Job 1:3
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.
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(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.

Job 1:3. His substance also was seven thousand sheep — Namely, seven thousand small cattle, whether sheep or goats, in opposition to the larger cattle next mentioned. And three thousand camels — Camels in these parts were very numerous, as is manifest from Jdg 7:12; 1 Chronicles 5:21, and the testimonies of Aristotle and Pliny; and very useful, both for carrying burdens in those hot and dry countries, being able to endure thirst much better than other creatures, and for service in war. And five hundred she-asses — Which were preferred before he-asses, as serving for the same uses of carrying burdens, riding on, and different kinds of labour; and likewise for breeding and giving milk: but he-asses also may perhaps be included in the expression, the denomination being, as usual, taken from the greater part, which were she-asses. This man was the greatest of all the men of the East — Hebrew, magnus præ omnibus filiis Orientis, great in comparison, in respect, or before all the children of the East. Grotius and others have observed, that the phraseology here used is an argument that the book must have been written by some Israelite, or inhabitant of the land of Canaan, Job’s country lying eastward from thence, and it being usual with the Hebrews to call Arabia the East. The expression probably only means that he was the greatest, or one of the greatest, that lived in those parts; such general expressions being commonly understood with such limitations. The account of his piety and prosperity comes before the account of his afflictions, to show that neither of these will secure us from the common, no, nor from the uncommon calamities of human life.

1:1-5 Job was prosperous, and yet pious. Though it is hard and rare, it is not impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. By God's grace the temptations of worldly wealth may be overcome. The account of Job's piety and prosperity comes before the history of his great afflictions, showing that neither will secure from troubles. While Job beheld the harmony and comforts of his sons with satisfaction, his knowledge of the human heart made him fearful for them. He sent and sanctified them, reminding them to examine themselves, to confess their sins, to seek forgiveness; and as one who hoped for acceptance with God through the promised Saviour, he offered a burnt-offering for each. We perceive his care for their souls, his knowledge of the sinful state of man, his entire dependence on God's mercy in the way he had appointed.His substance - Margin, or "cattle." The word used here מקנה mı̂qneh is derived from קנה qânâh, to gain or acquire, to buy or purchase, and properly means anything acquired or purchased - property, possessions, riches. The wealth of nomadic tribes, however, consisted mostly in flocks and herds, and hence the word in the Scripture signifies, almost exclusively, property in cattle. The word, says Gesenius, is used "strictly" to denote sheep, goats, and neat cattle, excluding beasts of burden (compare Greek κτῆνος ktēnos, herd, used here by the Septuagint), though sometimes the word includes asses and camels, as in this place.

Seven thousand sheep - In this verse we have a description of the wealth of an Arab ruler or chief, similar to that of those who are at this day called "Emirs." Indeed the whole description in the book is that which is applicable to the chief of a tribe. The possessions referred to in this verse would constitute no inconsiderable wealth anywhere, and particularly in the nomadic tribes of the East. Land is not mentioned as a part of this wealth; for among nomadic tribes living by pasturage, the right to the soil in fee simple is not claimed by individuals, the right of pasturage or a temporary possession being all that is needed. For the same reason, and from the fact that their circumstances require them to live in movable tents, houses are not mentioned as a part; of the wealth of this Emir. To understand this book, as well as most of the books of the Old Testament, it is necessary for us to lay aside our notions of living, and transfer ourselves in imagination to the very dissimilar customs of the East. The Chaldee has made a very singular explanation of this verse, which must be regarded as the work of fancy, but which shows the character of that version: "And his possessions were seven thousand sheep - a thousand for each of his sons; and three thousand camels - a thousand for each of his daughters; and five hundred yoke of oxen - for himself; and five hundred she-asses - for his wife."

And three thousand camels - Camels are well-known beasts of burden, extensively used still in Arabia. The Arabs employed these animals anciently in war, in their caravans, and for food. They are not unfrequently called "ships of the desert," particularly valuable in arid plains because they go many days without water. They carry from three to five hundred pounds, in proportion to the distance which they have to travel. Providence has adapted the camel with wonderful wisdom to sandy deserts, and in all ages the camel must be an invaluable possession there. The driest thistle and the barest thorn is all the food that he requires, and this he eats while advancing on his journey without stopping or causing a moment's delay. As it is his lot to cross immense deserts where no water is found, and where no dews fall, he is endowed with the power of laying in a store of water that will suffice him for days - Bruce says for thirty days.

To effect this, nature has provided large reservoirs or stomachs within him, where the water is kept pure, and from which he draws at pleasure as from a fountain. No other animal is endowed with this power, and were it not for this, it would be wholly impracticable to cross those immense plains of sand. The Arabians, the Persians, and others, eat the flesh of camels, and it is served up at the best tables in the country. One of the ancient Arab poets, whose hospitality grew into a proverb, is reported to have killed yearly, in a certain month, ten camels every day for the entertainment of his friends. In regard to the hardihood of camels, and their ability to live on the coarsest fare, Burckhardt has stated a fact which may furnish an illustration. In a journey which he made from the country south of the Dead Sea to Egypt, he says, "During the whole of this journey, the camels had no other provender than the withered shrubs of the desert, my dromedary excepted, to which I gave a few handfuls of barley each evening." Trav. in Syria, p. 451; compare Bruce's Travels, vol. iv. p. 596; Niebuhr, Reise-beschreibung nach Arabien, 1 Band, s. 215; Sandys, p. 138; Harmer's Obs. 4:415, ed. Lond. 1808, 8vo; and Rob. Cal.

And five hundred yoke of oxen - The fact that Job had so many oxen implies that he devoted himself to the cultivation of the soil as well as to keeping flocks and herds; compare Job 1:14. So large a number of oxen would constitute wealth anywhere.

And five hundred she-asses - Bryant remarks (Observations, p. 61) that a great part of the wealth of the inhabitants of the East often consisted of she-asses, the males being few and not held in equal estimation. She-asses are early mentioned as having been in common use to ride on; Numbers 22:25; Judges 5:10. 2 Kings 4:24 (Hebrew). One reason why the ass was chosen in preference to the horse, was that it subsisted on so much less than that animal, there being no animal except the camel that could be so easily kept as the ass. She-asses were also regarded as the most valuable, because, in traversing the deserts of the country they would furnish travelers with milk. It is remarkable that "cows" are not mentioned expressly in this enumeration of the articles of Job's wealth, though "butter" is referred to by him subsequently as having been abundant in his family, Job 29:6. It is possible, however, that "cows" were included as a part of the "five hundred yoke of בקר bâqâr." here rendered "oxen;" but which would be quite as appropriately rendered "cattle." The word is in the common gender, and is derived from בקר bâqar, in Arabic to cleave, to divide, to lay open, and hence, to plow, to cleave the soil. It denotes properly the animals used in plowing; and it is well known that cows are employed as well as oxen for this purpose in the East; see Judges 14:18; Hosea 4:10; compare Deuteronomy 32:14, where the word בקר bâqâr is used to denote a cow - "milk of kine," Genesis 33:13 (Hebrew).

And a very great household - Margin, "husbandry." The Hebrew word here (עבדה ‛ăbûddâh)ambiguous. - It may denote service rendered, that is, work, or the servants who performed it; compare Genesis 26:14, margin. The Septuagint renders it ὑπηρεσία hupēresia, Aquila δουλεία douleia, and Symmachus, οἰκετία oiketia; all denoting "service," or "servitude," or that which pertained to the domestic service of a family. The word refers doubtless to those who had charge of his camels, his cattle, and of his husbandry; see Job 1:15. It is not implied by the word here used, nor by that in Job 1:15, that they were "slaves." They may have been, but there is nothing to indicate this in the narrative. The Septuagint adds to this, as if explanatory of it, "and his works were great in the land."

So that this man was the greatest - Was possessed of the most wealth, and was held in the highest honor.

Of all the men of the East - Margin as in Hebrew "sons." The sons of the East denote those who lived in the East. The word "East" קדם qedem is commonly employed in the Scriptures to denote the country which lies east of Palestine. For the places intended here, see the Introduction, Section 2, (3). It is of course impossible to estimate with accuracy the exact amount of the value of the property of Job. Compared with many persons in modern times, indeed, his possessions would not be regarded as constituting very great riches. The Editor of the Pictorial Bible supposes that on a fair estimate his property might be considered as worth from thirty to forty thousand pounds sterling - equivalent to some 200,000 (circa 1880's). In this estimate the camel is reckoned as worth about 45.00 dollars, the oxen as worth about five dollars, and the sheep at a little more than one dollar, which it is said are about the average prices now in Western Asia. Prices, however, fluctuate much from one age to another; but at the present day such possessions would be regarded as constituting great wealth in Arabia. The value of the property of Job may be estimated from this fact, that he had almost half as many camels as constituted the wealth of a Persian king in more modern times.

Chardin says, "as the king of Persia in the year 1676 was in Mesandera, the Tartars fell upon the camels of the king and took away three thousand of them which was to him a great loss, for he had only seven thousand." - Rosenmuller, Morgenland, "in loc." The condition of Job we are to regard as that of a rich Arabic Emir, and his mode of life as between the nomadic pastoral life, and the settled manner of living in communities like ours. He was a princely shepherd, and yet he was devoted to the cultivation of the soil. It does not appear, however, that he claimed the right of the soil in "fee simple," nor is his condition inconsistent with the supposition that his residence in any place was regarded as temporary, and that all his property might be easily removed. "He belonged to that condition of life which fluctuated between that of the wandering shepherd, and that of a people settled in towns. That he resided, or had a residence, in a town is obvious; but his flocks and herds evidently pastured in the deserts, between which and the town his own time was probably divided. He differed from the Hebrew patriarchs chiefly in this, that he did not so much wander about "without any certain dwelling place."

This mixed condition of life, which is still frequently exhibited in Western Asia, will, we apprehend, account sufficiently for the diversified character of the allusions and pictures which the book contains - to the pastoral life and the scenes and products of the wilderness; to the scenes and circumstances of agriculture; to the arts and sciences of settled life and of advancing civilization." - Pict. Bib. It may serve somewhat to illustrate the different ideas in regard to what constituted wealth in different countries, to compare this statement respecting Job with a remark of Virgil respecting an inhabitant of ancient Italy, whom he calls the most wealthy among the Ausonian farmers:

Seniorque Galaesua.

Dum paci medium se offert; justissimus unus

Qui fuit, Ausoniisque olim ditissimus arvis:


3. she-asses—prized on account of their milk, and for riding (Jud 5:10). Houses and lands are not mentioned among the emir's wealth, as nomadic tribes dwell in movable tents and live chiefly by pasture, the right to the soil not being appropriated by individuals. The "five hundred yoke of oxen" imply, however, that Job tilled the soil. He seems also to have had a dwelling in a town, in which respect he differed from the patriarchs. Camels are well called "ships of the desert," especially valuable for caravans, as being able to lay in a store of water that suffices them for days, and to sustain life on a very few thistles or thorns.

household—(Ge 26:14). The other rendering which the Hebrew admits, "husbandry," is not so probable.

men of the east—denoting in Scripture those living east of Palestine; as the people of North Arabia-Deserta (Jud 6:3; Eze 25:4).

Camels in these parts were very numerous, as is manifest from Judges 7:12 1 Chronicles 5:21, and from the plain testimonies of Aristotle and Pliny, and very useful, and proper both for carrying of burdens in these hot and dry countries, as being able to endure thirst much better than other creatures, and for service in war.

She-asses were preferred before he-asses, as serving for the same uses as they did, and for breeding and milk also; but he-asses also may be included in this expression, which is of the feminine gender, because the greatest part of them (from which the denomination is usually taken) were she-asses.

The greatest, i.e. one of the richest.

Of all the men of the east, to wit, that lived in those parts; such general expressions being commonly understood with such limitations.

His substance also was seven thousand sheep,.... For which he must have a large pasturage to feed them on, as well as these would produce much wool for clothing, and flesh for food; this part of his substance or possessions is mentioned first, as being the largest, and most useful and profitable:

and three thousand camels; creatures fit to carry burdens, and travel with, and were greatly valued on that account, especially in the deserts of Arabia, near to which Job 54ed; and that not only because they were strong for this purpose, but because they could endure much thirst and want of water for a long time; See Gill on Leviticus 11:4, it seems by this that Job carried on a commerce, and traded in distant parts, whither he sent the produce of his lands and cattle, and trafficked with them: these camels might not only be he, but she camels also, according to the Septuagint version, which might be kept for breeding, and for their milk: Aristotle observes (z), some of the inhabitants of the upper Asia used to have camels, to the number of 3000, the exact number here mentioned; and by the number of these creatures the Arabians estimated their riches and possessions (a); and so sheep are by the Greeks called as it is thought, from the Arabic word "mala", to be rich (b); the riches of other people, and of particular persons, as of Geryon, Atlas, and Polyphemus, are represented as chiefly consisting of their flocks, and also of their herds (c), as follows:

and five hundred yoke of oxen; to plough his land with, of which he must have a large quantity to employ such a number in, see 1 Kings 19:19

and five hundred she asses; which must be chiefly for their milk; and no doubt but he had a considerable number of he asses also, though not mentioned, which, as well as the others, were used to ride on, and also to plough with, in those countries; it may be rendered only asses as by some, and so may include both: Aristaeus, Philo, and Polyhistor (d) give the same account of Job's substance in the several articles as here:

and a very great household: this must be understood of his servants only, since his children are before taken notice of; and the same phrase is rendered "great store of servants", Genesis 26:14 and in the margin, "husbandry" or "tillage", large fields and farms; and the sense comes to much the same, whether it is taken the one way or the other; if great store of servants, he must have large farms and many fields to employ them in; and if a large husbandry, and much ground for tillage, he must have many servants to manure and cultivate them: now these several articles are mentioned, because, in those times and countries, as has been observed, the substance of men chiefly lay in them, and according to them they were reckoned more or less rich; not but that they had gold and silver also, as Abraham had, Genesis 13:1, and so had Job, Job 31:24, but these were the principal things:

so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east; that lived in Arabia, Chaldea, and other eastern countries; that is, he was a man of the greatest wealth and riches, and of the greatest power and authority, and was had in the greatest honour and esteem: now these temporal blessings are observed, to show that grace and earthly riches are compatible, that they may, and sometimes do, meet in the same person; as also to point at the goodness of God, in bestowing such blessings on this good man, thereby fulfilling the promise made to godliness and godly men, which respects this life, and that which is to come; and they are mentioned chiefly for the sake of the loss of these things after related, whereby the greatness of his loss and of his afflictions would be the more easily perceived, and his patience in bearing them appear the more illustrious; for by how much the greater was his substance, by so much the greater were his losses and trials, and the more remarkable his patience under them.

(z) Hist. Animal. l. 9. c. 50. (a) Leo African. Descript. Africae, l. 9. p. 745. (b) Hinckelman. Praefat. ad Alkoran. (c) Vid. Homer. Odyss. 14. ver. 100, &c. Virgil. Aeneid. l. 7. ver. 537. Justin e Trogo, l. 44. c. 4. Theocrit. Idyll. 11. ver. 34. Ovid. Metamorph. l. 4. Fab. 17. & l. 13. Fab. 8. (d) Apud Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 9. c. 25. p. 430.

His {d} 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 {e} the east.

(d) His children and riches are declared, to commend his virtue in his prosperity and his patience and constancy when God took them from him.

(e) Meaning, the Arabians, Chaldeans, Idumeans etc.

Verse 3. - His substance also; literally, his acquisition (from קָנָה, acquirere), but used of wealth generally. Seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses. Note, first of all, the absence of horses or mules from this list - an indication of high antiquity. Horses were not known in Egypt till the time of the shepherd-kings (about B.C. 1900-1650), who introduced them from Asia. None are given to Abraham by the Pharaoh contemporary with him (Genesis 12:16). We hear of none as possessed by the patriarchs in Palestine; and, on the whole, it is not probable that they had been known in Western Asia very long before their introduction into Egypt. They are natives of Central Asia, where they are still found wild, and passed gradually by exportation to the more southern regions, Armenia, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Arabia. Note, secondly, that the items of Job's wealth accord with those of Abraham's (Genesis 12:16). Thirdly, note that Job's wealth in cattle is not beyond credibility. An Egyptian lord of the time of the fourth dynasty relates that he possessed above 1000 oxen and cows, 974 sheep, 2,235 goals, and 760 asses (Rawlinson's 'Egypt,' vol. 2. p. 88). Further, the proportion of the camels is noticeable, and implies a residence on the borders of the desert (see the comment on ver. 1). and a very great household; literally, and a very great service, or retinue of servants. Oriental emirs and sheikhs consider it necessary for their dignity to maintain a number of attendants and retainers (except, perhaps, in feudal times) quite unknown to the West. Abraham had three hundred and eighteen trained servants, born in his house (Genesis 14:14). Egyptian households were "full of domestics," comprising attendants of all kinds - grooms, artisans, clerks, musicians, messengers, and the like. A sheikh, situated as Job was, would also require a certain number of guards, while for his cattle he would need a large body of shepherds, ox-herds, and the like (see Birch's 'Egypt from the Earliest Times,' p. 44). So that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. The Beney Kedem, or "men of the east," literally, sons of the east, seems to include the entire population between Palestine and the Euphrates (Genesis 29:1; Judges 6:3; Judges 7:12; Judges 8:10; Isaiah 11:14; Jeremiah 49:28, etc.). Many tribes of Arabs are similarly designated at the present day, e.g. the Beni Harb, the Beni Suhr, the Bani Naim, the Bani Lain, etc. It would seem that the Phoenicians must have called themselves Beni Kedem when they settled in Greece, since the Greeks knew them as "Cadmeisns," and made them descendants of a mythic "Cadreus' (Herod., 5:57-59). The name "Saracens" is to some extent analogous, since it means "Men of the morning." Job 1:32, 3 And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and servants in great number; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.

It is a large, princely household. The numbers are large, but must not on that account be considered an invention. The four animals named include both kinds. With the doubled אלפי corresponds the also constructive מאות, the Tsere of which is never shortened, though in the singular one says מאת, from מאה. The aorists, especially of the verb היה (הוה), which, according to its root, signifies not so much esse as fieri, existere, are intended to place us at once in the midst of his prosperity. Ex iis, says Leo Africanus in reference to flocks, Arabes suas divitias ac possessiones aestimant. In fine, Job was without his equal among the קרם בני. So the tribes are called which extend from Arabia Deserta, lying to the east of Palestine, northwards to the countries on the Euphrates, and south over Arabia Petraea and Felix. The wisdom of these tribes, treasured up in proverbs, songs, and traditions, is mentioned in 1 Kings 5:10, side by side with the wisdom of the Egyptians. The writer now takes a very characteristic feature from the life of Job, to show that, even in the height of prosperity, he preserved and manifested the piety affirmed of him.

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