Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
THE BOOK OF JOB.
BY THE REV. STANLEY LEATHES, D.D.
THE REV. STANLEY LEATHES, D.D.,
Late Professor of Hebrew, King’s College, London.
INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JOB.
THE BOOK OF JOB.
I. Plan of the Book.—Great as are the difficulties connected with, and many as are the differences of opinion concerning, the Book of Job, there is and can be neither difficulty nor difference of opinion as to the plan on which the work is constructed. This is at once simple and obvious. There is, first, an historical prologue, just sufficient to make the reader acquainted with and interested in the hero of the book, relating who he was and what was the occasion of the following controversy, but nothing more. Secondly, a dialogue or argument carried on between Job and three of his friends who came to him in his great calamity. Each of the friends is answered by Job three times; but as the book is now found, the third friend only replies twice, unless, as some suppose, Zophar’s third speech is to be discovered at Job 27:13, and Job’s reply at Job 29:1. This great discussion or controversy which constitutes the main substance of the book is introduced by the solemn curse pronounced by Job upon the day of his birth in Job 3. Thirdly, after the three friends have ceased to accuse Job, another speaker comes forward in the person of Elihu, who is specially introduced to us at Job 32:2. He is distressed both at the tone assumed by Job and at the way in which the friends have conducted the argument, and proceeds to take a somewhat different and intermediate position; his share in the discussion is continued through the next six chapters. Fourthly, the reply of the Lord as the hitherto unseen witness but now manifested judge and umpire in the great argument, which extends from Job 38 to the end of Job 41 or the beginning of Job 42. And, fifthly, there is an historical conclusion or epilogue, which gives us the sequel of Job’s history till his death.
II. Object.—This can only be gathered from a survey of the facts and incidents recorded, which are briefly these:—Job was a man famous in his age and country for his piety and integrity. Up to a certain period also he was notoriously happy and prosperous, till a succession of ruthless calamities fell upon him with tremendous and unexampled severity; and in one day he was deprived of his ten children and of all his substance. We are further told that this was by the express permission of the Almighty, who had given him over to the power of Satan because that evil spirit had alleged that the piety of Job was not disinterested, but only for selfish ends. It may be presumed, therefore, that Satan challenged the Almighty in the case of Job, and that the Almighty accepted his challenge. It must, however, be carefully noted that the reader only, and not the several characters in this discussion, is supposed to be acquainted with this fact, for had it appeared openly at any point of the argument there would at once have been an end to the discussion. The several speakers were shooting arrows in the dark; the reader only occupies a vantage-ground in the light afforded by a knowledge of the secret. Satan, however, is not mentioned again after his disappearance in the second chapter. The result, therefore, of his challenge of the Almighty is only to be discovered in the sequel of the history. We are especially told that Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly, up to the point when Satan put forth his hand and touched his person. Nor are we told that he did so afterwards; on the contrary, from the words of God in Job 42:7, we are rather led to imply the contrary. We may infer, therefore, that the outspokenness of Job, seeing it was accompanied with faith in God, profound and unswerving, was not displeasing to the Almighty, and was not reckoned as sin; albeit Job was fain to repent himself in dust and ashes at the actual manifestation of the Lord. It was not, however, on his repentance, but on his intercession on behalf of his friends, that the Lord turned the captivity of Job (Job 42:10); and then his prosperity once more returned to him. Seven sons and three daughters were again born to him, and his cattle and substance because twice as much as they had been at the first. Such is the summary of the narrative of Job, from which alone we can gather the object of the book, and this, it would seem, must be capable of being expressed in the several truths which are obviously to be deduced from it; and these are:—
(1) Severity of affliction is not a proof of special iniquity—it does not vary as sin varies. The sinner may escape—the innocent may suffer. Because a man is exceptionally stricken, he is not, therefore, exceptionally guilty—because a man is especially prosperous, he is not, therefore, especially holy. This is a truth which is confirmed to us by the repeated experience of life; but notwithstanding this continued experience of it, the reminder thereof is oftentimes most needful and salutary in affliction, while it is always valuable as a corrective in our judgment of others. To inculcate this truth must assuredly have been part of the object of the Book of Job, if not the main and sole object; but we may learn that—
(2) Righteousness is its own reward, independently of all the inequalities of fortune. The position and the arguments of Job would have been altogether different if he had not had the testimony of a good conscience. It makes all the difference to the impetus of adversity whether it overtakes the innocent or the guilty. This is clearly one of the inferences that the Book of Job suggests, whether or not it was part of the object contemplated by the writer. The powerlessness of accumulated adversity to overthrow the truly righteous man is taught us by the history of Job. He is proof against all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. He can still trust God, and Goa will justify him. This is verily a priceless lesson, and it is unquestionably taught by the history of Job.
(3) Hope is not only brighter, but truer also than despair; the dark days of Job were not destined to be his last. He had in himself a principle of vitality which could and would survive them. The Lord, after he had tried him, gave him not only what he had before, but twice as much also as he had had before. To be sure, the children he had lost could not be restored to him; but his tears for them were wiped away by the smiles of others, and the closed page of their history was replaced by the open page of the history of others as yet unsullied and full of hope—the sweeter and brighter because of the dark background. To enforce this truth, and to remind men of it, must surely have been part of the object of him who wrote the Book of Job; and when the storm is raging it is no small consolation to remember that the sun will shine brightly after it, and perhaps the more brightly because of it. If Job had not suffered exceptionally, no one would have recorded his history or remembered his name. He would not have been known for his patience had he not been known for his sufferings. The one, therefore, is not only the condition of the other, but contains also in itself the promise of the other, even though in certain cases that promise may not visibly be fulfilled, as, for a time and while the anguish lasted, it certainly was not in the case of Job.
(4) Satan is not to be permitted to triumph over man. He shamelessly challenged the Most High to produce an instance, even where the conditions were most promising, of one who served Him for anything more than could be gained therefrom. The challenge was accepted, and Satan was foiled. He proposes the challenge, but when the issue of it is to be declared, by the course of circumstances, he is not forthcoming. His judgment goes by his default; his defeat is proclaimed by his non-appearance, although by that alone. At the same time, while man is so far justified against his ghostly adversary, the Almighty also is vindicated; for He will be no man’s debtor, and, therefore, all that Job had in his prosperity is restored to him, and in respect of worldly substance twice as much. This also is one of the lessons of Job, whether or not it was the designed object of the writer to inculcate it, upon which we are hardly competent to pronounce. It may be observed incidentally that this is virtually the teaching also of the third chapter of Genesis; while the word “enmity,” Genesis 3:15 (אֵיבָה ’ēybhah), and the name Job (אִיּוֹב, ’yyobh), the assaulted one, and therefore the hated one, present an unquestionable although significant point of contact, inasmuch as the two words are derived from the same root (אֹיֵב), hated, or was an enemy.
(5) Job is a typical character; for it is hardly possible to suppose that his history is not intended to be typical of the condition of man in life, and, therefore, in its degree typical of the Son of Man in His cross and passion, and in. the eventual glory of His resurrection. What is true of the type must be true of the race; and what is true of the race must be true of the Head of the race. I am far from saying that this was all foreseen by the writer of Job; but so far as the history of Job is capable of teaching the essential truth of human life to man, it must also foreshadow and reflect the history of Him who was the truth itself, and this not because of any power of arbitrary and mechanical prediction in the writing or the writer, but because the writing was inherently, essentially, and intensely true to human nature, which was the nature that Christ took. So far, then, without reference to the authorship of Job, or to its place in the Canon, we are perfectly warranted in regarding it as pointing to Him, because it points to and expresses the deepest and most essential truth of that human life and nature of which He was the deepest and the most essential truth.
(6) The object of Job was unquestionably didactic: it was intended to teach and inculcate all the lessons that we can derive from it. The writer cannot be suspected of writing without a purpose, but must fairly be credited with all the wisdom and doctrine with which his work is fraught, whether or not it was consciously present to his mind, even as Shakespeare must fairly be credited with all the wisdom and truth that Coleridge or Schlegel or Goethe could detect in “Hamlet.” Job also, from its inherent characteristics, is a cosmopolitan book. It inculcates truth without reference to any religious systems. It aims at justifying the ways of God to man as man, whether under the Law or the Gospel, or independently of the light of either, seeing that it not improbably preceded both. It takes the broadest possible view both of the character of God and of the position of man, and deals with the mighty problem of the moral government of God, towards which it offers the only solution possible under the circumstances.
III. Character.—The Book of Job is a Divine book, and marked with the distinctive features that characterise the other books of revelation. For instance, it assumes the possibility and the fact of God’s revelation of Himself, and is in no way staggered at the thought of God’s holding direct intercourse with man. Those who demur to this position can so far have nothing in common with the writer of Job. It is a foregone conclusion with him that this intercourse and the manifestation or revelation it implies was not only a possibility, but an historic fact. However true it may be that the Lord speaks out of other whirlwinds than that of Job, it is no subjective or ordinary voice which said. Ye have not spoken of me the thing that is right as my servant Job hath. Here, then, we discover the first characteristic feature of the book, and one that binds it closely to the collection of which it forms a part; the verdict, therefore, that we pass on this matter will inevitably influence all our judgment of the book. It will have no other authority than we consent to allow it unless we accept its testimony in this respect, while if we do, it will at once speak to us with the very highest authority. But, secondly, the book is essentially non-Jewish and non-Israelite in character. The hero Job was not of the chosen race; and, what is more, there is no trace of a consciousness of the existence of any such race; while it is included among the-sacred books of the Hebrews, it is distinctly non-Hebrew in character. There seem to be but two ways in which we can reasonably account for this circumstance—either the book must have been derived from some foreign source and adopted into and appropriated by the literature of Israel, in which case it furnished a solitary, and an improbable, instance; or it must be the record and monument of a time when the nationality of Israel was as yet undefined and indistinct, before Israel had become conscious of its own existence as a nation; in other words, before the Exodus. My own opinion inclines very strongly to this belief, for to suppose, which is the only other alternative, that in the palmy days of the literature of Israel any Israelite would have entirely divested himself of his nationality, and his national recollections and prejudices, and have set himself the task of bringing back and reconstructing the life and manner of a bygone age, and have thrown himself so successfully into the surroundings of the past as to betray no token of his own condition and circumstances, is absolutely impossible. The Book of Job knows nothing of Moses, or the Exodus, the Temple, the kingdom, or the Law (once only in Job 22:22 is the word law used in a merely general sense—receive the law at his mouth), or of any of the later incidents in the history of Israel. It would have been strange if, being conversant with them, no allusion to them had anywhere escaped the writer; but so it is, and this makes the book essentially non-Hebrew in character; but. nevertheless, thirdly, it is ι in no sense alien from or antagonistic to the faith of Israel; on the contrary, it takes that view of Divine things which, as a matter of fact, the unaided speculations of man have never risen to, and displays that knowledge of God which is not found outside the compass of revelation. This is a feature which must on no account be overlooked in dealing with the Book of Job. Fourthly, the book is unquestionably historical—first, because it clearly professes to be so; secondly, because, although parables and allegories are to be found in Scripture, it does not appear that any one book is purely allegorical, or is intended to be so. If the Book of Ruth, for example, or the Book of Job, is mere allegory—that is, romance—then a death-blow is struck at the root of all history, and like the gods in the story of Nala, we stand upon air when we seem to touch the ground. A tradition is found in the Talmud to the effect that “Job did not exist, and was not a created man, but the work is a parable;” but this is shown to be worthless by the reasons above given, and from the way in which the persons in Job are linked to names and places otherwise known to us, and from the general circumstantiality of the narrative. It is, of course, possible to throw doubt on the reality of anything, but there is no reason to doubt the reality of Job.
IV. Integrity.—The most superficial observer can see that there is a great difference in style (if only the difference of prose and poetry) between the narrative portions of the book and the argumentative; the important feature is the frequency of the name Jehovah in the former, and its occurrence but once in the latter (Job 12:9); still it is to be observed that Job himself, who uses it here, has already used it thrice in Job 1:21, and precisely in the same way, which is that, namely, of ascribing all things both good and evil to God (comp. Job 2:10 and Job 12:6; Job 12:9). It may be questioned, however, whether this obvious difference of style is anything more than is needful from the exigency of the case in passing from narrative to elevated discussion; certainly we cannot allow that this difference I shows the book to be other than a consistent whole, and warrants us in assigning the narrative parts to a different hand. In short, these narrative parts are indispensable to the understanding of the others, which, except as fragments preserving the sentiments of the several speakers, can have had no existence independent of them. He, therefore, who is responsible for the book in its present form is so far responsible for both alike; though, of course, no further responsible for the several speeches than responsible for their general accuracy in rightly representing the several speakers. Some, indeed, have supposed that the speech of Elihu is an interpolation, though, of course, without the slightest ground. Artistically his speech holds its proper place as leading up gradually from the unqualified condemnation of the friends, and Job’s longing for vindication, to the ultimate appearance and justification of the Lord as judge and umpire in the controversy. It would, therefore, be as reasonable to excise Job’s curse as to omit the speech of Elihu. In short, the book as we have it is unquestionably a consistent whole, nor is there any reason to suppose that it ever existed in any other form.
V. Date.—Opinions as to the date of Job have varied from the age of the patriarchs to that of the Captivity, or even later, that is to say, 800 or 1,000 years. As the supporters of the several theories have uniformly appealed to the critical and linguistic reasons, this may serve to show the vagueness and uncertainty of much that arrogates to itself the name of criticism. He who could not tell the difference between a work of the time of the Conquest and one of our own day could hardly claim to be a critic; and though it is true that the language of the Old Testament was far less liable to change than our own, yet this may be taken as an instance not altogether inappropriate or unfair. Of course, if the Book of Job is in any sense authentic—i.e., a record of actual fact—its date as a composition cannot be put very much later than the occurrence of its facts—that is, than the age of Job. Now, it so happens that the age of Job is, within certain limits, ascertainable—e.g., we are told that he lived a hundred and forty years after his recovery from his great trials. As he had ten children, who appear to have been all grown up when his calamities overtook him, we can hardly suppose him to have been less than sixty or seventy at this time. It has, indeed, been suggested that, as Job’s substance was doubled, so also the years of his life may have been, and this would correspond with some such number. At all events, he must have been 200 or 210 years old at the time of his death. If, then, we may trust these numbers, which must depend upon the authentic character of the narrative, we may find in them at least some guide to the age of Job. It cannot have been, with all due deference to those who think otherwise, within 100 years of the Captivity (Renan, Livre de Job, p. 36), because at that time there is no evidence that the life of man was prolonged to such an extent. Neither, again, can it have been (assuming for the moment the authenticity of Genesis) in the age of the earlier patriarchs of Genesis 5, because then the period of human life was yet longer; but in the case of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we meet with the ages of 175, 180, and 147 years respectively. These would furnish us with some approximation to the supposed age of Job, which, however, we may regard as having been exceptionally prolonged. It would seem, therefore, antecedently probable that the ago at which Job lived was approximately that of the Hebrew patriarchs. Now it so happens that most of the names occurring in connection with Job are found also in what we may roughly call the age of these patriarchs, when, as it appears, human life was not uncommonly at least twice as long as it is now. For instance, in Genesis 25:3 we find Sheba and Dedan among the sons of Abraham by Keturah. It was apparently a band of Sheba’s retainers or descendants who fell upon Job’s cattle (Job 1:15). Sheba and Dedan are also mentioned among the sons of Cush and Ham (Genesis 10:7), and it has been supposed that Keturah was of Canaanite, and therefore of Hamite origin, and that Sheba was reckoned to Ham through her; at all events, Sheba, and Dedan, and Shuah, from whom we seem to have Bildad the Shuhite, were among those of his descendants whom Abraham during his lifetime sent away “eastward to the land of the East,” to which Job himself belonged. Here, then, we seem to have some sort of clue to the time and place of Job. Uz, again, is mentioned as a descendant of Shem in Genesis 10:23; and in Genesis 22:21, he is said to have been the son of Nahor, and brother of Chesed, possibly the father of the Chasdim or Chaldeans of Job 1:17. Job thus may be traced perhaps through Uz to Nahor the brother of Abraham; at all events, there is a similarity in the names found in both cases. Once more, Eliphaz was the son of Esau and father of Amalek (Genesis 36:10; Genesis 36:12), and Teman was the son of Eliphaz, so that Eliphaz the Temanite, the friend of Job, may probably either have been this man or a descendant of his. Tema, again (Job 6:19), was a descendant of Ishmael (Genesis 25:15), so that these lines, however faint, all point to what we may call the age of the patriarchs between Abraham and Moses for the time at which Job flourished. It is plain also that a generation or two was enough to establish a tribe or family, for when Israel came out of Egypt, Amalek the grandson of Esau had become a powerful people, who were even regarded as ancient (Numbers 24:20). The only nearer guide we have to the precise age of Job is on the supposition that Eliphaz the Temanite was the son of Esau of that name (though it is strange he should be called after the name of his own son), in which case the children of Jacob would be contemporary with Job. Following out this supposition, the late Dr. Lee of Cambridge calculated that Job died forty-seven years before the Exodus (Book of Job, p. 34). Whether or not this is correct, there at least seems to be very good reason to believe that the age of Job fell between the entry of the Israelites into Egypt and the Exodus. If so, we then are able to arrive at some idea as to the—
VI. Author of the Book of Job.—There is nothing whatever to guide us on this point except the evidence of the book itself, coupled with any such considerations as have already been noticed. There is but one solitary fragment of tradition, which is that Job, like the Pentateuch, was the work of Moses. This may be worth nothing critically, but as a tradition it is simply the only one that exists. If, however, the age of Job was that of the patriarchs between Abraham and Moses, as there is every reason to believe, and if the book is authentic, as its place in the Canon would seem to imply, then there is no one so likely as Moses to whom it can be referred. If it was written before the Exodus, that would account for the silence of the book with reference to that and to all subsequent events of Jewish history; and while the influence of the Book of Job is traceable in the Psalms and prophets, it manifests various points of contact with the Book of Genesis, which alone of the books of Moses can have been in existence at that time. It is not improbable, but, on the contrary, highly probable, that Job himself may have thrown together the various speeches of himself and his friends—and manifestly no one would have been so fit to do this as himself; but we can hardly account for the acceptance of the book by the people of Israel, unless it had been specially commended to them by some one in the position of the great Law-giver; and who so likely as he to have supplied the historical framework of the book, and reduced it to its ultimate form? I venture to think that the Mosaic origin of the book is really more probable than the Solomonic or the Exile origin of it. Certain phrases in Job are peculiar to, or characteristic of, Moses: for instance, ’ăbhuddah rabbah (Job 1:3 and Genesis 26:14); “the sons of God” (Job 1:6 and Genesis 6:2); “the fire of God” (Job 1:16 and Genesis 19:24); “his bone and his flesh” (Job 2:4 and Genesis 2:23); “they lifted up their voice, and wept” (Job 2:12 and Genesis 21:16; Genesis 27:38; Genesis 29:11); “they scattered dust toward heaven” (Job 2:12 and Exodus 9:10); the “seven oxen and seven rams” of Job 42:8 and Numbers 23:1; the strange word (qĕsîtah), found only in Job 42:11, Genesis 33:19, and Joshua 24:32; the “earring of gold” (Job 42:11 and Genesis 24:22), used afterwards by Solomon (Proverbs 11:22; Proverbs 25:12); “their father gave them inheritance among their brethren” (Job 42:15; comp. Numbers 27:7). Bearing in mind that there are but three chapters in which to trace these similarities, they are even more numerous than we could expect to find them. Besides this we may mention, in the book generally the name of God, Shaddai, the Almighty, which is so frequent in Job, but, with the exception of the Pentateuch, is not found above twice in any other book, and only eight times in all the other books together; the notion of Divine communications conveyed in sleep, as in the case of Abraham, Jacob, &c.; wealth consisting in flocks and herds, and the like. There is no mention in Job of Tarshish, Hermon, or Lebanon; but, on the other hand, Jordan is mentioned. There is a possible allusion to the Fall (Job 31:33) and to the Deluge (Job 22:16), though this is not certain in either case. The grosser forms of idolatry of a later age are not mentioned in Job, but only sun and moon worship (Job 31:26-28). The Rephaim of Genesis 14:5, Deuteronomy 2:11; Deuteronomy 2:20; Deuteronomy 3:11; Deuteronomy 3:13 are mentioned (Job 26:5). The character given to Job (Job 1:1) is like that ascribed to the patriarchs Jacob (Genesis 25:27) and Joseph (Genesis 42:18; comp. Genesis 6:9; Genesis 17:1). The feasting of Job’s sons every one in his day is like the feast on Pharaoh’s birthday in the history of Joseph. “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither” (Job 1:21) is an echo of “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). The “deep sleep falling on men” (Job 4:13; Job 33:15) is like the “deep sleep” that fell on Adam and Abram (Genesis 2:21; Genesis 15:12); but the word here used occurs only three times elsewhere. There is a probable allusion to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha in Job 18:15; and the “side” in Job 18:12 may possibly mean the “wife,” in allusion to Genesis 2:22. The “harp” and the “organ” of Job 21:12; Job 30:31 are identical with Genesis 4:21, but not found in juxtaposition elsewhere, nor at all except in Psalm 150:3-4. In Job 31:32 there seems to be a reference to Genesis 19:2. In Job 32:8; Job 33:4; Job 33:6; comp. Genesis 2:7 (nĕshāmah—is used in all). In Job 34:12; comp. Genesis 18:25. In Job 34:20; Job 34:25 one might almost imagine an allusion to the death of the firstborn. In Job 3:18 we, at all events, find the noghēs—of the bondage; while in Job 22:30 there may possibly be an allusion to the intercession of Abraham for Sodom. At all events, these points of contact between Job and the Book of Genesis, which under the supposition of the Mosaic origin of the book could have been the only part of the Bible in existence when Job was written, and the early history of which must, at any rate, have been familiar to Moses, are at least strong enough and many enough to give support to the theory, if they do not establish it conclusively. It must be borne in mind that we have every reason to believe that the several books of the Bible were the work of well-known actors in the Bible history, and not of casual and insignificant authors. In the New Testament it is so with the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Hebrews, and it is probably so in every case in the Old Testament. It is not likely that there is in the Old Testament the work of any man who is not known to us from the history, whether in the case of Chronicles, Judges, Ruth, or Job. But if this is so, as seems most probable on every ground, and if we are right in maintaining the antiquity of Job, then there is no one so likely to have written it as Moses. Indeed, with the exception of Job himself (whose virtual authority for the book must be presupposed in any case, if it is a true history), there is no one else who can have written it. We find here that acquaintance with desert life, and with Egypt, for example, which were combined in Moses, but scarcely in any one else. The pyramids may perhaps be spoken of in Job 3:14; while the familiarity with the crocodile and the ostrich, not to mention other points, sufficiently shows this.
VII. Doctrine of the Book of Job.—There is distinct knowledge of God as the Creator of man, and the Author of nature (Job 9, Job 28:8-9). “Thine hands have made me and fashioned me.” “Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast made me as the clay; and wilt thou bring me into dust again?” (Job 14:15). “Thou wilt have a desire to the work of thy hand” (Job 26:8; Job 26:10). The speeches of Elihu and of the Lord abundantly show that they identify the Author of nature with the moral Governor. In Elihu’s words, “the spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4.), he not only recognises God as his Creator, but even does so in words which almost involve the knowledge of Genesis 2:7, when they are compared together; while in declaring the righteousness of God as the ultimate Judge (Job 34:12), he almost repeats the words of Abraham. It is hardly possible to read Job without reading into it a variety of allusions to other books, and discovering points which will largely tend to confirm our preconceived notions, what-ever they may be; but these considerations must be borne in mind:—(1) Is the date of Job likely to be early or late? Formerly it was always regarded as one of the oldest books in existence; but though some have put it as low down as the Captivity, and of course thought they discovered reasons in the book itself for doing so, it seems to me beyond all question that, as the book undeniably describes a very early state of society, so it must belong to that early period. (2) If the traditional and apparent succession of the books of Scripture is in the main correct, then there can have been only one book of the whole which was in existence when Job was written, namely, the Book of Genesis; now, on the supposition that the records of this book were known, then it is not a little remarkable that the points of contact between the two are numerous and striking. And therefore, (3) so far as this is the case, the fact must be allowed to go some way in confirmation of this hypothesis as the right one. The theocratic tone of Job is exactly that of Genesis. The history of Joseph (e.g.) in that book presents in its view of human life a marked resemblance to the teaching of the Book of Job, and to the development of the history of Job. God is regarded in Job as Supreme and Independent, Holy and Incorruptible (Job 15:15; Job 22:2-4), Immortal and Eternal (Job 10:5), Spiritual and Invisible (Job 9:11; Job 26:13), the Hearer and Answerer of prayer (Job 33:26), the King of kings (Job 34:19), the Preserver of men (Job 33:28; Job 12:10), the Giver of wisdom (Job 35:11, &c.), the Ruler of nations (Job 12:23, &c.). In the words of Job 10:9, he almost declares his knowledge of what God had said to Adam (Genesis 3:18), and so far as this is the case he accepts that record as a true revelation of God.
There is evidence in Job of acquaintance with, and the study of, astronomy, in which considerable advancement must have been made (Job 9:9; Job 38:31-32, &c.). The description of the war-horse in Job 39 is one of the most famous in Job, and this points to a knowledge of Egypt, in which horses were abundant (Genesis 47:17; Genesis 49:17; Exodus 9:3; Exodus 14:9; Exodus 14:23; Exodus 15:1; Exodus 15:21). Mining operations and the achievements of early engineering were familiar to the writer of Job (Job 28), as were the riches and the solitudes of the desert. In fact, the range of observation, experience, and reflection is probably larger in Job not only than that of any other book of the Bible, but also of any other book whatever of the same extent. While, however, there is no trace in Job of a knowledge of any other composition than that of Genesis, it is significant to observe the manifest—
VIII. Effect of this Book on other Books of Scripture.—The evidences of this are so numerous that they can only be touched upon here. Foremost comes the famous instance of Jeremiah’s complaint unto God (Job 20), in which he curses the day of his birth, like Job. It is plain that one of these pre-supposes the other, and no one of any critical discernment can doubt which is the original. (See Renan 34) Next. there is Psalm 8:4, which almost repeats Job 7:17—at least, in its idea. Comp. Psalm 11:6, Job 15:34; Job 22:20; Lamentations 3:7, Job 1:10; Ecclesiastes 5:15, Job 1:21; Psalm 58:8, Job 3:16; Proverbs 2:4, Job 3:21; Isaiah 35:3, “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees;” Job 4:4, “Thy words have upholden him that was falling, and thou hast strengthened the feeble knees;” comp. Hebrews 12:12; comp. also Ezekiel 7:17; Ezekiel 21:7, and Isaiah 13:7. With Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old,” &c., comp. Job 4:8. With Psalm 90:7, “In the morning it is green,” &c., comp. Job 4:20; Job 8:12. Indeed, the language of Psalms, Proverbs, and the prophets abounds with traces of the influence of Job; in fact, so manifest is this that it has been made the basis of a theory that Job was written in the age of David and Solomon. But, as before said, its ancient existence and authority, which will equally account for this knowledge, is inherently more probable. It is in the substantial teaching of the book, no less than in the reproduction of its language, that we can discern traces of its influence. For instance, in the teaching of Job 13:16 (“He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him”) there is the germ not only of all the stern morality of the prophets, but also that of the grace and sweetness of the Gospel itself. And so completely was it felt that faith was the lesson of Job, that his patience, which was manifested in the deep undercurrent of resignation and confidence (Job 13:15) rather than in the outward repression of complaint, has passed into a proverb (James 5:11). He was patient, however, because of his intense faith; and to the exhibition of this character of faith as seen in Job how much may we not ascribe of the trust, resignation, and confidence of the Psalms? With the exception, however, of Job and the Psalms, no book of the Bible so honours and inculcates faith as the Book of Genesis (e.g., in Genesis 15:6), which, we have seen, the writer of Job must have known.
IX. Canonicity.—Job belongs to the third section of the Hebrew writings, being classed with the Psalms, Proverbs, &c. And this for obvious reasons, because it was not a book of the Law, and it could not be classed with the prophets. But its canonicity has never been doubted. Its very place, however, in the Canon must be owing to its connection with some great writer of authority; and this is the more obvious because of its being in no sense an Israelitish book. When, however, we bear in mind the fact of its position among the sacred writings of Israel, the sublimity, purity, and simplicity of its teaching and aim, we must not only confess that it is in many respects the most marvellous book in existence, but that it towers far above all other books in the grandeur of its poetry, the nobility of its sentiments, and the splendour of its diction. And in the contemplation of these features, we are led by a species of induction to the acknowledgment of its true—
X. Inspiration, for no judgment of the Book of Job can be adequate or just which does not recognise in the facts about it sufficiently clear indications of an origin not of the unaided speculations of man, but the product, if we will only accept it, of an authorised and inspired communication on the part of God. If things happened as the Book of Job says they did, then we must have in that record of them a veritable revelation of the Most High.
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.(1) There was a man in the land of Uz.—The first mention of this name is in Genesis 10:23, where Uz is said to have been one of the sons of Aram, who was one of the sons of Shem. (Comp. 1Chronicles 1:17.) Another Uz (in the Authorised Version spelt Huz) is mentioned in Genesis 22:21 as the firstborn of Nahor, the brother of Abraham. A third form of this name is mentioned in Genesis 36:28 among “the sons of Seir the Horite. who inhabited the land” of Edom. (Comp. 1Chronicles 1:42.) It is probable that each of these is to be associated with a different district: the first perhaps with that of the Lebanon—a district near Damascus is still called El-Ghutha; the second with that of Mesopotamia or Chaldea; and the third with the Edomite district south of Palestine. From the mention of “the land of Uz” (Lamentations 4:21) and “the kings of the land of Uz” (Jeremiah 25:20), where in each case the association seems to be with Edom, it is probable that the land of Job is to be identified rather with the district south and southeast of Palestine.
Whose name was Job.—The name is really Iyyov, and is carefully to be distinguished from the Job (Yov) who was the son of Issachar (Genesis 46:13), and from the Jobab (Yovav) who was one of the kings of Edom (Genesis 36:33), with both of which it has been confounded. The form of the name may suggest the signification of “the assaulted one,” as the root from which it appears to be derived means “was an enemy.”
Perfect and upright . . .—Noah in like manner is said to have been “perfect” (Genesis 6:9). Abram was required to be so (Genesis 17:1), and Israel generally (Deuteronomy 18:13), though the adjective in these places is not quite the same as that used here; and our Lord required the same high standard of His disciples (Matthew 5:48), while He also, through the gift of the Spirit, made it possible. The character here given to Job is that in which wisdom is declared to consist. (Comp. Job 28:28.) It has the twofold aspect of refusing the evil and choosing the good, of aiming at a lofty ideal of excellence and of shunning that which is fatal or opposed to it.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.(2) Seven sons and three daughters.—The like number was restored to him after his probation (Job 42:13).
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.(3) The men of the east.—This term is indefinite with regard to the three districts above mentioned, and might include them all. The Arabs still call the Hauran, or the district east of Jordan, the land of Job. It is said to be a lovely and fertile region, fulfilling the conditions of the poem.
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) Every one his day.—i.e., probably his birthday. (Comp. Genesis 40:20; Genesis 21:8; and in the New Testament Matthew 14:6, Mark 6:21.)
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) Job sent and sanctified them . . .—The earnest records of society exhibit the father of the family acting as the priest. This is one of the passages that show Job was outside the pale and influence of the Mosaic law, whether this was owing to his age or his country. His life in this respect corresponds with that of the patriarchs in Genesis more nearly than any other in Scripture.
Cursed God.—The word used here and in Job 1:11 and Job 2:5; Job 2:9, and also in 1Kings 21:10; 1Kings 21:13, of Naboth, is literally blessed; that in Job 3:1, e.g., &c., being quite different. The contrast in Job 1:22; Job 2:10 snows the Authorised Version to be substantially right, however this contradictory sense is obtained Many languages have words which are used in opposite senses. (Comp. e.g., our “cleave to” and “cleave.”) The use of bless in the sense of curse may be a euphemism, or it may arise from giving to it the meaning of saluting or bidding farewell to, and so dismissing. This use is not elsewhere found than in the passages cited above.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.(6) Sons of God.—Comp. Job 38:7, Genesis 6:2; Genesis 6:4; and for the sense comp. 1Kings 22:19. The phrase probably means the angels; or at all events an incident in the unseen spiritual world is referred to simultaneous with a corresponding one on earth. (Comp. 1Corinthians 11:10.) In the latter sense, a solemn thought is suggested by it to those who join in the public worship of God.
Satan.—The word appears in the Old Testament as the name of a specific person only here and in Zechariah 3:2, and possibly in 1Chronicles 21:1 and Psalm 109:6. If this psalm is David’s, according to the inscription, no reliance can be placed on speculations as to the late introduction of a belief in Satan among the Jews, nor, therefore, on any as to the lateness of these early chapters of Job. Precisely the same word is used, apparently as a common name, in the history of Balaam (Numbers 22:22; Numbers 22:32), also in 1Samuel 29:4, and 1Kings 5:4; 1Kings 11:14; 1Kings 11:23; 1Kings 11:25, where it can hardly be otherwise. Here only and in Zechariah it is found with the definite article “the adversary.” The theory of the personality of the evil one must largely depend upon the view we take of these and other passages of Scripture as containing an authoritative revelation.
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 . . .—Compare our Lord’s words in Matthew 13:25 : “and went his way.” St. Peter evidently had this passage in mind (1Peter 5:8, “walketh about”).
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?(9) Doth Job fear God for nought?—Manifesting the worst kind of scepticism, a disbelief in human goodness. Satan knows that the motive of an action is its only value, and by incrimination calumniates the motives of Job. The object of the book is thus introduced, which is to exhibit the integrity of human conduct under the worst possible trial, and to show man a victor over Satan.
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) All that he hath is in thy power . . .—Mighty as the principle of evil is in the world, it is nevertheless held in check by One who directs it to His own ends. Such is the uniform teaching of Scripture. We are not under the uncontrolled dominion of evil, strong as the temptation may be at times to think so. (See 2Corinthians 12:7; 2Corinthians 12:9; 1Thessalonians 2:18, &c.)
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.(15) The Sabeans.—Literally, Sheba. Three persons named Sheba are found in Genesis: (1) The son of Raamah and grandson of Cush (Genesis 10:7); (2) the son of Jokshan and grandson of Abraham (Genesis 25:3); (3) The son of Joktanand grandson of Eber (Genesis 10:28). It is probably the second who is referred to here, whose descendants led a predatory and marauding kind of life in the country bordering on that of Job. (Comp. Ezekiel 38:13.)
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 fire of God.—Whether or not we understand this phrase as in the margin, it can hardly mean anything else than lightning. (Comp. Genesis 19:24, and 2Kings 1:10-14.) It is characteristic of the Old Testament poetry to see in the convulsions of nature the immediate action of the Most High; but perhaps it is intended throughout Job that we should see more than this, as the book undoubtedly assumes to be the record of a Divine revelation.
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 Chaldeans.—Literally, Chasdim, or descendants of Chesed (Genesis 22:22; see Note on Job 1:1). This name reappears in the classic Carduchia and in the modern Kurdistan, as well as in the more familiar Chaldæa; it being a well-known philological law that r and l and r and s are interchangeable. It is to be noted that this calamity arose from the opposite quarter to the last, illustrating the well-known fact that troubles never come alone, and that causes of a widely different nature seem to combine to overthrow the falling man.
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) Thy sons and thy daughters.—See Job 1:13. The marvellous accumulation of disasters points us to the conclusion that it was the distinct work of Satan, according to the permission given him (Job 1:12), and consequently supernatural.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,(20) And worshipped.—Compare the conduct of David (2Samuel 12:20) and of Hezekiah (2Kings 19:1). Moments of intense sorrow or trial, like moments of intense joy, force us into the immediate presence of God.
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) Thither.—If taken literally, can only refer to the womb, which in that case must here mean the earth, with a probable allusion to Genesis 3:19. (Comp. Job 17:14.)
Blessed be the name of the Lord.—The very word used in a contrary sense (Job 1:11). Thus was Satan foiled for the first time.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.(22) Foolishly.—The same word as at Job 24:12, signifying reproach or guilt. It is a noun derived from the adjective rendered “unsavoury” in Job 6:6.