We regard it as little short of a miracle that this very ancient
book should have been accepted by the people of Israel as part of "the
oracles of God," which were "committed" to their hands (see, Romans 3:
2). Job may have been a contemporary of Abraham but he was certainly
not of Abrahamic stock, and therefore a Gentile, and yet introduced to
us with such words of commendation as we hardly find accorded to any
son of Israel. In the book moreover is no allusion to the law in which
the Jew made his boast. There was therefore in it nothing that would
particularly appeal to the Jew, but rather that which might offend. Yet
there through the centuries it has stood, and been handed down to us.
In this we see not only the wisdom of God but His mercy also.
Directly sin entered the world a baffling problem presented itself in
the slaying of righteous Abel. Why should the godly suffer? If a man's
life really pleases God, why should that pleasure not be indicated by
special good being his in this life? There is, of course, the
alternative problem Why should the ungodly prosper)-and this is dealt
with in Psalm 73. But long before the days of the Psalmists God saw fit
in His mercy to solve the enigma for us by permitting extreme disaster
to come upon Job, and then causing the story to be recorded and
preserved in an inspired writing. The solution was given as soon as
"the oracles of God" began to appear.
In the very first verse the inspired writer-whoever he was-makes the
exceptional character of Job very clear, and in verse 8 he records that
a precisely similar description of him had come from the lips of
Jehovah Himself, but with the addition that in his piety he surpassed
his contemporaries, for there was "none like him in the earth." Of all
men, therefore, here was the man upon whom the smile of the Almighty
And indeed he had been greatly prospered in the providence of God.
He had a well favoured family, and immense possessions of those
animals, in which wealth consisted in those days. He was the greatest among the men of the east, as well as the most godly. His
piety embraced his family as well as himself, for he offered burnt
offerings for them in the days of their festivities lest they should
have in any way offended. Such is the picture presented of this
In verses 7-12, we are granted a glance behind the scenes of this
world. Satan, though a fallen creature, still is permitted access to
the presence of God. His casting down to earth, mentioned in Revelation
12, is still future. He is spoken of in that chapter as, "the accuser
of our brethren," and that is just what we see him doing here: he does
not change. He accused Job of self-seeking in his apparent piety: in
other words, that he was in large measure a hypocrite-just what
presently we shall find the three friends insinuating. He virtually
challenged God to test him by some catastrophe, when Job's skin-deep
piety would be broken through, and he would curse the God whom he
professed to regard.
The Lord accepted Satan's challenge and permitted the adversary to
act against all that he had, but not against himself. Satan promptly
acted and the disasters fell with devastating effect.
It was a most instructive scene. We perceive three causes and two effects. The
great First Cause is God. The second inferior cause is Satan. The third
still lesser cause-or rather, causes-the Sabeans, the Chaldeans, and
what men would call the forces of nature. The first effect was a
complete sweeping away of all Job's family and possessions: the second
and ultimate effect was a crushing blow delivered against Job.
What must have made it so crushing to Job was the fact that four
different agents were employed. If one gigantic calamity had engulfed
the lot, the effect on his mind would probably not have been so great.
But four separate calamities, all in one day, and two of them what we should now call "acts of God," must
have made Satan's malicious deed staggering beyond all our thoughts or
words. We venture to think that such a collection of catastrophes,
falling upon one man in one day, has never been equalled in the whole
history of the world.
The piety of Job was proved not to be skin-deep merely. God knew how
to sustain His true servant, and he stood the test and did not curse
God. Satan was proved a liar and defeated. Job's words, "The Lord gave,
and the Lord hath taken away," have been repeated millions of times by
sorrowing saints, who also have blessed God instead of cursing Him,
even as Job did.
Satan, however, returned to the charge, though God could again give
His testimonial to Job's remarkable character. He knew very well that a
man's own bodily self is nearer and dearer to him than all he may
possess, so he said, "Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he
give for his life." This remark of the devil was once quoted in court
by a barrister, wishing to further his case. He prefaced it by saying,
"As a great authority has said . . ," feeling he was quite safe in his
authority since he quoted from the Bible! The judge knew his Bible
better than the counsel, so he quietly said, "I am interested to
observe whom the learned counsel quotes as, 'a great authority!'"
It will be useful therefore to remind our readers that in this book
we have quoted not only the words of Satan, but also many words of men,
some of them true enough, as other scriptures show, but others much
open to question. None of these men who spoke were inspired in their
utterances, though we have an inspired account of what they said, so
that the picture presented is perfectly true. We must never overlook
the difference between revelation and inspiration. All
Scripture is inspired of God, but not every word found therein is a
revelation from God. When Solomon wrote, for instance, "There is
nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink . . ."
(Eccles. 2: 24), he was not uttering a revelation from God but rather his own foolishness-inspired to put it on record for our warning.
But to return to our story: given permission by God, Satan afflicted
poor Job with as virulent a disease as has ever been on record, though
not permitted to take his life. His state became so fearful and
repulsive that his own wife urged him to the sin that Satan designed to
lead him into. She only was left to him and thus she became, perhaps
unwittingly, an abettor of Satan's design. But again, supported by God,
Job stood the test and did not sin with his lips. The record of Job's
reaction is this time more negative than positive, we notice still
Satan was defeated, and from this point he disappears from the story.
Here, therefore, the story might end, if the point of it were only
to show us how the power of God triumphs over the malign doings of the
adversary. This is indeed made clearly manifest, but there was the
further point of demonstrating how that same power, coupled with His
searching kindness, triumphed in the conscience and heart and life of
His tried saint, ultimately turning the blackest disaster into rich
blessing, of a spiritual sort as well as material.
As a first move toward this, Job's three friends appeared on the
scene. At the end of Job 2, they are introduced to us, and what is
recorded indicates that they came full of sympathy and with the best of
intentions. The record of his disasters and the horror of his bodily
state moved them to tears, and so staggered them that for a whole week
they sat in his presence speechless. The reality of it all far exceeded
what they had heard. Dreadful it must have been to reduce them to this
speechless condition. The expressions of sympathy they intended to make
froze upon their lips.
But the week of silence had to end. Their presence, their tears,
their rent mantles, the dust upon their heads, affected Job, and led
him at last to break the silence. He opened his mouth and cursed his
day. He did not curse God, be it noted. He called down a curse upon the
day he was born; deploring the fact that he had not died when his
mother gave him birth. He anticipated that, had he never seen the
light, he would have "been at rest," and not in this dire affliction.
In Job's day there was not much light as to the unseen world, yet he
knew that death did not mean extinction of being, but for the saint
rest, and freedom from the trouble caused by the wicked, such as he had
experienced by Sabeans and Chaldeans. "There the wicked cease from troubling,"
(Job 3: 17); from troubling other people, not from being troubled
themselves. There those, whose strength is worn out, are at rest.
Amongst mankind almost universally, a birthday is an occasion of
remembrance and rejoicing. To poor Job it seemed a moment to be
deplored and cursed. In his days of prosperity he had feared some kind
of adversity might supervene. Now it had come upon him with
unparalleled force. His agonized utterance, recorded in Job 3, surely
moves our sympathy as we read it, some four thousand years after it was
The silence of a week being broken, Eliphaz was moved to speak. His
earliest words, at the beginning of Job 4, have a gentle and
considerate spirit. He acknowledged that Job had been a helper and
sustainer of others, but asked a pertinent question in verse 6, which
in Darby's New Translation is rendered, "Hath not thy piety been thy
confidence, and the perfection of thy ways thy hope?"
Here, we believe, he did put his finger upon the weak spot in Job,
as is shown in the remainder of the book. That Job's character and ways
were excellent has been guaranteed by God Himself, but that being the
case, how subtle the snare to make them the basis of one's confidence
and hope, and to build everything upon them, before God as well as
before men. It is what many a very godly saint has done since the days
But in his next paragraph (verses 7-11) Eliphaz completely
misunderstands the situation. He asks, "Who ever perished, being
innocent?" Doubtless he had no knowledge of Genesis, that book probably
not having been written in his day, yet ancient things were known by
carefully preserved tradition. What about Abel? He perished being
innocent. Why, the first disaster recorded after sin entered the world
disproved the position Eliphaz took up. The righteous Abel was cut off.
Hence the idea, which he elaborated by his figure of the lions, broke
down. The reaping of disaster does not mean of necessity that those who
reap, "plow iniquity, and sow wickedness."
From verse 12 onwards, the standpoint that Eliphaz takes comes more
clearly to light. He begins to relate a rather terrifying experience of
his own, when he saw some spirit apparition, and received a word of
warning as to man's frailty and impurity in the presence of his Maker.
What he heard is perfectly true. No mortal man can be more pure or just
than God. In both he falls infinitely short of God's glory.
As we open
Job 5, we find Eliphaz continuing on this note and again he refers to what he had seen. Verse 3 begins, "I have seen . . .," and if we turn to Job 15, where his second speech is recorded, again we find him saying, "That which I have seen I will declare" (verse 17). It is evident then that his argument mainly rests for its validity upon his own powers of observation. In those powers he trusted for his opinion of the meaning of the calamities that had fallen upon Job.
Some of the sayings of Eliphaz in this chapter are perfectly true:
for instance, "Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward," in
this world of sin. Again, it is certainly true that God, "taketh the
wise in their own craftiness," and that, "Happy is the man whom God
correcteth." But we can see that all these facts are advanced in a way
that turned them against poor Job. He had seen men
taking root and then suddenly cursed, but these were "the foolish." And
further, their children were smitten, and robbers swallowed up their
possessions. It is obvious that all these remarks carried an
insinuation against Job. He had appeared to be wise but was now taken
in his craftiness-so it appeared to Eliphaz.
The advice given toward the end of his discourse was good. Job
should not despise the chastening of the Almighty, but rather accept
the correction, and then the tide of evil would turn and blessing come
in. The closing verses speak of God's deliverance coming in; of renewed
prosperity. Verse 24 has been rendered, "Thou shalt know that thy tent
is in peace; and thou wilt survey thy fold, and miss nothing." Verse 25
speaks of a numerous posterity, and verse 26 of Job himself coming to
his end in ripe old age.
These things did indeed mark Job's latter days as we know, but the
insinuation was that the absence of any such prosperity at that moment
was punishment from God for his sin, which had lain beneath the surface
of his life in the past. Eliphaz closed by confidently asserting the
truth of his remarks. "So it is," he declared, for he had searched it out and seen it for himself.