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The conclusion of Job's long speech (ch. 26-31.) is now reached. He winds it up by a solemn vindication of himself from all the charges of wicked conduct which have been alleged or insinuated against him. perhaps it may be said that he goes further, maintaining generally his moral rectitude in respect of all the principal duties which a man owes either to God (verses 4-6, 24-28, 35-37) or to his fellows (verses 1-3, 7-23, 29-34, 38-40). He protests that he is innocent of impure thoughts (verses 1-4); of false seeming (verses 5-8); of adultery (verses 9-12); of injustice towards dependants (verses 13-15); of hardness towards the poor and needy (verses 16-23); of covetousness (verses 24, 25); of idolatry (verses 26-28); of malevolence (verses 29, 30); of want of hospitality (verses 31, 32); of hiding his transgressions (verses 33, 34); and of injustice as a landlord (verses 38-40). In conclusion, he once more makes a solemn appeal to God to pronounce judgment on his case (verse 35), promising to give a complete account of every act in his life (verse 37), and calmly to await his sentence. An accidental dislocation of the last three verses disturbs the order hero assumed to be the proper one. This will be further considered in the comment.
I made a covenant with mine eyes; rather, for mine eyes. The covenant must have been with himself. Job means that be came to a fixed resolution, by which he thenceforth guided his conduct, not even to "look upon a woman to lust after her" (Matthew 5:28). We must suppose this resolution come to in his early youth, when the passions are strongest, and when so many men go astray. How then should I look upon a maid! Having made such a resolution, how could I possibly break it by "looking upon a maid"? Job assumes that he could not be so weak as to break a solemn resolution.
For what portion of God is there from above? The meaning seems to be, "For what portion in God would there be to me from above, if I were so to act?" i.e. if I were secretly to nurse and indulge my lusts. Impurity, perhaps, more than any other sin, cuts off from God, who is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity" (Habakkuk 1:13). And what inheritance of the Almighty from on high! What should I inherit, i.e. what should I receive, from on high, if I were so sinful? The next verse gives the answer,
Is not destruction to the wicked? The inheritance of the wicked is "destruction"—ruin both of soul and body. This is what I should have to expect if I yielded myself to the bondage of lust and concupiscence. And a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity? The rare word neker (גכר), translated here by "strange punishment," seems to mean "alienation from God"—being turned from God's friend into his enemy (comp. Buxtorf, 'Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum,' who explains גכר by "alienatio;" and the comment of Schultens on Job 31:3, "Necer, a Deo alienatio").
Doth not he see my ways, and count all my steps? (see above, Job 7:18-20; and below, Job 34:21. Comp. also Psalms 139:3; Proverbs 5:21; Proverbs 15:3, etc.).
If I have walked with vanity, or if my foot hath hasted to deceit. "If I have been a living lie, i.e. if, under a fair show of piety and righteousness of life, I have, as you my friends suppose, been all along a deceiver and a hypocrite, cloaking my secret sins under a mere pretence of well-doing, then the sooner I am exposed the better. Let me be weighed," etc. The painful suggestion of hypocrisy has been made by Job's friends repeatedly during the colloquy (Job 4:7-9; Job 8:6, Job 8:12; Job 11:4-6, '11-14; Job 15:30-35; Job 18:5-21; Job 20:5-29, etc.), and has deeply afflicted the patriarch. It is a charge so easily made, and so impossible to refute. All that the righteous man, thus falsely accused, can do is to appeal to God: "Thou, God, knowest. Thou, God, wilt one day show forth the truth."
Let me be weighed in an even balance; literally, let him (i.e. God) weigh me in the balances of justice. The use of this imagery by the Egyptians has been already noted (see the comment on Job 6:2). It is an essential part of every Egyptian representation of the final judgment of souls by Osiris. Each man's merits are formally weighed in a balance, which is carefully depicted, and he is judged accordingly. Job asks that this may be done in his case, either immediately or at any rate ultimately. He would have the act performed, that God may know his integrity; or rather, may recognize it. (So Professor Leo.) Job has no doubt that a thorough investigation of his case will lead to a, acknowledgment and proclamation of his innocence.
If my step hath turned out of the way. If; i.e; I have at any time knowingly and voluntarily departed from the way of thy commandments, as made known to me either by godly men or by thy law written in my heart, then let the consequences follow that are mentioned in the next verse. Or if mine heart hath walked after mine eyes, and if consequently any blot hath cleaved to mine hands; i.e. if I have been guilty of any plain act of sin. It is to be remembered that Job has the testimony of God himself to the fact that he was "a perfect and an upright man, one that feared God, and eschewed evil (Job 2:3).
Then let me sow, and let another eat (comp. Job 5:5; Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:33, Deuteronomy 28:51, etc.). The expression is proverbial. Yea, lot my offspring be rooted out; rather, my produce, or the produce of my field (see the Revised Version).
If mine heart have been deceived by a woman; rather, enticed, or allured unto a woman. If, that is, I have suffered myself at any time to be enticed by the wiles of a "strange woman" (Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 6:24, etc.), and have so far yielded as to go after her; and if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door—watching for an opportunity to enter unseen, while the goodman is away (Proverbs 7:19) Job is not speaking of what he has done, but of what men may suspect him of having done.
Then let my wife grind unto another; i.e. "let the wife of my bosom be brought so low as to be compelled to do the servile work of grinding the corn in the household of another woman." The condition of the female slaves who ground the corn was regarded as the lowest point in domestic slavery (see Exodus 11:5; Isaiah 47:2). And let others bow down upon her. Let them, i.e; claim the master's right, and reduce her to the extremest degradation There would be a just nemesis in this punishment of an adulterer (see 2 Samuel 12:11).
For this is an heinous crime. The crime of adultery subverts the family relation, on which it has pleased God to erect the entire fabric of human society. Hence, in the Jewish Law, adultery was made a capital offence (Le Job 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), both in the woman and in the man. Among other nations the adulteress was commonly punished with death, but the adulterer escaped scot-free. In modern communities adultery is mostly regarded, not as a crime, but as a civil wrong, on account of which an action lies against the adulterer. It is an iniquity to be punished by the judges; literally, it is an iniquity of judges; i.e. one of which judges take cognizance.
For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction; i.e. it is a thing which brings down the wrath of God upon a man, so that "a fire is kindled in his anger, which shall burn unto the lowest hell" (Deuteronomy 32:22). Compare the sentence on David for his great transgression (2 Samuel 12:9-12). And would root out all mine increase; i.e. "would destroy all my estate;" either by leading me to waste my substance upon my companion in sin, or by bringing down God's judgments upon me to my temporal ruin.
If I did despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant. Job now disclaims a fourth sin—the oppression of his dependants. Eliphaz had taxed him generally with harshness and cruelty in his relations towards those weaker than himself (Job 22:5-9), but had not specially pointed to this kind of oppressiveness. As, however, this was the commonest form of the vice, Job deems it right to disclaim it, before addressing himself to the several charges brought by Eliphaz. He has not ill used his slaves, either male or female. He has not "despised their cause," but given it full consideration and attention; he has heard them when they contended with him; he has allowed them to "contend;" he has been a just, and not a hard master. The slavery of which he speaks is evidently of a kind under which the slave had certain rights, as was the ease also under the Mosaic Law (Exodus 21:2-11).
Job 31:14, Job 31:15
What then shall I do when God riseth up? Job regards God as the Avenger and Champion of all the oppressed. If he had been harsh and cruel to his dependants, he would have provoked God's anger, and God would assuredly "rise up" one day to punish. What, then, could he (Job) do? What but submit in silence? When he visiteth, what shall I answer him? There could be no valid defence. The slave was still a man, a brother—God's creature, equally with his master. Did not he that made me in the womb make him? and did not one fashion us in the womb? God "hath made of one Mood all nations of men," and all individual me, "to dwell on the face of the earth" (Acts 17:26). All have rights—in a certain sense, equal rights. All are entitled to just treatment, to kind treatment, to merciful treatment. Job is before his age in recognizing the substantial equality of the slave with the freeman, which otherwise was scarcely taught by any until the promulgation of the gospel (see 1 Timothy 6:2; Philemon 1:16).
If I have withheld the poor from their desire. As Eliphaz had maintained (Job 22:6, Job 22:7), and as Job had already denied (Job 29:12, Job 29:16). The duty of relieving the poor, solemnly enjoined upon the people of Israel in the Law (Deuteronomy 15:7-11), was generally admitted by the civilized nations of antiquity. In Egypt it was especially insisted on. "The Egyptian's duties to mankind," says Dr. Birch, "were comprised in giving bread to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, oil to the wounded, and burial to the dead". Or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail. "Thou hast sent widows away empty," was one of the accusations of Eliphaz (Job 22:9). "I caused the widow's heart," replied Job, "to sing for joy" (Job 29:13). The widow's weakness has always been felt to give her a special claim on man's benevolence (see Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 16:11, Deuteronomy 16:14; Deuteronomy 24:19; Deuteronomy 26:12, Deuteronomy 26:13; Psalms 146:9; Proverbs 15:25; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 7:6; Malachi 3:5; 1 Timothy 5:16; James 1:27).
Or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof. With the widow, the fatherless is usually conjoined, as an equal object of compassion (see Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalms 68:5; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 22:3; Ezekiel 22:7; Zechariah 7:10, etc.). Eliphaz had specially charged Job with oppression of the fatherless (Job 22:9), and his charge had been denied by Job (Job 29:12). He now claims to have always shared his bread with orphans, and made them partakers or his abundance.
For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided her from my mother's womb; i.e. I have always, so long as I can remember, protected the orphan and done my best to help the widow. It has been my habit from my earliest years so to act. The language is exaggerated; but it had, no doubt, a basis of fact to rest upon. Job was brought up in these principles.
If I have seen any perish for want of clothing (scrap. Job 22:6, where Eliphaz taxes Job with so acting; and, on the duty of clothing the naked, see Isaiah 58:7; Ezekiel 18:7, Ezekiel 18:16; Matthew 25:36). Or any poor without covering. A pleonastic parallelism.
If his loins have not blessed me (see above, Job 29:11, Job 29:13), and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep. Clothed, i.e; with a garment spun from wool yielded by my own sheep. A great sheikh like Job would keep in store many such garments, ready to be given to such as were naked or poorly clad, when they came under his observation (Isaiah 58:7).
If I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless; i.e. if I have in any way oppressed him. When I saw my help in the gate; i.e.. when I had the power to do so—when I saw my friends and hangers-on mustered in force at the gate where causes were being tried. The wrong and robbery which the poor suffer in the East have always been camel, to a large extent, by failure of justice in the courts, where might, and not right, carries the day.
Then let mine arm (rather, my shoulder) fall from my shoulder-blade. Job was, perhaps, led to make this rather strange imprecation by the fact that, in the disease from which he was suffering, portions of bone sometimes detach themselves and come away. And mine arm be broken from the bone. My forearm, i.e, detach itself from the bone of the upper arm, and come away from it.
For destruction from God was a terror to me. I could not, i.e; have acted in the way charged against me by Eliphaz, since I was always God-fearing, and should have been deterred, if by nothing else, at any rate by dread of the Divine vengeance. And by reason of his highness I could not endure. God's majesty and excellency are such that I could not have had the face to resist them. If! had begun such a course of life as Eliphaz laid to my charge (Job 22:5-9), I could not have persisted in it.
If I have made gold my hope. This is a sin with which the patriarch had not been directly charged. But it had been more or less insinuated (see Job 15:28; Job 20:10, Job 20:15, Job 20:19; Job 22:24, etc.). He may also, perhaps, have felt some inclination to it. Or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence.
If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much. Job feels that it is wrong even to care greatly for wealth. He seems almost to anticipate the saying of St. Paul, that "covetousness is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5); and hence he passes on without pause from this sort of creature-worship to others common in his day (verses 26, 27). which he likewise disclaims.
If I beheld the sun when it shined; literally, the light; i.e. the great light, which God made to rule the day (Genesis 1:16). Sun-worship, the least ignoble form of idolatry, was widely spread in the East, and in Egypt, from a very early date. According to the views of some, the religion el' t e Egyptians was little else than a complicated sun-worship from its earliest inception to its very latest phase. "The religious notions of the Egyptians," says Dr. Birch, "were chiefly connected with the worship of the sun, with whom at a later period all the principal deities were connected. As Hag, or Harmachis, he represented the youthful or rising sun; as Ra, the midday; and as Turn. the setting sun. According to Egyptian notions, that god floated in a boat through the sky or celestial ether, and descended to the dark regions of night, or Hades. Many deities attended on his passage or were connected with his worship, and the gods Amen and Khepr, who represented the invisible and self-produced god, were identified with the sun". Even those who do not go these lengths admit that the solar worship was, at any rate, a very main element in the cult of Egypt. In the Babylonian and Assyrian religion the position of the sun-god was leas prominent, but still, as San, or Shamas, he held an important place, and was the main object of religious veneration to a largo body of worshippers. In the Vedic system the sun figured as Mitra, and in the Zoroastrian as Mithra, in both holding a high position. Among the Arabians the sun, worshipped as Orotal, is said to have been anciently the only god, though he was accompanied by a female principle named Alilat (Herod; 3.8). Or the moon walking in brightness. The worship of the moon has. in most countries where it has prevailed, been quite secondary and subordinate to that of the sun. In Egypt. while nine gods are more or less identified with the solar luminary, two only, Khons and Thoth, can be said to represent the moon. In the Vedic and Zoroastrian systems the moon, called Soma, or Hems, almost dropped out of the popular religion, at any rate as a moon-god. In the Arabiun, Alilat, a goddess, probably represented the moon, as did Ashtoreth, a goddess, in the Pheonician. In Assyria, however, and in Babylonia, moon-worship held a higher position, Sin, the moon-god, taking precedence over Shamas, the sun-god, and being a very much more important personage. Thus both moon-worship and sun-worship were prevalent among all, or almost all, Job's neighbours.
And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand. The sin of the heart is placed first, as the fens et origo mali, the spiritual root of the matter. On this naturally follows the outward act which, in the case of idolatry, was commonly the act exactly expressed by the word "adore"—the movement of the hand to the mouth in token of reverence and honour.
This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge (see the comment on Job 31:11, adfin.). It is rightly concluded from this expression that, in the country and age of Job, the sort of idolatry which is here mentioned was practised by some, and also that it was legally punishable. For I should have denied the God that is above. The worship of any other god besides the supreme God is, practically, atheism, since "no man can serve two masters." Moreover, to set up two independent gods is to destroy the idea of God, which implies supremacy over every other being.
If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me. "If at any time I was malevolent, if I wished evil to others, and rejoiced when evil came upon them, being (as the Greeks expressed it) ἐπιχαιρέκακος—if I so acted even in the case of my enemy—then," etc. The apodosis is wanting, but may be supplied by any suitable imprecation (see Job 31:8, Job 31:10, Job 31:22, Job 31:40). Or lifted up myself—i.e. was puffed up and exalted—when evil found him. In the old world men generally regarded themselves as fully entitled to exult at the downfall of an enemy, and to triumph over him with words of contumely and scorn (camp. Judges 5:19-31; Psalms 18:37-42; Isaiah 10:8-14, etc.). There appears to be but one other passage in the Old Testament, besides the present, in which the contrary disposition is shown. This is Proverbs 17:5, where the writer declares that "he who is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished."
Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul. Much less, Job means, have I gone beyond the thought to the word, and imprecated a curse upon him with my mouth, as the manner of most ,hen is towards their enemies (see 2 Samuel 16:5; 1 Samuel 17:43; Nehemiah 13:25; Psalms 109:28; Jeremiah 15:10, etc).
If the men of my tent said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! we cannot be satisfied. A very obscure passage, but probably to be connected with the following verse, in which Job boasts of his hospitality. Translate, If the men of my tent did not say, Who can find a man that has not been satisfied with his meat? The apodosis is wanting, as in verse 28.
The stranger did not lodge in the street; i.e. "I did not suffer any stranger who came under my notice to lodge in the street, but, like Abraham (Genesis 18:2-8), went out to him, and invited him in, to partake of my hospitality." This is still the practice of Arab sheikhs in Syria, Palestine, and the adjacent countries. But I opened my doors to the traveller; literally, to the way; i.e. "my house gave on the street, and I kept my house door open." Compare the Mishna, "Let thy house be open to the street" ('Pirke Aboth,' § 5).
If I covered my transgressions as Adam; or, after the manner of men It does not seem to me likely that Job had such a knowledge of Adam's conduct in the garden of Eden as would have made an allusion to it in this place natural or probable. The religious traditions of the Chaldees, which note the war in heaven, the Deluge, the building of the Tower of Babel, and the confusion of tongues, contain no mention of Adam or of Paradise. Nor. so far as I am aware, is there, among other ancient legends, any near parallel to the story of the Fall as related in Genesis 4:1-26. Much less does the subordinate detail of Adam hiding himself make its appearance in any of them. The marginal rendering, "after the manner of men," is therefore, I think, to be preferred. By hiding mine iniquity in my bosom. This is not particularly apposite to the case of Adam, who "hid himself from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Genesis 4:8).
Did I fear a great multitude! rather, because I feared the great multitude' or the great assembly; i.e. the gathering of the people in the gate on occasions of public business. It' Job had been conscious of any great and heinous sins' he would not have led the open and public life which, previously to his calamities, he had always led (Job 29:7-10, Job 29:21-25); he would have been afraid to make his appearance at public meetings, lest his sins should have become known, and should draw upon him scorn and contempt, instead of the respect and acclamations to which he was accustomed. Or did the contempt of families terrify me? rather, and the contempt of families terrified me. The contempt of the assembled tribes and families, which might have been poured out upon him at such meetings, would have been quite sufficient to prevent his attending them. If by any accident he had found himself at one, and had seen that he was looked upon with disfavour, he must have kept silence in order to avoid observation. Prudence would have counselled that more complete abstention which is implied in the phrase, and went not out of the door; i.e. "stayed at home in mine own house."
Oh that one would hear me! i.e. Oh that I had an opportunity of plea, ling my cause before a just judge l of having charges openly brought against me, and having "one" to hear my reply to them! Job does not regard his "comforters" as such persons. They are prejudiced; they have even made themselves his accusers. Behold, my desire is, that the Almighty would answer me; rather, behold' here is my signature I let the Almighty answer me. This passage is parenthetic. Job would prefer to be judged by God, if it were possible, and therefore throws out the wish. Here is his plea in ch. 29-31.; and here is his attestation by word of mouth, which is equivalent to his signature. And that mine adversary had written a book; or, had penned an indictment against me. Job would have matters brought to an issue. In default of a Divine trial and sentence, which he cannot expect, it would suffice tot him that his arraigner should formally draw out his list of charges, and present him with a copy, and so give him an opportunity of making answer to it. If this were done, then (he says)—
Surely I would take it upon my shoulder—the place of honour (see Isaiah 9:6; Isaiah 22:22)—and bind it as a crown to me; i.e. adorn my head with it, as with a diadem.
I would declare unto him the number of my steps; i.e. I would conceal nothing. I would willingly divulge every act of my life. I would make full and complete answer to the indictment in every particular. As a prince would I go near unto him. There should be no timidity or cringing on my part. I would face my accuser boldly, and bear myself as a prince in his presence.
It is generally supposed that these verses, with the exception of the last clause of Job 31:40, are misplaced. As a termination, they form an anti-climax, and greatly weaken the peroration. Their proper place would seem to be between Job 31:32 and Job 31:33.
If my land cry against me; i.e. if my land disclaim my ownership, as having been acquired by wrong or robbery. If the furrows likewise thereof complain; or, weep, as having been torn from their rightful proprietors, and seized by a stranger. The apodosis is in Job 31:40.
If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money; i.e. without acquiring a title to them by purchase. Or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life. Either by actual violence or by depriving them of the means of support (see the comment on Job 29:13). Job had been accused of robbery and oppression both by Zophar (Job 20:12-19) and Eliphaz (Job 22:5-9). He had not, however, been accused of actual murder.
Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockles instead of barley. Then let me be appropriately punished by finding the land, whereof I have wrongfully become possessed, produce nothing but thistles (or thorns) and noxious weeds, such as cockles (Authorized Version) or hemlock (Professor Lee). The words of Job are ended. This may be regarded either as Job's own conclusion of his long speech, or as a remark of the author's. On the whole, the former view is to be preferred.
Job's second parable: 4. A solemn protestation of innocence.
I. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF CHASTITY. (Verses 1-4.)
1. The wickedness he eschewed. Not alone the crime of seduction, or the actual defilement of virginal innocence, but even the indulgence of so much as a lascivious desire in connection with an unmarried female, was an ungodliness which Job regarded with abhorrence and indignation. Job's morality on this point, as also upon some others, is a remarkable anticipation of the sermon on the mount, which forbids the unchaste look, the unclean imagination, the impure desire, as well as the lewd and incontinent act (Matthew 5:28). Job's interpretation of the Law of God is like St. Paul's (Romans 7:14)—the precepts of the Decalogue covered the entire realm of the inner no less than of the outer life.
2. The rule he observed. That he might the better guard against the uprise within his heart of any prurient desire or lustful imagination, Job "made a covenant with his eyes," as their lord and master prescribed for them a law that they should not" fixedly gaze upon a maiden." Considering bow much of evil enters by the eye (e.g. the cases of Eve, Genesis 3:6; of the wife of Lot, Genesis 19:26; of Achan, Joshua 7:21), the wisdom of Job's resolution cannot be questioned. In particular the eye has often proved itself "the inlet of lust" (Robinson), of according to a Talmudic proverb, "the procuress of sin;" as, for instance, it did with Judah (Genesis 38:5), Samson (Judges 16:1), David (2 Samuel 11:1-5), Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-20). Few things are more dangerous to an unprincipled, or indeed a principled, mind, than the too ardent contemplation of female beauty, which, besides being a deceitful vanity in itself (Proverbs 31:30), is prone to inflame the heart with unlawful passions. Hence the propriety of the royal preacher's counsel (Proverbs 6:25), the Hebrew psalmist's prayer (Psalms 119:37), and the Divine Saviour's warning (Matthew 18:9).
3. The motives he possessed. In thus habitually exercising self-restraint, gob was actuated by two considerations.
(1) Fear of the Divine power. "It was no fear of man, no dread of temporal consequences, no respect for public order and well-being, no pure and stately self-respect even, which made and kept him pure" (Cox). It was the calm, clear, deliberate conviction that such wickedness could hot escape the just and righteously allotted punishment of Eloah, and that sooner or later, if he should enter on such a course of impiety, he would find himself overwhelmed by some strange, startling, intolerable calamity; nay, that he should deserve to be so overwhelmed (verses 2, 3). Job was manifestly no milk-and-water moralist, like some of the nineteenth century, who regard fornication and seduction as indiscretions, and uncleanness generally as an infirmity rather than a sin. Instead of being leniently judged and softly scolded, if not lovingly caressed, as, alas] is too frequently his portion and inheritance from modern society, the violator of virgin innocence, in Job's estimation, was a monster of iniquity, who deserved to be castigated by some horrible and degrading punishment, and who, he believed, would ultimately get his deservings. Nor was Job too spiritual, on the other hand, to admit that this formed one of the arguments which drove him to strict watchfulness over his heart and eyes. He was afraid of t he just judgment of Almighty God upon them that committed such appalling wickedness; and accordingly he acted on the principle of resisting its first beginnings. So St. Paul, knowing the terror of the Lord, persuaded men (2 Corinthians 5:11); and Christ counselled his apostles to fear him who could destroy both soul and body in hell (Luke 12:5). If not the highest motive for leading a chaste and virtuous life, it is still a sound and good one, and the only one by which many are capable of being impressed.
(2) Respect for the Divine omniscience. Job knew that, though it might be possible to elude the utmost vigilance of man, he could not evade him who beheld all his ways, and counted all his steps (verse 4). The Divine omniscience is not dependent on, but co-ordinate with, the Divine omnipresence. God's minute and universal knowledge of mundane affairs, and in particular of all that enters into the complicated texture of a human life, frequently denied by the ungodly (Job 22:13), and sometimes forgotten by the pious (Isaiah 40:27), is emphatically asserted in Scripture (1 Kings 8:39; Psalms 11:4; Psalms 139:1 Psalms 139:4), and nowhere more so than in this book (Job 21:22; Job 23:10; Job 24:1, Job 24:23; Job 28:24; Job 34:21, Job 34:22, Job 34:25). Rightly viewed, it operates as a powerful deterrent from sin, not only by proving the certainty of detection, and therefore the impossibility of escaping punishment, but also by filling the mind with a constant sense of the Divine presence, forgetfulness of which is perhaps one of the most frequent causes of sin.
II. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF JUSTICE. (Verses 5-8.)
1. An explicit declaration. Hypothetical in form, Job's language amounts to a vehement assertion that his life was as unimpeachable with regard to equity as with regard to chastity. With falsehood in every shape and guise he had lived at open war. With deceit and imposition in either word or deed he had had no dealings whatever. From the straight path of integrity he had never turned aside. Never once under the dominion of secret avarice had he suffered his heart to be beguiled into hankering alter his neighbour's property, as Ahab coveted the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21:2). Not so much as a speck of defilement cleaved to his palm after any transaction in which he had been engaged. No living man could accuse him of underhand dealings or extortionate practices. So Samuel called his countrymen (1 Samuel 12:3), and St. Paul challenged the elders of Miletus (Acts 20:33-35), to attest his personal integrity. So are Christ's people exhorted to renounce the hidden things of dishonesty (2 Corinthians 4:2), to provide things honest in the sight of all men (2 Corinthians 8:21), and to carefully maintain a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly (Hebrews 13:18).
2. A solemn invocation. So confident does Job feel that he has not swerved a hair's breadth from the law of equity, that he does not hesitate to appeal to God, challenging Eloab, as few men besides would have done (Psalms 130:3), to weigh him in an even balance, literally, in the scales of righteousness, when his integrity, or moral perfection, would become apparent. If Job meant this absolutely, it was presumption and self-righteousness; but the probability is he understood, by preferring such a claim, no more than God himself did when he declared Job to be perfect and upright; though the vehemence with which he asserted and protested his blamelessness insensibly obscured his vision of the truth which he at other times acknowledged, that in God's sight no flesh living could be justified.
3. A dreadful imprecation. Not content with calmly submitting the question of his innocence to the severe and impartial arbitrament of Heaven, he invokes upon himself a curse of extreme severity. If by legal chicanery or violent extortion he has robbed another of his land, the commonest and most valuable sort of property, then he desires that he himself may be made the victim of a like oppression, that he may sow and another reap, and that his "things which spring up," not his descendants or children, as elsewhere the word is employed (Job 5:25; Job 21:8; Job 27:14), but, as the parallelism demands, the produce of his ground, his harvest, may be rooted up. God's punishments are often similar in kind to the offences they follow. "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
III. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF MARRIAGE. (Verses 9-12.) Different from the opening section, which treated of seduction, the present stanza alludes to the sin of adultery. In the former instance it is an unmarried virgin, in the latter it is a wedded wife, that is sinned against. The adulterous enterprise, which Job for himself disavows, is described in detail.
1. By its origin. It takes its rise in a bewitched or befooled heart. "Out of the heart proceed adulteries" (Matthew 15:19). Therefore "keep the heart with all diligence" (Proverbs 4:23). This beguilement of the heart may be deliberately effected by the adulterous woman displaying her charms so as to fascinate her lover's eye (Proverbs 7:10-21); or, as in the case of David, it may result from lascivious admiration of the married woman's beauty.
2. By its practice. The adulterous lover, waiting for the twilight, disguiseth his face, and lieth in wait at his neighbour's door, obviously a common crime in Job's time (Job 24:15), as it afterwards was in David's and Solomon's (Psalms 50:18; Proverbs 6:24-29; Proverbs 7:5-9), Jeremiah's (Jeremiah 5:8) and Ezekiel's (Ezekiel 18:6), Christ's (John 8:3-9) and the apostles' (1 Corinthians 6:9; 2 Peter 2:10).
3. By its criminality. Job stigmatizes it as an act of infamy, and an iniquity to be brought before the judges (verse 11), meaning that, besides being a violation of the moral law (Exodus 20:17), it is likewise an offence falling within the penal code of the land. Punished by death under Moses (Le Job 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22), in patriarchal times it was visited by burning (Genesis 38:24). Probably this was the penalty attached to it in the land of Uz (verse 12). Most heathen nations of antiquity pronounced it a capital offence.
4. By its demerit. The sinner who defiled his neighbour's wife deserved to have the same sorrow meted out to himself—a thought euphemistically expressed in verse 10 (vide Exposition). So David's sin against Uriah's wile was punished by Absalom's wickedness in lying with his father's concubines (2 Samuel 16:22).
5. By its results. In addition to civil penalties and providential retributions, its ultimate issue is widespread sorrow, if not fatal ruin. Like a consuming fire, if persevered in, it has nothing but physical, moral, and eternal destruction for the perpetrator (Proverbs 6:32; Proverbs 7:23, Proverbs 7:26, Proverbs 7:27; 1 Corinthians 6:18; Hebrews 13:4; Revelation 21:8). Even a solitary act is like the taking of a hot coal into one's bosom (Proverbs 6:27-29). Not only does it demoralize the nature of him who commits it, but it spreads sorrow and desolation through the heart of her against whom it is committed. It breaks the peace of otherwise happy families. It awakens the demon of jealousy, even when it is not discovered. Detected or concealed, it is a secret fountain of death.
IV. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF MASTER AND SERVANT. (Verses 13-15.)
1. The case supposed. Job instances a state of matters that might readily have occurred in his household, viz. the existence of some ground of complaint against him, the master, on the part of his manservant or maidservant, i.e. his bondman or bondwoman. Such contendings and disputings between master and servant, which are not unusual in modern free society, were much more likely to arise in ancient times when servants were simply slaves.
2. The course pursued. In the event of any such charge or complaint being preferred against him, Job protests that he neither crushed it out by the strong hand of oppression nor tossed it aside with contemptuous indifference, but gave it the most kindly attention and the most patient, careful, and impartial examination. If his accusers proceeded to impeach him at a bar of justice, he did not deny them the right of public redress, as other masters might have done and as the Israelitish master was entitled by the Law to do. But counting them as persons, not as goods and chattels, he accorded to them equal rights in this matter with himself. Slavery in Job's house, as also in Abraham's, was a widely different thing from that practised in modern times.
3. The reasons allied.
(1) He was answerable to God for the treatment he accorded to his servants. He should tremble when God arose to judgment, arid be speechless when God came round as an Inspector, to examine into the controversy pending between him and his servants, unless he acted on the principles of strictest equity. That God will one day hold such a court of inquiry, in which masters and servants, rulers and ruled, will be judged, is announced in Scripture (Psalms 96:13; Ecclesiastes 11:9; Acts 17:31; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Hence masters are responsible for their treatment of servants (Colossians 4:1); and this thought should deter them, as it did Job, from inflicting upon those who serve, or are dependent upon them, either injustice or severity (Ephesians 6:9).
(2) His servants were possessed of the same human nature with himself. They had been fashioned by the same Divine power as himself. Both alike were God's handiwork (Job 34:19; Psalms 33:15), God's creatures (Isaiah 45:12), God's offspring (Malachi 2:10; Acts 17:29). Both had been produced by the same human agency. Both had been curiously and secretly elaborated in a woman's womb (Psalms 139:13). Both had been made of one blood (Acts 17:26). Hence both belonged to a common brotherhood. Physically, intellectually, morally, the slave is the fellow of his master, having on the ground of a common humanity equal rights with that master in the light of God and before men. The language of Job is a powerful condemnation of the modern kind of slavery.
V. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF KINDNESS. (Verses 16-220.
1. The objects of Job's compassionate regard. The poor and the needy, the hungry and the naked, the fatherless and the widow. The care of such persons is a dictate of nature, which, however, is frequently powerless to enforce obedience to its own precepts. Among heathen nations generally the helpless and the destitute have been neglected and left to perish, if not openly oppressed and destroyed. Religion, however, both natural and revealed, prescribes kindness to the poor and needy as one of its essential virtues. The Mosaic code provided special legislation for the poor (Le Job 19:10, Job 19:13; Job 23:1-17 :22; Exodus 23:11; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Deuteronomy 14:28, Deuteronomy 14:29), for the widow (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17; Deuteronomy 27:19), for the orphan (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; Deuteronomy 14:29). In the Hebrew Church these were the objects of God's peculiar care (Psalms 68:5; Psalms 146:9; Jeremiah 49:11; Malachi 3:5). In the Christian Church they are regarded as Christ's brethren (Matthew 25:40). The care of them a special duty of the pious (James 1:27).
2. Job's habitual behaviour towards the poor and needy. Previously described (Job 29:11-17), it is here again set forth both negatively and positively.
(1) Negatively, by reciting the special acts of unkindness towards the poor which he was careful W avoid, such as
(a) withholding the poor from their desire (verse 16), it might be from the wages for which they had toiled or the aims which they had craved;
(b) causing the eyes of the widow to fail, by denying her assistance or refusing her redress against her powerful oppressor (Job 24:3);
(c) eating his morsel alone, "in misery and grudging seclusion," lest the fatherless should see it and require to be invited to partake (verse 17);
(d) looking on with heartless unconcern while the naked shivered in their rags, and perished for want of clothes (verse 19);
(e) shaking the hand, i.e. using a threatening gesture towards the orphan who sued him in a court of justice, the moment he recognized the judges to be his friends (verse 21).
(2) Positively, by sketching the manner of life towards them which from his youth up he had pursued (verse 18), and which in large measure had become a second nature to him; according to which Job had been a father to the orphan and a son to the widow (verse 18), training up the one with paternal solicitude and comforting the other with filial devotion, while the bunny never failed to find a meal at his hospitable board (verse 17), or the naked to exchange their rags for the warmest fleeces of his sheep (verse 20), his own heart finding its truest joy and amplest reward in the happiness he conferred on others.
3. The Spirit that inspired Job in his charitable deeds. He was afraid of the Divine retribution, and he stood in awe of the Divine majesty. It was the fear, not of man, but of God, that deterred him; the apprehension, not of unpleasant consequences in time, if he acted otherwise, but of the all-devouring wrath of the Almighty in the future.
4. The proof that Job offered of his veracity in what he said. He invoked upon himself a curse if he had sinned in any of the ways above named, but more particularly if he had lifted up his hand against the orphan; he desired that his shoulder might fall from its shoulder-blade, and that his arm might be broken from its bone (verse 22).
VI. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF WORSHIP. (Verses 24-28.)
1. The twofold idolatry from which Job had abstained.
(1) Mammonism, or the worship of money. Formerly possessed of great wealth (Job 1:3; cf. Job 22:24), Job had carefully avoided those particular sins which great wealth is prone to foster.
(a) He had not allowed his confidence for time or for eternity to rest in the abundance of his gold. Probably money, in consequence of the seeming almightiness which belongs to it (Ecclesiastes 7:2; Ecclesiastes 10:19), is the most formidable rival God encounters in his demands upon the human heart (Matthew 6:24), which almost universally betrays a disposition to trust in uncertain riches rather than in the living God (1 Timothy 6:17). But Job had never permitted his gold to usurp the throne el his affections, had never even esteemed it as the chief good, and certainly had not accorded it the homage due to the Supreme. The all-absorbing devotion of a human soul to the pursuit or possession of wealth is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5), is incompatible with true piety (Mark 10:24; 1 John 2:15), and should be carefully eschewed by all followers of Christ.
(b) He had not exultingly rejoiced in the greatness of his wealth. A person might stop short of actually reposing his heart's trust in his money, and yet be guilty of excessive delight therein. But not even of the common sin of setting too high an estimate upon his gold and silver, of looking on with inward gratification at the growing pile of his material goods, was Job guilty. Having the Almighty as his gold and his silver of strength (Job 22:25), i.e. esteeming the Divine favour and fellowship as greater riches than any earthly treasures, it was impossible that the mere increase of material possessions could fill him with extravagant rejoicing. The most effectual way to prevent the soul from delighting in a creature is to teach it to delight in the Creator.
(c) He had not even arrogantly taken credit to himself for achieving his immense fortune. No doubt his personal industry and sagacity had contributed to the grand result (Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 13:4), but he piously refrained from saying. "My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:17), probably remembering, as the Israelites were counselled to do (Deuteronomy 8:18), that it was the Divine blessing alone which enabled him to become rich (Proverbs 10:22).
(2) Sabaeism, or the worship of the heavenly bodies. "The eldest and also comparatively the purest form of heathenism" (Delitzsch), the adoration of the stars, prevailed amongst the Chaldeans in the time of Abraham, Uruk, one of the early monumental kings of Babylonia, having found, it at Ura temple of the moon, at Larsa a temple of the sun, and at Erech a temple of Venus, called Bitanna, or the house of heaven. It was practised by the ancient Arabians, who "adored the sun and the moon as Divine," ancient testimonies being witness. It was diffused throughout Syria in the time of Moses, so that the Israelites, prior to their occupation of Canaan, were specially warned against it (Deuteronomy 4:19). Nevertheless, under the monarchy, Israel frequently relapsed into this abomination (2 Kings 23:5, 2 Kings 23:11). In later Babylonia it was rampant (Ezekiel 8:16), as again the monuments attest, Nebuchadnezzar having erected in the centre el Babylon "a great temple of Ninharissi (wife of the sun)," "to the moon-god a large house of alabaster as his temple," and "to the sun a house of cement and brick". The customary method of paying homage to these stellar deities was by kissing the hand to them (1 Kings 19:18; Hebrews 13:2), which, it may be noticed, is the literal import of the English verb" to, adore." The early and widespread diffusion of this particular form of idolatry affords a striking testimony to man's need of a God outside of himself. Perhaps also, in the absence of revelation, it is not surprising that the human heart, impressed with the brilliance of the sun, the great light, shining in meridian splendour, and the exceeding beauty of the moon, the solemn and majestic night-wanderer, should ascribe to them supernatural Power and dignity. Yet man's position at the crown and summit of creation renders all devotion offered to the creatures not only sinful, but absurd. From such impiety Job declared that he had kept himself free.
2. The twofold argument by which Job had been deterred. Had Job been addicted to either of the above specified forms of idolatry, he would have been guilty
(1) of a punishable crime. Probably Job means that in his day sun-worship was an offence against the statute law of the land (vide on verse 11), as under the Mosaic code in Israel it could be expiated only by death (Deuteronomy 17:2-7); but possibly the phrase, "an iniquity for judges." may only signify a transgression deserving to be punished, in which case it will hold good of both forms of idolatry. Job shrank from making a god to himself out of either the gold and silver which he possessed, or the celestial luminaries which he beheld, because of the penal consequences to which he knew such a misdeed would lead. And also because he felt that he would be guilty
(2) of a detestable hypocrisy in professing to worship God while secretly he was adoring the sun and kissing hands to the moon. A noble testimony to Job's spirituality of mind and sincerity of heart! He could easily have offered homage to the host of heaven without exposing himself to observation by his fellows; or if, wanting courage to risk detection, he had refrained from outward gestures of devotion, he might have inwardly with his heart acknowledged their supremacy. But Job understood that God could read the heart as well as interpret the outward act, and that only that was acceptable worship which was inwardly sincere as well as outwardly correct. Here, again, the doctrine of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:6) and of the New Testament generally (John 4:23, John 4:24) has been marvellously anticipated.
VII. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF LOVE. (Verses 29, 30.) Job declares his manner of life in dealing with his enemies.
1. Their treatment of him. They hated him. Their enmity was in all likelihood excited and fostered by his piety. Good men seldom pass through the world without meeting adversaries and opponents. David did not (Psalms 38:19, Psalms 38:20). St. Paul did not (1 Corinthians 16:9). Even Christ did not (John 15:18). Neither can Christ's followers expect to live without molestation (John 15:20). They that will live godly shall suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
2. His treatment of them. Not only did he not rejoice in their destruction when evil fortune overtook them (verse 29), but he was conscious of never having wished that such evil fortune should overtake them (verse 30). To exult in the downfall of an enemy, if natural to the sinful heart, is yet heathenish, fiendish, diabolic (Micah 7:8); it was sorely punished in the case of Edom when she rejoiced over Judah (Obadiah 1:12, Obadiah 1:13); it is explicitly condemned in the Old Testament (Proverbs 24:17, Proverbs 24:18); and is directly antagonistic to the spirit of the Mosaic Law (Exodus 23:4; Le Exodus 19:18), and much more to that of Christ's gospel (Matthew 19:19; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 3:8), which enjoins not only a negative abstinence from wishing harm to one's enemies, the virtue which Job claimed (verse 30), but the positive bestowment on them of acts of kindness (Matthew 5:44; Romans 12:20), which also we may be sure Job practised. Job's doctrine is here again a striking approximation towards the teaching of Christ, and Job's conduct a lofty exhibition of the spirit of Christianity, which will only shine out with brighter lustre if the reading (verse 31) be adopted which supposes Job was urged by the men of his tabernacle to avenge himself upon his adversary.
VIII. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF HOSPITALITY. (Verses 31, 32.) This also Job maintained he had observed:
1. With conspicuous publicity. So open-handed had been his beneficence that with triumphant confidence he appealed to the members of his vast household to give witness in his behalf. They could testify, he was certain, that they had never seen a poor man depart unsatisfied from his mansion gate, but rather that they had every day beheld the contrary. So Job allowed his light to shine before men.
2. With unrestricted liberality. So lavish had been his hospitality that his domestics could fairly ask—Where was the man whom their master had not sumptuously entertained? His table had stood open for all comers—for friends and relatives, as a matter of course, but also for strangers and travellers of every sort and degree. So did Abraham and Lot invite travellers and strangers to their tents (Genesis 18:1-4; Genesis 19:1); so are Christians exhorted to be gives to hospitality (Romans 12:13; Hebrews 13:2).
3. With unstinted generosity. Not simply had he practised hospitality, but he had done so with no niggard band. The stranger he had welcomed to a lodging in his house. To the hungry traveller by the way he had extended, not a crust of bread merely, but a full meal, yea, a rich feast. So are Christians commanded to use hospitality without grudging (1 Peter 4:9).
IX. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF SINCERITY. (Verses 33-37.) The Language may be understood as conveying:
1. An important admission. Job's use of the phrase, "my transgressions," is by some (Canon Cook) regarded as tantamount to an acknowledgment that, notwithstanding his blameless character and life, he was not free from sin—a statement which was certainly correct in itself, since "there is not a just man on earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Ecclesiastes 7:20), and hopeful as an indication of the mind of Job, inasmuch as it proved he was not depending on his virtues for salvation, as well as comforting for those who should afterwards peruse the story of his life, and who but for this recognition of the fact of sin might be prone to think that Job's morality was beyond their reach. Still, it is open to grave question whether Job really intended to make this admission, or whether he did not rather design to convey an opposite idea, viz. that, as he had perpetrated no open crime, so neither was he hiding any secret wickedness. In either case his words contain:
2. An emphatic protestation. He was not attempting, and never had attempted, to play the hypocrite by either denying his guiltiness in general, or concealing his wicked acts in particular. In all he had said to them about the manner of his life, as in all the approaches he had ever made to God, he had acted with transparent sincerity. There was no secret stain upon his soul which he had not confessed to God; there was no undivulged crime which he feared to make known to man. Pre-eminently Job claimed to be one in whose spirit there was no guile (Psalms 32:2). Job's accents contain a ring of defiance, which seems to ask whether he was likely to be afraid of either the hootings of the mob or the contempt of the aristocratic families of the land, that he required to skulk within doors, and keep silent about anything that he had ever done. Doubtless Job was universally recognized as a man of courage; and, because it was so, he could appeal to that in proof of his sincerity. But beyond this his utterance, if really intended, exhibits:
3. An instructive comparison. The contrast which Job institutes between himself and Adam, if the translation of the Authorized Version be followed, is a valuable authentication of the biblical tradition of the Fall. It proves that the writer of the Book of Job, to whatever age he belonged, accepted the story in Genesis concerning Adam as historically correct. By putting the name Adam into the mouth of one who flourished in pre-Mosaic times, it also demonstrates that, in the judgment of the author at least, the contents of the Hebrew narrative were credited beyond the bounds of Palestine at a time when the First Book of Moses was probably not yet composed. And now, having strenuously asserted that he was guilty of no concealment, he adds, in authentication of his truthfulness:
4. A personal subscription. "Behold my signature!" he exclaims, alluding to the practice in ancient courts of law of submitting a defence in writing, attested by the signature or mark of the accused party, and meaning that, so far as he was concerned, so confident did he feel in his own integrity, and so well prepared was he to reply to any indictment that might be brought against him, that he was willing to see the case go to trial without delay. Nay, having tendered his defences, he closes with a shout of triumph, throwing out as his ultimatum:
5. A sublime proclamation, in which he challenges his unseen adversary, God (Job 9:15; Job 16:9), to draw up an indictment against him (Carey, Cox), or, according to another interpretation (Delitzsch), in which he draws attention to the already prepared indictment of his opponents, viz. the three friends. In either case he offers, if only God will allow the matter to go to trial, not to shrink from the ordeal of examination, but binding the indictment (God's or what of the friends) on his shoulder as a badge of distinction, "winding it around his head like a magnificent crown of diadems, (Delitzsch), to approach God with all the princely majesty of one who is conscious of innocence, and to lay bare before his searching gaze, with the most assured confidence of ultimate vindication, every step in his by-past career.
X. WITH RESPECT TO THE LAW OF PROPERTY, (Verses 38-40.)
1. The crime which Job disowns. The fraudulent appropriation of land, by either withholding the stipulated rent or murdering the legal proprietor, was apparently not unknown in the days of the patriarch, as, alas I in our time it is both known and practised. But of any such iniquity Job's hands were clear. For every rood of soil he cultivated be had honestly paid the market price; and, of course, he had never dreamt of killing his landlord to get his farm, as Jezebel despatched Naboth to secure his vineyard.
2. The curse which Job invokes. Had Job been guilty of any such wickedness, not only would his fields have cried out against him, and the furrows which he ploughed have wept over his ungodliness, but he would have richly deserved that Heaven's blight should descend upon his acres; and such a blight he prays to descend upon his broad domain if he has been guilty of any such wickedness as that which he has just disowned. "May thistles spring up instead of wheat, and darnel instead of barley!"
1. That the Law of God, i.e. the moral Law, or the law of holiness, has been the same from the beginning of the world until now.
2. That the spirituality of the Law el God is only concealed from them who make no attempt to keep it.
3. That the Law of God takes cognizance of man in every department of his being and every sphere of his life.
4. That the Law of God is as certain and severe in its penalties as it is stern and imperative in its requirements.
5. That the Law of God is the one absolute and invariable rule of life for men under the Christian as well as under the Mosaic or patriarchal dispensation, for the pardoned believer no less than for the unconverted sinner.
6. That the true gauge of a soul's piety is the earnestness with which it endeavours to keep the Law of God in all its precepts.
7. That the loftiest incentive to such a keeping of the Law of God is a reverential regard for the Lawmaker, especially as he is seen in Christ.
8. That no mere man is able to keep the Law of God perfectly, even Job's performances being not altogether unmixed with sin.
9. That the most dangerous thing a man can do with his transgressions of the Law of God is to cover them.
10. That that man is grossly deceived who imagines God could not indict him for violations of his Law, because he (the man) cannot indict himself.
11. That those who are advancing in holiness, or sincere keeping of the Law of God, should guard against being either too proud of, or too reliant on, their own attainments.
12. That the loftiest morality attainable on earth will not enable man to dispense with the services of a Daysman or Mediator.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Solemn assurances of innocence.
Job can discover no connection between his present sufferings and those well-founded hopes of his former life to which he has been referring; but there remains the assumption of his guilt as an explanation. In his intense longing for redemption he is led, in conclusion, to affirm in the most solemn and sacred manner his innocence, invoking the sorest punishments upon himself if his words are untrue. Thus, in effect, he makes a final appeal to God as his Judge. In this solemn assurance of innocence, he begins with that which is the root and source of sin—evil lust; he then touches on the sins proceeding from it, and explains the rule of life and the disposition of heart which rendered him incapable of the commission of such sins.
I. LUST RESISTED: THE HEART GIVEN TO VIRTUE. (Verses 1-4.)
1. He had governed the eye and restrained its lust. He had guarded that noble organ, which may be either the avenue of purest pleasures or the tempter to most shameful vice. He had prescribed to the eye its conduct and its law. The eye seems almost as much the receptacle and scat of our passions, appetites, and inclinations as the mind itself; at least it is the outward portal to introduce them to the mind within, or rather the common thoroughfare to let our affections pass in and out. Love, anger, pride, avarice, all visibly move in those little orbs (Addison). It is not enough to watch over the heart, the inner citadel of the man, but all its avenues—the eye, the ear, the hand, the foot—must be guarded against the approach of sin.
2. He had referred himself in this to the judgment and the all-seeing eye of God (compare Joseph, Genesis 39:9; and Psalms 139:2, sqq.). The thought of men's knowledge is often a more powerful deterrent from actual crime; it is the thought of God which alone can sanctify and keep in safety the heart. Job rises above the mere commandments of the Law. Law forbids the desire of others' goods (Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21)—a negative virtue; Christ carries us directly to God, and bids us be pure in heart that we may behold him. To live consciously in the eye of God is to have a pure and right direction for our own.
II. FIRST PROTESTATION: EVIL DESIRES HAVE NOT BEEN YIELDED TO. (Verses 5-8.) He did not "go about with falsehood," nor did his foot hasten to deceit. May God, he says, pausing, weigh him in a just balance, and, instead of being found wanting like Belshazzar (Daniel 5:27), may his integrity be known and proved! Among the Greeks, Themis, or Dike, held the scales symbolical of judgment; the Arabs speak of judgment as the "balance of works." Every man's work, every man's character, shall finally be tried, proved, made known; and many that are last shall be first, and the first last. His steps had not turned out of the right way, the way marked out and appointed by God; no stain of ill-gotten wealth had cleaved to his hands (Psalms 101:5; Deuteronomy 13:17). Another imprecation, ratifying his assurances of innocence: "Then let me sow, and let another eat"—let another enjoy the fruit of his ill-spent, dishonest toil (comp. Job 27:16, Job 27:17; Leviticus 26:16; Deuteronomy 28:33; Amos 5:11); and let his shoots—the plants of the earth which he has set—be rooted out!
III. His PURE AND RIGHT CONDUCT IN DOMESTIC LIFE. (Verses 9-15.)
1. His chastity. (Verses 9-12.) He had not been befooled into any gross sin against the marriage-tie. He expresses the utmost detestation of such sin. "It would be a crime, and a sin before the judges." It would be as a devouring fire, resting not in its course until it had brought the criminal to the pit of hell, and all his property had been rooted out (comp. Proverbs 6:27, et sqq.; Proverbs 7:26, Proverbs 7:27; James 3:6).
2. His conduct towards his domestic slaves. He had not abused the rights of his menservants or maidservants. His relation to them was patriarchal, like that of Abraham to Eliezer of Damascus (Genesis 15:2; Genesis 24:2, et seq.). He felt that he and they, masters and slaves, were of one blood, the children of one Father, offspring of one Creator; how could he, were he guilty of sin against them, face the dread tribunal of God? "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?" (Malachi 2:10). Refer to St. Paul's exhortation to masters (Ephesians 6:9). The relations of masters and servants, employers and employed, have undergone vast changes since those ancient days. We all live under the equal protection of the laws of the land, and the general spirit of the law is to protect the weaker against the stronger, the poor against the encroachment of the rich. But in Christianity this relation receives a new meaning and sanctity by being brought under the great central relation in which we stand to Christ. And we have a beautiful example of the Christian treatment of the servant in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon. To set our servants good examples, and to care for their moral and spiritual welfare, is the duty of a Christian master or mistress.
IV. HIS JUST AND COMPASSIONATE CONDUCT IN SOCIAL LIFE. (Philemon 1:16-23; comp. Job 29:12-17.) He did not refuse his interiors their wishes when it was in his power to gratify them; did not withhold what he had the ability to give, nor shut up his compassions towards his poor brother; did not leave the widow to languish in longing expectation of help. He had not eaten alone in solitary greed a rich repast, like Dives; he had shared his bread with the orphan. All his life long he had been a father to the fatherless, a support to the widow, thus seeking to follow and imitate the all-compassionate God; to reproduce his heavenly pity in a gentle life on earth Psalms 68:5) He had clothed the neglected and the poor, and earned their thanks and blessing. In his capacity as ruler and judge he had not lifted up his hand with the purpose of violence; he had not perverted his great influence in the gate, or place of justice, to do them wrong. Forced to self-defence, he sets the seal of a most solemn imprecation upon his testimony concerning the past. And, further, he again sets forth the deep religious ground on which all his conduct to his neighbours was built. It was the fear of God, which is the beginning of all piety, the root of all morality, the great deterrent from sin. It was, therefore, morally impossible for him to have committed the sins laid to his charge (Psalms 68:28).. Here from the ancient patriarchal world shines out upon us a picture of those social virtues which are essentially the same in every age and every land. These are the primal duties which gleam aloft like stars, or adorn the earth like flowers. Our duties to our inferiors in wealth and status are an essential part of Christian piety. We are to do good when we can hope for nothing again. The poor cannot recompense us, but we shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:14; Matthew 25:36). Much converse with the weak and the lowly produces simplicity of heart, and chastens our feverish ambition to shine among our equals or superiors.
"Far other aims our hearts will learn to prize,
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise."
Compare the whole picture of the village pastor in Goldsmith's ' Deserted Village.' The contemplation of these pictures, in the poet's description or in actual life, sweetens the heart, calms our thoughts; above all, we are thus led to dwell with still more delight on the sacred picture of him who went about doing good, the Divine Type of all compassion and condescension.
V. JOB'S INWARD LIFE: THE FINER CONSCIENTIOUSNESS. (Psa 68:24 -40.) He proceeds to mention several sins of a more depraved and base character, defending himself against the charge of complicity with them.
1. The lust of gold. (Psalms 68:24, Psalms 68:25.) He had not put his trust in riches. The deadliness of the sin of covetousness has been among the lessons of all moralists, sacred and profane. The "accursed hunger for gold," the "root of all evil;" "Thy money perish with thee;" "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee;" "Take heed, and beware of covetousness;" are sayings that occur to us all. This is really the most fruitful source of all the darker crimes and sins, because there is no passion so unsocial, so anti-social. Men lose their souls to save their pelf. "Covetousness is the alpha and omega of the devil's alphabet; the first vice in corrupt nature which moves, and the last which dies." It is an "immoderate desire and pursuit of even the lawful helps and supports of nature." "Holding fast all it can get in one hand, and reaching at all it can desire with the other." "It has enriched its thousands, and damned its ten thousands."
2. Idolatry and blind worship of power. (Psalms 68:26, et seq.) As he had kept his heart with all diligence in presence of the temptations of gold, so he had watched against the inducements of false religion. In presence of the glorious objects of nature, the worship of which so extensively prevailed in the East, and at one period probably over the whole world, he had refrained from throwing towards them the kiss which was the gesture of reverence. For his heart had been touched with true reverence for its alone worthy Object, the God who is a Spirit; and to have declined to these beggarly elements would have been a crime against conscience, a practical infidelity, a denial of the God above. If we have ever been taught and trained in a spiritual faith, we cannot lapse into mere formalism—a confusion of the external symbol with the living reality—without a denial of our spiritual conscience, a turning of the light within us into darkness. To bow before the mere power and beauty revealed in nature, ignoring God as the Author both of nature and of the moral law: or to make worship a mere sensuous enjoyment rather than a spiritual exercise; are subtle temptations of our time analogous to those of Job. Our view of Nature is only religious when we seek through her sensuous medium for the supersensuous, the moral, the Divine (compare Mozley's noble sermon on "Nature").
3. Hatred of enemies. (Verse 29, et seq.) He had lived in the light of a most lofty morality. The general principle of ancient morality was, "Love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy," among both Jews and Gentiles. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," was the maxim of the savage justice of the early times. Even the great Aristotle says, in his 'Ethics,' "They who are not enraged when they ought to be, seem to be weak creatures; to endure insults and neglect one's friends is the part of a slave" ('Eth. Nic.,' 4.5). "The first duty of justice," says Cicero, "is to injure no one, unless provoked by a wrong" ('Off.,' 1.7). Let us contrast with this the gentle morality of Heaven. The Law of Moses ordained that if a man should meet his enemy's ass or his ox going astray, he should surely bring it back to him again (Exodus 23:4). Men were not to avenge, nor bear any grudge against others, but to love their neighbours as themselves (Le Job 19:18). Especially do we find this doctrine preached in the Book of Proverbs, "Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the Lord, and he will save thee" (Le Proverbs 20:22); "Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thy heart be glad when he stumbleth" (Le Proverbs 24:17); "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink" (Le Proverbs 25:21). Job had not defiled his mouth with curses imprecating death upon his foes. Nor had his morality been negative merely, which is all that many seem able to conceive of one's duties to one's neighbours. He had been hospitable and generous (verses 31, 32). The "people of his tent," the inmates of his dwelling, had never to complain of scant fare, of short commons, at his table. He did not leave the stranger to pass the night in the street, but opened his doors to the wanderer.
"No surly porter stood in guilty state,
To spurn imploring famine from the gate ….
His house was known to all the vagrant train
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain."
Compare the stories of Abraham's hospitality at Mature. Lot's at Sodom, of the old man at Giheah (Genesis 18:1-33. [Hebrews 13:2]; Judges 19:15, et seq.). Among peoples who led an unsettled, wandering life, hospitality necessarily became one of the foremost of duties to one's neighbour; and there are many Arab popular anecdotes of Divine punishment of the inhospitable. Wetstein says that while exploring the lake Ram, the fountain of the Jordan, the Bedouins asked him if he had not heard of the origin of the lake; and related that many centuries ago a flourishing village once stood there. One evening a poor traveller came while the men were sitting together in the open place of the village, and begged for a supper and lodging. They refused; and when he said he was starving, an old woman reached out to him a clod of earth, and drove him from the village. The man went to the village of Nimra hard by, where he was taken in. The next morning a lake was found where the neighbouring village had stood. The conditions of modern life are different. The place of hospitality in the scale of social duties is changed. But for all who have enough and to spare of this world's goods, there remains open a wide field of Christian beneficence and of refined culture in the practice of a sincere and discriminating hospitality. The model lesson on this subject is in Luke 14:1-35. It is a deep lesson that no man is poorer for all the expense of love. It is the habit of needless hoarding that empties the heart. When the affections are centred on the granary, or the counting-house, or the bank, or the fields, the man's wealth is imaginary, not real. Real wealth lies in the power of self-sufficiency for our outward condition, and of having something over for others. "Use hospitality without grudging;" "God loveth a cheerful giver." "The world teaches me that it is madness to leave what I may carry with me; Christianity teaches me that what I charitably give while I live I may carry with me after death; experience teaches me that what I leave behind I lose. I will carry with me by giving away that treasure which the worldling loses by keeping; and thus, while his corpse shall carry nothing but a winding-sheet to his grave, I shall be richer underground than I was above it" (Bishop Hall).
4. Hypocrisy and concealment of sins. (Luk 14:33 -40.) The way of man (or of "Adam") is to hide guilt, and bear a hypocritical front. The motive of such concealment is suggested in Luke 14:34—the fear of the great multitude, or of the nobler families who were one's equals and associates. So may a guilty conscience lay a weight upon the tongue; as in Plutarch's story of Demosthenes, who, having taken a bribe, refused to speak in the assembly, appearing there with his throat muffled up, and complaining of a quinsy; whereupon one cried out," He is not suffering from a throat-quinsy but from a money-quinsy." "Garments once rent are liable to be torn on every nail and every brier, and glasses once cracked are soon broken; such is a good man's name, once tainted with just reproach. Next to the approbation of God, and the testimony of my own conscience, I will seek for a good reputation among men; not by concealing faults lest they should be known to my shame, but by avoiding all sins that I may not deserve it. It is difficult to do good, unless we be reputed good" (Bishop Hall).
5. Renewed protestations. Would that he had one to hear this his assurance of innocence! He is thinking of God, and he desires his judicial interference in his favour. "Behold, there is my handwriting; let the Almighty answer me." As if he should say, "Here is the original of my justification, with my signature attached. This is my documentary defence; let the Almighty try it, and let his judgment be given" On the other hand, would that he had the accusation, the statement as it were of the prosecution against him (Luke 14:35). He here thinks of God as his Accuser, and longs to know what he has against him! Had he this document, he would bearit like a mark of honour upon his shoulder (for the idea, comp. Isaiah 9:4; Isaiah 22:22), or like a diadem for his head. Such is the triumphant consciousness of innocence. He would declare to God the number of his steps—would conceal nothing, but confess all to him. He would approach him like a prince, with stately step and unabashed port, as becomes one whose conscience is clear (verse 37). Lastly, by some additional light of memory now flashing on his mind at the close of his protestation, he gives a special example of his freedom from the guilt of blood. His had been no life containing deeds like that of Ahab to Naboth (1 Kings 21:1). No such fearful crime was the cause of his sufferings. "If my land cries against me "—for revenge, because of some crime against a former possessor—"and its furrows weep; if I have wasted its power, its fruit and produce, without payment, and blasted the life of its possessor," by violence, "instead of wheat let thorns spring forth, and instead of barley stinking weeds." That consciousness of God's omniscience, which strikes terror into the secret sinner, is a comfort to the heart of the sincere child of God. The daybreak frightens the robber, but cheers the honest traveller. Thou that art sincere, God sees that sincerity in thee which others cannot discern; yea, he often sees more sincerity in thy heart than thou caner discern thyself, This may uphold the drooping spirits of a disconsolate soul when the black mouths of men, steeled with ignorance and prejudice, shall be opened in hard speeches against him. How severely, though blindly, do they judge of men's hearts! But here the sincere soul may comfort itself when on the one hand it can reflect upon its own integrity, and on the other upon God's infinite infallible knowledge, and say, "Indeed, men charge me with this and this, as false-hearted and a hypocrite, but my God knows otherwise" As Daniel, by trusting in God, was secure from the mouths of the lions, so thou, by having faith in and drawing comfort from God's omniscience, mayest defy the more cruel mouths of thy persecutors. When a man is accused of treason to his prince, and knows that his prince is fully assured of his innocence, he will laugh all such accusations to scorn. It is thus with God and a sincere heart. In the midst of all slanders he will own thee for innocent, as he did Job, when his friends, with much specious piety, charged him with hypocrisy. Wherefore commit thy way to the all-seeing God—to that God who is acquainted with all thy ways; who sees thy goings out and thy comings in, and continually goes in and out before thee, and will one day testify and set his seal to thine integrity. Comfort thyself in the consideration of his omniscience, from whence it is that God judgeth not as man judgeth, but judgeth righteous judgment; and hold fast thy integrity that lies secret in the heart, whose praise is of God, and not of man (South).—J.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The consciousness of integrity.
The Divine solution of the riddle of human life is being wrought out in this poem, although at times it seems as though the entanglement became more and more confused. The case, as put in these three chapters, is the condensation of all as far as it has gone. It still awaits the solution. Job was in riches, dignity, and honour; he is now cast down to ignominy and suffering. Yet he is righteous—this, at least, is his own conviction; and in this chapter he makes his appeal to the facts of his history and invites scrutiny, and judgment if he be found guilty. This is the progress of the writing up to the present moment. His companions are baffled. They know of no other explanation of such suffering than deep and hidden sin. It will yet be proved that the godly suffer—"he whom thou lovest is sick"—although the world will long wait for a verbal explanation; and even now does the cry never ascend to heaven, "Wherefore dealest thou thus with me?" Job's appeal to the uprightness of his life and to his perfect integrity relates to the whole of his conduct, and to the various conditions in which he has been placed. The outward Divine testimony, he is "a perfect and an uptight man," has its echo in Job's breast. Hence he makes his appeal—
I. TO HIS CHASTITY. He makes his appeal in the sight of the all-searching One—to him who seeth "my ways" and counteth "all my steps."
II. TO HIS TRUTHFULNESS AND JUSTNESS.
III. TO HIS PURITY OF CONDUCT.
IV. TO HIS FIDELITY.
V. TO HIS EVEN-HANDED JUSTICE.
VI. TO HIS UNFLINCHING RECTITUDE.
VII. TO HIS CHARITY AND COMPASSION.
VIII. TO HIS FREEDOM FROM UNDUE CONFIDENCE IN HIS WEALTH.
IX. TO HIS FREEDOM FROM IDOLATRY.
X. TO HIS FREEDOM FROM HATRED AND HARSH TREATMENT, EVEN OF HIS ENEMIES
XI. TO HIS KINDNESS AND HOSPITALITY.
XII. TO HIS EXEMPTION FROM COVERT OR OPEN SIN. He hid no iniquity in his bosom, and therefore feared not the presence of men. Hypocrisy was not his failing. He makes his final appeal to his honesty and uprightness of dealing even by a reference to his fidelity to the very fields which he owned. Well might such a man long for a true judgment—for an open ear into which he could pour his complaint. Well may such a man commit himself to Jehovah's judgment, knowing "the Almighty will answer for me." Thus does Job vindicate his integrity and make his appeal to the highest tribunal.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
I. ITS CONCENTRATION ON CONDUCT. God sees Job's ways. He is not confined to the observation of external deeds, for he reads the hearts of men and he judges by the course of the inner life. Still, it is by a man's actions, including the internal actions, that God judges a man. What is of most concern to our great Master is how we exercise our will, what way we choose to walk in, how we shape our daily conduct. He cares little for our opinions and emotions, except in so far as these guide and influence our behaviour. If, then, God values conduct chiefly, conduct should be of primary importance with us. Whatever other things we may be anxious about, our first anxiety should be to see that our ways are right.
II. ITS ABSOLUTE THOROUGHNESS. Job speaks of God as counting all his steps. Therefore God takes note of every one of them. No false step can escape his notice. The little slip is not unseen by God. He sees us stumble when we do not fall, and observes how we stray for a brief time, even though we afterwards return to the right path. This truth has an encouraging side to it. God knows how many steps we have taken; therefore if the way is long and weary he has not forgotten us, and he can Rive us rest and strength. He knows how many steps we have yet to take; therefore he will give us a sufficient supply of grace, whether the road be long or short, and he will not expect more of us than the length or brevity of life permits.
III. ITS PROMPTING MOTIVE. God does not watch as a spy, like Satan when he was eager to detect some weakness in Job in order to inform against him (Job 1:7-10); nor with any design of ruining, like Satan who now goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8); nor with cold curiosity, amusing himself with the frailties of his children; nor with merely judicial insight, seeking for truth and dealing fairly, but with no sympathy or interest in his creatures. God watches with the most profound interest—with the interest of love. His watchfulness is like that of the mother who bends over the cradle, carefully noting every changing symptom in her ailing child.
IV. ITS ULTIMATE RESULTS. God does not watch for nothing. He is more than an inspector; he acts according to what he sees, and his watching is followed by his doing.
1. Sin cannot go unpunished. There is no eluding the eye of the great Watcher of men. The foolish notion that secrecy may find a door of escape is only a delusion when we have to deal with one who knows everything, to whom all secrets are open.
2. Need cannot suffer from neglect. The poor and suffering are forgotten among men, and miserable people drop out of sight after they have fallen into adversity, for great cities hide multitudes of unknown and solitary sufferers. Yet God counts every painful step in the path of disappointment, and as he knows all he will assuredly give the needful help. Because he saw the condition of men he provided for their recovery by redemption through the gift of his Son,—W.F.A.
An even balance.
Job only desires to be weighed in an even balance. He feels that his friends have judged him in anything but a fair manner, and he now craves for the true justice of God.
I. THE JUSTICE OF AN EVEN BALANCE IS GREATLY TO BE DESIRED. People have taken a very narrow view of justice, so narrow a view as to be practically false and most fallacious. Justice has been regarded as the power that punishes sin, and while, of course, this is true, this is not a description of the true nature and ultimate character of it, but only a statement of one of its special functions—a function which would not exist if sin had not entered the world. Yet justice would have an ample field if there were no wickedness. It is not like the executioner, whose occupation would be gone with the cessation of lawlessness. Justice is righteousness. It is the principle that insists on seeing right done. Every lover of the good must desire to see such a principle flourish. Between man and man justice is fairness. When we say God deals justly we imply that he deals fairly. This may not mean equality. For to load a mule with the same burden we would put on an elephant's back is not fair dealing st all. Equity is not equality. But it is a suitable and proportionate dealing with each individual
II. THE JUSTICE OF AN EVEN BALANCE IS RARE AMONG MEN. Job did not see it, and therefore he greatly longed for it. Many things falsify the scales of justice.
1. Prejudice. Truth should be on one side of the scales—as in the Egyptian legend of weighing the souls of the dead. But prejudice either pares the weight of truth and so lessens its value, or adds its own weight.
2. Self-interest. Justice should be impartial; but men are not. A pure detachment of mind is very difficult to acquire. Instead of considering merit, people take account of what pleases them or what may be. profitable to them.
3. Ignorance. When there is the utmost genuineness of desire to weigh justly, we may make a mistake simply because we do not put all the facts into the scale.
III. THE JUSTICE OF AN EVEn BALANCE IS FOUND WITH GOD.
1. Pure equity. He allows no prejudice to warp his judgment, no self interest to pervert his verdict. God is perfectly just in his own character. Therefore he can judge men justly. Being righteous himself, he is never prompted to act otherwise than righteously.
2. Knowledge. God makes none of the unintentional mistakes that are so common with men. The whole tangled mass of events is unravelled by his perfectly penetrating gaze. When we despair of having a case truly seen by our fellow-men, we can lift up our eyes to the great Judge of all the earth and be assured that he knows all Surely, then, it is most necessary to stand right with the justice of God, that this may vindicate and not condemn us. But only the God-given righteousness in Christ can make this possible to us. ― W.F.A.
A heinous crime.
Job justly regards adultery as a heinous crime which is deserving of punishment;
I. THE GREAT EVIL OF THIS CRIME. It contains within it a combination of various dreadful kinds of wickedness.
1. Unfaithfulness. Husband and wife have vowed to be true to one another. Adultery is a breach of marriage vows. Even if purity were not originally binding, the voluntary assumption of the yoke of matrimony would have made it so. The sin of unfaithfulness to the marriage tie is one of breaking a most solemn promise.
2. Cruelty. This is not a sin that can be committed wholly on one's own account. A grievous and irreparable wrong is done to another. For the sake of selfish pleasure, a home, which might have been a centre of love and joy, is torn to pieces by outraged jealousy and made miserable with the total wreck of the hopes of youth.
3. Impurity. Some have thought that, as happiness does not always accompany marriage, "free love" would be more desirable. It is forgotten that the very term is a misnomer. No true love can exist without constancy and fidelity. When those virtues are removed, what is called love is at best a passing fancy; at worst it is a foul passion. The soul of the adulterer is stained and corrupted.
4. Godlessness. This great sin darkens the vision of God. It involves a violation of a Divine institution, and is thus unfaithfulness to God as well as to a human companion. The soul of the adulterer is lost to the life of holiness and the true service of God.
II. THE JUST TREATMENT OF THIS CRIME.
1. Not by the abolition of marriage. This is but the refuge of despair. It is said in some quarters that marriage is a failure. But wherever it is a failure some of its necessary ingredients have been neglected. If there is no true love, if sympathy is wanting, if mutual forbearance is not practised, the close union of husband and wife must lead to perpetual quarrelling. But what we want is to raise the standard of marriage. The abolition of lifelong marriage is virtually the abolition of that most sacred Christian institution—the family. It must open the floodgates of vice by allowing suggestions, of licence that are now,. at least, to some extent, kept in check by the social conscience that respects the marriage tie.
2. By the most effectual form of reprobation. Job considered it to be an iniquity to be punished by the judges. This was the old Jewish method, and the Puritans of New England attempted to revive it. But great difficulties stand in the way of criminal prosecutions for adultery. Moreover, it is not the function of the state to punish vice, but to prevent direct or indirect injuries. Now, though adultery is an injury, the course for a legal treatment of it as such is not clear. But this does not mean that the vice should go unchecked. It deserves the severest social stigma. It lies under the wrath of God. It should be prevented as far as possible by a wise and pure bringing up of the young and the inculcation of principles of social purity.—W.F.A.
The hope of gold.
Job here reminds us of the Egyptian 'Book of the Dead,' in which the soul, summoned before its judges, recites a long list of sins, and declares itself innocent of them all. In this chapter the patriarch runs over many kinds of wickedness, and invokes just punishment if he has been guilty of any of them. His self-vindication has been forced from him by the repeated false accusations of his friends. We know that Job was not without the consciousness of sin; but he was not guilty of the crimes and of the great deeds of wickedness which had boon charged against him. Among other evil things, he honestly repudiates resting his hope and confidence in gold.
I. THE FASCINATION OF THE HOPE OF GOLD. This hope has a wide influence over men. It is not by any means confined to the owners of wealth. The poor make too much of' the hope of gold which they covet, while the rich overvalue that which is within their grasp. The passion for gold goes mad at the diggings; but it is found in sober walks of business life. Let us consider its sources.
1. Wide purchasing power. Gold is not sought for its glitter. The old miser who dived his hand into his bags of coins with wild glee is extinct. The modern gold-worshipper is too wise to hoard his money uselessly. But whether the money is spent or not it is held as a potential good. It buys all visible commodities. People come to think that whatever they want can be had for gold.
2. Materialism. The habit of engrossing one's self with earthly things appears to enlarge the value of gold by blotting out of view everything that is above the earth. The heavens are lost sight of, and the universe shrinks into the circle of the objects that can be procured for money.
II. THE FATALITY OF THE HOPE OF GOLD. The fascination is fatal; it lures ruin.
1. It lowers the soul. The worshipper is always being assimilated to his idol. He who adores gold comes to have a heart that is as hard and earthly as the metal he is enslaved to. Thus all the finer spiritual qualities are crushed and quenched, and a sordid appetite for money dominates the inner man.
2. It encourages selfishness. The hope is for one's sell We see this in the frightfully prevalent vice of gambling. The infatuated gambler is intoxicated with an excitement the root of which is pure greed, heartless selfishness. His gains are not productions, adding to the wealth of the world, but simply and solely what can be got out of other people's possessions. His whole profit is made by the loss of other people. Gambling is the most antisocial vice.
3. It leads to crime. Gold is thought more of than truth or duty, or the rights of one's neighbour.
4. It is dishonouring to God. God is the true Hope of his children. When men turn from him to gold they turn to an idol, and are unfaithful to their Lord.
5. It ends in disappointment. Gold cannot buy the best things—peace of mind, purity, love, heaven. Midas is a failure in the end. We must learn to see the limits of the utility of money, and look beyond them for our true hope and confidence in what is better than gold—the unsearchable fiches of Christ.—W.F.A.
Job 31:33, Job 31:34
The shame of public exposure.
Job asks whether he has hidden his sin, and shrunk from public exposure for fear of the multitude? On the contrary, he has been frank and fearless, daring to face the world because he is true and honest.
I. THE GUILTY MAN IS AFRAID OF PUBLIC EXPOSURE. This is a common feeling. It is "after the manner of men." It was seen in Adam hiding in the garden. Shame follows sin. Guilt creates cowardice. He who held his head aloft in his innocence dares not look on his fellows when he has committed a crime. Every eye seems to follow him with suspicion. His imagination transforms the most unconcerned passerby into a detective. Fear magnifies the importance of trifles, till the smallest events seem to be links in a chain that is dragging the miserable criminal down to ruin. He feels himself caught in a net, and he knows not which way to turn for release.
II. THERE IS NO MORAL WORTH IN THE FEAR OF PUBLIC EXPOSURE. The sinner is not conscious of inward unworthiness, or at least this is not his strongest feeling. All he dreads is public exposure. He is not repentant of his sin; he is only ashamed of its disgrace. Moreover, though he is so fearful of discovery by man, he has no thought that God's eye is on him, and no concern that God disapproves of him. His one thought is of his fellow-men, the opinion of the world. This fear is altogether low and selfish. It does not spring from conscience; it only concerns itself with the consequences of wickedness, not with the wickedness itself. It has no regard for the outraged law; it only thinks of the threatening punishment. That punishment may come in visible penalties. The criminal may have to go to prison or the gallows, or when the mob seizes its victim it may "lynch" him. The terror of a miserable creature who is hiding from the expected vengeance of the people must be an awful agony. Nevertheless, there is nothing to touch the higher nature in this. Possibly, however, the fear is only of a social stigma. The man who had been in a position of honour finds himself an object of universal contempt. The disgrace is unbearable. He bides his head for very shame. He is miserably selfish in his degradation.
III. IT IS A HAPPY THING TO HAVE NO OCCASION FOR THE SHAME OF PUBLIC EXPOSURE. Some men are so sunken in wickedness that they are beneath shame, so familiar with disgrace that they do not feel it. No doubt it would be a step upward for such men to awake to a consciousness of their abject condition. But for those who are not lost to all sense of public decency, it certainly is well to be able to stand out boldly before the world and not dread investigation. Yet even when this can be done there may be misunderstandings that lead to false accusations, or there may be worldly sins that our fellow-men do not condemn. Therefore he who remembers that he has to give account of himself to God will not be satisfied with winning the approval of his fellows, nor cast down to despair if he loses it, so long as he has the smile of his supreme Master. When a man's conscience is clear towards Heaven, he need fear no public exposure. He may meet with social contempt, like the martyrs. But though this may be painful to him, he can be calm and patient, knowing that in the end God will vindicate the right.—W.F.A.
Job desires something like a legal indictment. His experience suggests confusion, uncertainty, irregularity. He sets "his mark," and now he wants his Adversary—who, to Job's thought, can be none other than his Judge, God—to draw up an indictment that he may know once for all what charges are brought against him.
I. MAN CANNOT UNDERSTAND GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIM. This thought repeatedly recurs in the Book of Job; it is one of the great lessons of the poem. We can now see that Job was almost as much misjudging God as the three friends were misjudging Job. But at the time it was not possible for the patriarch to comprehend the Divine purpose in his sufferings. Had he known all, much of the gracious design of his trial would have been frustrated. The very obscurity was a necessary condition for the testing of faith. While we are enduring trial we can rarely see the issue of it. Our view is almost limited to the immediate present. Moreover, there are future consequences of God's present treatment of us which we could not truly comprehend if they were visible to us. The child is not capable of valuing his education and appreciating the good results of it. The patient is not able to understand the medical or surgical treatment he is made to undergo. While we walk by faith, we must learn to expect dispensations of providence that are quite beyond our comprehension.
II. IT IS NATURAL TO DESIRE AN EXPLANATION OF GOD'S TREATMENT OF MAN.
1. That doubts may be removed. It is difficult not to distrust God when he seems to be dealing hardly with us. If only he would roll back the clouds we should be at rest.
2. For our own guidance. Is God accusing us of sin? Are we to take his chastisements as punishments? Then what are the sins in us that he most disapproves of?
III. GOD DOES NOT PUNISH WITHOUT ALLOWING US TO SEE THE GROUNDS OF HIS ACTION. Job craved an indictment. He wanted to see the charges against him in black and white,
1. When we are guilty conscience will reveal the fact. It would be monstrous to condemn and punish the criminal without even letting him know of the offence with which he is charged. We dare not ascribe such injustice to God. He has implanted within us an accusing voice that echoes his accusations. If we seek for light and the guidance of conscience, we must be able to see how we have sinned and come under the wrath of God.
2. When no consciousness of guilt is to be found' the suffering cannot be for the punishment of sin. We are all conscious of sin, but sin may be forgiven; we may not be falling away from God, but cleaving to him—though with weakness and sin in our hearts, still with faithful adhesion. Then God will not punish. If, therefore, the blow falls, it is for some other than a penal reason. Consequently, we need not search about anxiously for some unseen and unsuspected wickedness. Job made a mistake in asking for an indictment. There was none, simply because there was not any ground for one. Over-scrupulous consciences suspect the wrath of Heaven when the gracious purging of the fruitful branch is really a sign of the husbandman's appreciation of it.—W.F.A..
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Job 31". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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