Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.Ch. Job 2:1-10. Job’s second trial and its issue: he sinned not with his lips
How long time intervened between Job’s first trial and the second is not stated. The Targum seems to conjecture a year. The new trial is introduced like the first by a scene in heaven. The Council of God convenes. His ministers stand before Him, and among them the one whose office is, as the Targum says, to scrutinize the deeds of men. The Lord speaks of His servant Job with approval and with compassion, reproaching the Satan with instigating Him to bring undeserved affliction upon him. Satan’s answer is ready: the trial did not touch Job near enough; safe himself, his children may perish; if the hand of God would touch him in his own bone and flesh, he would renounce Him to his face. Satan receives permission to afflict Job himself, with the reservation that he shall spare his life. Straightway Satan goes forth and smites Job with sore boils, the leprosy called Elephantiasis or botch of Egypt, Deuteronomy 28:27; Deuteronomy 28:35. The deeper affliction only opens or reveals greater deeps in Job’s reverent piety. In his former trial he blessed God who took away the good He had added to naked man; this was strictly no evil: now he bows beneath His hand when He inflicts positive evil, “We receive good at the hand of God and shall we not also receive evil?” And again the Writer sums up the issue of the trial with the words, “In all this Job sinned not.”
And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
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? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.3. still he holdeth fast his integrity] Or, his perfectness, see on Job 1:1. Satan had insinuated that Job’s religiousness was interested, he served God for the benefits He conferred. That he maintained his godly fear when the benefits were taken away refuted the suspicion, and shewed that his trials were without cause.
And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.4. The Satan’s reply is that the trial was not sufficiently close, it left the man himself untouched.
Skin for skin, yea, all] Rather, skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for himself. The second half of the sentence is an application to the subject in hand of the general truth expressed in the words, Skin for skin. These words seem proverbial, though the origin of the proverb is obscure. The meaning seems to be, Like for like, so all &c. Others take the expression in a less general sense. The Targum translates, Member for member, one member of the body in behalf of, or to cover another member, as the arm the head. The word skin is used in our Book once or twice for the body, Job 18:13, Job 19:26. If this sense could be adopted here the meaning would be, Skin or body of others for one’s own, all that a man has &c., in which case the second clause would merely repeat the first. This is prosaic, though adopted by Jerome, pro corio suo coria obtulit filiorum. The verse would then run: Others for oneself, all that a man hath will he give for himself. See the different interpretations discussed at length in Conant’s Job, p. 8 seq.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.7. with sore boils] It is generally agreed that the disease of Job was the leprosy called Elephantiasis, so named because the swollen limbs and the black and corrugated skin of those afflicted by it resemble those of the elephant. It is said by ancient authors, as Pliny, to be peculiar to Egypt, but it is found in other hot countries such as the Hijâz, and even in northern climates as Norway. It is said to attack the limbs first, breaking out below the knees and gradually spreading over the whole body. We are probably to consider, however, that Job was smitten “from the sole of his foot unto his crown” all at once. Full details of its appearance and the sensations of those affected may be gathered from the Book, though, being poetically coloured, they will hardly bear to be read like a page from a handbook of Pathology. The ulcers were accompanied by an itching so intolerable that a piece of potsherd was taken to scrape the sores and remove the feculent discharge, Job 2:8. The form and countenance were so disfigured by the disease that the sufferer’s friends could not recognise him, Job 2:12. The ulcers seized the whole body both without and inwardly, Job 19:20, making the breath fetid, and emitting a loathsome smell that drove every one from the sufferer’s presence, Job 19:17, and made him seek refuge outside the village upon the heap of ashes, Job 2:8. The sores, which bred worms, Job 7:5, alternately closed, having the appearance of clods of earth, and opened and ran, so that the body was alternately swollen and emaciated, Job 16:8. The patient was haunted with horrible dreams, Job 7:14, and unearthly terrors, Job 3:25, and harassed by a sensation of choking, Job 7:15, which made his nights restless and frightful, Job 7:4, as his incessant pains made his days weary, Job 7:1-4. His bones were filled with gnawing pains, as if a fire burned in them, Job 30:30, or as if his limbs were tortured in the stocks, Job 13:27, or wrenched off, Job 30:17. He was helpless, and his futile attempts to rise from the ground provoked the merriment of the children who played about the heap where he lay, Job 19:18. The disease was held incurable, though the patient might linger many years, and his hopelessness of recovery made him long for death, Job 3:20 and often. Delitzsch and Dillmann refer to various treatises on the subject, in particular, to one published at the cost of the Norwegian Government, Danielsen et Boeck, Traité de la Spédalskhed ou Éléphantiasis des Grecs (with coloured plates), Paris, 1848.
And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.8. and he sat down among the ashes] Rather, as he sat among. By the “ashes” is possibly meant (as the Sept. already understands, which translates ἐπὶ τῆς κοπρίας) the Mázbalah, the place outside the Arabic towns where the zibl, that is, dung and other rubbish of the place is thrown. “The dung which is heaped up upon the Mezbele of the Hauran villages is not mixed with straw, which in that warm and dry land is not needed for litter, and it comes mostly from solid-hoofed animals, as the flocks and oxen are left over night in the grazing places. It is carried in baskets in a dry state to this place before the village, and usually burnt once a month … The ashes remain … If the village has been inhabited for centuries the Mezbele reaches a height far overtopping it. The winter rains reduce it into a compact mass, and it becomes by and bye a solid hill of earth … The Mezbele serves the inhabitants for a watchtower, and in the sultry evenings for a place of concourse, because there is a current of air on the height. There all day long the children play about it; and there the outcast, who has been stricken with some loathsome malady, and is not allowed to enter the dwellings of men, lays himself down, begging an alms of the passers-by by day, and by night sheltering himself among the ashes which the heat of the sun has warmed. There too lie the village dogs, perhaps gnawing a fallen carcase, which is often flung there.” Wetzstein in Delitzsch, Comm. on Job , 2 Ed. p. 62 (Trans, vol. II, p. 152).
Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.9. Then said his wife] The incident related of Job’s wife is not introduced for her sake, but for the purpose of exhibiting through it the condition of Job’s mind, around which the drama turns. The author did not indicate the impression which Job’s personal affliction produced upon him. What thoughts he had are concealed; he is represented as sitting silent in his seclusion. The full impression of his miseries is brought home to him reflected from the mind of another, that other being the one fitted to influence him most powerfully. It is probable that the episode of Job’s wife is brought in with a double purpose, first, to shew how all around Job, those nearest to him, gave way under the severity of his trial, and thus by contrast to enhance the strength of his faith and the grandeur of his character; and second, to shew how, though subjected to the keenest trial from the example and representations of his wife, he still remained true.
The name Dinah given to Job’s wife by the Targum or Chaldee Translation most probably rests on no tradition, but is a mere child’s fancy. The Sept. introduces her speech, which it gives in a greatly amplified form, with the words “when a long time had passed.” The amplification is not unsuitable to the circumstances, but the curt phrases of the original are truer to art and nature, for grief is possessed of few words. Much animated dispute has taken place over the character and conduct of the woman. The Ancients were not favourably impressed by her. Augustine calls her roundly Diaboli adjutrix. The Geneva Version discerns a sad and universal principle in her conduct, “Satan useth the same instrument against Job as he did against Adam.” As was to be expected the present age has espoused her cause, and labours hard to put a face upon her words. The only question of importance is, what sense the Author intended her words to convey; and the key to this is found in the way in which her husband takes them up. He does not directly call her a “fool,” that is, a godless person (Psalm 14:1), but with mild circumlocution says that she speaks as one of the foolish women speaks. The Eastern writer lets the woman act in character (Ecclesiastes 7:26 seq.). He would have probably smiled at the elaborate analysing of the female mind to which Westerns devote themselves, thinking it a waste of time. As the weaker Job’s wife fell first into the snare of the Devil, and used her influence, as in the beginning of history, to draw her husband after her. Her story, however, is not told for her sake, but to shew how those around Job fell away, and to set in a strong light the strain to which his faith was put by such an example and the solicitations that accompanied it.
curse God, and die] Rather as before, renounce God and die. From a modern point of view many extenuations may be pleaded for Job’s wife, but her religion is represented here as precisely of the kind which Satan said Job’s was of. She wonders that Job still maintains his pious resignation; and counsels him, as he gets no good from God but only evil, even the extreme evil of death, to renounce an unprofitable service, and die, as he must, for nothing else awaits him. This is probably the meaning of the words “and die.” The words might have a different meaning. When two imperatives come together the second often expresses the consequence of the first, as do this and live. And, “renounce God and die” might mean, renounce Him and bring down His final stroke of death at once. The other is more probable.
But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.10. one of the foolish women] The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. “Wise” is less an intellectual than a moral term; and its opposite “foolish” means godless, Psalm 14:1. To “work folly in Israel” is to infringe any of the sacred laws of natural or consuetudinary morals, Jdg 19:23; 2 Samuel 13:12.
what? shall we receive] Or, we receive good … and shall we not also receive (i. e. accept) evil? Job’s words might mean, we receive much good at the hand of God, shall we not also out of thankfulness for the good, accept evil when He sends it? But this hardly goes to the root of the counsel given by his wife. Therefore rather: we receive good from God, not due to us, but in which we see the gift of His sovereign hand (Job 1:21), shall we not also do homage to His absoluteness when He brings evil upon us? Here Job reaches the utmost height of the religious feeling. He is in danger of drifting away from this feeling under the irritation of his friends’ misdirected counsels, but he is led back again to it with a deeper peace through the appearance and words of the Lord (ch. 38. seq.). The Author lets us know what in his view true religion is, whether in a man or in a nation, and doubtless amidst the troubles and perplexing darkness of his time he had seen it exemplified both in individual men and in that godly kernel of the nation which kept up the true continuity of Israel and conserved its true idea.
The Writer adds his emphatic testimony to Job’s sinlessness. In all this, under this severe affliction of body, and exposed to this searching temptation on the part of his wife, Job did not sin with his lips, that is, in any particular. Thinking and speaking hardly differ in the East, and the words mean, let no sinful murmur escape him; comp. Psalm 17:3.
Though the Writer professedly paints the sufferings and mental troubles of an individual, and though it may be certain that he has the sorrows of individuals before his mind, it is scarcely possible to doubt that he is writing history also on a large scale. He has his nation with its calamities and the various impressions these made upon the religious mind in his view. The national calamity could be nothing less than deportation or exile. As not one but several successive and diverse waves of feeling pass over Job’s mind in regard to his afflictions, we may assume that the Writer did not stand close behind the great blow that fell upon his people, but lived at a considerable distance from it. The people had not only been stripped of their possessions, but subjected to severe treatment themselves, and the apostasy of many was a sore trial to the faith of those who remained constant, and the evil had lasted long enough to produce various impressions on men’s minds and give rise to many attempts to solve the problem which it raised. These solutions are reflected in the debate between Job and his friends. The Author has a solution which is new, to the effect, namely, that the calamity is not a punishment or chastisement on account of sin, as others held, but a trial of righteousness. This view he invests in all the dramatic splendour that distinguishes the Prologue. Though living long after the calamity had befallen his fellow-citizens, the Author must have written previously to the happy turn of affairs that restored them to prosperity and to a higher plane of religious life. This restoration was the great hope he desired to inspire. Such a hope was the counterpart of the other half of his theory of evil. If suffering be the trial of righteousness, the trial, if patiently borne, must bring an accumulation of spiritual gain. This part of the theory was necessary also in another view, in order to justify the ways of God in subjecting the innocent to trial.
Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him.11. for they had made an appointment] Or, and they met together. They came each from his own place and met at one point to go to visit Job together.
to mourn with him] Or, condole with him, and shew their sympathy with him in his sufferings.
11–13. Job’s three friends, having heard of his misfortunes, come to condole with him
How long time intervened between Job’s second affliction and the arrival of his friends cannot be accurately ascertained. From the allusions in chaps. 7, 19, and 30, it is probable that a considerable time elapsed. A man of Job’s rank would not choose his friends from the men of inferior station around him; they would be, like himself, Eastern princes, all but his equals in rank and influence. Their abodes would therefore be distant from one another, and more distant from his, and travelling in the East is slow. The tone of Job’s mind, too, as reflected in ch. 3, has undergone a change, the effect, no doubt, of protracted sufferings.
Eliphaz is an old Idumean name (Genesis 36:4), and Teman, the place of his abode, is frequently mentioned in connexion with Edom. The place was famed for the wisdom of its inhabitants (Amos 1:12; Obadiah 1:8; Jeremiah 49:7; Ezekiel 25:13). Shuah was a son of Abraham by Keturah. The descendants of this wife were sent by Abraham to the East (Genesis 25:2; Genesis 25:6). Bildad may be connected by the Author with this family. Naamah, the dwelling-place of Zophar, means, perhaps, pleasant abode (Beauséjour, Reuss). A place of this name is mentioned, Joshua 15:41, but this, being in Palestine, can hardly have been the home of Zophar. The place is doubtless supposed by the Writer to lie east of the Jordan.
And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven.12. knew him not] He was so altered and disfigured by the disease. As Job perhaps lay outside the town they may have seen him at a distance.
sprinkled dust upon their heads] that is, they threw dust upwards towards heaven, which fell upon their heads, the gesture intimating perhaps that they were laid in the dust by a calamity sent from heaven; comp. Joshua 7:6; 1 Samuel 4:12; Lamentations 2:10. See on Job 1:20.
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great.13. none spake a word] Being overwhelmed by the affecting sight before them; as the Author adds: they saw that the grief, i. e. the pain or affliction, was very great. Comp. Ezekiel 3:15. The length of time during which they sat in silence, seven days and seven nights (the time of mourning for the dead, Genesis 50:10; 1 Samuel 31:13), shews the profound impression made upon them.