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Bible Commentaries

James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary
Job 1

 

 

Verses 1-26

THEME AND OUTLINE

The theme of Job seems to be the meaning and object of evil and suffering under the government of a holy, wise and merciful God, and may be outlined thus:

The Prologue (Job 1-2, in prose) The Dialogue (Job 3-31, in poetry) The Words of Elihu (Job 32-37, in poetry) The Words of the Almighty (Job 38-41, in poetry) The Response of (Job 42:1-6, in poetry) The Epilogue (Job 42:7-17, in prose)

THE KEY TO THE BOOK

The key to the book is found in the first chapter, which, after an introductory testimony to Job, translates the reader to heavenly scenes (Job 1:6).

The sons of God are angelic beings bringing in their reports to God, the mystery being that Satan is found “also among them.” How the prince of darkness is granted access to God is a question these lessons cannot discuss; but we accept the fact and draw certain inferences therefrom.

He is seen here in his scriptural attitude of the accuser of the brethren; and when God taunts him, if one may so say, with the uprightness of Job whom he has been unable to corrupt, he at once charges him with a mercenary spirit, and declares that if God were to take his temporal blessings away from him he would be as bad as the rest.

God accepts the challenge and puts His servant into the hands of Satan for a period, and for the exercise of a terrible but limited power, that it may be seen if the charge be true.

In other words, it is not Job so much who is on trial as God. It is not a question of Job’s loyalty so much as one of God’s power. Is the grace of God able to keep one of His servants faithful to Him, though he be stripped of everything which men count dear?

The outcome was victory for God, and discomfiture for Satan, under circumstances calculated to prove a great comfort to God’s people in every generation. This thought is suggested by the prologue, and which, kept in mind, lightens up the whole book.

THE DISCUSSION

The dialogue proceeds on the question whether great suffering such as Job’s be not an evidence of great sin, Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar affirming and Job denying. The dispute is carried on in a series of three acts, each containing three arguments of the “friends” and as many defenses by Job, until the last, when Zophar is silenced, and Job apparently triumphs.

Job’s defense is based on two grounds, (1) the admitted prosperity of the wicked, chapter 21, and (2) his own personal righteousness, chapters 29 and 31.

It would seem at first that his friends intended to comfort him, but were driven to accusation by the caustic character of his replies, caused no doubt, by his intense suffering. Whether his friends were sincere or insincere at the beginning must be determined by the view taken of chapter four. It can be so read as to suggest either view.

The words of Elihu also suggest a series of three acts, out of which we gather that he rebuked both parties to the debate, the friends for their accusations, which were unwarranted in great measure, and Job for his self-righteousness, equally unwarranted (Job 32:1-3). His philosophy of the sufferings differs from the others in that he believes they were sent for the good of the sufferer (see Job 33:28-30). The first part of his speech is addressed to Job (chaps. 32-33); the second to the three friends (chap. 34); and the last to Job again (chaps. 35-37). As he closes a thunder storm is gathering, whose description forms a grand climax to his address. Out of it the voice of the Almighty is heard.

THE VOICE OF THE ALMIGHTY

The discussion thus far had been confined to the mystery of evil, and the balance is now restored by considering the mystery of good which the Almighty reveals. It is notable that He gives no explanation of Job’s suffering, renders no decision on the subject in debate, and offers no hint of compensation to His servant for what he has endured.

The pervading idea of His revelation is that of power, absolute sovereignty, as though His design were to overwhelm Job and effect his unconditional surrender. The crisis in Job’s life was like that of Moses as he stood in the cleft of the rock (Exodus 33-34) or Elijah at Horeb (1 Kings 19), or Paul on his way to Damascus (Acts 9), and the result in Job’s case is not unlike that in their cases.

Meditation on the book leads to the conclusion that such experiences as those of Job, and they come to every true child of God, may be for discipline and to teach submission so vital to be learned, but also to serve a purpose far exceeding human knowledge, in the superhuman world. Compare John 9:3; 1 Corinthians 4:9; Ephesians 3:10; and 1 Peter 1:12. What a dignity such a thought adds to the suffering for righteousness’ sake!

QUESTIONS

1. What is the theme of Job?

2. What is its outline?

3. What seems to be the key of the book?

4. How does Elihu’s philosophy of suffering differ from that of the others?

5. For what three purposes may such affliction come on any saint of God?

6. Concerning the last purpose named, have you examined the Scripture passages indicated?

THE LITERARY STYLE OF JOB

We have spoken of Job as in the poetic style, and something should be said about that style as applying not only to Job, but to the other poetical books of the Old Testament like Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Lamentations.

While these books are poetical, to English readers neither the sound of the words nor the form in which they are printed in the King James Version, would suggest that idea.

As to the form, the Revised Version is an improvement, though it leaves much to be desired. As to the sound, the rhythm of Hebrew poetry is not found in it but in the recurrence of the thought. Thought may be rhythmic as well as sound or language, and the full force of Scripture is not grasped by one who does not feel how thoughts can be emphasized by being differently re-stated.

LITERARY PARALLELISMS

The grand peculiarity of Hebrew poetry, however, is the parallelism, a form of composition somewhat artificial, consisting in the repetition of the main thought, usually with some modification of it.

These parallelisms are of three classes the synonymous, the antithetic and the synthetic.

In the synonymous parallelism the second clause is scarcely more than a repetition of the first, although there are many varieties of it so far as the length of the members is concerned. A good illustration of this parallelism is found in Job 6:5 :

Doth the wild ass bray over his grass?

Doth the ox low over his fodder?

The antithetic parallelism is one in which the idea in the second clause is the converse of that in the first, a simple form of which is Proverbs 10:1 :

A wise son rejoiceth his father; But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

In the synthetic parallelism the poet instead of echoing the former sentiment or placing it in contrast, enforces his thought by accessory ideas and modifications. For example, a general proposition is stated and the sentiment is then dwelt upon in detail. A specimen is found in Job 3:3-5 :

O that the day might have perished in which I was born, And the night which said, “A male child is conceived.” Let that day be darkness, Let not God inquire after it from on high!

Yea, let not the light shine upon it!

Let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; Let a cloud dwell upon it, Let whatever darkens the day terrify it!

QUESTIONS

1. In what is the rhythm of Hebrew poetry?

2. What is meant by a literary parallelism?

3. Name and define the three leading classes of parallelisms.

 


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Bibliography Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Job 1:4". The James Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jgc/job-1.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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