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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

- Job

by Editor - Joseph S. Exell

The Preacher’s Complete Homiletic



By the

Author of the Commentaries on the Song of Solomon and Daniel

New York



THE following work was originally intended to form part of Dr. Van Doren’s “Suggestive and Homiletic Commentary on the Old and New Testaments;” and consequently to be accompanied with critical notes similar to those in the Author’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, already published in connection with that series. That undertaking, however, having been given up by Dr. Van Doren, it was proposed to the writer by the Editors of the “Homiletical Commentary on the Books of the Old and New Testaments” to reconstruct and adapt his work, so that it might be admitted as part of their series. The object of the Editors of the “Homiletical Commentary,” however, was rather to aid in the use of existing commentaries than to produce a new one, intending their series to contain as little as possible of what might be found in other expositions. The writer is deeply conscious of the many imperfections adhering to his work; he has, however, made it his endeavour, as far as he was able, to carry out the object of the Editors; and, at the same time, to prepare an expository and homiletical work on what is acknowledged to be one of the most difficult books of the Bible, which may, by the Divine blessing, be useful both to ordinary readers of the Word and to those who have to minister to others.

In the preparation of his work the Author has availed himself of all the critical and practical aids within his reach, in order that it might exhibit the results of the studies of the most eminent Biblical scholars and expositors of the Word up to the present time. He is sorry that, owing to the change of plan, he is not able to present to the student the views and opinions of others on the various loci difficiles of the book, as he had done in his Commentary on the Romans. If he has thus appeared in any place to adopt sentiments which have been expressed by living writers before him, without mentioning their names, he takes this opportunity of expressing his obligations and of soliciting their kindly condonance. In connection with the first two chapters, he was especially pleased with remarks found in some papers of the “Homilist” on the Book of Job, probably from the pen of the accomplished editor, Dr. Thomas.

Those who are best acquainted with the nature of the Book of Job, as one of the most ancient books in the world, if not itself the most ancient, and with the difficulties connected with the original language of the composition, will be most disposed to make allowance for the imperfections discoverable in the present work. If he shall have succeeded in any degree in aiding the readers of the Word in the spiritual understanding of this frequently obscure, but most precious, portion of it, or in assisting any in expounding it to others, the writer will have had his desire accomplished, and will ascribe all the praise to Him “of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”


June 19th, 187




I. The General Character of the Book. One of the grandest portions of inspired Scripture. A heaven-replenished storehouse of comfort and instruction. The Patriarchal Bible, and a precious monument of primitive theology. Is to the Old Testament what the Epistle to the Romans is to the New. Job’s history well known to early Christians as an example of patience (James 5:11). Understood by them typically and allegorically of Christ. From the second century the book read in the churches in Passion Week. Stands unique and independent among the books of the Bible. In its prose parts so simple and easy that a child may understand it; in its poetic portion, the deepest and obscurest book in the Old Testament. Contains milk for babes and strong meat for those of full age. Studded with passages of grandeur and beauty, tenderness and pathos, sublimity and terror. Acknowledged to surpass in sublimity and majesty every other book in the world. In recent times studied as a masterpiece of poetry. A fountain from which some of the greatest poets have drawn their inspirations. To suffering believers the sound of Faithful’s voice to Christian in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

2. Author. Uncertain. Long believed by most to be Moses. Moses well acquainted with Egypt; “learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22); capable of writing sublime poetry (as Exodus 15:0; Deuteronomy 32:33); himself trained in the school of affliction (Hebrews 11:25); had opportunities in Midian for obtaining the knowledge of the history and composing the poem. Parts of the book probably in previous existence as traditional poetry, maxims, or sayings of earlier sages (e.g. Job 12:13-25; Job 15:20-35). The human authorship uncertain, no doubt about the Divine. The author of the greatest and sublimest poem in the world unknown.—Little matter that our names are forgotten, if our works live.

II. Period of Composition. Opinions divided. Two periods principally assigned.

1. That of Moses (see above);
2. That of David and Solomon. Views of scholars and critics now more generally in favour of the latter;
(1) From the style and character of the composition;
(2) The advanced state of art and civilization indicated;
(3) The occurrence of certain expressions;
(4) The prevalence of the idea of “Wisdom;”
(5) The similarity of sentiment and language to those in Psalms and Proverbs, particularly as regards the state of the dead; e.g. in Psalms 88, 89 (the works of Heman and Ethan (1 Kings 5:11).

III. Character of the Book. A true history poetically treated. Proofs;

(1) Job mentioned as a historical person with Noah and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14; James 5:11;)—

(2) The localities real, and names of persons not significant, except that of Job himself;—
(3) Extended fiction not according to the spirit of high antiquity, and especially to that of the Bible. Probably the facts given substantially, though not exactly, as they occurred. The speeches not necessarily given verbatim.

IV. Species of Composition. A drama, but only in a loose sense. A didactic narrative, for the most part in a poetic and dramatic form. The discussion of a grave and solemn question the body of the book. The controversy carried on in poetry, the introduction and conclusion in prose. Poetry the earliest form of composition, as best retained in memory. Sentiments and maxims preserved in the East in a terse, proverbial, and poetic form. The book exhibits the chief characteristic of Hebrew poetry, viz. parallelism, or the slightly varied repetition of the same sentiment in parallel clauses. Earliest examples of it in Genesis 4:23; Jude 1:14. Parallelism a key to the interpretation. The poetry of Job also strophaic,—arranged, though irregularly, in strophes or stanzas, each containing more or less verses or connected parallel clauses.

V. Genuineness and Integrity of the Book. The whole now generally admitted to be from one and the same author. The three parts,—introduction, controversy, and conclusion—intimately connected with and necessary to each other. The speeches of Elihu necessary as a complement to the others, and as preparatory to the address of Jehovah. Possibly, as in some other books of Scripture, a second inspired hand may have completed the book as we now have it. A dislocation of some passages also possible; the instances noted in the commentary.

VI. Canonicity and Inspiration. Universally admitted. Its inspiration not prejudiced by our ignorance of the human author. The book apparently known by Ezekiel six hundred years before Christ (Ezekiel 14:14). Translated into Greek, as part of the Hebrew Scriptures, two hundred and seventy years before Christ. Included in the Scriptures used and referred to by Jesus and the apostles as the inspired word of God. Quoted twice by the apostle (Hebrews 12:5; 1 Corinthians 3:19); in the latter case with the usual form of Scripture quotation, “It is written.” Its morality and theology in harmony with the other books of Scripture. Completes the canon by presenting a view of the Patriarchal Dispensation. In the development of the history of Redemption, stands midway between the Fall and the Crucifixion.

VII. Subject of the Book. The trial of Job; its occasion, nature, endurance, and issue. The trial of man as recovered by Divine grace from Adam’s fall. Proof given against Satan that there is such a thing as disinterested piety in the world. To afford this proof, Job visited with varied, intense, and accumulated suffering. Keen discussion arising out of this between Job and his three friends, as to why he is thus treated. The cause, according to the friends, some secret sins on the part of Job; according to Job himself, God’s mere arbitrary will. Another reason hinted at by one of the three and maintained by a fifth speaker,—the benevolent design of suffering though induced by sin (ch. Job 5:17; Job 33:19-30). The book, the story of an elect one in early patriarchal days, taught by suffering to learn practically the life of faith. The nest in which he thought to die, rifled of everything. Job righteous, but not yet prepared for such a change. To be made, by trial, a member of the pilgrim family. Job, like Abraham, to be one of God’s strangers in the world (Hebrews 11:13). Chastened to be made a partaker of God’s holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Made to have resurrection in his experience as well as in his creed.

VIII. Design of the Book. Probably manifold.

(1) To show the reality of true religion, the nature and the power of faith.
(2) To exhibit the blessedness of the godly however assailed by affliction.
(3) To show that true piety is wisdom, the only way to man’s real and highest welfare.
(4) To display the Providence of God in its inscrutableness, justice, and mercy.
(5) To show that in the case of the righteous, “behind a frowning Providence” God “hides a smiling face.”
(6) To exhibit the consistency between the truths of Revelation and the dealings of Providence.
(7) To afford an example of patience and trust in God under sorest trials, and so to minister comfort and hope to tried believers.
(8) To exhibit a child of God set to learn through trials the power of his heavenly calling.
(9) To illustrate the fact of human depravity even in the best.
(10) To teach the final conquest over Satan and the triumphs of righteousness and peace in the earth.
(11) To exhibit a picture of man’s fall and his redemption through faith in the Redeemer.

(12) To present in Job a type of Christ, the righteous sufferer for man’s sake. The same type exhibited in many of the Psalms, as the twenty-second and sixty-ninth. The sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, the central truth of Old Testament Scriptures (1 Peter 1:11). The testimony of Jesus the spirit of prophesy (Revelation 19:10; Luke 24:27). This book, like the rest of the Old Testament, written that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4). Profitable, like all inspired Scripture, for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

IX. Divisions. Three general divisions with many subordinate ones; viz., the introduction or prologue (ch. 1, 2); the controversy, including Job’s lamentation as the occasion of it (3–42:6); the conclusion or epilogue (Job 42:7, &c.). Two parts in the controversy:—the Controversy proper between Job and his three friends; and the Solution of it, in the speeches of Elihu and the address of Jehovah.

X. Analysis of Contents.—I. FIRST DIVISION: historical introduction (in prose) (ch. 1, 2)

(1) Job’s character, prosperity, and walk (Job 1:1-5).

(2) Jehovah’s purpose to prove Job by suffering (i.) through loss of property (Job 1:16-17; (ii.) loss of children (18, 19); (iii.) loss of health (Job 2:1-8).

(3) Job’s perseverance in his piety (Job 1:20-22; Job 2:9-10.)

(4) The visit of his friends as the preparation for the conflict (Job 2:11-13).

II. SECOND DIVISION: The Controversy and its Solution (in poetry).

(1) Job’s desponding lament, the immediate occasion of the controversy (ch. 3).
(2) The controversy proper, in three cycles or courses of dialogues.

First Course: Commencement of the controversy (4–14).

First Dialogue—Eliphaz and Job (4–7).

(1) Eliphaz accuses Job and exhorts him to repentance (4, 5).
(2) Job justifies his lament and complains of his friends (6, 7).

Second Dialogue—Bildad and Job (8–10).

(1) Bildad reproves Job and reminds him of the end of wickedness
(2) Job maintains his innocence and complains of God’s mysterious severity (9, 10).

Third Dialogue—Zophar and Job (11–14).

(1) Zophar severely charges Job and urges him to repentance
(2) Job attacks his friends as wanting in wisdom and justice, and addresses himself to God, still maintaining his innocence, and complaining of the general lot of humanity (12–14).

Second Course: Growth of the controversy (15–21).

First Dialogue—Eliphaz and Job (15–17).

(1) Eliphaz reproves Job’s obstinacy in maintaining his innocence, and asserts God’s righteous retribution on evil doers
(2) Job bemoans his forlorn condition, but expresses the confident hope of a future acknowledgment of his innocence (16, 17).

Second Dialogue—Bildad and Job (18, 19).

(1) Bildad rebukes Job as an empty boisterous talker, and reminds him of the fate of the ungodly
(2) Job retorts on his friends, bewails his sufferings, but expresses confidence in God as his Redeemer and Avenger, and warns his friends of the consequence of their uncharitableness

Third Dialogue—Zophar and Job (20, 21).

(1) Zophar maintains the short-lived prosperity and bitter end of the ungodly
(2) Job in reply asserts their frequent prosperity and the afflictions of the godly

Third Course: Height of the controversy (22–27).

First Dialogue—Eliphaz and Job (22–24).

(1) Eliphaz openly accuses Job of great sins and warns him to repent
(2) Job expresses his wish that God would appear and decide the case Himself, but bemoans His withdrawal from him, recounting at the same time similar cases of apparent inequality of divine procedure (23, 24).

Second Dialogue—Bildad and Job (25, 26).

(1) Bildad briefly declares God’s greatness and purity, and man’s vileness
(2) Job ridicules Bildad’s common-places, and enlarges much more fully on God’s sovereignty and power

Job alone in the field (27, 28).

(1) Solemnly re-asserts his innocence, and declares his joy in God, with the certain miserable end of the ungodly
(2) Intimates that the wisdom which can solve the problem is only found with and through means of true piety

The Solution of the controversy.
First Step in the Solution: Guilt cannot be the cause of those peculiar sufferings. Job’s soliloquy (29–31).

(1) Longing retrospect of former prosperity
(2) Mournful description of his present condition
(3) Solemn protestation of his freedom from open and secret sins

Second Step: Afflictions of the righteous chastening and purifying. Elihu’s speech (32–37).

(1) His introduction by the poet, in prose (Job 32:1-6).

(2) His motive and reasons for joining in the controversy (6–22).

His first speech

(1) Invites Job’s attention to himself as a mild judge of his case (1–7).
(2) Blames his confidence in his innocence (8–11).
(3) Declares God’s gracious dealings with men to bring them to repentance (12–30).

His second speech

(1) Blames Job for doubting God’s righteousness (1–9).
(2) Maintains that righteousness, as necessary to the government of the world (10–30).
(3) Reproves Job’s sin and folly in charging God with injustice, and in calling on Him to decide the controversy (31–37).

His third speech

(35). Blames Job for thinking piety useless to its possessor (1–8). Gives reason for the continuance of sufferings (9–16).

His fourth speech (36–37).

(1) Defends the righteousness of God on the ground of His benevolent object in afflicting (1–21), and of His wise and mighty operations in nature (22–37; Job 37:1-13).

(2) Shows the lessons from these operations (14–24).

Third Step in the Solution: None may dispute against God. Jehovah’s speeches, with Job’s confession (38, Job 42:1-6).

Jehovah’s appearance and challenge to Job (Job 38:1-3).

His first speech (38–39).

(1) Challenges Job to answer various questions relative to creation (4–15); to the visible universe and powers of nature (16–27); to the wind and starry heavens (28–38); to the preservation and propagation of wild animals (Job 39:1-30).

(2) Conclusion of speech, with Job’s humble reply (Job 40:1-5).

Jehovah’s second speech (Job 40:6, &c., 41).

(1) Reproves Job for doubting God’s righteousness (Job 40:7-14).

(2) Points to humbling proofs of his weakness in relation to certain animals, as the Behemoth and Leviathan (Job 40:15, &c., 41).

Job’s humble confession of the divine power and his own guilt and folly (Job 42:1-6).

III. THIRD DIVISION. Historical conclusion, in prose (Job 42:7-15).

(1) Jehovah’s justification of Job before his friends (7–10).
(2) Job’s restoration to former honour and dignity (11, 12).
(3) The doubling of his estate and children (12–17).

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