Monday, June 5th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ job-2.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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This chapter concludes the "Introductory section." It consists of three parts. Job 2:1-6 contain an account of Satan's second appearance in the courts of heaven, and of a second colloquy between him and the Almighty. Job 2:7-10 contain the sequel to this colloquy, viz. Satan's further affliction of Job, and his conduct under it. Verses 11-13 contain an account of the arrival of Job's three special friends to mourn with him and to comfort him; and of their behavior during the first seven days after their arrival
Again there was a day when the sons of God same to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them. There is no "again" in the original. The words used are an exact repetition of those contained in Job 2:6 of Job 1:1-22. But they mark, no doubt, a second occasion on which the angelic host came to present themselves before the throne of God, and Satan came with them. To present himself before the Lord. These words are additional to those used in the former passage. We may gather from them, that, whereas on the former occasion Satan came only to observe, and with no intention of drawing God's special attention to himself, he now had such intention, and looked forward to a colloquy. He anticipated, doubtless, that the circumstances of Job's probation would be referred to, and he had prepared himself to make answer.
And the Lord said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it (see the comment on Job 1:7, of which this is an almost exact repetition).
And the Lord said unto Satan, Hast thou conquered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Thus far is identical with Job 1:1 (quod vide). The rest of the verse is additional, having reference to the conduct of Job under his earlier trials (Job 1:20-22). And still he holdeth fast his integrity. This has been justly called "the key-note of the whole book" (Cook). Satan had declared that Job's integrity rested on no solid basis, and would easily be overthrown and disappear. God, confident in his servant's faithfulness and truth, had allowed him to assail it. What was the result? God declares it with his own mouth. Job's "integrity" had not been wrested from him; he still maintained it (Job 1:21, Job 1:22), as he was about to do till the end (Job 42:1-6). Compare the ideal "just man" of Horace—
"Justum et tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranny
Menta quatit solida, neque Anster,
Dux inquieti turbidus Hadriae ….
Si fractus illabatur orbis,
Impavidum ferient ruinae."
Although thou movedst me against him (see Job 1:9-11), to destroy him; literally, to swallow him up; i.e. to ruin him, overwhelm him with calamities. Without cause; i.e. "when he had done nothing to deserve such treatment."
And Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin. No doubt a proverbial expression, resembling "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth; Tit for tat," and the like; but not expressive of retaliation. Satan means that, to keep his own "skin" intact, a man will sacrifice another's "skin;" even that of his nearest and dearest. Job, he insinuates, submitted to the loss of his children without a murmur, because he feared that otherwise God would stretch forth his hand against his person, and smite it or destroy it. He cannot imagine any motive for submission and apparent resignation but a selfish one (comp. Job 1:9). Yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life; i.e. "a man will submit to the loss, not only of all his possessions, but even of those whom he loves best, to save his own life—he will do anything for that." So the "false accuser." All the numerous acts of self-sacrifice which human history presents, and has presented from the first, are ignored.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; i.e. "his person"—any part of his body. And he will curse thee to thy face (see the comment on Job 11:11).
And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold he is in thine hand; i.e. "he is in thy power, to do with him as thou pleasest"—except in one respect. Again it is strongly marked that Satan's power is under God's control, and extends only so far as God shows. But save his life; rather, only spare his life (Revised Version). The didactic purposes for which God was allowing his faithful servant to be tried in the furnace of affliction would have been frustrated by Job's removal from the earth. Individually he might equally well have been compensated in another world; but then the lesson of his example to living men, and the lesson of his story to all future generations of mankind, would have been lost. Besides, God but rarely, in the old world, gave a faithful servant, still in the full vigour of life (Job 42:16, Job 42:17), "over unto death" (Psalms 118:18).
So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord (comp. Job 1:12, ad fin.). Satan, we may be sure, is always anxious to quit the immediate presence of God; for "what communion hath light with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). But now he had a special motive for haste in his anxiety to put Job to the test. Doubtless he was confident that he would triumph. And smote Job with sore boils. "With a malignant inflammation" (Lee). It has been generally concluded, from the scattered notices of his malady contained in the Book of Job (especially Job 7:4, Job 7:5; Job 17:1; Job 19:17-20; and Job 30:17-19), that the disease with which Satan "smote Job' was elephantiasis—sometimes called Elephantiasis Arabum—a marked and strongly developed form of leprosy (Rosenmuller, Michaelis, Professor Lee, Canon Cook, Stanley Leathes etc.). Elephantiasis is thus popularly described by Canon Cook, in the 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 26; "An intense heat, a burning and ulcerous swelling, or leprosy in its most terrific form, taking its name from the appearance of the body, which is covered with a knotty, cancerous bark like the hide of an elephant; the whole frame is in a state of progressive dissolution, ending slowly but surely in death." A modern scientific work gives the following more exact, but more technical, account of the disease: "A non-contagious disease characterized by recurrence of febrile paroxysms, attended by inflammation, and progressive hypertrophy of the integument and areolar tissue, chiefly of the extremities and genital organs; and occasionally by swelling of the lymphatic glands, enlargement and dilatation of the lymphatics, and in some cases by the coexistence of chyluria, and the presence in the blood of certain nematode haematozoa, together with various symptoms of a morbid or depraved state of nutrition". The disease is not now regarded as incurable, though, without an entire change of scone and climate, it is regarded as very seldom cured. From the solo of his foot unto his crown. Elephantiasis is generally local, attacking some part of the body, as, especially, the extremities or the genital organs. But in the worst forms, the entire body suffers.
And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal. "The surface of the integuments," says Dr. Quain, "is often much inflamed, and sometimes discharges a serous ichor, or chyle-like fluid, according to the extent to which the lymphatics are engaged in the particular ease". This "serous or lymph-like fluid" is occasionally "acrid and offensive." Job seems to have used his potsherd to scrape it away. And he sat down among the ashes. Not as a curative process, or even as an alleviation of his pains, but simply as was the custom of mourners (comp. Isaiah 47:3; Isaiah 58:5; Jeremiah 6:26; Ezekiel 27:30; Jonah 3:6). The LXX. renders, "on the dung-heap;" but this meaning, if a possible one, is highly improbable.
Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Job's wife had said nothing when the other calamities had taken place—then she had "refrained her tongue, and kept silence," though probably with some difficulty. Now she can endure no longer. To see her husband so afflicted, and so patient under his afflictions, is more than she can bear. Her mind is weak and ill regulated, and she suffers herself to become Satan's ally and her husband's worst enemy. It is noticeable that she urges her husband to do exactly that which Satan had suggested that he would do (Job 1:11; Job 2:5), and had evidently wished him to do, thus fighting on his side, and increasing her husband's difficulties The only other mention of her (Job 19:17) implies that she was rather a hindrance than a help to Job. Curse God, and die; i.e. "renounce God, put all regard for him away from thee, even though he kill thee for so doing." Job's wife implies that death is preferable to such a life as Job now leads and must expect to lead henceforward.
But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh; rather, as one of the vile (or impious) women speaketh. Nabal, the term used, is expressive, not of mere natural folly, but of that perversion of the intellect which comes on men when their hearts and understandings are corrupted and degraded.. (see 2 Samuel 13:13; Psalms 14:1; Isaiah 32:6). What? shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil? Job remembers all the good which he has received of God during his past life, all the blessings and prosperity bestowed on him (Job 1:2, Job 1:3), and asks—Would it be fair or right to take all the good things as a matter of course, and then to murmur if evil things are sent? He accepts both prosperity and affliction as coming from God, and expresses himself as willing to submit to his will. But he has, perhaps, scarcely attained to the conviction that whatever God sends to his faithful servants is always that which is best for them—that afflictions, in fact, are blessings in disguise, and ought to be received with gratitude, not with murmuring (comp. Hebrews 12:5-11). In all this did not Job sin with his lips. Thus far, that is, Job "kept the door of his mouth" strictly, righteously, piously. Later on he was not always so entirely free from fault.
Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him. It is not to be supposed that Job had no more than three friends—indeed, Elihu the Buzzite appears later on as one of his friends (Job 32:2-6)—but he had three contemporaries with whom he was especially intimate, old men (Job 32:6), with whom he was probably accustomed to confer from time to time, and who were in the habit of giving him their advice. All three, apparently, lived at a distance; and it seems to have been some weeks before the news of his misfortunes reached them. When the news came they held communication one with another, and agreed to pay him visits of condolence at a certain definite time, which was determined upon between them. Some months—at least two—seem to have elapsed between the date of Job's latest affliction and the time of their arrival (Job 7:3). They came every one from his own place. They had separate homes, and probably lived at some considerable distance from one another. Eliphaz the Temanite. There was an Eliphaz, the son of Esau by his wife Adah, who had a son Teman (Genesis 36:4; 1 Chronicles 1:35, 1 Chronicles 1:36); but it is not supposed that this can be the person here intended. The name Teman did not become geographical until the descendants of this Eliphaz's son had multiplied into a tribe, when they gave name to the portion of Arabia which they inhabited. This tract seems to have been either a part of Edom, or in its immediate vicinity (Genesis 36:42, Genesis 36:43; Jeremiah 49:7, Jeremiah 49:8, Jeremiah 49:20; Ezekiel 25:15; Obadiah 1:8, Obadiah 1:9), but cannot be located with accuracy. The Temanitee were celebrated for their wisdom, as we learn from Jeremiah, who says (Jeremiah 49:7), "Concerning Edom, thus saith the Lord of hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?" Job's friend was probably among their wisest men at the time; and his discourses certainly show a considerable knowledge of human nature. They do not, however, solve the riddle of the universe. And Bildad the Shuhite. Bildad is a name which does not occur elsewhere in Scripture, neither is there any other mention of Shuhites. Conjecture has identified the Shuhites with the Saccaei of Ptolemy ('Geograph.,' 5.15), whom he places in the neighbourhood of Batanaea and Trachonitis. But the Saccaei are unheard of till Ptolemy's time, and seem to be a tribe of very small importance. Perhaps Bildad belonged to the people known to the Assyrians as the Tsukhi, or Sukhi, who dwelt on the Middle Euphrates from about Anah to Hit. And Zophar the Naamathite. Zophar, or rather Tsophar, is another unknown name. There was a Naamah, a city, in south-western Judaea (Joshua 15:41), to which Zophar may have belonged, though probably a region, rather than a city, is here intended. For they had made an appointment together; or, agreed together, by message or letter probably. To come to mourn with him and to comfort him. A good intention, at any rate, and one agreeable to the apostolic injunction to us to "weep with them that weep" (Romans 12:15). That they failed to carry out their intention (Job 16:2; Job 21:34) was owing to a want of judgment, and, perhaps, in part, to a want of love.
And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not. Job was seated on an ash-heap outside his dwelling (verse 8). The three friends, who had probably met by agreement at some point near his residence, and drew nigh together, saw the figure at some distance, and looked to see who it was. But Job was so disfigured by the disease that they failed to recognize him. They lifted up their voice, and wept. In the clamorous manner of Orientals (comp. Herod; 2.14; 3.119; 8.99; 9.24; and AEschylus, 'Persae'' passim). And they rent every one his mantle (see the comment on Job 1:20), and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven (comp. Jos 7:6; 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 13:19; Nehemiah 9:1; Ezekiel 27:30; Lamentations 2:10; and see also Homer, 'I1.,' 18.22-24; Helioder, ' Hist. AEth.; 1.)
So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights. Professor Lee supposes that this is not to be taken literally. "It means" he says, "that they sat with him a considerable length of time before they opened the question discussed in this book, not that they sat precisely seven days and seven nights, and said not so much as one word to him". But the period of" seven days" was appropriate to mournings (Genesis 1:10; Genesis 2:0 Samuel 31:13; Ezekiel 3:15), and if they could stay with him one day and one night without speaking, why not seven? Food would be brought them, and they might sleep rolled up in their begeds. The long silence may be accounted for by the fact that "among the Jews," and among Orientals generally, "it is a point of decorum, and one dictated by a fine and true feeling, not to speak to a person in deep affliction until he gives an intimation of a desire to be comforted" (Cook). So long as Job kept silence they had to keep silence, at least so far as he was concerned. They might speak to any attendants who drew near, and they might speak one to another. Note the words which follow: And none spake a word unto him None spake to him; but no etiquette imposed complete silence on them. For they saw that his grief was very great. So great that he could not as yet bear to be spoken to.
A new trial moved for.
I. THE OLD OCCASION RETURNED.
1. The gathering of the sons of God. The recurrence of this celestial scene reminds us of:
(1) the immutable sovereignty of Jehovah, who, on this second occasion as on the first, still appears enthroned amidst the principalities and powers of heaven—the devils also being subject to him (cf. 1 Peter 3:22);
(2) the permanence of moral obligation in the heavenly world and amongst angels as well as on the earth, neither lapse of time nor change of circumstances having the slightest effect in releasing God's intelligent creatures from the bonds of responsibility; and
(3) the constancy and cheerfulness with which the inhabitants of the upper world delight to do God's holy will—an example of obedience proposed for the study and imitation of believers (Matthew 6:10).
2. The reappearance of the adversary. If, on the former occasion, the entrance of Satan amongst God's celestial sons might permissibly be regarded as an impertinent intrusion, in the present instance his return must be held as having taken place in accordance with a tacit understanding that, in due course, he should appear to report the result of his experiment with the patriarch, which, perhaps, may explain the introduction of the words, "to present himself before the Lord," omitted from the account of the first assembly.
II. THE OLD CONTROVERSY RESUMED.
1. The patriarch's enemy interrogated. "From whence comest thou?" Note
(1) God's universal cognizance of things that transpire on earth (Job 28:10, Job 28:24; Job 34:22);
(2) God's perpetual surveillance of the devil in his movements; and
(3) God's constant watchfulness against his attacks (Revelation 3:10).
2. The patriarch's piety commended. "Hast thou considered my servant Job?" (see homiletics on Job 1:1, Job 1:8). Whether or not containing "a covert sneer at the baffled adversary," the question reminds us of:
(1) God's faithfulness towards his people. Nothwithstanding all that had occurred, Job was still God's servant, and God as ready to own him for his servant as when the patriarch was rejoicing in the fulness of prosperity (Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 54:10).
(2) God's judgment concerning his people. God can always distinguish between a man and his surroundings. The Omniscient judges no one by his material environment, but by the character of his heart (1 Samuel 16:7; 2 Samuel 7:20; Psalms 7:9).
(3) God's affection for his people. As Job's afflictions had not destroyed his piety, so neither had they alienated God's love. Never in the day of calamity does Jehovah renounce his saints, but rather, because of tribulation, clings to them with fonder affection (1 Samuel 12:22; Psalms 91:15; Rom 11:2; 2 Timothy 2:19; Revelation 2:9).
3. The patriarch's sincerity attested.
(1) The Divine satisfaction with the patriarch. "He still holdeth fast his integrity." Constancy in piety is a rare jewel in the saint's casket, lends a special lustre to his other virtues, is ever highly prized by its possessor, and never fails to elicit Heaven's commendation. The Divine approbation also, besides being an ample recompense for all the saint's trials (Romans 8:18), is the only sure test of genuine religion (2 Corinthians 10:18), the greatest honour a saint can receive (Matthew 10:32), and the final portion of those who hold fast their integrity to the end (Malachi 3:17; Revelation 3:5).
(2) The Divine indignation against Satan. "Although thou movedst me to destroy him." See the widely differing estimates of trouble taken by God and Satan. What the devil called a touch God calls a swallowing up: that marks the tenderness or God's heart. Note the different relations in which God and Satan stood to Job's affliction—God acting, and the devil tempting; marking God's sovereignty, but Satan's responsibility. "God's afflicting of his people is (so to say) a blowing of the bellows to kindle his displeasure against wicked instruments (Isaiah 47:5, Isaiah 47:6; Zechariah 1:15)" (Hutcheson).
(3) The Divine sorrow about himself. "Thou movedst me … without cause." Indicating the reluctance with which God in any case proceeds against a saint (Lamentations 3:33), and the regret which he felt in this case, since he knew so well there was no sufficient reason for entertaining a suspicion against the patriarch's piety. Let it teach us that "though all men have sins enough to be the meritorious cause, yet oftentimes sin is not the moving cause of their afflictions" (Caryl).
III. THE OLD CALUMNY REVIVED. Job's victory in the previous conflict is by the devil:
1. Tacitly admitted. Satan finds it impossible to repel the statements advanced by Jehovah concerning his servant. Saints should study to live so that their piety cannot be contradicted, however much it may be aspersed by Satan and wicked men, and that God, when he speaks in commendation of their integrity, may be justified.
2. Reasonably explained. On the ground that the trial was not severe enough. "Skin for skin," etc.—a proverb, which, however explained (see Exposition), practically charges the patriarch with unnatural barbarity in disregarding the loss of his children since his own skin was saved, as well as with intense and revolting selfishness in making the supreme consideration, in all his thoughts and calculations, the preservation of his own life.
3. Wholly undervalued. As in his (the devil's) estimation, proving nothing and contributing nothing to the solution of the grand problem in debate. Hence he does not hesitate to suggest that the matter should a second time be submitted to the ordeal of trial.
IV. THE OLD PROPOSITION REPEATED. "But put forth thine hand now;" which demand was certainly:
1. Presumptuous; considering by whom it was made, Satan, and to whom it was addressed, Jehovah; thus showing the illimitable pride of the devil (Isaiah 14:12, Isaiah 14:13, Isaiah 14:14).
2. Unnecessary; remembering the person against whom it was directed, and the issue of the preceding trial to which he had been subjected.
3. Cruel; seeing that Job had already been afflicted by the double stroke of bankruptcy and bereavement, and this was a request that God would aggravate his misery by laying his hand upon his person. But who would ever look for humane and tender feelings in a devil?
4. Malignant; when regard is had to its object and motive—the latter being hostility to God and hatred of piety; the former the overthrow of Job's religion and the damnation of Job's person.
V. THE OLD PERMISSION RENEWED. "Behold, he is in thine hand." The patriarch was again delivered up into the power of the adversary.
1. Sovereignly; God having a perfect right to dispose of the persons of his people, no less than their properties.
2. Really; to be tried in whatever manner his Satanic ingenuity might devise, always, of course, within the prescribed limits.
3. Immediately; from this time forward being rendered accessible to the hostile assaults of the adversary. Yet:
4. Reservedly; with certain restrictions as to his life, which was not to be taken from him. And also, one cannot help thinking:
5. Confidently; without the slightest apprehension of an unfavourable issue to the trial, so high was the estimation in which God held his servant.
1. Concerning the devil. That he is seldom satisfied with only one attempt against the virtue of a saint; that he is exceedingly unwilling to admit himself defeated on the field of spiritual conflict; and that he ever plants his fiercest batteries against the citadel of a saint's integrity.
2. Concerning the saint. That he need hardly anticipate a long period of exemption from either trials or temptations; that whatever calamities befall him, he should labour to discern God's providential hand in their occurrence; and that he, may confidently trust God will not give him over completely to the devil.
3. Concerning God. That though he may suffer his saints to be tried, he does not cease to love them; that though he may lengthen Satan's chain, he doesn't loosen it; and that, though he may sometimes listen to Satan's charges against the saints, he never believes them.
The value of life.
I. MORE VALUABLE THAN MATERIAL POSSESSIONS.
1. In origin; being the breath of God's Spirit, while they are only the work of God's hand.
2. In nature; being conscious of its own existence, while they are only dead, insensate things.
3. In capacities; being possessed of intellect, reason, conscience, will, while they have only properties and qualities peculiar to matter.
4. In design; being intended for the conscious enjoyment of God, while they can never consciously enjoy, but only obediently and passively glorify, their Maker.
II. LESS VALUABLE THAN SPIRITUAL POSSESSIONS.
1. In character; being a natural endowment, while these are essentially gifts of grace.
2. In usefulness; without these being a failure so far as realizing its appropriate end is concerned, whereas these enhance the dignity and capabilities of life.
3. In happiness; life with grace being immensely more enjoyable than mere existence without Job 2:4. In duration; life being doomed to decay and dissolution, while the riches of the soul endure for ever.
1. Prize life as a gift of God.
2. Adorn life with the grace of God.
3. Use life for the glory of God.
4. Return life (when it is called for) into the hands of God.
I. THE IMPORT OF IT. That a man will part with everything about him to save his life.
II. THE FALSEHOOD OF IT.
1. Men will part with all outward things to save life.
2. Some men will even part with a good conscience to save life.
3. But there are those who would rather die than renounce their integrity.
The patriarch's second trial.
I. THE TWOFOLD ASSAULT UPON THE PATRIARCH.
1. The infliction of a loathsome disease.
(1) Its author. Satan. That diseases generally come through violation of hygienic laws is matter of everyday observation and of special scientific affirmation. But that Job's malady had a diabolic origin, as had also many of the physical ailments that prevailed in the East about the time of Christ, must be accepted on the ground of revelation. And as in Christ's day Beelzebub was permitted to wield a larger influence than usual over men's bodies, that the power of Christ in destroying the works of the devil might be the more conspicuously displayed, so the exceptional ability of Satan to produce bodily malady in Job's case existed solely for a special purpose. It would therefore be contrary to good theology as well as sound science to ascribe the "ills that flesh is heir to" to diabolic rather than to natural causes.
(2) Its nature. "Sore boils;" supposed, and with probability, to have been a malignant form of elephantiasis, a disorder having many of the characteristics of leprosy. From incidental allusions scattered throughout the poem, it appears to have been an exceedingly painful disease, accompanied in its early stages by severe bodily itching (Job 2:8; Job 9:17, Job 9:18), and attended in its progress with extreme debility, and utter prostration of mind as well as body, leading to disturbed slumbers, terrifying dreams, and even suicidal temptations (Job 6:4, Job 6:11, Job 6:14; Job 7:4, Job 7:13, Job 7:14). A quickly spreading disease, rapidly covering the body with pustules, or boils, sometimes from head to foot (Job 2:7; Job 7:5). A certainly corrupting disease, producing emaciation, and causing rottenness in the flesh and bones (Job 13:28; Job 16:8; Job 33:21). A truly loathsome disease, rendering the wretched sufferer an object of disgust even to his nearest relatives and friends (Job 19:13-19) and ultimately, though not immediately, a mortal disease (Job 16:22; Job 17:1; Job 30:23).
(3) Its design. To try the patriarch
(a) by wearing out his strength, and so rendering him more accessible to the entrance of diabolic temptations;
(b) by making him an object of abhorrence to mankind, and so in a manner cutting him off from human sympathy; and
(c) by leading him to regard his malady as a special visitation from Heaven, and so tempting him to entertain harsh thoughts of Jehovah.
2. The injection of a vehement temptation.
(1) The time when it was made. Not at the beginning of his malady, but after it had somewhat developed, when his strength was impaired, his nerves were unstrung, and his mind was depressed, and when, no longer permitted to enter the dwellings of men, he sat himself down upon the mezbele, or ash-heap, outside his dwelling—an object of loathing and disgust to passers-by.
(2) The person through whom it was directed. Not the devil himself, since then it would scarcely have acquired the force of a temptation; nor even a friend like Eliphaz, Bildad, or Zophar—counsellors who afterwards fared rather badly at Job's hands; but she who of all on earth was his nearest and dearest-his wife, the bride of his youth, the mother of his noble sons and fair girls now dead, the companion of his joys and sorrows. Beyond question, it was politic to attack the patriarch through his wife; and probably for this reason she was spared—not because having her was a greater trial to the good man than losing her would have been, but because the devil wanted a tool against her husband (of. Adam's temptation through Eve).
(3) The counsel which was offered. "Bless God" (sc. for the last time; i.e. "renounce him"), "and die!" perhaps words of wifely sympathy wrung from her loving bosom by the cruel sufferings which had been heaped upon her husband; certainly words of passionate vehemence calculated to bear down the opposition of a sufferer growing every day feebler through incessant pain; and words of much plausibility, suggesting a thought which seemingly had much in its favour, that his sufferings were to be ascribed purely to his religion; but also words of essential wickedness, since not only was the thought they suggested untrue, but the advice itself was wrong.
II. THE TWOFOLD VICTORY OF THE PATRIARCH.
1. The inroad of physical disease he met with patient submission. "He took a potsherd and scraped himself withal." Indulging in no complaints against Providence for afflicting him, and, when the malady had so far developed that his presence became offensive to his friends and neighbours, quietly retiring to the ash-heap. Admirable meekness! Exquisite patience! Incomparable submission! "In all this Job sinned not with his lips."
2. The entrance of wifely temptation he encountered with:
(1) Deserved rebuke. "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh." Language distinctly bearing that the popular estimate of Job's wife, which makes her to have been a sort of Oriental shrew, is incorrect, implying as it does that the patriarch was surprised to hear her talk so much out of character, not like a saint and the wife of a saint as she was, but like one of the foolish or ungodly women. Carried away by the tumultuousness of her womanly feeling, in a moment of passionate thoughtlessness she had lost her self-control, and given utterance to desperate words, which were such as to call for censure; and the faithful husband, much as he loved his wife, and laden as he was himself with misery, did not shrink from administering the needful admonition.
(2) Lofty resignation. "Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" The voice, not of stoical indifference, or of heartless despair, or of cold, callous, reluctant acquiescence in a fate which cannot be escaped, but of intelligent and cheerful submission to a providence which he recognizes to be at once righteous and good. "In all this Job sinned not with his lips."
1. That God's saints in this world have sometimes to endure trial upon trial
2. That periods of protracted suffering are spiritually more dangerous than sharp and sudden strokes of greater severity.
3. That the fiercest trials often arise at unexpected moments, and from least anticipated quarters.
4. That the most painful temptation a good man can experience is the temptation to renounce his religion.
5. That Satan's mercies (e.g. in sparing Job's wife) have always somewhat of cruelty in them.
6. That the greatest outward blessings may sometimes prove a snare—Job's wife, and Adam's.
7. That it is perilous for good men or women to give way to passion.
8. That in times of violent emotion a strong guard should be set upon the door of the lips.
9. That good people may sometimes give very bad advice.
10. That the devil's prime aim in tempting men is to make them renounce God, and die.
11. That God's people should on no account let go their integrity.
12. That those who have been recipients of God's mercies should not repine when for their good he changes the dispensation.
Job 2:9, Job 2:10
Job and his wife.
I. A FOOLISH WOMAN.
II. A FAITHFUL HUSBAND.
III. A THANKFUL SAINT.
IV. A SUBMISSIVE SUFFERER.
Job 2:9, Job 2:10
I. THE VOICE OF FOLLY. "Curse God, and die."
II. THE VOICE OF REBUKE. "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh."
III. THE VOICE OF GRATITUDE. "We receive good at the hand of the Lord."
IV. THE VOICE OF SUBMISSION. "Shall we not receive evil?"
Job 2:9, Job 2:10
(along with Genesis 3:1-6).
Job and Adam: a parallel and a contrast.
I. A PARALLEL.
1. Both were tempted.
2. By Satan.
3. Through their wives.
4. To renounce their allegiance to God.
II. A CONTRAST.
1. In the times of their temptation. Adam when at the summit of felicity; Job when in the depth of misery.
2. In the modes of their temptation. Adam, assailed by the thought that God had unjustly deprived him of good; Job, by the suggestion that God had unrighteously afflicted him with evil.
3. In the results of their temptation. Adam fell; Job stood. See
(1) in Adam the representative of all men; and
(2) in Job the foreshadowing of the God-Man.
The patriarch's third trial; or the coming of the friends.
I. THE HONOURABLE NAMES THEY BORE.
1. Eliphaz the Temanite. Probably a descendant of Teman, the son of Eliphaz, the son of Esau by his wife Adah (Genesis 36:10, Genesis 36:11; 1 Chronicles 1:35, 1 Chronicles 1:36); belonging to the race of Teman, which extended over a considerable portion of Arabia, about midway between Palestine and the Euphrates; very likely the oldest of the three friends.
2. Bildad the Shuhite. Perhaps sprung from Shush, the youngest son of Abraham by Keturah (Genesis 25:2), and residing in a district of Arabia, not far from the Temanite country; may be reasonably supposed the second oldest of the friends.
3. Zophar the Naamathite. Otherwise unknown except through this book; though, from his acquaintance with Bildad, Eliphaz, and Job, it may be inferred he also was a person of distinction. Probably all three were, like the patriarch in his prosperity, powerful Arabian sheiks.
II. THE EXCELLENT CHARACTERS THEY POSSESSED.
1. Points of agreement.
(1) Intellectual ability. Without alleging that air three stood upon the same platform in respect of mental calibre (which they did not, Eliphaz holding unmistakably the preeminence), it is apparent that they all were thinkers of no mean capacity. It is a special ornament to men in high social position to be possessed of corresponding mental faculties; besides immensely adding to their personal enjoyment and public usefulness (cf. Ecclesiastes 10:16).
(2) Religious principle. Unquestionably good men, who not only revered Jehovah, but practised the Divine will so far as they understood it. They were likewise sincerely desirous of promoting Job's highest welfare, while they unfeignedly sympathized with him in his appalling trouble. If we cannot quite adopt their speculative and religious formulas, any more than we can commend their wisdom or kindness in lecturing the patriarch as they did; on the other hand, it is due to them not to estimate their characters from the gall and wormwood outpoured on their devoted heads by Job, when stung to madness through their reproaches.
(3) Mistaken views. All three were equally astray in the fundamental doctrine they propounded in the course of their debate with the patriarch, viz. that suffering was so indissolubly associated with sin that the one was the measure of the other—a theory which Job strenuously combats throughout the poem; thus giving rise to what we designate the second problem of the book, viz. as to the precise relation subsisting between sin and suffering as they appear on earth.
2. Points of difference.
(1) Eliphaz, a man of erudition, a person given to profound spiritual reflection, a seer who discerned spirits, dreamed dreams, and enjoyed intercourse with the unseen world, may be held to represent the prophet of the period.
(2) Bildad, of smaller build and narrower vision, a strong traditionalist in religion, with a profound veneration for the ancients, who accepted his theology from his ancestors without putting ugly questions as to its truth, and was prepared, by quoting maxims and citing proverbs of hoary antiquity, to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, was probably designed to typify the sage of the time.
(3) Zophar the Naamathite, an echo of his friends as to sentiment, as to manner more boisterous and arrogant than either, full of commonplaces and conventional dogmas, which he enunciated with imposing dignity and tremendous authority, may be regarded as the good man of the day' the vulgar but sincere formalist, who says sharp and bitter things, and always means what he says, as well as says what he means (Cox).
III. THE MELANCHOLY TIDINGS THEY RECEIVED. How they learnt the news of Job's evil fortunes is not related, but the fact that they did reminds us of:
1. The rapidity with which evil tidings usually spread; since it was obviously not long before the report of their friend's calamities reached their ears.
2. The organic unity of society; which renders it impossible for any one to either suffer or rejoice alone (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:26).
3. The special susceptibility of friendly hearts for learning of others' woes.
IV. THE MUTUAL APPOINTMENT THEY MADE. A token of:
1. Lively interest in the patriarch's welfare. Seeing they must have communicated with each other concerning their neighbour's evil hap, thus showing they were not indifferent to what had occurred.
2. Loving sympathy with the patriarch's distress. For they meant to mourn with him and to comfort him, not to treat him to a mere call of ceremony.
3. High appreciation of the patriarch's worth. Since they planned to go together to the scene of sorrow, which, if it did spring from a due regard to their own dignity as princes, was perhaps also traceable to their Sense of what was owing to the rank and worth of their old friend. It says much for the three neighbours that they did not neglect Job now that he was a poor, diseased leper.
V. THE FERVENT EMOTION THEY DISPLAYED.
1. Tearful sympathy. Catching a sight of their former neighbour, whom they had known and revered in his prosperity, now sitting on the ash-heap, outside his house, and hardly recognizing, in the emaciated features on which they gazed, the noble form of the quondam prince whose glory outshone the radiance of all his contemporaries, they lifted up their voices and wept. Orientals are proverbially more emotional and lachrymose than phlegmatic Occidentals; but still it must have been an affecting spectacle to behold the three great princes moved to tears by the patriarch's distress.
2. Genuine amazement. "They rent every one his mantle." A symbol of horror and astonishment, as in the case of Jacob (Genesis 37:34), Joshua 7:6, Ezra 9:3, Caiaphas (Matthew 26:65).
3. Profound sorrow. "They sprinkled dust upon their heads towards heaven;" i.e. threw handfuls of dust into the air, as the Arabs still do, that it might fall upon their heads, in token that they were deeply moved by the troubles and calamities that had fallen on their friend.
VI. THE PECULIAR ATTITUDE THEY ASSUMED. It is unnecessary to suppose that they were absolutely silent, but merely that they spake nothing to him during all that period, certainly not in any way alluding to the cause of his distress. And this silent attitude may have been expressive of
(1) ceremonial propriety' if this was the customary manner of Oriental mourning, which is doubtful; but was more probably dictated by
(2) delicate sensibility' which forbade them to intrude upon the solitude of a sorrow so overpowering as that which they beheld; and
(3) reverential awe' as seeing in the patriarch one upon whom the hand of God was visibly laid (cf. Genesis 34:5; Leveticus Genesis 10:3; Psalms 46:10; Ezekiel 3:15); if it did not also spring from
(4) rising suspicion' the thought beginning to thrust itself into view, which indeed, according to their philosophy, could not long be repressed, that the agonized and wretched sufferer before them must have been, notwithstanding his previous high reputation for piety, a hypocrite at bottom, whose disguised insincerities and secret iniquities had at length drawn down upon him the just judgment of a holy and incensed God.
1. That good men may often misunderstand God's truth, misconstrue God's providence, and misjudge God's people.
2. That good men should always study to be distinguished for sympathy towards the suffering and sorrowing.
3. That good men who aspire to be brothers of consolation should not forget that silence is sometimes more soothing than speech.
4. That good men should never cherish secret suspicious of those whom they seek to comfort.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Renewed assaults and temptations of the adversary.
The first scene in this drama of affliction has closed, and a fresh one opens, bringing, however, no happy change, no alleviation, but rather an aggravation of the hero's woe. A second time the adversary of mankind appears in the heavenly court to launch his malicious shafts of accusation against the servant of God. His purpose is now more intent, his aim more deadly, than ever. But we, as spectators, can see a bright light still steadily shining above the cloud in that unsmiling favour and kindness of the Eternal, who cannot, will not, desert his own. Looking more closely to the particulars, we see—
I. THE PITY OF GOD FOR HIS SUFFERING SERVANTS. (Job 2:1-3.) Jehovah looks down and beholds "his servant Job," as he stands unshaken amidst a very hurricane of calamity, holding to his integrity as something dearer than life; and he condescends to expostulate with the accuser. Has not the trial gone far enough? Is not the test that Job has already undergone sufficient to satisfy the most sceptical observer of his truth? Must the furnace be heated still another degree? But the adversary is not content; and it would appear that, if further trial is demanded, the demand is not to be resisted, according to the laws of heaven. The moral government of the world may require this. Thus, while the pity of God would relieve from further suffering, his righteousness-which is his adherence to fixed law—may require its continuance, until every doubt concerning a particular character be solved. But the language ascribed to the heavenly Father is, meanwhile, full of the tenderest compassion. There is individualizing regard. There is recognition of integrity and innocence. There is profound sympathy. We are reminded of the touching words of Psalms 103:1-22; "He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust."
II. In opposition to this, we observe THE MALIGNANT PERSEVERANCE OF THE DEVIL.
1. His specious plea against Job. (Verses 4, 5.) In the form of a proverb he launches a keen insinuation: "Skin for skin;" like after like; one thing after another will a man give for dear life. Job has only made a barter after all He loses all his property; but then he has that left which outweighs all the rest. The loss of goods teaches him to prize the health which is left. He feels the greatness of this blessing as he never felt it before. Any circumstance which teaches us the worth of a common blessing is so far an advantage to us. An eminent living man has said that, given health, we have no right to complain of anything in the world. Job, then, has only been half tempted after all; and the trial will only run its full course when it has assailed this last great, chief blessing—his health of body and of mind. Such is the "case" of the devilish prosecutor against Job.
2. The final test permitted. (Verses 6-8.) The All-disposer grants the permission: "He is in thy power; but spare his life!" And then a sudden poison strikes through the sufferer's blood; he becomes from head to foot a mass of disease and loathsomeness, sits in ashes, scraping himself with a potsherd, to allay the fearful irritation of his malady. His mind is, of course, deeply affected by the illness of his body. Natural hope is extinct. It is a life in ruins. Yet that Divine and immortal principle we call the soul is still intact, still glimmers like a bright spark amidst the embers of a dying fire.
III. TEMPTATION IN THE GUISE OF AFFECTION. (Verses 9,10.) And now what remains of conscious life is to know one further shock; and the hand of woman, the voice of a wife, is employed to urge the tottering sufferer over the brink on which he sits, into despair and total renunciation of faith and God. Then his wife said to him," Dost thou still hold fast to thine innocence? Say farewell to God, and die!"
1. This is a second signal instance in which, in the Old Testament, woman plays the part of the tempter. There is instruction in this pointed fact. Woman is the weaker vessel, in mind as in body. She has less firmness of intellectual texture. Her weakness as well as her strength lies in feeling. She is quick in impulses, both of good and of evil. She represents passion, and man represents strength. On the whole, she is less capable of strong, profound, patient convictions, less able to take a large view of questions, to look beyond the present and immediate aspects of things. Here is the picture of a lively temper, quick to feel resentment at pain or gratitude for good; but a shallow understanding, unused to meditation and reflection on the deeper meanings of life. Her language is that of haste and passion. But this serves to bring out by contrast the calm, reflective piety, the convictions established by lifelong thought and experience of her husband.
2. The rebuke of Job to his wife.
(1) "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women;" that is, thy language is like that of a heathen, not of one who has been trained in the knowledge and worship of the true God. The heathen turn fickly from one god to another as pleasure and pain or the caprice of fancy may suggest. For their gods are but idols, creatures of their own imagination, which they take up and cast down as children with their toys. But there is only one God for me! And that God, the eternally Wise and Good in all that he gives, in all that he withholds!
(2) There are two sides of life' and the one must be taken along with the other. Here, too, the language of manly reasonableness and of intelligent piety speaks out Life is a garment woven of both pleasure and pain, of seeming good and evil. The one conditions the other. All experience teaches that constant happiness is the lot of none. Why, then, should I expect to be an exception? Surely we are but crude scholars in life's great school, so long as we think we are entitled to immunity from any particular form of suffering. We are still children who think they have a right to their own way, and are astonished to find themselves withstood. "Who told thee thou hadst a right to be happy? Art thou a vulture screaming for thy food?"
"Couldst thou, Pausanias, learn
How deep a fault is this!
Couldst thou but once discern
Thou hast no right to bliss!"
Here, then, the weakness of distrust and the folly of despair in the human heart, represented by Job's wife, stand opposed to the nobleness and grandeur of a fathomless confidence in the Eternal. God is the Author at last of all we suffer. Is that a reason for forsaking God? No, replies faith; it is a reason for reposing more entirely upon his everlasting arms. "If my bark sinks, 'tis to another sea."—J.
A picture of friendship.
In this short section we have a beautiful picture of true friendship in its prompt sympathy, its ready offices. The three intimate friends of Job, on hearing of his troubles, arrange to visit him and offer the comfort of their presence and condolence. We are reminded—
I. OF THE BLESSING OF FRIENDSHIP. Sympathy is the indispensable need of the heart. It deepens the colour of all our pleasures; it throws a gleam of light athwart our deepest gloom. "Rejoice with them that do rejoice; and weep with them that weep." Our joys do not burst into flower till they feel the warm atmosphere of friendship. Our heaviest griefs only cease to be crushing when we have poured our tale into the ear of one we love. One of the humblest, yet best offices a friend can render to a sufferer is to be a good listener. Draw him out; get him to talk; movement and change of mind are what he needs. Exertion, if only the exertion of speech, will do him good. Do not pour upon him a cataract of well-meaning but stunning commonplaces. Imitate the kindness of Job's friends, but not their want of tact and perception. Let him only feel that in your presence he can relieve himself of all that is on his mind, and will not fail to be kindly understood.
II. SEASONABLE SILENCE IN THE PRESENCE OF SORROW. On the arrival of the friends, seeing the heart-rending condition of the noble chieftain, whom they had last seen in the height of his health and prosperity, now sitting in the open air, banished by disease from his dwelling, defaced by that disease beyond recognition, an utterly broken man, they express their grief by all the significant gestures of Eastern manners—weeping, rending their clothes, sprinkling dust upon their heads. They then take their places by his side, and keep a profound and mournful silence for a week, as Ezekiel did when he visited his countrymen captives by the river Chebar. What exquisite manners are taught us in the Bible! And the great superiority of its teaching in this respect over the common teaching of the world is that it founds all manners upon the heart. It is truth, love, sympathy, which can alone render us truly polite, refined, and delicate in our relations to others, teaching us always to put ourselves in thought in the other's place. "There is a time to keep silence." In great grief we recognize the hand of God, and he bids us be still and own him. Our smaller feelings bubble, our deeper ones are dumb. There are times when reverence demands silence, and a single word is too much. Leave the sufferer alone at first. Let him collect himself; let him ask what God has to say to him in the still, small voice that comes after the earthquake and the storm. "Sacred silence, thou that art offspring of the deeper heart, frost of the mouth, and thaw of the mind!" Sit by your friend's side, clasp his hand, say simply, "God comfort you, my brother!" In the earlier stage of a fresh and sudden grief this will be enough. We cannot doubt that the wounded heart of Job was greatly comforted by the silent presence of his sympathizing friends. It was better than all their spoken attempts at consolation. Let us thank God for friendship and for true friends; they are messengers from him. "God, who comforteth them that are cast down, comforted me by the coming of Titus!"—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The severer tests of faith.
Job has triumphed in the severe ordeal. His possessions, his servants, his family, have been torn from him. In the bitterness of his sorrow he has "rent his mantle," and shown the signs of his humiliation by cutting off the hair of his head. But in the paroxysms of his grief he has "held fast his integrity;" he "sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." So far he has passed through the fire unscathed, and belied the false accusations of the adversary. But further trials are at hand. It is in accordance with the spirit and purpose of the book to represent the lowest condition of human sorrows. Besides loss of possessions and loss of his beloved children, Job must needs be subjected to the loss of health—to a dire and painful and loathsome disease. All this is aggravated by the unwise taunts and advice of his wile, and the prolonged and irritating accusations and false views of his friends. It is a condition of extreme suffering unrelieved by any human consolations. Job is alone in his sufferings, unsustained, his pain even increased by the very voices that should have brought comfort to him. Up to the time of his friends' visit Job has remained unmoved in his uncomplaining integrity. "In all this did not Job sin with his lips." The test to which he was subjected by the severe and reproachful and unhelpful words of his friends is presented in its detailed relation throughout the book. We learn—
I. THAT IT IS POSSIBLE FOR EVEN THE RIGHTEOUS MAN TO SUFFER IN THE EXTREMEST DEGREE. It is one part of the purpose of the book to illustrate this truth for sufferers in all time, to make known that "many" may be "the afflictions of the righteous."
II. THAT THE PURPOSE OF THESE EXTREME AFFLICTIONS IS THE TESTING AND PERFECTING OF VIRTUE, which, even in the ease of the righteous, is necessarily imperfect. Reading through this book, it would appear that the work of Satan is to test virtue. Satan is called "the agent of probation." He displays a malignant and antagonistic spirit. But whatever may seem to be the motives on the one side, it is obviously the Divine purpose to make the testing an occasion of blessing to him who is tested. "When he is tried he shall receive a crown of life." Satan must be considered as a servant of the most high God, whose agency is employed in the spiritual discipline of the righteous. The conditions of temptation to evil are so intimately identified with all those of the human life, that we can only think of them as a necessary part of the present constitution under which human life is held. By it virtue is exposed to injury; but in its fires virtue is purified and perfected.
III. THAT THE TRIUMPH OF VIRTUE IN RESISTING TEMPTATION TO EVIL AND TO IMPATIENCE UNDER THE OPPRESSION OF PAIN, IS THE UTMOST TRIUMPH OF THE HUMAN SOUL, AND ENSURES THE HIGHEST REWARD. He who subjects the delicate life to the fierce blast of evil will not so expose it as needlessly to endanger its highest interests. Temptation does not appeal to the virtue of the heart, but to its remaining faultiness, which it exposes for destruction, and so proves its own beneficent action.
IV. In the history of Job we further learn that EVEN LOFTY VIRTUE MAY RE BOWED DOWN, AND SHOW SIGNS OF WEAKNESS BEFORE FINALLY TRIUMPHING.
V. We also learn THE WISDOM OF PATIENTLY SUBMITTING TO THE TRIALS OF LIFE, HOWEVER SEVERE. Rebelliousness brings no ease to the troubled spirit. The only alternative offered to Job was, "Curse God, and die." The better course is to retain integrity, to sin not, nor charge God foolishly.—R.G.
Human impotence in presence of great sorrow.
The prompting of pure and faithful friendship leads Job's friends to hurry to his help. They "come to mourn with him and to comfort him." When yet afar off they lift up their eyes and behold their friend. But, alas! disease has wrought so great a change in him that they know him not. Then "they lifted up their voice, and wept." In their wild, ungoverned passionate grief "they rent every one his mantle," and seizing the dust of the ground they cast it in the air toward heaven, and let it fall on their heads in token of their grief. Thus with signs of deep suffering in sympathy with their friend they cast their cry with the sand upwards to heaven. Then, with great skill, the writer indicates the helplessness of men in the presence of overwhelming Sorrow. "They sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great." So the sorrow that extorted the wild cry of pity closed the lips of consolation. We behold the men staggered by the bitterness of their friend's lot. He cannot help himself, and they cannot help him. How true a picture of all deep Sorrow! It is to be said by every severe sufferer as by the typical One," Of the people there was none with me;" for even tender, loving sympathy cannot penetrate to the depths of another's sufferings. With these feelings we gaze on the sufferer, feeling how painful it is to be unable to extend a helpful hand or to speak an effectual word. It is humiliating to us. It is abasing to our pride.
I. THE CAUSES OF OUR IMPOTENCE IN PRESENCE OF SEVERE SUFFERING ARE:
1. Our inability to descend to the depth of the sorrow of another. It is only as we ourselves are sufferers that we can know what others feel. We must have drunk of the same cup if we would know its bitterness.
2. But even though we have suffered as we see others suffer, no words, even of the tenderest pity, can effectually relieve the mourner. Hollow human words, words of merely pretended sympathy, only wound the sufferer more deeply; while words of true friendship, cooling and cheering as they may be, can take up no part of the burden. For a time they draw off the mind of the sufferer from his sorrow, but it returns as a flowing tide.
II. THE PAINFULNESS TO A TRUE FRIEND OF CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE EFFECTUALLY TO AID THE SUFFERER. Days or hours of silence are days or hours of keen suffering to the faithful friend unable to stanch the wound, to abate the fever, to restore the lost possession or the lost friend. By all we are driven to—
III. THE TRUE AND ONLY EFFECTUAL SYMPATHIZER, THE GOD-MAN, who, having suffered, and having power to descend to the lowest depths of the human heart, and having the Divine resources at command, the power to inspire the word of consolation and supporting strength; and who, measuring the need of the sufferer, can abate the severity of bodily pain or mental anguish. To the sufferer the welcome of this honest sympathy opens the door for the incoming of the true Healer and Comforter and Helper, who can give strength to the feeble, and, above all, can sanctify sorrow and calamity to higher ends, and make all things work together for good. He can brighten hope and sustain faith and strengthen patience, can soothe the fretted spirit, and give peace and joy and life.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
Satan's old saw
(Browning). Satan was defeated in the first trial, but not convinced. With persistent malignity he proceeded to suggest a more severe test. It was no fault of his that the first test, hard as it was, had not gone to the utmost extremity; for he had been expressly limited by the words, "Only upon himself put not forth thine hand" (Job 2:12). He had gone to the full length of his tether, but that had not satisfied him; so he must apply for a larger privilege of mischief-making. He requests permission to touch the parson of Job, either quoting or coining the proverb which Browning has called "Satan's old saw."
I. THE FORCE OF THE PROVERB. Take it how you will—that a man will sacrifice a less vital part to save a more vital part, holding up his arm to shelter his head; or that he will give the lives of his cattle, slaves, children, to save his own body's skin; or that he will sell hide after hide of precious skins from his warehouse, i.e. all his property, for his life—the proverb plainly means that a man will make any sacrifice to save his life.
1. There is an instinct of self-preservation. Here we come to an impulse of nature. When in a state of nature all creatures try to save their own lives at any coat. Even the would-be suicide, when once he finds himself drowning, screams for help, and clutches madly at the rope that is flung to him. Accordingly, juries usually bring in a verdict predicating an unsound mind in the case of any one who has succeeded in taking his own life. Now, this instinct of self-preservation is a gift from the Author of nature; it is innocent because Divine, and powerful because primitive.
2. Life is a first condition of all experience and possession. If a man loses his life he loses his all. He may sacrifice many things for the sake of one coveted end—selling all he has to buy one pearl of great price; he may risk his life on a great venture; but if he loses his life he can obtain nothing in return. "What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own life?" (Matthew 16:26).
3. Life is seen to be supremely valued. Starving men become cannibals. In the siege of Jerusalem women boiled their own children for a last meal, natural affection itself being sacrificed to the instinct of self-preservation. Desperate men sell their lives dearly.
II. THE FALSITY OF THE PROVERB. We must be on our guard how we quote texts from Scripture. This is especially important in the Book of Job, where the form is dramatic. The proverb before us is in Scripture; yet it is not from God, but from the devil. This very fact should make us suspicious about it. It looks like truth, but it comes from the "father of lies."
1. It denies the higher life. Satan refers to a natural instinct. But that instinct does not cover the whole of our being. His lie is the more deadly because it is the exaggeration of a truth, or rather because it is the statement of one truth which needs to be qualified with another truth. Bishop Butler has taught us that human nature in its fulness includes conscience. But conscience may go against the lower part of our nature. The higher life may dominate and suppress the instincts of the lower.
2. It ignores the fact of self-sacrifice. Satan uttered his saw as though it were a generalization from wide experience. We may have our fine theories as to how things ought to be; he will tell us how he finds them really existing in the world. The devil only perceives the lower life, only perceives the selfish side of man. He is the "spirit that denies," because he is blind. But self-sacrifice is as much a fact as self-preservation. The cross is its great witness. The good Shepherd giving his life for the sheep is the triumphant refutation of Satan's old saw. So in a secondary way are Job in his fidelity, and every martyr and hero and Christ-like man.—W.F.A.
Job 2:7, Job 2:8
Satan has now obtained permission to go a step further, and lay his hand on the person of God's servant. He uses the new privilege with skilful ingenuity, selecting the most horrible and loathsome disease, and smiting Job with the worst form of leprosy—elephantiasis.
I. THE MISERY OF THE INFLICTION.
1. It touches the man himself. Hitherto the blows have fallen on his outer world, though, indeed, they have come very near to him in striking his children. Still, he has not felt them directly. Satan has drawn a marked line between these external troubles and personal troubles (verses 4, 5). Now he crosses the line. Every man must feel what touches himself, though some may be too callous, too unimaginative, or too unsympathetic fully to appreciate what is outside them. No man can feel his brother's toothache as acutely as he feels his own.
2. It lays hold of his body. Bodily pain is not the worst form of suffering. A broken heart is infinitely more pitiable than a broken skin. Still, bodily pain has this about it, that it cannot be denied or eluded. It is a very tangible and unquestionable fact.
3. It is loathsome and disgusting. Elephantiasis makes its victim an object of repulsion, hideous to behold, shunned by all his fellows. Job had been a prince among men, living in universal respect. He now comes down, not only to poverty, but also to a condition of visible degradation and disgust. To the man of sensitive feelings shame is worse than pain.
4. It is hopeless. Elephantiasis was thought to be incurable. Job took no medical remedies. He only retired to his ash-heap, seeking temporary alleviations. The worst agony can be endured with some patience if there is a prospect of cure; but even a milder complaint becomes intolerable if there is no hope of escape.
II. THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE SUFFERER. The most significant thing about the narrative here is that so little is said about the behaviour of Job. As yet we have no word from him under his fearful malady. The silence is eloquent.
1. Great suffering stifles thought. This is a merciful provision of Providence. We could not bear both to feel acutely and to think profoundly at the same time. There is a sort of mental anodyne in fearful bodily pain. Its paroxysms act as an anaesthetic to the finer feelings of the soul When the worst of the bodily pain is over the mind recovers itself; but at first it is stunned and crushed into numbness.
2. True fortitude accepts alleviations of suffering. Job does what little he can to relieve the intolerable torments of his disease. He has no idea of attitudinizing as a martyr. Small sufferers may try to make the most of their pains, foolishly nursing them, and obviously playing for pity. This is not the case with the great tragic heroes. The depth of their sufferings are known only to God.
3. Bitter distress seeks solitude. Job retired to the ashes. His complaint made this action necessary; his mood must also have welcomed the retirement. In bitter distress the soul would be alone—yet not alone, for God is present as truly among the ashes as in the gorgeous temple.—W.F.A.
Husband and wife.
I. THE WIFE'S TEMPTATION.
1. Its source. Job is now tempted by his own wile—by her who is nearest to him, and who should be almost his second self. Chrysostom asks, "Why did the devil leave him his wife?' and replies, "Because he thought her a good scourge by which to plague him more acutely than by any other means." Certainly the temptation which comes through one whom we love is the most powerful. Christ met the tempter in a favourite disciple. It is the duty of love not simply to sympathize, but also to give good counsel; it is its error only to show sympathy by aggravating the evil tendencies of a trouble.
2. Its excuse. Men have been too hard on Job's wife for this one foolish saying of hers, forgetting how huge was her affliction. Indeed, a great injustice has been done her, and while sympathy and admiration have been lavished on the husband, the partner in distress has scarcely received a glance of pity. But his troubles were her troubles. She had been in affluence, the happy mother of a happy family. Now she is plunged into poverty and misery, bereft of her children, with her once honoured husband in disease and corruption. Is it wonderful that she should utter one hasty, impatient word?
3. Its point. We cannot say that Job's wife urged him to curse God; for she my have meant, "renounce God." At all events, let him give up the struggle and commit suicide. It is the Stoic's advice. Others since have advised euthanasia in unbearable sufferings. It needed a brave heart to resist such an appeal. Only those who have been plunged into the lowest depth know the fearful inducement to despair of life and go—
"Anywhere, anywhere, out of the world."
II. THE HUSBAND'S REPLY.
1. Its reprimand. Job quietly tells his wife that she is talking like one of the foolish or ungodly women.
(1) There is patience in this reprimand; he does not angrily repudiate her hasty advice.
(2) It is discriminating. Job sees at ones the defect. His wife has forsaken her higher plane of living, and fallen down to conventional ideas of the world. There was this excuse for her, however, that her conduct was not without precedent, though the precedent was not worthy to be followed.
(3) It is generous. Job delicately hints that her words are unworthy of her. He implies that she is not herself one of the foolish women. Often the best and most effective reprimand is an appeal to a person's self-respect.
2. Its resignation.
(1) It recognizes God as the Source of all things. Job does not seem to be aware that Satan has a hand in his calamities. He attributes them wholly to God. Thus he fails to see one side of the dread mystery of iniquity. Yet there was truth in what he said. Nothing happens but by God's permission.
(2) It admits the justice of God's dealing. How fair is Job! And how unfair are many men in accepting boundless mercies without a thought of gratitude, and then shrieking with rage at the first twinge of adversity! If we struck the balance between our blessings and our troubles, should we not find the former vastly outweighing the latter? And if we accept the blessings from God, should we not be prepared to take the reverse of them also?
3. Its self-restraint. "In all this did not Job sin with his lips." It is uncharitable of the Targum to add, "But in his thoughts he already cherished sinful words." If thoughts of rebellion were beginning to rise—and Job was but mortal—the brave man silenced them. It is much to learn how to "be still."—W.F.A.
We now enter on a new scene, one that prepares for the main action of the drama. Hitherto the court of heaven, the roving errands of Satan, the personal and domestic afflictions of Job, have engaged our attention. Now the light of the larger human world is let in on this scene. Job is not in purgatory, shut off from companionship of living men. Indeed, his greatest trouble is yet to come from the blundering conduct of that companionship.
I. TROUBLE SHOULD COLLECT FRIENDS. We see very much of the faults of Job's three friends in the course of the poem. Let us be fair to them, and recognize their good points. They were true friends; they did honestly desire and attempt to render to Job all the consolation that was in their power. They aimed at being "friends in need." False friends fall off in the hour of trouble. Such a spectacle as that of Job on his dungheap would not invite the crowd of sycophants that swarms about the table of the great man. No doubt Job had been pestered with plenty of such pretended friends in the old days of his fame. Doubtless one blessing among his many calamities was that he was now relieved of their presence. But three genuine friends still hold to him and seek him out in the time of his deepest distress. It is well to go to the house of mourning. But few are they who know how to conduct themselves when them.
II. SYMPATHY IS THE BEST COMFORT. The three friends were amazed at the sight which presented itself. They were prepared to see trouble) but no imagination could picture so huge a distress as that of Job. It needed to be witnessed to be believed. The sight of it calls forth natural sympathy. Although the decorous Orientals proceeded at once to adopt the conventional forms of mourning, there is every reason to believe that their sympathy was genuine and heartfelt. It is only the heart made callous by selfishness that is incapable of sympathy. In this most Divine attribute of human nature we may recognize the root of what is moot fruitful in good. Sympathy is the spring of all the most helpful service, and when the service is impossible, the sympathy itself is consoling; for it is much to know that friends feel with us in our trouble.
III. SYMPATHY MAY BE SHOWN IN SILENCE. Those seven days sad seven nights of silence are a sublime spectacle. Job's comforters began well. It would have been good for their reputation if they had gone home at the end of the week. Then they would have been known as model comforters instead of becoming bywords for tormentors. We often make a mistake in thinking we ought "to say something." Great distress should hush hasty words. There are times when the gentlest words sound harsh on pained ears. What is wanted in trouble is not advice, but sympathy; and this is best shown by the unbidden tear, the silent pressure of the hand, the look of love. We feel a sad separation from one who is in great sorrow, for sorrow is naturally lonely. Only Christ can perfectly enter into it. He needs no words.—W.F.A.