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Bible Commentaries
Job 42

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-17

The Divine Attributes

Job 42:2

The meaning is that there is no purpose which the Almighty cannot carry out.

I. Though literally the words seem merely an acknowledgment of power they are also an admission of wisdom, the plans or purposes of which may be beyond the understanding of man.

II. Job does not, as might have been expected, acknowledge the Divine righteousness. His confession corresponds to the Almighty's address to him. That address did not insist on any one Divine attribute, but rather represented God in the whole circle of His attributes, power and wisdom but also goodness; and His omnipotence goes hand in hand with His moral rule.

III. The Divine nature is not a segment but a circle. Any one Divine attribute implies all others.

IV. Similarly Job's reply reflects the great general impression God now made on him. The exhibition of the Divine wisdom as it operates in nature has led him to feel that within his own history also there is a Divine 'thought' or 'counsel,' though he is unable to understand it

A. B. Davidson, The Book of Job, p. 286.

The Book of Job

Job 42:2

The author of the book of Job is entirely unknown; guesses have, to be sure, been made as to his name, but they are unsupported by any evidence worthy of credit. It is tolerably certain that Luther was right in his opinion that the book of Job is a religious drama, in which, somewhat as in Goethe's 'Faust,' the experiences of a well-known figure in legendary history are made the vehicle for expressing the anxious questionings of men as to the deepest problems with which the mind of man can be engaged, and that the book was marked off as unlike other books, that it was counted worthy of a place in the Sacred Canon of the Old Testament, will not be thought surprising by anyone who is at the pains to think over its wonderful teaching, who observes the reverent and piercing insight with which this inspired poet has justified the ways of God to man.

I. This is the main subject of the book. Job is a man who has met with extraordinary misfortunes. The devil uses them as a means by which he may shake Job's faith in God, his trust in an overruling Providence. But it is in vain. Still greater trials are in store. Well-meaning friends come to visit him. Throughout their long speeches they return again and again to this one principle, that suffering is always and invariably the consequence of sin. Sin is always punished by the Supreme, they say, and such misery as this of yours can spring from nothing else but some violation of God's law or neglect of His will, some proud boastfulness or secret indulgence in wrongdoing. Confident in his innocence Job dares to appeal from the judgment of man to the judgment of the All Righteous One Himself, who will surely deliver him in due time.

II. The next section of the book is taken up with the speeches of Elihu, who through respect for his elders has kept silent until now. The insignificance and the ignorance of man he speaks of; and he adds a thought which none of the older men had put forward, as to the educational value of pain in the formation of character. This mystery of sorrow may be part of the discipline by which man is trained to holiness.

III. Man's finitude and God's infinite wisdom and power are the topic of the concluding chapters, in which Jehovah is represented as answering Job out of the whirlwind and the storm. The littleness of man. The greatness of God. It is. this thought of the unmeasured greatness of the Supreme, this thought of the infinite resourcefulness of the Divine Wisdom, that brought relief to the faith of the stout-hearted old saint. Man is ignorant, weak, and sinful. Aye, but God is wise and powerful and Holy; so wise, so good, so merciful that no complexity of circumstances is too difficult to disentangle, no life too insignificant to be guarded by His love, no sorrow too humble to be relieved by His compassion.

J. H. Bernard, Via Domini, p. 21.

Job 42:2-3

The God who is the antagonist of Prometheus has power, but he has not goodness: the God who is the antagonist of Job is perfect in goodness as in power. And so Prometheus, strong in conscious right and in foreknowledge of the future, remains unshaken by persuasions and threats. At the close of the drama, from out of elemental ruin earthquake and lightning and tempest he utters his last defiant words: 'Thou seest what unjust things I suffer'. Job, who in all his troubled questionings has never lost his central trust in the God whom he has upbraided, ends by a retractation: 'I know that Thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of Thine can be restrained.... I have uttered that which I understood not, things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.' The infinite mysteries of creation, as they are flashed before him in a series of sublime descriptions, have subdued the heart as well as the intellect. Love, dormant throughout, is now fully awakened. Yet even for Job the bewildering problem remains unsolved. Jehovah's answer had merely shown him Nature's immensity and the nothingness of Man.

S. H. Butcher.

Job 42:5-6

God reminds us of His wisdom, of the mystery of things, and that man is not the measure of His creation. The world is immense, constructed on no plan or theory which the intellect of man can grasp. It is transcendent everywhere. This is the burden of every verse, and is the secret, if there be one, of the poem. Sufficient or insufficient, there is nothing more. Job is to hold fast to the law within; that is his candle which is to light his path; but God is infinite. Job, if he is not satisfied, submits. Henceforth he will be mute.

Mark Rutherford.

Job suffers and draws an inference from his suffering. Now, to suffer and draw an inference is to teach; sorrow logically leads to God. Job teaches. He is the first to show that sublime madness of wisdom which, two thousand years later, will be the foolishness of the cross. The dunghill of Job, transfigured, will become the Calvary of Jesus.

Victor Hugo.

We are usually better persuaded by reasons which we have ourselves discovered, than by those which have come into the mind of others.


Job's friends discoursed on life as they thought it was; he, as he knew it and felt it. There is no philosophy of life but the experience of it; there is no Knowledge of God, until, in some way, we come completely into His hands. Sin and need and sorrow may drive us there, but only life itself, in all its length and depth and vicissitude and final emptiness, can fully place us there.

T. T. Munger.

In the fourth chapter of The Grammar of Assent Newman applies this passage to the sudden recognition, under pressure of some change or crisis, of truths hitherto accepted but not fully understood. 'To the devout and spiritual, the Divine Word speaks of things, not merely of notions. And, again, to the disconsolate, the tempted, the perplexed, the suffering, there comes, by means of their very trials, an enlargement of thought, which enables them to see in it what they never saw before. Henceforth there is to them a reality in its teachings, which they recognize as an argument, and the best of arguments, for its Divine origin. Hence the practice of meditation on the Sacred Text; so highly thought of by Catholics. Reading, as we do, the Gospels from our youth up, we are in danger of becoming so familiar with them as to be dead to their force, and to view them as a mere history. The purpose, then, of meditation is to realize them; to make the facts which they relate stand out before our minds as objects, such as may be appropriated by a faith as living as the imagination which apprehends them.

'It is obvious to refer to the unworthy use made of the more solemn parts of the Sacred Volume by the more popular preacher. His very mode of reading, whether warnings or prayers, is as if he thought them to be little more than fine writing, poetical in sense, musical in sound, and worthy of inspiration. The most awful truths are to him but sublime or beautiful conceptions, and are adduced and used by him, in season and out of season, for his own purposes, for embellishing his style or rounding his periods. But let his heart at length be ploughed by some keen grief or deep anxiety, and Scripture is a new book to him. This is the change which so often takes place in what is called religious conversion, and it is a change so far simply for the better, by whatever infirmity or error it is in the particular case accompanied, and it is strikingly suggested to us, to take a saintly example, in the confession of the patriarch Job, when he contrasts his apprehension of the Almighty before and after his affliction. He says he had indeed a true apprehension of the Divine attributes before as well as after; but with the trial came a great change in the character of that apprehension: "With the hearing of the ear," he says, "I have heard Thee, but now mine eye seeth Thee; therefore I reprehend myself and do penance in dust and ashes!"'

'The central feature of his experience was the conviction that God was addressing him, with a living voice, with the immediacy of a direct appeal. His previous state was really one of indifference, owing to his preoccupation with linguistic studies and philosophical speculations. His idea of the relation of God to the universe and to human souls, was that of a vast Superintendent, not that of a Divine Parent or a ceaselessly appealing Oracle.' Prof. Knight thus describes the state of Dr. John Duncan's mind, when the great change came over him, adding: 'But as the clouds parted above him, he discerned the light of the Omnipresent and heard the voice of the Revealer. His awakening was the discernment of a truth, to the reality of which he had been oblivious for years, and the response of his heart to the Divine appeal followed naturally.' It seems to me that it has been the one purpose of all the Divine revelation or education of which we have any record, to waken us up out of this perpetually recurring tendency to fall back into ourselves.

R. H. Hutton.

References. XLII. 5. W. Ross Taylor, Christian World Pulpit, 1891, p. 181. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 434. XLII. 5, 6. C. W. Furse, Lenten Sermons, p. 31. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2207. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiv. No. 2009.

Job 42:7

There is superstition in our prayers, often in our hearing of sermons, bitter contentions, invectives, persecutions, strange conceits, besides diversity of opinions, schisms, factions, etc. But as the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, and his two friends, 'his wrath was kindled against them, for they had not spoken of him things that were right'; so we may say justly of these schismatics and heretics, how wise soever in their own conceits, non recte loquuntur de Deo , they speak not, they think not, they write not well of God, and as they ought.

Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy.

Job 42:10

At the outset, he prays for his family a narrow circle; but when he has passed through his mighty lesson, he prays again for his friends, so called, but no friends. They had come to him as such, but they proved themselves miserable comforters.... Job's feeling is the reflection of God's, whose wrath was kindled against these men; but it was a transient feeling, and passed away as he emerged from his trial. When he had come to see God with his eye, and had humbled himself in dust and ashes, there was no place left in him for wrath and reproach. God be thanked that a time comes to all when hatred dies out!

T. T. Munger.

'And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before' Prosperity, enjoyment, happiness, comfort, peace, whatever be the name by which we designate that state in which life is to our own selves pleasant and delightful, as long as they are sought or prized as things essential, so far have a tendency to disennoble our nature, and are a sign that we are still in servitude to selfishness. Only when they lie outside of us, as ornaments merely to be worn or laid aside as God pleases only then may such things be possessed with impunity. Job's heart in early times had clung to them more than he knew, but now he was purged clean, and they were restored because he had ceased to need them.


References. XLII. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1262. Ibid. vol. vii. No. 404.

Job 42:13

'This Mother of George Herbert,' says Izaak Walton, 'was the happy mother of seven sons and three daughters, which she would often say was Job's number and Job's distribution; and as often bless God that they were neither defective in their shapes nor in their reason; and very often reprove them that did not praise God for so great a blessing.'

Job 42:15

'Are you still heretic enough to think that only the manifestations of the devil are alluring? Has God then made nothing fair? Can He show nothing attractive? Is all the loveliness, and joy, and ecstasy in Babylon, and all the ugliness and desolation and pain in the kingdom of God?' 'Oh no; I never meant that. Don't we know that Job, after his trial, was blessed by the Lord, and was given, besides seven sons and an enormous amount of cattle, three daughters? "And in all the land," we are told, "were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job." In some creatures, therefore, beauty is clearly meant to be a blessing.'

John Oliver Hobbes, The School for Saints, chap, XXVII.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Job 42". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/job-42.html. 1910.
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