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Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible Barnes' Notes
These files are public domain.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ bnb/ job-2.html. 1870.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Job 2". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
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Again there was a day ... - See the notes at Job 1:6. These seasons are represented as periodical, when the angels came, as it were, to make report to God of what they had observed and done. The Chaldee renders this, “And there was a day of the great judgment (רבא דינא יום yôm dı̂ynā' rābā'), a day of the remission of sins (שבוק יום סרחניא) and there came bands (כתי) of angels.”
To present himself before the Lord - This does not occur in the former statement in Job 1:6. It here means that he came before the Lord after he had had permission to afflict; Job. The Chaldee renders it “that he might stand in judgment דין dı̂yn before the Lord.”
And the Lord said unto Satan ... - See the notes at Job 1:7.
Hast thou considered - Notes, Job 1:8.
That there is none like him in the earth - The same addition is made here by the Septuagint which occurs in Job 1:1; see the notes at that verse.
And still he holdeth fast his integrity - Notwithstanding all the efforts made to show that his piety was the result of mere selfishness. The word “integrity” here תמה tûmmâh means “perfection;” another form of the word which is rendered “perfect” in Job 1:1; see the notes at that verse.
Although thou movedst me - The word rendered “movedst” סוּת sûth means to incite, to impel, to urge, to irritate against anyone; Joshua 15:18; Judges 1:14; 2Ch 18:2; 1 Samuel 26:19; Jeremiah 43:3. The Septuagint renders this in a special manner, “And thou hast ordered (εἶπας eipas) his property to be destroyed in vain” (διακενῆς diakenēs), that is, without accomplishing the purpose intended.
To destroy him - The word used here (from בלע bela‛) means properly to swallow, to devour, with the idea of eagerness or greediness. It is then used in the sense of to consume, or destroy; compare Job 20:18; Proverbs 1:12; Numbers 16:30; Psalms 69:15. In the margin it is rendered “swallow him up.”
Without cause - Without any sufficient reason. The cause assigned by Satan Job 1:9-11 was, that the piety of Job was selfish, and that if God should remove his possessions, he would show that he had no true religion. God says now that it was demonstrated that there was no reason for having made the trial. The result had shown that the charge was unfounded, and that his piety still remained, though he was stripped of all that he had. This passage may remind us of the speech of Neptune in favor of Aeneas, Iliad v. 297:
And can ye see this righteous chief atone
With guiltless blood for vices not his own?
To all the gods his constant vows were paid;
Sure though he wars for Troy he claims our aid.
Fate wills not this - Pope
“Then man for “skins” contended; purple now,
And gold, forever plunge him into war.”
In various parts of the book of Job, however, Dr. Good remarks, the word skin imports the “person” of a man as well as his “property,” the whole living body which it envelopes, as in Job 18:13; Job 19:26. “It is,” says he, “upon the double meaning of the same term, and the play which is here given to it, by employing the term first in one sense and then in the other, that the gist of the proverb, as of a thousand others similarly constructed, depends. ‘Skin for skin’ is in this view, in plain English, ‘property for person,’ or ‘the skin forming property for the skin forming person.’” See a somewhat similar view presented by Callaway, in Bush’s Illustrations, “in loco.” The editor of the Pictorial Bible coincides mainly with this view, and supposes that the reference is to the time when trade was conducted by barter, and when the skins of animals, being a most frequent and valuable commodity, were used to represent property.
Tributes, ransoms, etc., he observes, were paid in skins. According to this, it means that a man would give “skin upon skin;” that is, would pile one piece of property upon another, and give “all” that he had, in order to save his life. It refers to the necessity of submitting to one great evil rather than incur a greater, answering to the Turkish proverb, “We must give our beards to save our heads.” According to Gesenius, it means “life for life.” Drusius explains it as meaning, that he would give the skin of others, as of his sons, to save his own; that is, that he was unmoved so long as his own skin or life was safe. The same view is given by Ephrem the Syrian. “Skin for skin; the skin not only of flocks, but even of his sons will he give, in order to save his own.” This view also is adopted by Urnbreit. That is, his religion was supremely selfish. The loss of property and even of children he could bear, provided his person was untouched.
His own health, and life; his own skin and body were dearer to him than anything else. Other people would have been afflicted by the loss of children and property. But Job was willing to part with any or all of these, provided he himself was safe. Rosenmuller supposes that the word skin here is used for the whole body; and says that the sense is, that he would give the body of another for his own, as in Exodus 21:23. “The meaning of this proverbial formula,” says he, “is, that any one would redeem his own safety by the skin of others; that is, not only by the skins or lives of oxen, camels, servants, but even of his own children.” Schultens supposes it means that a man would submit to any sufferings in order to save his life; that he would be willing to be flayed alive; to be repeatedly excoriated; to have, so to speak. one skin stripped off after another, if he might save his own life.
According to this, the idea is, that the loss of life was the great calamity to be feared, and that a man would give “any” thing in order to save it. Umbreit says, “there is nothing so valuable to a man that he will not exchange it - one thing for another; one outward good for another, ‘skin for skin.’ But life, the inward good, is to him of no value that can be estimated. That he will give for nothing; and much more, he will offer everything for that.” Another solution is offered in the Biblische Untersuchungen ii. Th. s. 88. “Before the use of gold, traffic was conducted chiefly by barter. Men exchanged what was valuable to themselves for what others had which they wanted. Those who hunted wild beasts would bring their skins to market, and would exchange them for bows and arrows. Since these traffickers were exposed to the danger of being robbed, they often took with them those who were armed, who agreed to defend them on condition that they should have a part of the skins which they took, and in this way they purchased their property and life.”
That is, they gave the skins of animals for the safety of their own; all that they had they would surrender, in order that their lives might be saved. See Rosenmuller’s Morgenland, “in loc.” None of these solutions appear to me perfectly satisfactory, and the proverb is involved in perplexity still. It seems to refer to some kind of barter or exchange, and to mean that a man would give up one thing for another; or one piece of property of less value in order to save a greater; and that in like manner he would be willing to surrender “everything,” in order that his life, the most valuable object, might be preserved. But the exact meaning of the proverb, I suspect, has not yet been perceived.
Yea, all that a man hath - This is evidently designed to express the same thing as the proverb, “skin for skin,” or to furnish an illustration of that. The meaning is plain. A man is willing to surrender all that he has, in order to preserve his life. He will part with property and friends, in order that he may be kept alive. if a man therefore is to be reached in the most tender and vital part; if any thing is to be done that shall truly reveal his character, his life must be put in danger, and his true character will then be revealed. The object of Satan is to say, that a test had not been applied to Job of sufficient severity to show what he really was. What he had lost was a mere trifle compared with what would be if he was subjected to severe bodily sufferings, so that his life would be in peril. it is to be remembered that these are the words of Satan, and that they are not necessarily true.
Inspiration is concerned only in securing “the exact record” of what is said, not in affirming that all that is said is true. We shall have frequent occasion to illustrate this sentiment in other portions of the book. In regard to the sentiment here expressed, however, it is in general true. Men will surrender their property, their houses, and lands, and gold, to save their lives. Many, too, would see their friends perish, in order that they might be saved. It is not universally true, however. It is possible to conceive that a man might so love his property as to submit to any torture, even endangering life, rather than surrender it. Many, too, if endangered by shipwreck, would give up a plank in order to save their wives or children, at the risk of their own lives. Many will give their lives rather than surrender their liberty; and many would die rather than abandon their principles. Such were the noble Christian martyrs; and such a man was Job. Satan urged that if his life were made wretched, he would abandon his integrity, and show that his professed piety was selfish, and his religion false and hollow. The Syriac and Arabic add, “that he may be safe.”
But put forth thine hand now - Satan felt that he had no power to afflict Job without permission. Malignant as he was, he knew that God only could subject the holy man to this trial - another proof that Satan is under the control of the Almighty, and acts only as he is “permitted” to act in tempting and trying the good.
And touch his bone - See the note at Job 1:11. Afflict his body so as to endanger his life. The words “bone” and “flesh” denote the whole body. The idea was, that the whole body should be subjected to severe pain.
And he will curse thee to thy face - Notes at Job 1:11.
Behold, he is in thine hand - He is at thy disposal; see Job 1:12, Margin.
But save his life - Margin, “only.” This was to be the only limitation. It would seem that he had the power to make any selection of disease, and to afflict him in any manner, provided it did not terminate fatally. The keen sorrows which Job afterward endured showed the malignancy of the tempter; evinced his ingenuity in inflicting pain, and his knowledge of what thc human frame could be made to bear.
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 Exodus 9:9-11; Leviticus 13:18; 2 Kings 20:7;: Isaiah 28:21, (see the notes on that place), Leviticus 13:19-20; Job 2:7; and “botch,” Deuteronomy 28:27, Deuteronomy 28:35. The word does not occur elsewhere in the Scriptures. In Deuteronomy 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.
And he took him a potsherd - The word used here חרשׁ chârâsh means a fragment of a broken vessel; see the notes at Isaiah 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 Isaiah 3:26), or on a heap of ashes, or a pile of cinders, was a common mode of expressing sorrow; see the note at Isaiah 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.
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; Genesis 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.
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.
Now when Job’s three friends heard - It would seem from this that these men were his particular friends.
They came every one from his own place - His residence. This was the result of agreement or appointment thus to meet together.
Eliphaz the Temanite - This was the most prominent of his friends. In the ensuing discussion he regularly takes the lead, advances the most important and impressive considerations, and is followed and sustained by the others. The Septuagint renders this Ελιφὰζ ὁ Θαιμαινῶν βασιλεὺς Elifaz ho Thaimainōn basileus - Eliphaz, the king of the Themanites. The Hebrew does not intimate that he held any office or rank. The word rendered “Temanite” תימני têymânı̂y is a patronymic from תמן têmân, meaning properly “at the right hand,” and then “the South.” The Hebrew geographers are always represented as looking to the East, and not toward the North, as we do; and hence, with them, the right hand denotes the South. Teman or Theman was a son of Eliphaz, and grandson of Esau; see Genesis 36:15, where he is spoken of as “duke” or prince אלוּף 'alûph a head of a family or tribe, a chieftain.
He is supposed to have lived on the east of Idumea. Eusebius places Thaeman in Arabia Petrara, five miles from Petra (see the notes at Isaiah 16:1), and says that there was a Roman garrison there. The Temanites were cclebrated for wisdom. “Is wisdom no more in Teman?” Jeremiah 49:7. The country was distinguished also for producing men of strength: “And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed;” Obadiah 1:9. That this country was a part of Idumea is apparent, not only from the fact that Teman was a descendant of Esau, who settled there, but from several places in the Scriptures. Thus, in Ezekiel 25:13, it is said, “I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and I will make it desolate from Toman, and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword.” In Amos 1:12, Teman is mentioned as in the vicinity of Bozrah, at one time the capital of Idumea: “But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah;” see the notes at Isaiah 21:14. The inhabitants of this country were distinguished in early times for wisdom, and particularly for that kind of wisdom which is expressed in close observation of men and manners, and the course of events, and which was expressed in proverbs. Thus, they are mentioned in the book of Baruch, 3:23: “The merchants of Meran and of Theman, the authors of fables, and searchers out of understanding,” οἱ μυθολόγοι καὶ οἱ ἐκζητηταὶ τῆς συνέσεως hoi muthologoi kai hoi ekzētētai tēs suneseōs.
And Bildad the Shuhite - The second speaker uniformly in the following argument. The Septuagint renders this, “Bildad the sovereign of the Saucheans,” Σαυχέων τύραννος Saucheōn turannos. Shuah שׁוּח shûach (meaning a pit) was the name of a son of Abraham, by Keturah, and also of an Arabian tribe, descended from him, Genesis 25:2. “The country of the Shuhites,” says Gesenius, “was not improbably the same with the Σακκαία Sakkaia of Ptolemy, v. 15, eastward of Batanea.” But the exact situation of the Shubites is unknown. It is difficult to determine the geography of the tribes of Arabia, as many of them are migratory and unsettled. It would seem that Bildad did not reside very far from Eliphaz, for they made an “agreement” to go and visit Job.
And Zophar the Naamathite - An inhabitant of Naamah, whose situation is unknown. The Septuagint renders this, “Zophar, king of the Minaians - Μιναίων βασιλεύς Minaiōn basileus. A place by the name of Naamah is mentioned in Joshua 15:41, as in the limits of the tribe of Judah. But this was a considerable distance from the residence of Job, and it is not probable that Zophar was far from that region. Conjecture is useless as to the place where he lived. The Editor of the Pictorial Bible, however, supposes that Zophar was from the town in Judah mentioned in Joshua 15:41. He observes that this town is “mentioned in a list of the uttermost cities of Judah’s lot, ‘toward the coast of Edom southward; ‘ it is further among that portion of those towns that lay ‘in the valley’ Joshua 15:33, wbich valley is the same that contained Joktheel Joshua 15:38, which is supposed to have been Petra. Naamah was probably, therefore, in or near the Ghor or valley which extends from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akaba. - These considerations,” he adds, “seem to establish the conclusion that the scene of this book is laid in the land of Edom.” In the first part of this verse, a remarkable addition occurs in the Chaldee paraphrase. - It is as follows: “And the three friends of Job heard of all the evil which had come upon him, and when they saw the trees of his gardens (Chaldean, “Paradise” פרדסיהון) that they were dried up, and the bread of his support that it was turned into living flesh (לבסרא אתהפך סעודתחון ולחם חיא), and the wine of his drink turned into blood (אתהפך משתיחון וחמר לדמא).”
Here is evidently the doctrine of “transubstantiation,” the change of bread into flesh, and of wine into blood, and bears the marks of having been interpolated by some friend of the papacy. But when or by whom it was done is unknown. It is a most stupid forgery. The evident intention of it was to sustain the doctrine of transubstantiation, by the plea that it was found far back in the times of Job, and that it could not be regarded, therefore, as an absurdity. To what extent it has ever been used by the advocates of that doctrine, I have no means of ascertaining. Its interpolation here is a pretty sure proof of the conviction of the author of it that the doctrine is not found in any fair interpretation of the Bible.
For they had made an appointment together - They had agreed to go together, and they evidently set out on the journey together. The Chaldee - or someone who has interpolated a passage in the Chaldee - has introduced a circumstance in regard to the design of their coming, which savors also of the Papacy. It is as follows: “They came each one from his place, and for the merit of this they were freed from the place destined to them in Gehenna,” a passage evidently intended to defend the doctrine of “purgatory,” by the authority of the ancient Chaldee Paraphrase.
To come to mourn with him, and to comfort him - To show the appropriate sympathy of friends in a time of special calamity. They did not come with an intention to reproach him, or to charge him with being a hypocrite.
Thus far the feelings of the three friends were entirely kind, and all that they did was expressive of sympathy for the sufferer.
Hekton de dē tod́ ēmar, etc.
“‘Tis hence Orestes, agonized with griefs
And sore disease, lies on his restless bed
Now six morns have winged their flight,
Since by his hands his parent massacred
Burnt on the pile in expiatory flames.
Stubborn the while he keeps a rigid fast,
Nor bathes, nor dresses; but beneath his robes
He skulks, and if he steals a pause from rage,
‘Tis but to feel his weight of wo and weep.”
And none spake a word to him - - That is, on the subject of his grief. They came to condole with him, but they had now nothing to say. They saw that his affliction was much greater than they had anticipated.
For they saw that his grief was very great - This is given as a reason why they were silent. But “how” this produced silence, or why his great grief was a cause of their silence, is not intimated. Perhaps one or all of the following considerations may have led to it.
(1) They were amazed at the extent of his sufferings. Amazement is often expressed by silence. We look upon that which is out of the usual course of events without being able to express anything. We are “struck dumb” with wonder.
(2) The effect of great calamity is often to prevent utterance. Nothing is more natural or common than profound silence when we go to the house of mourning. “It is the lesser cares only that speak; the greater ones find not language.” Curae leves loquuntur, ingentes stupent.
(3) They might not have known what to say. They had come to sympathize with him, and to offer consolation. But their anticipated topics of consolation may have been seen to be inappropriate. The calamity was greater than they had before witnessed. The loss of property and children; the deep humiliation of a man who had been one of the most distinguished of the land; the severity of his bodily sufferings, and his changed and haggard appearance, constituted so great a calamity, that the usual topics of conversation did not meet the case. What “they” had to say, was the result of careful observation on the usual course or events, and it is by no means improbable that they had never before witnessed sorrows so keen, and that they now saw that their maxims would by no means furnish consolation for “such” a case.
(4) They seem to have been very early thrown into doubt in regard to the real character of Job. They had regarded him as a pious man, and had come to him under that impression. But his great afflictions seem soon to have shaken their confidence in his piety, and to have led them to ask themselves whether so great a sufferer “could” be the friend of God. Their subsequent reasonings show that it was with them a settled opinion that the righteous would be prospered, and that very great calamities were proof of great criminality in the sight of God. It was not inconsistent with this belief to suppose that the righteous might be slightly afflicted, but when they saw “such” sorrows, they supposed they were altogether beyond what God could send upon his friends; and with this doubt on their minds, and this change in their views, they knew not what to say. How “could” they console him when it was their settled belief that great sufferings were proof of great guilt? They could say nothing which would not seem to be a departure from this, unless they assumed that he had been a hypocrite, and should administer reproof and rebuke for his sins.
(5) In this state of things, to administer “rebuke” would seem to be cruel. It would aggravate the sorrows which already were more than he could bear. They did, therefore, what the friends of the afflicted are often compelled to do in regard to specific sufferings; they kept silence. As they could not comfort him, they would not aggravate his grief. All they could have said would probably have been unmeaning generalities which would not meet his case, or would have been sententious maxims which would imply that he was a sinner and a hypocrite; and they were therefore dumb, until the bitter complaint of Job himself Job 3:0 gave them an opportunity to state the train of thought which had passed through their minds during this protracted silence. How often do similar cases occur now - cases where consolation seems almost impossible, and where any truths which might be urged, except the most abstract and unmeaning generalities, would tend only to aggravate the sorrows of the afflicted! When calamity comes upon a person as the result of his sins; when property is taken away which has been gained in an unlawful manner; when a friend dies, leaving no evidence that he was prepared; when it is impossible to speak of that friend without recalling the memory of his irreligious, prayerless, or dissolute life, how difficult is it to administer consolation! How often is the Christian friend constrained to close his lips in silence, or utter only “torturing” general truths that can give no consolation, or refer to facts which will tend only to open the wound in the heart deeper! To be silent at such times is all that can be done; or to commend the sufferer in humble prayer to God, an expedient which seems not to have been resorted to either by Job or his friends, It is remarkable that Job is not represented as calling upon God for support, and it is as remarkable that his friends during these seven days of silent grief did not commend the case of their much afflicted friend to the Father of mercies. Had “Job” prayed, he might have been kept from much of the improper feeling to which he gave vent in the following chapter; had “they” prayed, they might have obtained much more just views of the government of God than they had hitherto possessed.