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…
There are serious and devout persons who regard the Book of Job as a work of imagination, and refer it to the age of Solomon. They point out that the subject discussed is precisely that which agitated the mind of Solomon, and that nothing but a wide contact with the Gentile world could have admitted a subject or a scene so remote from ordinary Jewish thought. Luther says, "I look upon the Book of Job as true history, yet I do not believe that all took place just as it is written, but that an ingenious, learned, and pious person brought it into its present form." The poetical character of the work is manifest, and this poetical character must be taken into full account in any attempt to explain the contents. That is admissible in poetry which would not be proper in prose. Poetry may suggest, prose should state. Whether the poem be historically based or not, there is certainly set before us a very distinct and well-marked individuality. It is not possible for us to understand the discussion in the book until we are adequately impressed with the character of the hero, because the whole turns, not as is usually assumed, upon his patience, nor upon his absolute innocence, but upon his religious sincerity and moral uprightness. Job is presented in the characteristics of his conduct, his attractions, and his repulsions. "Perfect and upright." "Fearing God." "Eschewing evil." A man may be delineated very minutely; a photograph in words may be presented of his features, his bodily form, his gait, his tone of voice, and even of his qualities of mind and disposition, and yet no adequate idea of him may be conveyed to the minds of others. Genius is shown in some brief, sententious striking off of the essential peculiarities, the things in which the man stands out from other men. This hand mark of genius is on the description that is given of Job. It is brief, but it differentiates him precisely. We feel that we know the man.
I. IT PRESENTS THE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIS CONDUCT. Our Lord taught — what reason also affirms — that a man's life and doings form the proper basis of any judgment that is made concerning him. "By their fruits ye shall know them." That ground of judgment is universally acknowledged to be quite fair. We ought to be willing to lay our life and conduct open before our fellow men, and to say, "Judge me according to my integrity." Many, even religious men, prefer to say, "Judge me according to my professions." The world is right in persisting in judging us by our conduct. And it may be questioned whether, on the whole, its judgment is harsh and unfair. It does not look for perfection in us, but it does expect to find that ours is a higher standard of honesty and charity than theirs. We would like to be described by our beliefs. Our Lord was described by His doings. "He went about, doing good." It says much for Job that he can be set before us in the light of his conduct. He was a sincere, upright, kind, and good man. How are we to explain these words, "perfect and upright," as descriptions of human life and conduct? The word "perfect" has in Scripture this idea in it. The thought of the absolutely perfect is cherished in a man's soul, and he is ever trying to work his thought out into his life and conduct. Taking the two words together, "perfect" refers to the ideal in the man's mind; and "upright" describes the moral characteristic of his human relationships. And we may glorify our Father in heaven by cherishing high ideals, and by bringing forth, in our daily life, much fruit of common honesties, common purities, and common charities, and so grow towards the standard of the perfect.
II. IT PRESENTS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF HIS ATTRACTIONS. Tell us what a man loves, and we can tell you exactly what the man is. Everyone is disclosed by his favourite pursuit. Do you love truth and goodness? Then a blessed revelation is made concerning you. The Godward side of your nature is alive, healthy, and active. But is it the same thing to say of Job that he "feared God," and to say that he "set his love on God"? Yes. A man can never worthily love, if he does not fear, — fear in the deeper sense of respect, admire, and reverence. Fear and love grow together, and grow so like each other that we find it difficult to tell which is fear and which is love. Job, on the side of his attractions, was drawn to God. The purity of the waters that lie full in the face of the sun is drawn out, and caught up by invisible forces into the sky, by and by to serve ends of refreshing on the earth. And all the noblest and best that is in a man may be drawn out by the invisible forces of Divine love and fear, if the soul do but lie open to God, the Sun of Righteousness.
III. IT PRESENTS THE CHARACTERISTIC OF HIS REPULSIONS. "He eschewed evil." The word employed is vigorous, but not exactly refined. We cannot pronounce it without discerning its precise meaning. "Escheweth" means, "finds it nauseous, and spits it out." The clean is repelled from the unclean, the kindly from the cruel, the gentle from the passionate, the pure from the vicious. A good man is characterised by an acute sensitiveness to everything that is evil. What then was the leading idea of Job's life? It was a life lived in the power of principle. Some central idea ruled it, gave it unity, steadied it. He believed that, in righteousness, Divine communion may be enjoyed. He saw that God, happiness, truth, peace, the only worthy idea of living, all belong to righteousness. So his conduct was right. "Righteousness tendeth unto life"; and "God blesseth the generation of the righteous." Whatever may happen to this man, we may be sure that God was on his side. God declared him to be a pure, upright, and sincere man.
(Robert Tuck, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.