In the land of Uz – This country was situated in Idumea, or the land of Edom, in Arabia Petraea, of which it comprised a very large district. See the preface.
Whose name was Job – The original is איוב Aiyob; and this orthography is followed by the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. From the Vulgate we borrow Job, not very dissimilar from the Ιωβ Iob of the Septuagint. The name signifies sorrowful, or he that weeps. He is supposed to have been called Jobab. See more in the preface.
Perfect and upright – תם וישר tam veyashar; Complete as to his mind and heart, and Straight or Correct as to his moral deportment.
Feared God – Had him in continual reverence as the fountain of justice, truth, and goodness.
Eschewed evil – סר מרע sar mera, departing from, or avoiding evil. We have the word eschew from the old French eschever, which signifies to avoid. All within was holy, all without was righteous; and his whole life was employed in departing from evil, and drawing nigh to God. Coverdale translates an innocent and vertuous man, soch one as feared God, an eschued evell. From this translation we retain the word eschew.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Job_1:1-5. The holiness of Job, his wealth, etc.
Uz — north of Arabia-Deserta, lying towards the Euphrates. It was in this neighborhood, and not in that of Idumea, that the Chaldeans and Sabeans who plundered him dwell. The Arabs divide their country into the north, called Sham, or “the left”; and the south, called Yemen, or “the right”; for they faced east; and so the west was on their left, and the south on their right. Arabia-Deserta was on the east, Arabia-Petraea on the west, and Arabia-Felix on the south.
Job — The name comes from an Arabic word meaning “to return,” namely, to God, “to repent,” referring to his end [Eichorn]; or rather from a Hebrew word signifying one to whom enmity was shown, “greatly tried” [Gesenius]. Significant names were often given among the Hebrews, from some event of later life (compare Gen_4:2, Abel – a “feeder” of sheep). So the emir of Uz was by general consent called Job, on account of his “trials.” The only other person so called was a son of Issachar (Gen_46:13).
perfect — not absolute or faultless perfection (compare Job_9:20; Ecc_7:20), but integrity, sincerity, and consistency on the whole, in all relations of life (Gen_6:9; Gen_17:1; Pro_10:9; Mat_5:48). It was the fear of God that kept Job from evil (Pro_8:13).
There was a man. This opening presents to us the Book of Job as a detached work, separate from and independent of all others. The historical books are generally united each to each by the you connective. In the land of Us. Uz, or Huz (Hebrew, עוּץ), seems to have been originally, like Judah, Moab, Ammon, Edom, etc; the name of a man. It was borne by a son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham (Gen_22:21), and again by a son of Dishan, the son of Seir the Horite (Gen_36:28). Some regard it as also a personal name in Gen_10:23. But from this use it passed to the descendants of one or more of these patriarchs, and from them to the country or countries which they inhabited. The “land of Uz” is spoken of, not only in this passage, but also in Jer_25:20 and Lam_4:21. These last-cited places seem to show that Jeremiah’s “land of Uz” was in or near Edom, and therefore south of Palestine; but as Uzzites, like so many nations of these ports, were migratory, we need not be surprised if the name Uz was, at different times, attached to various localities. Arabian tradition regards the region of the Hauran, north-east of Palestine, as Job’s country. The other geographical names in the Book of Job point to a more eastern location, one not far remote from the southern Euphrates, and the adjacent parts of Arabia Sheba, Dedan, Teman, Buz, Shuah, and Chesed (Casdim) all point to this locality. On the other hand, there is a passage in the inscriptions of Asshur-banipal which, associating together the names of Huz and Buz (Khazu and Bazu), appears to place them both in Central Arabia, not far from the Jebel Shnmmar. My own conclusion would be that, while the name “land of Uz” designated at various periods various localities, Job’s “land of Uz” lay a little west of the Lower Euphrates, on the borders of Chaldea and Arabia. Whose name was Job. In the Hebrew the name is “Iyyob,” whence the “Eyoub” of the Arabs and the “Hiob” of the Germans. It is quite a distinct name from that of the third son of Issachar (Gen_46:18), which is properly expressed by “Job,” being יוֹב. Iyyob is supposed to be derived from aib (אָיִב), “to be hostile,” and to mean “cruelly or hostilely treated,” in which ease we must suppose it to have been first given to the patriarch in his later life, and to have superseded some other, as “Peter” superseded “Simon,” and “Paul” superseded “Saul.” According to a Jewish tradition, adopted by some of the Christian Fathers, Job’s original name was “Jobab,” and under this name he reigned as King of Edom (Gen_36:33). But this kingship is scarcely compatible with the view given of him in the Book of Job. The supposed connection of the name of Juba with that of Job is very doubtful. And that man was perfect. Tam (תָּם), the word translated “perfect,” seems to mean “complete, entire, not wanting in any respect,” It corresponds to the Greek τέλειος, and the Latin integer (comp. Horace, ‘Od.,’ 1.22. 1, “Integer vitro, scelerisque purus’). It does not mean” absolutely sinless,” which Job was not (comp. Job_9:20; Job_40:4). And upright. This is the exact meaning of yashar (יָשָׁר). “The Book of Jasher” was “the Book of the Upright” (βιβλίον τοῦ εὐθοῦς, 2Sa_1:18). One that feared God, and eschewed evil; literally, fearing God and departing from evil. The same testimony is given of Job by God himself in verse 8, and again in Job_2:3 (comp. also Eze_14:14, Eze_14:20). We must suppose Job to have reached as near perfection as was possible tot man at the time.
There was a man – This has all the appearance of being a true history. Many have regarded the whole book as a fiction, and have supposed that no such person as Job ever lived. But the book opens with the appearance of reality; and the express declaration that there was such a man, the mention of his name and of the place where he lived, show that the writer meant to affirm that there was in fact such a man. On this question see the Introduction, Section 1.
In the land of Uz – On the question where Job lived, see also the Introduction, Section 2.
Whose name was Job – The name Job (Hebrew איוב ‘ı̂yôb, Gr. Ἰώβ Iōb means properly, according to Gesenius, “one persecuted,” from a root (איב ‘âyab) meaning to be an enemy to anyone, to persecute, to hate. The primary idea, according to Gesenius, is to be sought in breathing, blowing, or puffing at, or upon anyone, as expressive of anger or hatred, Germ. “Anschnauben.” Eichhorn (Einleit. section 638. 1,) supposes that the name denotes a man who turns himself penitently to God, from a sense of the verb still found in Arabic “to repent.” On this supposition, the name was given to him, because, at the close of the book, he is represented as exercising repentance for the improper expressions in which he had indulged during his sufferings. The verb occurs only once in the Hebrew Scriptures, Exo_23:22 : But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then “I will be an enemy” אויב ‘ôyêb “unto thine enemies” אויב את ‘êth ‘ôyêb.
The participle איב ‘oyēb is the common word to denote an enemy in the Old Testament, Exo_15:6, Exo_15:9; Lev_26:25; Num_35:23; Deu_32:27, Deu_32:42; Psa_7:5; Psa_8:2; Psa_31:8; Lam_2:4-5; Job_13:24; Job_27:7; Job_33:10, “et soepe al.” If this be the proper meaning of the word “Job,” then the name would seem to have been given him by anticipation, or by common consent, as a much persecuted man. Significant names were very common among the Hebrews – given either by anticipation (see the notes at Isa_8:18), or subsequently, to denote some leading or important event in the life; compare Gen_4:1-2, Gen_4:25; Gen_5:29; 1Sa_1:20. Such, too, was the case among the Romans, where the “agnomen” thus bestowed became the appellation by which the individual was best known. Cicero thus received his name from a wart which he had on his face, resembling a “vetch,” and which was called by the Latins, “cicer.” Thus also Marcus had the name “Ancus,” from the Greek word ανκὼν ankōn, because he had a crooked arm; and thus the names Africanus, Germanicus, etc., were given to generals who had distinguished themselves in particular countries; see Univer. Hist. Anc. Part ix. 619, ed. 8vo, Lond. 1779. In like manner it is possible that the name “Job” was given to the Emir of Uz by common consent, as the man much persecuted or tried, and that this became afterward the appellation by which he was best known. The name occurs once as applied to a son of Issachar, Gen_46:13, and in only two other places in the Bible except in this book; Eze_14:14; Jam_5:11.
And that man was perfect – (תמם tâmam). The Septuagint have greatly expanded this statement, by giving a paraphrase instead of a translation. “He was a man who was true (ἀληθινός alēthinos), blameless (ἄμεμπτος amemptos), just (δίκαιος dikaios), pious (θεοσεβής theosebēs), abstaining from every evil deed.” Jerome renders it, “simplex – simple,” or “sincere.” The Chaldee, שׁלם shālam, “complete, finished, perfect.” The idea seems to be that his piety, or moral character, was “proportionate” and was “complete in all its parts.” He was a man of integrity in all the relations of life – as an Emir, a father, a husband, a worshipper of God. Such is properly the meaning of the word תם tâm as derived from תמם tâmam, “to complete, to make full, perfect” or “entire,” or “to finish.” It denotes that in which there is no part lacking to complete the whole – as in a watch in which no wheel is missing. Thus, he was not merely upright as an Emir, but he was pious toward God; he was not merely kind to his family, but he was just to his neighbors and benevolent to the poor. The word is used to denote integrity as applied to the heart, Gen_20:5 : לבבי בתם betām lebābı̂y, “In the honesty, simplicity, or sincerity of my heart (see the margin) have I done this.” So 1Ki_22:34, “One drew a bow לתמוּ letumô in the simplicity (or perfection) of his heart;” that is, without any evil intention; compare 2Sa_15:11; Pro_10:9. The proper notion, therefore, is that of simplicity. sincerity, absence from guile or evil intention, and completeness of parts in his religion. That he was a man absolutely sinless, or without any propensity to evil, is disproved alike by the spirit of complaining which he often evinces, and by his own confession, Job_9:20 :If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me;If I say I am perfect, it shall prove me perverse.
So also Job_42:5-6 :I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, But now mine eye seeth thee; Wherefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.
And upright – The word ישׁר yâshâr, from ישׁר yâshar, to be straight, is applied often to a road which is straight, or to a path which is level or even. As used here it means upright or righteous; compare Psa_11:7; Psa_37:14,; Deu_32:4; Psa_33:4.
And one that feared God – Religion in the Scriptures is often represented as the fear of God; Pro_1:7, Pro_1:29; Pro_2:5; Pro_8:13; Pro_14:26-27; Isa_11:2; Act_9:31, “et soepe al.”
And eschewed evil – “And departed from (סוּר sûr) evil.” Septuagint, “Abstaining from every evil thing.” These then are the four characteristics of Job’s piety – he was sincere; upright; a worshipper of God; and one who abstained from all wrong. These are the essential elements of true religion everywhere; and the whole statement in the book of Job shows Job was, though not absolutely free from the sins which cleave to our nature, eminent in each of these things.
Job 1:1. the land of Uz] This word occurs several times in the Old Testament: (1) as the name of a son of Aram, Gen. 10:23; (2) as the name of the eldest son of Nahor, the brother of Abraham, Gen. 22:21; and (3) as that of a descendant of Seir, Gen. 36:28. These references would point either to Syria on the north-east of Palestine or to the region of Edom, further south. From the Book itself we learn that Job’s flocks were exposed on the east to inroads on the part of the Chaldeans, the tribes between Syria and the Euphrates, 1:17; and in another direction to attacks from the Sabeans, 1:15. The most prominent man among his friends was from Teman, which belonged to Edom, 2:11 (comp. Gen. 36:15; Jerem. 49:7, 20), and he himself is named the greatest of all the children of the East, 1:3. In Lam. 4:21 it is said: Rejoice O daughter of Edom that dwellest in the land of Uz. These words do not imply that Uz is identical with Edom, but they imply that Edomites had possession of Uz, which could not have been the case unless the lands bordered on one another. The land of Uz, therefore, probably lay east of Palestine and north of Edom. This general position is already assigned to it in the Sept. which, in some verses added to the end of the Book, and embodying the tradition of the time, says that the land of Uz lay “on the borders of Edom and Arabia.”
There is nothing in Scripture that defines the position of Job’s home more precisely. An interesting tradition, as old at least as the early centuries of the Christian era, has been investigated by Wetzstein. This tradition places the home of Job in the Nukra, the fertile depression of Bashan at the south-east foot of Hermon. Near the town of Nawa, about 40 miles almost due south of Damascus, a little to the west of the pilgrim route from this city to Mecca, and about the latitude of the north end of the sea of Tiberias, there still exist a Makâm, that is, place, or tomb, and monastery of Job. Wetzstein assigns the building to the end of the third century. See his Excursus at the end of Delitzsch’s Comm. on Job.
whose name was Job] The Heb. form of the name is Iyyôb, which does not occur again in the Bible. There is no play on the name or allusion to its significance in the Book. It does not seem, therefore, to have been coined by the Author of the Poem, but probably came down to him with other fragments of the tradition on which he worked. The way in which Ezekiel alludes to Job, in company with other renowned names such as Noah and Daniel, seems to imply that this prophet drew his information regarding Job from a more general source than the present Book: “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in it (the sinful land), they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness,” 14:14. The tradition regarding Job and his sufferings was probably well known in the East, and the name of the suffering hero was part of the tradition. It is of little consequence, therefore, to enquire what the name means of itself. If the word be Hebrew it might mean the “assailed” or “persecuted,” that is, by Satan (or God). In Arabic the form of the word is Ayyûb, and if derived from this dialect the name might mean the “returning,” that is, penitent, or more generally, the “pious.” Job is several times spoken of in the Kor’an. In Sur. 38:44 he is called awwâb, which means “ever returning to God,” i. e. pious rather than penitent, but there seems no allusion in the term to the etymology of his name, for in the same chapter both David and Solomon receive the same epithet.
that man was perfect] The term “perfect” means properly “complete,” without defect. It does not imply that the man was sinless, for Job never puts forward any such pretension, but that he was a righteous man and free from specific sins such as were held to bring down the chastisement of heaven. That he was so is the very foundation of his trial and the first principle of the Book. Job’s “perfection” is affirmed in heaven: “Hast thou considered my servant Job … a perfect and an upright man?” 1:8, 2:3; it is understood by his wife: Dost thou still hold fast thy perfection? 2:9; and it is persistently claimed for himself by Job, not only in moments of excitement when stung by the insinuations of his friends: I am perfect, 9:21 (see notes), but also when the heat of the conflict is over and under the most solemn oaths: As God liveth who hath taken away my right, … I will not remove my perfection from me; my righteousness I hold fast, 27:2, 5, 6. The word occurs again, 31:6, and in another form, 12:4: The just, perfect man is laughed to scorn. Even the three friends admit Job’s perfectness in general, although they are under the impression that he must have been guilty of some serious offences to account for his calamities, and they urge it upon Job as a ground of confidence in his ultimate recovery: Is not thy hope the perfectness of thy ways? 4:6; and again: “God will not cast away a perfect man,” 8:20. One of the objects the writer of the Book had in view was to teach that sufferings may fall on men for reasons unconnected with any sin on their own part; and using the history of Job for this purpose, it was necessary that he should lay emphasis in all parts of the Book upon Job’s perfection. The term “perfect” is used of Noah in the same sense: Noah, a just man, was perfect in his generation; that is, he was righteous and exempt from the sins of his contemporaries, Gen. 6:9.
feared God] Job was not only just and upright, with a high morality, he was also godfearing. These two things are never separated in the Old Testament. For as God was the author of all the movements in the world and human history, so right thoughts of Him and right relations to Him lay at the foundation of all right human conduct. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and wisdom includes both just thinking and right conduct.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. The numbers three and seven, and their product, ten, are certainly sacred numbers, regarded as expressive of ideal perfection. But this does not prevent their being also historical. As Canon Cook observes, “Striking coincidences between outward facts and ideal numbers are not uncommon in the purely historical portions of Scripture”. There are twelve apostles, seventy (7 × 10) disciples sent out by our Lord, seven deacons, three synoptic Gospels, twelve minor prophets, seven princes of Persia and Media, ten sons of Haman, three of Noah, Gomer, Terah, Levi, and Zeruiah, seven of Japhet, Mizraim, Seir the Horite, Gad, and Jesse (1Ch_2:13-15), twelve of Ishmael, twelve of Jacob, etc. Our Lord is thirty (3 x 10) years old when he begins to teach, and his ministry lasts three years; he heals seven lepers, casts out of Mary Magdalene seven devils, speaks upon the cross seven “words,” bids Peter forgive his brother “seventy times seven,” etc. It is thus not only in vision or in prophecy, or in symbolical language, that these “ideal numbers” come to the front far more frequently than ethers, but also in the most matter-of-fact histories.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters – The same number was given to him again after these were lost, and his severe trials had been endured; see Job_42:13. Of his second family the names of the daughters are mentioned, Job_42:14. Of his first, it is remarkable that neither the names of his wife, his sons nor his daughters are recorded. The Chaldee, however, on what authority is unknown, says that the name of his wife was דינה dı̂ynâh, Job_2:9.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
she-asses — prized on account of their milk, and for riding (Jdg_5:10). Houses and lands are not mentioned among the emir’s wealth, as nomadic tribes dwell in movable tents and live chiefly by pasture, the right to the soil not being appropriated by individuals. The “five hundred yoke of oxen” imply, however, that Job tilled the soil. He seems also to have had a dwelling in a town, in which respect he differed from the patriarchs. Camels are well called “ships of the desert,” especially valuable for caravans, as being able to lay in a store of water that suffices them for days, and to sustain life on a very few thistles or thorns.
household — (Gen_26:14). The other rendering which the Hebrew admits, “husbandry,” is not so probable.
men of the east — denoting in Scripture those living east of Palestine; as the people of North Arabia-Deserta (Jdg_6:3; Eze_25:4).
His substance also; literally, his acquisition (from קָנָה, acquirere), but used of wealth generally. Seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses. Note, first of all, the absence of horses or mules from this list—an indication of high antiquity. Horses were not known in Egypt till the time of the shepherd-kings, who introduced them from Asia. None are given to Abraham by the Pharaoh contemporary with him (Gen_12:16). We hear of none as possessed by the patriarchs in Palestine; and, on the whole, it is not probable that they had been known in Western Asia very long before their introduction into Egypt. They are natives of Central Asia, where they are still found wild, and passed gradually by exportation to the more southern regions, Armenia, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine, Arabia. Note, secondly, that the items of Job’s wealth accord with those of Abraham’s (Gen_12:16). Thirdly, note that Job’s wealth in cattle is not beyond credibility. An Egyptian lord of the time of the fourth dynasty relates that he possessed above 1000 oxen and cows, 974 sheep, 2,235 goals, and 760 asses. Further, the proportion of the camels is noticeable, and implies a residence on the borders of the desert (see the comment on verse 1). and a very great household; literally, and a very great service, or retinue of servants. Oriental emirs and sheikhs consider it necessary for their dignity to maintain a number of attendants and retainers (except, perhaps, in feudal times) quite unknown to the West. Abraham had three hundred and eighteen trained servants, born in his house (Gen_14:14). Egyptian households were “full of domestics,” comprising attendants of all kinds—grooms, artisans, clerks, musicians, messengers, and the like. A sheikh, situated as Job was, would also require a certain number of guards, while for his cattle he would need a large body of shepherds, ox-herds, and the like. So that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. The Beney Kedem, or “men of the east,” literally, sons of the east, seems to include the entire population between Palestine and the Euphrates (Gen_29:1; Jdg_6:3; Jdg_7:12; Jdg_8:10; Isa_11:14; Jer_49:28, etc.). Many tribes of Arabs are similarly designated at the present day, e.g. the Beni Harb, the Beni Suhr, the Bani Naim, the Bani Lain, etc. It would seem that the Phoenicians must have called themselves Beni Kedem when they settled in Greece, since the Greeks knew them as “Cadmeisns,” and made them descendants of a mythic “Cadreus’ (Herod; 5.57-59). The name “Saracens” is to some extent analogous, since it means “Men of the morning.”
His substance – Margin, or “cattle.” The word used here מקנה mı̂qneh is derived from קנה qânâh, to gain or acquire, to buy or purchase, and properly means anything acquired or purchased – property, possessions, riches. The wealth of nomadic tribes, however, consisted mostly in flocks and herds, and hence the word in the Scripture signifies, almost exclusively, property in cattle. The word, says Gesenius, is used “strictly” to denote sheep, goats, and neat cattle, excluding beasts of burden (compare Greek κτῆνος ktēnos, herd, used here by the Septuagint), though sometimes the word includes asses and camels, as in this place.
Seven thousand sheep – In this verse we have a description of the wealth of an Arab ruler or chief, similar to that of those who are at this day called “Emirs.” Indeed the whole description in the book is that which is applicable to the chief of a tribe. The possessions referred to in this verse would constitute no inconsiderable wealth anywhere, and particularly in the nomadic tribes of the East. Land is not mentioned as a part of this wealth; for among nomadic tribes living by pasturage, the right to the soil in fee simple is not claimed by individuals, the right of pasturage or a temporary possession being all that is needed. For the same reason, and from the fact that their circumstances require them to live in movable tents, houses are not mentioned as a part; of the wealth of this Emir. To understand this book, as well as most of the books of the Old Testament, it is necessary for us to lay aside our notions of living, and transfer ourselves in imagination to the very dissimilar customs of the East. The Chaldee has made a very singular explanation of this verse, which must be regarded as the work of fancy, but which shows the character of that version: “And his possessions were seven thousand sheep – a thousand for each of his sons; and three thousand camels – a thousand for each of his daughters; and five hundred yoke of oxen – for himself; and five hundred she-asses – for his wife.”
And three thousand camels – Camels are well-known beasts of burden, extensively used still in Arabia. The Arabs employed these animals anciently in war, in their caravans, and for food. They are not unfrequently called “ships of the desert,” particularly valuable in arid plains because they go many days without water. They carry from three to five hundred pounds, in proportion to the distance which they have to travel. Providence has adapted the camel with wonderful wisdom to sandy deserts, and in all ages the camel must be an invaluable possession there. The driest thistle and the barest thorn is all the food that he requires, and this he eats while advancing on his journey without stopping or causing a moment’s delay. As it is his lot to cross immense deserts where no water is found, and where no dews fall, he is endowed with the power of laying in a store of water that will suffice him for days – Bruce says for thirty days.
To effect this, nature has provided large reservoirs or stomachs within him, where the water is kept pure, and from which he draws at pleasure as from a fountain. No other animal is endowed with this power, and were it not for this, it would be wholly impracticable to cross those immense plains of sand. The Arabians, the Persians, and others, eat the flesh of camels, and it is served up at the best tables in the country. One of the ancient Arab poets, whose hospitality grew into a proverb, is reported to have killed yearly, in a certain month, ten camels every day for the entertainment of his friends. In regard to the hardihood of camels, and their ability to live on the coarsest fare, Burckhardt has stated a fact which may furnish an illustration. In a journey which he made from the country south of the Dead Sea to Egypt, he says, “During the whole of this journey, the camels had no other provender than the withered shrubs of the desert, my dromedary excepted, to which I gave a few handfuls of barley each evening.” Trav. in Syria, p. 451; compare Bruce’s Travels, vol. iv. p. 596; Niebuhr, Reise-beschreibung nach Arabien, 1 Band, s. 215; Sandys, p. 138; Harmer’s Obs. 4:415, ed. Lond. 1808, 8vo; and Rob. Cal.
And five hundred yoke of oxen – The fact that Job had so many oxen implies that he devoted himself to the cultivation of the soil as well as to keeping flocks and herds; compare Job_1:14. So large a number of oxen would constitute wealth anywhere.
And five hundred she-asses – Bryant remarks (Observations, p. 61) that a great part of the wealth of the inhabitants of the East often consisted of she-asses, the males being few and not held in equal estimation. She-asses are early mentioned as having been in common use to ride on; Num_22:25; Jdg_5:10. 2Ki_4:24 (Hebrew). One reason why the ass was chosen in preference to the horse, was that it subsisted on so much less than that animal, there being no animal except the camel that could be so easily kept as the ass. She-asses were also regarded as the most valuable, because, in traversing the deserts of the country they would furnish travelers with milk. It is remarkable that “cows” are not mentioned expressly in this enumeration of the articles of Job’s wealth, though “butter” is referred to by him subsequently as having been abundant in his family, Job_29:6. It is possible, however, that “cows” were included as a part of the “five hundred yoke of בקר bâqâr.” here rendered “oxen;” but which would be quite as appropriately rendered “cattle.” The word is in the common gender, and is derived from בקר bâqar, in Arabic to cleave, to divide, to lay open, and hence, to plow, to cleave the soil. It denotes properly the animals used in plowing; and it is well known that cows are employed as well as oxen for this purpose in the East; see Jdg_14:18; Hos_4:10; compare Deu_32:14, where the word בקר bâqâr is used to denote a cow – “milk of kine,” Gen_33:13 (Hebrew).
And a very great household – Margin, “husbandry.” The Hebrew word here (עבדה ‛ăbûddâh)ambiguous. – It may denote service rendered, that is, work, or the servants who performed it; compare Gen_26:14, margin. The Septuagint renders it ὑπηρεσία hupēresia, Aquila δουλεία douleia, and Symmachus, οἰκετία oiketia; all denoting “service,” or “servitude,” or that which pertained to the domestic service of a family. The word refers doubtless to those who had charge of his camels, his cattle, and of his husbandry; see Job_1:15. It is not implied by the word here used, nor by that in Job_1:15, that they were “slaves.” They may have been, but there is nothing to indicate this in the narrative. The Septuagint adds to this, as if explanatory of it, “and his works were great in the land.”
So that this man was the greatest – Was possessed of the most wealth, and was held in the highest honor.
Of all the men of the East – Margin as in Hebrew “sons.” The sons of the East denote those who lived in the East. The word “East” קדם qedem is commonly employed in the Scriptures to denote the country which lies east of Palestine. For the places intended here, see the Introduction, Section 2, (3). It is of course impossible to estimate with accuracy the exact amount of the value of the property of Job. Compared with many persons in modern times, indeed, his possessions would not be regarded as constituting very great riches. The Editor of the Pictorial Bible supposes that on a fair estimate his property might be considered as worth from thirty to forty thousand pounds sterling – equivalent to some 200,000 (circa 1880’s). In this estimate the camel is reckoned as worth about 45.00 dollars, the oxen as worth about five dollars, and the sheep at a little more than one dollar, which it is said are about the average prices now in Western Asia. Prices, however, fluctuate much from one age to another; but at the present day such possessions would be regarded as constituting great wealth in Arabia. The value of the property of Job may be estimated from this fact, that he had almost half as many camels as constituted the wealth of a Persian king in more modern times.
Chardin says, “as the king of Persia in the year 1676 was in Mesandera, the Tartars fell upon the camels of the king and took away three thousand of them which was to him a great loss, for he had only seven thousand.” – Rosenmuller, Morgenland, “in loc.” The condition of Job we are to regard as that of a rich Arabic Emir, and his mode of life as between the nomadic pastoral life, and the settled manner of living in communities like ours. He was a princely shepherd, and yet he was devoted to the cultivation of the soil. It does not appear, however, that he claimed the right of the soil in “fee simple,” nor is his condition inconsistent with the supposition that his residence in any place was regarded as temporary, and that all his property might be easily removed. “He belonged to that condition of life which fluctuated between that of the wandering shepherd, and that of a people settled in towns. That he resided, or had a residence, in a town is obvious; but his flocks and herds evidently pastured in the deserts, between which and the town his own time was probably divided. He differed from the Hebrew patriarchs chiefly in this, that he did not so much wander about “without any certain dwelling place.”
This mixed condition of life, which is still frequently exhibited in Western Asia, will, we apprehend, account sufficiently for the diversified character of the allusions and pictures which the book contains – to the pastoral life and the scenes and products of the wilderness; to the scenes and circumstances of agriculture; to the arts and sciences of settled life and of advancing civilization.” – Pict. Bib. It may serve somewhat to illustrate the different ideas in regard to what constituted wealth in different countries, to compare this statement respecting Job with a remark of Virgil respecting an inhabitant of ancient Italy, whom he calls the most wealthy among the Ausonian farmers:
Job 1:2, 3. Job’s family and wealth. A first principle in the Oriental Wisdom, which corresponds in part to our Ethics, was, that it is well with the righteous and ill with the wicked, Is. 3:10, 11. This principle is set at the head of the Psalter in Ps. 1, and is reiterated in many shapes as an unalterable law in the Book of Proverbs. According to this principle Job and all acquainted with him would see his piety reflected in his worldly prosperity, and regard this as God’s blessing upon him on account of it. It is not the intention of the writer of the Book to break with this principle absolutely. On the contrary when he lets Job at the end of his trials be restored to a prosperity double that which he enjoyed before, he gives in his adhesion to the principle in general. If he had not done so his position would have been more false than that of Job’s friends, who asserted that the principle prevailed in the world without exceptions. The Author’s design goes no further than to teach that the principle is subject to great modifications, and that sufferings may arise from causes more general than any connected with the sufferer’s own life. His object, however, in teaching this doctrine cannot have been the limited one of correcting a false theory of Providence, he must have had before him the wider purpose of sustaining individuals or most probably his nation under severe and inexplicable trials and encouraging them with brilliant hopes of the future.
The round numbers 7, 3, 5, by which Job’s children and his flocks are described, express, according to the ideas connected with such numbers in the East, their perfection and complete sufficiency. They teach at the same time that what we have before us here is not actual history, but history idealized by the Poet and Teacher, that he may convey by it more vividly the moral lessons which he desires to inculcate. Job’s sons were seven and his daughters three, for sons were more esteemed in the East than daughters, partly for reasons connected with the state of society, one of which is alluded to in the Psalm: “They shall not be ashamed, they shall speak with the enemies in the gate,” Ps. 127:5. Mohammed expresses the feelings of the Arabs when he says: For when any one of them is informed of the birth of a daughter a black shadow falls upon his face and he is wroth, and with-draweth himself from men because of the evil tidings, uncertain whether he shall keep it with disgrace or bury it (alive) in the dust, Kor. 16:60; and even the modern Jew in his prayers gives thanks in this way: Blessed art thou, O king of the universe, who hast not made me a woman.
As a great Eastern Emeer, Job was rich in camels. These were used for riding when the journey was long, and for transporting produce and merchandise to the distant cities. They were also eaten by the Arabs. She-asses, the price of one of which is said to be three times that of a male, were esteemed not on account of their milk, but for the sake of their foals. In a country where wheeled carriages are unknown, they were used not only for riding, but for all purposes of home and agricultural carriage. Oxen were used for labouring the fields, for which the horse is not employed in the East. The amount of arable land was measured by the number of yoke, that is, pairs, of oxen required to cultivate it. Job’s rich and extensive fields were plowed by a thousand oxen, v. 14. Such wide possessions implied a very great “household,” that is, body of servants. And the writer finishes his picture of Job by saying that he “was the greatest of all the men (lit. children) of the East.” His “greatness” did not lie in his wealth alone, but in the respect in which he was held and in his influence. See the pathetic picture which he draws of his own former estate, ch. 29. On the general phrase “children of the East” see Gen. 29:1; Jud. 6:3, 7:12, 8:10; 1 Kings 4:30; Jer. 49:28; Ezek. 25:4, 10.
Hast thou considered my servant Job? – Margin, “Set thine heart on.” The margin is a literal translation of the Hebrew. Schultens remarks on this, that it means more than merely to observe or to look at – since it is abundantly manifest from the following verses that Satan “had” attentively considered Job, and had been desirous of injuring him. It means, according to him, to set himself against Job, to fix the heart on him with an intention to injure him, and yahweh means to ask whether Satan had done this. But it seems more probable that the phrase means to consider “attentively,” and that God means to ask him whether he had carefully observed him. Satan is represented as having no confidence in human virtue, and as maintaining that there was none which would resist temptation, if presented in a form sufficiently alluring. God here appeals to the case of Job as a full refutation of this opinion. The trial which follows is designed to test the question whether the piety of Job was of this order.
That there is none like him in the earth – That he is the very highest example of virtue and piety on earth. Or might not the word כי kı̂y here be rendered “for?” “For there is none like him in the earth.” Then the idea would be, not that he had considered “that” there was none like him, but God directs his attention to him “because” he was the most eminent among mortals.
A perfect and an upright man – See the Notes at Job_1:1. The Septuagint translates this verse as they do Job_1:1.
Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Satan insinuates that Job’s motive is purely selfish. He serves God, not for love of God, or for love of goodness, but for what he gets by it. Satan is too shrewd to endeavour, as Job’s friends do later, to pick holes in Job’s conduct. No; that is exemplary. But the true character of acts is determined by the motive. What is Job’s motive? Does he not serve God to gain his protection and blessing? Similarly, in modem times, ungodly men argue that religious and devout persons are religious and devout with a view to their own interest, because they expect to gain by it, either in this world, or in the next, or in both. This is a form of calumny which it is impossible to escape. And bad men, who are conscious to themselves of never acting except from a selfish motive, may well imagine the same of others. It is rarely that such an insinuation can be disproved. In the present instance God vindicates his servant, and covers the adversary with shame, as the other adversaries and calumniators of righteousness will be covered at the last day.
Job 1:9. for nought] Satan does not dispute Job’s piety; only, the devotion of the rich landowner to the Bountiful Giver of all good is not ill to understand! A different estimate of what true religion is and of the things that are difficulties in the way of it was formed by Another, who said: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” A subtle turn is given to the words of Satan by Godet in his Essay on Job, who thinks that while they are openly a slur upon man, they are covertly a sarcasm on the Most High Himself, implying that no one truly loves Him, He is served only for the benefits He confers. The Essayist may do no injustice to Satan, but he does to the Old Testament conception of him. The Satan of this Book may shew the beginnings of a personal malevolence against man, but he is still rigidly subordinated to heaven, and in all he does subserves its interests. His function is as the minister of God to try the sincerity of man; hence when his work of trial is over he is no more found, and no place is given him among the dramatis persona of the poem.
Hast thou not made an hedge about him? – Dr. Good remarks, that to give the original word here its full force, it should be derived from the science of engineering, and be rendered, “Hast thou not raised a “palisado” about him?” The Hebrew word used here (שׂוּך śûk) properly means “to hedge”; to hedge in or about; and hence, to protect, as one is defended whose house or farm is hedged in either with a fence of thorns, or with an enclosure of stakes or palisades. The word in its various forms is used to denote, as a noun, “pricks in the eyes” Num_33:55; that is, that which would be like thorns; “barbed irons” Job_41:7, that is, the barbed iron used as a spear to take fish; and a hedge, and thorn hedge, Mic_7:4; Pro_15:19; Isa_5:5. The idea here is, that of making an enclosure around Job and his possessions to guard them from danger. The Septuagint renders it περιέφραξας periephracas, to make a defense around,” to “circumvallate” or inclose, as a camp is in war. In the Syriac and Arabic it is rendered, “Hast thou not protected him with thy hand? The Chaldee, “Hast thou protected him with thy word? The Septuagint renders the whole passage, “Hast thou not encircled the things which are without him” (τὰ ἔξω αὐτοῦ ta exō autou) that is, the things abroad which belong to him, “and the things within his house.” The sense of the whole passage is, that he was eminently under the divine protection, and that God had kept himself, his family, and property from plunderers, and that therefore he served and feared him.
Thou hast blessed the work of his hands – Thou hast greatly prospered him.
And his substance is increased in the land – His property, Job_1:3. Margin, “cattle.” The word “increased” here by no means expresses the force of the original. The word פרץ pârats means properly to break, to rend, then to break or burst forth as waters do that have been pent up; 2Sa_5:20, compare Pro_3:10, “So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses “shall burst out” פרץ pârats with new wine;” that is, thy wine-fats shall be so full that they shall overflow, or “burst” the barriers, and the wine shall flow out in abundance. The Arabians, according to Schultens, employ this word still to denote the mouth or “embouchure” – the most; rapid part of a stream. So Golius, in proof of this, quotes from the Arabic writer Gjanhari, a couplet where the word is used to denote the mouth of the Euphrates:
“His rushing wealth o’er flowed him with its heaps;
So at its mouth the mad Euphrates sweeps.”
According to Sehultens, the word denotes a place where a river bursts forth, and makes a new way by rending the hills and rocks asunder. In like manner the flocks and herds of Job had burst, as it were, every barrier, and had spread like an inundation over the land; compare Gen_30:43; 2Ch_31:5; Exo_1:7; Job_16:14.
But put forth thine hand now – That is, for the purpose of injuring him, and taking away his property.
And touch all that he hath – Dr. Good renders this, “and smite.” The Vulgate and the Septuagint, “touch.” The Hebrew word used here נגע nâga‛ means properly to “touch;” then to touch anyone with violence Gen_26:11; Jos_9:19, and then to smite, to injure, to strike; see Gen_32:26, 33; 1Sa_6:9; Job_19:21; compare the notes at Isa_53:4. Here it means evidently to smite or strike; and the idea is, that if God should take away the property of Job, he would take away his religion with it – and the trial was to see whether this effect would follow.
And he will curse thee to thy face – He will do it openly and publicly. The word rendered “curse” here ברך bārak is the same as that used in Job_1:5, and which is usually rendered “bless;” see the notes at Job_1:5. Dr. Good contends that; it should be rendered here “bless,” and translates it as a question: “Will he then, indeed, bless thee to thy face?” But in this he probably stands alone. The evident sense is, that Job would openly renounce God, and curse him on his throne; that all his religion was caused merely by his abundant prosperity, and was mere gratitude and selfishness; and that if his property were taken away, he would become the open and avowed enemy of him who was now his benefactor.
Then Job arose – The phrase to arise, in the Scriptures is often used in the sense of beginning to do anything. It does not necessarily imply that the person had been previously sitting; see 2Sa_13:13.
And rent his mantle – The word here rendered “mantle” מעיל me‛ı̂yl means an upper or outer garment. The dress of Orientals consists principally of an under garment or tunic – not materially differing from the “shirt” with us – except that the sleeves are wider, and under this large and loose pantaloons. Niebuhr, Reisebescreib. 1. 157. Over these garments they often throw a full and flowing mantle or robe. This is made without sleeves; it reaches down to the ankles; and when they walk or exercise it is bound around the middle with a girdle or sash. When they labor it is usually laid aside. The robe here referred ire was worn sometimes by women, 2Sa_13:18; by men of birth and rank, and by kings, 1Sa_15:27; 1Sa_18:4; 1Sa_24:5, 1Sa_24:11; by priests, 1Sa_28:14, and especially by the high priest under the ephod, Exo_28:31. See Braun de vest Sacerd. ii. 5. Schroeder de vest. muller.
Hebrew p. 267; Hartmann Ilcbraerin, iii. p. 512, and Thesau. Antiq. Sacra. by Ugolin, Tom. i. 509, iii. 74, iv. 504, viii. 90, 1000, xii. 788, xiii. 306; compare the notes at Mat_5:40, and Niebuhr, as quoted above. The custom of rending the garment as an expression of grief prevailed not only among the Jews but also among the Greeks and Romans. Livy i. 13. Suetonius, in “Jul. Caes.” 33. It prevailed also among the Persians. Curtius, B. x. c. 5, section 17. See Christian Boldich, in Thesau. Antiq. Sacra. Tom. xii. p. 145; also Tom. xiii. 551, 552, 560, xxx. 1105, 1112. In proof also that the custom prevailed among the Pagan, see Diod. Sic. Lib. i. p. 3, c. 3, respecting the Egyptians; Lib. xvii. respecting the Persians; Quin. Curt. iii. 11; Herod. Lib. iii. in Thalia, Lib. viii. in Urania, where he speaks of the Persians. So Plutarch in his life of Antony, speaking of the deep grief of Cleopatra, says, περίεῤῥηξατο τοῦς πέπλους
And said, Naked came I out – That is, destitute of property, for so the connection demands; compare 1Ti_6:7; “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” A similar expression also occurs in Pliny, “Hominem natura tanturn nudism.” Nat. Hist. proem. L. vii. Job felt that he was stripped of all, and that he must leave the world as destitute as he entered it.
My mother’s womb – The earth – the universal mother. That he refers to the earth is apparent, because he speaks of returning there again. The Chaldee adds קבוּרתא לבית lebēyt qebûratā’ – “to the house of burial.” The earth is often called the mother of mankind; see Cic. de Nat. Deor. ii. 26; compare Psa_139:15. Dr. Good remarks, that “the origin of all things from the earth introduced, at a very early period of the world, the superstitious worship of the earth, under the title of Dameter, or the “Mother-goddess,” a Chaldee term, probably common to Idumea at the time of the existence of Job himself. It is hence the Greeks derive their Δημήτνρ Dēmētēr (Demeter), or as they occasionally wrote it Γημήτηρ Gēmētēr (Ge-meter), or Mother Earth, to whom they appropriated annually two religious festivals of extraordinary pomp and solemnity. Thus, Lucretius says,
Linquitur, ut merito materhum nomen adepta
Terra sit, e terra quoniam sunt cuneta creata.
– “Whence justly earth
Claims the dear name of mother, since alone
Flowed from herself whate’er the sight enjoys.”
For a full account of the views of the ancients in regard to the “marriage” (ἱερός γάμος gamos hieros)of the “heaven” and the “earth,” from which union all things were supposed to proceed, see Creuzer’s Symbolik und Mythologie der alt. Volk. Erst. Theil, p. 26, fg.
And naked – Stripped of all, I shall go to the common mother of the race. This is exceedingly beautiful language; and in the mouth of Job it was expressive of the most submissive piety. It is not the language of complaint; but was in him connected with the deep feeling that the loss of his property was to be traced to God, and that he had a right to do as he had done.
The Lord gave – Hebrew יהוה yehovâh. He had nothing when he came into the world, and all that he had obtained had been by the good providence of God. As “he” gave it, he had a right to remove it. Such was the feeling of Job, and such is the true language of submission everywhere. He who has a proper view of what he possesses will feel that it is all to be traced to God, and that he has a right to remove it when he pleases.
And the Lord hath taken away – It is not by accident; it is not the result of haphazard; it is not to be traced to storms and winds and the bad passions of people. It is the result of intelligent design, and whoever has been the agent or instrument in it, it is to be referred to the overruling providence of God. Why did not Job vent his wrath on the Sabeans? Why did he not blame the Chaldeans? Why did he not curse the tempest and the storm? Why did he not blame his sons for exposing themselves? Why not suspect the malice of Satan? Why not suggest that the calamity was to be traced to bad fortune, to ill-luck, or or to an evil administration of human affairs? None of these things occurred to Job. He traced the removal of his property and his loss of children at once to God, and found consolation in the belief that an intelligent and holy Sovereign presided over his affairs, and that he had removed only what he gave.
Blessed be the name of the Lord – That is, blessed be yahweh – the “name” of anyone in Hebrew being often used to denote the person himself. The Syriac, Arabic, and some manuscripts of the Septuagint here adds “forever.” – “Here,” says Schmid, “the contrast is observable between the object of Satan, which was to induce Job to renounce God, and the result of the temptation which was to lead Job to bless God.” Thus, far Satan had been foiled, and Job had sustained the shock of the calamity, and showed that he did not serve God on account of the benefits which be had received from him.
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb – I had no earthly possessions when I came into the world; I cannot have less going out of it. What I have the Lord gave: as it was his free gift, he has a right to resume it when he pleases; and I owe him gratitude for the time he has permitted me to enjoy this gift.
Naked shall I return thither – Whither? Not to his mother’s womb surely; nor does he call the earth his mother in this place. In the first clause of the verse he speaks without a metaphor, and in the latter he speaks in reference to the ground on which he was about to fall. As I came out of my mother’s womb destitute of the earthly possessions, so shall I return שמה shammah, There; i.e., to the earth on which he was now falling. That mother earth was a common expression in different nations, I allow; but I believe no such metaphor was now in the mind of Job.
The Lord gave – The Chaldee has, “The Word of the Lord, מימרא דיי meymera dayai, gave; and the Word of the Lord and the house of his judgment, have taken away!” Word is used here personally, as in many other places of all the Targums.
Blessed be the name of the Lord – The following is a fine paraphrase on the sentiment in this verse: –
“Good when he gives, supremely good; Nor less when he denies;
Afflictions from his sovereign hand, Are blessings in disguise.”
Seeing I have lost my temporal goods, and all my domestic comforts, may God alone be all my portion! The Vulgate, Septuagint, and Coverdale, add, The Lord hath done as he pleased.
In all this Job sinned not – He did not give way to any action, passion, or expression, offensive to his Maker. He did not charge God with acting unkindly towards him, but felt as perfectly satisfied with the privation which the hand of God had occasioned, as he was with the affluence and health which that hand had bestowed. This is the transaction that gave the strong and vivid colouring to the character of Job; in this, and in this alone, he was a pattern of patience and resignation. In this Satan was utterly disappointed; he found a man who loved his God more than his earthly portion. This was a rare case, even in the experience of the devil. He had seen multitudes who bartered their God for money, and their hopes of blessedness in the world to come for secular possessions in the present. He had been so often successful in this kind of temptation, that he made no doubt he should succeed again. He saw many who, when riches increased, set their hearts on them, and forgot God. He saw many also who, when deprived of earthly comforts, blasphemed their Maker. He therefore inferred that Job, in similar circumstances, would act like the others; he was disappointed. Reader, has he, by riches or poverty, succeeded with thee? Art thou pious when affluent, and patient and contented when in poverty?
That Job lived after the giving of the law, seems to me clear from many references to the rites and ceremonies instituted by Moses. In Job_1:5, we are informed that he sanctified his children, and offered burnt-offerings daily to the morning for each of them. This was a general ordinance of the law, as we may see, Lev_9:7 : “Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin-offering and thy burnt-offering, and make an atonement for thyself and for the people.” Lev_9:22 : “And Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering the burnt-offering.”
This sort of offering, we are told above, Job offered continually; and this also was according to the law, Exo_29:42 : “This shall be a continual burnt-offering throughout your generations.” See also Num_28:3, Num_28:6, Num_28:10, Num_28:15, Num_28:24, Num_28:31.
This custom was observed after the captivity, Ezr_3:5 : “They offered the continual burnt-offering: and of every one that offered a freewill-offering.” See also Neh_10:33. Ezekiel, who prophesied during the captivity, enjoins this positively, Eze_46:13-15 : “Thou shalt daily prepare a burnt-offering unto the Lord; thou shalt prepare it every morning.”
Job appears to have thought that his children might have sinned through ignorance, or sinned privately; and it was consequently necessary to make the due sacrifices to God in order to prevent his wrath and their punishment; he therefore offered the burnt-offering, which was prescribed by the law in cases of sins committed through ignorance. See the ordinances Leviticus 4:1-35; Lev_5:15-19, and particularly Num_15:24-29. I think it may be fairly presumed that the offerings which Job made for his children were in reference to these laws.
The worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as being the most prevalent and most seductive idolatry, was very expressly forbidden by the law, Deu_4:19 : “Take heed, lest thou lift up thine eyes to heaven; and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them.” Job purges himself from this species of idolatry, Job_31:26-28 : “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God that is above.”
He clears himself also from adultery in reference to the law enacted against that sin, Job_31:9-12 : “If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbor’s door; then let my wife grind to another: for this is a heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges.” See the law against this sin, Exo_20:14, Exo_20:17 : “Thou shalt not commit adultery: thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife.” Lev_20:10 : “The man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife shall surely be put to death;” see Deu_22:22. And for the judge’s office in such cases, see Deu_17:9-12 : “Thou shalt come unto the priests and Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment.” 1Sa_2:25 : “If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him.”
The following will, I think, be considered an evident allusion to the passage of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the proud Egyptian king: Job_26:11, Job_26:12 : “The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. He divideth the sea with his power; and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.” These, with several others that might be adduced, are presumptive proofs that the writer of this book lived after the giving and establishment of the law, if not much later, let Job himself live when he might. See other proofs in the notes.
In all this – In all his feelings and expressions on this occasion.
Job sinned not – He expressed just the feelings and manifested just the submission which he ought to do.
Nor charged God foolishly – Margin, “Attributed folly to God.” Vulgate, “Neither did he speak any foolish thing against God.” The Septuagint renders it, “and he did not impute (or give, ἐδωκεν edōken) folly (ἀφροσύνην aphrosunēn) (indiscretion, ‘Thompson’) to God.” Good renders this, “nor vented a murmur against God;” and remarks that the literal rendering would be, “nor vented froth against God. Tindal renders it, “nor murmured foolishly against God.” The Hebrew word תפלה tı̂phlâh is derived from the obsolete root תפל tâphêl, “to spit out;” and hence, to be insipid, tasteless, not seasoned. The noun, therefore, means properly that which is spit out; then that which is insipid or tasteless; and then folly. Wit and wisdom are represented by Oriental writers as pungent and seasoned; compare the expression among the Greeks of “Attic salt,” meaning wit or wisdom. The word “folly” in the Scriptures often means wickedness, for this is supreme folly. Here it has this sense, and means that Job did not say anything “wrong.” Satan was disappointed and had borne a false accusation before God. He did “not” charge God foolishly, and he did “not” curse him to his face.
From this instructive narrative of the manner in which Job received afflictions, we may learn
(1) That true piety will bear the removal of property and friends without murmuring. Religion is not based on such things, and their removal cannot shake it. It is founded deeper in the soul, and mere external changes cannot destroy it.
(2) When we are afflicted, we should not vent our wrath on winds and waves; on the fraud and perfidy of our fellow-men; on embarrassments and changes in the commercial world; on the pestilence and the storm. Any or all of these may be employed as instruments in taking away our property or our friends, but we should trace the calamity ultimately to God. Storms and winds and waves, malignant spirits and our fellow-men, do no more than God permits. They are all restrained and kept within proper limits. They are not directed by chance, but they are under the control of an intelligent Being, and are the wise appointment of a holy God.
(3) God has a right to remove our comforts. He gave them – not to be our permanent inheritance, but to be withdrawn when he pleases. It is a proof of goodness that we have been permitted to tread his earth so long – though we should be allowed to walk it no more; to breathe his air so long – though we should be permitted to inhale it no more; to look upon his sun and moon and stars so long – though we should be permitted to walk by their light no more; to enjoy the society of the friends whom he has given us so long – though we should enjoy that society no longer. A temporary gift may be removed at the pleasure of the giver, and we hold all our comforts at the mere good pleasure of God.
(4) We see the nature of true resignation. It is not because we can always see the “reason” why we are afflicted; it consists in bowing to the will of a holy and intelligent God, and in the feeling that he has a “right” to remove what he has given us. It is his; and may be taken away when he pleases. It may be, and should be yielded, without a complaint – and to do this “because” God wills it, is true resignation.
(5) We see the true source of “comfort” in trials. It is not in the belief that things are regulated by chance and hap-hazard; or even that they are controlled by physical laws. We may have the clearest philosophical view of the mode in which tempests sweep away property, or the pestilence our friends; we may understand the laws by which all this is done, but this affords no consolation. It is only when we perceive an “intelligent Being” presiding over these events, and see that they are the result of plan and intention on his part, that we can find comfort in trial. What satisfaction is it for me to understand the law by which fire burns when my property is swept away; or to know “how” disease acts on the human frame when my child dies; or how the plague produces its effects on the body when friend after friend is laid in the grave? This is “philosophy;” and this is the consolation which this world furnishes. I want some higher consolation than that which results from the knowledge of unconscious laws. I want to have the assurance that it is the result of intelligent design, and that this design is connected with a benevolent end – and that I find only in religion.
(6) We see the “power” of religion in sustaining in the time of trial. How calm and submissive was this holy man! How peaceful and resigned! Nothing else but piety could have done this. Philosophy blunts the feelings, paralyses the sensibilities, and chills the soul; but it does not give consolation. It is only confidence in God; a feeling that he is right; and a profound and holy acquiescence in his will, that can produce support in trials like these. This we may have as well so Job; and this is indispensable in a world so full of calamity and sorrow as this is.
Sore boils – בשחין רע bischin ra, “with an evil inflammation.” What this diabolical disorder was, interpreters are not agreed. Some think it was the leprosy, and this is the reason why he dwelt by himself, and had his habitation in an unclean place, without the city, (Septuagint, εξω της πωλεως), or in the open air: and the reason why his friends beheld him afar off, Job_2:12, was because they knew that the disorder was infectious.
His scraping himself with a potsherd indicates a disease accompanied with intolerable itching, one of the characteristics of the smallpox. Query, Was it not this disorder? And in order to save his life (for that he had in especial command) did not Satan himself direct him to the cool regimen, without which, humanly speaking, the disease must have proved fatal? In the elephantiasis and leprosy there is, properly speaking, no boil or detached inflammation, or swelling, but one uniform disordered state of the whole surface, so that the whole body is covered with loathsome scales, and the skin appears like that of the elephant, thick and wrinkled, from which appearance the disorder has its name. In the smallpox it is different; each pock or pustule is a separate inflammation, tending to suppuration; and during this process, the fever is in general very high, and the anguish and distress of the patient intolerable. When the suppuration is pretty far advanced, the itching is extreme; and the hands are often obliged to be confined to prevent the patient from literally tearing his own flesh.
So went Satan forth – Job_1:12.
And smote Job with sore boils – The English word boil denotes the well-known turnout upon the flesh, accompanied with severe inflammation; a sore angry swelling. “Webster.” The Hebrew word, however, is in the singular number שׁחין shechı̂yn, and should have been so rendered in our translation. Dr. Good renders it “a burning ulceration.” The Vulgate translates it, “ulcere pessimo.” The Septuagint, ἕλκει πονηρῶ helkei ponērō – “with a foul ulcer.” The Hebrew word שׁחין shechı̂yn means a burning sore; an inflamed ulcer, a bile. “Gesenius.” It is derived from שׁכן shâkan, an obsolete root, retained in Arabic, and meaning to be hot or inflamed. It is translated “bile” or “boil,” in Exo_9:9-11; Lev_13:18; 2Ki_20:7;: Isa_28:21, (see the notes on that place), Lev_13:19-20; Job_2:7; and “botch,” Deu_28:27, Deu_28:35. The word does not occur elsewhere in the Scriptures. In Deu_28:27, it means “the botch of Egypt,” some species of leprosy, undoubtedly, which prevailed there.
In regard to the disease of Job, we may learn some of its characteristics, not only from the usual meaning of the word, but from the circumstances mentioned in the book itself. It was such that he took a potsherd to scrape himself with, Job_2:8; such as to make his nights restless, and full of tossings to and fro and to clothe his flesh with clods of dust, and with worms, and to break his flesh, or to constitute a running sore or ulcer, Job_7:4-5; such as to make him bite his flesh for pain, Job_13:14, and to make him like a rotten thing, or a garment that is moth eaten, Job_13:28; such that his face was foul with weeping, Job_16:16, and such as to fill him with wrinkles, and to make his flesh lean, Job_16:8; such as to make his breath corrupt, Job_17:1, and his bones cleave to his skin, Job_19:20, Job_19:26; such as to pierce his bones with pain in the night, Job_30:17, and to make his skin black, and to burn up his bones with heat, Job_30:30.
It has been commonly supposed that the disease of Job was a species of black leprosy commonly called “elephantiasis,” which prevails much in Egypt. This disease received its name from ἐλέφας elefas, “an elephant,” from the swelling produced by it, causing a resemblance to that animal in the limbs; or because it rendered the skin like that of the elephant, scabtons and dark colored. It is called by the Arabs judhām (Dr. Good), and is said to produce in the countenance a grim, distorted, and “lion-like” set of features, and hence has been called by some “Leontiasis.” It is known as the black leprosy, to distinguish it from a more common disorder called “white leprosy” – an affection which the Greeks call “Leuce,” or “whiteness.” The disease of Job seems to have been a universal ulcer; producing an eruption over his entire person, and attended with violent pain, and constant restlessness. A universal bile or groups of biles ever the body would accord with the account of the disease in the various parts of the book. In the elephantiasis the skin is covered with incrustations like those of an elephant. It is a chronic and contagious disease, marked by a thickening of the legs, with a loss of hair and feeling, a swelling of the face, and a hoarse nasal voice. It affects the whole body; the bones as well as the skin are covered with spots and tumors, at first red, but afterward black. “Coxe, Ency. Webster.” It should be added that the leprosy in all its forms was regarded as contagious, and of course involved the necessity of a separation from society; and all the circumstances attending this calamity were such as deeply to humble a man of the former rank and dignity of Job.
Job 2:7. with sore boils] It is generally agreed that the disease of Job was the leprosy called Elephantiasis, so named because the swollen limbs and the black and corrugated skin of those afflicted by it resemble those of the elephant. It is said by ancient authors, as Pliny, to be peculiar to Egypt, but it is found in other hot countries such as the Hijâz, and even in northern climates as Norway. It is said to attack the limbs first, breaking out below the knees and gradually spreading over the whole body. We are probably to consider, however, that Job was smitten “from the sole of his foot unto his crown” all at once. Full details of its appearance and the sensations of those affected may be gathered from the Book, though, being poetically coloured, they will hardly bear to be read like a page from a handbook of Pathology. The ulcers were accompanied by an itching so intolerable that a piece of potsherd was taken to scrape the sores and remove the feculent discharge, 2:8. The form and countenance were so disfigured by the disease that the sufferer’s friends could not recognise him, 2:12. The ulcers seized the whole body both without and inwardly, 19:20, making the breath fetid, and emitting a loathsome smell that drove every one from the sufferer’s presence, 19:17, and made him seek refuge outside the village upon the heap of ashes, 2:8. The sores, which bred worms, 7:5, alternately closed, having the appearance of clods of earth, and opened and ran, so that the body was alternately swollen and emaciated, 16:8. The patient was haunted with horrible dreams, 7:14, and unearthly terrors, 3:25, and harassed by a sensation of choking, 7:15, which made his nights restless and frightful, 7:4, as his incessant pains made his days weary, 7:1–4. His bones were filled with gnawing pains, as if a fire burned in them, 30:30, or as if his limbs were tortured in the stocks, 13:27, or wrenched off, 30:17. He was helpless, and his futile attempts to rise from the ground provoked the merriment of the children who played about the heap where he lay, 19:18. The disease was held incurable, though the patient might linger many years, and his hopelessness of recovery made him long for death, 3:20 and often. Delitzsch and Dillmann refer to various treatises on the subject, in particular, to one published at the cost of the Norwegian Government, Danielsen et Boeck, Traité de la Spédalskhed ou Éléphantiasis des Grecs (with coloured plates), Paris, 1848.
And he took him a potsherd – The word used here חרשׁ chârâsh means a fragment of a broken vessel; see the notes at Isa_45:9. The Septuagint renders it ὄστρακον ostrakon – “a shell.” One object of taking this was to remove from his body the filth accumulated by the universal ulcer, compare Job_7:4-5; and another design probably was, to “indicate” the greatness of his calamity and sorrow. The ancients were accustomed to show their grief by significant external actions (compare the notes at Job_1:20), and nothing could more strongly denote the greatness of the calamity, than for a man of wealth, honor, and distinction, to sit down in the ashes, to take a piece of broken earthen-ware, and begin to scrape his body covered over with undressed and most painful sores. It does not appear that anything was done to heal him, or any kindness shown in taking care of his disease. It would seem that he was at once separated from his home, as a man whom none would venture to approach, and was doomed to endure his suffering without sympathy from others.
To scrape himself withal – The word used here גרד gârad has the sense of grating, scraping, sawing; or to scrape or rasp with an edged tool. The same word identically, as to letters, is used at present among the Arabs; meaning to rasp or scrape with any kind of tool. The idea here seems to be, that Job took the pieces of broken pottery that he found among the ashes to scrape himself with.
And he sat down among the ashes – On the expressions of grief among the ancients, see the notes at Job_1:20. The general ideas of mourning among the nations of antiquity seem to have been, to strip off all their ornaments; to put on the coarsest apparel, and to place themselves in the most humiliating positions. To sit on the ground (see the note at Isa_3:26), or on a heap of ashes, or a pile of cinders, was a common mode of expressing sorrow; see the note at Isa_58:5. To wear sackcloth to shave their heads and their beards and to abstain from pleasant food and from all cheerful society, and to utter loud and long exclamations or shrieks, was also a common mode of indicating grief. The Vulgate renders this “sedates in sterquilinio,” “sitting on a dunghill.” The Septuagint, “and he took a shell to scrape off the ichor (ἰχῶρα ichōra) the “sanies,” or filth produced by a running ulcer, and sat upon the ashes “out of the city,”” implying that his grief was so excessive that he left the city and his friends, and went out to weep alone.
Job 2:8. and he sat down among the ashes] Rather, as he sat among. By the “ashes” is possibly meant (as the Sept. already understands, which translates ἐπὶ τῆς κοπρίας) the Mázbalah, the place outside the Arabic towns where the zibl, that is, dung and other rubbish of the place is thrown. “The dung which is heaped up upon the Mezbele of the Hauran villages is not mixed with straw, which in that warm and dry land is not needed for litter, and it comes mostly from solid-hoofed animals, as the flocks and oxen are left over night in the grazing places. It is carried in baskets in a dry state to this place before the village, and usually burnt once a month … The ashes remain … If the village has been inhabited for centuries the Mezbele reaches a height far overtopping it. The winter rains reduce it into a compact mass, and it becomes by and bye a solid hill of earth … The Mezbele serves the inhabitants for a watchtower, and in the sultry evenings for a place of concourse, because there is a current of air on the height. There all day long the children play about it; and there the outcast, who has been stricken with some loathsome malady, and is not allowed to enter the dwellings of men, lays himself down, begging an alms of the passers-by by day, and by night sheltering himself among the ashes which the heat of the sun has warmed. There too lie the village dogs, perhaps gnawing a fallen carcase, which is often flung there.” Wetzstein in Delitzsch, Comm. on Job, 2 Ed. p. 62 (Trans, vol. II, p. 152).
Then said his wife – To this verse the Septuagint adds the following words: “Much time having elapsed, his wife said unto him, How long dost thou stand steadfast, saying, ‘Behold, I wait yet a little longer looking for the hope of my Salvation?’ Behold thy memorial is already blotted out from the earth, together with thy sons and thy daughters, the fruits of my pains and labors, for whom with anxiety I have labored in vain. Thyself also sittest in the rottenness of worms night and day, while I am a wanderer from place to place, and from house to house, waiting for the setting of the sun, that I may rest from my labors, and from the griefs which oppress me. Speak therefore some word against God, and die.” We translate ברך אלהים ומת barech Elohim vamuth, Curse God, and die. The verb ברך barach is supposed to include in it the ideas of cursing and blessing; but it is not clear that it has the former meaning in any part of the sacred writings, though we sometimes translate it so. Here it seems to be a strong irony. Job was exceedingly afflicted, and apparently dying through sore disease; yet his soul was filled with gratitude to God. His wife, destitute of the salvation which her husband possessed, gave him this ironical reproof. Bless God, and die – What! bless him for his goodness, while he is destroying all that thou hast! bless him for his support, while he is casting thee down and destroying thee! Bless on, and die. The Targum says that Job’s wife’s name was Dinah, and that the words which she spake to him on this occasion were בריך מימרא דיי ומית berich meymera dayai umith. Bless the word of the Lord, and die. \
Then said his wife unto him – Some remarkable additions are made by the ancient versions to this passage. The Chaldee renders it, “and “Dinah” (דינה dı̂ynâh), his wife, said to him.” The author of that paraphrase seems to have supposed that Job lived in the time of Jacob, and had married his daughter Dinah; Gen_30:21. Drusius says, that this was the opinion of the Hebrews, and quotes a declaration from the Gemara to this effect: “Job lived in the days of Jacob, and was born when the children of Israel went down into Egypt; and when they departed thence he died. He lived therefore 210 years, as long as they were into Egypt.” This is mere tradition, but it shows the ancient impression as to the time when Job lived. The Septuagint has introduced a remarkable passage here, of which the following is a translation. “After much time had elapsed, his wife said unto him, How long wilt thou persevere, saying, Behold, I will wait a little longer, cherishing the trope of my recovery? Behold, the memorial of thee has disappeared from the earth – those sons and daughters, the pangs and sorrows of my womb, for whom I toiled laboriously in vain. Even thou sittest among loathsome worms, passing the night in the open air, whilst I, a wanderer and a drudge, from place to place, and from house to house, watch the sun until his going down, that I may rest from the toils and sorrows that now oppress me. But speak some word toward the Lord (τι ῥῆμα εἰς κύριον ti rēma eis kurion) and die.”
Whence this addition had its origin, it is impossible now to say. Dr. Good says it is found in Theodotion, in the Syriac, and the Arabic (in this he errs, for it is not in the Syriac and Arabic in Waltoh’s Polyglott), and in the Latin of Ambrose. Dathe suggests that it was probably added by some person who thought it incredible that an angry woman could be content with saying so “little” as is ascribed in the Hebrew to the wife of Job. It may have been originally written by some one in the margin of his Bible by way of paraphrase, and the transcriber, seeing it there, may have supposed it was omitted accidentally from the text, and so inserted it in the place where it now stands. It is one of the many instances, at all events, which show that implicit confidence is not to be placed in the Septuagint. There is not the slightest evidence that this was ever in the Hebrew text. It is not wholly unnatural, and as an exercise of the fancy is not without ingenuity and plausibility, and yet the simple but abrupt statement in the Hebrew seems best to accord with nature. The evident distress of the wife of Job, according to the whole narrative, is not so much that she was subjected to trials, and that she was compelled to wander about without a home, as that Job should be so patient, and that he did not yield to the temptation.
Dost thou still retain thine integrity? – Notes Job_2:3. The question implies that, in her view, he ought not to be expected to mantles, patience and resignation in these circumstances. He had endured evils which showed that confidence ought not to be reposed in a God who would thus inflict them. This is all that we know of the wife of Job. Whether this was her general character, or whether “she” yielded to the temptation of Satan and cursed God, and thus heightened the sorrows of Job by her unexpected impropriety of conduct, is unknown. It is not conclusive evidence that her general character was bad; and it may be that the strength of her usual virtue and piety was overcome by accumulated calamities. She expressed, however, the feelings of corrupt human nature everywhere when sorely afflicted. The suggestion “will” cross the mind, often with almost irresistible force, that a God who thus afflicts his creatures is not worthy of confidence; and many a time a child of God is “tempted” to give vent to feelings of rebellion and complaining like this, and to renounce all his religion.
Curse God – See the notes at Job_1:11. The Hebrew word is the same. Dr. Good renders it, “And yet dost thou hold fast thine integrity, blessing God and dying?” Noyes translates it, “Renounce God, and die,” Rosenmuller and Umbreit, “Bid farewell to God, and die.” Castellio renders it, “Give thanks to God and die.” The response of Job, however Job_2:10, shows that he understood her as exciting him to reject, renounce, or curse God. The sense is, that she regarded him as unworthy of confidence, and submission as unreasonable, and she wished Job to express this and be relieved from his misery. Roberts supposes that this was a pagan sentiment, and says that nothing is more common than for the pagan, under certain circumstances, to curse their gods. “That the man who has made expensive offerings to his deity, in hope of gaining some great blessing, and who has been disappointed, will pour out all his imprecations on the god whose good offices have (as he believes) been prevented by some superior deity. A man in reduced circumstances says, ‘Yes, yes, my god has lost his eyes; they are put out; he cannot look after my affairs.’ ‘Yes, ‘ said an extremely rich devotee of the supreme god Siva, after he had lost his property, ‘Shall I serve him any more? What, make offerings to him! No, no. He is the lowest of all gods? ‘“
And die – Probably she regarded God as a stern and severe Being, and supposed that by indulging in blasphemy Job would provoke him to cut him off at once. She did not expect him to lay wicked hands on himself. She expected that God would at once interpose and destroy him. The sense is, that nothing but death was to be expected, and the sooner he provoked God to cut him off from the land of the living, the better.
Job 2:9. Then said his wife] The incident related of Job’s wife is not introduced for her sake, but for the purpose of exhibiting through it the condition of Job’s mind, around which the drama turns. The author did not indicate the impression which Job’s personal affliction produced upon him. What thoughts he had are concealed; he is represented as sitting silent in his seclusion. The full impression of his miseries is brought home to him reflected from the mind of another, that other being the one fitted to influence him most powerfully. It is probable that the episode of Job’s wife is brought in with a double purpose, first, to shew how all around Job, those nearest to him, gave way under the severity of his trial, and thus by contrast to enhance the strength of his faith and the grandeur of his character; and second, to shew how, though subjected to the keenest trial from the example and representations of his wife, he still remained true.
The name Dinah given to Job’s wife by the Targum or Chaldee Translation most probably rests on no tradition, but is a mere child’s fancy. The Sept. introduces her speech, which it gives in a greatly amplified form, with the words “when a long time had passed.” The amplification is not unsuitable to the circumstances, but the curt phrases of the original are truer to art and nature, for grief is possessed of few words. Much animated dispute has taken place over the character and conduct of the woman. The Ancients were not favourably impressed by her. Augustine calls her roundly Diaboli adjutrix. The Geneva Version discerns a sad and universal principle in her conduct, “Satan useth the same instrument against Job as he did against Adam.” As was to be expected the present age has espoused her cause, and labours hard to put a face upon her words. The only question of importance is, what sense the Author intended her words to convey; and the key to this is found in the way in which her husband takes them up. He does not directly call her a “fool,” that is, a godless person (Ps. 14:1), but with mild circumlocution says that she speaks as one of the foolish women speaks. The Eastern writer lets the woman act in character (Eccles. 7:26 seq.). He would have probably smiled at the elaborate analysing of the female mind to which Westerns devote themselves, thinking it a waste of time. As the weaker Job’s wife fell first into the snare of the Devil, and used her influence, as in the beginning of history, to draw her husband after her. Her story, however, is not told for her sake, but to shew how those around Job fell away, and to set in a strong light the strain to which his faith was put by such an example and the solicitations that accompanied it.
curse God, and die] Rather as before, renounce God and die. From a modern point of view many extenuations may be pleaded for Job’s wife, but her religion is represented here as precisely of the kind which Satan said Job’s was of. She wonders that Job still maintains his pious resignation; and counsels him, as he gets no good from God but only evil, even the extreme evil of death, to renounce an unprofitable service, and die, as he must, for nothing else awaits him. This is probably the meaning of the words “and die.” The words might have a different meaning. When two imperatives come together the second often expresses the consequence of the first, as do this and live. And, “renounce God and die” might mean, renounce Him and bring down His final stroke of death at once. The other is more probable.
As one of the foolish women speaketh – The word here rendered “foolish” נבל nâbâl from נבל nâbêl, means properly stupid or foolish, and then wicked, abandoned, impious – the idea of “sin” and “folly” being closely connected in the Scriptures, or sin being regarded as supreme folly; 1Sa_25:25; 2Sa_3:33; Psa_14:1; Psa_53:2. The Arabs still use the word with the same compass of signification. “Gesenius.” The word is used here in the sense of “wicked;” and the idea is, that the sentiment which she uttered was impious, or was such as were on the lips of the wicked. Sanctius supposes that there is a reference here to Idumean females, who, like other women, reproached and cast away their gods, if they did not obtain what they asked when they prayed to them. Homer represents Achilles and Menelaus as reproaching the gods. Iliad i. 353, iii. 365. See Rosenmuller, Morgenland, “in loc.”
What shall we receive good at the hand of God – Having received such abundant tokens of kindness from him, it was unreasonable to complain when they were taken away, and when he sent calamity in their stead.
And shall we not receive evil? – Shall we not expect it? Shall we not be willing to bear it when it comes? Shall we not have sufficient confidence in him to believe that his dealings are ordered in goodness and equity? Shall we at once lose all our confidence in our great Benefactor the moment he takes away our comforts, and visits us with pain? This is the true expression of piety. It submits to all the arrangements of God without a complaint. It receives blessings with gratitude; it is resigned when calamities are sent in their place. It esteems it as a mere favor to be permitted to breathe the air which God has made, to look upon the light of his sun, to tread upon his earth, to inhale the fragrance of his flowers, and to enjoy the society of the friends whom he gives; and when he takes one or all away, it feels that he has taken only what belongs to him, and withdraws a privilege to which we had no claim. In addition to that, true piety feels that all claim to any blessing, if it had ever existed, has been forfeited by sin. What right has a sinner to complain when God withdraws his favor, and subjects him to suffering? What claim has he on God, that should make it wrong for Him to visit him with calamity?
Wherefore doth a living man complain,
A man for the punishment of his sins?
In all this did not Job sin with his lips – See the notes at Job_1:22. This remark is made here perhaps in contrast with what occurred afterward. He subsequently did give utterance to improper sentiments, and was rebuked accordingly, but thus far what he had expressed was in accordance with truth, and with the feelings of most elevated piety.
Job 2:10. one of the foolish women] The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. “Wise” is less an intellectual than a moral term; and its opposite “foolish” means godless, Ps. 14:1. To “work folly in Israel” is to infringe any of the sacred laws of natural or consuetudinary morals, Judg. 19:23; 2 Sam. 13:12.
what? shall we receive] Or, we receive good … and shall we not also receive (i. e. accept) evil? Job’s words might mean, we receive much good at the hand of God, shall we not also out of thankfulness for the good, accept evil when He sends it? But this hardly goes to the root of the counsel given by his wife. Therefore rather: we receive good from God, not due to us, but in which we see the gift of His sovereign hand (1:21), shall we not also do homage to His absoluteness when He brings evil upon us? Here Job reaches the utmost height of the religious feeling. He is in danger of drifting away from this feeling under the irritation of his friends’ misdirected counsels, but he is led back again to it with a deeper peace through the appearance and words of the Lord (ch. 38. seq.). The Author lets us know what in his view true religion is, whether in a man or in a nation, and doubtless amidst the troubles and perplexing darkness of his time he had seen it exemplified both in individual men and in that godly kernel of the nation which kept up the true continuity of Israel and conserved its true idea.
The Writer adds his emphatic testimony to Job’s sinlessness. In all this, under this severe affliction of body, and exposed to this searching temptation on the part of his wife, Job did not sin with his lips, that is, in any particular. Thinking and speaking hardly differ in the East, and the words mean, let no sinful murmur escape him; comp. Ps. 17:3.
Though the Writer professedly paints the sufferings and mental troubles of an individual, and though it may be certain that he has the sorrows of individuals before his mind, it is scarcely possible to doubt that he is writing history also on a large scale. He has his nation with its calamities and the various impressions these made upon the religious mind in his view. The national calamity could be nothing less than deportation or exile. As not one but several successive and diverse waves of feeling pass over Job’s mind in regard to his afflictions, we may assume that the Writer did not stand close behind the great blow that fell upon his people, but lived at a considerable distance from it. The people had not only been stripped of their possessions, but subjected to severe treatment themselves, and the apostasy of many was a sore trial to the faith of those who remained constant, and the evil had lasted long enough to produce various impressions on men’s minds and give rise to many attempts to solve the problem which it raised. These solutions are reflected in the debate between Job and his friends. The Author has a solution which is new, to the effect, namely, that the calamity is not a punishment or chastisement on account of sin, as others held, but a trial of righteousness. This view he invests in all the dramatic splendour that distinguishes the Prologue. Though living long after the calamity had befallen his fellow-citizens, the Author must have written previously to the happy turn of affairs that restored them to prosperity and to a higher plane of religious life. This restoration was the great hope he desired to inspire. Such a hope was the counterpart of the other half of his theory of evil. If suffering be the trial of righteousness, the trial, if patiently borne, must bring an accumulation of spiritual gain. This part of the theory was necessary also in another view, in order to justify the ways of God in subjecting the innocent to trial.