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Eliphaz, having narrated his vision, and rehearsed the words which the spirit spoke in his ear, continues in his own person, first (Job 5:1-7) covertly reproaching Job, and then (verses 8-27) seeking to comfort him by the suggestion that, if he will place himself unreservedly in the hands of God, it is still possible that God may relent, remove his chastening hand, deliver him from his troubles, and even give him back all his former prosperity. The anticipation is in remarkable accordance with the ultimate event (Job 42:10-17), and shows that Eliphaz, if not a prophet in the higher sense, is at least a sagacious interpreter of God's ways with men, and can very happily forecast the future.
Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; rather, call now; is there any that will answer thee? What aid, that is, wilt thou invoke, if thou turnest away from God, and reproachest him? Thinkest thou to find any one in heaven or earth to answer to the call and come to thy assistance? Utterly vain is any such hope. And to which of the saints wilt thou turn? By "the saints" are meant in this place "the holy angels" (comp. Job 15:15; Psalms 89:7; Zechariah 14:5). The question, "To which wilt thou turn?" seems to imply that there was already in Job's time some knowledge of individual members of the angelic host, such as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, etc; though we have no mention of any names of angels in Scripture until the time of Daniel (Daniel 8:16; Daniel 9:21). That invocation of angels was an actual practice in Job's age is, however, scarcely proved by this passage.
For wrath killeth the foolish man, and envy slayeth the silly one. For "wrath" and "envy "others suggest "vexaation" and "impatience" (Lee), or "vexation'' and "jealousy" (Revised Version). The connection of thought seems to be, "For thou art quite foolish enough to let thy vexation and impatience prompt thee to such a course, which could only lead to thy destruction." Eliphaz is quite sure that trust in any other beside God, and appeal to any other against God, is utter folly, sinful infatuation, and must lead to the ruin of whoever indulges in it. Thus the invocation of angels receives no countenance from him, but the contrary.
I have seen the foolish taking root. The "I" is emphatic. "I myself have seen," etc. What Eliphaz had seen was that folly, i.e. sinful infatuation, was always punished. It might seem to prosper: the foolish man might seem to be taking root; but Eliphaz was not deceived by appearances—he saw through them, he knew that there was a curse upon the man's house, and so pronounced it accursed. And the ruin which he had foreseen, it is implied, followed. But suddenly; rather, immediately, without hesitation. I cursed his habitation; i.e. "pronounced it accursed, declared that the curse of God rested upon it?"
His children are far from safety. The sins of the fathers arc visited upon the children. Eliphaz makes covert allusion to the death of Job's children (Job 1:19). Feeling, however, that he is on delicate ground, he goes on into details which in no way fit their case. And (he says) they are crushed in the gate; i.e. they are oppressed, crushed, by litigations. The house once smitten of God, human beasts of prey enter in; claims are made against the children; lawsuits commenced; all the arts of chicanery set in motion; every effort made to strip them of their last penny. (For the sense here assigned to "the gate," see Job 29:7 and Job 31:21.) Neither is there any to deliver them. No one intercedes on their behalf, undertakes their detente in the courts, or makes any effort to avert their ruin. This picture of legal oppression accords very closely with what we know of the East in all ages (comp. Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 3:14, Isaiah 3:15; Isaiah 5:23; Isaiah 10:2, etc.). Oriental cowardice causes men to shrink from casting in their lot with those whom Misfortune has marked as her own.
Whose harvest the hungry eateth up. Covetous men rush in and "eat up" all that the family possesses, thus bringing it to the extreme of poverty and want. And taketh it even out of the thorns. Vain is any protection that may be devised. As hedges, even of the prickly pear, do not keep out a band of plunderers, so there is no obstacle which those bent on robbing them will not overcome. And the robber swalloweth up their substance; or, the thirsty; i.e. those who thirst after it.
Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground. There is a tacit reference to what was said in Job 4:8. Affliction and trouble are not chance products of spontaneous growth. They only spring up when men have prepared the ground for them, and planted in it an evil seed.
Yet man is born unto trouble. Yet still, in point of fact, man is born to trouble. He has a corrupt nature, and always sins more or less. Each sin brings him into trouble, since it entails on him a punishment. As the sparks fly upward; literally, the sons of flame. Some suppose "meteoric flashes" to be meant: others suggest, "ignited arrows." But many good Hebraists maintain the rendering of the Authorized Version.
I would seek unto God; rather, as in the Revised Version; but as for me, I would seek' etc.; i.e. if the case were mine, if I were afflicted as thou art, I would not betake myself to any of the angels (see Job 5:1), but would cast myself wholly upon God. It is necessarily implied that Job had not done so. And unto God would I commit my cause (comp. Psalms 37:5; Proverbs 16:3).
Which doeth great things and unsearchable. These are reasons why Job should "seek unto God." "Great things are those which he has done." There is none like unto him. His ways are "unsearchable;'' no one may think fully to search them and seek them out (comp. Job 9:10; Job 37:5; Psalms 145:3 : Romans 11:33). It may be that, if Job will appeal to him, a result will follow that at present seems impossible. For he doeth marvellous things without number (comp. Psalms 40:5; Psalms 72:18; Psalms 77:14; Psalms 136:4). Eliphaz proceeds to mention some of them.
Who giveth rain upon the earth. To the dweller in the parched regions of South-Western Asia rain is the greatest of all blessings, and seems the greatest, of all marvels. When for months and months together the sun has blazed all day long out of a cloudless sky, when the heaven that is over his head has been brass, and the earth that is under him iron (Deuteronomy 28:33), a great despair comes upon him, and that it should ever rain again seems almost an impossibility. Where is the rain to come from? From that cruel, glaring sky, which has pursued him with its hostility week after week, and month after month? Or from that parched earth in which, as it seems, no atom of moisture is left? When God at length gives rain, he scarcely believes his eyes. What? The blessed moisture is once more descending from the sky, and watering the earth, and quickening what seemed dead, and turning the desert into a garden! All Eastern poetry is full of the praises of rain, of its blessedness, of its marvellousness, and of its quickening power. Very naturally Eliphaz, in speaking of God's marvellous works of mercy, mentions rain first, as, within his experience, one of the chief. And sendeth waters upon the fields. This is either the usual pleonastic repetition of the second hemistich, or (perhaps) a reference to the fountains and rills of water, which spring into being as a consequence of the rain.
To set up on high those that be low. God's physical blessings are intended to subserve moral ends. He gives his rain, both the former and the latter, to raise up men from despair, to enable them to see in him a God of mercy as well as a God of vengeance; and with the same object, after withholding it from us for a while, he pours into our parched hearts the dew of his Holy Spirit. That those which mourn may be exalted to safety; or, "raised to safety" (Lee).
He disappointeth the devices of the crafty; or, frustrateth—makes them of no effect (comp. Psalms 33:10; Isaiah 8:10). Some suppose Eliphaz to insinuate here that Job's apparent wisdom has not been true wisdom, but cunning or craft, and that therefore God has brought it to nought. But to us it rather seems that he enunciates a.general sentiment, and a true one. He is giving examples of the "marvellous things" which God does (verse 9), and naturally enumerates among them his victories over the craft and cunning of his adversaries (comp. Isaiah 44:25). So that their hands cannot perform their enterprise; literally, and their hands accomplish nothing solid. No substantial result is effected by all their scheming.
He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. Men are, as Shakespeare says, "hoist with their own petard." They "fall into their own nets together" (Psa 141:1-10 :11), while the godly, their intended prey, "escape them." And this is God's doing—it is his providence which brings it to pass. And the counsel of the froward is carried headlong; or, "put to confusion" (Lee).
They meet with darkness in the daytime (comp Deuteronomy 28:29 and Isaiah 59:10). The metaphor expresses the bewilderment of the crafty, when they find their schemes foiled, and all their subtlety of no avail. Suddenly their light goes out; they know not what to do, or which way to turn; "their way is hid" (Job 3:23); they are baffled, perplexed, confounded. And grope in the noonday as in the night (comp. Job 12:25). A variant form of the preceding hemistich.
But he sayeth the poor from the sword, from their mouth; rather, from the sword of their mouth; i.e. from their cruel and destructive words (Psalms 57:4; Psalms 64:3; Proverbs 12:18), which cut "like a sharp razor" (Psalms 52:2). By calumny, innuendoes, lies, fraudulent representations, and the like, the ungodly work, perhaps, more injury than by their actions. And from the hand of the mighty. God delivers the poor both from their words and from their deeds.
So the poor hath hope. With the fall of each crafty oppressor, the poor man's hopes revive. He feels that "God ruleth in Jacob, and unto the ends of the world" (Psalms 59:13). He recognizes the fact that the Almighty "maintains the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor" (Psalms 140:12), that he is "a Refuge for the oppressed, a Refuge in times of trouble" (Psalms 9:9). And iniquity stoppeth her mouth (comp. Psalms 107:42). Either "the oppressors themselves are struck dumb, recognizing the fact that God is against them;" or "those who perversely question God's ways are struck dumb, seeing his retributive justice." If we understand the passage in the latter sense, we may see in it a reproof of Job's murmurs against his treatment by God (Job 3:11-26).
Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth! This "opens," as Professor Lee observes, "a new view of the subject." Hitherto Eliphaz has regarded afflictions as simply punitive. Now it occurs to him that they are sometimes chastisements. The difference is that punishment has regard only to the past, to the breach of the moral law committed, and the retribution which has to follow it. Chastisement looks to the future. It aims at producing an effect in the mind of the person chastised, at benefiting him, and raising him in the scale of moral being. In this point of view afflictions are blessings (see Hebrews 12:5-11). Recognizing this, Eliphaz suddenly bursts out with the acknowledgment, "Happy is the man [or, 'blessings on the man'] whom God correcteth!" (Comp. Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12; Psalms 94:12; 1 Corinthians 11:32). He suggests to Job the idea that his sufferings are not punishments, but chastisements—that they may be but for a time. Let him receive them in a proper spirit; let him humble himself under them, and they may work altogether for his good, his latter end may surpass his early promise. Therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty. Words quoted by the authors of Proverbs (Proverb s3:11), and of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 12:5), and well deserving to be laid up in the recollection of all faithful souls. They remind us that God's chastenings are blessings or the contrary, as we make them. Accepted humbly, they improve men, exalt the moral character, purge it of its dross, and bring it nearer to the perfection at which God would have us aim (Matthew 5:48). Rejected, chafed against, received with discontent and murmurings, they injure us, cause our characters to deteriorate, sink us instead of raising us in the moral scale. Job was now undergoing the ordeal—with what result remained to be determined.
For he maketh sore, and bindeth up. Metaphors drawn from the healing art. He "maketh sore"—applies the scalpel and the cautery when and where they are needed; and then, after a while, "bindeth up"—employs his lint and bandages; in both cases alike seeking the good of the sufferer. He woundeth, and his hands make whole (setup. Deuteronomy 32:39; Hosea 6:1).
He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven (comp. Amos 1:3, Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9, Amos 1:11, Amos 1:13, "For three transgressions … and for four"). An idiomatic way of expressing an indefinite number. There shall no evil touch thee; i.e. no real evil, nothing calculated to do thee real hurt. All affliction is "for the present grievous;" but if it "afterward yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby" (Hebrews 12:11), it does not do us harm, but good.
In famine he shall redeem thee from death. Famine appears throughout the whole of Scripture as one of God's severest chastisements (see Leviticus 26:19, Leviticus 26:20; Deu 28:22-24; 2 Samuel 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:13; 2 Kings 8:1; Psalms 105:16; Isaiah 14:30; Jeremiah 24:10; Revelation 18:8). Ezekiel speaks of "the sword, the famine' the noisome beast, and the pestilence," as God's "four sore judgments" (Ezekiel 14:21). Miraculous deliverances from famine are related in Gen 41:29-36; 1 Kings 17:10-16; 2 Kings 7:1-16. And in war from the power of the sword. In war God protects whom he will, and they seem to have charmed lives. They are covered with his feathers, and safe under his wings (Psalms 91:4).
Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue (comp. Psalms 31:20). God will also protect his own from "the scourge of the tongue," i.e. from calumny, from abuse, from bitter words (see the comment on Job 5:15). Neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh; rather, of devastation. "Shod (שׁוֹר) populationes, praedationes, calamitosas tempestates, terrae motus, ruinas, incendia, mala omnia vasti-tatem inducentia, amplectitur" (Schultens).
At destruction (rather, devastation) and famine; rather, dearth. The word is not the same as that used in Job 5:20, but a weaker cue. Thou shalt laugh; "Thou shalt smile" (Lee). Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth. "The beasts of the earth"—i.e. destructive and ferocious wild beasts, like the Indian "man-eaters"—are enumerated among God's "four sore plagues". In ancient times they were sometimes so numerous in a country that men were afraid to occupy it.
For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; i.e. there shall be peace between thee and all the rest of God's creation, even "the stones of the field," against which thou shalt not dash thy foot (Psalms 91:12); and if the senseless stones am thus in league with thee, and refrain from doing thee hurt, much more mayest thou be sure that the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee. For they are not altogether senseless, and will in some sort understand that thou art under God's protection, and not to be molested by them. A misplaced ingenuity seeks to find either six or seven forms of calamity in the enumeration of Job 5:20-23; but there appear to be really only five:
(4) devastation; and
(5) noisome beasts.
The expression used in Job 5:19—"six, yea, seven"—means, as already explained, an indefinite number.
And thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace; rather, thy tent; i.e. thy habitation, whatever it may be. Thou shalt feel assured of peace in thy dwelling, since God's peace will rest upon it. And thou shalt visit thy habitation; or, thy fold (see the Revised Version). And shalt not sin; and shalt miss nothing (Revised Version). The exact meaning is very uncertain. Professor Lee renders, "Thou shalt not err;" Schultens, "Thou shalt not be disappointed of thy desires;" Rosenmuller, "Thou shalt not miss thy mark."
Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great. Little by little Eliphaz passes from a general description of the blessedness of those faithful ones who "despise not the chastening of the Almighty" (Job 5:17) to a series of allusions which seem specially to touch Job's case. Without claiming prophetical inspiration, he ventures to promise him in the future "the exact reverse of all that he had experienced" in the past—"a safe home, flocks untouched, a happy and prosperous family, a peaceful old age" (Cook). The promises may have sounded in Job's ears as "a mockery" (ibid.); but it is creditable to the sagacity of Eliphaz that he ventured to make them. And thine offspring as the grass of the earth. The ordinary symbols for multitudinousness—the sand of the sea, and the stars of heaven—are here superseded by an entirely new one, "the grass of the earth." Undoubtedly it is equally appropriate, and perhaps more natural in a pastoral community.
Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age (comp. Genesis 15:15; Genesis 25:8; Genesis 35:29). Professor Lee translates, 'Thou shalt come to thy grave in honour." But, on the whole, the rendering of the Authorized Version may well stand. The expression used occurs only here and in Job 30:2. Like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season; literally, is lifted up. The shocks of corn were lifted up, and placed on a cart, for transfer to the barn or the threshing-floor. The emphasis, however, is on the closing words, "in his season." Eliphaz promises Job that he will reach a good ripe old age, and not die untimely. (For the result, see Job 42:17.)
Lo this, we have searched it, so it is. Eliphaz does not claim to be delivering a Divine message, or in any way stating results which he has learnt from revelation. Rather is he declaring what he has "searched out;" i.e. gathered with much trouble from inquiry, observation, and experience. He is, however, quite confident that he has arrived at a true conclusion, and expects Job to accept it and act upon it. Hear it, and know thou it for thy good; literally, for thyself. Make the knowledge, i.e. which I have communicated to thee, thine own. Professor Lee observes, "Them is nothing in all this savouring of any asperity, as far as I can see, beyond the anxieties of true friendship. The sentiments delivered from verse 17 to the end of the chapter are not only most excellent in themselves, but perfectly applicable to Job's case; and were, in the event, made good in every respect. It is true, we have not much sympathy expressed for Job's bereavements and afflictions. And, in this respect, Eliphaz was, no doubt, to blame".
Eliphaz to Job: 3. The history of a fool.
I. THE FOOL'S CHARACTER.
1. An impious fool. The mental and moral portrait of the aevil (verse 2) is minutely outlined in the Book of Proverbs, as distinguished by contempt of true wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-33;Proverbs 7:1-27), talkativeness (Proverbs 10:8), self-conceit (Proverbs 12:15), irritability of temper (Proverbs 12:16), pride (Proverbs 14:3), fretfulness against God (Proverbs 19:3), sinfulness of thought (Proverbs 24:9), etc; most of which qualities were, in the judgment of Eliphaz, possessed by the aevil whom he depicted, who was probably Job.
2. A moral simpleton. The potheh is also sketched in Proverbs, as one who is easily seduced by temptation (Proverbs 9:14-18) and flattery (Proverbs 7:7); who is destitute of any power of self-restraint, credulous of what he hears (Proverbs 14:15), and heedless of danger (Proverbs 27:12). According to Eliphaz, he is also marked by envy.
II. THE FOOL'S ISOLATION.
1. Unheeded by God. "Call now, if there be any that will answer thee" (Verse 1); perhaps meaning, ironically, You had better prepare an indictment against the Deity." Practically, implies Eliphaz, this is what the sinner does who storms at the Divine dispensations towards him. All sin is more or less an impeachment of the Divine righteousness and equity (Genesis 3:1). Yet so utterly wild and extravagant is the idea of a puny, sinful creature like man entering the lists against God; so immeasurably foolish as well as presumptuous the imagination that Infinite Purity and Wisdom can be arraigned with any hope of success, that the speaker represents the sinner's clamorous outcries as fining unheeded and unheard through the silent heavens. The Ineffable Supreme gives no indication that he is so much as conscious of his accuser's presence; neither replying himself nor commissioning another to appear in his behalf. The silence of Heaven, frequently misconstrued by the sinner (Psa 1:1-6 :21), if indicative of the Divine patience and clemency, is no less eloquent of the Divine security against, and Divine contempt for, the sinner.
2. Unassisted by his fellow-creatures. "To which of the holy ones," saints or more probably angels, "wilt thou turn?" i.e. in order to procure help in thine outrageous suit against the Almighty. Eliphaz assumes that wicked men and fallen angels could not, while with equal confidence he asserts that good men and holy angels would not, assist a fool in any such presumptuous enterprise. The language graphically portrays the sinner's impotence against God (Isaiah 27:4).
III. THE FOOL'S MISERY.
1. Consumed with chagrin. "Wrath killeth the foolish man." The term "wrath" includes in its signification inward vexation at one's own wretched lot. It is the opposite of that calm, quiescent, submissive meekness which a good man strives to evince in adversity, and which was exemplified by David (Psalms 39:9), St. Paul (2 Corinthians 6:9, 2 Corinthians 6:10), and Job (Job 1:21).
2. Eaten up of envy. "Envy slayeth the silly one." Fretfulness as regards one's own particular condition is commonly associated with envy at the good (real or supposed) of others. As only a sincerely good man can heartily rejoice in the prosperity of his neighbour, so is it only a bad man, a moral weakling, who allows himself to be irritated thereby. David (Psalms 37:1), Asaph (Psalms 73:2), and St. Paul (Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:21), warn against this supreme manifestation of folly.
3. Devoured by rage. "Wrath [passion] killeth the foolish man." The prominent idea in the term "wrath" is that of indignation against the Arbiter of human destiny. It is the object of Eliphaz to depict at once the supreme unhappiness of the fool as the victim of his own evil passions, and the appalling destiny of the fool which is that of a moral suicide; his destruction, when it comes, being not so much inflicted by the stroke of God's hand as wrought out by the inward violence of his own sinful lusts—a melancholy illustration of the auto-nemesis of sin.
IV. THE FOOL'S OVERTHROW.
1. Unexpected. Destruction springs upon the poor fool when least anticipated, when, having struck down his roots and sent forth his branches, he appears to be flourishing like a green bay tree (Psalms 37:35), and to have attained to a position of conspicuous prosperity, of great power, and absolute security (1 Samuel 25:37; Luke 12:20; Acts 12:23).
2. Sudden. In an instant the scene changes, and the fair tree of his prosperity stands scorched and blasted, leafless and bare. "Suddenly I cursed his habitation;" i.e. I beheld it cursed. This has sometimes been true, as Asaph testifies (Psalms 73:20), and as facts witness (Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, Herod, the two Napoleons), though not always (Psalms 17:14; Psalms 73:4).
3. Visible. The approach of the fool's fall, seldom apprehended by himself, is commonly foreseen by others. "Suddenly I cursed his habitation;" meaning that the moment Eliphaz beheld the foolish one taking root, he pronounced his homestead cursed; he could anticipate nothing for him but a speedy and swift engulfment in dark misfortune. So in the moral, no less than in the material, world, "coming events cast their shadows before."
4. Complete. The fool's overthrow extends to:
(1) His family. "His children are far from safety." Reduced to straitened circumstances in consequence of their father's ruin, they mutually "crush each other in the gate;" i.e. consume each other in vexatious litigation, thus sharing in the punishment, while they follow in the steps, of their wicked parent. Nor does their misery excite the sympathy, or provoke the friendly interference, of onlookers. "Neither is there any to deliver." If it is prudent not to meddle with the strife of others (Proverbs 26:17), it is still doubtful if good men should be indifferent to the calamities of others, even though they are wicked (Proverbs 24:11).
(2) His possessions. The famished thief, prowling about the fool's farmyard, picks up whatever he can lay hands on, and, emboldened by the desolation he beholds, carries off the well-stacked grain. Though no man's property can be said to enjoy an absolute immunity from thievish depredations (Matthew 6:19), yet it is certain that wicked men's treasures are peculiarly liable to decay (James 5:3). Only the good man's treasures in the heavens are permanently safe. Then" the robber swalloweth up [literally, ' the snare gapeth for "his substance;" i.e. wicked schemers lie in wait to pounce upon his property, concerting measures to carry off what little has been left by the hungry thieves. When thief robs thief, then the devil gets his own. "When the soul of the wicked desireth evil, then his neighbour findeth no favour in his eyes" (Proverbs 21:10).
5. Righteous. The calamity which overtakes the fool is not an accident or unfortunate mischance, not the production of earth and its physical constitution (verse 6), but the inevitable result of a law under which man, as a moral being, has been placed, viz. that if he sin, he shall suffer as certainly as the sparks fly upward.
1. There is no appeal for man against the judgments of a holy God.
2. When God forsakes a sinner, all the saints on earth (as well as angels in heaven) forsake him too.
3. The greatest enemy a sinner has is himself.
4. Rage against God's judgments is more dangerous to a soul than are the judgments themselves.
5. Neither permanence nor prosperity is a certain mark of goodness, since foolish men may take root.
6. The prosperity of fools is a great trial to saints.
7. The curse of the Lord is in the habitation of the wicked.
8. Outward good things are no mark of the Divine favour.
9. When fathers eat sour grapes, the children's teeth are set on edge.
10. Men frequently fail to enjoy that upon which they have bestowed much labour.
11. God often uses the wicked to punish the wicked in this life.
12. Man's sufferings do not spring from his surroundings, but from himself.
13. The suffering condition of man is incontestable evidence of a fall.
Eliphaz to Job: 4. The saint's confidence in God.
I. THE SAINT'S CHARACTER DESCRIBED.
1. Negatively. By way of contrast to the ungodly, who are depicted as
(1) crafty, i.e. persons who cunningly concoct schemes against either God, Christ, or their neighbours (Psalms 2:2; Acts 4:25-28);
(2) strong, i.e. violent, ferocious sinners, who use their swords as wild beasts their mouths, for devouring, eating up, God's people as bread (Psalms 14:4).
2. Positively. Exhibiting them as
(1) humble (verse 11), i.e. depressed or cast down, prostrated by affliction and, in consequence, dejected in spirit—a common experience with God's people;
(2) mourning (verse 11), i.e. going in squalid garments, expressive of penitential sorrow and self-abasement, and wherever grace exists it excites such emotions in the heart;
(3) poor (verse 16), i.e. weak, feeble, thin, slender, too destitute of strength to be able, and too gentle and patient to care, to resist the assaults of the ungodly. The three above-mentioned characteristics may be compared with the persons specified in the first three Beatitudes—the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek (Matthew 5:3-5).
II. THE SAINT'S GOD EXTOLLED.
1. As a God of power.
(1) Essentially great; El (verse 8) denoting God as the Strong or Mighty One, and suggesting a contrast to the feebleness of the saint, and the violence of the saint's oppressor above alluded to.
(2) Perpetually active; the omnipotence of God being not merely a potential ability residing in his infinite nature, but a vital energy continually proceeding forth in active operation (John 5:17).
(3) Endlessly diversified; the plural Elohim (verse 8) pointing out the totality of his variously manifested nature, and his wonders being declared to be beyond computation—a statement whose correctness not even the discoveries of science have disproved.
(4) Infinitely marvellous are the great things he performs, transcending the highest efforts of the human intellect to explain, understand, or even compute (Job 9:10; Job 11:7; Job 36:26; Psalms 145:3).
2. As a God of benevolence. Operating:
(1) In the realm of nature; e.g by sending rain upon the earth—a miracle of Divine power and wisdom (Job 28:26)—to water the face of the thirsty soil, and cause the rivers to overflow their banks upon the pasture-grounds, to render them fruitful—a miracle of Divine goodness (Psalms 68:9; Jeremiah 5:24; Acts 14:7); that he might deliver men from dismal apprehensions as to prospective failure in the promised harvest, and convert their doleful vaticinations into triumphant hallelujahs—a miracle of grace and compassion (Psalms 147:8).
(2) In the sphere of humanity; e.g. by
(a) confounding the crafty,—exploding their schemes, neutralizing their actions, outwitting their cunning, precipitating their purposes, so causing their best-concocted devices to appear structures of consummate folly, and themselves to look like stupid bunglers, as helpless and perplexed as men stumbling in the darkness of night (examples: the tower-builders of Babel, Genesis 11:1-9; Potiphar's wife, Genesis 39:1-23; Ahithophel, 2 Samuel 15:31; Haman, Esther 7:10);
(b) rescuing the peer,—delivering them from the hands of their enemies (e.g. the Israelites from Egypt, Exodus 18:10; St. Peter from Herod, Acts 12:11; St. Paul from Nero, 2 Timothy 4:17), inspiring them with hope, and not only silencing their calumniators and oppressors, but sometimes striking them dumb with horror and amazement at God's manifest interposition on behalf of his suffering servants.
III. THE SAINT'S CONFIDENCE DECLARED.
1. Emphatically. "Nevertheless I would" do so and so. As Eliphaz delicately insinuated that Job was a fool, so here he does not hesitate to propose himself as the perfect model of a wise man. No doubt this resulted from want of modesty on the part of Eliphaz; but still, overlooking this, the bold, unhesitating character of his avowal is not altogether unworthy of imitation. God's saints and Christ's followers should never be ashamed to confess their confidence in God, or avow their attachment to Christ (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 10:32; Romans 1:16).
2. Sincerely. "But I—I would seek unto God; unto God would I commit my cause." The speaker signifies that his trust in God was no mere lip-profession, but a heart-emotion which would lead him, if circumstanced as Job was, to have recourse to God, and to commit his cause to the Godhead in prayer and in the exercise of faith. And certainly, if God should be sought for at all times (1 Chronicles 16:11), he should specially be resorted to in time of trouble (Psalms 50:15)—"for counsel and direction in it; for comfort and support under it; for grace to glorify God by it; for deliverance in God's own time and way out of it; for the spiritual benefit and improvement intended through it" (Robinson).
3. Hopefully. Though not affirmed at the outset, it is clearly expressed at the end. "So," i.e. by going to God and committing one's cause to him, "the poor hath hope; "God having revealed himself as the Hearer, and therefore as the Answerer, of prayer (Exodus 22:27; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Job 12:4; Job 22:27; Psalms 34:17; Psalms 37:5; Matthew 21:22; Philippians 4:6); and this being sufficient ground for the saint's confident expectation that God will interpose for his succour and salvation.
1. It is not enough to simply reprove those whom we believe to have erred; we must likewise instruct them how to amend.
2. The best thing to do with trouble of any sort is to carry it to the throne of grace, and leave it there.
3. There is no God like the saint's God, the saint's enemies themselves being judges.
4. God has given men and saints the highest reason to trust him: the first, the wonders of nature; the second, the marvels of grace.
5. The weakness of God is stronger than men, while the foolishness of God is wiser than men.
6. If God can turn the daylight into darkness round his enemies, he can also turn the darkness into light round himself and his people.
7. God can rescue his people from the greatest perils, from the mouth of the grave, and from the jaws of hell.
8. It is no vain thing to hope in God, since we are saved by hope, and God loveth them that hope in his mercy.
9. The tongues of wicked men, however they may now blaspheme the Name and revile the children of God, will yet be effectually put to silence.
10. When Christ comes at last to save his poor ones, the ungodly world will stand speechless and self-condemned.
Seeking unto God.
I. WHAT IT PRESUPPOSES.
1. Belief in the existence of God (Hebrews 11:6).
2. Consciousness of need (James 1:5).
3. Desire for Divine assistance (Psalms 63:1).
II. WHAT IT IMPLIES.
1. A realization of God's nearness to the soul (Psalms 145:18).
2. A solicitation of God's help for the soul (Matthew 7:7; Hebrews 4:16).
3. An acceptation of God's provisions for the soul (Matthew 5:6).
III. WHAT IT PRODUCES.
1. Inward composure (Isaiah 26:3).
2. Hopeful expectation (Psalms 42:11).
3. Ultimate salvation (Psalms 37:5; Proverbs 16:3; Job 22:27).
1. The grace of God in permitting men to seek him.
2. The wisdom of men in availing themselves of this permission.
The great works of God.
I. THE CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE. A signal display of Divine power and wisdom.
II. THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD. A striking evidence of the Divine omniscience and omnipresence.
III. THE REDEMPTION OF THE RACE. A sublime revelation of Divine grace and compassion.
I. GOD'S CREATURE.
1. Made by God (Job 28:26; Job 38:28; Jeremiah 14:22).
2. Sent by God (Psalms 65:10; Psalms 68:9; Jeremiah 5:24).
3. Withheld by God (1 Kings 17:1; Amos 4:7; Zechariah 14:17).
II. EARTH'S SERVANT.
1. Cleansing the atmosphere.
2. Fertilizing the soil.
3. Filling the riverses 4 Moderating the heat,
III. MAN'S TEACHER.
1. A symbol of truth (Deuteronomy 32:2; Isaiah 4:1-6:10).
2. An emblem of grace (Psalms 68:9; Hosea 6:3; Psalms 72:6).
3. A picture of prosperity (Job 29:23).
1. To value the gift (1 Kings 8:36).
2. To fear the Giver (Jeremiah 5:24) of rain.
The poor man's hope.
I. GREAT IN ITS EXPECTATIONS. Looking for salvation.
II. DIVINE IN ITS ORIGIN. Being implanted by God.
III. FIRM IN ITS FOUNDATION. Resting, not upon his own piety or strength, but upon God's gracious interposition on his behalf.
IV. PRESENT IN ITS ENJOYMENT. The poor hath hope; it forms a principle within them now.
V. SUSTAINING IN ITS OPERATION. Upholding in trouble.
VI. CERTAIN IN ITS END. Arriving at ultimate fulfilment.
Eliphaz to Job: 5. The blessedness of chastening.
I. CHASTENING—ITS NATURE.
1. Its subject. Man, as a fallen being; for, though affliction cannot always be connected with particular transgressions as their immediate punishment, it is still true that man's sinfulness is the fundamental reason of his being subjected to correction.
2. Its Author. God. A thought full of comfort to the chastened; since, God being just, their correction will never be allowed to exceed their deserts; being merciful, it will never be administered with undue severity; being wise, it will never be inflicted without an adequate design; and being powerful, it will never fail, where piously accepted, to accomplish its end.
3. Its instrument. Calamity, trouble, affliction, such as Job had experienced, and such as men undergo on earth. Those who suffer may derive consolation from the thought that the rod which smites them is not in the devil's hand (except by Divine permission) or in the hand of blind, unfeeling fate, but in the hand of a loving and sympathetic God.
4. Its purpose. Man's reformation. It is doubtful if any of the sufferings of this life are purely punitive and judicial, while there is reason to believe that all are corrective and remedial in their design. According to Eliphaz, they are meant to chastise man for his iniquity, to bring him to repentance, and to reduce him to obedient submission under God (cf. Job 33:17, Job 33:19; Psalms 94:12, Psalms 94:13; Proverbs 3:11; Hebrews 12:7-11).
II. CHASTENING—ITS IMPROVEMENT.
1. The wrong use of affliction. To despise it. Men do so when they
(1) turn from it with aversion, loathing it as a nauseating physic, and evincing repugnance to submit themselves to its infliction;
(2) receive it with indignation, raging against God for smiting them, challenging his goodness, impeaching his integrity, and questioning his wisdom in so plunging them into tribulation;
(3) bear it with impatience, murmuring against its painfulness fretting over its continuance, and inordinately longing for its removal;
(4) regard it with contempt, esteeming it as useless and unprofitable, and making no attempt to either find out or fall in with God's special purpose in their correction; and
(5) issue from it in impenitence, with the heart no softer and the spirit no humbler than when it was cast into the furnace. Such failure to improve the Divine chastisement, while common in the case of wicked men, is also not impossible to good men.
2. The right use of affliction. To receive it
(1) with meek submission, recognizing our need of Divine chastisement in consequence of sin still remaining in us, if not in visitation for actual wickedness performed by us, and acknowledging the sovereignty and righteousness of God in laying on us such rebukes;
(2) with patient endurance, remaining dumb and opening not our mouths, because God has done it (Psalms 39:9), or, if we do speak, adopting the language of Eli (1 Samuel 3:18), of Job (Job 1:21), of St. Paul (Acts 21:14), or of Christ (Matthew 26:39);
(3) with holy gratitude, remembering the gracious purpose God has inseparably connected with affliction (Romans 5:3, Romans 5:4; Romans 8:28; Hebrews 12:11), and the representation he has given of affliction as a token of his love (Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:6); and
(4) with intelligent co-operation, seeking, so far as in us lies, by self-examination, by repentance and faith, by laying aside every known sin, and by praying against all sin, to further God's gracious designs in our correction.
III. CHASTENING—ITS CONSOLATION.
1. Divine healing.
(1) The wounds requiring to be bound up and healed are those lacerations of spirit, painful and deep, which have been previously inflicted by the hand of God through the sharp instrument of affliction. That these wounds, however keen and incisive, are not designed to be mortal or suffered to continue open, but, after accomplishing their purpose, are to be closed should prove a source of comfort to the saint.
(2) The Physician by whom the binding up and healing are to be effected is God, as Eliphaz declares (verse 18), and David testifies (Psalms 103:3), as Jehovah himself promised (Exodus 15:26), and as Christ taught (Matthew 9:12; Luke 4:18, Luke 4:23). This a second ground of comfort for the chastened spirit; since God, having caused the wounds, will best understand how to cure them, and God never makes a sore that he cannot heal, or inflicts a stroke that he cannot mend; and since God is possessed of all the qualities that are needful to constitute a successful chirurgeon, having "an eagle's eye,—an all-seeing eye, seven eyes of providence and wisdom to look through our sores, and into all our distempers; a lady's hand, soft and tender, to dress our wounds and pain us little; and a lion's heart,—infinite courage and strength of spirit, to undertake the most ghastly wounds or swollen, putrified sores" (Caryl).
(3) The bandages employed in the operation are the doctrines, promises, and consolations of the gospel (Psalms 107:20).
2. Divine protection. Generally, from whatever troubles may assail, from six, ay, from seven, i.e. from all possibilities of trouble; then particularly from:
(1) Public calamity (verse 20). From famine, by causing the earth to yield its increase so as to avert famine (Psalms 67:6), by miraculous interposition so as to support in the midst of famine (Exodus 16:15, manna; 1 Kings 17:14, the widow's barrel; 1 Kings 19:7, Elijah's feast), by spiritual consolations should his people die of famine (Habakkuk 3:17); and from the sword, by removing occasions of war, by shielding while engaged in lawful war (if he so please in his wisdom), and by conducting safely out of war.
(2) Private wrong (verse 21). From slander, by enabling the good man to escape it through blamelessness of character and life, as Daniel (Daniel 6:5); or by vindicating him against it through some favourable turn in providence (Psalms 37:6), as was the case with Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:10, Jeremiah 20:11); or through miraculous interposition, as happened to the three Hebrew children (Daniel 3:25); or by rewarding him on account of it should it bring him hurt, as he did with St. Stephen (Acts 6:11); and from violence, i.e. the injuries and injustices perpetrated by the strong against the weak, not by preventing them altogether, for it is implied that they will come, but by keeping the soul from sinking under them through terror.
(3) From personal misfortune; such as hunger, i.e. private destitution; and violence, viz; ravages of wild beasts on personal property; God enabling the saint, instead of regarding these with stoical indifference, to triumph over them as a means of effecting his highest good (Romans 5:3), since all things, even the stones and the wild boasts, will be in league with him, and contribute to his peace (Romans 8:28).
3. Divine blessing.
(1) Health. "Thou shalt know that it is well with thy tent;" i.e. the inhabitants of thy home will be in safety from others, in harmony amongst themselves, and, generally speaking, in the enjoyment of peace and felicity. Domestic happiness—one of the greatest blessings a good man can enjoy.
(2) Prosperity. "Thou shalt oversee thy household, and not err," or "count thy cattle, and miss none." The success attending ordinary avocations comes from God; yet it cannot now, as then, be deemed a proof of Divine favour, though it is still true that piety tends to sharpen the mind's faculties, and to increase the hand's diligence, thereby making godliness profitable for this life as well as that which is to come.
(3) Posterity. "Thy seed will be many," and "thine offspring like the grass of the land." A numerous family one of the blessings of the old, a gracious family one of the blessings of the new, dispensation (Isaiah 44:3-5).
(4) Length of days. "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full [ripe] age," indicating many years of living, so many as to fully mature the graces of the soul (Psalms 92:14) and to satisfy the saint's desire for living (Psalms 91:16)—a promise first made to Abraham (Genesis 15:15), and afterwards given generally to the godly (Psalms 91:16); a promise also whose fulfilment is promoted by holy living (Proverbs 3:16; Psalms 34:12).
(5) A peaceful death. "Thou shalt come to thy grave," willingly, quietly, peacefully, feeling dissolution to be no curse.
(6) An honoured burial. "As the shock of corn is carried in its season" so shalt thou be reverently and respectfully consigned to the tomb. A peaceful grave and a decent burial esteemed by Orientals, who regarded the want of them as a token of Divine anger, which it sometimes was (Deuteronomy 28:26 Jeremiah 22:18,Jeremiah 22:19; Jeremiah 36:30).
1. "Happy are we if we receive chastening; for then God dealeth with us as sons."
2. "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but rather grievous; nevertheless afterwards it bringeth forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness."
3. The soonest way to escape from chastening is to "hear the rod and him who hath appointed it."
4. It is better to be chastened as God's children than condemned as God's enemies.
5. "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but God delivereth him out of them all."
6. The best alliance against the ills of life is the friendship of the living God.
7. If God be for his people, nothing can be really against them.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Refuge from trouble in the thought of God.
Conclusion of Eliphaz's address. His language suddenly changes into a gentler strain. It is like the clearing of a dark sky, revealing once more the deep blue; or the bend of a stream which has been flowing through a stern gorge, now broadening out into a sunlit lake.
I. THE GREATNESS AND BENEFICENCE OF GOD. (Job 5:8-16.) Let men turn to him for comfort and for strength. It is a bright gem of description.
1. God is the Supreme. (Job 5:8.) Let men look no lower than to the Highest. With him is the final appeal. He is Judge of all the earth. Clouds and darkness are round about him; but justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
2. He is the great Worker. His scale and sphere of operation is vast, immeasurable, unsearchable (Job 5:9). His mode of operation is wonderful, past finding out. "His way is in the sea, his path in the great waters, his footsteps who has known?" The grandeur and marvel of his deeds are seen:
(1) In nature. (Job 5:10.) One phenomenon is mentioned only as typical, in all important respects, of all the other tokens of his power in nature. It is the blessed gift of rain. For nothing in an Oriental clime speaks more powerfully to the senses and the feelings than this inestimable boon. Many other Scriptures witness this. First He gives the early and the latter rain;" "comes down like rain upon the mown grass," and "as showers that water the earth." 'Tis he who causes the refreshing showers to fall upon the fields of both the just and the unjust. The French peasants say, as they watch the rain failing on their vineyards, "Voici le vin qui descend du ciel!" "Here comes down the wine from heaven!" But what good things do not come down from heaven in the rain from the ever-blessing God?
(2) In human life. In this broad field, common experience gains many a lesson of the same kind. Not one of the traits in this exquisite description of which the intelligent observer cannot say, "This is true to life!" He is seen to be the Exalter of the lowly and the sorrowful (Job 5:11). Who has not had brought home to him in many an instance the sense of this truth in the course of life? What tales of obscure and lowly worth rising into eminence; of deserted widows and orphans finding springs of help and succour marvellously opened to them in the hour of need can we not all tell? And we take delight in these narratives because they convince us that the constitution of life is not the mere mindless machinery which godless thinkers would make it out to be. We see that selfish craft and cunning are in the end disappointed and baffled (Job 5:12). Lies and cheats do not prosper long. The proverbs of the world bear their witness; common experience stamps them with the mark of truth. And this, too, is no accident, but the result of the righteous operation of God. We see that men overreach themselves and fall by their own snares (Job 5:13). "Vaulting ambition doth o'erleap itself, and falls on t'other side." And the sight gives us a deep pleasure, whatever pity we may feel for the victim of his conceit and folly, because here again we receive a communication of the will of God. We see self-confident men plunged into perplexity, infatuated, unable to steer their path aright, though the light is lull and clear about them (Job 5:14). There is a judicial blindness to be observed in certain cases; so that those who, in the pursuit of passion or interest, have extinguished conscience, become at last unable to see even their own interest, and make suicidal mistakes. Here, too, is the finger of a higher Power.
3. The object of Divine operation. (Job 5:15, Job 5:16.) In both nature and human life it is one—to lessen suffering, to protect innocence, to deliver from violence and persecution.
II. THE BLESSING OF DIVINE CHASTISEMENT. (Job 5:17-27.) From the general evidences of the beneficence of God, we come down to one special and peculiar form of it, He is good to us in our pains as well as in our pleasures. His power is exercised to purify and chasten as well as to destroy. The recognition of this truth is one of the leading features of Scripture revelation. How different from the gloomy creed of the most enlightened heathen concerning suffering sent from heaven! He felt the wrath of his gods, but he never knew their blows as signs of a secret and remedial love. Where there is no belief in supreme righteousness, suffering must always be without relief. The blessedness here described is both internal and external.
1. Internal. The man is blessed
(1) who recognizes his sufferings as corrections. Then their worst bitterness passes; despondency is cheered; hope dawns in the heart. He is blessed
(2) who rejects not the warnings which they bring. He willingly takes the medicine, and submits to the direction of the heavenly Physician. But they aggravate their sufferings and inflame their ills who know they are being corrected, yet refuse to take the Divine hint for amendment; who are like the stubborn horse or ass chafing at the bit, resisting the guidance of the rein. He is blessed
(3) who yields himself up implicitly to the Divine treatment, suffers his evils to be expelled, his follies to be plucked up by the roots. He is blessed
(4) because he is thus brought into the deeper knowledge and fellowship of God. To know God as the Almighty Benefactor is one step in religion; to know him as the Almighty Chastiser is another and a higher. And this is never reached except through suffering, the deeper consciousness of sin, struggles with self, a higher purity, and a deeper peace.
2. External. The man at peace with himself and with God seems to bear a charmed life (Job 5:19).
(1) Be defended from outward evils. (Job 5:20-22.) He passes through seas of trouble, and rides upon the crest of each advancing wave; passes through fire, and it hurts him not. The greatest outward calamities are mentioned, only to show how he rises superior to them all. "Famine." The histories of Elijah, of the widow of Zarephath, of the temptation of Jesus Christ, all illustrate the grand truth that man's strength is derived, not from bread alone, but directly from the Word and will of God. The truth is a general one. It is that expressed by St. Paul that, though the outward man perish, the inward man may be renewed day by day. "The power of the sword," "devastation," "famine," "wild beasts," form the catalogue of the ills most common and most dreaded in ancient times. None of these can harm the man who is reconciled to God. The truth again is general, and admits of a twofold application. In the first place, history is full of the providential escapes of good men, in which every discerning mind will see the hand of God. But there are exceptions. No law of nature is set aside. The sword of the foe, the tooth of the lion, is not blunted, nor is the body hardened against hunger. Good men, like others, perish from these causes. But here the truth applies in another way. The souls of the martyrs flee to the altar of heaven (Revelation 6:9). or are borne from the scene of suffering to that of rest, as Lazarus to the besom of Abraham. In either case they are unharmed and happy in God. But another evil, more keenly felt in more civilized times, is the "scourge of the tongue." Slander—
"Whose edge is sharper than the sword; whose tongue
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile; whose breath
Rides on the posting winds, and doth belie
All comers of the world—kings, queens, and states,
Maids, matrons—nay, the secrets of the grave
This viperous slander enters."
From this fearful scourge the blessed man is hidden, protected. Good men are often attacked, but cannot be destroyed, by slander. They do not feel it as do the consciously guilty. They, in the beautiful words of the psalm, are kept "secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." The slanderer does service to the upright man in the end by forcing him into a position of self-defence, or of silent dignity, which brings the true qualities of his character into a clearer light.
(2) He is favoured with outward good. (Job 5:23-27.) The stones that afflict the fields with barrenness, the devouring beasts, seem to be in secret pact with him and refuse to do him harm. This is poetry wrapping up truth. We are reminded of the beautiful ode of the Roman poet (Horace, Job 1:22), where, dwelling on the theme that innocence is its own protection, its own arms, he tells as of the weft that fled from him all unarmed in the Sabine wood. The whole picture is that of the quiet pastoral life which we love to associate with innocence and the protection of Heaven. There is comfort in his tent; when he visits his pastures, no head of cattle is missing (for this is perhaps the true meaning of the latter clause of Job 5:24). Children and children's children spring up around him; till he comes to his end crowned with silver hair, like the ripe sheaf carried home to the garner. With this description compare the noble ninety-first psalm. Eliphaz emphatically declares (Job 5:27) this to have been his experience. It was a picture drawn from life. We cannot doubt that it was realized in numberless instances in those early conditions of life; nay, it is so still. It hardly comes within the scope of such poetry to recognize the actual or seeming exceptions. And if we do not see the universal truth of the description of the good man's career, we must recollect that life is a far more complicated and many-sided affair with us. It is far more difficult to trace the connection of cause and effect in the various courses of men. And we have this immense advantage over this early teacher—that we have a clearer view, a firmer belief of the extension of man's career into eternity. All that appears exceptional and opposed to the laws of life laid down by Eliphaz, we doubt not, will be compensated and redressed in a future state.—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The lot of the foolish.
By a skilful turn of thought, Eliphaz exhibits the consequences of human folly—
1. AS THEY AFFECT THE LIFE OF THE INDIVIDUAL FOOLISH ONE. "Wrath killeth and envy slayeth" him. By his folly he excites the wrath or the envy of others, or his folly leads him into deadly courses.
II. AS THEY AFFECT HIS LOT AND CONDITION. His prosperity, even if it begin, is but of temporary duration. If he take root, suddenly his habitation is cursed.
III. AS THEY AFFECT HIS FAMILY. His children are in danger—"far from safety." They are condemned by the judge sitting in the gate; are crushed, and are not found. "The seed of the wicked shall be cut off."
IV. AS THEY AFFECT HIS SUBSTANCE. He soweth, but a stranger reapeth his harvests; his toil may be productive, but a "robber swalloweth" his substance. Dark is the picture thus presented of the judgments which fall upon the ungodly, the foolish, and the vain. If Eliphaz intended this to be a reflection upon Job, it was unmerited and uncalled for. The Divine judgment upon Job was, "My servant Job, a perfect and an upright man." Eliphaz argued from the particular to the general. However true it may be that the foolish suffers, it is not equally true that every sufferer is foolish. This was the error in Eliphaz's mode of arguing. It is a common error. We know it may be said, "He whom thou lovest is sick."—R.G.
Job 5:6, Job 5:7
The common lot.
"Man is born unto trouble."
I. IT IS AN INEVITABLE RESULT OF HIS EXPOSED CONDITION.
II. IT IS EVIDENTLY A PART OF THE PRESENT ORDER OF THINGS. But—
III. IT IS DUE TO THE DERANGEMENT OF THE RIGHT RELATIONS OF MAN TO HIS GOD, TO HIS NEIGHBOUR, TO THE WORLD AROUND. "Affliction cometh not forth of the dust; neither doth trouble spring out of the ground."
IV. IT IS GRACIOUSLY USED AS A MEANS OF SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE, CORRECTION, AND DEVELOPMENT. We now know that that which we endure is for chastening—for that culture which every wise father seeks to secure for his sons. And when the afflictions are "not joyous, but grievous," even then "God dealeth with us as with sons." He takes up the sad and dark and painful things of our life, and uses them as instruments for our discipline, "that we might be partakers of his holiness." Most assuredly we may know that "the peaceable fruits of righteousness" are yielded to them who patiently endure these afflictions when they are "exercised thereby."
Let us, therefore, learn:
1. Not to be surprised if" trouble" overtakes us. We are born in a land where it is very plentiful.
2. To see to it that our afflictions come of our frailty, not of our folly.
3. Patiently to await the end, when he shall have wrought out his purpose, who maketh "all things work together for good to them that love him."—R.G.
God the true Refuge in affliction.
"I would seek unto God." Wisely did Eliphaz urge his friend to seek refuge in the only true and safe resort. "Under his feathers shalt thou trust." In the midst of all sorrows—
"God is the Refuge of his saints,
When storms of sharp distress invade;
Ere we can offer our complaints,
Behold him present with his aid."
To seek this Refuge men are encouraged by—
I. THE GREATNESS OF THE DIVINE POWER. He "doeth great things and unsearchable; marvellous things without number." Of these beautiful illustrations are to be found on every hand—in heaven, earth, the deep seas, in the processes of nature, in the government of men.
II. THE DIVINE BENEFICENCE. His rich gifts made freely to the seas of men. "He giveth rain upon the earth'" which is at once a precious gift and a symbol of all blessings in its abundance, diffusion, preciousness, freeness to all. "He is kind to the evil and the unthankful, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust."
III. THE DIVINE CONTROL OVER MEN. Especially illustrated in his dealing with the wicked. He takes compassion on the needy. "He setteth on high those that be low." He brings down the haughtiness of the foolish. He "disappointeth the devices of the crafty"—taketh the wicked in their own deceit.
IV. THE DIVINE PITIFULNESS FOR THE POOR is a further encouragement to men to find their Refuge in God. He guardeth the poor and the feeble. He sayeth him from the sword of their mouth, their cruel words' and from the hand of the mighty. The Divine Help of the poor, men have sung in all ages. "So the poor hath hope; The poor committeth himself unto thee." In this Refuge he is safe. The day of his trouble passes away. A Divine hand, unseen, upholds him while the pressure is heavy. Of the poor, as of the sparrows, it must be said, "God feedeth them." If men knew the loving-kindness of the Lord, and his great pitifulness, they would put their trust in him more willingly, and would find help and comfort.—R.G.
The blessedness of the Divine correction.
This was known even in early times, but only fully taught in Now Testament times. It is a great encouragement to men to bear pain and sorrow to know that the Lord afflicts. "He maketh sore," but "he bindeth up;" "he woundeth," but his "hands make whole again." Being a Divine correction, a chastisement from his hand will be—
I. A WISE CORRECTION. A good purpose will always be held in view. "Not willingly," "not for his pleasure," does he afflict. His aim is to promote our good—" that we may be partakers of his holiness."
II. A GRACIOUS CORRECTION. Mercy will temper it. "He remembereth we are but dust."
He will no load of grief impose
Beyond the strength that he bestows."
If he brings low in affliction, it is that he may exalt in honour. If he takes away earthly possessions, it is that he may supplant them with heavenly. He weans the heart from the love of the temporal, that he may fix it on the eternal. It is, therefore—
III. A BENIGN CORRECTION. Happy fruits follow it. If he afflicts, he heals. He delivers in six, yea, seven troubles. He redeems the famishing from death. He hides from the scourge of the tongue. He screens from the stroke of destruction. He draweth men into good ways; then, when they please the Lord, he maketh even their enemies to be at peace with them. Beautifully is this illustrated: "Thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee." He who keeps the commandments of God is in harmony with the whole kingdom of God.
This encourages to patience under trials.
1. It is the Lord's chastisement.
2. It is controlled and regulated by a Divine hand.
3. It has a wise and worthy end in view.
4. It cometh to its blessed fruition in the sanctity and perfectness of human character.—R.G.
The final consequences of the Divine chastisement.
He who in mercy afflicts, or in equal mercy takes up the evils and ills of life, and, using them as his own instruments, transmutes them into means of grace and blessing, will, after he has tried his servants by their exposure to the storms and pains of life, give them "a desired end." Sooner or later they see "the end of the Lord "—the end the Lord had in view. In these verses the happiest consequences are declared to follow those chastisements which the Lord bestowed during the process of suffering and exposure.
I. CONTENTMENT AND PEACE SHALL REIGN IN THE HOME. God quiets the hearts of his children, and though heavy trials assail them, he prepares rest and peace for them. In how many instances is this daily seen! The evil exhausts itself. God puts his hand upon it and arrests it. His exposed ones he leads back to safety and repose, and, as was fulfilled in Job's case, of which Eliphaz unconsciously predicts, he blesses them at last. Like worn veterans, they return at last to receive honour, acknowledgment, and rest. Precious are the final days of the truly tried; the life is matured, the character chastened and perfected, the experience of life is enlarged.
II. BLESSING SHALL ABIDE UPON THE OFFSPRING. "Thy seed shall be great … as the grass of the earth;" yea, even though half the sorrow were caused by that very seed. The Lord will lead the wanderers back, will punish and correct and reclaim. Many a one out of his stony griefs raises a Bethel. The testimony of godly fidelity on the part of the parent speaks in its silence to the offspring, and in the end produces its good results. Every godly man has the best ground for hoping that the blessing of the Lord will be also upon his offspring.
III. IN THE FULNESS OF AGE AND THE RIPENESS OF CHARACTER, LIFE SHALL CLOSE. So the tried one receives into himself, at last, the whole result of the Divine discipline. The history is complete, the work of the day finished, the journey ended, the character formed. All the history of life is written in the cultured, matured life; in the character gained; in the honour won. Faithful unto death, the struggling one receives the crown of life. In ripeness of judgment and attainment all the fruit of the patiently endured tribulation is found. The man is made. His pains, his perils, his watching and prayer, his diligence in duty and patience in suffering, all go to make up the perfected life which is his own to inherit. The exposed grain has grown through all dangers, has grown by all changes—in the heat and cold, the light and the darkness, the rain and the shine. "Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season." Let every one search this out, hear it and know it for his good.—R.G.
The foolish taking root.
I. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR THE FOOLISH TO TAKE ROOT. "The foolish," in biblical phraseology, are worse than people of weak intellect; they are always regarded as morally degenerate. Their folly is the opposite to the wisdom of which the beginning is "the fear of the Lord." Though lacking in moral fibre as well as in mental stamina, such people still often contrive to achieve an astonishing amount of success in life.
1. They mall be favoured by circumstances. In this world men are not wholly dependent upon their own character and conduct. There is a general tide of prosperity that sweeps strong on its flood many who have had no hand in originating it. There is good fortune as well as misfortune, and the one is often as little deserved as the other.
2. They may be helped by Providence. God's grace is always greater than our deserts. He would win us by his goodness. The foolish man should see that this goodness of God is designed to lead him to repentance (Romans 2:4). Sometimes, however, the Divine temporal favour is in reality a method of judgment, a sunshine that ripens the effects of folly, so that they may appear in their fulness at the hastening harvest-time.
3. They may assist themselves. There is a kind of prosperity which good and wise men scorn, not being able to stoop to the degradation which leads to it. Then bad and foolish men step in, and, though grovelling in the dust, succeed in grasping some of the so-called good things of life. Much outward prosperity is not directly dependent on moral qualities. A man may be skilful in money-making without being either a saint or a philosopher.
II. ALTHOUGH THE FOOLISH MAY TAKE ROOT, THEY WILL NOT BEAR GOOD FRUIT. We may be surprised at their temporal prosperity, but it is only temporal. For a while they live and grow, not simply flourishing a moment like a plucked flower that must soon fade, but actually striking roots into the ground, and thus strengthening their position and drawing nourishment to themselves. Still, at best, it is only the rooting in the soil that is thought of. This is but the first stage. Eliphaz was quite right in his surmise that the last stage would be very different, although he was in error as to the time, circumstances, and character of the great denouement.
1. No good fruit will follow. The foolish stock can only bring forth fruit of folly; and if it grows luxuriantly, it will not bear any better products. Its size will only multiply and coarsen its natural issue. Let bad and foolish men advance unimpeded as far as possible in their earthly prosperity, yet of real soul-prosperity they will have none, for they have not in them the life from which this springs.
2. The flourishing prosperity will come to an end. These noxious plants must be finally rooted up if they are not struck down earlier by the thunderbolts of judgment. Rapid growth is no promise of long endurance. The mistake of the old world was to look for the judgment on earth. It may come here. But if it does not, it is certain to come hereafter; for God is wise and good and almighty. Therefore beware of the delusion of temporal insanity. Look to the end. Look to the quality of the success attained. Let this be what Christ approves; i.e. like his success, which was victory through the cross. Then a fruitful root will sprout out of a "dry ground" (Isaiah 53:2).—W.F.A.
Job 5:6, Job 5:7
I. TROUBLE DOES NOT COME CASUALLY AND WITHOUT DUE CAUSE. It is not like a weed that springs up by the wayside. This might seem to be the case, because it arrives so suddenly and so unexpectedly, and because there does not appear to be any rule that governs its advent at one place rather than another. But Eliphaz is rightly persuaded that it is not the effect of chance. We have good reasons for agreeing with him thus far.
1. All things are subject to law. Chance is only a name for our ignorance. When we do not see a cause we imagine that the event has happened casually. But as we pursue our inquiries further we find that there are no stray events outside the great bond of Divine order.
2. All things are arranged by Providence. Here is another answer to the doctrine of chance. Not only is there law; there is also a supreme Administrator of law. God's hand is unseen, but not a pawn moves unless his fingers are upon it; or if it be said that this leaves no scope for man's free-will, still it may be asserted that, the infinite mind of God seeing the whole game, the end from the beginning, he can always so arrange that ultimately his designs shall be fully executed.
II. TROUBLE COMES FROM WITHIN, NOT FROM WITHOUT. It does not spring out of the ground. Man is born to it. There is something in human nature that he disposes him to trouble. Just as the sparks fly up by nature, so the soul of man suffers by nature. It is an attribute of the human constitution to be subject to suffering.
1. Susceptibility to suffering is natural. The callous are the unnatural. The soul that never grieves is hard and dead. We are made to be sensitive to pain, just as we are made to hear sounds and see the light.
2. Trouble is born with us. Sin begets suffering. The sin of the parent descends in ca]amities on his children, who inherit the harvest of his misdeeds. The fall of man and the general sinfulness of the race ensure a certain amount of suffering to every innocent child who is born into the world. Nevertheless, do not take refuge with the fatalist. The trouble has a cause. Seek this and master it.
III. TROUBLE IS UNIVERSAL AND INEVITABLE. Some have more than others. There are men to whom the lines have fallen in pleasant places, yea, they have a goodly heritage. One such had been Job. But his hour of trouble came, and then it proved to be an hour of unprecedented calamity. Though men suffer differently, all suffer—if not in body or estate, yet in mind and soul; if not in sunny youth, yet in overcast manhood; if not in visible adversity, yet in inward distress. This does not mean that men are always suffering, nor that there is more pain than joy in life.
1. We should not be surprised at meeting with trouble. Many people irrationally imagine that they are to be exceptions to the universal experience. When painful facts reveal their delusion they are overwhelmed with amazement and disappointment. It would be better to be prepared to expect what is part of the common lot of man.
2. Trouble which cannot be avoided may yet be cured. The true resort should be neither to stoical indifference nor to impotent despair. There is no gospel in the assertion that trouble is universal. But there is a gospel which deals with the fact. Christ comes to give us power to utilize trouble as discipline, and ultimately to conquer it, so that "our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Corinthians 4:17).—W.F.A.
Seeking unto God.
As usual, the advice of Eliphaz is excellent in the abstract. The error is in the particular way of applying it to Job. Here is the sting of it. But its general truth is always instructive. This is certainly the case with the recommendation to "seek unto God."
I. INQUIRE WHAT IT IS TO SEEK UNTO GOD.
1. It begins with remoteness from God. We have lost God if we have to seek him, as we need not think of finding what we already possess and enjoy. God is lost by sin; but the sense of God's presence is often deadened by the oppression of sorrow and by the intrusion of worldly scenes.
2. It means an earnest effort of the soul. We are not to wait for God to come to us, but to "seek unto" him. This requires the mind and will. We have to be watchful to note any indications of his presence, and active in pressing forward towards him.
3. It implies that God can be found. It is useless to seek for that which is hopelessly lost or absolutely unattainable. If we seek, we must expect to find. This process would be folly in the eyes of the Agnostic. Now, the encouragement is that others have sought and found God. They have seen him, not with bodily vision, indeed, but with true spiritual experience. Job himself did seek God, and he found him at last; for he exclaimed, in a magnificent burst of thankful gladness, "I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5).
4. It leads to confidence. It is useless to seek God out of mere curiosity. We have much to do with him when we find him. But first of all we must place entire confidence in him, confessing to him our sin and our sore need.
II. CONSIDER THE ENCOURAGEMENTS THAT INVITE US TO SEEK UNTO GOD. The author of the Book of Job is a great lover of nature. Scenes from the physical world, more especially in its majesty and grandeur, fill his spacious canvass in later stages. Here we come upon the first burst of that glory of nature which shines out with ever-increasing volume as we proceed through the book. This leads on to the wonderful deeds of providence. Notice some of the points to which Eliphaz calls attention.
(1) greatness—"doeth great things;"
(2) the mystery—"and unsearchable;" and
(3) the variety of God's works in nature—"marvellous things without number" (verse 9).
Therefore he must be able to help us all in all kinds of trouble.
2. The graciousness of God in his milder works. This is illustrated by the phenomenon of rain (verse 10). "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass" (Psalms 72:6). Therefore "the bruised reed will he not break," etc. (Isaiah 42:3).
3. God's goodness to the lowly. He sets up on high those that be low (verse 11). Therefore to be humiliated is to have a special reason for expecting his help.
4. His judgments in defeating the crafty (verses 12-14). His very wrath brings mercy to the oppressed. The poor man cannot escape from his unjust oppressor; but God can bring deliverance. With him is the final court of appeal, and there right is always rendered, there the rich have no favour and the cunning no opportunity of cheating justice.
5. God's deliverance of the poor and helpless. He is "a just God and a Saviour'" and he delights to reveal himself in the activity of grace redeeming and recovering his suffering children. With such manifestations of the power and goodness of God in nature and providence the troubled soul may well seek unto him for deliverance.—W.F.A.
The happiness of chastisement.
I. THERE IS A HAPPINESS IN CHASTISEMENT. The sentence looks paradoxical. No chastisement can be pleasant while it is being endured, or it would cease to be chastisement. Where, then, does its happiness reside?
1. Chastisement is a proof of God's care. "Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth" (Hebrews 12:6). Therefore to be chastised is to receive a token of God's love. Now, surely we ought to be willing to bear a good deal of suffering if we can only obtain so valuable a token as this. If God did not chastise us he would not be treating us as true sons (Hebrews 12:8). Our very immunity would thus be a proof of God's desertion of us—a most miserable and hopeless condition.
2. Chastisement is designed to effect purification. It may not lead to this end, and it will not do so unless we co-operate submissively and penitently. Eliphaz saw as much, and therefore, although he was applying these truths in an irritatingly, mistaken way, he, rightly enough from his standpoint, urged Job to seek God's mercy in penitence that he might thus benefit by his chastisement. To be purged from sin is better than to be made rich, comfortable, externally happy. It is true blessedness, though at first experienced amid tears of sorrow.
3. Chastisement leads to joy. Afterwards it brings forth the "peaceable fruit of righteousness." We count a man happy who is on the road to a great good. He may enjoy it already by anticipation. At all events, he is to be congratulated on his destiny, as one congratulates the heir of great estates. The Christian may be congratulated if he can say with St. Paul, "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).
II. IT IS THEREFORE BOTH WRONG AND FOOLISH TO DESPISE CHASTISEMENT. It is wrong, because we ought to submit with humility to whatever comes from the hand of God; and it is foolish, because contempt will destroy the efficacy of chastisement, which needs to be felt if it is to be effective, and which blesses us through our humility and contrition. A proud and haughty bearing under chastisement defeats the ends of the gracious ordinance. We see here how diametrically opposite the enlightened Hebrew view of suffering is to that of the Stoic. Both views regarded pain as not the evil thing that most men took it to be; both demanded patience and courage from the sufferer. But Stoicism inculcated contempt for suffering. Thus it engendered Pharisaic pride. The scriptural idea—in the Old Testament as well as the New—is rather to lead us to attach more importance to suffering than the thoughtless give to it, not that we may magnify the sensations of distress, hut that we may let the trouble have its full work in our souls.
1. We may despise the chastisement when we make light of it.
2. The contempt may be shown by denying its meaning or use.
3. It may also be experienced by rebelling against chastisement.
In this last case we do not regard the trouble as slight. But we do not reverence the holy purpose with which it is sent. Our wild resistance shows contempt for the character of our affliction. Christ is the model Sufferer, who deserved no chastisement, and yet who was "led as a lamb to the slaughter," and was thus made perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:10).—W.F.A.
In league with nature.
Eliphaz argues that, if Job will but submit himself to the ordinances of God, nature itself will be his ally, and the very stones that obstruct his plough, and even the beasts that ravage his flocks, will become his auxiliaries. Here the seer of visions has touched on a great truth. To be in harmony with the Lord of nature is to be in league with nature.
I. WE ARE NOT NATURALLY IN LEAGUE WITH NATURE. This is a paradox in form, yet it is a transcript of experience. The experience is peculiar to man. All other things find their habitat congenial to them. Man alone discovers himself to be as an alien among foes—stones, weeds, vermin, beasts of prey, cruel winds, tempests, earthquakes, frustrating his designs. Two very different causes may account for this discord.
1. Our natural greatness. We are a part of nature, yet we are above nature. In our higher self we cannot be content to take our share with the beasts that perish. Our aspirations lift us out of agreement with the life that is lived by plants and animals.
2. Our sinful fall. We are meant to be above nature, ruling over it. By sin we have fallen below nature, and it has trampled on us. The master has become the slave and victim of his servant.
II. IT IS GOOD TO BE IN LEAGUE WITH NATURE. So Eliphaz implies by his promise to Job of this condition as a reward for contrite submission. The Bible nowhere teaches a Manichaean horror of nature. All God's works are good and deserve to be appreciated by us. Neither do we learn from Scripture to entertain a monkish horror of nature. The inherent innocence of every natural power and action is suggested by the biblical description of creation. Therefore we shall make a great mistake if we think we are to escape from the tyranny of nature either by flight or by warfare. We cannot escape from nature if we would. Though we crushed our nature, it would arise and reassert itself. But, supposing our flight or our warfare were successful, that we could absolutely leave or completely extirpate nature, we should only find our lives maimed and impoverished; for nature is part of us, and is intended to be our useful servant.
III. WE CANNOT FORM A SUCCESSFUL LEAGUE WITH NATURE BY DESCENDING TO THE LIFE OF NATURE. The sophistry of so-called naturalism tells us that we can. But it is deceptive, christening bestiality with the name of nature. The nature to be imitated is Wordsworth's nature, not Zola's. But Wordsworth's nature is the type and prophecy of the spiritual that is higher than nature. Merely to follow natural impulses is to become swinish, not human, partly because the lower impulses of nature are the most violent, and partly because we have aggravated those impulses by sin.
IV. SUBMISSION TO GOD MAKES NATURE IN LEAGUE WITH US. God is the Master of nature, and as we learn to do God's will, nature, which also ultimately does his will, turns to aid us. Physically, the forces of nature work for those who obey the laws of God in nature, and it is to be noted that to obey those laws is a very different thing from being a slave to natural impulses; e.g. the laws of health do not agree with the indulgence of appetite. Spiritually, our obedient submission to God compels the adverse forces of nature to work for our good as instruments of discipline. This was not sufficiently clear to Eliphaz, who made too much of temporal prosperity, and thought that to be the invariable lot of the good man. But the Book of Job reveals it. Thus nature ministers to man when man serves God.—W.F.A.
God's harvest home.
We have here a characteristic Old Testament picture of the completed life of the aged servant of God. He is rewarded for his fidelity, not merely by having nature as a minister of his prosperity during his active days, but by having his time prolonged to a ripe old age, and his whole career rounded and finished so that at last he is taken up like a shock of corn to God's harvest home.
I. LET US CONSIDER THE IDEA OF A COMPLETE LIFE,
1. The truth of the Old Testament idea. The Jews were no pessimists. They were far from the sickly Buddhist dream of Nirvana. With them life was sweet, and long life a blessing. Was not this a true and healthy conception? Life is a gift of God; it is a source of great natural joy; it is a precious talent, offering rich opportunities for service. It is good to live. Though it may please God to pluck the bud before it has opened, or to remove the blossom before it has matured the fruit, we should feel that there is a great blessing in his sparing a life for full, ripe fruit-bearing.
2. The supplement of New Testament revelation. The gospel has enlarged the scope and value of life. It has shown us that no human life can be complete in a brief earthly existence. It has promised life eternal for the fulness of being and of service. Now we can see that life is good and blessed indeed.
II. LET US OBSERVE THE BLESSEDNESS OF A RIPE LIFE. Old age is compared to a shock of corn. We have "first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." This full corn ripens into the gold of harvest. In the perfect old age we see the corn come to maturity. It has attained all that it can attain. The discipline of life is for the maturing of souls. Old men should be richer in grace than young men, and a certain mellowness should mark the character of the aged Christian. Unfortunately, this is not always seen. Sometimes the beauty and enthusiasm of youth give place to a chill and narrow formalism. Instead of ripening, the soul withers. Instead of rich juices, it has the vinegar of cynicism. This is distinctly wrong. It points to a life's mistake and failure. But the possibility of so unfortunate an issue bids us all be on our guard against it. It warns us to avoid the danger, and it urges us to use the grace of God so that we may ripen and grow mellow.
III. LET US ANTICIPATE THE HARVEST INGATHERING OF A COMPLETE AND RIPE LIFE. The shock of corn is gathered in. This is necessary to preserve it; for if it were left on the field it would not in the dank autumn. An earthly immortality would be no blessing. But God calls his aged servants out of the world in which their service is complete and which can no longer minister to their further ripening. Yet the ingathering is not the end. The wheat is not heaped up to be burnt, but stored in the granary for food and for seed. God gathers his servants home in safety, sheltered from all storms and frosts of winter. Then the true purpose of their lives begins to be seen. All the rest was but the preparation for the harvest; and the harvest itself was only undertaken in view of future usefulness. The old man has not finished his life when he lays down his grey head to die. Then he is about to begin to live; then the largest fruitfulness of his soul's experience is about to be utilized. The harvest icy is the joy of the future. Souls are gathered home to God that they may minister to life and blessedness in ages yet unseen.—W.F.A.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 5". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24