William Kelly Major Works Commentary
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.Job Chapter 1
Chap. 1: 1-12. Now I have only read the introduction, and indeed but a part of the introduction, because the first two chapters comprise the introduction. And then follows the impassioned and vehement opening speech of the patriarch Job. It is clear that here we have got a Book of patriarchal time. All the circumstances point to that time and no other; and further, it is as well to state even now before we go on, that the Book appears to have been written in the time of Moses, and probably by Moses. But some people are a little perplexed by the fact that it comes after the Book of Esther in the Bible. That has nothing whatever to do with the date of it. The Historical Books are given from Genesis to Esther - that is the end; then we begin the Poetic Books - Job, the Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Therefore it is that we necessarily go back here; because poetry was written certainly not after history, but concurrently with it; and we can easily understand that the Book of Job carries us back to the very same time that the first Book of the history goes back to. Everything concurs to show that.
For instance, Job offered burnt offerings; it was lest his sons should have sinned, but it was not a sin offering, which would have been the natural thing if it had been after the law; but it was before the law, and the offerings that were habitually offered by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, under all circumstances, were burnt offerings. So that here we find a very simple mark in the very first chapter; and again, we find that there is a very peculiar idolatry at this time. The Book of Job was written after the deluge; there was no idolatry before the deluge. Of course, the theologians say what they like about the subject, and they very often say what is entirely unfounded; and they are pleased to think there must have been idolatry, and therefore there was; but that is no reason at all - it is merely their imagination. The fact is, the earliest idolatry was the worshipping the sun, moon, and stars; and in the course of this Book we shall see that this is the only idolatry that Job refers to. It was what was common at that time, and they were getting afterwards into much more degraded forms of it.
Therefore, it would seem that the writer of the book was a good while after Job, but that Job lived in a time when there was idolatry. Yet this thing is what alone he notices; it is in his defence of himself - that he was not guilty - which is one of the thoughts that governed the minds of his three friends. I suppose they were the orthodox people of that day; but like the orthodox people of many a day, it was a poor, human, contracted notion of God. Orthodoxy is merely the popular opinion of religion, as a general rule; and although there are elements of truth, and orthodoxy is certainly much better than heterodoxy, still it is not faith; it is not spiritual judgment, which is a deep acquaintance with God's mind. Only we must remember there was very little written at the time that this Book was written, perhaps no more than the Book of Genesis. I judge thus because there is no reference to the law. If it had been written after the law was given on Sinai, we might expect to find some allusion to that, but there is none.
There is another thing that contributes also to help us to the date, and that is the age of Job. He was 140 at least. There are some people who seem to think that he lived 140 years after all his troubles; but there is no ground for that. It is merely the manner of speech in the last chapter, and I presume it really means that that was his entire age, the period of his life - not the time after these disasters purposely fell upon him - for reasons that I am going to explain in a moment. Now, if that age be the age of Job, it shows we need not imagine more than what God's word declares, and he would therefore be rather a younger man when he died than Jacob. Jacob lived less than Isaac or Abraham. So that this would appear to point to the time of the patriarchal age, and all the circumstances fall in with that.
Again, there is what is very remarkable and separate in the Book. It is entirely outside Israel. There was certainly the nucleus of Israel then; Abraham, Isaac and probably Jacob, had been living, and it is clear that this pious Gentile, Job, had profited a good deal from the knowledge of what God had revealed in His dealings not only with those patriarchs, but the traditions of those who had lived before. I say "traditions," because Scripture was not yet written. If there was any Book of Scripture written at this time, it could only, in my opinion, have been, possibly, the Book of Genesis. That was but very little. Only the Book of Genesis is one of the most instructive Books in all the Bible; and it is remarkable for being a kind of seed plot (as it has been compared to before now), where all the germs, all the plants afterwards grew up into, you may say, shrubs or trees, or whatever it might be - there you have them all in their beginning.
It answers very much in that respect to the Book of the Revelation; Genesis is the proper preface to the Bible, and Revelation the very suitable conclusion of the Bible; and you will find that there are links of connection between Genesis and Revelation that are more striking than in any other two Books of the Scriptures. For instance, the Garden, the Paradise of God, and the Tree of Life - these you have very early in Genesis, and very early in the Revelation. In the second chapter of Genesis we have it, and in the second chapter of Revelation we have it again. This is a revelation of a higher character, founded upon that Paradise which all readers of Genesis knew. Then that terrible personage Satan, the Serpent - in the Revelation he is called the "old serpent," evidently pointing back to Genesis. The Serpent, the Enemy, is spoken of in various ways. We find him spoken of as "Satan" in Psalm 109, and we find him spoken of also in 1 Chronicles 21. There Satan tempted David, and succeeded in it, and brought David into a great sin, and which brought deep suffering upon the people of whom he was too proud; and so the people were shorn down and deprived of that strength because David was proud of their strength. Well then, again, in Zechariah, too, we have them all. So that the notion that there is anything very peculiar in the province given to Satan in this Book of Job is a very absurd one. It is a very proper thing, exactly what is needed, and it is the great truth which is about to be propounded and discussed throughout the Book.
Some divines are very fond of talking about the Book of Job as a drama - a kind of sacred drama. Well, I think they had better keep the drama to themselves, and leave the Book to its own simplicity and beauty, and not introduce mere terms of a very low and earthly kind. It is an authentic discussion; it is a grand debate. It is not the problem of how it is the wicked are allowed to flourish now, sometimes, and to await the judgment of God afterwards; but here we have the far more serious question: 'How is it that the righteous suffer now so much; is it consistent with God's justice that a righteous man should suffer more than any other man?' Well, that is the very thing discussed in this Book, and the object is to show that it is not only that there is a God perfectly righteous and good, but there is an enemy perfectly malicious and subtle and active. Now this is all brought out in a Book entirely outside Israel. The wonder is as to the Rationalists and the Jews - for they had their Rationalists quite as much as Christendom has its Rationalists now; they were the persons who were always lowering the word, humanizing the word, and, further, attaching tradition to it, and all sorts of stories invented to improve the word of God, and make it palatable to the readers, who were not satisfied with the truth, but were as fond of anecdotes then as people are now, who cannot be happy with the gospel unless they have these stories about men.
Here we have the Spirit of God in this wonderful Book bringing out fact. The Jews did not like it; and you can quite understand that. What! a Gentile spoken of in stronger terms than Jacob, our father Jacob, Israel! Scripture shows Jacob to have been a very uncertain man; a true child of God, but a man whose flesh was very little broken, and a man who was naturally prone to the sly ways - 'slim,' I believe, is the modern word for it - the sly ways of his mother and her brother, and all connected with the chosen race. Jacob inherited a little of that blood, and in consequence of not being self-judging, submitting to God and confiding in God, he often brought himself into very great scrapes, and tried to get out of them by very uncomely ways.
All this indeed reads us a very important lesson, but it is quite a different one in the Book of Job. Here is a man whom God Himself brings before Satan. We have a most remarkable scene - that which I have read to you to-night - where "the sons of God" came together, we may say, to show their homage to God Himself in heaven. You know "the sons of God" are employed as messengers; and according to this we have a very graphic view of a particular day when they came - the day, not merely a day. It is not either in the Revised, or the Authorised Version, but it is the word that is intended. Now these "sons of God" were clearly angels, and these angels were busy with their mission of God's goodness and mercy; for He loves to employ others; we have that now blessedly shown. Why, we every one of us have our work; every one of us has his mission; we have all a mission from Christ, the most simple brother and sister too. We are members in the body of Christ, and each member has its own function. It is a very interesting thing that God employs the members of Christ's body to do what He could have done without them. He loves to trust them; He loves to exercise them; He loves that they should learn their place, and that they should fulfil their mission during this little while that we are waiting for Christ. That gives a great dignity to the place of the Christian, and also a very solemn responsibility. That is a part of God's way.
Now it appears that there was a day when the angels came, and Satan was allowed to come among them. That is an astonishing fact not at all confined to this scripture. We have it even in the Revelation, the last Book of the New Testament. There we find the day is coming when Satan and all his host are to be turned out of the heavens. And we find it is a doctrine laid down in the Epistle to the Ephesians that we have to contend with these powers of evil not merely on the earth, but having that great advantage against the believer of possessing a place in the heavens. Why is it that Christians generally do not believe that? Because they believe themselves and not God. Because they listen to what they call theology instead of the Bible, and the consequence is they are getting to lose all touch of divine truth; they are getting more and more into the belief of not only men's notions of the Bible, but of fables and ideas that are entirely unfounded. The fact is there is nothing that shows more the power of God and the patience of God than this, that the great Evil One and his emissaries are allowed still access to the heavens. They are not cast into hell yet; they are not merely thrown down to be only on the earth. We know that is a thing that will be, but not till we have ascended to heaven. Some people have the idea that they are turned out of heaven to make way for us, but that is quite contrary to Scripture. The removal of the glorified saints to heaven is before God overthrows the Evil One and his host, before He turns them out and casts them down to the earth, never allowed to get back to heaven again. And it is because God has absolute power to do it in a moment that He does that; because He is carrying on a grand work; and a part of that which brings out His wonderful ways is the allowed presence of sin. He gives Satan every advantage because He turns all his malice and all his power to the furtherance of His own way with His children; and the remarkable thing is that which we find in this Book of Job.
There is a very strong confirmation of it in a scene that is described in the first Book of Kings, and I only refer to that to confirm it, namely, where it speaks (1 Kings 22) of Micaiah, the man that the wicked king could not endure because he never had a good thing to say to him. That is, Micaiah was not a flatterer. Kings do not like any but flatterers as a rule, and this prophet greatly vexed the wicked king. And alas I the good king Jehoshaphat failed in that very thing that we are apt to fail in now. Fellowship between light and darkness! Fellowship between the right people and the wrong! Fellowship with that which is utterly opposed to God, in a kind of amiable way that does not give us any very great trouble! We like the easy path, we do not like the strait path, we do not like the path that requires faith, and it is to our own loss. Well, in this case, Micaiah, when he is brought to the point, speaks of a similar scene to what you have here. There God puts the question: "Who will go and deceive Ahab?" - that was the idolatrous king of Israel, "Who will deceive him?" - the one Jehoshaphat made his friendship with, to his own sorrow and to the dishonour of the Lord, and with no good to Ahab, for he fell; he was not won a single inch into that which pleased God. The good conduct of Jehoshaphat in no way did good to Ahab, but on the contrary Ahab drew Jehoshaphat into what was unworthy of God and of a child of God. The evil spirit said that he would go and deceive Ahab. He wrought, no doubt, by Ahab's false prophets.
Peter speaks of "false teachers" doing the same bad work that the false prophets did in Israel. False "teachers" because the truth has come. They were false "prophets" when the truth was not yet come, when Christ had not yet appeared, when all was in the future. But now the solemn and blessed truth is, the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding to know Him that is true. It is therefore a question of teaching now. There is nothing so destructive as what is false, what is contrary to God and His word. Morality, a man of the world can judge, and what is more, he may be a bad specimen in outward appearance; but that is altogether different from the character of Job.
Here we have Job spoken of not merely by the writer, but by God Himself in the strongest terms. The writer says, "There was a man in the land of Uz" (which you know was near Edom, on the borders of Edom, and apparently the friends of Job all came from that quarter more or less), the great desert on the eastern side of Palestine, between Palestine and the Euphrates, where the Bedouins are constantly moving up and down - the nomad races, some of them descendants of Abraham, indeed some of Ishmael. And it is said, "that man was perfect" - meaning by that, not that there was no evil; that is not the meaning of "perfect" in Scripture at all, but in the Old Testament it is the word for a man being thoroughly sound - a sound man, not merely a moralist, but a man who was right with God. And besides being sound in that way, he was "upright" with man. "Perfect and upright" showed relations, one to God, and the other to men. Both ought to go together. The great feature of it was, "fearing God." Another great feature was that it answered to these other terms - refusing or shunning evil. "Eschewing" you know is the old English for shunning. He avoided it; he would have nothing to do with it. So that there you have the fear of God, the great root of his being sound or "perfect"; and refusing evil, the great mark of his being "upright." And then we have his family description.
But the remarkable thing is this great trial - and very comforting to us it is - the most remarkable that ever took place upon the earth, except the trial of Christ. With that the Book of Job stands in contrast. What we have here is a man greatly tried by Satan. But what were all the temptations of Job compared with those of the Lord? And I take it not merely the temptations of Job, but the end - the end of Job was that he found God full of pity, and of tender mercy; but the end of the Lord Jesus in this world was the cross. Job was brought down to the dust in agony, but Christ was brought down to the dust of death. The Lord speaks of Himself (Ps. 22) as a worm; and what was that judgment that fell upon Him when on the cross? What was all the frightful state of Job's body compared with the judgment of our sins?
Between the two there is another thing. We shall find in this Book - I am anticipating now, but in an introductory lecture you must expect that - Job allowed himself language and thought about God that was the greatest dishonour to Job. It was not only that he cursed his day, which was, of course, extreme failure, and a failure that is very profitable for us to note. What was Job more remarkable for than any man upon the earth of his day? Patience. "Ye have heard of the patience of Job"; that is the very thing in which he broke down. He became impatient with his friends - and I must admit they were a most trying set, those three men, and there was everything to fill Job with indignation at their bad thoughts of him; because what they were thinking all through was that he must have been guilty of some terrible unknown sin, unknown to them, that was the cause of all this suffering. That was the orthodox idea of that day, and it is so still. If there is any thing very trying that happens, there must be something wrong with that man! If he is very ill spoken of, 'Oh, well, with smoke there must be a little fire' say these sages of evil.
Now it is remarkable that God gave this Book for the purpose of uprooting all that superficial folly; all those utterly unkind, ungracious thoughts of men, in order to make another thing totally different, manifest, namely, that whatever may be the power of Satan, God is the one that is at the helm, and God is the one that makes it all turn, eventually, for the blessing of the tried man, and for the glory of God. So that it is only the beginning of a circle in its own way, in very early days. Because, as I have already observed, only, perhaps, one book, the Book of Genesis, was then written - certainly no more, in my opinion; and yet for all that, in Job we have one of the grandest books that ever was written. I mean even in the Bible. I do not count it with other books; what are they to be accounted? - but the Bible even. There is nothing more astonishing for those who will fairly look into that Book; and therefore I hope there may be some who will become more intimately acquainted with it than they have been.
It is no use my speaking unless that should be the result. That is the object I have; and, along with that, blessing to our souls. Here it is eminently God on the one hand, man and Satan on the other. You must not think of an old tract that used to be in circulation amongst us, written by a very dear christian, but under a very great mistake, which maintained that Job was only converted at the end of his life. Nonsense! Job was converted from the very first time that God spoke. Do you think that God would speak of an unconverted man in the terms that I am about to read now? "Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?" (ver. 8). You can understand that the Jews did not like that. None like Job, a Gentile! According to the story, according to the book, according to the truth; none like him! Yet it was so.
It is not, beloved friends, the amount of truth that any man knows, on which his state before God turns, but the using of it excellently. You will find men who know a great deal of truth utterly without principle; utterly without the fear of God. You will find men who know a great deal, and all they use it for is merely to exalt themselves. Sometimes for money, sometimes for a name. But all that is most hateful to God. Here we find a man that did not and could not know much in these days, but still he made the best use of it. He lived in the faith of it, in the faith of God Himself; and the result was there was none like him in the earth - a perfect man and an upright man, "one that feared God and eschewed evil."
There you have God's endorsement of what the inspired writer said about him. The idea that he was not a converted man! It just shows how when people get a notion into their head it governs them. They get the idea that conversion means justification. Now that is not what conversion means at all. Conversion properly and truly means the first turning to God; at the time when we are still a great deal behind, when we may have no proper faith in redemption, when we may not know that our sins are blotted out. But really we have a new light; we hate our sins; we acknowledge our sins, and turn to God. It is the beginning; it is not the end. There is, of course, another use of the word, that is when we turn back again after we leave Him; but that does not apply to Job, for Job had not left God up to this time; and he did not turn away from God at this time either. He was in the direst trouble, and no wonder; because Christ was not come; the work of redemption was not accomplished. How could he have that peace and that liberty which we are entitled to through faith not only in Christ, but in the work of Christ?
And this is one of the great objects of the Book; to show that no matter how good a man may seem, if he is put to the proof about what he is himself, in his own heart, he will break down. It will be my lot to show the particulars of this another day; but now we have merely passed before us here this great truth; and it is quite a key to difficulties of all kinds. It is God that really takes the initiative, not Satan. God is the one that moves in this; and if it led to Job's being so terribly tried, yet what a comfort to have known this! Job did not know it; that is what we know; this is what the word shows here; but Job had no idea that before all this trial came upon him in the earth there was a scene in heaven about him!
Do you think it is only of Job that God thinks? Do you think that God is not thinking of every one of you now, and that in the presence of the evil angel? Do you suppose that this was something entirely exceptional? The account of it was, the allowance of it was, the special circumstances of it were peculiar; but the principle is the same for every believer. God in His sovereign love and grace takes a pleasure in His children, far more than we take in any of ours. And you know what that is for a parent. Well now, God takes more pleasure in you - not merely in Job - in you. I grant we do not deserve it; that is another thing altogether. Love does not count up deserts at all. Love goes out because God is love, and for His own glory in Christ the Lord. Now He is able to do it righteously; able to do it effectively. But here there was tremendous suffering before Christ came in, and before the full light of God came. God allowed all that; nevertheless it was He that began it; and, if God begins, how will He end? Worthily of Himself. It is not merely patching up; it is not merely repairing, but a radical work of self-judgment in the soul.
God, in His wonderful ways, is not one that waits for the devil at all. He begins. God had a child of His; and when this subtle, active, malicious foe came, in his restless roamings backward and forward on the earth to do mischief, God said "Look at my servant Job." The enemy felt that as a challenge to him, as it were. God first of all laid down a certain restriction, and this He always does. He allows it only to a certain extent; and in this case it was to be to a very remarkable extent, that it might be a lesson for ever after this Book was written; that it might cast a light on all the great struggle of good and evil, for every child of God from that day to this.
"And Satan answered Jehovah and said, Doth Job fear God for naught?" It is only a bit of selfishness; it is only for his own ends. How did he judge that? From himself. Oh, it is a dangerous thing to judge anything from ourselves. It is a blessed thing to judge from God's word. "Hast thou not 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. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power." God allowed him to try. "Only upon himself put not forth thine hand."
That was the first trial. Here we have light upon a very important thing. Satan showed himself to God, but he hides himself from men, to deceive all the more. We read that a messenger came, when everything was prosperous. No man in that part of the East was so prosperous as Job; he was the man that must be brought down to the dust. The same thing with his sons and daughters. There they were. We have a beautiful picture here of social happiness and family enjoyment, which is a thing that God takes pleasure in, but it all came to naught, and it all came to naught also as to his substance. Everything - children, the dearest of all that Job had - and also all his property. "The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them" - they were a people in that part of the country who used to keep moving upwards from the south to the north - "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 that man was speaking, word came - and this was not the Sabeans, nor the Chaldeans - "The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep." The flocks, of course, were vast compared with the herds, and they were all consumed, and the servants too. And while he was speaking, there came one and told him about the Chaldeans. They were enemies, plunderers at that time from the east, as the Sabeans were from the south; and they fell upon the camels, a very valuable part of Job's property, and carried them away. He only was escaped to tell the sad tale. And then came the last stroke of all - a whirlwind that attacked the house on all four sides. No ordinary wind would do that. And it fell upon and destroyed all assembled there on that very day - the festal day that they were holding together.
And how did it affect Job? Very few converted men now would act as Job did then. "Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground and worshipped." Now he was a most affectionate man, and he was a man full of graciousness even to strangers. What was it for him to lose all, not merely his property, but every soul of the family, outside his own house? And he said "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: Jehovah gave, and Jehovah hath taken away, blessed be the name of Jehovah." You cannot conceive a more happy and decided expression of entire godliness from a deeply tried soul. "In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly," that is, in a way that was contrary to all propriety.
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 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.
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.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
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.
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?
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
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.
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.
And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
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.
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.
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:
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,
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.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.