Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.Ch. Job 1:1-3. Job’s name and abode; his piety, and consequent family felicity and worldly prosperity
1. the land of Uz] This word occurs several times in the Old Testament: (1) as the name of a son of Aram, Genesis 10:23; (2) as the name of the eldest son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham, Genesis 22:21; and (3) as that of a descendant of Seir, Genesis 36:28. These references would point either to Syria on the north-east of Palestine or to the region of Edom, further south. From the Book itself we learn that Job’s flocks were exposed on the east to inroads on the part of the Chaldeans, the tribes between Syria and the Euphrates, Job 1:17; and in another direction to attacks from the Sabeans, Job 1:15. The most prominent man among his friends was from Teman, which belonged to Edom, Job 2:11 (comp. Genesis 36:15; Jeremiah 49:7; Jeremiah 49:20), and he himself is named the greatest of all the children of the East, Job 1:3. In Lamentations 4:21 it is said: Rejoice O daughter of Edom that dwellest in the land of Uz. These words do not imply that Uz is identical with Edom, but they imply that Edomites had possession of Uz, which could not have been the case unless the lands bordered on one another. The land of Uz, therefore, probably lay east of Palestine and north of Edom. This general position is already assigned to it in the Sept. which, in some verses added to the end of the Book, and embodying the tradition of the time, says that the land of Uz lay “on the borders of Edom and Arabia.”
There is nothing in Scripture that defines the position of Job’s home more precisely. An interesting tradition, as old at least as the early centuries of the Christian era, has been investigated by Wetzstein. This tradition places the home of Job in the Nukra, the fertile depression of Bashan at the south-east foot of Hermon. Near the town of Nawa, about 40 miles almost due south of Damascus, a little to the west of the pilgrim route from this city to Mecca, and about the latitude of the north end of the sea of Tiberias, there still exist a Makâm, that is, place, or tomb, and monastery of Job. Wetzstein assigns the building to the end of the third century. See his Excursus at the end of Delitzsch’s Comm. on Job.
whose name was Job] The Heb. form of the name is Iyyôb, which does not occur again in the Bible. There is no play on the name or allusion to its significance in the Book. It does not seem, therefore, to have been coined by the Author of the Poem, but probably came down to him with other fragments of the tradition on which he worked. The way in which Ezekiel alludes to Job, in company with other renowned names such as Noah and Daniel, seems to imply that this prophet drew his information regarding Job from a more general source than the present Book: “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in it (the sinful land), they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness,” Job 14:14. The tradition regarding Job and his sufferings was probably well known in the East, and the name of the suffering hero was part of the tradition. It is of little consequence, therefore, to enquire what the name means of itself. If the word be Hebrew it might mean the “assailed” or “persecuted,” that is, by Satan (or God). In Arabic the form of the word is Ayyûb, and if derived from this dialect the name might mean the “returning,” that is, penitent, or more generally, the “pious.” Job is several times spoken of in the Kor’an. In Sur. 38:44 he is called awwâb, which means “ever returning to God,” i. e. pious rather than penitent, but there seems no allusion in the term to the etymology of his name, for in the same chapter both David and Solomon receive the same epithet.
that man was perfect] The term “perfect” means properly “complete,” without defect. It does not imply that the man was sinless, for Job never puts forward any such pretension, but that he was a righteous man and free from specific sins such as were held to bring down the chastisement of heaven. That he was so is the very foundation of his trial and the first principle of the Book. Job’s “perfection” is affirmed in heaven: “Hast thou considered my servant Job … a perfect and an upright man?” Job 1:8, Job 2:3; it is understood by his wife: Dost thou still hold fast thy perfection? Job 2:9; and it is persistently claimed for himself by Job, not only in moments of excitement when stung by the insinuations of his friends: I am perfect, Job 9:21 (see notes), but also when the heat of the conflict is over and under the most solemn oaths: As God liveth who hath taken away my right, … I will not remove my perfection from me; my righteousness I hold fast, Job 27:2; Job 27:5-6. The word occurs again, Job 31:6, and in another form, Job 12:4 : The just, perfect man is laughed to scorn. Even the three friends admit Job’s perfectness in general, although they are under the impression that he must have been guilty of some serious offences to account for his calamities, and they urge it upon Job as a ground of confidence in his ultimate recovery: Is not thy hope the perfectness of thy ways? Job 4:6; and again: “God will not cast away a perfect man,” Job 8:20. One of the objects the writer of the Book had in view was to teach that sufferings may fall on men for reasons unconnected with any sin on their own part; and using the history of Job for this purpose, it was necessary that he should lay emphasis in all parts of the Book upon Job’s perfection. The term “perfect” is used of Noah in the same sense: Noah, a just man, was perfect in his generation; that is, he was righteous and exempt from the sins of his contemporaries, Genesis 6:9.
feared God] Job was not only just and upright, with a high morality, he was also godfearing. These two things are never separated in the Old Testament. For as God was the author of all the movements in the world and human history, so right thoughts of Him and right relations to Him lay at the foundation of all right human conduct. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and wisdom includes both just thinking and right conduct.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.2, 3. Job’s family and wealth. A first principle in the Oriental Wisdom, which corresponds in part to our Ethics, was, that it is well with the righteous and ill with the wicked, Isaiah 3:10-11. This principle is set at the head of the Psalter in Psalms 1, and is reiterated in many shapes as an unalterable law in the Book of Proverbs. According to this principle Job and all acquainted with him would see his piety reflected in his worldly prosperity, and regard this as God’s blessing upon him on account of it. It is not the intention of the writer of the Book to break with this principle absolutely. On the contrary when he lets Job at the end of his trials be restored to a prosperity double that which he enjoyed before, he gives in his adhesion to the principle in general. If he had not done so his position would have been more false than that of Job’s friends, who asserted that the principle prevailed in the world without exceptions. The Author’s design goes no further than to teach that the principle is subject to great modifications, and that sufferings may arise from causes more general than any connected with the sufferer’s own life. His object, however, in teaching this doctrine cannot have been the limited one of correcting a false theory of Providence, he must have had before him the wider purpose of sustaining individuals or most probably his nation under severe and inexplicable trials and encouraging them with brilliant hopes of the future.
The round Numbers 7, 3, 5, by which Job’s children and his flocks are described, express, according to the ideas connected with such numbers in the East, their perfection and complete sufficiency. They teach at the same time that what we have before us here is not actual history, but history idealized by the Poet and Teacher, that he may convey by it more vividly the moral lessons which he desires to inculcate. Job’s sons were seven and his daughters three, for sons were more esteemed in the East than daughters, partly for reasons connected with the state of society, one of which is alluded to in the Psalm: “They shall not be ashamed, they shall speak with the enemies in the gate,” Psalm 127:5. Mohammed expresses the feelings of the Arabs when he says: For when any one of them is informed of the birth of a daughter a black shadow falls upon his face and he is wroth, and with-draweth himself from men because of the evil tidings, uncertain whether he shall keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust, Kor. 16:60; and even the modern Jew in his prayers gives thanks in this way: Blessed art thou, O king of the universe, who hast not made me a woman.
As a great Eastern Emeer, Job was rich in camels. These were used for riding when the journey was long, and for transporting produce and merchandise to the distant cities. They were also eaten by the Arabs. She-asses, the price of one of which is said to be three times that of a male, were esteemed not on account of their milk, but for the sake of their foals. In a country where wheeled carriages are unknown, they were used not only for riding, but for all purposes of home and agricultural carriage. Oxen were used for labouring the fields, for which the horse is not employed in the East. The amount of arable land was measured by the number of yoke, that is, pairs, of oxen required to cultivate it. Job’s rich and extensive fields were plowed by a thousand oxen, Job 1:14. Such wide possessions implied a very great “household,” that is, body of servants. And the writer finishes his picture of Job by saying that he “was the greatest of all the men (lit. children) of the East.” His “greatness” did not lie in his wealth alone, but in the respect in which he was held and in his influence. See the pathetic picture which he draws of his own former estate, ch. 29. On the general phrase “children of the East” see Genesis 29:1; Jdg 6:3; Jdg 7:12; Jdg 8:10; 1 Kings 4:30; Jeremiah 49:28; Ezekiel 25:4; Ezekiel 25:10.
His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.4, 5. A trait from Job’s ordinary life, illustrating the happiness and unity of his children and the father’s scrupulous piety
4. in their houses, every one his day] lit. made a feast at the house of each on his day, or, at the house of him whose day it was. The seven sons had homes of their own. The daughters probably lived in the house of their father. It does not appear with certainty from the Book whether any of Job’s children were married. Each son made a feast at his house on his day, to which the other six brothers and the three sisters were invited. When the cycle of seven feasts had gone round, the father sent and purified his children and offered sacrifice on their behalf. What seems meant is that, as there were seven sons, there was a feast at the house of one of them in succession each day of the week, and that at the end of the week, when all the seven had given their feast, the father sent, possibly on the morning of the first day of the week, and sanctified them. Thus week after week was passed; their life was a continual feast. It is to be remembered that we do not stand on the ground of mere history here. The idea shapes its materials to its own ends; and what is presented to us is the highest earthly joyousness and affection combined with the most sensitive piety.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.5. sent and sanctified them] that is, most likely, sent for them. The sanctification or purification consisted probably in washings and change of garments, Genesis 35:2, and similar rites, and was preparatory to the sacrifice or religious service immediately to be engaged in, as Samuel said to the family of Jesse, “Sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice,” 1 Samuel 16:5. The act of worship was the sacrifice. As was customary in the Patriarchal age, to which Job belonged, and even far down in the history of Israel, the father was priest of the family, and the sacrifice offered was the burnt-offering. This offering contained in it the germs which afterwards expanded into the various distinct kinds of sacrifice, such as the sin-offering. Job used it as a sacrifice of atonement.
number of them all] Whether Job offered ten burnt-offerings, including his daughters in his atoning sacrifice, which would seem likely, or only seven, one corresponding to each feast day, is a point that cannot be settled with certainty.
sinned, and cursed God in their hearts] Rather, sinned and disowned God, that is, sinned by disowning or renouncing God in their hearts. Job himself was not present at the youthful festivities. He did not any longer care for such things, but he did not wish to impose his own gravity upon those whose years it did not suit. His desire was to see his children happy, provided their happiness was innocent. What he feared in them was not any open excess, or outbreak into coarse vice, but a momentary turning away of the heart from God in the midst of social enjoyment, as if they felt that this enjoyment was better than religion or might fill its place in one’s life.
The word translated “curse” means in usage to bless, hence to salute, 1 Samuel 25:14, either at meeting or parting, as the Oriental wishes the peace (salâm) or blessing of God upon one whom he meets or parts from, Genesis 47:7; Genesis 47:10. From this use of the word in taking leave it may have come to mean, to bid farewell to, and hence to disown or renounce. A similar secondary use is found in our own and the classical languages. Thus:
Valeat res ludicra.
Good bye the stage. Hor.
Farewell faint-hearted and degenerate King,
In whose cold blood no spark of honour bides.
K. Henry VI.
Si maxime talis est Deus, ut nulla gratia, nulla hominum caritate teneatur, valeat. Cic. Nat. Deor. 1. 44. See Aesch. Agam. 572; Plat. Phaedr. 58. These and other examples will be found in the commentaries. Others, assuming that the radical sense of the word is to kneel, Psalm 95:6, have supposed that the sense of curse might arise from a person’s kneeling to imprecate evil. But this is a far-fetched idea. Besides, the sense of curse is unsuitable in this passage as well as in the other places where the word occurs. Some such sense as “renounce” suits all the passages in Job and the only other passage where the sense of the word must be similar, 1 Kings 21:10.
It is curious that the sin which Job feared in his children as the consequence of drinking too deeply of the joys of life was the sin to which he himself was almost driven by the acuteness of his misery. So surrounded are we of God on every side.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.6. Now there was a day when] lit. now it fell on a day that the sons of God presented themselves … and Satan came. The meaning is not that there was a set time for the sons of God presenting themselves, but that they did on a certain day convene and Satan came among them. He came because one of them—not, although not one of them. The phrase is the same in Job 1:13; Job 2:1; 2 Kings 4:18.
the sons of God] Rather perhaps, sons of the Elohîm, i. e. angels. The word Elohîm usually means God, but this is scarcely its meaning here. The angels are not called “sons of God” as if they had actually derived their nature from Him as a child from its father; nor in a less exact way, because though created they have received a nature similar to God’s, being spirits; nor yet as if on account of their stedfast holiness they had been adopted by grace into the family of God. These ideas are not found here. The name Elohim or sons (i. e. members of the race) of the Elohim is a name given directly to angels in contrast with men. The word means probably “powers,” “mights,” and the name is given to God and angels in common; He is the Elohim preeminently, they are Elohim in an inferior sense. The name describes their nature or standing in contrast to what is human; the name angels, that is, messengers, is descriptive of the duties which they fulfil. The same Beings are called “sons of Elîm,” Psalm 89:6 (“sons of the mighty”), and Psalm 29:1 (“ye mighty”), and there as here they stand in the temple or palace of the Lord, Psalm 29:9; Psalm 89:6-8. Angels are referred to several times in the Book of Job. In Job 5:1 the supposition is put that men might appeal to them for sympathy or a hearing amidst sufferings judged to be undeserved. In Job 33:23 they fulfil the office of interpreter between God and men. They form the Council of God, Job 15:8. They are not said to have been created, but were present when the earth was formed, Job 38:7. They are called the “holy ones,” Job 5:1; Job 15:15, where, however, “holy” is not a moral term, but means attending on God. Though pure like the heavens and all contained in its sphere, in contrast with God they are impure and unwise, Job 4:18; Job 15:15; Job 25:5.
For a scene in heaven similar to that presented in this verse see 1 Kings 22:19 seq.; Comp. Isaiah 6; Psalm 89:6 seq., also Zechariah 3.
and Satan came also] Or, and the Adversary, or Opposer, as in the margin. The Heb. is the Satan, where the presence of the article shews that the word has not yet become a proper name. The word Satan means one who opposes another in his purpose, Numbers 22:22; Numbers 22:32, or pretensions and claims, Zechariah 3:1; 1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:23; 1 Kings 11:25, or generally. The Satan is that one of God’s ministers whose part it is to oppose men in their pretensions to a right standing before God, Zechariah 3:1, and here; that is, who represents God’s trying, sifting providence. He is one of God’s messengers and presents himself before God to report, or to receive commissions, parts of God’s will which he is to execute.
God’s providence is over all; He doeth whatsoever is done in heaven or on earth. But He makes use of agents in His operations. Hence the same act, such as instigating David to number the people, may be in one place ascribed to God directly, 2 Samuel 24:1, and in another to Satan, 1 Chronicles 21:1. God’s purposes are usually beneficent and gracious, hence the angels are comprehensively designated as “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for the sake of them who shall be heirs of salvation,” Hebrews 1:14. But He has also purposes of judgment and chastisement, which are executed by those called the “destroyers,” Job 33:22; Exodus 12:23. In all these operations, whether of mercy or of judgment, the angels are simply servants. They do God’s behests. Their own moral character does not come into question. They are neither good nor bad angels. The spirit from the Lord that troubled Saul is called “evil,” 1 Samuel 16:14 seq., not in reference to its own character, but to the effect produced on Saul’s mind. In like manner the spirit that came forth and undertook to delude Ahab to his destruction, was not a false spirit in himself, he merely became a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets, 1 Kings 22:19 seq. In all such cases the spirit is characterized according to the influence which he exerts. Neither is the Satan represented here as a fallen or evil spirit. Yet undoubtedly a step towards this is taken. He shews an assiduity slightly too keen in the exercise of his somewhat invidious function. He rather usurps the initiative in marking out Job for trial, even though he might feel sheltered under his general commission. The Author lets us know that this is his view of him when he puts into God’s mouth the words: Thou didst set me on against him, Job 2:3. And in the parallel passage Zechariah 3 his cold-blooded cruelty in the exercise of his office against the miserable and in a moral sense the somewhat ragged Church of the Restoration stands rebuked before the spirit of Divine compassion: “The Lord rebuke thee Satan, is not this a brand plucked from the burning?” Subsequent revelation made advances on the doctrine of Satan, the discussion of which, however, does not belong here.
6–12. The disinterestedness of Job’s piety brought under suspicion by the Adversary in the Council of Heaven
After the scene of happiness and piety presented by Job’s home on earth, the Poet draws the veil aside and shews us a scene in heaven. The Council of the Most High convenes. Around the throne of the King, whose subject and servant Job is, stand “his ministers that do his pleasure,” Psalm 103:21. Their offices are various. The office of one of them is to try the sincerity of men, and put their religion to the proof. Job’s piety is commended on the part of God, but suspicions regarding its disinterestedness are insinuated on the part of this angel. He receives permission to try Job, with the reservation that he must not afflict him in his person.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.7. From going to and fro] As the word is used by the Satan of himself there is, naturally, no shade of self-condemnation in it: rather the reverse, he speaks with a certain consciousness of his assiduous faithfulness. The term is used of “the eyes of the Lord, that go to and fro,” 2 Chronicles 16:9. What is suggested is the swiftness and ubiquity of his survey of men. Similarly walking up and down is said of those benevolent emissaries sent forth from heaven in the interest of the suffering righteous of the earth, Zechariah 1:10-11; Zechariah 6:7. The growing light of revelation cast the figure of Satan into deeper shade, and his restless activity receives a corresponding deepness of tint, “Your adversary, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” 1 Peter 5:8.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?8. The integrity and godliness attributed to Job by the author of the Poem are confirmed by God Himself.
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?9. for nought] Satan does not dispute Job’s piety; only, the devotion of the rich landowner to the Bountiful Giver of all good is not ill to understand! A different estimate of what true religion is and of the things that are difficulties in the way of it was formed by Another, who said: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” A subtle turn is given to the words of Satan by Godet in his Essay on Job, who thinks that while they are openly a slur upon man, they are covertly a sarcasm on the Most High Himself, implying that no one truly loves Him, He is served only for the benefits He confers. The Essayist may do no injustice to Satan, but he does to the Old Testament conception of him. The Satan of this Book may shew the beginnings of a personal malevolence against man, but he is still rigidly subordinated to heaven, and in all he does subserves its interests. His function is as the minister of God to try the sincerity of man; hence when his work of trial is over he is no more found, and no place is given him among the dramatis persona of the poem.
Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.11. curse thee to thy face] that is, renounce thee openly. See on Job 1:5. The phrase and he will curse thee has the form of an oath in the Heb. Satan so little believes in the sincerity of human religion that he is not afraid to take his oath that it is hollow.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.12. Satan receives permission to try Job, but the length he can go is rigidly bounded by the will of the Most High. Having received his commission he immediately “goes forth,” glad to appearance in the opportunity of doing mischief and confident in the result.
And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:13–22. Job’s first trial; and its issue: his reverence towards God remains unshaken
Between Job 1:12-13 there is an interval, an ominous stillness like that which precedes the storm. The poet has drawn aside the curtain to us and we know what is impending. Job knows nothing. His children are about him and he thinks the Almighty is yet with him, Job 29:5. The earth smiles to him as it was wont by day; and by night the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades come forth in their silent procession, and the Dragon trails his glittering folds across the heavens overhead, and he looks with wonder into the deep chambers of the South. All is glorious with a constant glory because it is an unchanging hand that leads them forth, the hand of the Holy One from whose words he has never declined, Job 6:10, and whose candle as he deems still shines upon his head, Job 29:3. He does not know that he is being played for like a pawn. Suddenly the catastrophe overtakes him. Messenger after messenger, each taking up his tale of ruin before the other has concluded his, announce that all he had has been taken from him. Heaven and earth have combined to overwhelm him. The forces of nature and the destructive violence of men have united to strip him bare.
The description has many features of the ideal. First, the catastrophe befell on the day when Job’s children were feasting in their eldest brother’s house, Job 1:13, the day on the morning of which Job had sent for his children and sanctified them and offered sacrifices on their behalf. Job’s godliness and his calamity are brought into the closest contrast. He felt this, and as he regarded every event as wrought by the hand of God immediately, his afflictions threw his mind into the deepest perplexity regarding the ways of God. Again, while heaven and men alternate their strokes upon him, these strokes follow one another with increasing severity, and in each case only one escapes to bring the grievous tidings. The rapid touches of the Author do not suggest any struggle or rising rebelliousness in Job’s mind. He manifests the liveliest grief, but maintains his self-control. And the scene closes upon the sufferer, a solitary man, worshipping God amidst the waste where his rich possessions once had lien.
And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:14, 15. The first stroke, the loss of the oxen and she-asses, with the slaughter of the servants. Job’s servants were probably armed, as is usual in the East, and offered resistance, for the Bedawin do not usually shed blood unless opposed. The Sabeans were an Arab tribe, or possibly different tribes bore the name (Genesis 10:7; Genesis 10:28; Genesis 25:3). In Job 6:19 they are represented as trading with caravans. They are mentioned in connexion with Dedan, and probably detachments of them encamped on the borders of Edom, and these would be the assailants of Job’s servants. The raid came from the direction of the South, and the fact that the oxen were plowing indicates that the disaster befell in winter.
And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.16. The second stroke. The fire of God can hardly have been the sultry, poisonous Samoom, or hot wind of the desert, nor any rain of sulphur such as destroyed Sodom, but was most likely lightning; see 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:12.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.17. The third stroke. The name Chaldeans was perhaps given generally to the tribes that roamed between the cultivated land on the east of the Jordan and the Euphrates. Dividing an attacking force into several bands, so as to fall on the enemy on several sides, was a common piece of Oriental tactics, Jdg 7:16; Jdg 9:43; 1 Samuel 11:11.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:18, 19. The fourth stroke, the death of Job’s children. The wind struck the four corners of the house, being a whirlwind. It came from the side or region of the desert.
And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,20, 21. Job’s demeanour under his sorrows. As became a man of his rank Job had received the messengers sitting. When the full extent of his misery came home to him he arose and gave way to the liveliest expressions of grief. He rent his mantle, in token that his heart was rent with sorrow, as Joel 2:13 says, “Rend your heart and not your garments;” he shaved his head, putting off, in token of his mourning, every adornment, even that which nature had supplied; and he cast himself upon the ground, laying his forehead on the dust, in deepest submission before God. Grief has its rights, which religion stands by to see fulfilled, and then comes forward to hallow it and cast its peace over it.—The “mantle” (me‘eel) was not a detached garment as the word might suggest, but a tunic, the uppermost of the garments proper. It was worn by women of the higher rank, 2 Samuel 13:18, as well as men; was of linen or later of cotton, with arms, and reaching to the ankles. It was often either richly embroidered or perhaps made up of pieces of cloth of various colours, Genesis 37:3.
And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.21. naked shall I return thither] The general sense is plain, though the precise idea is obscure. The words “my mother’s womb” must be used literally, and return thither somewhat inexactly, to describe a condition similar to that which preceded entrance upon life and light. Or, as growth in the womb is described, Psalm 139:15, as “being curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth,” the womb and the bosom of the earth, “the mother of all,” may be compared together. “We brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out,” 1 Timothy 6:7. All that man has is a gift of God which He may recall. Job blesses God alike who gave and who recalled.
the name of the Lord] The Author here lets the Israelitish name Jehovah fall from the lips of his hero, contrary to his usual habit of putting the names God, Almighty, which were not distinctively Hebrew, into the mouths of the speakers. Perhaps the phrase was a general one which alteration would have spoiled; or more likely, the writer was so much in sympathy with the sentiment put into Job’s mouth that it escaped him for the moment that it was not himself or his nation but one foreign to Israel that was uttering it.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.22. The Writer’s judgment on Job’s demeanour.
In all this] Both in what he suffered and in what he said and did. Job’s expressions of grief were no sin.
charged God foolishly] Rather as margin, attributed folly to God. The word “folly” hardly expresses the idea, though a better word is not easy to find. The adj. signifies insipid, without savour, Job 6:6 (unsavoury), and the term here means moral impropriety; Job attributed no want of right moral savour to God’s actions in His dealing with him. Others prefer the meaning: Gave God no cause of displeasure; a sense less suitable to the meaning of the word and to the connexion, for the action of the poem turns immediately on the estimate which Job will form of God, and whether in consequence he will renounce Him, and only indirectly on what God shall find in Job. But comp. Job 2:10.
The confident predictions of the Satan are wholly falsified.