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Takes a calm retrospective view of his past experience and life. Thus disproves the suspicions and accusations of his friends, and shows that his complaints were sufficiently well-grounded. The character secretly given him by God thus affirmed out of his own mouth. Does this not from a feeling of vanity and pride, but, like Paul, as compelled to it, for self-vindication. Probably resumes his speech (Job 29:1, “continued his parable”) after pausing for a reply which was not forthcoming.
Commences in a tone of lamentation as he looks back upon his former happiness and prosperity, now apparently for ever fled. Job 29:2.—“O that I were,” &c. Natural to look back with regret from a state of protracted suffering and depression to one of happiness and comfort, and to long, however vainly, for its return. The believer, in a state of spiritual darkness under the loss of God’s sensible presence, often unable to refrain from similar language. “How sweet the hours I once enjoyed.” &c. Better and safer to long for the return of spiritual than of temporal prosperity and comfort.
I. Job’s past happiness (Job 29:2-11). Embraced—
1. His enjoyment of the Divine favour and fellowship. Job 29:2-4.—“O that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me! when His candle (or lamp—symbol of favour and blessing, chap. Job 18:6; Psalms 18:28; Psalms 132:17) shined upon (or over) my head (the lamp in Arab tents and dwellings being usually suspended from the top or ceiling, and kept burning all night), and when by his light I walked through darkness” (by his protection and guidance escaping dangers, and overcoming difficulties and trials—like the caravans travelling through the desert by night with lights burning in their front). Note—All a believer’s present comfort and blessing only candle-light compared with the future.—“As I was in the days of my youth (or full prosperity; Heb., ‘My autumn,’ the time of ripe fruits; the reference to his circumstances rather than to his age), when the secret (or intimate friendship) of God was upon (or in) my tabernacle; when the Almighty was yet with me” (present with me, or on my side; or, “when my vigour,” &c., the clause in this case belonging rather to the next head). Observe—
(1) No blessing so great or enjoyment so sweet, as that of communion with God and the friendship of our Maker. These placed by Job at the head of his list of mercies and the retrospect of his happiness. The madness of the world seen in neglecting and despising this. True wisdom in making the enjoyment of it our first concern. Its re-enjoyment by man the object of Christ’s mission into the world.
(2). The favour of God the fountain of all real blessing and true happiness. “The blessing of the Lord maketh rich,” &c.
(3) Intimate fellowship and personal friendship with God to be enjoyed in this life. Abraham the friend of God. “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” (Genesis 18:17). Henceforth I call you not servants but friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you” (John 15:15). “The Lord God will do nothing; but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant” (Psalms 25:14; Proverbs 3:32).
(4) God’s presence and favour sweeten every blessing.
“Happy who walks with Him! Whom what he finds
Of flavour or of scent in fruit or flower,
Or what he views of beautiful or grand
In nature, from the broad majestic oak
To the green blade that twinkles in the sun,
Prompts with remembrance of a present God.
His presence who made all so fair, perceiv’d,
Makes all still fairer. As with Him no scene
Is dreary, so with Him all seasons please.”
2. His enjoyment of outward mercies (Job 29:5-11). These were—
(1) Domestic comfort. Job 29:5.—“When my children (perhaps including servants) were about me.” Job’s children now dead, and his servants partly killed (ch. Job 1:15; Job 1:17), and partly fleeing from him in his affliction (chap. Job 19:15-16). Job’s home once a snug and well-feathered nest, with an abundant brood of happy young ones in it (Job 29:18). Mentions his family before his fortune. A happy home a greater treasure than a wide domain. A healthy and happy family one of the greatest of earthly comforts. A home, when what it ought to be—the sweetner of life. Mercifully preserved to man alter the Fall. Domestic happiness impaired by sin. Restored by grace. Realized in the enjoyment of God’s favour and blessing in Christ (Psalms 118:15). Job’s home a happy one, because a holy one (chap. Job 1:5). “Blest, that home where God is felt.”—
(2) Outward prosperity. Job 29:6; Job 29:19-20.—“When I washed my steps with butter (cream, or thick milk), and the rock poured me out rivers of oil” (Heb. “poured out, &c., with me,” i.e., alongside of me, wherever I went—like the rock that followed Israel with its refreshing stream all through the desert). Abundance of milk and oil Oriental emblems of plenty (Deuteronomy 32:13-14). Canaan a land flowing with milk and honey. Rocky land, as in Arabia and Syria, most favourable for the cultivation of the olive. Oil a great part of Oriental produce. Job 29:19—“My root was spread out by the waters (imbibing their moisture, as Psalms 1:3) and the dew (abundant in the East, and compensating for the scarcity of rain) lay all night upon my branch (or crops,—thus nourished both above and beneath the soil). My glory (reputation for wisdom, piety and justice; or simply, my prosperous estate) was ne in me (Heb., ‘with me,’ always new, like a flourishing evergreen), and my bow was renewed in my hand” (my strength always renewing itself after exhaustion, and acquiring fresh vigour (Isaiah 40:31), as a bow, after shooting its arrow, returns to its former position and strength).—Observe—
(1) Job’s riches ascribed by him to God’s blessing. The lamp of God’s favour was over his head before the rocks poured out oil at his feet. “The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich.” “The Lord giveth thee power to get wealth.”
(2) Riches a blessing when from God, with God, and to God. “When rich I enjoyed God in all; now when poor, I enjoy all in God.”
3. Public honour I respect. Job 29:7-11; Job 29:21-25—“When I went out—(from his residence which was probably in the country) to the gate through the city (or ‘up to the city,’—Oriental cities being usually on an eminence, and the city-gate the place of justice, deliberation and business, Ruth 4:12; Proverbs 31:23); when I prepared my seat—(sending his servant before with his cushion, according to Oriental manners, to spread it for him) in the street (or broad open space in front of the gate, used both for court and market, such as is found in the remains of Persepolis and Nineveh, and still exists in eastern cities). The young men (in the forum or market-place) saw me and hid themselves (from modesty and reverence retiring back out of immediate sight); the aged men (the elders of the city composing the court or senate—Ruth 4:2; Proverbs 31:23) arose and stood up (from respect, as to one of superior wisdom and standing). The princes (sheikhs, or chiefs of their tribes) refrained talking, and laid their hand on their mouth (a token of silence and expression of the greatest deference). The nobles (men of wealth and position in the country) held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard me [while addressing the assembly], then it blessed me—(pronounced him blessed for the wisdom, justice, and benevolence that shone in his speech); when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me [as the friend and benefactor of my country and my race]. Job 29:21—“Unto me men gave car (listening to my opinion or counsel) and waited; and kept silence at my counsel (having nothing either to add, correct, or gainsay). After my words they spake not again (not even replying, much less contradicting,—-satisfied with the wisdom of what had been advanced); and my speech dropped upon them (as the dew, easy-flowing, pleasant and beneficial,Deuteronomy 32:2; Deuteronomy 32:2). And they waited for me as [the parched earth waits] for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as [the earth does] for the latter rain” (the rain in those eastern countries falling at two seasons in the year; the former rain in September or October, the latter rain in February or March). Note—Salutary instruction frequently represented in Scripture and Oriental poetry under the figure of rain and dew. Copious rain or dew the Egyptian hieroglyphic for learning and instruction. Job 29:24—“If I laughed (or smiled) on them (relaxing my gravity, and showing a token of pleasure or recognition), they believed it not (as too great an honour; or, ‘did not thereby become bold and familiar’); and the light (smile or serenity) of my countenance they cast not down—(grieving or displeasing him by their undutiful or disrespectful behaviour). I chose out their way (as their counsellor and guide; or, ‘[If] I joined their society’), and sat chief (occupied the first place, and presided in all their public deliberations), and dwelt [in my settled residence] as a king (or, ‘a very king’) in the army (or ‘troop,’ in whom his presence inspires life and courage, and to whom his word is law), as one that comforteth the mourners” [who hang upon his lips, and drink in his every word]. Observe—
(1) Goodness often the shortest as well as the safest way to greatness. God’s standing promise,—“Them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30). In wisdom’s left hand—only her left hand—are riches and honour.
(2) A good man sure, sooner or later, to gain the esteem and confidence of his fellows. A wise head, a warm heart, and a willing hand likely to secure love and respect. Christ’s promise,—“He that believeth on me, out of him shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37). Job, from his piety, benevolence, and wisdom, both the darling and the oracle of his country.
(3) A man’s noblest ambition—(i.) To excel others in virtue, piety, and benevolence. (ii.) To act as the counsellor and guide of his fellows. (iii.) To comfort the mourners while commanding the multitude.
II. Job’s character (Job 29:11-17). His reputation not without just grounds. The fruit not of his riches or power, but of his benevolent and upright character.
1. His benevolence and compassion as a private individual. Job 29:11; Job 29:13; Job 29:15-16.—“Because I delivered the poor that cried [under suffering or oppression], and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish [from want or oppression] came upon me [as his deliverer], and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy (by comforting, relieving, or delivering her). I was eyes to the blind (as an instructor, counsellor, and guide to the ignorant, inexperienced, and erring), and feet was I to the lame (doing for the weak, infirm, and helpless, what they were unable to do for themselves). I was a father to the poor (counselling, defending, and providing for them); and the cause which I knew not (or, ‘the cause of those I knew not,’ i.e., of the stranger), I searched out (or into, in order to his relief and defence—doing this as well in the capacity of a private individual as of a magistrate or judge). Observe—
(1) Job’s religion not one of mere contemplation, still less one of mere profession or outward observance. His the “pure and undefiled religion before God the Father—to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
(2) Job’s character an exemplification of “the wisdom that is from above—first pure, then peaceable, gentle, full of mercy and of good fruits.”
(3) In Job, the fear of God evinced by active love to man. To be so always.
“First daughter to the love of God
Is charity to man.”
“He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20).
(4) The nature of that love which the law requires, and which verifies a man’s religion. A love not in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). True charity is kind and seeketh not her own (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
(5) Job’s faith, like Abraham’s, made perfect by his works (James 2:22).
(6) Wealth and high position no hindrance to the exercise of compassion and benevolence. Should rather be a help to it.
2. His faithfulness and justice as a magistrate. Job 29:13-14.—“The cause which I knew not I searched out (careful—
(1) that before giving sentence, he thoroughly understood the case;
(2) That none, even the stranger, should have his case neglected). I put on righteousness—(practising it in his daily conduct, and especially as a magistrate and judge), and it clothed me (or, ‘put on me,’—wholly filled me, made me righteous,—both without and within). My judgment (or upright dealing) was [to me] as a robe and a diadem” (or turban, worn as a headdress by kings and nobles, Isaiah 62:3; by the high priest, Zechariah 3:5; and even by Jewish ladies of fashion in the days of Isaiah, Isaiah 3:20; the flowing robe and turban still the prominent articles of a wealthy Arab’s dress). Job’s character as a magistrate the opposite of that ascribed to him by Eliphaz (chap. Job 22:5-9). Job not less just than generous. Observe—
(1) Justice and benevolence the brightest ornament either of public or private life. Wisdom an ornament of grace and a crown of glory to all her possessors. Knowledge is a youth’s diadem—Arab Proverb.
(2) Uprightness of character and life to be worn as our dress; cleaving to us and accompanying us at all times and in all places. To be our habit in both senses of the word. Patent to the eyes of the world like our outer garments.
(3) Upright conduct to be regarded as our honour. To be neither ostentatiously paraded nor pusillanimously ashamed of.
(4) A better righteousness than our own given us in Christ as our ground of confidence before God (Romans 4:2-6; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:7-9).
3. His boldness in opposing the wicked and oppressive. Job 29:17.—Perhaps also belonging to his character as a magistrate. “I broke the jaws (or jaw-teeth) of the wicked (especially the rich and powerful oppressor, often represented us a beast of prey, chap. Job 4:10), and plucked the spoil out of his teeth.” The opposite of the unjust judge in the Gospel (Luke 18:3-4). Observe—
(1) A truly good man a comfort to the oppressed and a terror to the oppressor. “They that forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with him” (Proverbs 28:4).
(2) A good man not deterred from duty by the fear of consequences. Job did good and executed justice at the risk—i. Of being unpopular with the great. ii. Of incurring personal danger. iii. Of much trouble to himself.
III. Job’s anticipation. Job 29:18.—Perhaps continued to the end of the chapter. “Then I said [within myself, while reflecting upon my prosperity and character], I shall die in my nest (in comfort and security, neither by a violent nor untimely, but a natural and peaceful death); I shall multiply my days as the sand” (or, according to another reading, “as the Phœnix”—a fabulous bird, said to spring from a nest of myrrh made by the parent bird before his death, living to the age of a thousand years, and coming from Arabia to Egypt once in five hundred years, and then burning his father,—a hieroglyphical mode with the Egyptians of representing a particular chronological era or cycle). Natural in Job’s circumstances to cherish bright anticipations of the future. The tendency of continued prosperity and honour to beguile into false security and confidence. David’s error (Psalms 30:6-7). Job’s anticipations to be soon apparently blasted. Yet in the end abundantly realized (chap. Job 42:16). Observe—
1. A good old age, and a comfortable death in the bosom of one’s family and home, among the appointments of a favouring Providence. The opposite threatened as a punishment (Isaiah 22:17-18; Jeremiah 22:18-19). These, however, not proofs of pardoning mercy, nor necessarily belonging to the children of God. Ishmael, out of the covenant, dies in the midst of all his brethren; Moses; in it, dies alone on a solitary mountain (Genesis 25:18; Deuteronomy 32:49-50). Best to have the circumstances of our death as well as of our life chosen for us by our heavenly Father. The everlasting covenant of God’s grace in Christ the softest and safest nest in which either to live or die (2 Samuel 23:5).
(2) To multiply our days a blessing; to make right use of them a greater. Days often multiplied only to multiply shame and sorrow (Isaiah 51:11). The longest life, if ill-spent, is short; the shortest, if well-spent, is long. Life not to be measured by the number of its days, but by the character of its deeds.
(3) Job’s anticipation, a long life and a comfortable death; that of the believer under the Gospel dispensation, an eternal blessedness reserved for him in heaven (2 Corinthians 4:18).
IV. Lessons suggested by the retrospect as a whole
1. Evidence of the statement that “the fear of the Lord is wisdom.” Job’s piety the fountain both of his happiness and honour. None ever exhibited more of the former or enjoyed more of the latter. His life and experience a verification of the truth that “length of days is in wisdom’s right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour” (Proverbs 3:16).
2. Proof that true piety towards God is accompanied with the purest morality and love to men. Job as much distinguished for the one as the other. The fear and love of God the only and sure guarantee of faithfulness and love to men. True piety the natural fountain both of a pure morality and a disinterested benevolence. Integrity of life and love to our neighbour only branches of that tree whose root is the love of God. Love to God the first table of the Decalogue; love to man the second. The two twin sisters of the same parent, the nature and image of God who is love. He who loves and fears God cannot be regardless of God’s will or God’s offspring.
3. An example afforded of what grace can effect in restoring and renewing fallen humanity. Job a specimen of the power of that grace of God which teaches us to “deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” His virtues not the product of fallen nature but of renewing grace. Though in the older dispensation and before the full effusion of the Holy Spirit, his character and life the fruits of that Spirit, viz., love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (Galatians 5:17). Exhibits the features of the new man created in the believer by the Holy Ghost after the image of God. The object and effect of Divine grace to produce the lineaments of Christ, the perfect man in the renewed soul. The polluted but believing Corinthians not only justified but washed and sanctified (1 Corinthians 6:11). The converted cannibals of Fiji risk health and life to communicate their blessings to the cannibals of New Guinea.
4. A pattern for Christians both in public and private life. Job’s daily life a scattering of seeds of kindness. Might have sat for the picture of the Good Samaritan. Job’s goodness, if not his greatness, within everyone’s reach. The poor always with us. No large estate required in order to be “eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and a father to the poor.” A kind word or a trifling gift often able to make the widow’s heart sing for joy. More grace provided and attainable for the exercise of Job’s virtues in the Christian dispensation than in that under which the patriarch himself lived. The follower of Jesus both required and enabled to practise every virtue and every praise that adorned Job’s character (Philippians 4:8).
5. The retrospect of a holy and useful life a source of pure and elevated comfort in sickness and adversity. Job’s comfort in his afflictions not in looking back on his wealth and honours, but on the way he employed them. The seeds of scattered kindness in the time of health and prosperity often bear their fruit in this life in the season of trouble and adversity. Friends made of the “Mammon of unrighteousness,” both for time and eternity (Luke 16:9). A man may be richer in the retrospect of the manner in which he spent his money than others who selfishly hoard it are in its continued possession.
6. Example of the uncertainty of earthly comforts and riches. None ever enjoyed more of these than Job, and none ever more thoroughly stripped of them. The comfortable nest in which he hoped to end his days now rifled and torn in pieces, and himself sitting, a loathsome leper, on an ash-heap. Boast not thyself of to-morrow. Madness to pursue a fleeting and neglect an enduring substance. Means and opportunities of doing good to be faithfully employed while they last. Riches not for ever, nor the crown to all generations.
7. The experience of believers in respect to the sensible enjoyment of the Divine presence and fellowship liable to fluctuation. Not only Job’s outward and temporal but his inward and spiritual comfort now in an eclipse. The sin of God’s countenance may for wise reasons be hidden behind a cloud. No proof of God’s anger that His favour is not sensibly enjoyed. The shining of the sun to be believed, though not seen. The path of a believer through the world like that of the moon among sailing clouds. Darkness and light the experience of a believer till he reaches the land where there is no more night.
8. An exemplification of the requirements of the moral law in respect to our neighbour. Love to man, verified in continual acts of varied benevolence, the characteristic of Job’s life. Such love the requirement of the second part of the Decalogue. Job’s life and character no more than is required by the law of God from each individual according to his means and opportunities. Every shortcoming of it, sin. Hence the universal character of men as transgressors of the Divine law (Romans 3:23). Job himself, with all his integrity and benevolence, still a sinner as coming short of that law. Every mouth stopped, and the whole world guilty before God (Romans 3:19). An example of perfect obedience to the law of love found only in one of Adam’s children.
9. Job exhibited in this chapter as a type of Jesus Christ the Righteous. The picture Job draws of himself only fully and perfectly realized in him who “did no sin,” and who “went about, doing good” (Isaiah 11:1-5; Isaiah 61:1-3). Christ, the second Adam, the only perfect man. His life, even more than Job’s, an exhibition of the beauty and excellence of the moral law, as well as a fulfilment of it. Christ fitted, therefore, to be our representative and head in a new covenant (Romans 5:12-19). His perfect fulfilment of the law, for our sakes—
(1) As a pattern for our imitation.
(2) As a proof that He was what He professed to be—the Son of God and Saviour of men.
(3) To give value to His death as a sacrifice and satisfaction for sin, Himself being without spot, and a sweet savour to God.
(4) As a substitution for the perfect obedience required of each individual.
(5) As the image and character to be reproduced in all who are united to Him by faith, as the members of that family of which He is the head and representative.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 29". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20