Job 3-31

Job 3‑31  •  3.1 hr. read  •  grade level: 7
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The controversies of Job and his three friends, exhibiting the futility of human reason in explaining God’s ways in affliction, and the deep-rooted self-righteousness of man’s heart.
We have in this division the largest and, in many respects, the most complicated part of the book. It has been well named The Entanglement, for it is a mass of argument, denunciation, accusation, suspicion, partly correct theories, and withal flashes of faith and hope—all in the language of loftiest poetry, with magnificent luxuriance of Oriental metaphor. To the casual reader there may seem to be no progress, and but little clarity in the controversy. And it must be confessed that God’s people at large seem to have gained little from these chapters beyond a few familiar, beautiful and oft-quoted verses.
But can we think that God would have permitted a useless book to be included in that “all scripture,” which is profitable? Let us then come with confidence to these controversies and patiently seek their meaning, see if we can trace an individuality in each speaker, and a progress in his declarations; whether we can mark a rise in the faith of Job, so nearly eclipsed, and a preparation for the unfolding of God’s ways which follow after.
We add a word here as to the inspiration of the book. There can be no question as to this, for it is referred to both in the Old Testament (Ezek. 14:14, 2014Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God. (Ezekiel 14:14)
20Though Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. (Ezekiel 14:20)
) and in the New (Jas. 5:1111Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)); it is also quoted in the New Testament (1 Cor. 3:1919For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. (1 Corinthians 3:19)). But inspiration is often mistaken for revelation, or the infallible statement of divine truth. We have the inspired record of what Satan said to Eve, and to our Lord; of the utterances of wicked men, like Pharaoh and Rabshakeh, but no one thinks of these words as being the truth of God. Similarly here we have an inspired record of what Job and his three friends said, but while most of it was true, it was out of place and misapplied. This is all perfectly plain.
The whole Division may be separated into three subdivisions, of unequal length.
SUBDIVISION 1. —Job’s opening Lament (chap. 3).
SUBDIVISION 2. —The controversy with the three friends (chaps. 4-26).
SUBDIVISION 3. —Job’s closing Monologue (chaps. 27-31).
We need hardly point out the numerical appropriateness of these subdivisions: the first introduces the entire controversy; it is the beginning of all that is said afterward. The second speaks of antagonism and the vain efforts of man to help, with glimpses of faith between. The third is the full display of Job’s heart. Significantly he begins and closes the controversy.
— Job’s Opening Lament (chap. 3)
Perhaps that which strikes the reader most forcibly on entering upon this chapter, is the great contrast between it and the preceding one. Can this be the same man who meekly bowed his head to the successive strokes of adversity which fell so suddenly upon him? who bore the torture of his dread disease, and listened unmoved to his wife’s solicitations to suicide? “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”
For seven days he has sat silent with his friends, and when he begins to speak, it is not words of submission or trust that we hear, but curses and imprecations upon the day of his birth, and longing for death! What has made this great change?
It might be thought that it was the long continuance of his sufferings which broke Job down; when first afflicted, he bore up under it, but as weary days and nights followed each other with unvarying wretchedness, he gave way. But this hardly seems consistent with the calm dignity of the man as shown in the first two chapters.
In the light of his subsequent attitude, it seems more likely that Job’s thoughts of God had much to do with this change. Previously, he had seen Him as the beneficent Ruler and Disposer of events. But it appears as we go on that Job allowed suspicions of God’s justice and goodness to intrude. He felt himself as if in the hands of arbitrary power, suffering for what he had not done. He sees no way of escape, and therefore wishes for death. This seems to account for the great change in his words. It is also in keeping with the answers he gives his friends. As long as his sufferings were outward, or physical, Job was calm; but when doubts of God’s goodness were entertained he collapsed. This will appear abundantly as we proceed; it is simply noticed here as suggesting the main theme of the book—the vindication of God, and His ways with men.
On the other hand, we must remember that even when in such anguish of soul as well as of body, Job did not fall as Satan predicted he would. He did not curse God, although sorely perplexed at His treatment. Ever and anon in the midst of greatest anguish, his faith shines forth in prayer or in confidence—illustrating the usually accepted translation of the words, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (chap. 13:15).
Taking up now the lament, we may divide it into five parts.
First: Job curses the day of his birth (vers. 1-9).
Second: Wishes he had died in infancy (vers. 10-12).
Third: Death described as a rest (vers. 13-19).
Fourth: He longs for death (vers. 20-23).
Fifth: He is oppressed by terror (24-26).
(1) Job curses the day of his birth (vers. 1-9). Of only one man has it ever been said—by our Lord— “It had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:2424The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born. (Matthew 26:24)). Judas was an apostate, the “son of perdition,” into whose heart Satan entered, and who sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, betrayed Him by a kiss, and then filled with remorse went and hanged himself, and “went to his own place.” For a child of God to wish he had never been born indicates a complete, if but temporary, eclipse of faith.
Jeremiah, utterly oppressed by the hardness of the people’s heart, and seeing the inevitable ruin into which they were drifting, uses language somewhat similar to Job’s (Jer. 20:14-1814Cursed be the day wherein I was born: let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed. 15Cursed be the man who brought tidings to my father, saying, A man child is born unto thee; making him very glad. 16And let that man be as the cities which the Lord overthrew, and repented not: and let him hear the cry in the morning, and the shouting at noontide; 17Because he slew me not from the womb; or that my mother might have been my grave, and her womb to be always great with me. 18Wherefore came I forth out of the womb to see labor and sorrow, that my days should be consumed with shame? (Jeremiah 20:14‑18)). He curses not only the day of his birth, but the man who brought his father the news instead of slaying the child, and wishes he were overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrha. There is this to be said of Jeremiah’s outburst: it was not merely because of his own sufferings as obliged to bring a message which the people refused—and therefore hated the messenger; but is there not a measure of grief over the people’s obduracy and inevitable doom? Like Moses before and Paul afterward, he longed supremely for the people’s blessing. Failing to see this, he had rather not have been born. We justify none of these expressions in God’s beloved servants, but they seem to occupy a higher moral plane than Job does here.
Let us contrast all these godly men with the matchless Sufferer. “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.” Ah, He never failed; the intensity of His sufferings but furnished the occasion for the exhibition of His sinless perfection.
In this first part Job curses the day of his birth, wishes that it could be blotted out of the calendar, because it allowed his birth. He desires that that day and night never come into remembrance—so that the very recurrence of the day that was a reminder of his existence might cease. Verse 8 has been translated, “Let those who curse the day curse it, who are skilled in stirring up leviathan,” alluding to the heathen myth that a dragon devoured the sun and moon and so prevented the day. If this is correct, it shows how far Job had drifted in his thoughts, to turn thus to the superstitions of the heathen.
In what contrast to this is the joy of the believer in dwelling upon his spiritual birthday. How Paul loved to look back to the time when the light above the brightness of the sun shone into his darkened heart. “Who before was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious... and the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus... Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:13-1713Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:13‑17)). So in the many persecutions and afflictions which befell him for the gospel’s sake, we hear not the faintest approach to these lamentations of Job. When he and Silas were beaten, thrust into prison, their feet fast in the stocks, their thoughts were not of cursing the day of their birth, but brought songs in the night.
The contrast shows the difference between Old and New Testament light, but it shows too that even in Old Testament days God’s children needed to learn the sweet uses of adversity, and not to despise the chastening of the Lord.
2. In passing through our book, we must not fail to note the exquisite beauty of expressions, both of Job and of all who speak. For if the Spirit of God has seen fit to inspire a writing, He would have us note its form as well as its contents. Thus we have in ver. 9, in the margin of our version, “Neither let it see the eyelids of the morning,” or as the clause has been rendered, “Let it not refresh itself with the eyelids of the dawn” —poetry indeed of exquisite beauty! In the second part of his lament (vers. 10-12) Job declares his wish that he had died as soon as he was born, or had been left without care or food. It is sad indeed when one cannot look back to those early days of helplessness with tender thoughts of the loving care that watched over his unconscious hours. Of all creatures, man is the most helpless and dependent in infancy. It is to “hide pride” from him, and to call forth love in his behalf. To curse his infancy thus was to trample upon what is best in our fallen humanity, and shows a soul far from communion with God. Job had forgotten all the past; the sorrow of the present had eclipsed all else. It is painful to read such words.
3. Death is here described as a rest (vers. 13-19) in which all have an equal share—the old and the young, even the unborn babe; the great and the small alike are at rest: kings whose former palaces have crumbled into ruins, and princes whose vast wealth has all been left, are here at last in profound and equal repose. The wicked cannot trouble them, nor master exact service from his slave; prisoners and their captors find no distinction in the presence of death, that great leveler of mankind. What a picture it is, reminding one of the dread vision of the prophet who sees Pharaoh, king of Egypt, descending into Sheol to share with the great among the nations their common heritage of death— “which caused their terror in the land of the living; yet have they borne their shame with them that go down to the pit” (Ezek. 32:2424There is Elam and all her multitude round about her grave, all of them slain, fallen by the sword, which are gone down uncircumcised into the nether parts of the earth, which caused their terror in the land of the living; yet have they borne their shame with them that go down to the pit. (Ezekiel 32:24)).
But is this the doctrine, even of the feebler light of the Old Testament, of the future? Ezekiel did but contrast the former greatness of the nations, now brought low; but Job goes further and puts all in an unconscious sleep, “as infants which never saw light.” Is there no distinction between the condition of the wicked and of the righteous after death? We cannot here go into the Old Testament doctrine of the future state,1 but the walk with God of His servants, their calm outlook into the unknown future, tell us that they in spirit “looked for the city which hath foundations.” The constant contrast between the righteous and the wicked, and their moral unlikeness points not uncertainly to most divergent futures: “The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death” (Prov. 14:3232The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death. (Proverbs 14:32)). In thus blurring the future, Job shows how far his soul had drifted from the truth of God. In plain language he is longing for annihilation, and we know how materialists and believers in conditional immortality have turned to these and similar utterances for support for their unscriptural views.
Let us contrast these utterances of one temporarily forgetful of the great hope planted in the heart of God’s children, with the language of faith in the Old and New Testaments. Job’s own words are a refutation of his unbelief here: “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (chap. 19:25). David also said, “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Ps. 17:15). Our Lord refutes the Sadducees, with whom Job unconsciously identifies himself, as to the Old Testament teaching regarding the state of the dead: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:3232I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:32)). He points out the fearful contrast between the state of the careless rich man and the believing beggar, Lazarus (Lk. 16). And in the full Christian statements of the Epistles, do such words as “Absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” or, “Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better,” echo Job’s unbelieving laments? We can well understand a need for the chastening hand of God upon him if Job willingly entertains such thoughts as those to which he gives expression here.
4. He longs for death (vers. 20-23). Having pictured death as a state of dreamless sleep, Job gives vent to his longing for this nirvana. He asks why one so wretched as he should be debarred from the repose he seeks. He adds to this the first of his charges against God, calling himself “the man whom God hath hedged in.” Similar language is used in Jeremiah’s Lamentations, “He hath led me and brought me into darkness, but not into light... He hath hedged me about that I cannot get out; He hath made my chain heavy” (Lam. 3:2-72He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. 3Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand against me all the day. 4My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. 5He hath builded against me, and compassed me with gall and travail. 6He hath set me in dark places, as they that be dead of old. 7He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. (Lamentations 3:2‑7)). But he goes on: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not... It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (vers. 22, 26). We fail to find anything like this in Job’s words.
In the New Testament we have still greater triumphs: “We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hopes” (Rom. 5:3, 43And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (Romans 5:3‑4)); “That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire,” etc. (1 Pet. 1:77That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: (1 Peter 1:7)).
5. In his concluding words (vers. 24-26) Job turns from his longing after death to the reasons which make him desire it. His anguish takes precedence of his hunger; he could say with the psalmist, “My tears have been my meat,” and may we not find in the latter connection some explanation of Job’s misery: “While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?” (Ps. 42:3). Job had lost the sense of God’s favor; his sighs gush forth like a torrent because he fears God has forsaken him. Lacking a conscious sense of filial relationship (as was natural in the former dispensation, although truly born of God), he could not withstand the torturing doubt that God had given him over to hopeless misery. This fear had apparently been lurking in his heart—possibly even in his bright days—and now it has come upon him! In verse 26 he speaks of a fresh avalanche of trouble before real relief from the former anguish had been given: “I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet” (from the former attack), “then trouble cometh.” Our version seems to refer this to Job’s condition of former prosperity: that he was not dwelling in carnal ease, but walking in the fear of God, when trouble came; but while this is in accord with Job’s state of soul as it comes out later, it seems a little too early to find self-vindication on his part. It seems rather to be the expression of grief at the repeated attacks of misery which he is now suffering; as in the psalm quoted, he could say, “All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”
But he does not follow the psalmist and hush his soul into submission: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God.” Job will yet praise Him, but he knows nothing of this as yet. He closes his wail of unrelieved despair, and his friends begin to speak.
2. — The Controversy With the Three Friends (Chaps. 4-26)
The second of the three subdivisions is, as has been said, the largest and most complicated portion of the division (chaps. 3-31). Preceded by the wail of the suffering patriarch (in chap. 3), it is followed by a monologue in which he maintains (in chaps. 27-30 that for which he had contended throughout—his uprightness—but with his sufferings unrelieved, and the dark enigma of the reason for those sufferings unexplained. It cannot therefore be considered as a satisfactory conclusion. Job has met men, and vanquished them on their own ground; but he must meet and answer God—with what different and blessedly satisfactory results! But this does not belong to our present theme.
In the controversy of the three friends we have a unity of thought, based on a common principle.
That principle is that all suffering is of a punitive rather than of an instructive nature; that it is based on God’s justice rather than on His love—though these are ever combined in all His ways. Such a principle necessarily fails to distinguish between the sufferings of the righteous and those of the wicked. Carried, as the friends did carry it, to its legitimate conclusion, this principle meant that Job’s sufferings were for sin, hitherto undetected, and that his only hope for relief was in a confession of his sin in order to obtain mercy.
Indeed, toward the close of their controversy, the friends apparently lose sight even of mercy for the penitent, and in the desire to vindicate their principle and themselves, dwell upon the awful doom of the wicked at the hand of God in this world, and with only a greater darkness hanging over the future.
On his part, Job evidently has but little advantage over his friends as to the principle upon which they base their addresses. He too sees that punishment is for evil, eventually for actual sin. Indeed, he takes common ground with them and states with fully as much clearness and force the certainty of the doom of the wicked, both now and hereafter. But Job differs from his friends in this: while they steadily tend to a conviction of his hypocrisy and sin, Job faces the awful thought of God’s injustice. He is led to this by the consciousness of personal rectitude, which he cannot relinquish in the darkest hour. Why then is he so afflicted? On the other hand, thank God, he has true faith. Even where he cannot understand, he must believe in God; and this faith remains, with increasing light, through all his sufferings and in spite of all mysteries.
There is a distinct progress in this twofold controversy. The friends, beginning with a measure of courtesy and kindliness, are carried forward into ever-increasing suspicion, harshness and denunciation. Job, on the other hand, though overwhelmed at the first, gradually finds a footing for his faith, and emerges from despair into a measure of hope. He thus answers Satan’s accusation, and God is vindicated by the faith of His servant; He can go on then to teach him, painful though it was, the lesson he so deeply needed.
We must add a word as to this principle of the punitive nature of suffering. Nowhere in the Old Testament is it enunciated with greater clearness and force than in this book. Elsewhere there is greater prominence given to faith, and to that upon which faith rests—the mercy and goodness of God— “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” But it still remains that the Old Testament view of God and His people makes possible some of the gloom that rests upon Job. It has been well said that the book of Job could not have been written after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Now that the Man of Sorrows has come and suffered as none ever could under the wrath of God for sin; now that God is revealed as Father, and the way into His house of cloudless glory has been opened; a great line of separation has (been drawn between suffering for sin and for righteousness, between the wicked and the righteous. The heaviest trials now are but “light affliction which is but for a moment.”
Faith, even where it could not reason, always acted thus; and where it was in full exercise rose superior to all sorrow. Abraham laid his son on the altar without a murmur, and even Jacob was not long overwhelmed by the loss of Joseph. In Job, faith is real, but in the background, while the governmental principle of punishment for sin usurps the first place—until Elihu leads up to the great revelation of Jehovah Himself, in whose holy presence another divine principle shines out—the sinfulness of nature even in His own people, and His absolute goodness as well as righteousness, which will bring in “the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them who are exercised thereby.” We are well-nigh on New Testament ground when we reach this “end of the Lord.” But we must return to our immediate theme.
In the controversy, as already stated, there is a distinct progress—in opposite directions—of the friends of Job. The former are getting further from the light; the latter has his face set toward the light. Each of the three friends speaks, Eliphaz and Bildad three times each, and Zophar but twice. To each address Job gives an answer, and, as already said, silences his opposers. The entire controversy may thus be divided naturally into three sections, consisting of the address of the friends and Job’s replies to them. Job therefore speaks three times more frequently than each of the friends, and as a rule at greater length.
We may also remark as to the tone of these ad dresses and replies. The friends grow more severe; Job, from almost complete absorption in his own sufferings, passes into abuse and satire upon his friends, but eventually emerges from that into a high and dignified discussion of the great principles involved. The friends on the contrary are at their best at the beginning; then become suspicious, and close with positive abuse.
Another fact must be added. There is a certain measure of knowledge of God. Job’s friends were not heathen philosophers, but in all likelihood men who feared God, who were His children, though with but little light. The same must be said of Job with greater emphasis.
We are now ready to take up the details of the controversy. It falls as has just been said into three evident portions:
Section 1.—The first addresses of the friends—their doctrine of the punitive nature of suffering; Job’s despair (chaps. 4-14)
Section 2.—The second addresses of the friends—suspicions and charges; Job rises from despair to hope (chaps. 15-21).
Section 3.—The third addresses of the friends; Job silences them—but the enigma remains (chaps. 22-26).
The numerical significance—in the two opposite directions—is quite clear. The third is the full manifestation where each stands, as the first shows the beginning, and the second the development.
Remembering the fundamental error of the friends, we cannot withhold admiration for the force with which they lay down their principle; nor must we fail to recognize the truth of what they say, even though it is perverted. And the sublime poetry of their utterances has wrung admiration even from unbelievers.
This section falls again into three parts, each marked by the address of one of the friends and Job’s reply.
1. Eliphaz—the greatness and justice of God. Job’s reply (chaps. 4-7).
2. Bildad—suffering is retribution. Job’s reply (chaps. 8-10).
3. Zophar—suffering is for sin. Job’s reply (chaps. 11-14).
It will be found that, while all the friends have a common principle from which they reason, they are by no means without individuality. Each one has his personal characteristics and his own method of address.
Eliphaz, perhaps the eldest, is marked by dignity, appeal to God, and a measure of entreaty.
Bildad appeals to reason and lessons of the past.
Zophar, perhaps the youngest, is marked by the sternness and impetuosity of his denunciations of sin, and declaration of the certainty of its judgment. All this will appear as we examine these addresses in detail.
1. —Eliphaz’s address and Job’s reply—The greatness and justice of God (chaps. 4-7).
Eliphaz begins his address, partly and necessarily in reply to the sad complaint of Job, but chiefly to minister as he thinks Job’s spiritual condition may need it. The address, in chapters 4 and 5, is one of much dignity, great beauty of expression, and embodies much self-evident truth. It may be divided into seven portions:
(1) Reproach for Job’s despair (chap. 4:1-5).
(2) God’s favor to the righteous (vers. 6-11).
(3) Vision of God’s greatness and holiness (12-21).
(4) Experience of God’s ways (chap. 5:1-5).
(5) Exhortation to Job to seek God (vers. 6-11).
(6) God’s triumph over evil (vers. 12-16).
(7) The uses of affliction (vers. 17-27).
(1) In the opening words of his address, Eliphaz begins the criticism which characterizes the words of the friends throughout. What he says is perfectly true, and Job who had comforted others in times of distress should have borne up under his trials; and yet would we not expect some words of sympathy from a friend—a “brother born for adversity?” Would not grace ever teach us to “weep with those who weep?” The blessed Man of Sorrows did not take sufferers to task in this way, but was moved with compassion, even to tears, at human sorrow. It is this harshness which indicates a wrong principle in Eliphaz, which comes out more clearly as he proceeds. With him sin and suffering are as root and fruit: he knows no classes of suffering, fails to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, and therefore eventually is found to be a false accuser of his friend.
(2) He enunciates this principle by appealing to Job’s own experience, not as condemning but approving. What had hitherto given him confidence? Was it not his fear, his piety? Who then ever perished, if he were righteous? On the other hand, how often had the wicked been cut off, reaping as they had sowed. No matter how strong and mighty, they are cut off, as fierce lions having their teeth broken out. But while these things are true, generally, Eliphaz has lost all distinction between the righteous and the wicked, and presses Job into a dilemma which he is already beginning to feel—either he or God is unjust!
(3) Next, in words of great solemnity and of lofty poetic beauty, Eliphaz describes his vision of the greatness and holiness of God. In the silent watches of the night, an apparition had come before him, causing him to tremble with a nameless dread. While not seeing, he had felt the whisper of “a still small voice,” that made his hair stand up.
“Shall mortal man be more just than God?” —or “just before God,” in His presence. Compared with His holiness, even the heavenly beings are unclean. The seraphim veil their faces as they proclaim Him. How much less can mortal man, whose mortality is a witness of his sin, vaunt himself. His breath is in his nostrils; like a tale that is told his life is compassed in a day—like the ephemeral moth.
This is all quite true, and in other connections most appropriate; but, as already said, it falls beside the mark, for it does not meet Job’s need. Truly, in the sight of God, all are as an unclean thing, but will that set aside the fact that there is such a thing as righteousness in the children of God? If all are thus unclean in the sight of God, then Eliphaz must take his place beside Job, a thing he is by no means ready to do, and all explanation of suffering fails.
(4) In this portion of his address Eliphaz, as befits a man of age and observation, gives the results of his experience among men. He tells Job it will be in vain to cry for aid to the “saints,” the holy ones, his only help is in God, and if he complain against Him he will but lay himself open to divine anger. Wicked men have prospered for a little season, only to fall under the curse. There is hardly an allusion as yet to Job’s family, and yet verses 4, 5 might be taken as applying to them—children crushed without deliverance, and harvests taken by the hungry robber. He is rather describing the result of his experience and observations, that eventually, even in this life, suffering is the portion of the sinner. It need hardly be said how incomplete and unsatisfactory this is. Even in the Old Testament the “man of the earth” prospers; the wicked spreads himself “like a green bay tree,” and even in death has no bands.
Let us suppose that Abraham, Jacob, or David reasoned thus about their sufferings: they were wicked, then, because they suffered! And in the New Testament, how could tribulation which worketh patience be gloried in, or how could “our light affliction which is but for a moment,” be said to work out a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory? Truly Eliphaz by his experience proves himself to be little versed in the ways of God with His suffering people.
(5) Next follows the advice to Job, which is good, at least because it turns him to the only One who could give relief. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward,” therefore let him commit his cause to God. It is always good to advise men to trust in God; for He never fails those who trust in Him. “Trust in Him at all times, ye people; pour out your hearts before Him.” “Cast thy burden upon the Lord.” He is both powerful, good and kind, and can lift up those that are bowed down, refreshing their parched spirits as the rain refreshes the thirsty land. Therefore, taken in itself, this counsel is good; but remembering the underlying principle that Job is suffering for his sins, it can only irritate. It is as though he were to say— “Sin is common to all, as trouble is to all, therefore humble yourself as a sinner before God, and He shall exalt you.” It is all the more subtle because it comes so near the truth—as Job will learn in due time. But there is no thought in the mind of Eliphaz like that produced in Job’s heart by the sight of God, and which made him say at last, “I am vile.”
(6) There may, or may not, be insinuations of craftiness in Job in this part; probably not. Eliphaz is formulating his theory, “Be good, and you will be happy in the long run.” Job then would be vindicated, and all iniquity would have to stop its mouth. Indeed, Eliphaz and his friends must find this out later, and these words are like a prophecy of what takes place when Job intercedes for them. Yes, God will surely triumph over evil, and will make His people “more than conquerors through Him that loved them:” but it will not be in man’s way, and He alone will be exalted.
(7) The seventh and closing portion of the address is admirable in expression and excellent in its doctrine, if its inner meaning be seen. In the mouth of Eliphaz, as the culmination of his masterly address, it must be taken with all the modifications already spoken of.
Happy indeed is he who receives chastening at the loving hands of God; we are neither to despise nor to faint under such dealings. No matter how great or oft-repeated are the afflictions there will come deliverance in due time. How good it is to know this, and to “wait on the Lord, and be of good courage, for He will strengthen thy heart.” Let the sufferer but say, “It is thy hand,” “I know that in faithfulness Thou hast afflicted me.” The Scriptures are full of this precious truth for the child of God. We are led to look past all apparent causes, all human instruments, or even Satan himself, and see that Hand which “will never cause His child a needless tear.” So our blessed Lord took that great affliction, at the hands of God: “The cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”
So the relief also comes from the same blessed source: “His hands make whole.” How good it is to know that all—the trial and the relief—comes from Him. No matter how oft repeated the strokes, protection and deliverance are our portion.
Passing to detail, Eliphaz mentions the sorest outward trials of famine and war, even to destruction, and those inner, bitter pains, from which Job was even then suffering, caused by the biting tongue; no noisome beast can injure, for when one is right with God He makes all things his friends. The habitation of the righteous abides secure, and his posterity shall bear witness to the faithfulness of God. Death but closes with calmness the beautiful picture—the aged saint gathered to his fathers like a shock of corn fully ripe. We can prolong the view in the clearer light of the New Testament, and ask: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?... Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Yes, we may look on beyond the death of the aged saint to the glorious resurrection, and catch the light of the bright hope of the Morning Star: “The Lord Himself shall descend from heaven... and we who are alive shall be caught up... to meet the Lord in the air.”
But of all this neither Eliphaz nor Job thinks, and, as already said, the noble words of our chapter have not the same meaning to him as to us.
Job’s reply to Eliphaz.
In his reply to Eliphaz, as well as in those to each of the others, it is to be noted that Job addressed them unitedly, instead of individually. There is, indeed, an answer to the last speaker in each case, but Job evidently recognizes a unity of sentiment in the attitude of all three; each is the mouthpiece of all; and the answer is accordingly addressed to them collectively.
There is a marked resemblance between this first reply of Job, and the lament with which he began (chap. 3). Other matters enter in here, and there may be, perhaps, a greater measure of self-control in the utterances to Eliphaz, but the burden is the same; his affliction is unspeakably great, there is no possible cure, therefore death would be a welcome relief. There is no gleam of hope amid the gloom; faith is almost completely eclipsed for the time, and there is the sense of God’s wrath which is the forerunner of a doubt of His goodness and justice. As to the friends also, there is the recognition of their failure to act the part of friends, which is paving the way for further alienation, ending in the rough recriminations which follow.
There are two general features in Job’s reply, belonging respectively to the two chapters devoted to it (chaps. 6, 7). In chapter 6, the friends are more directly addressed, while in the latter half of the following chapter, he speaks to God. There is in the whole reply, however, a unity and continuity that encourages us to seek its divisions according to their numerical order and significance; thus:
(1) The reality of his sufferings (chap. 6:1-7).
(2) Longing for death at God’s hand (vers. 8-13).
(3) Friends manifested as useless (vers. 14-23).
(4) Let them truly test him (vers. 24-30).
(5) The brevity of life (chap. 7:21-11).
(6) God his enemy (vers. 12-19).
(7) The appeal in view of sin (vers. 20, 21).
There is a certain measure of similarity between the contents of these divisions and those in the address of Eliphaz. In answer to the reproach for Job’s despair, we have here his reason for it. Eliphaz speaks of God’s favor to the righteous; Job rather craves death at His hand. Eliphaz has a solemn vision of the greatness and holiness of God; Job displays the inadequacy of his friends. In answer to the experience of the friends, Job desires that they would truly test him. In place of the exhortation to seek God, Job sets the misery and brevity of his life. Eliphaz reminds him of God’s assured victory over all devices of the wicked, but Job can only reply that God is his enemy. The close of the friend’s address is a beautiful declaration of the uses of affliction, but Job only answers that it does not seem to apply in his case, else why should not God forgive and show mercy? But we can compare the address and reply as we take up the latter in some detail.
(1) Eliphaz had reproached Job for succumbing to despair, but the patriarch asks him only to weigh his misery; it would be found, in the imagery elsewhere used of numerical greatness, as heavy as the sand of the sea. It is for this reason that his words are “rash” —which is probably the better rendering. Who can refrain from impetuous words when he is pierced with the arrows of the Almighty, and His terrors overshadow him?
Here we have the element in his sufferings which in intensity probably exceeds their physical aspect. It was the sense that God’s wrath was upon him, that the dreadful virus of His indignation was consuming him, that gave a poignancy to his grief. We know this was a mistake, and that it was but another proof of the love of God that His poor servant was being thus chastened. But he did not know it, and we should not be harsh with one who felt that the Lord was dealing bitterly with him. Necessarily he could not have the full light that is now ours, and could not therefore “count it all joy” that he had fallen into such straits. But we can appeal to his own words, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” What has turned him from this resting-place? Dreadful doubts as to God’s love and goodness have begun to gnaw at his heart with a path beyond his bereavements and his sores.
One only, and He for no sin of His own, has felt the arrows of God piercing His holy soul. “Why hast thou forsaken Me?” He asks. But not for one moment does he doubt the holiness or goodness of God. “Thou art holy,” suffices for Him, and in meekness He drinks the bitter cup; perfect in His sufferings, as in all else. God could not for a moment lay upon poor Job—though there was not another like him upon earth—the iniquity of mankind. Blessed be His name, of Another He can say, “I have found a ransom.”
Job uses several figures to show that he has just cause for the complaints for which his friends reproach him. Even an ass or an ox will be content if he has his proper food. If he makes complaint, we know he has not received it. And can job be expected to take his sufferings as if they were pleasant food—swallow them down, more nauseous than the slime of the egg? It is as though he said, “See what loathsome things are set before me, and can you expect me to eat them without a murmur?” His “sorrowful meat” was the things that his soul abhorred.
But is this the language of faith—even of Old Testament faith? What of that noble army of martyrs who “were tortured, not accepting deliverance ... had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings; yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment... destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Heb. 11:35-3835Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35‑38))? Would we expect to hear from these the repinings which fall from Job’s lips? Paul could “take pleasure” in what fell upon him. But Job needs light, and must learn to trust God when he cannot understand Him.
(2) Job has but one thing to ask of God; that He would take his life. This, he says, would be a comfort, for his conscious rectitude would sustain him: he has not rejected God’s words, has not been rebellious against Him. We have here, as throughout his long conflict, a statement of conscious uprightness. While true—as it was indeed the fruit of God’s grace in him—Job is using this righteousness in a self-righteous way, to justify himself at the expense of God’s righteousness; he follows this course until he gets more bold in it. His friends indeed have no answer for it, but God will vindicate Himself.
This part closes with a pitiful plea of his utter weakness and helplessness, which should move the heart of his friends. Is his strength as the strength of stone or brass? Has he any help in himself?
(3) Most forcibly does the poor sufferer strike back at his unfeeling friends. It is a fundamental principle that pity should be shown to a sufferer by his friends, lest, under stress of trial—as some have rendered it— “he should forsake the fear of the Almighty.” Agur therefore prayed that he might be preserved from extreme poverty, “Lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov. 30:99Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. (Proverbs 30:9)). But the hard principle they were applying knew no mercy, felt no sympathy. At the time of his dire need they manifested themselves as utterly unfitted to be friends. The “brother born for adversity” they are not. These “brethren” are like a summer stream, swollen by melting snow and ice in winter, which gives promise of perennial supply for the thirsty, but when the troops of travelers come, they find only the dry stones to mock them. Yet he had asked nothing unreasonable at their hands—no money, nor rescue from the enemy, only a little sympathy.
It was indeed most disappointing. Eliphaz might speak in lofty language of the greatness and faithfulness of God, but what about himself; was he acting the part of a true friend? As thus manifested, Job might say of them, “Lover and friend hast Thou put far from me.” And when these failed, he could not add, “Thou art with me.” How differently speaks Paul: “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me... Notwithstanding the Lord stood by me” (2 Tim. 4:16, 1716At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. 17Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. (2 Timothy 4:16‑17)). Let us learn from Job’s failure not to put the dearest earthly friend between us and God.
“Earthly friends may fail and leave us,
One day soothe, the next day grieve us,
But this Friend will ne’er deceive us,
Oh, how He loves!”
(4) Eliphaz had spoken of his observation and experience, Job now asks that true tests be applied to his own case. Let them prove, according to their rigid rule of “punishment for sin,” that he is the sinner. Theories are all very well in their place, but if based on false premises they utterly fail. “How forcible are right words!” Let them teach him according to truth, and he will be silent; but of what value is all their arguing? They are taking his poor, rash, desperate speeches, forced from him in the desperation of his sufferings, and treating them as if they were the well-considered statements of one who was propounding some philosophic principle. Why could they not make allowance for the anguish which wrings from him utterances which are as “windy words?” They were treating him in the same unfeeling way that marks those who would despoil the fatherless; for were they not trying to engulf him, their friend, and make him out to be like the wicked? These are indeed strong words, but there is a good measure of justification for them. There was a studied heartlessness about the cold words of Eliphaz that seems to furnish ground for the bitterness of Job’s charge. A little later it will be seen that they speak exactly as Job here accuses; he only anticipates their full meaning.
In contrast with their injustice, let them look deliberately at him: is he lying when he protests his uprightness? Let them return from their wholesale charges of evil against him, to the simple and self-evident fact that he is upright, with no iniquity that can explain the tortures to which he is now subjected. He can discern evil, and would not hide it, though it were in himself.
Thus he bids them “try again,” as the word has been rendered, and be fair in their judgment, and see if they can explain the strange anomaly of a good man suffering as he does. It is as great a mystery to him as to them.
We have here the habitual state of Job’s mind throughout all his controversy with his friends. There is a sense of moral rectitude, of genuine fear of God, which he cannot deny. It is the testimony of a good conscience, and it stands as a rock against all the outrageous suspicions and accusations. He holds fast his integrity, and thus proves the falseness of Satan’s malicious charge, and the error of the friends’ principles. Incidentally he disproves his own theory, for he too had thought as they. Indeed, his solution, from which he utterly shrank, was worse than theirs. For surely it is better that Job should fall than God’s honor be touched.
(5) Having challenged his friends to test him, Job now returns to dwell upon his sufferings in view of the brevity of life. These sleepless nights of “tossings to and fro” through months of unrelieved pain, make him long for that “appointed time” for all flesh, with the eager desire of a hireling waiting for the close of his day’s work. Already there are the harbingers of the grave upon him, the worm and the clod; any slight healing of his sores is but the signal for a fresh outbreak of loathsomeness. Like the swift passing of the shuttle in the weaver’s loom, so pass his painful days. Soon they will see him no more, and his life will melt away as the cloud in the blue sky.
This is beautifully poetic, and true so far as man’s view is concerned. “As a flower of the field so he flourisheth, for the wind passeth over it and it is gone, and the place thereof shall know it no more.” It is the dirge of human existence since sin has brought in death. “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him” (Ps. 103:15-18). Ah, Job sees but the dark side, for while turning to God as he does here, it is not of mercy but of wrath that he speaks.
(6) God is his enemy, watching as if he were the tossing sea, ready to overleap its bounds, or some monster of the waters to be taken and destroyed. Day and night His hand was heavy upon him. The fitful sleep as he tossed upon his couch was intolerable by reason of the terrifying dreams which God sent, so that strangling was preferable to the choking dread that filled his soul with terror. Poor sufferer! And he was attributing it to his best Friend!
So he abhors life, and would not live alway. He asks—but in how different a way from the Psalmist: What is poor, puny man that Thou shouldst thus afflict him, that he scarce has time to draw a quiet breath “to swallow down my spittle?” Sad indeed is the case of one who can find no relief even in God.
(7) At last Job will speak of his sin, though most briefly. “I have sinned;” but it is not the true acknowledgment of penitence, rather a hypothetical statement. Granted that I have sinned, what is that to Thee, O watcher of men? Why dost Thou seek me as a mark for Thy weapons instead of pardoning and restoring me to my former prosperity? Instead of that Thou watchest me until I shall sleep in the dust; then I shall be free from the intolerable burden of thy sore afflictions. Such seems to be the meaning of this concluding part. In the writhings of his soul-anguish, Job does not hesitate to accuse God. If he has sinned why does God punish instead of showing mercy? Truly such challenges cannot be allowed to pass.
Thus the first reply closes. It is full of bitterness against man and God. Justified partly in what he says of man, Job appears throughout as one whose sufferings had absorbed him in selfishness. He sees no mercy in God, and therefore the only future he dwells upon is one of escape from His presence. This is not even an Old Testament view of the future, as we have already seen, but the one-sided view of a morbidly wretched man. We pity him, though, thank God, he no longer needs it, but we cannot endorse his unbelief. He too will ere long tell a different story, and out of his sorrow will come the morning of joy.
2. Bildad’s address and Job’s reply
The first of the friends has spoken and been answered by Job. Bildad now takes up what is fast becoming a controversy. There is perhaps less of the courtesy and dignity which marked the speech of Eliphaz, together with some harshness toward Job, caused apparently by the bitter charge of the latter against God. With all his ignorance of divine principles, Bildad is jealous of the honor of God, and cannot allow Him to be accused. In this he is surely right, but he fails to convince Job because of the root error in the thoughts, indeed, of them all: God must punish sin, and Job must be a sinner for he is being punished.
To establish this, Bildad refers not merely to his own experience as had Eliphaz, but calls upon all the gathered wisdom of the past for confirmation. What is God’s way with the wicked? And does He not recompense the way of the righteous unto him?
In reply Job is more subdued, and practically acknowledges the truth of Bildad’s contention as to God’s ways, but gives a twist to the whole by saying that God’s justice is nothing but His power in another form. No one can maintain his cause before Him, because He is almighty, and can not be reached. His judgments are arbitrary, but no one can question them, nor is there a daysman, an advocate, to plead the cause of the wretched. This brings Job back to his original complaint and longing for death. We will now briefly examine the details of each of these speeches.
Bildad’s Address.
This may be divided into five parts, suggesting the righteousness of God’s judgments and the certainty of His recompense, both upon the wicked and the just.
(1) He reproaches Job (vers. 1, 2).
(2) Is God unjust? (vers. 3-7).
(3) The light of the past (vers. 8-10).
(4) The way of the wicked (vers. 11-19).
(5) Divine recompense for the righteous (vers. 20-22).
(1) Job’s words are like a strong wind, a blast of bitter complaint, and still more bitter charge against God. How long is he going to utter such things? This is a harsh, but, we may well say, just, correction of the irreverent and extreme rashness of Job’s words. Perhaps sympathy might have pursued a gentler course, but when a man begins to charge God it is well to rebuke him sharply.
(2) Bildad asks Job a plain question, “Doth God pervert judgment?” Is He unrighteous? For anyone who knows Him there can be but one answer. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” He would not be God, if He were not perfectly righteous. This shows the dreadful precipice to which Job was approaching, goaded on by this false principle that God always punishes for sin. Job was not a sinner; therefore God was unjust! Fearful reasoning this, in which both the premise and the statement of fact are wrong and in which the conclusion is blasphemous. Why did not Job, and Bildad also, pause and ask if there was not something wrong in the premise: Does God always punish for sin alone? Why does not Job consider the statement of facts; is he sinless? But this will come out in due time. We will follow Bildad.
He proposes two proofs of God’s justice, the first of which is, to say the least, most arbitrary and unkind. We may read verse 4, “When thy children sinned against Him, He gave them over to the hand of their wickedness.” In other words Bildad assumes that Job’s children had reaped the due reward of their wickedness, and had been cut off; “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.” This is indeed most lacerating to a parent’s feelings, who had found no evidence of such wickedness in his children, and who had carefully watched over their spiritual state. Bildad is driven to this by his wrong theory of God’s ways.
Next, he proves the justice of those ways by telling Job there is restoring mercy for him, if he will but turn in prayer to God— “If thou art pure and upright” —there is a strong suggestion of suspicion here—God will restore all, and bless Job’s latter end. This indeed was fulfilled, but in a vastly different way from what Bildad expected; Job is blessed not for his purity, nor because of confession of suspected evil.
(3) Bildad here seeks confirmation of his contention from the wisdom of past ages. He goes beyond Eliphaz, “For we are but as children of yesterday.” While this is true, what does the garnered wisdom of all the past give us when it is a question of God’s truth? It is not to the past that we are to turn, but to God and His word. How immeasurably superior is the position of those who have the “sure word of prophecy,” “the oracles of God.”
(4) In this portion Bildad traces the way of the wicked; and there is much truth in what he says, though it, is not all the truth. Can the water-reed, or papyrus, flourish without moisture? It grows luxuriantly when water is about its roots; as soon as that is exhausted, it withers more quickly than all other herbs. So is the prosperity of the wicked, who for a time spreads himself as a green bay tree. The hope of the ungodly—not merely the hypocrite—perisheth. Changing his figure, Bildad likens the confidence of the wicked to one leaning upon a spider’s web; how pitiable is the plight of one vainly clinging to so frail a thing! Once more in the exuberance of his metaphors, he likens this passing prosperity to a luxuriant vine covering a heap of stones in the garden, filled with sap and vigor in the bright sunshine. Soon God cuts him off, and “the place that once knew him shall know him no more.” Others shall take his place.
(5) Lastly Bildad reminds Job of the sure recompense for the righteous. God will not join hands with evil doers by punishing the righteous; He will fill Job’s mouth with laughter and his tongue with singing, and all iniquity shall stop its mouth, if—
Job’s reply to Bildad.
Job’s reply, beginning in quietness, passing on to bitter charges of God, and ending in a wail, may be divided into seven parts; he sounds all the heights and depths of misery in this complete survey of his case.
(1) God supreme; who can contend with Him? (vers. 1-4).
(2) His resistless power (vers. 5-10).
(3) His inaccessibility, and arbitrary dealing (vers. 11-24).
(4) Job’s utter weakness (vers. 25-28).
(5) Longing for a daysman (vers. 29-35).
(6) The complaint against God (ch. 10:1-17).
(7) Longing for death (vers. 18-22).
(1) Although he speaks quietly, there is an intense bitterness in what Job says here. Apparently agreeing with Bildad that God is just, Job says, “Of course He is just, for there is no appeal from whatever He does. He has both wisdom and power, and can overwhelm any vain attempt to reason with Him.” This is terrible. It is not one presuming in all lowliness to ask God for a reason, as Jeremiah under similar circumstances does (Jer. 12:1-41Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? 2Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins. 3But thou, O Lord, knowest me: thou hast seen me, and tried mine heart toward thee: pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. 4How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end. (Jeremiah 12:1‑4)), but rather the hardness of despair—might is right; and God has might on His side.
(2) In this part Job enlarges upon the power and greatness of God. The language is noble, the description true, but underneath lies the awful doubt of this great and powerful Being’s goodness. God overturns the unconscious mountains in His wrath; He makes the earth to tremble. Passing from earth to heaven, He causes the sun and stars to cease their shining. Returning to earth He walks upon the raging waves of the sea. He is the Creator of those distant glorious constellations—Arcturus in the north; Orion “sloping downward toward the west;” Pleiades in the east, and the unknown “chambers of the south,” toward the horizon and beyond view. These are marvelous sweeps of language, taking in the whole heavens; but, alas, it is not, “The heavens declare the glory of God,” but rather a declaration of absolute, resistless Power.
(3) Coming to the heart of his trouble, Job declares, in language whose poetic beauty is only exceeded by the misery of his plaint, that he can have no access to this great and mighty Being who hides Himself, and gives no account to any of His ways. He passes by, viewless as the winds; He deals in anger, but none can ask a reason, not even the “proud helpers” —the “helpers of Rahab” (Egypt), they can only bow under Him. How much less can poor Job address Him, even though he knew the righteousness of his cause, save as a cringing suppliant before his Judge! He would scarcely believe it if God did answer him, but would expect rather to be crushed in a tempest and further wounded without cause—beaten down into bitter helplessness, and not suffered to take a breath! Yes, if it is strength you speak of, “He is strong;” if justice, “Who will plead with Him?” Job adds, even if he were right, his own mouth would be forced to condemn him; and if he were perfect God would declare him guilty! Even if he knew himself innocent, he is all at sea and despairs of his life. God is a destroyer alike of guilty and innocent, at whose passing away He mocks. The earth is in the hands of the wicked: is it not so? Who else has done this unrighteousness? Oh Job, for these words thou shalt yet abhor thyself, and repent in dust and ashes.
Identifying himself with the innocent sufferers at whose passing away God laughs, Job describes his own utter weakness, and the brevity of his life. He has forgotten all his former prosperity, and draws similes of the evanescence of life from earth and sea and sky. His days are like the swift postman who runs with his message; like the ships, passing along the horizon; or like an eagle swiftly dashing out of sight in pursuit of prey. At the suggestion that he forget his troubles and try to look bravely forward, as Bildad had urged, he can but shudder at his sorrows, his pains, for he knows God will not hold him innocent. So he is held in his misery as in a vise.
Continuing, Job hints that there is no use in his making any effort to clear himself: if he is already pronounced wicked, he labors in vain to convince God that he is not; he may wash his hands in innocency, in snow water, only to be taken by this resistless Power and plunged into the ditch! Vain are all efforts to alter the judgment, and oh—where is there a daysman, a mediator who could enter into judgment, laying his hands upon God and Job alike? Consumed with terror, Job cannot speak. Thank God, we know, as Job later knew in part, that there is such a Daysman.
Words fail to describe the misery of Job which would lead him to speak thus against God. It is not the bodily suffering which has wrung this bitter cry from him, but he has lost, or is in danger of losing, faith in God’s goodness. There is scarcely a gleam of light in his whole speech, and in the closing part (chap. 10) he lets himself loose in the dark despair which has settled down upon his soul. He is weary of life, and might as well pour out all his thoughts against God. He does not stand, as the poet has described a despairing man,
“Deep into that darkness peering,
Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream
but rather pours out all those thoughts before the eye of God. May not this very abandonment of misery suggest the root of faith in his heart? He will at least tell God to His face that he doubts Him: “though He slay me.” He will ask God why He thus contends with him—is it any pleasure to Him to despise the work of His own hands, and allow the wicked to go unpunished? Does God judge according to the flesh, failing to see the inward parts? Are His days so brief that He must punish evil before it is manifested—nay, when He knows a man is innocent? “Wilt Thou pursue a worm to death?” Will He take the frail being whom His hands have fashioned with such skill, as the delicate clots of milk—as the “curiously wrought” substance of skin and flesh, bones and sinews (see Ps. 139:15, 16), and bring them back to their parent dust? God has given him breath and life, and yet has hidden enmity in His heart against His own handiwork!
“Thou madest death; and lo, Thy foot
Is on the skull that Thou hast made.”
If he sins, God would note it, and woe be to him; if he is innocent he dare not lift his head, for God would quickly hunt him as a fierce lion seeking his prey. God would display His wondrous power, and bring up witnesses against him like a countless host of invaders. In other words Job declares he is at the mercy of an almighty, arbitrary enemy!
(7) And so this awful plaint goes on to its close. The wailing passes from blaming God for His injustice to lamenting his birth. Pitifully, Job asks a brief respite, a surcease of sorrow before he goes hence and is no more. It is the lament again of chapter 3.
3.—Zophar’s Address and Job’s Reply. (chaps. 11-14.)
It has been thought, with some degree of probability, that Zophar was the youngest of the three friends. He is the last to speak, and his address, while of the same general character as that of the other two, is more intense, lacking in the dignity of Eliphaz and in the argumentative ability of Bildad. He may be said to make up in vehemence what he lacks in reason, and this leads him into harshness and brutal rudeness ill calculated to soothe the sore spirit of the sufferer. Besides this, he, in common with the other three, utterly fails to explain the dark enigma of Job’s trouble, and by his theory of suffering being for sins committed, plunges the already distracted man more deeply into the darkness.
In his reply, Job far exceeds Zophar in breadth of thought as well as in vigor of expression. Indeed, it may be remarked that in all the controversy Job has the advantage. This does not mean that he had greater ability than his friends, but that their views were narrower. This confined them to a narrow scope, where each one was compelled to reiterate in some form the statements of his predecessor. On the other hand Job, while without the key which will solve the mystery of his sufferings, takes far wider flights. He goes beyond his friends in their own theme, and passes from that to higher, though more dreadful, thoughts. It can be seen that his mental suffering is intense, as he is driven by his very theory, which is that of the others, to question the goodness and the justice of God. While they falsely accuse him of evil he knows he is guiltless, and this drives him nearer to the awful rocks of regarding God as using His almighty power in an arbitrary and unjust way. Will he suffer shipwreck, or shall his faith hold even over the chasm of his doubts?
Zophar’s Address.
The similarity of Zophar’s address to that of Bildad can be gathered from the divisions into which it falls.
(1) Job’s torrent of words rebuked (vers. 1-6).
(2) The greatness of God (vers. 7-9).
(3) All things open to Him (vers. 10-12).
(4) The call to repent (vers. 13-15).
(5) The peaceable results (vers. 16-20).
(1) It is surely most unfair to characterize the writhings of an evidently upright soul as “a multitude (or torrent) of words,” and himself as “a man of lips.” What fairness is there in calling Job’s cries out of the depths “lies,” or his keen thrusts as “mockery”? On the other hand, Job had indeed declared himself and his doctrine pure, and could Zophar have disproved this it would have gone far to help the matter. But without proof he charges Job with being such a grievous sinner that even his present sufferings were less than his desert, and he would associate God with this dreadful charge. While perfectly true that divine wisdom is double our highest thoughts of it, he cannot associate that wisdom with unfair suspicions or unjust charges.
(2) This, the finest part of the address, is an enlargement upon what he had just said. He associates divine wisdom with God the Almighty, as in Prov. 8; but he does not carry the thought as far as in that sublime passage, where we see wisdom personified in the Son of God. It is, however, a noble description of God, and we can hardly avoid the conviction that a man who could speak thus was not ignorant of the true God. Ascend up to heaven, we find Wisdom; descend into Sheol, it is still there; the earth for length, the sea for breadth, cannot compass the measure of this attribute of God. We are reminded of two passages, Ps. 139 in the Old Testament, and Eph. 3 in the New, where the presence and power of God are similarly described. But the Psalmist rejoices in that he cannot
“Drift beyond His love and care;”
and in the New Testament, we are overwhelmed, not by a dark and inscrutable mystery or an implacable avenger, but by “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.”
(3) We can only bow to the truth that God is the searcher of hearts, and that nothing can escape His all-seeing eye. He knows the empty vanity of the natural man’s heart, who by birth is as a wild ass’s colt, and needs to be born again if any true knowledge of God is to be had. This interpretation of ver. 12 seems to give a clear and consistent meaning.
(4) But Zophar spoils the dignity of what he had just said, by calling upon Job to repent as an evildoer having a store of ill-gotten wealth in his tents. It is this utter lack of discrimination that stirs Job to anger, and discloses the superficial nature of the friends’ theory.
(5) The conclusion is like singing songs to one who is heavy of heart. Zophar paints a beautiful outcome—as imaginary as were the sins imputed to Job. He would then forget his present troubles, which would slip by him as passing waters; his darkness would be turned to light; he would have security and prosperity, and former calumniators would bow before him. Little did Zophar and his friend dream that they would have to come to this. The closing verse is a warning which Zophar no doubt applies to Job.
Job’s Reply.
The fullness of Job’s response to Zophar is striking. In it he practically turns from his friends to God; but alas, to find no answer to his awful terror of doubt and darkness. The discourse may be divided into three main parts.
(1) He answers his friends (chaps. 12:1-13; 13).
(2) He challenges God (chap. 13:14-28).
(3) A hope of immortality amid despair (chap. 14).
(1) Stung by the charges and platitudes of the friends, Job meets them with bitter sarcasm, followed quickly by the charge of their mocking him. They are at ease, while cherishing their unjust suspicions of him. He almost compares them to robbers, who hold their booty undisturbed (vers. 1-6).
Creation—in earth and air and sea—will confirm him in witnessing that God is everywhere and does everything. His deduction from this, however, leads him dangerously near charging God with being the author of evil. He would appeal to age and experience to confirm this. If he means simply that God is omnipotent, all would at once acquiesce, but the words following show that his gloomy mind and distorted vision are dwelling upon the dark side of nature. It is in this that his danger lies (vers. 7-13).
None, no matter how exalted, can escape Him. He breaks down, and ruin is the result. He shuts, and none can open; He withholds water and a drought results, or releases it only to overwhelm in a flood. All —judges, kings, princes and priests—are held up to contempt by this Almighty One.
Job’s Reply to Zophar.
Truly this is right, if they deserve it, but Job omits that side (vers. 14-21).
Similarly, the nations rise and fall at His word. It is indeed a great but most sombre picture of omnipotence. We can only shudder at the awful sight. Job’s misery has cast a baleful light upon all God’s greatness. How different is the language of faith: “God is our refuge and strength... therefore will we not fear... Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46). This closes the reply to the second part of Zophar’s speech upon the greatness of God (vers. 22-25).
Next, Job boldly charges his friends with being false witnesses for God, in that they used well-known truths with which all were familiar, to confirm their charge of Job’s wickedness. What kind of physicians were they to treat a case like this? They have decided what his disease is, and misrepresent his symptoms to confirm their diagnosis! And they bring in their theory of God’s invariable punishment for sin in this life to prove that Job is a sinner! Job turns from them in disgust (ch. 13:1-5). He warns them of the unrighteousness of their course. They presume to lie for God! For are they not falsely accusing an innocent man? Are they not afraid to trifle with truth, and will not God deal with them? —for they are but men. Poor Job, he is the victim of the same false theory, and is in danger of blasphemously charging God with injustice. He seems to feel his danger, but he must speak; so he turns from man’s unjust surmisings to God (vers. 6-13).
(2) So the frail creature takes his life in his hand and stands before his Maker. God can but strike dead one who has no hope, but Job must speak out and maintain his ways as upright before God. This is the thought which seems most in accord with what goes before. On the other hand, many, perhaps most, prefer the rendering of our Authorized Version: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” If it should be rendered thus, it would be a gleam of light in the midst of awful darkness, and seems to agree with what follows. Conscious of personal rectitude, Job seems to think that there may be hope. At any rate, he must speak (vers. 14-19).
But how dare he speak before that One from whose presence he would instinctively flee? Let Him at least remove the awful dread that chills Job’s heart, and relieve him of his pain, and he will answer or address Him. How these words, beautiful in their very anguish, cry aloud for the blessed Daysman, the Mediator! Blessed be God, we can “come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Job could only grope in darkness:”
“An infant crying in the night,
An infant crying for the light,
And with no language but a cry.”
So he appeals, and is ready to ask for charges against him (vers. 20-23).
And yet immediately he renews his charges against God, for he is not yet ready to be stripped of all his fancied righteousness. God holds him as an enemy; drives him as a withered leaf before the blast; accuses him of those almost forgotten sins of youth (ah, Job, it seems that even you must acknowledge there have been sins); He watches him, and makes his fancied robe of righteousness look like a moth-eaten garment. So Job charges his Maker, and does not pause to hear what He will reply (vers. 24-28).
(3) The close of this address, bringing to an end the first series in the controversy, is a most beautiful dirge, descriptive of the frailty and uncertainty of human life. Man cometh up like a flower, and is cut down and withereth. We are listening to the wail of the 90th psalm, but without its faith in God, and not yet followed by the triumph of the 91st psalm.
But how sadly true are vers. 1, 2! And will the mighty God enter into judgment with such a frail creature—not only frail but impure by nature! Ah, let Job ponder well his own words. But he passes on in self-pity to beg that he be let alone for a little, until as a hireling he completes his day! (vers. 3-6).
Looking onward to death, Job expresses the hopelessness of man by contrast with the rejuvenation of trees which, though cut down, send up fresh shoots from their roots. But it is not so with man; he breathes his last, and where is he? He lies down and rises no more, so long as earth and heaven remain. This is not exactly the language of unbelief, nor yet of faith. It is one speaking as a man, and of things upon earth. It resembles much the thought in Ecclesiastes: “That which now is, in the days to come shall all be forgotten” (Eccl. 2:1616For there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. (Ecclesiastes 2:16)). Thank God, even in the Old Testament there was more light (vers. 7-12).
Job next seems to give expression to a hope—vague and marred by evil thoughts of God—of a bright hereafter. He desires to be hidden from God in Sheol until this mighty Being had changed His mind and ceased to pursue His creature. Job would patiently wait till that change came. Then, God would regard him; but now He only watched him in enmity! Inexpressibly sad is this, for a man who knew God. But such is unbelief even in a saint. We can catch the gleam of faith in the desire and the question, and know that one day Job will see clearly, and repent of these utterances (vers. 13-17).
Again the darkness shuts down upon his soul, and Job describes man as a mountain once strong, but now prostrate, and worn away by the onrushing waters. Death’s shadow falls upon the face once bright and smiling, and we bury our dead out of our sight. A man’s sons come to honor and are brought low, but “the dead know not anything.” A man lives, suffers, groans and dies—and that is all!
“Oh, life as futile, then, as frail—
What hope for answer or redress?”
And so Job ends his series of replies to the first assault of his friends. Little has been gained but a sense of the injustice of man and an awful suspicion of God on Job’s part, and on the part of his friends a determination to press him further with charges of sin and wickedness until he shall break down. Thus are we by no means at the end of our book.
There is practically little new in this second series of the friends’ addresses. Indeed, the principle to which they were committed gave little room for new or wider thoughts. They could only reiterate their contention, cite the teachings of others and their own experience and observation, with varied, true and beautiful illustrations drawn from many sources. But the narrowness of their view vitiates all they say, for they are seeking to reach a conclusion entirely contrary to facts. We need not wonder therefore that the discussion loses the courtesy which to some extent marked its beginning, and takes on more the character of threatening and denunciation. They will make up in vehemence and brutality what they lack in proof; they will crush Job by the weight of their charges, and in this way vindicate their own attitude. It is noteworthy also that the appeal to God has less the ring of sincerity and of applicability in it. There is no progress, and each plows in the furrow made by his predecessor.
We may note also that no promises are held out to Job, as at the first, upon his repentance. In their eagerness to convict him they seem to lose sight of a possible recovery. And if the element of hope is wanting, what is left? So their charges but tend to produce despair.
While they all follow the same line of thought, the individuality of each speaker is apparent. Eliphaz enlarges upon the principle that God surely punishes the evil-doer in this life: Bildad emphasizes this without even a semblance of argument; while Zophar with his accustomed vehemence depicts the inevitable doom of the wicked in spite of short-lived prosperity.
On the other hand Job meets each one on his own ground, and gives scorn for scorn, stroke for stroke, charge for charge. In addition, he enlarges upon the anomaly of his unspeakable sufferings in connection with his reiterated innocence. He not only charges his friends with hardness and impiety, but cannot hide the awful fact from himself that God is against him. It is this that burns in his soul—the suspicion that God is not good and just.
And yet the faint flashers of faith we have already seen, break out here into brighter hope. The very fact that he appeals to God bringing his doubts and fears to Him, shows that faith has not failed, and cannot. Therefore we find here the noble outburst, which has expressed the faith of the saints of all ages— “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”
Yet Job’s enigma is not solved, and the dark shadow of death looms before him, with little to cheer. But we must not anticipate.
The section falls, as the first, into three parts, the address of each friend with Job’s reply.
1. Eliphaz: the inevitable judgment of the wicked in this life. Job’s reply (chaps. 15-17).
2. Bildad: the sure doom of the wicked. Job’s reply (chaps. 18, 19).
3. Zophar: the certain and terrible doom of the wicked, in spite of short-lived prosperity. Job’s reply (chaps. 20, 21).
1. Eliphaz’s Address
As already remarked, Eliphaz loses in this second address the measure of courtesy and hopefulness he had shown at first. We may divide what he says into 5 parts:
(1) Job self-condemned (chap. 15:1-6).
(2) Is he wiser or better than others? (vers. 7-13).
(3) The holiness of God (vers. 14-16).
(4) The experience of the wicked (vers. 17-24).
(5) Their retribution (vers. 25-35).
(1) Is it wisdom, he asks, for one who presumes to be wise, to pour out empty words like a blast of the east wind—a dry, withering thing? Job had indeed laid himself open to the charge of casting off fear, in his intemperate language, which was the opposite of prayer or devotion. His own words, says Eliphaz, confirm the suspicions and charges of the friends—of wickedness and impiety. But in accusing Job of craftiness, he charges what is untrue; for the poor sufferer had poured out his wretchedness with no regard for consequences. Whatever he is, Job is no hypocrite.
(2) He next challenges Job: Where has he gained superior wisdom to them? Has he been in the secret counsel of God from the beginning, before the earth and hills were made? Only divine Wisdom, the eternal Son, could claim such a relation to God as that (Prov. 8). As for Job, he is like themselves, only with less experience than many to whom Eliphaz could appeal. Being no wiser than others, why does he refuse the “consolations of God” which these friends were ministering to him? It certainly requires a stretch of imagination to call their galling words—like vinegar upon niter—by such a tender term. The second part of this verse should probably reiterate the first, “And the word gently spoken to thee?” Why, he asks, does Job’s eyes flash the rebellion of his wayward heart, instead of bowing to the charges of the friends? This he reckons as turning from God—a charge of heresy against one who does not bow to his inquisitors—which is common enough.
(3) Eliphaz repeats the statement of his first address as to the holiness of God (chap. 4:17-19). Truly none is like unto Him in whose presence the seraphim veil their faces, as they cry, “Holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts.” If the very heavens are unclean in His sight, how much less is mortal sinful man! But is not Eliphaz one of these, as well as the poor sufferer? Why then apply it to Job as though it proved him a sinner above all others? This, surely, is more like crafty speech than all the hot utterances of Job. Let Eliphaz take his place beside Job and confess that he too is “abominable and filthy.” The poor sufferer might have responded to that.
(4) Eliphaz next takes the familiar ground of experience and observation, calling to his aid those wise men whose freedom from foreign admixture made them especially authoritative. This wisdom, he assures Job, has discovered the wretchedness of the wicked. A sword, as of Damocles, ever hangs over their guilty head; even in outward prosperity the dreadful knell of doom sounds in their ear. The evil man has no hope of escaping the darkness; while he seeks his food, he expects the blow to fall—the “king of terrors” will smite him. Is Eliphaz trying to terrify Job, or is it an echo of the distant fears of his own heart?
(5) He concludes the dreadful picture with a narration of the retributive consequences of awful impiety. This imaginary wicked person had stretched out his hand against the Almighty; with stiff neck, and thick bosses of wickedness as a shield, dared to defy God! He had enjoyed the temporary good things of life, his eyes stood out with fatness, he had lived in houses marked for desolation without a thought of change, but his substance fails, the darkness falls, the fire reaches him, and he perishes at the breath of God! Fearsome picture indeed—and he thinks he is describing Job! We might say he is subjecting the poor distracted sufferer to the “third degree” of probing and accusation to make him cry out for very terror. He lingers over the picture: Let the wicked not trust in vanity, for it shall be his recompense. His branch shall wither, his fruit shall be cast off, hypocrisy and bribery shall receive their appointed penalty!
Could anyone but an innocent man stand up under the awful thunder of such denunciation? Were Job the man they have determined him to be, he must be crushed beneath the dreadful avalanche. But what has he to answer?
Job’s Reply
Two things strike us in his answer to Eliphaz: First, nothing that has been said has touched Job’s conscience, and this accounts for his moral indignation against his accusers. Second, he is so occupied with his relationship to God that other things are of minor importance. This shows the reality of the man’s faith—he must understand God. This indeed is the main theme of the entire book—the vindication of God’s ways and of His holiness in dealing with men.
We may divide this reply, as we did the address of Eliphaz, into five parts:
(1) He reproaches them for their heartlessness (ch. 16:1-5).
(2) Under the wrath of God and the hatred of man (vers. 6-14).
(3) He appeals to God in it all (vers. 25-22).
(4) The experience of bitter trial (ch. 17:1-12).
(5) The dark outlook toward the grave (vers. 13-16).
(1) Eliphaz had spoken of their addresses to Job (of that part, doubtless, which promised restoration upon repentance) as “the consolations of God;” Job characterizes them as “miserable comforters.” Is there to be no end of windy words? Had the friends not exhausted their stock of accusations? What stirs up Eliphaz to speak further, with nothing new to say? Job himself could easily treat them after their fashion, were conditions reversed; but he would on the contrary have sought to impart consolation.
The friends had certainly laid themselves open to this rebuke. They have violated all the God-given safeguards of friendship, had given the lie to all their former confidence, and treated Job as a stranger of whom they knew nothing, and whose past life could only be deduced from his present condition. It was indeed an outrage upon the name of friendship, and we can well sympathize with the disappointment and indignation of Job at such treatment. His life had been lived before them in all uprightness, and now to be accused by them of hypocrisy was bitter indeed. How cruel is the goading of conscience under a false principle!
If we turn to another Sorrow, compared with which Job’s anguish was as nothing, what do we find there but meekness, patience, confidence in God, in the face of bitter enmity from those who “laid things to my charge which I knew not;” “who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” In this, as in all else, there is none like Him.
(2) Turning to God, in whom he should have found abundant consolation, Job charges Him as the author of his misery and suffering, But his complaint and hot words give him no relief. “Thou hast made desolate all my company,” or household. His emaciated body he counts as evidence of the wrath of God which tears him as would a beast! Truly, Job does not measure his words. He sees only bitter suffering inflicted without cause, and is unwilling or unable to trust God in the dark. This is Job’s great error, and linked with it a protestation of righteousness as if he deserved credit for that. Here lies something to be probed into, which all the insinuations and charges of his friends cannot touch. How can the root of this trouble be reached?
In his blind misery Job links the scoffs of the ungodly, glad at his calamity, with the hand of God. It is difficult in these words of Job to separate between God and evil men; in his blurred view they are all acting together. What awful language to use of God: “He hath also taken me by my neck and shaken me to pieces” —like a wild beast rending its prey, or a mighty giant running upon a puny victim to destroy it.
Let us read the account of our Lord’s sufferings at the hands of man and of God, and we find no confusing of the two, nor any charging God with evil. “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion... My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and Thou hast brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet... But be not Thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste Thee to help me” (Ps. 22:12-19). God had been His trust from infancy; His soul still rested upon His goodness and righteousness when all the waves and billows of judgment rolled over Him.
“Oh, what a load was Thine to bear,
Alone in that dark hour;
Our sins in all their terror there,
God’s wrath and Satan’s power.”
Let everything go—man’s favor, life itself, and the smile of God—out of the gloom and thick blackness of God’s forsaking we hear a cry reaching to the throne of the Eternal, “THOU ART HOLY.” Blessed be God for One who, while suffering thus for us, did not swerve from perfect trust in Him who had forsaken Him for our sakes.
(3) Poor Job fails to see God in His unchanging love through all these sufferings, and each pang he endures, every tear he sheds, all the humiliation to which he is subjected, is a fresh charge against God. And yet, not altogether, for there is real faith in his heart. While he would let his blood cry for vengeance like Abel’s, he instinctively knows there is a just God in heaven who has the record of his life, to whom he can appeal against the false charges of his friends. He knows, not fully, for He has not yet seen, that there is One who pleads for him before God. What he longs for, we know that we have—One that pleads for us with God as a man pleads for his neighbor. We know a High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who “ever liveth to make intercession for us.”
But the very fact that Job longs for such an intercessor shows the faith hidden in his soul, which will soon say, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” Meanwhile he looks down to the grave, without a pause for God to speak to him.
(4) He is marked for death, his very breath declares the corruption for which the grave yawns; and “friends” stand by and mock!
In the next verse (ch. 17:3), Job turns from man to God. Men are ignorant and mere flatterers who cannot be trusted—or, as it has been rendered, “He who giveth his friends for spoil, the eyes of his children shall languish.” Thus he threatens his friends for their disloyalty.
Again he mars his testimony by charging his misery upon God as well as man, and declaring that upright persons are stumbled by his sufferings. However, in spite of all, Job keeps on his steadfast way. In relation to the assault of the friends, however, there is a tone of self-complacency which is not exactly suitable to the truly lowly. Verse 10 seems to be a challenge to continue their assaults, since they utterly fail in the discernment which marks the wise. They are holding out light to him, if penitent, while he is drawing ever nearer to death.
(5) His face is now turned toward the gloom of death, with scant gleam of hope of anything beyond. Evidently his spirit has not yet found rest, and victory is not yet his. But, unlike the friends, he sometimes has his face in the right direction, and were his mouth but closed long enough to hear God speaking to him, he would see the full deliverance which comes to those who justify the Lord.
But how doleful are his thoughts; he is related to corruption and the worm, and hope finds little that is congenial amid such dark and gruesome surroundings.
2. Bildad’s Second Address, and Job’s Reply. (chaps. 18, 19.)
The principal difference between Bildad’s address and that of Eliphaz is the brevity of the former. He follows the lead of Eliphaz largely, but in a manner all his own. His address abounds in beautiful poetic imagery and true declarations as to the inevitable doom of the wicked; but it is beside the mark in that it utterly fails to establish any relation between Job and the wicked whose end he so graphically describes. His address may be divided into six portions, the last being a brief concluding word.
(1) Fresh reproach (chap. 18:1-3).
(2) The sure doom of the wicked (vers. 4-7).
(3) A snare falls upon him (vers. 8-11).
(4) Disease and death his portion (vers. 12-15),
(5) Root and branch dried up (vers. 16-19).
(6) The end of his day (vers. 20, 21).
(1) As usual in the later speeches, the address opens with a reproach, indicating the absence of the courtesy which marked the first address of Eliphaz. Bildad, who is quite moderate in the length of his speeches, accuses Job of multiplying words, and of being so full of talk that he will not listen to others. It is noteworthy that Bildad addresses Job as if others were associated with him: “How long will ye hunt for words?” as verse 2 has been rendered. This does not necessarily mean that others were directly associated with Job at that time and place, but he is looked upon as the representative of the whole class of those who would question the position of the friends. But, as we know, Job, at least in his opposition to their contention, was maintaining the truth: we may think of him as standing at the head of that great company of the righteous who have passed through deep suffering without any apparent reason. If Job had used strong language, there had been great provocation in the charges of the friends.
Taking up his charges, Bildad reminds Job that all his lamentations are unavailing: he is only tearing himself in vain rage—a most unkind description of the laments of the afflicted man. He goes on to tell him that all his cries will not change the fixed order of the earth; it will not become desolate for his sake, nor will the stable rock of retribution for evil be moved out of its place. The light of the wicked may burn brightly for a little while, as Job’s had done, but it would be put out. The light of home, with its beckoning attraction, would vanish. His vigorous steps would begin to falter, and he would fall by his own evil counsel.
When we remember that by implication all this referred to Job, we can imagine how galling it was to his bruised spirit. It was painful enough to lose all he once had, and have the bright light quenched which once glowed in his hospitable tent; but to have this, and the inroads of the dread disease which was gnawing at his vitals and sapping his strength, cited as proof of his wickedness, was intolerable to human nature. It is as though he were saying, “Now we have found you out; you are reaping the fruit of your sin, and all this misery is a visitation from God for your wickedness.”
(3) It is this retribution that Bildad enlarges upon, using imagery whose pungency would burn like salt upon raw flesh. He tells him that the wicked is driven into the net by his own feet, whose perverse ways carry him into those paths whose end is destruction. True, he was stating a solemn fact as to the wicked, but it remained to be proved that Job was such. He declares that, all unknown to himself, the wicked walked over a snare which would take him when he least expected it: “The wicked is snared in the works of his hands.” Repeating this with painful reiteration, Bildad assures Job of the certainty of the heel being caught in a trap, of a noose encircling him, as verse 9 has been rendered. The snare, skillfully covered in the earth, is ready for him; the net in his path is ready to enclose him as an unwary bird. No wonder that terrors affrighted him on every side, and fill him with dread at every step. Bildad selected words rich in poetic imagery, to force upon Job—what is untrue!
(4) But the captivity of the wicked will not satisfy the stern denouncer of evil; he must smite even unto death. So in this portion he traces the misery of the evil-doer until he falls into the jaws of death. His “calamity,” as the word is rendered, preferably to “strength,” is represented as a beast with hunger gnawing at it, ready to pounce upon him as he falls. Surely Job had felt this in the calamities which had come upon him. In the following verses there is even a closer description of the miseries of the afflicted patriarch. Calamity devoured the various parts of his skin, and “the firstborn of death” (a solemn and poetic description of the bodily disease which devoured Job) devours his members, and leads him on to death, “the king of terrors.” Strangers inhabit his tent, and brimstone—the final judgment of God—is showered upon his abode. It has been thought that in this last we have an allusion to “the fire of God” which fell upon Job’s property, and the destruction of his family. But at any rate, the general meaning of fierce judgment is apparent.
(5) Bildad next describes the overthrow of the evil man’s family, or rather of himself and family. Changing the metaphor, as he had already done, from the snares of various kinds to the extinguishing of the light in a home, he now likens the evil man to a tree, whose root withers in the parched land of his affliction, and the branches are lopped off—as the cutting off of Job’s children. All this is scripturally accurate. Does not the Psalmist say, “I have seen the wicked... spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not” (Ps. 37:35, 36); and, “Cursed be the man... whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert” (Jer. 17:5, 65Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. 6For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. (Jeremiah 17:5‑6)). As repeatedly said, the fault lies in the application of such words to a man whose life gave the lie to their insistent charges of flagrant wickedness. Pursuing his theme, Bildad declares that name and remembrance shall fail the evil man “the memory of the wicked shall rot” —he is driven off into darkness and none of his kin shall escape the disaster. Here is a sharp thrust at the bereaved parent, which must have made him wince with pain, though not in guilt.
With this parting stab, Bildad closes his speech, reserving as a conclusion the declaration that all behold the fall of the wicked, both east and west (rather than “those who went before” and “come after”) and be filled with dread. Thus are the wicked recompensed.
Job’s Reply.
No matter how greatly pained he might be at the cruel language of Bildad, Job’s reply does not indicate the slightest consciousness of guilt such as had been laid at his door. Indeed, as ever, he more than holds his own against the sharp lash of calumny, and with far more justice than his friends charges them with cruelty and malignity. He defies them to show any evil in him, and goaded on by their implacable theory (which had also been his own), boldly charges God with having wronged him. He is the object of divine cruelty and of human scorn. And yet it is wonderful to see the poor crushed spirit rise from the dust in those words of faith and hope, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” There is a most pathetic, though futile appeal to the friends for pity. But we must look at each part in more detail. The response in its six parts balances the address of Bildad.
(1) Reproach (chap. 19:1-6).
(2) God’s hand (vers. 7-11).
(3) The scorn of man (vers. 12-20).
(4) The plea for pity (vers. 21-24).
(5) The triumph of faith (vers. 25-27).
(6) The close (vers. 28, 29).
(1) We must take Job’s words as literally true: the speeches of Bildad and the others crushed him by their cruel severity. “Ten times” —a complete number—they had heaped reproaches upon him, and had amazed him by the unjust charges they had shamelessly made against him. What proof had they of sins in his past? If he had really erred, the secret lay in his own bosom, where they had no right to intrude. They goad him on to declaring, as he had already done, that the wrong was not his but God’s! It is this root of suspicion of the Almighty which must be searched out; but these men’s false charges will never accomplish that.
(2) There follows now a fearful arraignment of God. Well is it for Job that he is accusing infinite patience, or he might have had a real taste of divine anger. But God bears with it all, waiting His own time to bring the poor distracted man into His own holy presence. Job cries out for judgment and help, but no answer is vouchsafed. God had hedged him about, as he had previously charged, and as Jeremiah in his lamentations had complained. He had brought him into darkness, had torn his honor from him, and dashed the crown of dignity from his head. Like an uprooted tree, he lay prostrate and helpless under the fierce wrath of God.
(3) Passing to man, Job sees the same injustice, which by implication is from God. It is His troops who beset him. His own brethren have forsaken him; kinsfolk have forgotten him. His very slaves look upon him as a stranger, and even to his own servant he is obliged to address words of persistent entreaty before he will be heard. Worst of all, the wife of his bosom recoils from the foul stench of his person. Boys mock him, friends abhor him. His bones cleave to his skin, and he has barely escaped death thus far, as by the skin of his teeth; that is, everything is eaten away except the slight covering about their roots. It is a dreadful picture of a horrid disease, unutterably sad when we remember that he could not turn to God for comfort.
(4) The plea for pity and sympathy might well move hearts of adamant, but apparently Job’s words fall on unheeding ears. It was their contention that God’s hand had been upon him—for his sin. Job asks, will they persecute him as God was doing (awful charge!), and madly feed upon his flesh with unsatisfied desire? Such injustice renders him almost frantic. He longs that his words (charging them—and God) were written, indelibly engraved in the rock forever.
And then, in the midst of all these lamentations, he utters those magnificent words of faith: “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” But this was the very God whom he was just now charging with injustice! How good it is to see Job’s faith amid all this turmoil, turning to the very One whom he was maligning! Truly these—not his own protestations of innocence—are words worthy of being graven upon the enduring rock. This Redeemer, this Daysman, shall rise for him, though it be in the last days, after his death.
Here, then, we have a glimpse of the blessed Lord whom we know—not as One who shall arise, but who has already triumphed over death and the grave. He has vindicated us, not from the impugnment of an imagined righteousness, but from sins of deepest dye, and enabled us to say, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?”
(5) In the following words commentators have found varying meanings, according to their translation. We may resolve these into two: Does Job say, “In my flesh I shall see God,” or “From (away from) my flesh I shall see God?” In other words, does he declare his belief in a spiritual disembodied condition after death, in which he will behold God and get his vindication? Or does he plainly state his conviction of the truth of a literal bodily resurrection? While the New Testament clearly teaches the spiritual consciousness of those who are out of the body— “To depart to be with Christ, which is far better” —yet it ever points forward to the resurrection of the body, in glory and incorruption. The words of David, prophesying the resurrection of our Lord, “Thou wilt not suffer thy Holy One to see corruption,” show that the resurrection of the body was foretold before the advent of our Lord upon earth.
Does not Job speak here of beholding the Lord with his own eyes, and does not this necessitate a resurrection? It does not seem that he was looking for the Redeemer to act for him in this present life, but after his death—in a glorified body. Thus, as has been beautifully said, “he plants the flag of victory upon his own grave.”
We leave the statement of his faith therefore as we find it in our Authorized Version, a beautiful and clear confession of the truth of a risen, living Redeemer, who will also restore his poor corrupted body into a glorified one in which he will behold God face to face, and learn the secret of all his sorrows here. Surely a man with such faith must overcome in the end, for “This is the victory that overcometh ... even our faith.”
(6) He turns therefore to his friends and asks why they should persecute one in whom this living, indestructible root of faith is found. Rather, he tells them, they should ask themselves the reason for their implacable pursuit of him. His reply to Bildad, about the same length as the words that called it forth, he closes with a solemn warning lest they fall under the stroke which they vainly imagined was laying him low.
We may safely leave these addresses side by side to speak for themselves. In the light of all that has been before us, can we doubt that the moral advantage has been with Job?
3.—Zophar’s Second Address and Job’s Reply. (chaps. 20, 21.)
There is, as already noticed, an intensity in Zophar that gives a distinct character to his words. He fiercely denounces evil, leaving no room for doubt that he refers to Job, and depicts the certain doom of the wicked in language whose very vehemence soon exhausts what he has in mind. This seems to be the reason why he concludes all he has to say with this second address. The fiercer the fire, the more quickly it burns out. All that he says is true; his own unpardonable error is that he seeks to apply it to a righteous man. This address may be divided into seven parts; the last is but a concluding word.
(1) Brief triumph of the wicked (vers. 1-5).
(2) He is soon cut off (vers. 6-11).
(3) Poisoned with his own venom (vers. 12-16).
(4) Past prosperity unavailing (vers. 17-20).
(5) Retribution (vers. 21-25).
(6) Abiding wrath (vers. 26-28).
(7) Conclusion (ver. 29).
(1) Zophar springs to the reply, as a young man would, feeling that he had abundant thoughts to meet all Job’s statements, and convict him of the wickedness they charged upon him. He is not the first man who has mistaken vehemence for argument, and whose haste to express his feelings is an indication of poverty of thought rather than the weight of truth. He seems prepared for reproach, which Job’s past answers lead him to expect, but is impelled by his knowledge to make one more attempt to silence Job. As a matter of fact, wounded pride may be the real reason for his eagerness to speak.
He now lays down the fact upon which he rests all he has to say. It is a well-known truth, he declares, known from the time man has been upon the earth: “The triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite (or evil-doer) is but for a moment.” There is both truth and error in this statement. Cain was not cut off immediately after the murder of his brother. On the contrary, his life was spared by God, and he settled down in the world with a city and a numerous progeny. Similarly, the men before the flood prolonged their days in the enjoyment of their pleasures, possessions and inventions. It is so to this day. How often does the wicked seem to prosper, even to old age.
On the other hand, sin naturally tends to shorten life. “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days.” Excesses bring their own consequences, and violence often brings down the arm of human vengeance upon its head. Besides this, God makes examples of evil men, especially those professedly under His government. Korah, Dathan and Abiram are an instance of this in the Old Testament, and Ananias and Sapphira in the New.
But this is not the universal, nor even the ordinary rule. Many evil men go on for years in outward prosperity, and pass, with little apparent change, to their account in another world. There is no intimation that the “rich man” in Luke 16 was cut off early because of his sins. God varies His dealings with men, that in every possible way they may be left without excuse: swift judgment, prolonged patience, chastening and prosperity have all been tried, if men may by any means be led to repentance. The apostle sums it up thus: “Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after” (1 Tim. 5:2424Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after. (1 Timothy 5:24)). Our Lord rebukes the tendency to regard sudden death as a mark of special sin (Luke 13:1-51There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. 4Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:1‑5)).
We would therefore conclude that Zophar was putting a part for the whole, and to that degree his statement was faulty. Job indeed in his reply calls attention to this. So anxious, however, are the “friends” to make good their case, that they do not scruple at extreme and unfair statements, which become positively evil when applied to the grief of a man not proved guilty. We shall find that this tendency culminates in the last speech of Eliphaz in direct and specific charges of evil without the slightest foundation.
(2) Zophar proceeds with his picture—poetic but dreadfully stern; solemnly beautiful, if we can forget his purpose. The course of the sinner is further dwelt upon, and his end contrasted with his ambitions. His hopes may have risen to the heavens, his head to the clouds, in imagination, but he is consumed away like fuel stored up for the winter. The well-known custom in the East of preparing the dung of cattle for this purpose, explains the figure here used. Men will miss him, and ask in vain, Where is he? As a passing dream of the night he is gone; the eyes that once looked on him behold him no more. His ill-gotten gains are given, reluctantly enough, we may well believe, by his children to the poor. His bones, once full of youthful vigor (as suggested in the revised translation), are now laid low in their parent dust. The section begins with heaven and ends with the grave! Such is the downward path of those who know not God.
(3) Nor is the reason for this dreadful conclusion of the life of the wicked far to seek. He has but himself to blame, and is reaping what he sowed. The poison comes from his own vitals. In a few strokes the speaker draws a dreadful picture of the sinful man, who, gorging himself with sinful pleasures, hidden and cherished beneath his tongue, is like the venomous serpent, preparing the deadly virus which shall bring death to him. His riches, evilly acquired, will be torture to his closing days. Truly, all this is solemnly true. God is not arbitrary in the punishment of the wicked; they treasure up “wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” The “good things” received by the rich man, instead of leading him to gratitude and faith, were used for his own gratification—away from God—and thus did but return to torture him with remorse. “Son, remember,” shows where the thoughts must turn when there is no further opportunity to hide from the consequences of his own acts. As has been pointed out, the name “Gehenna” is from a root, “to be freely given” — “gratuitous,” it might be rendered. How wickedly vain is the talk about God being “too merciful to send men to hell:” —men show no mercy to themselves; they have only themselves to blame for their doom. All this is accentuated by the fact that infinite love has provided a “gratuitous” remedy, which is rejected by so many.
(4) Zophar next glances at the former prosperity of the wicked, when he quaffed the draft of pleasure as from an overflowing river of honey and cream. What was grasped from others, must now be given up, and his riches can bring him no joy. Like Ahab, who came down to see the vineyard acquired by the murder of Naboth, and had to hear his own doom pronounced by the prophet, he can get no joy from his possession. The unfinished house he took remains as a monument of his crime; he cannot even take his most cherished belongings with him.
Zophar is indeed an expert in describing evil and its results. It will be noted that the wickedness described is largely violations of the second part of the law, particularly in regard to dishonesty and violence. Much that he hints at here is directly charged by Eliphaz against Job. The friends thus strengthen one another in their determination to establish their theory that Job is the wicked hypocrite they depict, suffering for his own misdeeds.
(5) The thought of retribution is enlarged upon in this portion. Covetousness means an ultimate ruin; the very ones he oppressed (the “needy,” rather than the “wicked,” ver. 22) shall be arrayed against him. And, above all, God shall pour forth the fury of His wrath upon him, like the fiery rain that fell upon Sodom. Seeking to flee from the weapon of iron, he is pierced by the more deadly arrow; “As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him;... and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:1919As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him. (Amos 5:19)). With unerring precision the shaft pierces the vitals of the terror-stricken man, and there is no escape.
(6) This doom is final, with no gleam of hope beyond. The sinner has laid up a treasure of “wrath against the day of wrath;” and unquenchable fire, which needs no “blowing upon” to add to its fierceness, consumes him, and those he leaves behind taste the same fire. The heavens are against him; their holy light only reveals his iniquity. Job had appealed to heaven and earth to witness to his righteousness (chap. 16:18, 19), but Zophar hints the absolute reverse—the heavens do but declare his sin, and earth rises up in the judgment against him. He concludes his fearful picture with the mention of divinely appointed wrath.
(7) “This is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed to him by God” (ver. 29). Zophar has completed his terrible charges. He has pursued without pity a bruised and apparently dying man. He has refused the appeal of Job for pity, has ignored the declaration of his unshaken integrity, and has pressed his suspicion with an iron hand into the soul of the poor sufferer, and all this under the specious plea of piety pleading for God! However it may end, we feel that no help is to be got from Zophar and those like him, and we do not regret that we shall hear him no more until he comes in a very different spirit to ask the prayers of the friend whom he has maligned.
Job’s Reply.
While our sympathy goes out to Job for the treatment he is receiving at the hands of his friends, there is abundant evidence in his replies that he is quite able to answer for himself, so far at least as men are concerned. He meets each of the speakers on his own ground and silences him. In this reply to Zophar he shows that his spirit is still unbroken, and answers with conclusiveness the semblance of arguments which he had presented. Job’s reply, following the form of Zophar’s address, may be divided into seven portions:
(1) The solemnity of his reply, which has to do with God (chap. 21:1-6).
(2) The prosperity of the wicked (vers. 7-16).
(3) Judgment seen only in their children (vers. 17-21).
(4) Varied experiences of the wicked (vers. 22-26).
(5) He charges the friends (vers. 27-31).
(6) The end in death (vers. 32, 33).
(7) Conclusion (ver. 34).
(1) He begins with a plea that at least they will listen to him. This will at least take the place of the consolation which they refuse to give him. After that they can resume their taunts. For himself, he says he has ceased to expect any right judgment from man; and well he might if that were all his hope. This implies that he has turned to God, which is in itself an indication of the faith at the bottom of his heart. But his difficulties have not vanished; they may well be astonished, for he himself trembles to speak of what he is now going to lay before them, and it disproves much that which Zophar had just so eloquently set forth. It will be noted, here, that the tone of querulousness is absent from this dignified opening of Job. He propounds his difficulty to his friends, and if they are men they must see his point.
(2) He looks at the other side, at the case of the prosperous wicked, and with ability equal to Zophar’s, reminds him that evil men often go on unchecked. They live to old age and become mighty in power. Their families grow up about them, and all abides in quietness without the rod of God falling upon them. Flocks and herds increase; his children—in sad contrast to the now childless speaker—are like a group of lambs skipping about the home, and in it is heard the sound of timbrel and harp and pipe. All their days are in prosperity until the end comes, although these very men said to God, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” Like Pharaoh, they ask, “What is the Almighty that we should serve Him, and what profit should we have if we pray unto Him?” While describing their profane defiance of God, which goes so long unrebuked, Job is careful to express his abhorrence of such impiety: “Lo, their good is not by their own hand” (all that they have is from God); “the counsel of the wicked is far from me” (ver. 16). All this is true, and bears out the teaching of psalm 73, where one is under exercise similar to his own.
(3) In this part Job fully admits that there will be a final manifestation of the sin of the wicked, but it is so often seen in the children instead of themselves; and what do they care for their house after them? (ver. 21). In opposition to Zophar, he reminds him “how rarely is the candle of the wicked put out,” as ver. 17 has been rendered; how seldom does calamity break in upon them, as the scatterings of “snares” or “lightnings” in the wrath of God. While it is true, as the psalmist tells us, that the ungodly are “like the chaff which the wind driveth away” (Ps. 1:4), Job reminds his hearers that this seldom takes place in the present life; it is reserved for the “judgment.” The two following verses, 19, 20, state the facts (which are put in the form of a desire in another rendering), that God layeth up the iniquity of the wicked for the children, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.” He shall eventually see the result of his evil, though the day is long deferred.
(4) In fact, as Job goes on to show, the experiences of the wicked are varied, and he adds, Who shall sit in judgment upon God for these varied dealings? One dies quietly in the midst of abounding prosperity, as the psalm says, “The wicked have no bands in their death;” another is cut off in wretchedness. Both alike reach a common end in the grave. And this being the case, how ill it becomes his friends to state, as an unvarying rule, that judgment in this life was always a sign of sin, and prosperity of righteousness, in the persons affected. Although he himself had reached no solution to his problem, he could at least urge his friends to “judge nothing before the time.”
(5) He now declares their purpose, which they have only hinted at hitherto, that Job was an instance of the soundness of their contention; and see, say they, what has become of him! He throws back their insinuations by the bold question, Have they not learned from observers everywhere that the wicked is “spared” in the day of calamity (not “reserved,” as in our version), “to the day of destruction”? And so powerful is he that none dare charge his sin to him, or inflict deserved punishment—all this, alas, only too common in our own day.
(6) It is in death alone that the end of the prosperity of many of the ungodly is reached; even in his burial, outward pomp and display accompany him as far as possible—buried with all the honor that wealth can buy, and the watchman guarding the tomb where his body is laid away. In this sense the very clods of his grave seem to pander to his pride; his gorgeous mausoleum still declaring what a great man he was.
(7) Thus Job concludes a very complete answer to all the magniloquence of his friends. Their “comforts,” indeed, are vain, and their replies are lacking in the sincerity that indicates the real seeker after truth.
We have reached the end of the second series in the controversy. As already stated, there are gleams of Job’s faith in it, though still clouded with dark questionings of God. On the other hand, his friends have evidently reached the limit of their ability to force a conclusion, although they will make one more effort. On the whole, we may say that distinct progress has been made, and the advantage is with Job. As yet, however, the enigma remains, “Why does God afflict the righteous?” and Job has yet to learn the reply, not from men, but from God Himself.
With the present series we reach the conclusion of the controversy so far as the friends were concerned. Beyond a wearisome reiteration of their former arguments, if such they can be called, there is nothing of importance advanced by them. Eliphaz, indeed, who opens this third section of the controversy, continues to maintain his original contention, and speaks with dignity and much poetic beauty, with some slight return to graciousness. But the address is marred by a painful spirit of gross unfairness. Bildad, the second speaker, closes feebly and briefly. Zophar remains silent. This, their last attempt, is fragmentary therefore, and may without injustice be considered a failure.
On the other hand, Job waxes stronger and stronger. He replies with vigor and a good deal of conclusiveness to the remarks of his friends, and in a way which effectually closes their mouths. But his own mouth remains open to pour forth the misery of his unrelieved heart; and the dark cloud still hangs between himself and God. All this will appear as we take up each address and its reply. These fall into two parts—Zophar, as we have said, taking no part.
1. Eliphaz: False charges against Job; the promise of restoration if he is penitent. Job’s reply (chaps. 22-24).
2. Bildad: Renewed statement of God’s greatness and man’s sinfulness. Job’s reply (chaps. 25, 26).
1. Eliphaz’s Address.
This may be divided into seven parts, a complete summing up from his point of view of the entire argument:
(1) Job’s sin in view of God’s greatness (chap. 22:1-5).
(2) The direct charge (vers. 6-11).
(3) All is known to God (vers. 12-14).
(4) The way of the wicked (vers. 15-18).
(5) Their just punishment (vers. 19, 20).
(6) Final call to repentance (vers. 21-25).
(7) Prophecy of a bright future (vers. 26-30).
(1) In this first portion Eliphaz dwells upon God’s infinite greatness and sufficiency unto Himself. Is man profitable to God? Does he add anything to the infinite fullness of the Creator? A wise man is profitable to himself, but in no sense is God dependent upon him. His righteousness is of no special profit to God (not “pleasure,” for surely He does take pleasure in His saints). As the self-emptied One declares, “My goodness extendeth not to Thee” (Ps. 16:2). If therefore Job refuses to repent of his sin, he is not injuring God, but himself, and must reap the consequences. Eliphaz asks Job, does not his chastisement prove his sin? For would God rebuke a man for piety—his godly fear? Therefore Job’s sin is proven! Surely an easy way, in a world of suffering, to prove man a sinner. But it proves too much, for it includes every sufferer—the righteous as well as the wicked.
We must, however, take exception to the first part of this declaration, as well as to the manifestly mistaken character of the second part. Has not God suffered, not in His blessed nature, but in what should have displayed it—righteousness in His creature? All has been created for His glory and pleasure. God is therefore a loser by the failure of man to exhibit in his life that which manifests the wisdom and goodness of his Creator. Judgment is not vindictive, therefore, but retributive, and wrath is for actual sin against God. Such is the conviction of sin brought home to the conscience by the Spirit of God: “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned.” We get but a cold view of God as Eliphaz describes Him. On the contrary, the word of God presents Him as deeply concerned in all our affairs, as intimately associated with His creation. There would be no room for the gospel in the partial statements of Eliphaz. God is not simply holding the balances of justice as a disinterested observer, to mete out punishment to the one who comes short. If such teaching obtained, where would we find place for, “Like as a Father pitieth His children;” “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth;” “He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness?”
(2) Having laid down his erroneous principle with such positiveness, and having declared that Job’s sin was infinitely great (for God does not punish a pious man) Eliphaz opens up a most startling series of statements as to Job’s actual conduct. It is no longer implied sin in the call to repentance, or innuendoes in likening Job’s suffering to those of the wicked, but as outrageous accusations of actual sin as could be imagined. Job has taken away his brother’s goods on a false claim! He has stripped the poor of his last covering! He has refused water to the languishing and bread to the starving! By sheer power he has taken the lands of others and dwelt there himself as a great and honorable man! Widows and orphans have been driven away by this heartless monster! Proofs? Witnesses? What need of these, when the theory proves all so satisfactorily without going to the trouble of establishing facts! Thus, out of his “inner consciousness,” does the grave and gray-haired Eliphaz evolve con elusive proof that the suffering friend and patriarch before him is a monster of iniquity! From such friendship and perversions of truth, may God deliver us.
But even now, is not suspicion of others all too common? One is not successful in business, has illness in his family, loses loved ones, and the hasty conclusion is that he is being chastened for some imaginary faults. How cruel this is, and contrary to the plain direction, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” Let us be slow to suspect, and slower to charge unknown evil, leaving that to the Searcher of hearts. If He calls upon us to declare evil, it is of what He has unmistakably manifested.
Concluding his charge, Eliphaz declares these sins explain why Job is caught as in a snare, and overwhelmed with fear. Can he not see the darkness which envelops him, and the flood of waters in which he is engulfed?
(3) This portion continues the unfair suspicions of Eliphaz. He makes Job say that God dwells in heaven, and has His abode among the stars, therefore how can He see what is taking place beneath the clouds which hide the earth from His view? He walks about in the vault of heaven in satisfied ignorance of everything that goes on in the world below! Has Eliphaz forgotten Job’s strong declaration of the omnipotence and omniscience of God in chapter 9? The title of this section is rightly given however as “All is known to God,” for Job’s imagined unbelief is intended to bring out into all the bolder relief the great truth that nothing can be hid from the Searcher of hearts.
(4) Recurring to the oft-repeated example of the wicked and their punishment, Eliphaz depicts their temporal prosperity and the inevitable judgment which overtakes them. Like the grass which groweth up only to be cut down and withered, they perished before their time. Their apparently solid foundations were swept away by a flood (or, perhaps more accurately, turned into a flood). The meaning is the same in either case, and there may be a reference to the days of Noah, when they ate and drank, married, and were given in marriage, “until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.” As samples of the ungodly at all times, these men before the flood had defied the God who had bestowed His blessings upon them: “Depart from us!” and what can the Almighty do to them? From such impiety Eliphaz—we may believe with all sincerity—turns in horror; “The counsel of the wicked be far from me.” He is quoting the very words of Job (chap. 21:16) —why will he not allow to his former friend the same abhorrence of evil as himself? Instead of this, it would almost seem that he is expressing his repulsion from Job, associating him with those who defy God.
(5) This godlessness can receive but its merited punishment, at which all the righteous shall rejoice. “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily He is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Ps. 58:10, 11). There is, however, this difference between the position of Eliphaz and that taken in many of the psalms: these give us the final cleansing of the kingdom “of all things that offend and them which do iniquity” (Matt. 13:4141The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; (Matthew 13:41)), after full space has been given for repentance, and when evil shall have been manifested as incurable rebellion against God, as the absolute barrier to all full blessing upon the earth. Therefore the righteous rejoice at the deliverance rather than the mere judgment, although all will be seen as perfectly in accord with the full character of God. So, too, there is joy in heaven when Satan is cast out (Rev. 12:10-1210And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. 12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (Revelation 12:10‑12)), and when Babylon receives her long-deferred judgment (Rev. 18:20; 19:1-320Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. (Revelation 18:20)
1And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God: 2For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. 3And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. (Revelation 19:1‑3)
But we can see how unfair Eliphaz’s judgment is, in view of the admittedly various life and end of wicked men, and especially in view of the suffering of many of the righteous. It is particularly painful, as it seems to be spoken with a relish by Eliphaz, in reference to Job’s state, which is all too apparent.
(6) But the oldest of the friends is going to bring his remarks to a decorous end. He will once more hold out the offer of restoration to the offender—if he will but repent. The language is of great beauty, and we might well wish it had been used in a worthier way. “Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.” This might well serve as a gospel text; for is it not eternal life to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent? And what peace is found through this knowledge— “peace by the blood of the Cross” —peace preached and peace possessed by faith! What good, for time and eternity, flows from this acquaintance! But he is addressing one who does know God—that is, according to the Old Testament revelation—and therefore the apparent tenderness of the exhortation is turned to gall. “Receive, I pray thee, the law (instruction) from His mouth, and lay up His words in thy heart.” The comfort to God’s people, “We glory in tribulations also,” or the “weeping with them that weep,” is not found in Eliphaz’s words: “If thou return to the Almighty thou shalt be built up, if thou shalt put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.”
Again, we must warn God’s people of the snare into which Eliphaz has fallen. All pious exhortations to repent, to give up sin, to judge a course of evil, if not based upon known facts, are but insults, and savor of a pharisaic spirit, which, as with Eliphaz and his friends, must itself be repented of.
Eliphaz holds out, in an almost prophetic way, the prospect of a restoration of all Job’s former prosperity—wealth and happiness. Verses 24 and 25 have been rendered in different ways. The Authorized Version begins the promises with the close of verse 23, “thou shalt put away iniquity,” etc., “Then thou shalt lay up gold as dust,” etc. The ordinarily excellent version of Delitzsch makes all conditional up to the close of verse 24: “If thou lay by in the dust the gold ore, and under the pebbles of the brooks the gold of Ophir, so shall the Almighty be to thee gold ore in abundance, and silver to thee of the brightest luster.”
The usual rendering, however, seems to be preferred. Old Testament usage, and particularly that of the book of Job, associates the enjoyment of temporal wealth with the favor of God. Thus Eliphaz promises restoration of all the wealth that Job had lost. Then, too, it would seem nothing short of satire to exhort a man who had been already deprived of his wealth, to lay it aside in the dust, or as worthless stones of the brook. It has been therefore contended that Eliphaz is speaking figuratively, and that Job is told to lay aside the covetous love of gold in the dust. We leave therefore the rendering of our excellent version largely as it is. The Almighty will be a high place of defense for the penitent, and abundance of wealth will be his.
(7) Eliphaz now reaches his peroration, picturing the joys that await Job if he will only—? acknowledge that his false accusers are right! Then he will enjoy communion with the Almighty, basking in the sunlight of His countenance. Prayer will receive its answer, and the vows he has made in his affliction will be accepted. He shall make plans which will not be frustrated, and the light will fall upon all his paths. If these paths should seem to take a downward course (ver. 29) Job will need but to say, “Arise,” or “a lifting up,” and all will be well. For he will be one of the humble whom God exalteth. Yea, Job shall be a succorer of others, the once guilty (not, “island of the innocent”) will be rescued by him whose hands have become clean.
Thus the friend closes. He has sought to make out his case, and to mingle promises with denunciations. Sometimes it would seem that he was foretelling the recovery of Job, but all is marred by his wrong principle, and is therefore in itself valueless. And yet there are many noble and beautiful utterances here. How important it is therefore to have the true point of view, that the opening of our mouth may be right things.
Job’s Reply to Eliphaz (Chaps. 23, 24).
Job does not trouble himself to reply to the grievous charges of Eliphaz; the time for that has passed, and he has so repeatedly declared his righteousness that there is little need to reiterate it here. He will, before he is fully done, go completely into his self-vindication (chap. 31). Here his concern is with God. The cloud has again fallen and obscured Him from the view of faith which had shone out brightly a little while before. This sad eclipse leads Job to utter hard things against the Lord; but we can see it is from having lost sight of God, not the malice of one who turns against Him. But until God has probed into the recesses of Job’s self-righteousness we may expect a recurrence of these clouds of unbelief.
When he comes to take up the argument of Eliphaz regarding the wicked, Job has the better of the contention, as will appear when we reach that part of his reply (chap. 24). The position of the friends is untenable, and while Job offers no true solution to the problem, he closes their mouths.
The reply may be divided, as many of the others, into seven parts:
(1) His longing to lay his case before God (chap. 23:1-9).
(2) Protestations of righteousness (vers. 10-12).
(3) Afraid of God as his enemy (vers. 13-17).
(4) God’s apparent failure in government (chap. 24:1-12).
(5) The wicked described (vers. 13-17).
(6) Their escape into Sheol (vers. 18-21).
(7) God seemingly their protector (vers. 22-25).
(1) “Even today” (after so much discussion and accusation by the friends) “my complaint still biddeth defiance” —so it has been rendered, rather than, “is bitter.” It is the bitterness of resistance against their charges, rather than the bitterness of grief. He brings forth his groaning in protest against the unfairness of his treatment. This rendering seems in accord with the thought of protest on Job’s part. It is not, “My stroke is heavier than my groaning,” as in our version—he is not complaining of the bitterness of his suffering, but of its injustice. Ah, did he but know it, Job’s acknowledgment would have been, “He hath not dealt with me after my sins.” If we got our deserts, where would we be!
With this sense of outrage, Job desires to go before God and lay charges against Him! He would come boldly into His presence, in His very abode, and lay his case before Him, with his mouth full of arguments. He even challenges any reply from God, “I would know the words which He would answer me.” So can a righteous man speak when at a distance from God. How different it was when he had his desire and God appeared to him!
And just here, when his almost insane defiance of God is at its height, there bursts forth a glance of that confidence in God which we have already had occasion to note. “Will He plead against me with His great power! No! but He would put strength in me,” or “regard me with compassion.” These are surely not the words of an unbeliever. He doubts God’s ways, accuses Him, but is confident that if he could only see Him all would be cleared. God would consider his “weak and wandering cries.” and vindicate him from divine injustice! But what an anomaly—the righteous man disputing with Him, and delivered by the Judge Himself from His unjust severity! Strange contradiction it all is; yet better far thus to long to go before God, than the pride which would say to Him, “Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways.” It is always better to bring even our doubts of God to Himself, if we have nothing else to bring.
But where can God be found? Job rushes forward, but He is not there; backward, but he cannot perceive Him. Turn to the right or the left, God still escapes him. He is left alone
“Upon the great world’s altar stairs
That slope through darkness up to God” —
But God is not there! He can only
“Grope, and gather dust and chaff,
And cry to what I feel is Lord of all.”
It is all most tragic; and if it were only Job seeking God, he might well sink in despair. But, all unknown to himself, God is seeking Job, and will find him too, ere long.
(2) Not finding God, Job turns in self-occupation to himself, and renews his protestation of righteousness. God knows his way, “the way of the righteous” (Ps. 1:6), and after due trial, he will come forth as gold. It is all true, and yet the evident self-righteousness in it vitiates the nobility of the words. It is not, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold which perisheth.” We feel the real trial has not yet come. It is his personal uprightness that is maintained—not the sense of grace; he thinks it comes from his own heart. He has kept God’s commands, has held fast to the words of His mouth more than to his “necessary food.” Job has valued God’s will more than his own.
(3) But how true it is that if we commend ourselves we condemn God. Thus Job adds that God is determined to punish him, and nothing can swerve Him from this purpose! Good it is for Job and ourselves that we have One with whom is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” He has said, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Job thought that the thing appointed for him was but the misery and suffering through which he was passing, while it was rather the “needs be” which was to work patience. Job did not see the appointed “end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy” —the end of a love too great to be swerved from His purposes of blessing by our complaint and unbelief. Yes, “many such like things are with Him:” the path for each of His children is different, but the end is the same.
The “patience of Job” is not apparent here. On the contrary, fears fill his heart. He dreads God as an enemy, and would shrink from the very presence which so lately he craved. He blames God with thus overwhelming him, and throwing his thoughts into utter confusion.
The closing verse of this section is somewhat obscure. In our Authorized Version, Job wishes he had been cut off before this darkness came upon him, that he might not have seen it. Another view, following more closely the context, makes him emphasize the dread of God; he does not shrink from his calamities, terrible as they are, but from this dread Being who fills his soul with dread. “I have not been destroyed before the darkness [of present affliction], and before my countenance [all disfigured with disease], which thick darkness covereth.” Blessed be God, His perfect love in Christ has been revealed; all is bright there, and the darkness is but a passing cloud which cannot hide the glory of the love that shines down upon us.
(4) “Wherefore are not bounds reserved by the Almighty, and they who honor Him see not His days?” (ch. 24:1). Such is the rendering of a very competent scholar, which gives a clearer meaning than the somewhat obscure translation of our Version, although the meaning in both cases is similar. Job is about to dwell upon the apparent failure of God to judge the wicked, and begins by asking why God does not allow His saints to see a righteous judgment visited upon them. Why does He not set a limit to their impiety and wicked oppression? Job enumerates some details of their evil course, which violate every principle of right: landmarks are removed; they steal their neighbor’s flocks, and shepherd them as their own; the fatherless and widow are victims of their rapacity; they drive away the poor and the needy.
Then, in thought, Job follows these poor sufferers driven from their houses by the wicked, and describes their wretched struggle for existence in the nomad state into which they have been thrust (vers. 5-8). In a few bold strokes, of one familiar with the scene, Job depicts these poor starving sufferers, driven out like beasts, to gather a bare subsistence for their children as best they may. They seek employment even from their oppressors, and reap their fields and glean in their vineyards. Scarcely covered with rags, they shiver in the cold and rain as they seek for shelter in the rocks. “The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel,” and the oppression of the poor and needy has cried to God throughout all man’s history; yet God heareth not!
Job takes other cases to illustrate the same heartlessness. The wicked tear the fatherless from the breast; they defraud the poor. Why do his friends insinuate that he was guilty of such conduct, when glaring cases were manifest to them? The poor are robbed of their very garments; they toil hungering among the sheaves; at the oil press, and in the vintage they are repressed from partaking; there is groaning of the oppressed in the city—and God takes no heed to it! It is an awful picture of facts only too well-known to them—and to us. How can Eliphaz make such facts fit in with his theory that evil is always punished in this life? But, oh, how can God close His eyes to these things, and afflict a faithful man instead of these wrong doers? This is Job’s great trouble, and for this he has found no solution.
(5) There is a morbid fascination about such themes as now occupied Job’s mind, and he continues his description of the unrestrained course of the wicked. Here are men who hate the light, “because their deeds are evil.” They choose the night for their “unfruitful works of darkness.” The murderer lies in wait for the workman going at dawn to his labor, and turns to steal in the night. The adulterer lurks about for his abominations “in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and, dark night” (Prov. 7:99In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: (Proverbs 7:9)) —like other beasts of prey. “By day they shut themselves up” (ver. 16), and, how solemn, “they know not the light” —it manifests their shame and sin. “The morning is to them even as the shadow of death; if one know them they are in the terrors of the shadow of death” (ver. 17). This has been rendered, “The depth of night is to them even as the dawn of the morning” —they are at home in the night—it is their day.
(6) And how does this course of wickedness end? Does God come in and make an example of them? Not always; on the contrary they pass away like a swiftly flowing stream, leaving their heritage to receive the curse of men instead of getting the just vengeance themselves? — “the gallows is cheated,” and the evil doers have departed from their vineyards where they might have been dealt with as they deserved. As drought and heat dry up snow-waters, so Sheol causes the wicked to pass suddenly from view. They pass away, forgotten even by their mother, to be the food of worms! Such is the end of the wicked oppressor. The general thought of this part of Job’s reply is that in this life, and often up to the very end, men escape the penalties they deserve. He does not lift the curtain behind which the awful future is disclosed; his purpose is to reply to the contentions of his friends, and he answers them effectually.
(7) Job concludes with another feature of this awful anomaly. God seems to be on the side of the ungodly, preserving them by His almighty power when they might have been smitten down: “He preserveth the mighty by His strength; such an one rises again, though he despaired of life” (ver. 22). How often have we seen the ungodly brought low in sickness and then raised up almost from the grave. We know it is the goodness of God that would lead them to repentance, but in Job’s disordered view it seemed to be an indication of favor from God. They live on in security, and God’s eye seems to rest favorably upon them. This seems more in accord with Job’s argument than the implication that, though God apparently sustains them, His eye is on their ways, and that He will judge them. Job dwells rather upon the absence of any special judgment. They are exalted in their life, and when the inevitable hour of death comes—appointed for all—they are no more; they are sunken away (in the grave), snatched away like all others. They are cut down like the ears of the ripe corn (ver. 24).
Job closes with a demand for an answer. Who can charge him with misrepresenting the truth, or rob his speech of its force as a reply to the arguments of the friends?
It is a solemn conclusion. Not that Job has misstated facts: indeed, these are incontrovertible; but his deductions are dreadful. He follows his logic to the very brink of the precipice—that God deals unfairly. If so, He is not God. What a triumph would such a conclusion be to the malicious enemy who had instigated all this, and declared that if his prosperity were withdrawn, Job would “curse Thee to thy face.” Job has not done so, and Satan is defeated; but so far as the natural reasoning of Job goes, he might have done as Satan predicted and his wife advised. All unknown to himself, grace had wrought, for he was a child of God: he was not permitted to go where his unbelieving thoughts led him. What a triumph too for the friends would such a conclusion be. They could have said, “We have stood for God, while Job has assailed His character.” But neither side has convinced the other. While the advantage remains with Job, the disappointing character of his closing words makes necessary what we find in the last part of the book. But we have still to hear him pour forth all his heart, before God can be heard.
2. —The Third Address of Bildad—Job’s Reply (chaps. 25, 26.)
Bildad, in this third address, is the last of the friends to speak. Zophar remains silent, having poured out all his impetuous heart in his former addresses.
Judging from the brevity of Bildad’s address, and the fact that it contains practically nothing new, it would seem that the friends have exhausted all the arguments that their position permitted them to advance. And this is saying a great deal, for they were men of sober thoughtfulness, with abilities for expression rarely excelled. Their language is noble and elevated, their metaphors of rare beauty and force, but their position and contention were wrong, narrow, and untenable. Hence the brevity of these closing words.
Yet we cannot speak contemptuously of these few sentences, for they state the two great basic facts which stand out in their clearness at the close of the book. They may almost be said to be prophetic of “the end of the Lord,” which Job himself will acknowledge at the last. But Bildad is scarcely conscious of the force of what he says, for he links it with his theory, and thus tries to prove that Job is the evil man they have all along maintained he was. But his words were as true for himself and the other friends as for Job. The address may be divided into two parts, which give prominence to the two great facts which will yet stand out.
(1) God’s greatness (vers. 1-3).
(2) Man’s nothingness (vers. 4-6).
(1) “Dominion and fear are with Him.” Who can declare the infinite greatness of God, who fills heaven and earth, and transcends all His limitless creation? “The heavens, even the heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee.” Nor is this infinitude of being powerless; He reigns over all things, the government is His—
“He everywhere hath sway,
And all things serve His might.”
Well may we pause and meditate with reverent awe upon the majesty and power of God. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?... It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth... that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in... Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their hosts by number: He calleth them all by names; by the greatness of His might, and strength of His power, not one faileth” (Isa. 40:12, 22, 2612Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (Isaiah 40:12)
22It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: (Isaiah 40:22)
26Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. (Isaiah 40:26)
“Great God, how infinite Thou art!
What helpless worms are we!”
Who would not fear such an infinite Being? And yet what an awful proof of man’s apostate, fallen condition we have in the well-nigh universal lack of the fear of God. He before whom the seraphim veil their faces, is ignored and blasphemed by puny sinners!
“He maketh peace in His high places.” Those heavenly orbs display not only His power, by their immensity, but His wisdom and skill in the harmony with which they pursue their appointed courses, held fast in their orbits of unthinkable greatness by Him who created them. “Not one faileth.” There is no discord, no clash—all makes melody as they declare His glory,
“Forever singing as they shine,
The Hand that made us is divine.”
Similarly the angelic hosts, who are associated with these “morning stars,” are kept in peace, with one purpose, to “do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word.” There is no strife or discord among those exalted beings: all is maintained in peace. Or if we think of the discord which did intrude when Satan fell from his high place, and when the angels kept not their first estate, God was not thwarted, His throne was not shaken. The rebellious angels were “delivered into chains of darkness;” and if Satan was allowed freedom for a time, we see that it is only for a limited period; the time is coming when he will be cast out of heaven, bound and cast into the abyss, and eventually, with all who follow him, be eternally confined in “the lake of fire.” Peace will be maintained in the high places.
Among the asteroids there seems to be evidence of a collision among some of the planets, but all has become quiet, and each body has found its right place—all is at peace. One day the heavens about us will pass away with a great noise. But “we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Thus at the last all creation will vindicate the statement of Bildad, “He maketh peace in His high places.”
“Who can number His armies?” At one word our Lord could have received “more than twelve legions of angels.” “The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” The “innumerable company of angels... the general assembly.” What are the armies of men compared with these? The prophet prayed that his servant’s eyes might be opened to see the mountain “full of horses and chariots of fire” (2 Ki. 6:1717And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)).
“God is light,” and His hosts are hosts of light; they shine in a glory not their own: “Whom doth not His light surpass?” Let any of these sons of the morning vaunt themselves, and their brightness would become dim. “Thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness” (Ezek. 28:1717Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. (Ezekiel 28:17)). Of God it must ever be said, “Who dwelleth in light unapproachable.” His light surpasses that of all His creatures, be they never so exalted. It rises above and exceeds infinitely the light of the brightest of them all. This gives a meaning more in accord with the context than that of our version— “Upon whom doth not His light arise?”
(2) Having in a few grand strokes depicted the greatness of God, Bildad turns to the littleness of man. “How then can (mortal, frail) man be justified with God?” How can one whose very mortality is a witness of his sinfulness stand before the Almighty? How can one born of woman, with a nature inherited from the disobedient one, be clean in God’s sight? Is it not true that all right apprehension of the greatness and majesty of God begets a sense of sin and uncleanness? It was so with Job and with these friends at the last.
Behold the moon; its light is dim in His holy presence. The sparkling stars are not clean in His sight. How much less is sinful man—a worm of the dust! Bildad selects the heavens at night rather than the sun by day for this noble comparison. “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him?” (Ps. 8:3, 4). While not so intense, the light of moon and stars is more brilliant by contrast with the surrounding darkness; and this is especially the case with the eastern skies over the dry lands bordering the deserts. The moon and stars speak of God in a special way, and by contrast bring home to man his nothingness. We have, thank God, the divine answer to the question, “What is man?” We see Jesus, who was crucified, crowned with glory and honor.
Thus, while apparently repeating the words of Eliphaz (chaps. 4:18; 15:15, 16), Bildad’s close is far beyond his thoughts and suspicions. We will rest in what he says, rather than in what he thinks of his poor, suffering friend. We will not charge him with weakness or imitation, but subdue our own spirits under the quiet light of those heavens which witness to our nothingness, and turn us to Him who is our “Strength and our Redeemer.”
Job’s Reply (Chap. 26)
Viewed from the personal standpoint, Job’s reply is adequate and conclusive. He declares that Bildad’s words, in the present circumstances, are utterly beside the mark. They do not touch Job’s case. He then continues in the lines of his friend’s words, and mounts even higher than he had, taking also a deeper and wider view of the greatness of God. It is all most admirable from a literary point of view—grand, sublime poetry; and it is much more, as the inspired record of the thoughts of a soul seeking after God.
The reply may be divided into seven parts.
(1) The futility of Bildad’s words (vers. 1-4).
(2) God’s domain in the depths beneath (vers. 5, 6).
(3) His sway in the heavens (ver. 7).
(4) He rules the clouds and the waters (vs. 8-10).
(5) The earth and the sea (vers. 11, 12).
(6) His victory in the sky (ver. 13).
(7) More beyond (ver. 14).
The brevity and conciseness of these words of Job enhance their beauty and force. He shows himself equal or superior to his friends in compass of thought and beauty of expression; for he also has pondered upon God in the night seasons.
(1) He first replies to Bildad’s argument as it refers to himself. Admitting that he is the one “without power,” of what good are the lofty words of Bildad? Do they help to solve the dark enigma of present suffering? Has he given any counsel to Job, or unraveled the tormenting mystery of God’s treatment of him? The last verse seems to intimate that Bildad may have been repeating the thoughts of Eliphaz – “Whose spirit, or breath, came from thee?” Or it may be that Job asks if this manner of speech comes from God. In these few caustic questions he fully disposes of the argument of his friend, if it could be called that.
(2) Bildad had dwelt upon the glories of God as displayed in the heavens; Job declares His domain in the depths. It is not “dead things,” but rather the “shades,” the “things under the earth” (Phil. 2:1010That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (Philippians 2:10)). This may refer to the evil spirits, to infernal things; and, according to the manner of the Old Testament, to Sheol and its inhabitants. (See Ezek. 32:1818Son of man, wail for the multitude of Egypt, and cast them down, even her, and the daughters of the famous nations, unto the nether parts of the earth, with them that go down into the pit. (Ezekiel 32:18), etc.) “Dragons and all deeps “tremble at His presence. It is folly to think of the abode of the lost as independent of God. Whether it be” the spirits [now] in prison “(1 Pet. 3:1919By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; (1 Peter 3:19)), or the bottomless pit, or the lake of fire, God, not Satan, reigns. His will at last must be obeyed. “If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there” (Ps. 139:8).
(3) Looking upward, Job still traces the footsteps of the Creator’s power and wisdom. “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place.” The ball-like canopy of the northern skies, where the pole-star is suspended over emptiness, has no pillars to support it. In these few words, and those following, Job seems to have anticipated the great facts of astronomy regarding the earth and the heavens. He “hangeth the earth upon nothing”; how immeasurably above the cosmogonies of the heathen philosophers are these few grand words! In them we have as in germ the discoveries of a Newton and a Keppler. It is a great mistake to think Scripture does not teach scientific truth. It teaches all needed truth, even if not in scientific language, yet with scientific accuracy.
(4) Passing from the starry heavens to those more immediately connected with the earth, Job describes in beautifully poetic, and yet scientifically accurate language, the clouds as the containing vessels for the waters above the earth. It is God who gathers the vapors of the firmament and condenses them into the thick clouds. If these waters were to be poured upon the earth without restraint, a destructive flood would be the result. He binds these waters in the clouds, and sends them down in gentle showers according to His will, and as needed by the thirsty earth.
Beyond those clouds is His throne, enshrouded from the view of our eyes: “Clouds and darkness are round about Him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of His throne” (Ps. 97:2). But, with all his knowledge and skill, man fails to penetrate those clouds and to behold Him who sits upon His throne. Faith alone beholds Him there—the face of Him who rides on to victory.
“He compasseth the waters with bounds.” These are the waters of the earth, the “great and wide sea,” whose proud waves cannot pass their appointed bounds. “Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth” (Ps. 104:9). “To the boundary between light and darkness.” The boundary is far distant, marked only where light merges with darkness, “from the dim verge of the horizon.” This gives a more beautiful and appropriate meaning than that of our Version.
(5) Earth with its lofty mountains, seeming to reach the sky as “the pillars of heaven,” trembles beneath the word of the Mighty One. The sea is divided2 by His power, and by His understanding the proud (Rahab) is pierced.
(6) Verse 13 is even more difficult than the preceding one. “By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent.” Delitzsch renders it, “By His breath the heavens become cheerful; His hand hath formed the fugitive dragon.” But a clear meaning of the verb here translated “form,” is “wound, or pierce.” This accords with Isa. 27:11In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea. (Isaiah 27:1), where the thought is a blending of these two verses, 12, 13. The connection, therefore, would suggest the overthrow of the enemy—Satan, the embodiment of pride, “the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan” (Rev. 20:22And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (Revelation 20:2)). This would accord, in its spiritual meaning, with the words of Bildad, “He maketh peace in His high places” (ch. 25:2).
On the other hand we may, as some do, apply it all to the creative power of God. He has garnished the heavens, and His hands have formed the crooked serpent—the constellation Draco, which winds about the northern skies. From the astronomical knowledge displayed in the book, this is a quite possible rendering.
A third explanation, which we mention only to reject it, is the mythological one, that the serpent, “Draco,” is trying to eclipse the light of the sun by winding himself about it. God must constantly wound it, to force it to relax its hold, and the serpent flees away, allowing the heavens to shine again in their beauty! Can we think of Job making use of this superstition to express the greatness of God in language of singular beauty and truth?
The general meaning, therefore, seems clear: God is supreme in heaven as on earth; creating, controlling and delivering. Spiritually, He will overthrow all that mars His fair creation which proclaims His glory. This will be found to accord with the latter chapters of our book, where God’s creative power, and His control of the elements of hostile pride, are declared by Himself (chaps. 38-41).
(7) But, in his sweeping glance, Job pauses at the heavens and the earth. After all has been said, the half has not been told; these are “parts of His ways,” the “edges,” outskirts of His vast dominion. “But how little a portion is heard of Him,” or, “How we hear but a whisper thereof.” How little do we know of His greatness! We catch little whispers of His power in every passing breeze; we see some portion of His wisdom in every tiny blade of grass or drop of dew; but, could we understand, all nature is vibrant with its testimony. What a day will that be when we shall “eye to eye look on knowledge.” When the majestic harmony of nature shall blend with the sweeter notes of grace, and all shall tell the glories of their Creator, the Lamb that was slain.
“When the praise of heav’n I hear,
Loud as thunder to the ear—
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harps’ melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then, how much I owe.”
3. —Job’s closing monologue (chaps. 27-31.)
The direct controversy closed with Job’s reply to Bildad, chap. 26, but the sufferer has yet much to say before he has told out all his heart. The friends are apparently silenced, and he is left victor in the strife which has gone on so long. That there has been progress we have seen as we went along: on the part of the friends it has been a progress in failure to confirm their charges; with Job we have seen a progress upward, of faith laying hold on
God in spite of all that seems so dark and inexplicable.
In this closing monologue we have the manifestation of Job’s heart. He vindicates himself, refusing to acknowledge the charges of his friends, and by implication declares himself the possessor of the true wisdom—the fear of the Lord. He then reviews his past life of happiness, and contrasts it with his present degradation, and closes with renewed and complete protestations of righteousness.
This portion may be divided into three sections:
(1) Assertion of integrity, in contrast with the wicked and his doom (chap. 27).
(2) The wisdom which is above all price (chap. 28).
(3) Self-manifested (chaps. 29-30.
There are certain elements of confusion in this monologue. The first part is much of the same character with what had preceded. The closing part is a sad conclusion—self-occupation, self-vindication, self-righteousness. But imbedded between these two parts we have, in grand poetic beauty, a statement of what is wisdom, the true riches, unknown to the natural man. We cannot but feel that, with all he has yet to unlearn, Job has the elements of this wisdom. The root of the matter is in him, the pure gold is there, and the dross will soon be removed.
This chapter while forming part of the monologue, is closely linked with the reply to Bildad.
We may consider it as addressed to the friends as a whole—a summing up of the controversy. There are four main parts:
(1) He maintains his righteousness (vers. 1-7).
(2) The wicked’s character contrasted (vers. 8-12).
(3) The sure doom of the ungodly (vers. 13-18).
(4) Driven away in his wickedness (vers. 19-23).
There is an apparent lack of evenness in this section, and some have thought a lack of consistency with what Job has previously declared. The self-vindication is familiar enough, but when he begins to describe the character and doom of the wicked, we might almost imagine that one of the friends was speaking. Indeed, the latter half of the chapter has been considered as the third speech of Zophar, inadvertently dropped from its place and inserted here, with chapter 28 as Job’s answer. But there is not the slightest indication of any such disturbance of the text. It is a theory used to explain an imagined difficulty, a difficulty whose solution is found in the study of the chapter itself.
(1) Job declares that he will never surrender to the unrighteous charges of the friends. Boldly he declares that God has taken away his right (not as in our version, his judgment), that is, has acted unjustly toward him; He has brought bitterness into the soul of one who did not deserve it!
The next verse, 3, has been variously rendered. In the A. V. Job is made to say that so long as his breath is in him, he will persist in maintaining his righteousness. But many regard the verse as a parenthetic explanation; “for still all my breath is in me,” etc. He is in full possession of his consciousness, and speaks the truth deliberately, as he believes. Such a rendering and explanation seems to accord with the original.
He will not allow himself to bear false witness; till he dies he will hold fast his integrity. His heart does not condemn him, and in the survey of his past life there is not a day whose record furnishes ground for reproach. “My heart reproacheth not any of my days.” We must take this as the sober statement of one who had “lived in all good conscience.” But there is a sound of self-righteousness which does not accord with the knowledge of one’s self in the presence of God. Job is not there yet. It is the cry of an honest soul that does not fully see the light. Is there any unrighteousness? —it is in his enemy, not in himself. We see therefore that Job was speaking as between man and man.
(2) Job now turns to the end of the wicked. What hope has he when God cuts him off, and takes away his soul? What shall be the end of the man to whom God says, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee?” Will God hear his cry when it is too late? Or has He not given the solemn warning, “I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh” (Prov. 1:2626I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; (Proverbs 1:26))? Is it too late to call upon God when the present opportunities have been put off for a “more convenient season” —which never comes.
Is not all this self-evident? Job asks them. Do they not know the Lord’s ways? Why then do they indulge in such foolish and wrong thoughts as they had expressed, and charge him (a man whose uprightness they knew, and who was conscious of his own integrity) with having a character like this which he describes?
Here we reach the explanation of the apparent change in Job’s attitude. Hitherto he had withstood the friends in their contention as to the wicked, because they ever linked him with their descriptions. He will now take up the same language to show how impossible it was to confound such an one as himself with the wicked with whom they identified him. It becomes thus a most potent reply to their charges. He had dwelt upon the many exceptions to God’s dealings with the wicked, because the friends were making such a wrong use of these dealings. The force of what he says comes out even more strongly in the next portion.
(3) He now goes into the terrible and irrevocable doom that awaits the ungodly, and, in language equal to that of the friends, tells how they will at last be overtaken.
“This is the portion of the wicked man with God.” He has received wealth and pleasure and honor at the hands of man; but how different a heritage will they get from the Almighty whom they have despised. Have his children multiplied? They are left to the devouring sword. Did they once live in luxury? They will come to lack bread, and those who survive them will be swallowed up by death, and without friendly lamentations— “Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation” (Ps. 78:64).
Job thus dwells upon a sorrow in some respects similar to his own, and yet how different. He too had been bereft of his children, but was it as under the retributive wrath of God? And did Job act as these wicked men whom he here describes? They may gather silver and wealth as the dust, only to have the righteous enjoy it— “The wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.” Was Job’s case thus? Had the righteous obtained the wealth which once was his? The grand dwellings of the ungodly, like the frail tenement of the moth, shall crumble into nothingness, or be as the watchman’s transient booth, “as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers.” The fact that Job can speak thus of the perishing things of this world’s greatness shows that he was conscious of a far different heritage for himself. Let moth and rust corrupt, he seems to say that he knows he has a better and more enduring substance.
(4) He follows in his solemn description the course of the wicked to the end. The rich man lieth down not realizing it is for the last time. He lies down in usual comfort, he opens his eyes upon a new day, but not to resume the old employments and pleasures. He opens his eyes only to pass away. Those eyes, so long closed to all that God has witnessed, at last open to another world— “In hell (hades) he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.”
Terror, so long kept at a distance as the warning voice of conscience spoke, now sweeps down upon him; as by a tempest in the night he is carried away. God brings him down, and men rejoice at the removal of their oppressor.
Thus Job calmly describes an end which he knows is not his. What has made the difference? Is it not the faith which amidst all his distress has held fast to God? —a God whom he so little knew, and at whose afflictions he had repined.
Continuing his monologue, Job next contrasts the doom of the ungodly rich, as described in the previous chapter, with the true riches, which can never be lost. The connection is clear, and the transition natural and striking. The opening part of the chapter describes the toil and care with which men search for the “delved gold,” which so often brings but the “strife and curse which o’er it fall.” He then passes on to the true riches—wisdom; where shall it be found? The search for it in earth or sea is vain; nor can all the wealth of the world be compared with it. Where is this priceless treasure to be found? Even the dark shades of death can only witness to its existence, but do not tell how or where to secure it. It can only be gained through the revelation of God; not only in His works, but in His Word, He appeals to the conscience and heart of man. The whole passage is beautiful and noble in its conception and expression, and indicates that the one who speaks knows that blessed One whom he describes. This chapter would prove that Job could not be the hypocrite his friends would make him out to be.
The entire chapter however is outside the atmosphere of controversy. Job is not here seeking to maintain his righteousness, but, for the time at least, loses sight of himself, and breathes the pure air of truth, unmarred by the noxious fumes of self-righteousness and unbelief. We can but feel the moral elevation of it all.
The chapter may be divided into seven portions.
1. The treasures of earth (vers. 1-6).
2. The hidden treasure (vers. 7-11)
3. Not revealed by nature (vers. 12-14).
4. Its priceless value tested (vers. 15-19).
5. Its report (vers. 20-22).
6. The Revealer (vers. 23-27).
7. The Revelation (ver. 28).
1. Job is evidently acquainted with all the processes of mining, whether from the rich deposits in the Sinai peninsula, or the nearer ones of the rocky regions of Bashan and Syria. He knows and describes the difficult and dangerous search for these treasures of earth, the “gold which perisheth.” All this is knowledge acquired by man, who spares no toil nor danger to gain the coveted stores.
There is a mine for silver, the “current money with the merchant.” How much labor is represented in that shining white metal used so largely in the East as the medium of exchange. Alas, of that of which it is a type (the redemption-price for the soul of man, Ex. 30:11-16; 38:25-2811And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 12When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them; that there be no plague among them, when thou numberest them. 13This they shall give, every one that passeth among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary: (a shekel is twenty gerahs:) an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord. 14Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. 15The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls. 16And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls. (Exodus 30:11‑16)
25And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: 26A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men. 27And of the hundred talents of silver were cast the sockets of the sanctuary, and the sockets of the vail; an hundred sockets of the hundred talents, a talent for a socket. 28And of the thousand seven hundred seventy and five shekels he made hooks for the pillars, and overlaid their chapiters, and filleted them. (Exodus 38:25‑28)
) men know little and care less. Of this however Job does not speak.
Gold, too, refined in the fire and made into ornaments of beauty and the kingly crown, men will travel to the ends of the earth for it. The true gold, the righteousness of God in Christ, is treated by most as valueless. Iron, so much needed in. every department of labor, is laboriously prepared from the dust of the earth. Man labors for these earthly necessities, but forgets Him in whom alone is strength. Brass, or copper, with its unyielding strength, was and is melted from the containing stones, but the unchanging judgments of God are little valued by men.
In his search after these treasures, man delves into the dark recesses of the earth with his lamp, making an end to the darkness as he penetrates into the farthest extremities (rather than “perfection”) of the mines, searching for those ore-laden “stones of darkness” —stones hidden in the darkness. The bowels of the earth are like the shadow of death, and often entomb the hardy miner in their depths, but nothing holds him back. Men will give their lives for gold. They are not content with the fertile earth yielding food for man’s need; they tear it and search its depths as a fire burning and destroying. Such seems to be the clear meaning of verse 5. It is wealth, gold, jewels, glory, that man seeks after, and for which he is ready to barter his very life and soul. A glance at the history of the mining camps of modern times will confirm all that is said by the patriarch. What covetousness, lust, violence, reign in these places, in the arid mountains of the West and the frozen land of Yukon. What a contrast to the peaceful pursuits of gathering the bountiful harvests God has provided upon the very surface of the earth. The typical and spiritual teaching here is very clear: “Having food and raiment (covering), let us be therewith content.” It is not meant of course that these precious things are sinful in themselves, nor that their proper use is not necessary. But the restless craving for them is significant of the poor heart of man, seeking for what can never satisfy. If he had but used the same earnestness in seeking for the true riches, how different would be the result. “My son... if thou criest after knowledge,... if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasure, then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 2:1-51My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; 2So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; 3Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; 4If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; 5Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1‑5)).
2. This portion (vers. 7-11) has been by Delitzsch connected closely with the preceding, as describing the search after earth’s precious stores, and part of it does go into further details; but the similarity of ver. 21 to vers. 7, 8, suggests that even thus early in the chapter Job is hinting at his main theme—the true riches. Verse 12 confirms this thought. We therefore accept it.
There is a way—another way than in the depths of earth, or the loftiest mountain crags—the way of wisdom. We have seen that man does not get it in the mines; here it is unknown to the birds and beasts. As we see the eagle high in air, with vision far wider than ours, there may come into our hearts a longing to soar like it above the earth, and to see what we do not here.
But those heights do not reveal what man must know in order to be happy. The boundless deserts, where the proud lion roams unfettered by the fear of man, disclose no treasure which the heart craves. The hermits, “desert dwellers,” have failed to get peace to their souls by their fastings and immolation of the body.
Returning to the search for treasure, Job describes this fruitless quest in which man takes hold upon the rocks (possibly pebbles), and overturns the mountains. We see him washing and sifting the pebbles and sand, or blasting in the solid mountains. He cuts his way deep down, following the vein as a river in its course, and looking with greedy eyes upon the rich shining treasures locked up therein. If waters flow in, he finds a way to divert them, that he may pursue the hidden wealth thus laid bare.
Again we ask, why will not men labor thus for the “hidden wisdom?” Why will they not seek to sift it out as it lies so close by, or, if need be, in faith remove the very mountains of difficulty. If the sweeping rush of “the course of this world,” as a river, would engulf the true riches, why do men not stop it, or turn it from them, that they may possess themselves of this whose value is above all wealth? “He that seeketh findeth,” is still true, though the seeking and the finding are different from what the toil for gold would indicate. The wisdom is hidden, the way to it is not known, because God is not known, and men will not hearken to Him.
3. But while man is told to seek, this wisdom is not found in nature, nor by human effort. The question is asked, Where is wisdom found? Where is the place where understanding has its abode? Man, frail mortal, knows not and has not the price to obtain it, for it is not found in the land of the living. If it were within reach, then some would be able to attain to it; some rich man would have the price to pay for it. But it is beyond man; “It is high, I cannot attain unto it.” In the fathomless depths of the abyss— “the waters under the earth” —the call for wisdom awakens but the reply, “It is not in me.” The wide sea, in all its vast expanse, holds not this priceless treasure. Nature, in itself, is powerless to furnish a simple clue to this heavenly, this wondrous good.
What then is this wisdom, of such infinite value, and yet so unattainable? We shall be told in a little while by the Author of it. It must suffice us here to say it is the knowledge of the truth, the nature of all things, obtained from God Himself; a knowledge which does not puff up, nor separate from God, but gives the soul a living principle of peace and joy in communion with Him. No wonder man would search and toil in vain for this priceless treasure.
And yet, when once God is known, we find all nature eloquent of Him. Those depths below and above declare His glory and power. The “great and wide sea” tells of the depth of His wisdom, care and goodness. The earth, with its myriad forms of life, speaks of Him as the Author and maintainer of all life, from the lowest vegetable form up to the highest spiritual intelligence. The great creation psalm (104) declares this: “O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches” (ver. 24). How sad it is to see men of vast knowledge, of profound reasoning powers, gazing into the glorious heavens and failing to find God or wisdom there, or analyzing the dust of the earth yet not perceiving Him who “wrought by weight and measure.” Truly the words of the apostle state the solemn fact: “The world by wisdom (human knowledge) knew not God” (1 Cor. 1:2121For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)). How blessed it is then to have the true wisdom— “Christ the wisdom of God, and the power of God;” to know Him through that Cross which sets aside all of man’s pride, his wisdom and his righteousness, and gives in its place the key to all truth— “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
We do but anticipate the full Christian revelation in speaking thus. If Job had not so wide a view, he at least had the germ of that to be revealed later on.
4. A thing of such priceless value is now tested by all that man counts treasure. Pure gold and silver, weighed out in unstinted measure cannot purchase it. The fine gold of Ophir, the precious onyx and the sapphire— “a king’s ransom” —have no place here. Again gold is mentioned, along with transparent crystal— “pure gold, as it were transparent glass” —jewels as beautiful as rare; corals, pearls, rubies—wisdom’s price exceeds them all. The topaz of far off Ethiopia finds its luster dim beside this bright jewel of God’s glory. Nature is ransacked in vain to find something to compare with that whose price is above all earthly treasures. Would that men realized this, that they might find the one jewel of eternal value. All else is nothing without it.
“Were the vast world our own,
With all its varied store,
And Thou, Lord Jesus, wert unknown,
We still were poor.”
But why speak of that which all searching cannot find, or wealth cannot buy? The question of verse 12 is repeated, not hopelessly, but to show man the futility of a merely natural quest. “Whence then cometh wisdom, and where is the place of understanding?” Nature indeed speaks of wisdom, but does not communicate it—
“Stars o’er us are silent,
Graves silent beneath us.”
And yet, had the poet but ears to hear, those graves would at least whisper back a hint that the present life was not all—that wisdom lies beyond time. “Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears.” How true it is that those who consider their latter end are near to wisdom, ready to receive the revelation which God gives. This is the wisdom which cometh down from above, and is given to the meek.
We turn now from nature to its Author, from creation to God. He knoweth the way, and He alone can reveal it to man. Nor is it merely God as Creator, but as Revealer in the person of His Son— “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” He has said, “I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them unto babes... No man knoweth the Father but the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” He it is whose all-seeing eye sweeps the heavens, who has given its weight to the viewless air, and its appointed proportions to the water, who sends the gentle rain, and with it gives a course to the lightning’s flash. He has seen wisdom; nay, He is that Wisdom.
We cannot but be reminded of the grand passage in Prov. 8, in which this divine Person, the true Wisdom, declares His character and power. “When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth; when He established the clouds above... then I was by Him as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight... And my delights were with the sons of men” (Prov. 8:27-31).3
7. What then is the true wisdom? What does God declare it to be? It is most significant that it is not mere truth, but truth applied to the conscience, truth which puts man in his true place, and thus fits and enables him to receive what God has to say. The fear of the Lord (Adonai, the supreme Ruler and Master) is wisdom—the bowing in humiliation before Him in whose presence seraphim veil their faces, before whom Isaiah cried, “Woe is me, for I am undone.” This fear is not mere dread, but reverence, submission, worship. It includes repentance, as evidenced in the words of the thief: “Dost not thou fear God?” To know God thus is preparatory to and inclusive of the knowledge of His mercy and grace—for us the full knowledge of the gospel, and accompanying Christian revelation. It is not knowledge of God, but being brought to Him, and learning His grace and love. This is more than mere knowledge; it is the key to it; it is eternal life.
That Job could speak thus, shows that he had in some measure this wisdom, could not therefore be classed with the wicked. But how feebly had he grasped the great fact of which he had spoken. A little later this fear of the Lord will lead him indeed “to depart from evil” —from an evil heart and from himself. That was for him, as it is for us, the true wisdom. With this wisdom we can pass over the earth, or search beneath its depths, can cross the seas, or soar towards heaven, only to find God and His witness everywhere.
It is this moral character which marks out God’s word as distinct from all other writings. It is addressed to the conscience of man, producing that “fear of the Lord,” which is clean, enduring forever.”
As already pointed out, there is greater or less inconsistency in Job’s monologue, corresponding to the state of his heart, in which conflicting emotions, of conscious integrity before man, and of the fear of the Lord, are mingled with unhealthy reminiscences of past greatness and laments over present degradation. The general tone, however, shows the need of God’s dealing with his soul, and prepares us for what follows.
In this third section we have the manifestation of the man, the thoughts that nestled in his bosom, and while he concludes with unanswerable protestations of integrity, the impression left upon our mind is painful. The section may be divided into three parts, manifesting progressive stages of self-occupation.
1. Past greatness (chap. 29).
2. Present shame (chap. 30).
3. I am clean (chap. 31).
We may remark upon the entire section that Job is occupied with the wrong person. Even if all that he said were true—and we have no reason to doubt it was sincerely spoken—it ill becomes a man to dwell upon his own state. Unfallen man’s happiness was to continue in God’s goodness; turning from that, he fell into disobedience. For a sinner to dwell upon his own goodness—of which he has none—is repulsive; and for a child of God to follow the same course, shows clearly that he has not yet learned his lesson. All this comes out clearly in the chapters we are considering.
1. Past greatness
Taking up these in order, we find in chapter 29 a number of distinctly marked divisions.
(1) Prosperity at home (vers. 1-6).
(2) Honor abroad (vers. 7-10).
(3) His benefactions praised him (vers. 11-17).
(4) Abiding prosperity in view (vers. 18-20).
(5) A comforter for the distressed (vers. 21-25).
(1) It is nearly always a sign of present decrepitude if we are obliged to look backward to the past for marks of God’s favor. It is apt to be connected with pride in that past, as well as with discouragement in the present. In the things of God, we enjoy His personal favor; His lamp shines about us now; His blessing is upon our tribulation, and the future opens out sweetly before us— “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” If we dwell upon the past, it is rather upon the grace which has saved us. The Christian’s motto is, “Reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3). Paul’s past, in which he had gloried—in Judaism—he now counted loss for Christ. Even past service, communion and joy in Christ, is left behind. The manna of yesterday will not do for today. The bright light of yesterday’s candle is the burnt wick of today. A present Christ in all His fullness; a present Spirit ministering the Word to our need—these are the believer’s proper theme and occupation. Job thus at the outset is looking in the wrong direction.
Ver. 4 is literally, “in the days of autumn,” and does not refer to the beginning of the civil year, but rather to the rich time of ingathering, of ripe maturity, when all was prosperous about him. His children, as described in the first chapter, were about him; he luxuriated in the abundance of his resources.
(2) Having surveyed his former prosperity at home, Job now, in memory, passes out of his gates to take his preeminent place among his fellows. It is pitiful to hear a truly great man describing his supremacy over others. The young men hid themselves, the elders rose up and remained standing until he took his seat. Ah, had not this sense of his greatness fostered a pride in Job which made his downfall a necessary dealing of God? He was a prince of princes; nobles were struck dumb in his presence! He is describing his place among the councilors of the city; he was their president and chief.
(3) But this eminence was not due to wisdom and dignity alone. The ear which heard his voice blessed him; the eye looked upon a benefactor and a friend. It is indeed a beautiful picture, but marred by the pride of personal recital. “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.” Job had won the respect and affection of all. He had been a succorer of the helpless, a friend of the orphan and the widow. He clothes himself with righteousness as with a garment, and binds it as a crown upon his brow. Verily, these are strong words, savoring little of the humility which becomes us. Job was a combination of the “righteous” man for whom one would scarcely die, and of the “good,” benevolent man for whom, perhaps, some would even dare to die. Eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, diligently seeking out obscure cases of need; and withal meting out severe penalty upon the wrong-doer—truly he was a model man! But, for us, let it be far from us to glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(4) All this honor, coupled with beneficence on his part, made life very attractive to Job. The inevitable end, put off to a great distance, would find him comfortable in his “nest.” He would prolong the days of his life as a multitude of grains of the sand, or, as some would have it, as the phoenix—the immortal bird of fable. The rendering of our version gives a simple and more worthy rendering, and one conformed to the usage of Scripture (1 Ki. 4:2929And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. (1 Kings 4:29); Gen. 22:1717That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (Genesis 22:17)). Another suggestion is that Job refers to the palm tree— “The righteous shall flourish as the palm tree.” In any case the meaning is obvious: he would live on uninterruptedly and as a well-watered tree. So would the freshness of the dew be his, and his bow would abide in strength.
(5) The remainder of the chapter seems to recur to his greatness and wisdom. But there is a slight advance over the former expressions. The effect of his decisions is seen upon his beneficiaries rather than his fellow-councilors. His decision was for them the final word, calling for no response; and yet his words were not like the withering sentence of an inexorable judge, but like the gentle dew or the rain. His smile was as a ray of light to them. The thought here is slightly obscure. Does Job mean to say that his smile was a blessing to them; or the token of his abiding self-complacency? The usual thought, however, is not obscure. If they were in doubt and trouble, his smile reassured them, and no grief on their part could alter his imperturbable cheerfulness. He was as a king among them, regarded with a reverence akin to worship Ah, but where was all this honor now? It could but intensify Job’s present misery.
“This is truth the poet sings,
That a sorrow’s crown of sorrow
Is remembering happier things.”
The ashes of his past joys can give no warmth to his poor comfortless heart today; they can but feed the flame of that pride which burns all the more brightly amid the ruin of its past.
2. —Present shame (chap. 30).
Dwell upon the past as long he may, Job is at last forced to turn to the present with its wretched contrast. This portion may be divided into seven parts, giving the thought of complete misery, which thus exceeds his former greatness.
(1) His wretched mockers (vers. 1-8).
(2) Their scorn (vers. 9-12).
(3) Their persecution (vers. 13-15).
(4) His sufferings (vers. 16-19).
(5) No help from God (vers. 20-23).
(6) The triumph of misery (vers. 24-27).
(7) Complete woe (vers. 28-31).
(1) Job’s words as to his former greatness were in description of his beneficent pity for the wretched outcasts to whom he ministered comfort and cheer. Passing into the present, he seems to have changed places with these, or those like them, and in turn speaks of them not with the language of sympathy but of deepest contempt. Pride speaks of them— “whose fathers I would have disdained to have set with the dogs of my flock.” Their elders were beneath his contempt, and now the younger have him in derision. The verses following describe these wretched persons who now exalt themselves above him. They are weak and unprofitable—as decrepit old age. Withered up from hunger, they gnaw the roots of weeds growing in the waste which for long has ceased to yield true food for man. The mallows, or salt wort, and the sedge, or juniper, have become their food. These are the contemptible wretches which mock him who once was so great. Driven from men as thieves, their habitation in valleys and dark holes, croaking or braying as beasts—these outcasts pour their contempt upon him! It is a hideous picture, reminding us of One who in a far different spirit said, “I was the song of the drunkards” (Ps. 69:12). But in Job there is no turning to God in such unjust treatment. Evidently the wound to his pride, in having such a rabble mock him, is the deepest of his mental sufferings. He had previously described persons like these (chap. 24) as illustrating the unequal lot that comes upon men and as showing the oppression of the prosperous wicked. But he is not here the advocate of these downtrodden men; his own soul is writhing under their con tempt. It is a sad picture of pride, which grows bitter as it dwells upon its wrongs.
(2) Scorn them as he may, Job is compelled to acknowledge that he is mocked by them, their song and their byword. We can but compare his anger at their taunts with the meekness of Him “who when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not.” All through life our Lord had the shadows of man’s rejection falling upon Him, but in His darkest hour— “your hour and the power of darkness” —they poured out their maledictions and their taunts. But He, as One that heard not, “gave His back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting” (Isa. 50:66I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. (Isaiah 50:6)). Who is it that said this? Not a man lamenting over former grandeur, but one who had voluntarily relinquished His glory in love for His enemies, who could at any moment have delivered Himself from His troubles by an appeal to His Father or by the putting forth of His own power. “But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?” (Matt. 26:5454But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? (Matthew 26:54)). We need only to meditate upon such words to see the pitiful petulance of Job in painful contrast. In all his sufferings Job felt, as he had frequently declared, the hand of God upon him, and he connects this with the scorn of these abject men who took advantage of God’s dealings to vent their hatred upon him. “God hath forsaken him: persecute and take him.” The “rabble” (as the word has been rendered) press upon his right hand, they thrust his feet away from their only standing-place, and lift up their own destructive ways. We can only again remark how unlike Job was to our blessed Lord in similar circumstances.
(3) The scorn and mockery, which we have seen increasing in violence, now bursts out in a storm of persecution. These puny, helpless men turn now in violence upon him; they tear down his path—destroy the way of one whose footsteps had “well-nigh slipped.” They would contribute to his overthrow. They burst upon him like a flood breaking through restraining banks; they roll over him with the deafening noise of their tramp. “The floods of ungodly men made me afraid.” Like a pack of cowardly wolves they pounce upon the fallen man, whose soul, or rather “nobility,” is swept aside as by a fierce hurricane; “Like a cloud my prosperity passed away.” This is beautiful poetry, abounding in bold images; but Job does not show himself to advantage. The weakness of his spirit is seen in the lack of dignity with which he undergoes his misfortunes. Evidently his faith is in eclipse. This is apparent in what follows.
(4) His soul is poured out, and days of suffering are his portion. The nights are no better, for the gnawing disease does not sleep as it bares his bones out of his very flesh. His garment is no longer an adornment, but clings to his emaciated body, as his collar discloses the poor bony neck. It is all vivid as a picture, and as repulsive. All this Job ascribes to God. It is His great force which has thus emaciated him and laid his honor in the dust. He has brought him into the mire and made him as worthless as the dust and ashes in which he sits. Do we hear him taking counsel with his soul in this time of suffering? “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Ps. 42:11). No; instead of encouraging himself thus, he accuses his Maker.
(5) He cries to Him for help, but no answer comes from above. He stands in all his wretchedness before God, who looks upon him but does not pity. This is the force of ver. 20. It is not merely “Thou regardest me not;” the negative is not in the original; God does regard him, in the sense of looking upon him and remaining unmoved by his woes. “Thou changest Thyself to a cruel being toward me.” Oh, if Job had but known the tender love which would have spared him from all this suffering, but for his own good! He knows not that “the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” That will come when he sees “the end of the Lord” —the purpose that is in view (Jas. 5:1111Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)). Now he can only see that strong hand reached out to make war against him. It is this stormy wind which lifts up the frail sufferer as chaff and drives him along to vanish in the warring storm. Beautiful poetry indeed, but wretched unbelief this is. Job sees nothing before him but death, the house appointed for all living. His faith seems to have suffered a great eclipse. May we not see the reason of this in that self-occupation which marks these two chapters and the next?
(6) His misery is complete; it rises over all other thoughts. Verse 24—whose meaning is obscure in the A. V.—has been rendered: “No prayer availeth when He stretcheth out His hand; though they cry when He destroyeth.” That is, it is useless to cry to Him for pity, for He will not regard the prayer of those upon whose destruction He is bent. It is a most hopeless view of God, of which Job has shown he is quite capable. Delitzsch, however, renders it as though Job is explaining his cries. Is it not natural for one to reach forth his hand for help? So he translates: “Doth not one, however, stretch out the hand in falling; doth he not raise a cry for help on that account, in his ruin?” This suits with what follows: he is only asking what he had shown to others in their time of stress—he has wept for those in trouble and grieved for the needy. He sums up his misery in verses 26, 27. In his prosperity he had looked forward for good all his days; instead of that, misery had overtaken him, darkness instead of the wished-for light. Instead of a heart at rest, his inner man was a seething caldron of anguish— “Days of misery met me.”
(7) At last we reach the end of the wail—the last of those laments which pierce the heart. He pictures himself as a lonely wanderer in the dark, a companion of beasts and birds which shun the face of man. He might well hide from them, for his skin drops off his putrid flesh; his very bones are parched and dry. Such misery must surely appeal to the most stolid. Must these friends not listen to such woe, and have pity? Job has sounded all the depths of his suffering and grief; his harp has no notes but the sad wail of mourning; his pipe leads in no dance, it is turned alone to notes of sorrow.
Thus the wail ends in a threnody of sadness, without a note of faith. Oh, let us thank our God that Another has lifted His voice out of deeper darkness than all that pressed upon Job with words of sweet assurance, “The cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (John 18:1111Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? (John 18:11); Luke 23:4646And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:46)). To Him—our Saviour, our Lord, our all—we turn, and learn in our grief to say, “Thy will be done.”
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:17, 1817For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17‑18)).
3. —I am clean (chap. 31).
We come now to the closing portion of Job’s monologue. In the first part he had dwelt upon his former greatness and goodness; in the second part he contrasted it with his present wretched state; in both these he finds food for pride; its climax is reached in the present chapter, where he asserts his purity, goodness and righteousness in the completest way. There is no bitterness as when in his former replies he resented the accusations of his friends, nor vain crying of injustice at the hands of God. Quickly, deliberately and thoroughly he surveys his life and character, and comes to the conclusion that he welcomes both the indictment of man and the judgment of God.
We cannot question the truth and the sincerity of all that he says, but, we may well ask, is his conclusion a happy one even for himself? He closes the mouths of his friends, he seems abundantly satisfied with himself; suppose God were to let it go at that, is the spectacle of a completely self-vindicated man a pleasant one? Ah, divine truth, as well as divine love, will not suffer him to wrap himself in these weeds of self-righteousness. They are, for the most part, borrowed garments belonging to God, to whom Job gives not one whit of glory; and all the rest is but “filthy rags” which belong to the dust and ashes where Job is soon to put himself.
In other words, God is left out save as related to Job’s righteousness: His greatness, goodness, holiness, as themes of worship and joy are ignored. At the close of all that he has to say, Job is as far from God as at the beginning; nay, further. When we remember that all God’s ways with man are to bring him close to Himself, we see the folly and sin of Job’s course. No wonder that other voices with other themes must be heard before the “end of the Lord” is reached.
But let us seek to analyze this last portion of Job’s monologue, and gather sober lessons for ourselves from the vain effort of this best of men. Surely the lesson must be, “Cease ye from man.”
The main subjects of the chapter group themselves under seven heads:
(1) Asseveration of chastity and uprightness (vers. 1-12).
(2) Kindness at home and abroad (vers. 13-23).
(3) Refusal of all forms of idolatry (vers. 24-28).
(4) Friendship and hospitality (vers. 29-32).
(5) No hypocrisy or fear of man (vers. 33, 34)
(6) A challenge to man and to God (vers. 35-37).
(7) His very land a witness for him (vers. 38-40).
(1) In opening this sevenfold protestation of purity and integrity, Job dwells upon a side of his character and conduct which even his friends had not openly challenged. Whatever intimations they have made of general wickedness—turning from God, violent dealings with the needy and others—the subject of personal purity had not been touched upon.
But if Job is to be vindicated before man and God, surely this department of his life must be investigated. He approaches it with the boldness of conscious innocence. His eyes, the avenue to the heart, had been closed by full purpose—a “covenant,” against even a look at what might stir up passion. Our Lord in the “sermon on the mount,” had shown that essential purity must lie in the heart, and not merely in abstinence in outward conduct (Matt. 5:27, 2827Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Matthew 5:27‑28)). Asserting his purity, Job points out that he was moved by the fear of God, who would surely recompense sin upon the wicked. “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” said Joseph when assailed by the temptress (Gen. 39:99There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? (Genesis 39:9)). In an hour of spiritual sloth, David had allowed his eyes to wander, and had fallen (2 Sam. 11:22And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. (2 Samuel 11:2)). Job was conscious that God watched his every step, and appeals to Him to be tested, weighed in the balance (vers. 5, 6). He seems here to speak of general integrity, and in the two following verses, but returns to the general subject with which he began, and dwells upon the sin of adultery against a neighbor (vers. 9-12). In all he was pure—willing to have his own home violated if such were not the case. We get here a glimpse of his family life, equaling in sanctity that of Isaac, Joseph, and the purest of the patriarchs.
But we must take note of the self-righteousness which moved Job to speak of himself thus. He was arraying himself rather than giving glory to God. Doubtless at bottom he was a man of genuine piety, but it is not glory to set forth one’s own glory.
(2) He enlarges here on what he had already dwelt upon—denied by his friends—his benevolence, kindness and uprightness. Beginning with the household whose well-ordered character was the outgrowth of the inherent purity of its master, he asserts his equity in all his dealings with his servants, recognizing their common nature and standing before God “who is no respecter of persons.” Passing out to the needy poor, the fatherless and the widow had shared his food, and he had warmed them with his clothing. In brief he was as a father to the orphan, and as a son to the widow. Surely we have here an illustration of “pure religion and undefiled” (Jas. 1:2727Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)).
While dwelling upon his beneficence, Job shows how he had not taken advantage of any legal technicality which would have exonerated him in any severe dealing with the needy. When he saw his “help in the gate,” —the judges disposed to decide in his favor, not as bribed, but giving him his just dues—he had not carried his case against the orphans. If he had lifted his hand against them, he says, “let mine arm drop from my shoulder-blade.”
To all of this we can but say, True and excellent, but why should he speak of it? Why not let his fear of God keep him from these things, rather than boast of them?
(3) Having declared his benevolence, Job naturally passes on to speak of wealth, and disclaims the love of gold so common to man; that “covetousness which is idolatry” (Col. 3:55Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Colossians 3:5)). When his riches had increased, he had not set his heart upon them; gold had not allured him. And when he lifted up his eyes to the resplendent heavens, he had not given the glory to the sun, a creature of God, nor to the moon, “queen of heaven,” walking in splendor; nor even secretly wafted a kiss of worship to them, for God would have been denied thereby; he would have been a hypocrite, well deserving punishment.
Job’s strong point is his kindness to his fellow-men. Here he declares that even to his enemies he had been just. He had not been glad at their calamity, nor even in secret wished a curse to blight their life. He could call the men of his own household to bear witness. Had any one ever said they knew a hungry man whom he had not satisfied with his own food? No stranger was ever left beside his home in the street; his door was ever open to them—in our modern colloquialism, “the latch string was always outside.”
Job now declares his complete openness. He was not afraid of the great, did nothing behind closed doors which he would not have declared publicly. He had not acted as men so generally do, hiding their sins from the eye of man—or, as our version and many render the words, “as Adam,” who hid from the presence of God to conceal the shame of his guilt. Job walked in the light, where all could see him.
He thus reaches the climax: he is chaste, just, God-fearing, kind, sincere—what has he to fear? He challenges all; would that he had one to hear him “Behold my signature!” he cries. I sign my name to the catalog of my virtues. “Let the Almighty answer me!” “Let mine adversary produce his charges in writing.”
We cannot believe that any but a true man could thus challenge his accusers. If God be his adversary, let Him write the charges in a book! Job would carry it on his shoulder in triumph, as a mark of dignity, or as a diadem upon his brow! He would disport himself as a prince with it!
Yet we need only wait a little to hear this “prince” saying. “I have heard of Thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee.” Job’s thoughts are mixed: he is not exactly meeting God as a sinner, but as one who is conscious of “the root of the matter” in his heart. His mistake is to confound this with his own personal worthiness, and thus mar the very thought of grace. Who of all the sons of men could stand before a thrice holy God, and say “I am clean?” “In Thy sight shall no man living be justified.”
(7) The conclusion seems almost tame, for after the appeal to God and man, Job descends to inanimate earth. He appeals to his land to bear witness if he has acquired it unjustly, or used its yield as his own which belonged to another; if he has taken away property from another (as Ahab took the vineyard and life of Naboth), let the very furrows weep out their charge, let the fertile soil yield thistles instead of wheat, tares instead of barley.
It has even been suggested that Job appeals to the land to declare if he has treated it unkindly, so that it needed a Sabbath-rest— “Then shall the land enjoy her Sabbaths;” but the first meaning seems the simplest.
“The words of Job are ended.” He had called upon earth and man, yea, upon God, to declare his righteousness. He would have all unite to sing his praise! How different from that happy time when all nature shall speak forth the praises of the Lord, the King. “Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord; for He cometh to judge the earth” (Ps. 96:12, 13). Let us turn from the self-praise of Job to pay our tribute of worship “Unto Him that loveth us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5, 65And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, 6And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5‑6)).
Job’s words will be rightly ended when he is ready to give praise to the One who alone is worthy of it. We are glad to be through with Job’s words its uttered here.