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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Job 4



Verses 1-21


First Course of the Speeches. First Dialogue,—Eliphaz and Job

First Speech of Eliphaz

Eliphaz censures Job for his impatience, and hints at sin as the cause of his suffering. Job . "Then Eliphaz the Temanite," &c. First of the three in age and experience. The mildest of Job's accusers, and superior to the rest in discernment and delicacy. His tone friendly and modest, but pours vinegar rather than oil on Job's wounds. A wise man of the class of Solomon, Heman, and Ethan (1Ki 4:30-31). Maintains that no innocent person is ever left to perish (Job 4:7). His statements sound in themselves, but false in their application. His speech the product of a genuine, pious, wise man of the east. Characterized by the legality and narrowness of the age in which he lived. Sadly wanting in sympathy and heart. Eliphaz immensely Job's inferior in intelligence, though his superior in age.

I. Introduction (Job ).

"If we assay," &c. Begins with gentleness and courtesy. Reproof to be given, not only with love in the heart, but tenderness on the tongue. The razor cuts cleanest when whetted with oil. Tenderness especially due to sufferers.—"Wilt thou be grieved," or "take it ill?" As difficult to bear reproof in trouble as it is to give it. Patiently to bear reproof, the sign of an honest, if not a gracious heart (Pro ). Next to the not deserving of a reproof is the well taking of it [Bishop Hall]. No little grace required to say "Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness" (Psa 141:5).—"But who can withhold himself," &c. The reason of his speaking. Compelled by conscience. Good to speak and act only from conviction of duty. Care to be taken, however, that that conviction be an enlightened one. Compulsion from our own spirit not to be mistaken for impulsion from God's. Better not to speak at all than not to speak to the purpose.

II. The Reproof. Contains—

1. A testimony to Job's past character and conduct, (Job ). "Thou hast instructed many," &c. Job's conduct to others in similar circumstances to his own. "Instructed,"—"strengthened," "upheld."—Noble testimony—(l.) To his sympathy and warmth of heart;

(2.) To his wisdom and intelligence—"hast instructed";

(3.) To his zeal and self-denying activity on behalf of others—"instructed many";

(4.) To his experience in the things of God, fitting him for a spiritual comforter. Job's character not merely one of uprightness and integrity, but of kindness and benevolence. Elipbaz endorses the testimony—a "perfect" as well as an "upright" man. Does this, however, less to praise his past, than to censure his present conduct. Confirms Job's own testimony of himself (Job , &c.; Job 30:25). Job the opposite of a selfish character. Improved his prosperity and influence for the comfort and benefit of others. A true priest and minister to the neighbourhood in which he lived. Not only prayed and sacrificed for others, but imparted instruction and consolation to them. Not only feared God himself, but sought to lead others to do the same. Sought to stimulate to duty and to strengthen under trial. Performed for those in trouble the part of Jonathan to David (1Sa 23:16). His conduct enjoined as a New Testament duty (Isa 35:3; Heb 12:12). Practised by Christians as a New Testament grace (Rom 15:14; 1Co 16:15; Heb 6:10; 1Th 5:11). The work and ministry of Christ himself, Job's antitype (Isa 42:3; Isa 61:1-3). Instruction placed first, as the means and foundation of the rest. The word of truth the medium to be employed in healing sick and wounded spirits (Psa 107:20).

Christian Ministry

Especially one of instruction and consolation (Isa ). Requires an enlightened mind, a tender heart, and a gracious tongue. Abundant room for such a ministry in a sinning and suffering world. Dark minds, weak hands, and tottering knees to be met with everywhere. The feeble, the falling, and the fallen, the church has with it always. The whole creation travailing together in pain; and believers, with the first fruits of the Spirit, groaning within themselves (Rom 8:22-23). Cases especially requiring such a ministry:—

1. Affliction, personal or domestic;

2. Bereavement;

3. Temporal losses and misfortunes;

4. Persecution and cruel treatment from others;

5. Spiritual darkness and temptation;

6. Sorrow and contrition for sin;

7. Infirmities of age and approaching dissolution. "‘Till tears are wiped away, and hearts cease to ache, and sin no longer desolates, every believer has a mission in this world" [Beecher]. Grounds of consolation and support in the character and truth of God (1Sa . The Old and New Testaments the storehouse of Divine consolations (Rom 15:4). Lamentations 3, Romans 8, and Hebrews 12. especially rich in such topics. The believer and well-instructed scribe to be always ready to draw out of this treasury (Mat 13:52).—Topics of consolation in time of trouble and affliction:—

(1.) The character of God, as compassionate and faithful;

(2.) The hand of God in all our afflictions;

(3.) God's gracious purposes in sending trouble;

(4.) The shortness and lightness of affliction as compared with the "eternal weight of glory" for which it is preparatory;

(5.) The promises of pardon, grace, guidance, provision, and protection to the end;

(6.) Christ Himself as our Redeemer, in whom we have all things;

(7.) His example as a sufferer;

(8.) His sympathy in our affliction.

2. The censure. "But now," &c. To commend with a "but" is a wound rather than a consolation [Trapp]. Christ's reproofs, however, sometimes given with such a "but" (Rev ).—"Now it is come upon thee,"—viz., trouble. Storms prove the ship's seaworthiness.—"And thou faintest." Same word as in Job 4:2, rendered "grieved." An unfeeling reproach. Eliphaz a sorry imitator of what he had just commended in Job. Forgets the unprecedented character of Job's sufferings. Charges him with being either a pretender to the virtue he had not, or a neglector of what he had. Job's antitype similarly taunted,—"He saved others," &c. (Mat 27:42). Yet suggests an important truth both for Christians and ministers.

Ministerial Consistency

Heed to be taken not to preach to others without practising ourselves. The people's ears not to be holier than the preacher's heart. Jewish Rabbies condemned for teaching others whilst not teaching themselves (Rom ). Self application of enforced truth the preacher's duty as well as the people's. The exhortation of the lips to be seconded by the testimony of the life. Present doings not to shame former sayings [Trapp]. One said of Erasmus, "There is more of Christ's soldier in his book than in his bosom." The easiest thing to give good counsel, the hardest to act on it. Self application of Divine truth man's duty, but God's gift. Sustaining grace needed by the strongest as well as the weakest. The saddest fall, that "when a standard bearer fainteth" (Isa 40:28). To "faint" in the day of adversity proves our strength is small (Pro 24:10). The believer's duty to do each day's work with Christian diligence, and to bear each day's cross with Christian patience. The charge of Eliphaz though not the kindest, yet true. Job had both "fainted," and was "troubled," or confounded. The language of chap. 3. a sad contrast to that of chap. 1 and

2. The shield of faith vilely cast away. How is the mighty fallen!—Faith and patience in the greatest taints subject to eclipse. Job had with Peter walked on the water; but now, with Peter, begins to sink in it.—Inconstancy written on all creature-excellence. Only One able to say "I change not," (Mal ). David's mountain stands strong till God hides His face, and he is troubled (Psa 30:7). Job to learn that his own strength is weakness, and that his righteousness is of God and not of himself. The strong man must glory only in the Lord (ch. Job 29:20; Jer 9:23-24). Job, like Paul, to be shorn of his strength, that the power of Christ may rest upon him (2Co 12:9). Only he who waits on the Lord renews his strength, so as to walk without fainting (Isa 40:31). In spite of dashing waves the limpet clings to the rock through its own emptiness.—(Job 4:6). "Is not this thy fear," &c. Apparently a cruel charge of hypocrisy. Probably, however, not so decided and direct as appears in our version. Perhaps more correctly read: "Is not thy fear [of God] thy confidence, and thy hope, the uprightness of thy ways?" That is, "Should it not be so?' Doctrine: A man's religion ought to give him confidence in time of trouble. Like his former statement, the question of Eliphaz a testimony to Job s piety. An endorsement of ch. Job 1:1. Job admitted to have been distinguished for his fear of God and integrity of life. The only question now, "Is it real?" Eliphaz begins to suspect it.—The "fear of God" another word for religion. That fear, when genuine, coupled with "uprightness" of life. True religion ever accompanied with its twin-sister, morality. True piety ought to give "confidence" in regard to the present, and "hope" in regard to the future. The words of Eliphaz a great truth falsely applied. The 46th Psalm an exemplification of that truth. Habakkuk's Song another (Hab 3:17-18). For this result, however, the fear of God to be coupled with

Faith in God

Job's fear of God unshaken, but his faith in God beclouded. A past religious and moral life in itself not sufficient to stay the mind in trouble. The peace of God that keeps the heart and mind, the result of faith in Jesus Christ (Php ). Not a blameless or God-fearing life, but a mind stayed on God and trusting in Him, keeps the soul in perfect peace (Isa 26:3). Such a trust, however, the usual outcome and accompaniment of such a life. Faith in God, and the fear of God make the soul triumph in every trouble. "Let us sing the 46th Psalm, and let them do their worst" [Luther, when threatened by enemies]. "My father is at the helm," enough to quiet the soul in every storm. "He has nothing to fear who has Csar for his friend" (Seneca] For Csar, substitute Christ. The privilege of believers, eagle-like, to hold on their career through storms and tempests. "The righteous is as bold as a lion," i.e., with faith in exercise. Job's faith, like that of the disciples, tested in a storm and found defective (Mar 4:40). Sometimes, however, breaks through the cloud, and triumphs over all opposition (Job 23:10; Job 16:19; Job 19:25-27; Job 13:15). There are times when the believer's faith is scarcely able to keep head above water.

III. Exhortation, with veiled Reproof (Job ).

"Remember, I pray thee," &c. Skilfully ambiguous. May serve either for conviction or consolation. History a useful teacher, but requires intelligence to read its lessons. The part of true wisdom to mark, record, and improve God's dealings in Providence (Psa ). His works made to be remembered (Psa 111:4). Asaph's and David's conduct in times of trouble (Psa 77:11-12; Psa 143:5).—"Whoever perished being innocent?" Literally: "Who is that innocent person who hath perished?" Asks for any such known example. Eternity not in view. "Perished" by some signal judgment. "Cut off" by some sudden catastrophe. Reference to Job's own case. Job not yet "cut off;" hence consolation in the question. The innocent "cast down but not destroyed." Paul's experience (2Co 4:9; 2Co 6:9). David's (Psa 71:20). Job all but "cut off;" hence the question for conviction. Can Job be an innocent person? No such person has ever perished. No example, ac cording to Eliphaz, of a godly man cut off by any signal judgment or overwhelming catastrophe. The opposite side maintained by Job. The godly fall with the ungodly (ch Job 9:22-23). Same truth taught, Ecc 9:2-3; Eze 21:3. The godly often suffer while the wicked prosper (Job 12:5-6; Job 21:7; Psa 73:3; Psa 73:12). The first recorded death of a believer a violent and bloody one. Saints at times "killed all the day long," and their "blood shed like water" (Psa 44:22; Psa 79:3). Paul glories in the long martyr-roll of the Old Testament, as the church has since done in that of the New (Heb 11:35-37). Thousands of the faithful "cut off" in the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (Dan 11:33). Still, Job's case an unusual one, and not belonging to any of these classes. His crushing calamities apparently direct from the hand of God. Everything seemed to proclaim him an object of the Divine anger. "God smites, hence there is guilt,"—an instinct of humanity (Act 28:3-4). Hence the suspicion of his friends, and Job's own perplexity (ch. Job 13:24; Job 16:9-14; Job 19:10-11). Faith has often a hard battle to fight against appearances and carnal reasoning. Job's friends instead of aiding his buffeted and sometimes staggering faith, help his unbelief. Their object, to make him out, and bring him to acknowledge himself to be, other than he had appeared. The experience of Job a foreshadowing of that of Jesus (Isa 53:3-4; Mat 27:43; Mat 27:46).

V. Eliphaz adduces his own observation for Job's conviction (Job ).

"Even as I have seen." Useful for the preacher to substantiate his arguments and appeals by facts of his own observation.

Sin and its Consequences

1. Sin. "They that plough iniquity,"—practise wrong, especially in relation to others. A cruel thrust at Job, as if this had been his character, and that for which he was now suffering. "Plough" iniquity—practise it carefully, industriously, painfully, perseveringly, and with expectation of profit (Pro ; Hos 8:7; Hos 10:13. Sinners sore labourers (Pro 6:17; Isa 59:5; Jer 9:5). Satan the worst master; keeps his servants at hard work with miserable wages.—"And sow wickedness," or "mischief;"—continue to prosecute wicked and oppressive schemes. The character of tyrants to oppress others with the view of enriching themselves. Sin gradual and progressive. One sin prepares the way for another. Ploughing prepares for sowing. The sinner urged on to persevere in sin. One sin to be followed by another, in order to gain the result, as ploughing by sowing. "Evil men and seducers wax worse and worse" (2Ti 3:13). Sin is never at a stay; if we do not retreat from it, we advance in it [Barrow].

2. Its consequences. "Reap the same;"

(1.) The profit of their sin.

(2.) The punishment of it. Retribution corresponding with the sin, constantly recognised in the Bible (Isa ; Rev 13:10; Mat 7:2; Jas 2:13). Exemplified in Adonibezek (Jude 1:7); and in the persecutors of the church (Rev 16:6). The Egyptians, who drowned Israel's infants in the Nile, are themselves drowned in the Red Sea. Countries distinguished for persecution, as Spain with its Inquisition, and France with its Bartholomew Massacre, distinguished also for the horrors of bloody revolutions and civil wars. Charles IX. of France, who ordered the Massacre of 1575, expired in a bloody sweat, exclaiming, "What blood! What murders! What shall I do? I am lost for ever." Under God's government, sin followed by suffering as a body by its shadow (Num 32:23). Men constantly sowing either to the flesh or the spirit (Gal 6:7-8). The crop according to the seed.

(Job ). The fate of the prosperous wicked. Cruelly held forth by Eliphaz as if to terrify Job and identify his case with theirs. The case of Job and his children terribly resembling it. Truth misapplied assumes the nature and produces the effect of error. "By the blast (or breath) of God they perish." A mere breath of God sufficient for the destruction of the ungodly. "Thou didst blow with thy wind," sung over the ruin of Pharaoh's host and of the Spanish Armada. The whirlwind that overthrows the dwelling and wrecks the ship, but the breath of the Almighty. The wicked driven away by God's breath as so much dust or chaff before the wind (Psa 1:4). The breath that made the world can as easily destroy it (Psa 33:6).—"By the breath of his nostrils are they consumed," like vegetation scorched and burnt up by the hot wind of the desert (Jer 4:11; Eze 17:10; Hos 13:15). The life of the ungodly is—

(1.) Laborious and painful in its efforts;

(2.) Often prosperous for a time in its results;

(3.) Miserable in its end. "Consumed," by Divine judgments in this life, or by the experience of His wrath in the life to come. The former mainly intended by Eliphaz, without exclusion of the latter. True, as to what frequently happens. Examples,—the Antediluvians, and the Cities of the Plain. Its universality implied by Eliphaz, but denied by Job (ch. Job ; Job 12:6). Sentence against an evil work not always speedily executed (Ecc 8:11). Some wicked men punished here, to save God's providence; only some to save his patience and promise of future judgment [Augustine]. The preservation of the ungodly only a reservation. God's forbearance no acquitance. Divine justice slow but sure. Has leaden heels but iron hands. The longer in drawing the arrow, the deeper the wound. [Brookes.]

(Job ). Same truth poetically set forth under another figure. "The roaring of the lion and the voice of the fierce lion,"—supply "is silenced." The threatening of the rich oppressor and the terror inspired by it come to an end. "Lions" used in Scripture as the symbol of cruel and rapacious men (Psa 57:4; Jer 1:17; Zep 3:3). The figure common in Arab poetry for the rich and powerful. Furnished by the deserts of Arabia in which Eliphaz lived. The reference cruelly intended by him to Job and his three sons.—"The teeth of the young lions are broken." The means of wicked men's doing mischief and practising oppression ultimately taken from them. The teeth of the tyrant and persecutor sooner or later broken. Examples:—Belshazzar (Dan 5:22; Dan 5:30); Herod (Act 12:23); Nero (2Ti 4:17). Heartless allusion to the condition of Job and his family.—(Job 4:11). "The old lion perisheth." Various aspects, and perhaps species, of the lion indicated. Usual with Arab poets to express the same thing by several synonymous terms; each, however, with a variety of idea. Various forms and degrees of wickedness, and various classes of persecutors and oppressors; as lions differ in ferocity, age, and strength. Common with Scripture to represent moral character under the figure of various animals: cruelty by the lion and bear; rapacity by the wolf and the leopard; subtlety by the fox and the serpent; uncleanness by the swine and the dog; innocence by the dove; meekness by the lamb; industry by the ant. Some animals with natures and habits for imitation, others the reverse. The inferior creatures, in the variety of their natures and habits, the divinely-constituted symbols of the various characters and dispositions of men. The natural world a Divine mirror of the moral and spiritual.

VI. The vision (Job )

"Now a thing was secretly brought to me," &c. The vision related by Eliphaz:—

(1.) To gain authority to his own reasoning and doctrine;

(2.) To reprove Job's murmuring, and sinful reflection on the Divine procedure;

(3.) To humble his apparent self-righteousness, and convince him he was a sinner. The doctrine of the vision true but misapplied by the narrator. Visions frequently afforded: in patriarchal times in the absence of a written revelation (ch. Job ). One of the "divers manners" (Heb 1:1). Such communications given "secretly," in the absence of other parties, (Dan 10:7-8). Eliphaz probably awake and revolving past midnight visions,—"in thoughts," &c. The description allowed to excel all others of a similar kind in sublimity and horror. Sublime without being obscure, circumstantial without being mean [Kitto]. Wonderful grouping of impressive ideas. Midnight—solitude—deep silence—approach of the spectre—its gliding and flitting motion—its shadowy, unrecognisable form—its final stationary attitude—the voice—the awful silence broken by the solemn question of the spirit—the chill horror of the spectator—trembling in all his limbs—the hair of his body standing up from fear. Much more connected with the earth than is ordinarily visible. Man surrounded with a countless invisible population of intelligent creatures. "Myriads of spiritual beings walk the earth" [Milton]. Man an object of intense interest both to good and bad spirits. Communication with the spirit world at present confined within narrow limits; partly through our physical nature, still more through our fallen condition. Man in his present state naturally alarmed at spiritual and supernatural appearances (Dan 10:7-8). Special strength required to endure such appearances and receive such communications (Dan 10:17-19). Flesh and blood unable to inherit the kingdom of God (1Co 15:50). Man's natural body to be changed into a spiritual one to hold fellowship with the spirit world (1Co 15:44).—"Mine ear received a little thereof;" Heb., "a whisper." The amount received, only a whisper as compared with a full outspoken speech. All we know of God, a mere whisper in comparison with mighty thunder (ch. Job 26:14). Little of Divine truth communicated compared with what is to be known (1Co 13:9). The greatest part of what we know, the least-part of what we know not Things heard by Paul in Paradise unlawful or impossible to be uttered (2Co 12:4). Truth communicated only as we are able to receive it (Mar 4:33; Joh 16:12). "Even in the Scripture, I am ignorant of much more than I know" [Augustine].—(Job 4:16). "There was silence and I heard a voice;" or, "Silence, and a voice I heard," i.e. a still small voice, as 1Ki 19:12. Deep silence the result of the spectre's appearance, and the preparation for its communication. Silence within the hearer's soul as well as in the world without. Enjoined in the Divine presence and in receiving Divine communications (Hab 2:20). Silence in heaven before the sounding of the seven trumpets (Rev 8:1). The "foot" to be "kept," and silent attention to be maintained in the house of God (Ecc 5:1-2). Preparation of heart necessary for receiving Divine truth (Psa 85:8; 1Sa 3:9). Silence from—

(1.) The voice of pride and self conceit;

(2.) The opinions and wisdom of the flesh;

(3.) The desires and cravings of corrupt nature;

(4.) The impatient clamourings of selfwill.

The Spectre's Communication

(Job ). "Shall mortal man be more just than God,"—or, "be just before God?" The object of the communication on the part of the spirit,—

(1.) To silence man's murmurings against the Divine procedure, as if man were more just than God (ch. Job ; Job 35:2; Job 40:8). To murmur under trouble is to reflect on the Divine wisdom and goodness, and to make ourselves more righteous than God. In the view of Eliphaz, this the sin into which Job had fallen. The sin to which great and accumulated suffering especially exposes our fallen nature. That into which Asaph had nearly fallen (Psa 73:2). God as righteous when he afflicts a good man as when he punishes a bad one. Jeremiah's Divine philosophy,—"Wherefore doth a living man complain?" (Lam 3:39). It is "of God's mercies" that a saint as well as a sinner is "not consumed" (Lam 3:22). One single sin, seen in its real character, enough to shut the mouth of every complainer. Just views of the character of God and of the nature of sin calculated to silence murmurs under heaviest troubles.

(2.) To humble man's pride, and to prove every man in God's sight a sinner. The object of the first three chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. The lesson Job was intended to learn, and did learn (ch. Job ). Taught Isaiah by the vision of the Divine glory in the Temple (Isa 6:1, &c.); and Peter by the miraculous draught of fishes (Luk 5:8). The object of the Gospel to teach how a man may be just before God. The law-fulfilling and justice-satisfying work of Christ, God's way of making a man righteous before Him. God justifies only "the ungodly that believe in Jesus" (Rom 4:5; Luk 18:10; Luk 18:14). The reason obvious (Rom 3:10; Rom 3:23). To become righteous, a man must take the place of a sinner,—his real character. The sinner becomes righteous before God in accepting the righteousness of another. RIGHTEOUS IN CHRIST,—our peace in life, our joy in death, and our passport into the New Jerusalem (Jer 23:5-6; Isa 45:24; 1Co 1:30; 2Co 5:21). Job a "perfect man" according to law; but in order to evangelical perfection, his comeliness, like Daniel's, to be "turned into corruption" in him (Dan 10:8). The saint's highest attainment to know himself a poor sinner, and Christ a rich Saviour. "I a poor sinner am, but Jesus died for me," (Wesley's deathbed testimony).—The believer's perfection, thoroughly to know his absolute imperfection. Education, example, correction, and punishment, may do much for a man, but cannot make him a poor sinner [Krummacher]. "A sinner is a sacred thing; the Holy Ghost has made him so" [Hart].

Job . "Behold." Always indicating something important, and calling for special attention. Uncertain whether, in what follows, the spirit or Eliphaz himself is the speaker. The object,—to humble man, and more especially Job, as in nature and character so much inferior to the angels. The constant aim of Job's "friends," to bring him down from his excellency (Psa 62:4).—"He put no trust in his servants." Angels God's servants by way of eminence (Psa 103:20-21; Psa 104:4). The highest honour of a creature is to be a servant of his Creator. God's service not only our freedom, but our glory. God's dominion over all created intelligences. The Seraphim his servants. Man as well as angel must serve; but he may choose his master.

"Thou canst not choose but serve; man's lot is servitude.

But thou hast thus much choice—a bad lord or a good."

God puts no trust in the angels, as being:—

1. Mutable and unstable. Many of them fell; others might, but for sustaining grace. God alone unchangeable (Mal ; Jas 1:17). Angels secure, like men, only by a Divine act of election (1Ti 5:21).

2. Imperfect and liable to err. Fallibility and imperfection stamped on all creature-excellence. God only wise (Rom ); only holy (Rev 15:4); only true (Joh 17:3). Infallibility a Divine attribute, claimed by, the Pope while arrogating to himself, as the pretended head of the Church, the promise of the Holy Ghost made by Christ to His Apostles.—"His angels He charged with folly;"—

(1) allowed;

(2) marked;

(3) visited, sin in them. "Angels," so called from their office as God's messengers or agents. "Sons of God," from their nature (see ch. Job ). Probable allusion in the text to the fall of some of them (Jude 1:6);—"kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation" (2Pe 2:4). Rebellion against God the height of folly in man or angel. Sinning angels dealt with according to their folly (Jude 1:6; 2Pe 2:4). The fall of angels as possible and as likely as the fall of men. Their fall a mystery, but clearly revealed. Man's fall connected with that of angels which preceded it. Fallen intelligences, human or angelic, naturally the tempters of others.—The angel's fall a lesson of humility to man (Job 4:19). "How much less," i.e. can He trust men; or, "how much more" must He charge men with folly. The fallibility and imperfection of men argued from that of angels. Job pronounced and esteemed a "perfect man." His spirit and conduct under his trials at first in accordance with this character. Conscious himself of his spotless life (ch. 29, 31). Too ready to glory in it (Job 31:35-37). Appeared to maintain it in a way unbecoming in one who was a sinner (Job 33:9; Job 9:17; Job 10:7). Needed to be taught more deeply the imperfection of his perfection. His perfection not even that of an imperfect angel, but of a man. The object of the Book of Job, as of God's dealings in general, to hide pride from man (Job 33:17). The dust the place of the highest and the holiest before his maker.

Poetical and affecting description of

Man's Condition and Circumstances

1. As inhabiting a frail and humble body—(Job ). "Who dwell in houses of day." Oriental houses of the poorer classes usually of clay or mud dried in the sun. These naturally of the frailest and humblest character. Contrasted with the houses of the great,—usually of hewn stone. Man's fleshly body so spoken of (2Co 5:1). Adam = red earth. Hence used as the name of the race (Gen 2:15). Flesh a sign and cause of weakness (Isa 31:3; Gen 6:3; Psa 78:39). Contrasted with the angels, who are spirits, and therefore strong (Isa 31:3; Psa 103:20). Man's present body as "natural," contrasted with his resurrection body as "spiritual" (1Co 15:42-44; 2Co 5:1).

2. Formed out of the ground and returning to it. "Whose foundation is in the dust." The elements of man's body those of the ground on which he treads. Man frequently reminded of his origin to keep him humble. His lowly origin an enhancement of redeeming love. God's Son took not on Him (or, "took not hold of") the nature of angels, but that of Abraham (Heb ). Man in his creation made lower than the angels;. in his regeneration, higher (Psa 8:4, &c.; Rom 8:16-17). His return to dust natural, but not necessary. The Divine sentence on Adam's transgression (Gen 3:19; Psa 93:3; Ecc 12:7). Hitherto but two authentic exceptions (Gen 5:24; 2Ki 2:11. "‘Dust to dust' concludes earth's noblest song."

3. Weak and easily destroyed. "Crushed before the moth." Crushed to death as easily as a moth is crushed between the fingers; or, crushed "in presence of a moth," which can prove his death. Man's body so frail that the slightest accident can terminate his existence. Pope Adrian actually choked by a gnat. A dish of lampreys the death of an English king. Man's continued existence the result of Divine preservation ch. Job ). "Strange that a harp of thousand strings," &c.

4. Constantly liable to death, and on the way to it (Job ). "They are destroyed from morning to evening." Liable every moment to accident, disease and death. A continual tendency to dissolution. The seeds of disease and death inherent in man's frame. Death the immediate consequence of the fall (Gen 2:17). Man's life itself is death in constant development. "The moment we begin to live," &c. Man crushed "between morning and evening." An insect life. Man an ephemeral; his life a day.

5. Cut off in death from the visible world without ability to return to it. "They perish for ever." Man's death a finality. Only one life. Appointed once to die (Heb ). "The bourne from whence no traveller returns." Man as water spilt upon the ground, not to be taken up again (2Sa 14:14). Art can embalm and preserve the body, but not put life into it. Galvanism can move the limbs, but not restore the life. Resurrection here out of view. The text speaks of what is apparent, natural, and ordinary. Resurrection the result of a new dispensation and a second Adam. Jesus Christ the resurrection and the life. Christ the first fruits (1Co 15:20; 1Co 15:23). Specimens of bodily resurrection already afforded;—

(1) In Christ himself;

(2) In those restored to life by Himself and by others through His power;

(3) In those who rose and left their graves after His resurrection (Mat ; Mat 27:63). The resurrection of all believers at His second coming (1Co 15:23; 1Th 4:15-17). To be followed by a general resurrection (Rev 20:5; Joh 5:28-29). A new earth the habitation of risen saints (2Pe 3:13).

6. Unnoticed in death by higher orders of beings. "Without any regarding it;"—i.e., as to any appearance of it. No attempt made by angelic beings to prevent it. No expression heard of sorrow or concern on account of it. Man dies in silence from the other world as if unnoticed and disregarded. This, however, only in appearance (see Luk ; Psa 72:14; Psa 116:15).

7. Stripped of all the excellence possessed on earth (Job ). "Doth not their excellence which was in them go away?" Not only the best and most excellent thing which was with them,—as riches, dignity, power, &c,—but which was in them,—as beauty and strength of body, powers and endowments of mind (Psa 49:14; Psa 49:17; Ecc 9:10). True, however, only in appearance, and in regard to the body. The spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecc 12:7). All excellence departs from the body, but not from the man. Excellencies of the spirit develope and bloom in a higher sphere. A holy character immortal, and survives the tomb. Grace the only glory that a man can carry with him into the spirit-world.

8. Dying without attaining to wisdom. "They die, even without wisdom." Man attains in this life to comparatively little knowledge in natural things, and to still less in spiritual ones (1Co ). Sir Isaac Newton's death-bed estimate of his attainments in science,—a little child gathering pebbles on the sea-shore, with the ocean of unexplored knowledge before him. "The greatest part of what I know is the least part of what I know not" [Augustine].

Most die without true and saving wisdom (Mat ; 2Ti 3:15). Man's wisdom in life is rightly to prepare for death (Psa 90:12; Deu 32:29).


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 4:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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