This book is so called from Job, whose prosperity, afflictions, and restoration, are here recorded. He lived soon after Abraham, or perhaps before that patriarch. Most likely it was written by Job himself, and it is the most ancient book in existence. The instructions to be learned from the patience of Job, and from his trials, are as useful now, and as much needed as ever. We live under the same Providence, we have the same chastening Father, and there is the same need for correction unto righteousness. The fortitude and patience of Job, though not small, gave way in his severe troubles; but his faith was fixed upon the coming of his Redeemer, and this gave him stedfastness and constancy, though every other dependence, particularly the pride and boast of a self-righteous spirit, was tried and consumed. Another great doctrine of the faith, particularly set forth in the book of Job, is that of Providence. It is plain, from this history, that the Lord watched over his servant Job with the affection of a wise and loving father.
The piety and prosperity of Job. (1-5) Satan obtains leave to try Job. (6-12) The loss of Job's property, and the death of his children. (13-19) Job's patience and piety. (20-22)
Verses 1-5 Job was prosperous, and yet pious. Though it is hard and rare, it is not impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. By God's grace the temptations of worldly wealth may be overcome. The account of Job's piety and prosperity comes before the history of his great afflictions, showing that neither will secure from troubles. While Job beheld the harmony and comforts of his sons with satisfaction, his knowledge of the human heart made him fearful for them. He sent and sanctified them, reminding them to examine themselves, to confess their sins, to seek forgiveness; and as one who hoped for acceptance with God through the promised Saviour, he offered a burnt-offering for each. We perceive his care for their souls, his knowledge of the sinful state of man, his entire dependence on God's mercy in the way he had appointed.
Verses 6-12 Job's afflictions began from the malice of Satan, by the Lord's permission, for wise and holy purposes. There is an evil spirit, the enemy of God, and of all righteousness, who is continually seeking to distress, to lead astray, and, if possible, to destroy those who love God. How far his influence may extend, we cannot say; but probably much unsteadiness and unhappiness in Christians may be ascribed to him. While we are on this earth we are within his reach. Hence it concerns us to ( 1 Peter. 5:8 ) This is the common way of slanderers, to suggest that which they have no reason to think is true. But as there is nothing we should dread more than really being hypocrites, so there is nothing we need dread less than being called and counted so without cause. It is not wrong to look at the eternal recompence in our obedience; but it is wrong to aim at worldly advantages in our religion. God's people are taken under his special protection; they, and all that belong to them. The blessing of the Lord makes rich; Satan himself owns it. God suffered Job to be tried, as he suffered Peter to be sifted. It is our comfort that God has the devil in a chain, ( Revelation 20:1 ) . He has no power to lead men to sin, but what they give him themselves; nor any power to afflict men, but what is given him from above. All this is here described to us after the manner of men. The Scripture speaks thus to teach us that God directs the affairs of the world.
Verses 13-19 Satan brought Job's troubles upon him on the day that his children began their course of feasting. The troubles all came upon Job at once; while one messenger of evil tidings was speaking, another followed. His dearest and most valuable possessions were his ten children; news is brought him that they are killed. They were taken away when he had most need of them to comfort him under other losses. In God only have we a help present at all times.
Verses 20-22 Job humbled himself under the hand of God. He reasons from the common state of human life, which he describes. We brought nothing of this world's goods into the world, but have them from others; and it is certain we can carry nothing out, but must leave them to others. Job, under all his losses, is but reduced to his first state. He is but where he must have been at last, and is only unclothed, or unloaded rather, a little sooner than he expected. If we put off our clothes before we go to bed, it is some inconvenience, but it may be the better borne when it is near bed-time. The same who gave hath taken away. See how Job looks above instruments, and keeps his eye upon the First Cause. Afflictions must not divert us from, but quicken us to religion. If in all our troubles we look to the Lord, he will support us. The Lord is righteous. All we have is from his gift; we have forfeited it by sin, and ought not to complain if he takes any part from us. Discontent and impatience charge God with folly. Against these Job carefully watched; and so must we, acknowledging that as God has done right, but we have done wickedly, so God has done wisely, but we have done very foolishly. And may the malice and power of Satan render that Saviour more precious to our souls, who came to destroy the works of the devil; who, for our salvation, suffered from that enemy far more than Job suffered, or we can think.
PART I--PROLOGUE OR HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION IN PROSE--(Job 1:1-2:13')
Job 1:1-5 . THE HOLINESS OF JOB, HIS WEALTH, &c.
1. Uz--north of Arabia-Deserta, lying towards the Euphrates. It was in this neighborhood, and not in that of Idumea, that the Chaldeans and Sabeans who plundered him dwell. The Arabs divide their country into the north, called Sham, or "the left"; and the south, called Yemen, or "the right"; for they faced east; and so the west was on their left, and the south on their right. Arabia-Deserta was on the east, Arabia-Petræa on the west, and Arabia-Felix on the south.
Job--The name comes from an Arabic word meaning "to return," namely, to God, "to repent," referring to his end [EICHORN]; or rather from a Hebrew word signifying one to whom enmity was shown, "greatly tried" [GESENIUS]. Significant names were often given among the Hebrews, from some event of later life (compare Genesis 4:2 , Abel--a "feeder" of sheep). So the emir of Uz was by general consent called Job, on account of his "trials." The only other person so called was a son of Issachar ( Genesis 46:13 ).
perfect--not absolute or faultless perfection (compare Job 9:20 , Ecclesiastes 7:20 ), but integrity, sincerity, and consistency on the whole, in all relations of life ( Genesis 6:9 , 17:1 , Proverbs 10:9 , Matthew 5:48 ). It was the fear of God that kept Job from evil ( Proverbs 8:13 ).
3. she-asses--prized on account of their milk, and for riding ( Judges 5:10 ). Houses and lands are not mentioned among the emir's wealth, as nomadic tribes dwell in movable tents and live chiefly by pasture, the right to the soil not being appropriated by individuals. The "five hundred yoke of oxen" imply, however, that Job tilled the soil. He seems also to have had a dwelling in a town, in which respect he differed from the patriarchs. Camels are well called "ships of the desert," especially valuable for caravans, as being able to lay in a store of water that suffices them for days, and to sustain life on a very few thistles or thorns.
household--( Genesis 26:14 ). The other rendering which the Hebrew admits, "husbandry," is not so probable.
men of the east--denoting in Scripture those living east of Palestine; as the people of North Arabia-Deserta ( Judges 6:3 , Ezekiel 25:4 ).
4. every one his day--namely, the birthday ( Job 3:1 ). Implying the love and harmony of the members of the family, as contrasted with the ruin which soon broke up such a scene of happiness. The sisters are specified, as these feasts were not for revelry, which would be inconsistent with the presence of sisters. These latter were invited by the brothers, though they gave no invitations in return.
5. when the days of their feasting were gone about--that is, at the end of all the birthdays collectively, when the banquets had gone round through all the families.
Job . . . sanctified--by offering up as many expiatory burnt offerings as he had sons ( Leviticus 1:4 ). This was done "in the morning" ( Genesis 22:3 , Leviticus 6:12 ). Jesus also began devotions early ( Mark 1:35 ). The holocaust, or burnt offering, in patriarchal times, was offered (literally, "caused to ascend," referring to the smoke ascending to heaven) by each father of a family officiating as priest in behalf of his household.
cursed God--The same Hebrew word means to "curse," and to "bless"; GESENIUS says, the original sense is to "kneel," and thus it came to mean bending the knee in order to invoke either a blessing or a curse. Cursing is a perversion of blessing, as all sin is of goodness. Sin is a degeneracy, not a generation. It is not, however, likely that Job should fear the possibility of his sons cursing God. The sense "bid farewell to," derived from the blessing customary at parting, seems sufficient ( Genesis 47:10 ). Thus UMBREIT translates "may have dismissed God from their hearts"; namely, amid the intoxication of pleasure ( Proverbs 20:1 ). This act illustrates Job's "fear of God" ( Job 1:1 ).
Job 1:6-12 . SATAN, APPEARING BEFORE GOD, FALSELY ACCUSES JOB.
6. sons of God--angels ( Job 38:7 , 1 Kings 22:19 ). They present themselves to render account of their "ministry" in other parts of the universe ( Hebrews 1:14 ).
the Lord--Hebrew, JEHOVAH, the self-existing God, faithful to His promises. God says ( Exodus 6:3 ) that He was not known to the patriarchs by this name. But, as the name occurs previously in Genesis 2:7-9 , &c., what must be meant is, not until the time of delivering Israel by Moses was He known peculiarly and publicly in the character which the name means; namely, "making things to be," fulfilling the promises made to their forefathers. This name, therefore, here, is no objection against the antiquity of the Book of Job.
Satan--The tradition was widely spread that he had been the agent in Adam's temptation. Hence his name is given without comment. The feeling with which he looks on Job is similar to that with which he looked on Adam in Paradise: emboldened by his success in the case of one not yet fallen, he is confident that the piety of Job, one of a fallen race, will not stand the test. He had fallen himself ( Job 4:19 , 15:15 , Jude 1:6 ). In the Book of Job, Satan is first designated by name: "Satan," Hebrew, "one who lies in wait"; an "adversary" in a court of justice ( 1 Chronicles 21:1 , Psalms 109:6 , Zechariah 3:1 ); "accuser" ( Revelation 12:10 ). He has the law of God on his side by man's sin, and against man. But Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law for us; justice is once more on man's side against Satan ( Isaiah 42:21 ); and so Jesus Christ can plead as our Advocate against the adversary. "Devil" is the Greek name--the "slanderer," or "accuser." He is subject to God, who uses his ministry for chastising man. In Arabic, Satan is often applied to a serpent ( Genesis 3:1 ). He is called prince of this world ( John 12:31 ); the god of this world ( 2 Corinthians 4:4 ); prince of the power of the air ( Ephesians 2:2 ). God here questions him, in order to vindicate His own ways before angels.
7. going to and fro--rather, "hurrying rapidly to and fro." The original idea in Arabic is the heat of haste ( Matthew 12:43 , 1 Peter 5:8 ). Satan seems to have had some peculiar connection with this earth. Perhaps he was formerly its ruler under God. Man succeeded to the vice royalty ( Genesis 1:26 , Psalms 8:6 ). Man then lost it and Satan became prince of this world. The Son of man ( Psalms 8:4 )--the representative man, regains the forfeited inheritance ( Revelation 11:15 ). Satan's replies are characteristically curt and short. When the angels appear before God, Satan is among them, even as there was a Judas among the apostles.
8. considered--Margin, "set thine heart on"; that is, considered attentively. No true servant of God escapes the eye of the adversary of God.
9. fear God for naught--It is a mark of the children of Satan to sneer and not give credit to any for disinterested piety. Not so much God's gifts, as God Himself is "the reward" of His people ( Genesis 15:1 ).
10. his substance is increased--literally, "spread out like a flood"; Job's herds covered the face of the country.
11. curse thee to thy face--in antithesis to God's praise of him ( Job 1:8 ), "one that feareth God." Satan's words are too true of many. Take away their prosperity and you take away their religion ( Malachi 3:14 ).
12. in thy power--Satan has no power against man till God gives it. God would not touch Job with His own hand, though Satan asks this ( Job 1:11 , "thine"), but He allows the enemy to do so.
Job 1:13-22 . JOB, IN AFFLICTION, BLESSES GOD, &c.
13. wine--not specified in Job 1:4 . The mirth inspired by the "wine" here contrasts the more sadly with the alarm which interrupted it.
14. the asses feeding beside them--Hebrew, "she asses." A graphic picture of rural repose and peace; the more dreadful, therefore, by contrast is the sudden attack of the plundering Arabs.
15. Sabeans--not those of Arabia-Felix, but those of Arabia-Deserta, descending from Sheba, grandson of Abraham and Keturah ( Genesis 25:3 ). The Bedouin Arabs of the present day resemble, in marauding habits, these Sabeans (compare Genesis 16:12 ).
I alone am escaped--cunningly contrived by Satan. One in each case escapes ( Job 1:16 Job 1:17 Job 1:19 ), and brings the same kind of message. This was to overwhelm Job, and leave him no time to recover from the rapid succession of calamities--"misfortunes seldom come single."
16. fire of God--Hebraism for "a mighty fire"; as "cedars of God"--"lofty cedars" ( Psalms 80:10 ). Not lightning, which would not consume all the sheep and servants. UMBREIT understands it of the burning wind of Arabia, called by the Turks "wind of poison." "The prince of the power of the air" [ Ephesians 2:2 ] is permitted to have control over such destructive agents.
17. Chaldeans--not merely robbers as the Sabeans; but experienced in war, as is implied by "they set in array three bands" ( Habakkuk 1:6-8 ). RAWLINSON distinguishes three periods: 1. When their seat of empire was in the south, towards the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. The Chaldean period, from 2300 B.C. to 1500 B.C. In this period was Chedorlaomer ( Genesis 14:1 ), the Kudur of Hur or Ur of the Chaldees, in the Assyrian inscriptions, and the conqueror of Syria. 2. From 1500 to 625 B.C., the Assyrian period. 3. From 625 to 538 B.C. (when Cyrus the Persian took Babylon), the Babylonian period. "Chaldees" in Hebrew--Chasaim. They were akin, perhaps, to the Hebrews, as Abraham's sojourn in Ur, and the name "Chesed," a nephew of Abraham, imply. The three bands were probably in order to attack the three separate thousands of Job's camels ( Job 1:3 ).
19. a great wind from the wilderness--south of Job's house. The tornado came the more violently over the desert, being uninterrupted ( Isaiah 21:1 , Hosea 13:15 ).
the young men--rather, "the young people"; including the daughters (so in Ruth 2:21 ).
20. Job arose--not necessarily from sitting. Inward excitement is implied, and the beginning to do anything. He had heard the other messages calmly, but on hearing of the death of his children, then he arose; or, as EICHORN translates, he started up ( 2 Samuel 13:31 ). The rending of the mantle was the conventional mark of deep grief ( Genesis 37:34 ). Orientals wear a tunic or shirt, and loose pantaloons; and over these a flowing mantle (especially great persons and women). Shaving the head was also usual in grief ( Jeremiah 41:5 , Micah 1:16 ).
21. Naked--( 1 Timothy 6:7 ). "Mother's womb" is poetically the earth, the universal mother ( Ecclesiastes 5:15 , 12:7 , Psalms 139:15 ). Job herein realizes God's assertion ( Job 1:8 ) against Satan's ( Job 1:11 ). Instead of cursing, he blesses the name of JEHOVAH (Hebrew). The name of Jehovah, is Jehovah Himself, as manifested to us in His attributes ( Isaiah 9:6 ).
22. nor charged God foolishly--rather, "allowed himself to commit no folly against God" [UMBREIT]. Job 2:10 proves that this is the meaning. Not as Margin "attributed no folly to God." Hasty words against God, though natural in the bitterness of grief, are folly; literally, an "insipid, unsavory" thing ( Job 6:6 , Jeremiah 23:13 , Margin). Folly in Scripture is continually equivalent to wickedness. For when man sins, it is himself, not God, whom he injures ( Proverbs 8:36 ). We are to submit to trials, not because we see the reasons for them, nor yet as though they were matters of chance, but because God wills them, and has a right to send them, and has His own good reasons in sending them.