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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Job 1

 

 

Verse 1

HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION.

PROLOGUE — Chaps. 1, 2.

THE PIETY AND PROSPERITY OF JOB, Job 1:1-5.

1. There was a man — These first words point to an historical basis for the ensuing work. Job bears the noble title of אישׁ, man, in contradistinction to אדם, “mean man.” Isaiah 2:9; Isaiah 5:15, etc. A similar distinction occurs in Latin between vir and homo; in Greek between ανηρ and ανθρωπος. In our own language man — from the Sanscrit manu, originally a thinker, (man, “to think,”) — is, like אישׁ of the text, an honourable designation. “Human beings,” says Herodotus, “are many, but men are few.” Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:14; Ezekiel 14:20) ranks Job, with Noah and Daniel, as highest types of our race.

The land of Uz — So called, probably, from Uz, a son of Dishan, (Genesis 36:28,) and grandson of Seir. The translation of the word Uz by the Septuagint into Αυσιτις, Ausitis, has led some, on account of a supposed resemblance to the word Αισιται, AEsitae, the name of a tribe mentioned by Ptolemy, (Geogr.,Job 5:19,) and living in the Arabian desert west from Babylon, to fix upon the neighbourhood of Babylonia as the home of the patriarch. But little reliance, however, can be placed upon this fanciful philology, and as little upon Moslem traditions, which induce others to look for the country of Job in the Hauran, (Delitzsch,) or East Hauran, (Zockler,) a province east of the Jordan, and stretching southward from Damascus, being a part of the ancient kingdom of Bashan. The recent commentator Hitzig, after a long and laboured but unsatisfactory argument, based upon ancient idolatrous worship, locates Uz in the hill district of Tulul, which upon the west is bounded by the mountain range of Hauran.

We rather accord with the ancient opinion, according to which Uz lay in the northern part of Arabia, and, comprehending Edom, (as intimated in Lamentations 4:21,) extended toward the Euphrates, for the most part corresponding to the Arabia Petraea of classical geography. In support of this we may note, — 1. That Job was the greatest of all the men of the East; that is, of the bene Kedem, one of the nations of Arabia. “The sons of the East,” says Gesenius, (Thesaurus, page 1193,) “are the inhabitants of Arabia Deserta, which extends from the east of Palestine to the Euphrates.” (See note on Job 1:3.) The Scriptures help us in determining their residence, for we learn from Genesis 25:4; Genesis 25:6, that Abraham sent among others the sons of Midian “eastward unto the east country;” and from Judges 6:3, that subsequently the Midianites and the Amalekites were in confederacy with “the children of the East;” and from Isaiah 11:14, that God linked “them of the East” with Edom, and Moab, and the children of Ammon, in one common though dissimilar doom. From the remarkable association of these nations with “the children of the East” in these and similar passages, we are justified in concluding that Job must have lived somewhere between Egypt and the Euphrates, and to the south or south-east of Palestine. 2. The sole scriptures, other than that of our text, that speak of Uz as a country, associate it with Edom, (Lamentations 4:21, and Jeremiah 25:20,) though in the latter case other nations are also mentioned. The latter of these passages does not conflict with the conclusion from the former, that Uz was the more extensive country and included Edom. Then, too, the grandson of Seir the Horite, whose descendants dwelt in Edom, was called Uz. (Genesis 36:20-21; Genesis 36:28; Genesis 36:30-31.) As the neighbouring mountains received and transmitted the name of the grandparent, Seir, it stands in reason that the country of Edom should take the name of the grandson, Uz, though subsequently displaced by the name of Edom, (Idumea.) This view is strengthened by Deuteronomy 2:12, “The HORIM also dwelt in Seir beforetime; but the children of Esau succeeded them [margin, inherited them] when they had destroyed them,” etc. The relatives of this Uz evidently dwelt in Seir and the adjacent country, until driven out by the children of Esau. 3. This position agrees better with that of the countries where Job’s friends lived than any other hypothesis; nor is the objection of its distance from Chaldaea a serious difficulty. (See note on Job 1:17.) It would also account for the great knowledge of Egypt displayed by Job, since it also lay not far from one of the most ancient caravan routes, whose starting point was Egypt. It harmonizes, also, with the mention of Jordan in Job 40:23, and of Canaanitish merchants in Job 41:6. 4. If tradition be appealed to, the statement in the supplement to the Septuagint, on the authority of the Syriac Book, that Job “dwelt in the land of Ausis, (Uz,) on the borders of Idumea and Arabia,” is worthy of quite as much consideration as the sites of monasteries, (J.G. Wetzstein,) or the fact that the sepulchre of Job is also pointed out in the Hauran, since four other places also lay claim to his tomb.

Whose name was Job איוב, iyyob. The origin of this name is exceedingly uncertain. The more general view is that of our older lexicographers, who rendered it persecuted, on the supposition that the word is a passive form of the verb איב, ayab, to hate, or attack. A serious objection against such a derivation is, that the kittol form, in which the word is, has an active or a neuter signification, and exceedingly rarely a passive meaning, (such as, for instance, yillodh, born,) so that the probabilities would be quite as great that the word “iyob” would be rendered “persecutor” as “persecuted.” The more plausible view is that which finds in the word the idea of penitence, although Zockler (in Lange) thinks that both views are equally admissible. On the hypothesis that the book is of great antiquity, we should be justified in seeking the origin of the word in the Arabic, as in those ancient times this language was closely allied to the Hebrew, furnishing the latter language with many of its roots and archaic forms. The Arabic aba, to turn, return, is near akin to the Hebrew oub, (cognate with shoub,) signifying also to turn; thence as a noun, one who turns back (to God) or repents. This view is held by Eichhorn, Rosenmuller, Ewald, Delitzsch, and Dillmann, among others. A somewhat similar name, יוב, Job, was borne by the third son of Issachar, Genesis 46:13; and an Edomite king, Jobab, is spoken of in Genesis 36:33. This name corresponds with the Greek name of Job, as cited in the supplement to the Septuagint.

Perfect and upright תם וישׁר. These words express, as nearly as possible, the sense of the original. The Jewish idea, (for instance that of Rabbi Solomon, reappearing in Ewald and Henry,) that the perfection of Job consisted simply in “sincerity” or “innocency of heart,” is incomplete, presenting but one side of a many-sided prism. The word “perfect,” like the crystal of the prism, is generic, and contemplates the moral being as a whole, rather than in specific traits. Wherever this work of faith manifests itself, whether amid the mountains of Idumea or the distractions of camp-life, as with the two Roman centurions, or under Christ’s direct disclosure of himself, as to a Saul of Tarsus, it is the work of God, deep, radical, and superinduced upon the nature of man by the Spirit of God. This perfection was not inconsistent with infirmities, errors of judgment, and perhaps derelictions of the heart, as is exemplified in Job’s own case; for which, through accepted faith, the unknown mediation of Christ may as truly avail in behalf of a Job, as the known, avails for us. Thus saints may ripen for heaven in other folds than that of Israel or of Christendom, and the words of Peter be verified: “In every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” Acts 10:35. Job’s perfection could not, more than ours, stand complete in the presence of the Absolute Perfection, and so needed, like ours, the mediation.


Verse 2

2. Seven sons — The head of a large family has always been regarded in the East as pre-eminently happy. In the patriarchal age especially a large progeny was a source of military strength, each son, as well as each bondman, being a possible soldier. Elements of power, they, more than any other worldly gifts, entitled their possessor to distinction and honour. “Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them.” “They shall speak with the enemy in the gate.” Hence “the young men” appear first in the enumeration of the blessings of Providence, even as in the series of terrible calamities their destruction is the last climactic stroke. The number ten, as Hitzig and others have remarked, is here divided into seven and three, as well as in the following verse, where the seven and three also appear together with the halves of ten. In other portions of the Bible, however, similar numerical relationships appear. (Comp. 1 Kings 17:21 with 2 Kings 4:35; 1 Samuel 20:41 with Genesis 33:3. See note on sacred numbers, Luke 6:13.) The exact round numbers, seven and three, and their symbolic selection, so frequent in the Book of Job, in the opinion of some indicate the poetical overlying the historical.


Verse 3

3. The close and tender relationship of God, as Jehovah, to Israel, will help us to a proper conception of the word. It not only embraced all the moral attributes of God, but those relationships which among men are most endearing — those of father, husband, and Saviour. Deuteronomy 32:6; Psalms 103:13; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 60:16; Hosea 2:16. According to Havernick, “it denoted the essence of the Godhead in its concrete relation to mankind, the revelation of the living God himself, which is as much unique as its object is unique.” It is, then, not without the deepest reason that Job passes by the olden divine names of power, El, Eloah, Elohim, Shaddai, and in the unshaken affection of the soul addresses God as Jehovah. His stricken heart seeks the heart of God. His appeal rises in sublimity as we contemplate him spontaneously, and at once, casting himself upon the eternal God (Jehovah) who is the Saviour and life of the soul. Upon the very issue that the adversary had made — that Job, stripped of his possessions, would renounce God — faith strikes its key-note of triumph. He blesses God, but not according to the Satanic form of blessing. The jubilant cry of Job is a remarkable and unconscious rejoinder to the dark insinuation that he served God for what he could get. The withdrawing of the goods or blessings of life is one of the modes God takes to remind us that all we have belongs to him. “Just as in some places on one day in the year the way or path is closed in order to remind the public that they pass by sufferance and not by right, in order that no lapse of time may establish ‘adverse possession,’ so does God give warning to us.” — F.W. ROBERTSON, Ser. 2:65. etc.


Verse 4

4. Every one his day — Which, for insufficient reasons, Hirtzel refers to national festive days either of the spring or of the harvest. As there were seven sons, Oehler, Delitzsch, and Clericus would understand by the above phrase a week of festivity, with its attendant lustration and sacrifice on the seventh day, or sabbath. Thus they infer a high antiquity for the division of time into weeks and the observance of the sabbath. But it probably indicates their respective birthdays. (Hahn, Schlottmann.) “‘His day,’ par excellence,” says Umbreit, “is the birthday.” There was apparently a fixed reason for such family festivals. Among the people of the East, birthdays have been ever commemorated with marked festivity. Pharaoh’s was celebrated with a feast to all his servants. Wilkinson, in Ancient Egyptians, says: “Every Egyptian attached much importance to the day, and even to the hour, of his birth, and it is probable that, as in Persia, each individual kept his birthday with great rejoicings, welcoming his friends with all the amusements of society, and a more than usual profusion of the delicacies of the table.” “Of all the days in the year,” says Herodotus, (i, 133,) “the one which the Persians celebrate most is their birthday.”

Called for their three sisters — A joyous home, over which religion shed its heavenly light. Its influence is seen in the spirit of pure affection that bound together the hearts of the ten children. It was honourable in “the young men” that they should thus at the same time consult their own and their sisters’ happiness; as if the festive circle must be incomplete without the crowning joy of their presence. The Egyptian monuments also testify to the high esteem in which woman was held in the earliest ages. “In the treatment of women they (the Egyptians) seem to have been very far advanced beyond other wealthy communities of the same era, having usages very similar to those of modern Europe; and such was the respect shown to women that precedence was given to them over men, and the wives and daughters of kings succeeded to the throne, like the male branches of the royal family.” — Sir G. Wilkinson.


Verse 5

5. Sanctified them — The Septuagint renders יקדשׁם, “purified them.” Not being present himself at their festivities, Job sent some messenger who should summon them to cleanse themselves, perhaps their garments, (Genesis 35:2; Exodus 19:10,) by some unrecorded process of lustration. Thus they would become ceremonially pure; for thus only would they be prepared to participate in the benefit of the sacrifices he proposed next day to offer. Jacob pursued a similar course with his family prior to the erection of an altar unto God. St. Chrysostom (quoted by Wordsworth) says, “that he purified their hearts, and not their bodies, by prayers; and that this lustration resembled an apostolic purification, not a Levitical one.” Job regarded himself as responsible for his family. Its very constitution points to higher ends than the mere training of children for the present life. The family circle is a divinely constituted section of our race, severed from all others, intrusted to the two who stand at its head; and God holds that head to stern responsibility, according to the enlarged views of the patriarch Job. (On the entire absorption of the family in the person of the father under the patriarchal system, see Maine on “Ancient Laws.”)

Burnt offerings עלה, holah, a whole burnt offering — a sacrifice to be wholly consumed by fire, hence called holocaust. This word first appears in the sacrifice by Noah, (Genesis 8:20,) and denotes, as in the text, a primitive institution of this the most imposing of all the forms of sacrifice. As a whole victim was offered for each of the sons, the thoughtful family must have read in the ascending flames (halah, to go up) the enormity of sin against God, the doctrine of vicarious sacrifice, and the necessity of entire consecration to him. In the substitution of one for one, they may have descried afar off the One Being who should die for each sinner. In the Levitical economy the offering of sacrifices devolved upon a distinct tribe. Here Job discharges the duties of a priest, which could have been proper only among a people distinct from the Jewish, (compare Exodus 18:12; Numbers 23:3; Numbers 23:15,) or in an age antedating the Jewish economy. “Besides, the Levitical law required in such cases as these the offering of a sin offering or a trespass offering, but Job offered a burnt offering.” — Wordsworth. The indications are, that this sacrifice preceded those of the Levitical dispensation, and belonged rather to those of the patriarchal. It serves also casually to show the antiquity of this book. Under the light, then, of a primeval revelation whose one chief rite was apparently that of sacrifice, Job appears before us the peer of Melchisedek — like him without father and mother — of no known lineage, but highly honoured to shadow forth the One Priesthood, greater than all others, and which, though not of the house of Aaron, was to abide forever.

Cursed God — Rather, renounced God. The word ברךְ, translated curse, primarily means to “bow” or “bend the knee;” thence it came to signify to “pray,” “praise,”

and to “bless,” since the knee was bowed in these respective acts. From the custom of pronouncing blessings upon occasions of separation the word in time assumed another meaning, that of “bidding farewell.” In like manner our own word farewell, fare (thee) well, pronounces a blessing upon the act of parting. A like change took place in the Greek χαιρειν and in the Latin valere, until, like the Hebrew barak, they were used in the sense of “renouncing.” Job’s fear of God led him to apprehend that his sons, in the excess of pleasure, might have deemed the thought of God intrusive, at least unessential to their joys, and thus in their hearts have been guilty of renouncing God. Comp. Job 21:14. “It is curious that the sin which the father’s heart dreaded in his children was the sin to which he himself was tempted, and into which he almost fell.” — Davidson.

In their hearts — Job’s view of the heart partly anticipates that of Christ: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts.” Job evidently regarded the heart as the seat of evil, the source of moral action, and the fountain-head of responsibility. A dominion is thus betokened not only over overt action, but the more mysterious realm of thought. Job knew that evil thoughts needed an atonement. The senseless and practically Epicurean maxim, “Thought is free,” found no favour in that earnest age. The flames of whole burnt offerings “continually” proclaimed, as with solemn tongues of fire, man’s responsibility for all his thoughts. See note on Romans 10:10.


Verse 6

6. Now there was a day — Rather, Now it came to pass on the day, perhaps some fixed time when the sons of God came together; “a sabbath day,” says Lightfoot, 2:110. Greswell (Fasti Catholici, Job 1:18) adduces Psalms 89:29, and Deuteronomy 11:21, in illustration of his speculation, that it may be not merely in the language of analogy, or of accommodation to human ideas, that inspiration itself speaks of the days of heaven, or gives us reason to conclude that even in heaven, as well as on earth, the lapse of time is measured and numbered by days of some kind or other. In keeping with this, the Chaldee paraphrast has presumed to specify the day: “Now it happened in the day of judgment, (or scrutiny,) in the beginning of the year, that hosts of angels came to stand in judgment before Jehovah, and Satan came.”

The sons of God — Septuagint, “angels of God.” Targum, “crowds of angels.” (See Job 38:7.) The sons of God are unquestionably angels, beings of some one of the several gradations of the intelligent and holy universe. Ephesians 1:21. The sons of God, bene Elohim, were in existence when “the foundations of the earth were laid,” and united in celebrating the laying of its corner-stone with “shouts of joy.” The peculiar designation of sons of God may point to a close relationship or a similarity of nature with Him, somewhat like that existing between child and parent among us. These sons of Deity may differ more from angels, who bear other titles, than from our own race, who, under the ennobling influences of grace, are called sons of God. (Genesis 6:2; Hosea 1:10; Romans 8:14.) Satan, though ruined by sin, was still in essential nature a son of God, and may have had at that time certain primordial rights (not then withdrawn, Luke 10:18; John 12:31; Revelation 12:9) to appear with these sons before God. Christ, par excellence, is called “Son of God,” the only-begotten of the Father, because he alone of all beings has oneness of nature with God. (See note on Genesis 6:2.) At a period not far from the time of Job the doctrine of angelic ministry had been plainly revealed. The ascent and descent of the angels upon Jacob’s ladder emblemed forth their tireless activity. They “rest not day and night.” Revelation 4:8. Before the Lord Elohim — in the next verse Jehovah. (See note on Job 1:21 and on Genesis 2:4.) They “take their stand” (Carey) before Jehovah, probably to engage in praise and adoration, and perhaps at the same time, to render account for their actions, and receive new commissions and behests. That these “sons of God” should be called upon at stated times to give account of their deeds is not an unreasonable thought for us — a race upon whom the sense of responsibility is stamped; and who will be summoned to undergo our ordeal at the close of life.

And Satan — See Excursus I, p. 33.

Came also among them — The expression, “in the midst of them,” does not imply constraint or obligation to appear with the sons of God, nor friendliness of association, but savours rather of intrusion and unexpectedness of appearance. The form of the question, “Whence art thou [just now] coming?” (the imperfect expressing the immediate present; thus Zockler and Davidson) favours such a view, inasmuch as the question seemingly arrests Satan in the act of making his approach. Whatever may have been the privileges of Satan at that time, (Job 1:6,) the scene smacks of effrontery, and makes clear the distinction of the evil from the good, and their irreconcilable antagonism. See Excursus II, p. 34.


Verses 6-12

JEHOVAH’S DETERMINATION TO TRY JOB, Job 1:6-12.

“It was a correct feeling which influenced the poet to indicate at the outset to the reader the divine grounds of the decree, and thus to provide for him a polestar which would guide him through all the entanglement of the succeeding conflicts. This he does by disclosing to us those events occurring in heaven which led to the divine decree concerning Job, the execution of which thereupon follows.” — Dillmann.


Verse 7

7. Whence comest thou — According to the tenor of the Scriptures it is not unworthy of God to hold converse with any of his intelligent creatures, even though they be fallen; as is illustrated in the scenes subsequent to the sin of Adam, the murder of Abel, and in the conversation of Christ with the tempter.

From going to and fro — The Chaldee paraphrase here adds, “to examine into the works of the sons of men.” The word שׁושׂis best translated, as by Dr. Good, “roaming around,” which accords with Ewald and Dillmann. His course has been, not on paths divinely ordered, but here and there, as has been pleasing to himself. In like manner Peter: “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about [περιπατει peripatetic,] seeking whom he may devour.” The rendering of Umbreit, “to whip through,” “as if Satan sped along in storm like a destructive wind,” may be in part accepted. See Job 5:21. It is apparently the law of all sinful beings severed from “the Lord of peace” to be unceasingly restless. The reply is curt and tart, that of a ruined spirit who has nothing to hope — not unlike that of Cain when arraigned. Among the Arabs the devil is called el-hharith — the active, busy, industrious one. The olden Greeks represented Ate, who had been hurled from heaven, as a malicious deity traveling to and fro over the earth with great rapidity, always intent on doing injury to mankind.


Verse 8

8. Hast thou (in thy travels) considered — Remarked, noticed, לב על שׂים, literally, as in the margin. The question falls like a spark upon a mind inflammable with evil, and the evil spirit becomes unconsciously an agent for the accomplishment of the divine purpose — the trial of Job. “Not only must he receive God’s permission before he can proceed one step against Job, but the very occasion through which he attains that permission is gratuitously provided for him by God.” — Evans.

My servant — A title of honour conferred by God on but few. The term is endearing, My servant. Though but “a root out of a dry ground” of heathenism, there was none in all the East his equal.

A perfect and an upright man — The repetition not only constitutes a poetical elegance common in the classics, but shows most expressively the moral worth of the man. The estimate of Job, expressed by the author in Job 1:1, (which see,) now receives the divine approval.


Verse 9

9. Doth Job fear God for nought — The praise of piety implies its counterpart, the condemnation of evil. Smarting under the implied reproof, Satan retorts that Job’s virtue consists solely of selfish fear. Of the four graces mentioned, he craftily elects the most assailable — the fear of God — to which even diabolical nature might lay some claim. James 2:19.

For nought — “Without good reason,” or “gratuitously?”

This question starts the problem of the book. Is Job not a hireling with whom pay is the only consideration? The first words from the lips of Satan of which man has record, (Genesis 3:1,) were a malicious reflection upon divine love. True to his nature as “accuser,” he can see in the best of human virtue only mercenary motives; and this, his first onset against Job, becomes a “reflection that sheds its poisonous venom” on a whole race. It is natural for fallen beings to depreciate that in others of which they are conscious that they themselves are deficient. “It is not amiss for every one, for his mere watchfulness, to mark that Satan knows Job as soon as ever God speaks of him.” — Lightfoot.


Verse 10

10. Hast not thou — ( את, thou, the very one whom Job fears) — made a hedge about him — The Chaldee paraphrases it: “Hast thou not covered him with thy word?” In his mind Satan sees a field or garden surrounded with a hedge as a protection against wild beasts. According to Thomson, (Land and Book, 1:299,) the stone walls which surround the sheepfolds of modern Palestine are frequently covered with sharp thorns. (Hosea 2:6.) The fence was threefold — first, around Job himself; then another, an exterior hedge, around his house; and a third protection or fence around all that he possessed, somewhat after the manner of fortifying ancient cities. Such, Satan unwittingly says, is God’s mode of protecting those who are his.

Thou hast blessed — Wordsworth remarks: “Even Satan confesses that God’s benediction is the source of all good to man.”

Is increased פרצsignifies to break through bounds. Not unlike a swollen stream, his herds had covered the land, (better, the earth,) thus showing the greatness of his possessions. The Arabs at the present day employ this word to express the mouth of a stream.


Verse 11

11. Touch all that he hath — God needs but touch the fairest estate of man and it withers. The word נגעmay also be rendered smite, as in Job 1:19. It is worthy of special remark that Job’s piteous cry, “the hand of God hath touched me,” (Job 19:21,) corresponds to the present cruel demand of Satan with the same word, נגע. Some have indulged the fanciful notion that the Satan here is merely an accusing angel; but the maliciousness evinced not only in his sneer at human virtue, but in his desire that God should touch all that Job hath, already proclaims him the devil whose works Christ came to destroy.

And he will curse thee

And אים לא, literally, If not, truly, verily; the formula of an path without the apodosis. The evil spirit is by no means chary of the words he uses.

Curse thee ברךְin the sense of renouncing, as in Job 1:5. (See note.) The shameless effrontery and arrogance of Satan are heightened by the added words, “to thy face.”


Verse 12

12. All that he hath is in thy power — As in the margin, hand. Job is now delivered into the hand of Satan. His piety is to be put to the sorest test. All virtue is conditioned upon trial — the higher the virtue the severer the ordeal. The stroke is a bold one, even for the empire of the world. For God had declared Job the best man then living. (Job 1:8.) If Satan should succeed in showing Job to be a hypocrite, he will practically demonstrate that there is no substantial virtue in the world.

So Satan went forth — Not so much to his roaming “to and fro,” as in a straight and definite line to execute his permitted “mission” of evil. By that mission he would seek to destroy virtue; but God shall so overrule him that he will only furnish the conditions by which hardy and tried virtue is made possible and demonstrated. A like remark is made of Cain, (Genesis 5:16,) and of Judas, that “he went immediately out” to his deed of treachery. There is no delay: evil nature recoils from the constrained presence of the pure and good to its own congenial work of ruin. He goes with alacrity and with vast resources, and in high expectation of encompassing the fall of one saint, which better pleaseth him than of many unbelievers.

From this we learn that trials are proportioned to the strength of the soul. The intensity of the kindling flames declares the estimate God puts upon the virtue of Job. On the one hand, all temptation at the hand of Satan sets forth the value of the soul, and its high destiny in another life: on the other, the saying is no less true, that “in every temptation to sin the devil cheapens our immortal souls,” and in every way endeavours to depreciate them before the soul itself. “God tries men, that they may rise: Satan tempts them, that they may fall.”


Verse 13

13. There was a day — Literally, Now it was the day; the day of festivity, which in the rotation happened to be at the house of the firstborn. On this account it was probably the most marked of all the feasts of the year. It was a feast, too, in which the drinking of wine is specified, to set forth its sumptuousness and hilarity. These two circumstances heighten the precipice down which the family is so soon to be plunged. In the mention of wine-drinking we have, in part, the reason for Job’s anxiety over these festive occasions, and perhaps also the secret of his standing aloof.

Wine-drinking and its drunken effects, even upon women, are portrayed on the monuments of Egypt. The winepresses and offerings of wine to the gods, pictured in the tombs, establish the making of wine as far back as the fourth dynasty, (about 2450 B.C.) This is supposed to be the remotest period from which the manners of the people were thus perpetuated. The culture of the vine was, without doubt, of a vastly greater antiquity, (Genesis 9:20,) as is seen in the exceptional fact that substantially the same word is used for wine among almost all eastern and western nations. The basis of the word is found, according to Pott and Kuhn, in the Indo-European language, the former making it from we, to weave, the latter from wan, to love. Gesenius and Furst, on the other hand, hold that it is of Semitic extraction, and cognate to יין, either from a root signifying “burning,” or another, “to tread out grapes.” The oneness of the word in the Indo-European and Semitic languages may be illustrated by comparing the Greek οινος, originally foinos, the Latin vinum, the Welsh g-win, with the Hebrew yayin, the Arabic wain, (a bunch of grapes,) Ethiopic wain, (wine.)


Verses 13-19

FOUR MESSENGERS OF MISFORTUNE, Job 1:13-19.

“It is not accidental,” says Hengstenberg, “that there are just four catastrophes divided into two pairs, and corresponding to the fourfold particularization of the righteousness of Job. In them may be seen a sort of irony of destiny touching his and all human righteousness.” The Germans have also remarked upon the peculiarity that the first and third of the calamities are ascribed to human, the second and fourth to celestial agencies. — Evans. The Germans call calamities hiobs-posten — “Job’s posts,” or messengers — a proverbial expression similar to our own “Job’s comforters.”


Verse 14

FIRST MESSENGER.

14. A messenger — In each of the four cases the messenger was, Chrysostom thinks, (though without authority from the text,) Satan himself, who brought the tidings to Job that he might feed on his misery.

The oxen were ploughing — A single touch of the pencil sets forth the quietude and peace that reigned around. The scientist speaks of a like hush of nature before an earthquake. “The ancient plough was entirely of wood, and of as simple a form as that of modern Egypt. It consisted of a share, two handles, and the pole or beam, which last was inserted into the lower end of the stilt on the base of the handles, and was strengthened by a rope connecting it with the heel. It had no coulter, nor were wheels applied to any Egyptian plough; but it is probable that the point was shod with a metal sock of bronze or iron. It was drawn by two oxen, and the ploughman guided and drove them with a long goad, without the assistance of reins, which are used by the modern Egyptians.” — Wilkinson.

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Verse 15

15. The Sabeans — In the original, Sheba; the name of the country, for its inhabitants. In broken and startling language he cries, “Sheba fell and took them.” Three races bearing the name Sabean are mentioned in Genesis: the one in the line of Cush, (Job 10:7,) the second of Joktan, (Job 10:28,) and the third in that of Abraham by Keturah, (Job 25:3.) The Sabeans of our text were of the last-named lineage, and as a nomadic tribe occupied the country south-east of Uz; that part of Arabia Deserts stretching from the Persian Gulf to Idumea — the home of Job. A similar state of lawlessness prevails throughout that entire country at the present time. “Wealth among the Arabs is extremely precarious, and the most rapid changes of fortune are daily experienced. The bold incursions of robbers and sudden attacks of hostile parties reduce, in a few days, the richest man to a state of beggary; and we may venture to say there are not many fathers of families who have escaped such disasters.” — BURCKHARDT, Bedawin, 1:81.

They have slain the servants — Ne’harim sometimes signifies children and young men as well as servants. A large body of men, in the pride of their manhood, through the malice of one being are put to the edge of the sword. “We must not here think of the paid day-labourer of the Syrian towns, or the servants of our landed proprietors, — they are unknown on the borders of the desert. The hand that toils has there a direct share in the gain; the workers belong to the aulad, — ’children of the house,’ — and are so called; in the hour of danger they will risk their life for their lord. This rustic labour is always undertaken simultaneously by all the quarterers, (so called from their receiving a fourth part of the harvest for their labour, the ustad meantime providing instruments of agriculture, and for the shelter and board of the ‘quarterers,’) for the sake of order, since the ustad, or in his absence, the village sheik, has the general work of the following day announced from the roof of his house every evening. Thus it is explained how the five hundred ploughmen could be together in one and the same district and be slain all together.” — WETZSTEIN in Delitzsch, 2:418.

And I only — Each of these four messengers represents himself to be the sole survivor of the dire calamity, and this has been objected against the historical character of the book. The author, it is to be remarked, however, gives us the message as they delivered it. Nothing would be more natural in the midst of the confusion and terror attending the apparently general destruction, than for each one to suppose himself alone to have escaped. It may have been a part of the diabolic machination that each should close his message in the same manner, in order to give to the series of calamities the unmistakable cast of a divine judgment.

Chrysostom indulges in the conceit that Satan repented of the first message because of the prominence given to the deeds of men. Job might still solace himself with the thought that God is not against him. Hence the startling opening of the next message — the fire of God!!


Verse 16

SECOND MESSENGER.

16. Fire of God — Or lightning, as in 1 Kings 18:38. Thus Euripides:

Alas! alas! may the fire of heaven

Strike through my head. Medea, 144.

According to Delitzsch, a rain of fire like that of Sodom. Umbreit and Ewald suppose it to have been the simoom — the fiery, sulphurous wind of Arabia, called by the Arab and the Turk “the wind of poison.” Its approach is heralded by an unusual redness of the sky, which, while the wind lasts, seems to be all on fire. The blast of air, heated to quite two hundred degrees, frequently becomes a tornado, whirling along vast mounds of sand, which sometimes overwhelm armies, as in the case of Cambyses and his 50,000 men. But as this visitation “fell ( נפלה) from heaven,” it seems more natural to interpret it of lightning. It is significant that the second stroke came from heaven, as if to impress Job with the conviction that God, as well as man, was against him.


Verse 17

THIRD MESSENGER.

17. The Chaldaeans — Or, Chasdim. They appear to have been one of the many Cushite tribes inhabiting the great alluvial plain lying far to the north-east of Idumea, known as Babylonia or Chaldaea — the latter, according to Ptolemy, forming the south-western portion of the former. From the earliest times the people occupying this land, though of the Hamite race, have been distinguished for their cultivation of science and their discoveries in the arts. Their principal tribe was the Accad.

Genesis 10:10. “With this race originated the art of writing, the building of cities, and the institution of a religious system.” — RAWLINSON, Herodotus, 1:256. When the Semitic tribes established themselves in Assyria, in the thirteenth century before Christ, they adopted the alphabet of the Accad. The tablets found at Nineveh are exclusively in the Accadian language. (See Rawlinson, ibid., and “Five Great Monarchies,” vol. i, ch. 3.) Yet these are the people who are moved to a merciless foray against the unoffending man of God. In later times they are described as “terrible” — “a bitter and hasty nation” — whose “horses are swifter than the leopards,” and “more fierce than the evening wolves.” Habakkuk 1:6-11. The distance from Chaldaea to Idumaea is not far from five hundred miles. Yet “scarcely a year passes during which the border of Syria is not ravaged by plundering parties from Mesopotamia, and sometimes even from the shores of the Persian Gulf.… Raids are now, also, as they were in Job’s days, sudden, rapid, and unexpected.” — J.L. Porter. “Once at least in every year the Teyaheh [a tribe of the Bedawin] collect in force, often mustering as many as one thousand guns, and set off on camels for the country of the ‘Anazeh, a distance of more than twenty days’ journey. Having chosen for their expedition the season of the year when the camels are sent out to graze, they seldom fail to come across some large herd feeding at a distance from the camp and watched by a few attendants only. These they drive off, the men who possess guns forming a guard on either side and in the rear, and the rest leading the beasts. It sometimes, though rarely, happens that they get off clear with their booty before the owners are aware of the invasions; but in many cases they are hotly pursued, and compelled to relinquish their prey and take to their heels. In the last of these excursions the Teyaheh carried off more than six hundred head of cattle.” — PALMER, Desert of Exodus, 295.

Three bands — They formed themselves into three columns, (Judges 7:16 : 1 Samuel 11:11,) according to the ancient tactics of war; literally, “set three heads (bands) and spread out,” ( פשׁשׂ,) that they might encompass the three thousand camels, which are easily affrighted and then exceedingly difficult to take. These three bands, according to Jahn, were probably the center, left, and right wing. In illustration of the availableness of the camel, Wellsted (Arabia, 1:300) states that the usual pace of the Oman camels, when the Bedawin mount them for a desert journey, is a quick, hard trot from six to eight miles an hour. They will continue this for twenty to twenty-four consecutive hours, but increase their speed, on occasions which require it, to thirteen or fifteen miles an hour. Laborde tells us (Arabia, 264) that his camel carried him from Suez to Cairo (thirty-two leagues) in seventeen hours. Burckhardt (Notes, 2:79) describes a wager which the camel lost, but he had traveled one hundred and fifteen miles in eleven hours, though twice crossing the Nile in a ferry-boat.

FOURTH MESSENGER.


Verse 18

18. Drinking wine — The mention of wine-drinking in so painful an association, suggests that in the mind of the messenger there may have been the thought, how ill-prepared these young people were for death’s surprise.


Verse 19

19. From the wilderness — Literally, from beyond the desert. המדברwith the article as here, generally signifies the great Arabian desert, lying to the south of Palestine, and extending from Egypt as far as the Persian Gulf. The most destructive storms come from that direction. Sweeping across this desert, with no obstacle to break its force, this storm constantly increased in intensity until it became a whirlwind, (so Dillmann thinks,) and thus struck the four corners of the house at once. Mr. Buckingham thus describes a whirlwind which he encountered in the desert of Suez: “Fifty gales of wind at sea seemed to me more easy to be encountered than one among these sands. It is impossible to imagine desolation more complete; we could see neither sun, earth, nor sky; the plain at ten paces distance was absolutely imperceptible; our beasts, as well as ourselves, were so covered as to render breathing difficult; they hid their faces in the ground, and we could only uncover our own for a moment to behold this chaos of midday darkness.” Such winds, says Dr. J.L. Porter, are common in the desert. “They pass along with a roar like a cataract, and can be both seen and heard at a great distance. I have often witnessed them. Such a tornado would destroy a house exactly as here described, ‘smiting it upon the four corners.’”

Young men נערים. An archaic form of frequent use in the Pentateuch (like the Greek παις) for either or both of the sexes.

They are dead — The climax of conceivable evils is now reached. Each additional one had been more disastrous than that which preceded. This — before which the others are dwarfed — is forcibly left to the last. Dante says of Satan that he is a master logician. The first stroke was the work of men, and entailed the loss of five hundred yoke of oxen and as many asses; in the second, the fire of God fell, and burned up the seven thousand sheep; in the third, men were again the agents, and the Chaldeans swooped up the three thousand camels; in each case their attendants being left dead on the field. But what are all these in the presence of a family of ten dead children? These diversified calamities were so ordered, that, like so many claps of thunder, the reverberation of one died not away before another broke upon the sky.


Verse 20

THE TRIUMPH OF JOB, Job 1:20-22.

20. Then Job arose — Thus far he has borne unmoved the successive shocks of adverse fate. But now nature triumphs. As the tidings of the last great grief break upon him he rises, and yielding to the more tender impulses of our common nature, resigns himself to sorrow, but not one moment to suspense of faith in God.

And rent his mantle — There was no custom among the Orientals corresponding to that among ourselves, of putting on of mourning attire in token of heavy grief. They, on the contrary, instead of changing their outer dress, rent it in twain. This custom was common among the nations of antiquity. The מעל, me’hil, mantle made of linen, in later times also of cotton, was an outer garment worn by priests, kings, and the very rich, and sometimes by the daughters of kings. That of the high priest was, according to Josephus, a long vestment of a blue colour woven in one piece, but with openings for the neck and arms. (Antiquities, iii, chap. Job 7:4.) In the opinion of some, Christ, as high priest, wore a similar garment, for which the soldiers cast lots at the foot of the cross. (John 19:23.)

And shaved his head — This was forbidden among the Jews to the priests. (Leviticus 21:5.) The people were prohibited (Deuteronomy 14:1, and Leviticus 19:27) from rounding the corners of their heads, etc., which had, perhaps, respect to some idolatrous custom among neighbouring nations. Herodotus (ii, 36) says of the Egyptians, who “wear no hair at any other time, that when they lose a relative they let their beards and the hair of their heads grow long. Elsewhere it is customary in mourning for near relatives to cut their hair close.” The custom among the Greeks, according to Plutarch, was similar to that of the Egyptians. The shaving of his head is decisive that Job could not have been an Egyptian. This deliberate and protracted act shows in a striking manner Job’s mastery over himself and his sorrow.

Fell down upon the ground, and worshipped — (Compare 2 Samuel 12:20.) “That he might not show pride by his insensibility he fell down at the stroke; but that he might not estrange himself from Him who strikes, he so fell down as to worship.” — ST. GREGORY, Moralia. “He arose,” says Origen, “and at length prostrated himself. He arose for battle; he prostrated himself for peace. He arose for the perfection of victory; he prostrated himself for the reception of the crown.”


Verse 21

21. Return thither — The Chaldee paraphrast interprets thither by “the house of burial.” In the Apocrypha is an evident paraphrase of this verse. “A heavy yoke is upon the sons of Adam from the day that they go out of their mother’s womb till the day that they return to the mother of all things.” Sirach 40:1. Cyprian thus quotes the passage: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go under the earth.” Comp. Ecclesiastes 5:15. The classics, in like manner, speak of the earth as the mother of all mortals. (LIVY, Hist., 1:56; SUETONIUS, Julius Cesar, chap. 7.) J.D. Michaelis and others erroneously adduce this passage in proof of the pre-existence of souls in the depth of the earth.

Lord gave… Lord… taken… blessed be… Lord — In this remarkable passage, which Dr. Chalmers calls “one of the most precious memorabilia of the Scriptures,” and Hitzig “the epilogue of a prayer,” the word Jehovah is used three times with marked significance. Under the sanction of an oath Satan had declared Job would renounce (curse) יברךְ, God, (Job 1:11;) on the contrary, the coincidence is notable that with the same word, מֶברךְ he “blesses” and worships God. The Septuagint adds after the second clause, “As it seemed good to the Lord so it has come to pass.” In the subsequent dialogues of the book the name Jehovah is used by the speakers but once, and then by Job himself, Job 12:9.

1. The word Jehovah is a personal proper name, intended to express the personality of Deity. It is from the verb היה, hayah, to be, and indicates independent and underived existence. Self-existence necessarily implies eternity and unchangeableness, (Malachi 3:6,) and this, and this only, furnishes a proper basis for the moral attributes of Deity. The word struggles to convey the idea of the innermost being of God, the very essence of his personality. The word Elohim, on the contrary, with its root idea of power, sets forth God as creator, and partakes more of the character of a common noun, being quite generally used with the article or some other qualification, etc., while Jehovah, as a proper name, dispenses with the article. The frequent recurrence in Job of the older names for God, such as Shaddai, El, and Eloah, is in keeping with the earlier usage of the Pentateuch, and points to a remote antiquity for the authorship of this book. (See Hengstenberg, “Genuineness of the Pentateuch,” 1:231-308.)

2. The word Jehovah, whether pointed יהוה, or יהוה, as others would read, is believed by many to indicate futurity, and to contain a prophecy of the incarnation, which is also supposed by some to be implied in its radical meaning of life, which was the pre-eminent attribute of Christ. Delitzsch (Symb., p. 29) finds the interpretation of the meaning of Elohim in the mystery of the trinity — that of Jehovah in the incarnation. The one name would then be the exponent of creation, preservation, and government; the other of salvation and of grace.


Verse 22

22. Nor charged God foolishly-“In all that had befallen him” (Septuagint) he had neither sinned nor uttered folly against God. Aben Ezra’s rendering is more literal: “He spake nothing out of taste or against reason.” Tyndale gives it, “nor murmured foolishly against God.” The approval is entirely retrospective.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Job 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/job-1.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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