprise must be overwhelming. The miserable man will be crushed by it.
IV. TERRORS AND IRRESISTIBLE DESTRUCTION. (Verses 20, 21.) When the day of reckoning comes there will be no possibility of mistaking it. All signs of prosperity now disappear. There is only an awakening to terror and tempest. The fierce east wind sweeps the wicked man away. No one can resist the judgment of God. It is sudden, swift, complete, like the desolating hurricane.
V. REPROBATION INSTEAD OF POPULARITY. (Verses 22, 23.) In his prosperity the wicked man was fawned upon by flatterers. Then he had society and admirers. Now he has lost all, and is desolate. God is against him. Men mock at him. A miserable, hunted creature, he has no hope and no refuge. Around and before him are only foes and dangers. He can but despair.
This awful fate is set forth as a warning. It is possible for the wicked man to repeat and find deliverance in the grace of Christ.—W.F.A.
The wicked working for the good.
This is not intentional. But it is a fact of observation and experience. Let us consider first the fact, and then how it is brought about.
I. THAT THE WORK OF THE WICKED IS FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF THE GOOD. First there is the negative side of the truth. Bad people do not enjoy the fruits of their own misdeeds. They may heap up riches, but they are not able to keep possession of them; for even if they meet with no reverse of fortune, they must forsake all when they die. But now we are carried a step further. What becomes of the forsaken wealth? Job says that it falls into the hands of the just, who put on the raiment which the wicked have prepared. This does not always happen in the direct manner that Job's words indicate, though sometimes his statement is literally verified. But in indirect ways it has a much wider application. "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). The earth helps the woman (Revelation 12:16). The meek shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Nebuchadnezzar fought for his own advantage only. Yet he was used as God's servant (Jeremiah 25:9), and his achievements were turned to the real advantage of the devout remnant of Israel. Persecution has spread the gospel, as when the Church was scattered at the death of Stephen, and so became missionary. Thus "the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." Modern wars have opened up countries to the gospel of Christ—not wars of the cross in the interests of Christianity, but selfish, wicked wars, the leaders of which had no good end in view. So it may be that all sin and Satanic evil will be utilized, like offensive manure out of which spring beautiful and fragrant flowers.
II. HOW THE WORK OF THE WICKED COMES TO BE FOR THE ADVANTAGE OF THE GOOD. This thing is not aimed at by the wicked, nor do they imagine that it will come about. How, then, is it produced?
1. By the overruling providence of God. God governs even through the wicked deeds of bad men. He "shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will." "Man proposes, and God disposes." We are not like pawns on the chess-board, because we have free-will. But God is infinitely greater than a skilful chess-player. He does more than manipulate inert things. He works among the wild and wayward wills of men, and so acts that they result in accomplishing his great purposes. Thus God employs unconscious agents and brings good out of evil.
2. Through human fitness. The good must be fit to profit by God's providential use of the work of the wicked. That work tends to their advantage just in proportion as they are capable of being benefited.
(1) Moral fitness. This is a condition of the special favour that is indicated by the providential action. God will give as a favour what, indeed, is not earned, but what is in a measure the reward of fidelity.
(2) Personal fitness. We can only receive real good in proportion to our capacity for it. There are men who cannot take God's blessings, simply because they have no susceptibility for them. Now, the real good even of property is not in the thing itself, but in the right use of it. God will make things a blessing to those who are in the condition to use them well.—W.F.A.
The east wind.
Kingsley wrote an ode to the east wind. But few men have a good word for it. We in England, however, have quite our share of the presence of this unwelcome visitor. Has the east wind any religious significance to us.
I. THERE ARE DESTRUCTIVE FORCES IN NATURE. The east wind is destructive. It brings blight to plants and illness to men. We might have expected that a perfect world would have only fresh, healthy west winds. Yet we must recognize the fact that, like the east wind, lightning, tempest, earthquakes, drought, and deluge are naturally hurtful influences. We need not resort to a Manichaean explanation, and suppose that a malignant being is at the root of these things. For scientific research teaches us that the destroying agencies of nature minister to its progress. The biting east wind that cuts off the more tender plants leaves the hardier ones to flourish with greater freedom, and so tends to promote their growth and propagation. The buffeting of the world helps to develop robustness of character.
II. INFLUENCE PARTAKES OF THE CHARACTER OF ITS ORIGIN. The east wind is gendered on the dreary steppes of Russia. Arid plains suck out of it all its exhilarating properties. Cold regions lend it cruel barbs of ice. Even in beautiful, smiling England, the east wind comes as a blast from Siberia, and the desolation of the land of exile accompanies it. Spiritual influence is like its origin. Cruel natures can only spread an atmosphere of cruelty and distress about them. No man can influence others excepting through what he possesses. We cannot permanently disguise our characters. As we are in our hearts and homes, so shall we be ultimately in our work and in the outcome of our lives.
III. CHILDHOOD DETERMINES MANHOOD. Leagues away beyond whole empires the east wind is born in the far-off Russian solitude. Yet when it flies over our fields and rushes in at our doors it is true to the character it received in the land of its birth. Not only is its influence true to its origin, but the wind itself continues of the same harsh character, although it is now surrounded by very genial circumstances. The tone and set of life are determined in youth. Some asperity may be softened and mellowed by the discipline of later years; but in the main most men are of the character of their youth. Hence the great importance of a right life at the start.
IV. EAST WINDS ARE CONFINED TO EARTH. There are none in heaven. The storms and terrors of life that beset God's children are peculiar to this brief time of discipline. The fruits of the heavenly Eden are not touched by frost or blighting blast. Those people who have no portion in the better land may well dread the destructive agencies of nature, which tear away all that they have to live for. But true Christians should learn to face the east wind of cutting calamity, knowing that they have but to cross the moor, and a cheerful home will welcome them on the other side.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 27". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13