Chapter Index: In-Page Navigation
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- 1. Analysis
- 2. Prologue: Job, His Character, Family and Wealth
- 3. Part A: Controversy between Heaven and Hell: 1st Cycle
- 4. Part A: Controversy between Heaven and Hell: 2nd Cycle
- 5. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: Their Coming
- 6. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 1st Cycle: Eliphaz
- 7. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 1st Cycle: Job's Answer to Eliphaz
- 8. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 1st Cycle: Bildad
- 9. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 1st Cycle: Job's Answer to Bildad
- 10. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 1st Cycle: Zophar
- 11. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 1st Cycle: Job's Answer to Zophar
- 12. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 2nd Cycle: Eliphaz
- 13. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 2nd Cycle: Job's Answer to Eliphaz
- 14. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 2nd Cycle: Bildad
- 15. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 2nd Cycle: Job's Answer to Bildad
- 16. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 2nd Cycle: Zophar
- 17. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 2nd Cycle: Job's Answer to Zophar
- 18. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 3rd Cycle: Eliphaz
- 19. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 3rd Cycle: Job's Answer to Eliphaz
- 20. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 3rd Cycle: Bildad
- 21. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 3rd Cycle: Job's Answer to Bildad
- 22. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: 3rd Cycle: Job's Final Answer
- 23. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: The Last Voice: Elihu
- 24. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: The Last Voice: Elihu Answers Job
- 25. Part B: Controversy between Job and his Friends: The Last Voice: Elihu's Philosophy
- 26. Part C: Controversy between Jehovah and Job: Jehovah - The 1st Unveiling
- 27. Part C: Controversy between Jehovah and Job: Jehovah - The 2nd Unveiling
- 28. Part C: Controversy between Jehovah and Job: Job's Answer
- 29. Epilogue: The Man Beyond the Process
CHAPTER 1. ANALYSIS: JOB - THE PROBLEM OF PAIN
PROLOGUE - Job 1:1-5
1.1 His Character - 1:1
- Perfect and Upright
- One that Feared God and Eschewed Evil
1.2 His Family - 1:2,4,5
- Their Number
- Their Fellowship
- Their Father as Priest
1.3 His Wealth - 1:3
PART A. THE DRAMA - CONTROVERSY BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL - Job 1:6-2:10
A1 The First Cycle - 1:6-1:22
- The Coucil in Heaven - God's estimate of Job
- The Coucil in Heaven - Satan's estimate of Job
- The Coucil in Heaven - The Challenge
- The Coucil in Heaven - The Acceptance
- Limitation "Only"
- Conflict on Earth - Satan
- His Malice
- His Persistence
- His Limitation
- Conflict on Earth - Job
- His Attitude
- His Words
A2 The Second Cycle - 2:1-2:10
- The Coucil in Heaven - God's vindication of Job
- The Coucil in Heaven - The New Challenge
- The Coucil in Heaven - The Acceptance
- Conflict on Earth - The Double Affliction
- The Pain of the Past
- The New - Personal Suffering
- Conflict on Earth - His Wife's Sympathy
- Conflict on Earth - His Triumph
PART B. THE DRAMA - CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS - Job 2:11-37:24
B1 Their Coming - 2:11-3:26
- Their Sympathy - The Friends 2:11-2:13
- Their Sympathy - Their Coming
- Their Sympathy - Their Silence
- Job's Lamentation - Laments his Existence - 3:1-3:10
- Curses the Day of his Birth
- Curses the Night of his Conception
- Job's Lamentation - Laments his Preservation - 3:11-3:19
- Questions of Complaint
- The Quietness of Death - Kings in Mausoleums
- The Quietness of Death - Princes and their Gold
- The Quietness of Death - Infants which never saw Light
- Job's Lamentation - Laments his Continued Being - 3:20-3:26
- Questions of Complaint
- Description of his Sorrow
B2 The Controversy - 4:1-31:40
B2.1 The First Cycle - 4:1-14:22
B2.1.1 Eliphaz - 4:1-5:27
- Eliphaz - Introduction
- Apology made, but necessity urged
- Amazement at Job's failure
- Eliphaz - The Philosophy Stated
- The Relation between Suffering and Sin - Stated
- The Relation between Suffering and Sin - Illustrated
- The Midnight Vision and Voice
- The Challenge to Job - Made
- The Challenge to Job - Illustrated
- Eliphaz - Advice Given
- The First Statement - Advice given
- The First Statement - Argued
- The Second Statement - Advice given
- The Second Statement - Argued
- Formal Conclusion
B2.1.2 Job's Answer - 6:1-7:21
- His Reply to the Charge
- Admission and Explanation
- Defence by Illustration
- Desire for Death and Defence
- His Reply to his Friends
- Satire - The Expectation
- Satire - The Disappointment
- Demand for Definiteness - The Plea
- Demand for Definiteness - The Folly of the Method
- Demand for Definiteness - His Anger expressed
- Demand for Definiteness - The Passionate Plea for Justice
- His Complaint to Jehovah
- The Misery of Life - Its Hard Conditions, Toil under Compulsion
- The Misery of Life - Its Hard Conditions, Suffering without Relief
- The Misery of Life - Its Brief Duration, Seed without Hope
- The Misery of Life - Its Brief Duration, Ending without Return
- The Complaint to God - The Determination
- The Complaint to God - The Threefold Appeal
- On the ground of his Harmlessness
- On the ground of his Littleness
- On the supposition of Sin
B2.1.3 Bildad - 8:1-8:22
- The Principle Illustrated - God is never Unjust
- The Challenge
- The Application - The Meaning of the Children's Death
- The Application - The Meaning of the Divine Silence
- The Principle Illustrated - The Wicked are always Punished
- Appeal to the Past suggested
- Appeal to the Past made - The Instability of Godlessness
- Appeal to the Past made - The Uselessness of false Confidence
- The Principle Illustrated - The Principle Declared
- The Principle Illustrated - Hope concerning Job
B2.1.4 Job's Answer - 9:1-10:22
- His Answer to Bildad
- His Admission
- His Great Question
- His Argument
- Jehovah - His Wisdom
- Jehovah - His Power - Earthquakes
- Jehovah - His Power - Storm and Eclipse
- Jehovah - His Power - Sky and Sea
- Jehovah - His Power - Stellar System
- Jehovah - His Invisibility
- Jehovah - His Invincibility
- Job - His Hoplessness - Against overwhelming Odds
- Job - His Hoplessness - Against the Injustice of the Universe
- Job - His Helplessness - Against God
- Job - His Helplessness - Without a Daysman
- His Appeal to God
- His Questions
- Does God delight in what He is doing?
- Is God's Vision faulty?
- Is God afraid that Job will escape Him?
- God has made him. Why does He destroy Him?
- His Appeal
- Against Being and Preservation
- For a Respite
B2.1.5 Zophar - 11:1-11:20
- The Principle Applied - Preliminary Rebuke
- "A man full of talk"
- "Thou sayest"
- "God exacteth less..."
- The Principle Applied - The Unsearchable God
- The Principle Applied - Man's Way of Restoration
- The Principle Applied - Final Warning
B2.1.6 Job's Answer - 12:1-14:22
- As to his Friends: A Rebuke
- The Rebuke - Satire
- The Rebuke - Rebuke
- The Rebuke - Contempt
- The Claim of Knowledge - The evident God - In Nature
- The Claim of Knowledge - The evident God - In Experience
- The Claim of Knowledge - The working God - The Natural World
- The Claim of Knowledge - The working God - Those high in Rank
- The Claim of Knowledge - The working God - The Nations
- As to Himself: A Determination
- His Intention to appeal to God
- His Warning to his Friends - He denounces them
- His Warning to his Friends - He impeaches them
- His Warning to his Friends - He dismisses their Arguments
- His Preparation for Appeal - His Determination
- His Preparation for Appeal - His Confidence
- His Preparation for Appeal - The Conditions
- As to God: An Appeal
- What are my sins? - The Demand
- What are my sins? - The Dealing of God described
- Man's Transitory Life
- The Endlessness of man's End
- The Parenthetical and Hopeful Question
- The Contrasting Present Condition
B2.2 The Second Cycle - 15:1-21:34
B2.2.1 Eliphaz - 15:1-15:35
- A Stern Rebuke of Job
- Criticism of his Manner - Words as Arguments
- Criticism of his Manner - Impious Lack of Devotion
- Criticism of his Claim to Wisdom - Satire answers Satire
- Criticism of his Claim to Wisdom - The Consolations of God
- Criticism of his Attitude toward God - How dare Man be against God
- Criticism of his Attitude toward God - God's Holiness
- A New Statement of Truth
- Defence of his Views because of Antiquity
- The Wicked are in Trouble - Travail and Terror of the Wicked
- The Wicked are in Trouble - The Reason
- The Wicked are in Trouble - The Punishment - Statement by Illustration
- The Wicked are in Trouble - The Punishment - The General Statement
B2.2.2 Job's Answer - 16:1-17:16
- His Scorn for his Friends: A Rebuke
- His Protest
- "I also could...but I would not"
- His Picture of his Misery
- Neither Silence of Speech helps
- Description alternating between Address to God and Speech concerning Him
- Affirmation of Innocence
- His Appeal
- To Earth
- His Hope
- His Appeal to God - The Need
- His Appeal to God - The Request
- His Appeal to God - The Argument
- His Appeal to God - Confidence in Innocence
- His Despair
- The False Promise
- The Fact
B2.2.3 Bildad - 18:1-18:21
- Preliminary Rebuke
- For Violence done to Friends
- For Violence attempted on Moral Order
- The Punishent of the Wicked
- The First Things. Lights put out
- Spiritual Perception
- The Inner Light and Outer Light
- Consequent Blundering
- Progress to death
- The Final Things. Extinction on Earth
- The Application
B2.2.4 Job's Answer - 19:1-19:29
- Preliminary Rebuke
- How Long?...my sin my own
- If ye will...know it is God's doing
- His pitiable Condition
- Afflicted by God
- Forsaken by Men
- Appeal to friends
- A Flash of Light
- Desire for Appeal to the Future
- The Certainty of Vindication - The distant Vindicator
- The Certainty of Vindication - The personal Certainty
- Final Warning
- The Friends' decision
- The Warning
B2.2.5 Zophar - 20:1-20:29
- Preliminary Apology
- His Anger acknowledged
- Its Reason declared
- General Proposition
- The Brevity of Wickedness
- The Argument
- The Instability of Evil Gains
- A Loftiness which Perishes
- A Sense of Youth which bends to the Dust
- A Sweetness which becomes Remorse
- A Swallowing which ends in Vomiting
- A Getting without Reason
- The Reason
- A Gain of Oppression
- The Aquisition of Avarice
- The Consequence
- Final Nemesis
- God pursues him with Instruments of Judgment
- Calamity consumes his Treasures
- The Final Fire
- The Application
B2.2.6 Job's Answer - 21:1-21:34
- Preliminary Appeal
- He asks a Hearing
- He defends his Impatience
- He demands Attention to his Statements of the Problem
- The Argument as an Answer
- The Wicked are Prosperous - The Facts
- The Wicked are Prosperous - In spite of Godlessness
- The Wicked are Prosperous - Job's Comment
- Their Philosophy is at Fault - Punishment not invariable
- Their Philosophy is at Fault - Posterity should not be considered
- The are not wiser than God - The Question
- The are not wiser than God - Contrasted Conditions without Explanation
- the Application
- His Recognition of their personal Meaning
- Their Wisdom learned from Others
- Their Conclusions Wrong
- Their Comfort Vain
B2.3 The Third Cycle - 22:1-31:40
B2.3.1 Eliphaz - 22:1-22:30
- The Charge Made
- God only afflicts for Sin
- God is not affected in Himself by what man is
- His judgment therefore is Impartial
- Deduction. Job has sinned
- The Sins which fit the Punishment
- Sins described
- The Deduction
- Job's Misconception of God, the Reason
- God's Height construed as Indifference
- This View has ended in destruction before
- Over which Destruction the Righteous rejoice
- The Advice Given
- The Conditions
- The Issue - With God - Delight
- The Issue - With God - Communion
- The Issue - With God - Triumph
- The Issue - With Man - Ability to help
B2.3.2 Job's Answer - 23:1-24:25
- The Problem of God's Absence from him
- The Sigh after God as Judge - Vindication of his Complaint
- The Sigh after God as Judge - Desire for the Judgment-seat
- The Sigh after God as Judge - Fruitless Search
- Faith's Tenacity - Its Affirmation
- Faith's Tenacity - Conscious Integrity
- Fear's Trembling - The Persistence of God
- Fear's Trembling - The consequent Fear
- Fear's Trembling - The Darkness is not the Cause
- The Problem of God's Non-Interference
- The Complaint
- The Argument - Oppression is Permitted
- The Facts of Oppression
- The Fact of God's Non-Interference
- The Argument - Evil goes unpunished
- Description of evil men
- Their Punishment according to the Philosophy of his Friends
- The Facts concerning them
- The Challenge
B2.3.3 Bildad - 25:1-25:6
- Man in View of God's Government
- The Government of God - Essential
- The Government of God - Active
- The Government of God - Universl
- Man's Helplessness
- Man in View of God's Glory
- The Glories of Nature
- The Abasement of man
B2.3.4 Job's Answer - 26:1-26:14
- Scorn for Bildad
- His satire on Bildad's inability to help
- His two Demands
- His knowledge of God's Greatness
- Some Manifestations - The Underworld
- Some Manifestations - The Earth
- Some Manifestations - The Firmament
- The Hidden Greatness
B2.3.5 Job's Final Answer: A Pause - 27:1-31:40
- A Taunt in answer to the Silence - 27:1-27:23
- His Protestation of Innocence
- The Form of the Protest
- The Parenthesis
- The Protest
- His Taunting of His friends
- A Proposition
- The Admission - The Admission made
- The Admission - Their View emphasized
- A Meditation in View of the whole Problem - 28:1-28:28
- A Background of Illustration - The Mine
- A Place
- A Process
- The First Question
- The First Answer
- The Second Question
- The Second Answer - God Understandeth
- The Second Answer - Man's Answer
- A Memory of Past Prosperity
- Described - God
- Described - Children
- Described - Prosperity
- Described - Esteem
- The Secret declared - Benevolence
- The Secret declared - Administration of Justice
- The Consciousness described - Hope
- The Consciousness described - Strength
- The Dignity remembered - Respect
- The Dignity remembered - Confidence
- The Dignity remembered - Influence
- The Present Condition by Contrast
- The Base contemn him
- The First Answer
- The Consciousness
- The Reason of it
- The Description
- Justification of his Complaining
- Urged by his own past Action
- The Complaint made
- In Personal Life (Soberly)
- The Look of evil Desire
- The Act of Evil
- The prostituted Life
- Toward his Neighbour (Righteously)
- Toward his Servants
- Towards the Poor
- Toward God (Godly)
- The Final Protestation
- The Signature
- The Demand for Indictment
- The Last Declaration
- Justification of his Complaining
B3. The Last Voice - 32:1-37:24
B3.1 Introduction - 32:1-32:5
- The Silence of the Three
- The Anger of Elihu
B3.2 Preliminary - 32:6-33:7
- His Apology - The Reason of his Silence
- His Apology - The Reason of his Speech - Wisdom from God
- His Apology - The Reason of his Speech - The Failure of the Three
- His Apology - The Reason of his Speech - His own Conviction
- His Apology - The Method of his Speech
- His Appeal - The Appeal
- His Appeal - The Argument - Elihu's Sincerity
- His Appeal - The Argument - His relationship to Job
B3.3 Elihu Answer's Job - 33:8-35:16
- First Quotation and Answer - 33:8-34:4
- First Quotation
- Answer - General
- Answer - The Method of God - He speaks once, twice
- Answer - The Method of God - He chastens man
- The Summary and Appeal
- A pause
- An Appeal to Wise Men
- Two Quotations and Answers - 34:5-35:16
- The Two Quotations - The First
- The Two Quotations - The Second
- Answer to First Quotation - God cannot do Wicknedness
- Answer to First Quotation - His judgment based on perfect Knowledge
- Answer to First Quotation - It is Man's wisdom to learn and submit
- Answer to First Quotation - This, Job has not done
- Answer to Second Quotation - Re-statement of Job's Complaint
- Answer to Second Quotation - God unaffected by Man
- Answer to Second Quotation - Men are not heard because they cry amiss
- Answer to Second Quotation - The Charge against Job
B3.4 Elihu's Philosophy - 36:1-37:24
- The Place of Suffering - 36:1-36:25
- Appeal to Job
- The Purpose of pain
- The Righteous Government of God
- The Value of Suffering
- The Philosophy summarized
- Application to Job
- Re-affirmation of the Divine Purpose
- The Greatness of God - 36:26-37:13
- Manifestations of Greatness
- Disposition and Purpose of Storms
- Application to Job
- To Consider
- To know his Inability to know
- To know his Inability to do
- To know the Folly of Speech
- Re-affirmation of God's Majesty and Justice
PART C. THE DRAMA - CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND JOB - Job 38:1-42:6
C1 Jehovah - The First Unveiling - 38:1-39:30
- The Challenge of God - 38:1-38:4
- God and the Material Universe - Inanimate - 38:4-38:38
- The Earth - The Earth
- The Earth - The Sea
- The Earth - Daybreak
- The Earth - Deeps
- The Heavens - First Heaven (Atmospheric) - Light and Darkness
- The Heavens - First Heaven (Atmospheric) - Snow and Hail
- The Heavens - First Heaven (Atmospheric) - Storms
- The Heavens - First Heaven (Atmospheric) - Rain, Dew, Ice, Frost
- The Heavens - Second Heaven - (Stellar)
- The Government of the Heavens
- God and the Material Universe - Animal Creation - 38:39-39:30
- The Lion
- The Raven
- The Wild Goats and Hinds
- The Wild Ass
- The Wild Ox
- The Ostrich
- The Horse
- The Hawk and Eagle
- Interlude - 40:1-40:5
- Jehovah's Challenge
- Job's Answer
C2 Jehovah - The Second Unveiling - 40:6-41:34
- The Challenge of God - 40:6-40:14
- To Job's Criticism
- Call to Exercise Government
- Two Illustrations - Behemoth
- Two Illustrations - Leviathan
C3 Job's Answer - 42:1-42:6
- His Knowledg of God
- His Knowledge of himself
- His Repentance
EPILOGUE - Job 42:7-42:17
The Man Beyond the Process - 42:7-42:17
- The Prevailing Intercessor
- The Return of his Acquaintances
- The Prosperity - His Wealth
- The Prosperity - His Children
- The Prosperity - Length of Days
CHAPTER 2. PROLOGUE: JOB, HIS CHARACTER, FAMILY AND WEALTH - JOB 1:1-1:5
Two pictures stand, one at the opening and one at the close of the book, presenting Job in the midst of circumstances of prosperity.
In this first he is presented as to his character, his family, and his wealth; in all of which his greatness is apparent.
The language describing his character is simple and yet almost exhaustive in its suggestiveness of that high integrity which never fails to command respect. It is described as to manifestation and inspiration.
In outward manifestation he was perfect and upright, a description which indicates moral blamelessness rather than sinless perfection.
The inspiration of this integrity was that he "feared God and eschewed evil." The morality of Job was based on his religion, and was the necessary outcome thereof. This is the only root-principle out of which a strong and abiding morality ever growls.
The picture of Job in the midst of his family is full of beauty. He is revealed as rejoicing in his children; not attempting to stay their festivity, but entering into all the joy of it. His love for them was expressed in highest form in his solicitude for their character. As priest of his family he carried them upon his heart before God, lest by any chance in the midst of their festivity they should commit sin against Him.
Finally he is revealed as a man of great wealth and references to his possessions in subsequent parts of the book show that his wealth was rightly used.
In this picture of the man his greatness is described in the order of its importance; beginning with those moral and spiritual facts which resulted from his relationship to God; proceeding through tender and gracious attitudes and activities, which characterized his relationship to his family; and ending with a statement of the vastness of the wealth which he possessed, and in the use of which he demonstrated his greatness.
Thus the man stands before us, a strong and majestic figure, upright and tender, just and gracious; in the language of the chronicler, "the greatest of all the children of the east."
CHAPTER 3. PART A: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL: THE FIRST CYCLE - JOB 1:6-1:22
The main body of the book of Job dramatically sets forth three great controversies, in each of which the ultimate victory is on the side of right and truth.
The first is controversy between heaven and hell, concerning the earth. The spiritual forces of the universe are graphically revealed in their conflict concerning man.
In the second the controversy is between Job and his friends, in which is revealed the impossibility of understanding the things which appear, by the application to them of measurements which are wholly of time and sense.
In the last the controversy is between Jehovah and Job, in which the consciousness of the greatness of Jehovah is the means by which the triumph of trust is won in the experience of a man.
Controversy between Heaven and hell
This controversy falls into two cycles, the first of which concerns the possessions of Job; while the second has to do with his person.
The First Cycle
In this cycle there are two movements, the first being descriptive of a council in heaven; and the second of the consequent conflict on earth.
The Council in Heaven
The situation presented in this section is a most startling one. Heaven is seen in argument with hell about earth. God is heard speaking in defence of a man against Satan.
The assumption of the picture is that of the sovereignty of God over the whole universe, and angel messengers of the Most High are seen gathered to Him in awe-inspiring council. Among them is one, like them in nature, but wholly unlike them in character. He is named Satan, which literally means the Adversary.
When challenged by Jehovah in the words, "Whence comest thou?" his answer was characterized by the sob of a weird unrest, "From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it." That answer nevertheless revealed the fact that he had been moving within appointed limits. His presentation of himself among the angels of God was not that of an unwarranted or unexpected intrusion, but that rather of the compelling authority of the Most High, from which even he could not escape.
Thus we see the enthroned and authoritative Jehovah; and all angelic beings, both good and bad, compelled to appear before Him, and report to Him. This is a key to the whole book, and at once corrects all those loose ideas concerning Satan which characterize so much of our thinking. There are certain spheres in which the enemy is permitted to work out his malevolent purposes, but always under control.
This adversary, God challenged concerning His servant Job, and in so doing uttered the Divine estimate of the man. "Hast thou considered My servant Job? for there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil." The adversary's estimate was given in reply. "Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast not Thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land." That reply practically declared that the attitude of Job toward God was based on pure selfishness. According to Satan, if what Job possessed were taken from him, he would cease to be loyal to the throne of God.
This is one problem which the trials of Job are intended to answer for all time. From this moment in our study of the book we must remember that Job becomes a representative man in the economy of heaven.
Permission was given to the adversary to deal with the possessions of Job. Limits beyond which he would not be allowed to go were clearly stated. The person of the patriarch was not to be touched. In that permission are evidences of the Divine government, and of the Divine tenderness.
Conflict on Earth
The scene is changed, and the issue on earth of the council in heaven is manifest. The storm breaks in all its fury upon the head of Job. The conflict between the adversary and the servant of God proceeds. In one sense all the advantage seems to be with the former, for Job is powerless against his enemy up to a certain point. There is, however, an inner citadel which the enemy cannot touch.
Satan is revealed in startling light. His malice is seen in his choice of time. He strikes in the midst of prosperity. His persistence is manifest in the fact that he proceeds to the uttermost bound of the permission given. His limitation is evident in that he was not able to exceed that bound.
Job now stands before us, a pathetic and awful figure. Suddenly he has passed from abounding prosperity to abject poverty, and all but absolute bereavement. His answer to the sweeping of the storm is characterized by heroism and vast breadth of outlook. There was no affectation of stoicism. He was profoundly afflicted, and manifested it by all the outward signs of mourning.
In the midst of this, however, he turned again to the highest act of life, and bowed in reverential worship. His words were those of the profoundest philosophy. He recognized that man is more than the things which he gathers about him. The beginning and ending are in nakedness. His attitude was more than that of resignation. Discerning the government of Jehovah in bane, as well as in blessing, he lifted to Him, out of the midst of dire calamity, the sacrifice of praise. Thus the adversary's lie in the council of heaven was disproved.
CHAPTER 4. PART A: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL: THE SECOND CYCLE - JOB 2:1-2:10
The Second Cycle
In this cycle there are again the two movements of the previous one, namely first that of a council in heaven; and secondly that of consequent conflict on earth.
The Council in Heaven
Again the solemn council met, and again Satan was present. The Most High uttered the same estimate of His servant as before; but adding a word now which claimed victory for His servant Job in the conflict which had taken place. The adversary then declared that the limits which God had set, had hindered him in the accomplishment of his purpose. Though Job had triumphed over his loss of possessions he was not therefore proven loyal to God. The essential greatness of the man was unimpaired, because his own life had not been touched by weakness. Let him but come to consciousness of failing strength in his own personality, and renunciation of God would immediately ensue.
This is the devil's perpetual estimate of humanity; he affirms that flesh is supreme.
Here that view was argued in the courts of heaven as a slander against a trusting soul. Long centuries after, it was suggested in the loneliness of the wilderness to another Man. Evil at its fountain head holds degraded views of humanity, and when men can be persuaded to accept them, evil ensures the degradation which it postulates.
Once again he was permitted to attempt to prove his slander, but again the Divine limit was set to the sphere of his operation. The life of the man was to be held sacred.
Conflict on Earth
The adversary went forth to his terrible work, and we are immediately presented with the awful picture of the man of God weakened in his own personality by the unutterable misery of physical affliction.
In reverently looking at him in the midst of this suffering we must not forget the sorrow's of his heart resulting from the previous visitation. We see him now, therefore, overwhelmed with sorrows of mind and of body; and their combined strength buffeted him as with great wings of darkness.
To these almost overwhelming experiences there was now added the new and subtle attack of the sympathy of his wife. The word sympathy is used here with all care. Let no one who has never stood and watched the supreme object of love, stricken, smitten, and afllicted, cast one stone of accusation at this woman.
Rising superior to all the visitation, her love, utterly misguided it is true, counselled that he die by renouncing God. Such a suggestion from a foe would have been terrible. Its force was far greater when it came from the dearest one in life.
His answer was characterized by tenderness towards her, and yet by unswerving loyalty to God. As he had affirmed personality to be greater than possession, so now he demonstrated the strength of his own character by recognition of the sovereign right of God, and of the fact that the wisdom of man consists in his willingness to receive from the hand of God, not good and blessing and ease only, but evil and affliction and sorrow.
Here the adversary passes out of sight, never reappearing in the course of the book. He has done his dire and dreadful work. So far his slander is manifestly a lie.
In these movements the veil has been drawn aside for us, so that we may enter into the meaning of the sorrows of Job. It is important that we should remember, as we proceed, that all the controversy which follows resulted from the fact that neither Job nor his friends were aware of these conflicts in the heavenly places concerning him.
CHAPTER 5. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: THEIR COMING - JOB 2:11-3:26
Controversy Between Job and His Friends
In this controversy there are three divisions, the first giving an account of the coming of the friends of Job; the second describing the long conflict between them and him; and the third, introducing another speaker, whose voice is the last to which Job listened before the great Theophany.
This section tells the story of the coming of his friends, and of the pouring out of his soul in bitter lamentation to those whom he regarded as sympathetic listeners.
The darkest days for Job now began. In the clash of catastrophe there is always something of stimulus. The very shock and surprise of the strokes as they fall, create strength in which men triumph. It is in the brooding silence which enwraps the spirit afterwards, that the fiercest fight is waged. Into that silence and consequent strife, the patriarch now passed.
Of all those who had known him in the days of prosperity, who had shared the generosity of his hospitality, or who had been succoured by his benevolence, only three came to him in the day of his overwhelming calamity. They were joined presently by another, Elihu, the record leaving us in doubt as to whether he was one of those who had known Job in the earlier days, or had been a casual listener to the controversy between him and his friends.
The friends are named as "Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite." Beyond this we know nothing of them, save that Teman was one of the Edomite clans, and Shuah was a brother tribe to Midian. Of Naamah nothing is known.
The question is forced upon the mind as to where all those were who had sunned themselves in his prosperity. The inquiry reveals those human quantities in the story which create the power of its appeal to men of every successive age. Acquaintances are ever comrades of sunlit hours. It is only friends who gather round a sufferer in the days of darkness. While it is true that Job ultimately suffered more at the hands of these friends than by the attacks of the foe, it is nevertheless good to recognize that their coming was that of sympathy. They had evidently heard of his calamities, and they made a definite appointment to go to visit him, and the purpose of that visit is distinctly declared to be a detemination to bemoan him, and a desire to comfort him.
Very graphic is the description of the effect produced upon them by the sight of their friend. It is declared that when they saw him, they did not know him; and the intention is perfectly clear. It does not of course literally mean that they did not know who he was, but that he was so changed - and remembering the malady from which he was suffering, we may with perfect accuracy say that he was so disfigured - that it was difficult to believe that he was the man whom they had known in his strength and prosperity. They were overwhelmed, and employed all the Oriental signs of profound grief, as lifting up their voices, they wept, rending their mantles, and sprinkling dust upon their heads toward heaven.
The reality of their sympathy is most remarkably demonstrated by the fact that for seven days and nights they sat in his presence in unbroken silence. In overwhelming sorrow, true friendship invariably expresses itself more perfectly by silence than by speech.
It may be well also to remember that when presently their arguments caused him so much suffering, their friendship was still apparent in the fact that what they thought concerning him they said to him, rather than to others about him.
So far these men are wholly to be admired, and their failure presently was that of forgetting that - "There are more things in heaven and earth. Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
Their sincerity and honesty can never be called in question.
Silent sympathy always creates an atmosphere in which it is possible for grief to express itself. The bitter lamentation of Job was unquestionably a great relief to him, and was made possible by their sympathy. So far then, they were of real service to him. It is always infinitely better to speak out the dark questionings of the heart, than to brood over them in silence.
This lamentation is of the nature of a great cry for escape, rather than a description of the oppressing sorrows. In it there are three movements. The first consists of a terrible cursing of the day of his birth, and the night of his conception. The second consists of lamentation over the fact of his preservation. The last mourns his continued being, seeing he is in circumstances of such unceasing and irremedial sorrow. The whole is a great lamentation pulsing with pain, the cry of a man to whom his very life has become an almost intolerable burden.
Laments His Existence
Out of the midst of the present consciousness, he looked back to the day of his birth, and cursed it as a day of evil, sobbing out desires concerning it, which while impossible of fulfilment, did nevertheless show how profound and overwhelming his present sorrow was.
Thus meditating, his mind passed back to that earlier mystery of his conception, and in language throbbing with agony, involved it in the cursing pronounced upon the day of his birth.
Laments His Preservation
But such cursing was useless. His conception and his birth were facts from which there could be no escape. If then these could not be changed, why did he live, or why was he permitted to continue to live? In a series of questions, trembling with the tones of complaint, he mourned the tender care which had nourished and sustained him; and thought of the quietness which would have been his could he have ceased to be. Then he would have slept like kings and the great ones of the earth in the tombs which they build for themselves; or like princes who leave behind them their silver and their gold. In each of these figures there is a touch of satire in the contemplation of life. Its unrest was manifest in the case of the kings in the building of their tombs, and in the case of the princes in the very possession of gold and silver. Rest came to them when they passed within the tomb, and lost their possessions. He then employed another and more graphic figure. He would fain have escaped as an infant, which had never seen the light. All these are considered as having found release in death; and the passage which follows is full of beauty in its description of death as the place of quietness and rest, where all are free from the things that cause suffering in the midst of life.
Laments His Continued Being
Finally, again conscious that such lamentation is useless because death has not given him release, he mourned his continued being, challenging either the wisdom or the kindness, or both, of continuing life to one who is in circumstances of such unceasing and irremedial sorrow; a sorrow which he described as an experience from which there is no escape, as a mystery which overwhelms the spirit, and as a troubled restlessness which finds no relief.
A contrast of this threefold lamentation with the words which Job uttered after the first and second cycles of conflict in the first division of the book show that his unrest was becoming more pronounced as pain invaded the deeper things of his personality. When at the close of the first onslaught of the enemy he was bereft of all possessions, he had affirmed his sense of the greatness of personality, and his abiding conviction of the goodness of the Divine government. At the close of the second onslaught, even in the presence of the insidious suggestion of his wife, he still revealed his sense of the government of God over good and evil.
In this lamentation it is evident that these convictions were shaken. The terrible nature of the suffering which he endured had created a lower sense of the value of his own life. Instead of the dignified, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither," we have the cursing of the day of his birth.
His conviction of the goodness of the Divine government was weakened. Instead of the restful, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away," we have a troubled lament in which he sighed for the quietness of death.
His assurance of the government of God over good and evil was shaken. Instead of the inquiry, "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" there was the bitter inquiry, "Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery?"
The whole lamentation breathes the consciousness of pain, and of mystery, and is an almost tumultuous cry for escape.
CHAPTER 6. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 1ST CYCLE: ELIPHAZ - JOB 4:1-5:27
In this second section of the division we have the actual account of the long controversy between Job and his three friends. It falls into three cycles. As we proceed, the details in each case will be manifest. It is well, however, that the main value of each should be stated at once.
In the first cycle Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar declared that God is righteous, that He punishes the wicked, and blesses the good. Job answered these arguments by declaring that his own experience proved their falsity; he was righteous, and yet afflicted.
In the second cycle, while holding strenuously to the positions advanced in the first, they narrowed the application by declaring that it is the wicked who are afflicted. This Job answered again, out of his own experience, by affirming that the righteous are also afflicted; and, by observation, that the wicked are not always afflicted.
In the third cycle, still adhering to the positions already taken up, their words were personal as they declared that Job had sinned, and therefore suffered. In this case his answer was that of a solemn protestation of innocence.
The First Cycle
In this cycle each of the three friends spoke to Job, and was answered by him. They spoke to one general proposition, that God is righteous, and prospers the just, and punishes the wicked. A method is manifest in the movement in that in the speech of Eliphaz the principle is declared, in that of Bildad it is illustrated, and in that of Zophar it is applied.
The speech of Eliphaz falls into three parts; an introduction; a statement of his philosophy; and his consequent advice to Job.
Before listening to the speech of Eliphaz it is well to refresh the memory as to the circumstances in the midst of which Job listened to them. As a result of the long series of catastrophes through which he had passed, he was a pauper, bereft of his children, broken in health, and overwhelmed with mystery. The one ray of light in the midst of the darkness had been that of the coming of his friends, and their long and sympathetic silence. This silence had given him the opportunity of pouring out his soul in lamentation. So far as he knew, there was nothing to be done, and nothing more to be said. He waited in the centre of desolation.
The approach of Eliphaz is characterized by courtesy, but it lacks warmth. Evidently recognizing the difficulty and delicacy of his task, his first words were in the form of a question which is of the nature of apology. This however was immediately followed by another question in which he practically declared that it was impossible to remain silent. He then confessed his amazement at what he felt was a manifestation of failure on the part of Job. The man who had instructed and strengthened and upheld and confirmed others in hours of trouble, was weak and craven in the midst of his own calamities. He then appealed to him that his fear of God should be his confidence, and the integrity of his ways his hope. It is to be noticed that this appeal is in the form of a question, and contains the suggestion that the absence of confidence demonstrates failure in the fear of God, and absence of hope indicates lack of integrity. This, as a matter of fact, is the argument which he would now elaborate. In the introduction of his speech it is thus hinted at only.
The Philosophy Stated
In brief words Eliphaz states and illustrates his philosophy. The statement is in the form of a proposition interrogatively expressed. Positively it may thus be stated; Those who perish are not innocent; the upright are never cut off. The accuracy of his proposition he then argued by illustration, and he added force to his illustration by the fact that he declared it was the result of his observation. Suffering is God's punishment of wickedness, a harvest for which there must have been a previous sowing. Making the lion the symbol of fierceness in wickedness, he affirmed his conviction that the judgment of God was inevitable on such. To this man it was unthinkable that there could be suffering which did not result from sin, and this is the essence of his philosophy.
Eliphaz then turned aside in order to describe a spiritual experience through which he had passed. It is well first to examine it, and then to inquire why he referred to it at this point.
It is the story of a night vision. The phrase of which he made use, "a deep sleep," is only found in three other instances in the Old Testament, and in each case it is used in connection with some vision, or wonderful working of God. He proceeded to describe his experiences while in this condition. He was first conscious of a presence which he described as "spirit" or "breath." While conscious of a form, he was unable to describe the appearance of the presence. Filled with fear by the vision, he heard a voice, and the supreme purpose of Eliphaz in speaking to Job was to tell him what this voice had said. He unveiled his own deepest spiritual experience in order to carry conviction to Job, both of his honesty, and of his certainty that his philosophy was right. With the mystic presence which filled all his nature with a sense of fear, we need not tarry. The great message was that of the purity of God, and the sin and failure of man.
This view explains the reason why Eliphaz told Job of the vision and the voice. In all probability he had seen on the face of his friend, in spite of his statement of philosophy, and indeed as the result of it, a resentment against the application. Job's attitude towards his argument was that of scorn. He sat overwhelmed and almost crushed by suffering, and yet with a bearing which assumed his integrity, and suggested his determination to vindicate his character against anything which should be said. In order to combat that attitude, Eliphaz speaks of that spiritual experience, through which he had come to the consciousness of sin.
Proceeding, Eliphaz asked Job to whom he would appeal, to which of the holy ones; that is as against the truth which he had declared, or in defence of himself in the light thereof. Admitting that he had seen the foolish prosper, he declared that ultimately they had been overwhelmed, and his description of the desolation falling upon them coincided with the experiences through which Job himself had but recently passed. Here also it is impossible to escape the conviction that Eliphaz was looking at Job as he uttered these words, and connecting what he saw of anger and of vexation, with what he had heard in the revelation of the night. Job had become irritable, and Eliphaz traced the irritability to his folly. In the light of evident guilt, vexation and jealousy such as Job was manifesting constitute such sin as must produce final undoing.
His attempted explanation of the meaning of suffering, Eliphaz then crystallized into proverbial form.
"Affliction cometh not forth of the dust,
Neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;
But man is born unto trouble,
As the sparks fly upward."
There is the cause for affliction and for trouble. When Eliphaz declared that "man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward," he did not mean that trouble comes to man as surely as sparks fly upward, for as a matter of fact sparks do not always fly upward. He rather intended to declare that wherever sparks are seen, they demonstrate the fact of fire, so that if you see men suffering trouble, you may know there is reason for it. As sparks flying upward demonstrate the fact of flre, so the trouble of a man demonstrates the fact of sin.
The Advice Given
Eliphaz finally gave his advice to Job by telling him what he would do under similar circumstances. He would remit his case to God entirely. This declaration is followed by a passage of great beauty, in which he speaks of the faithfulness and the might of the Most High in such terms as make it evident that he was a man devout and earnest, who himself had practical experience of the life of fellowship with God.
His second word of advice was one in which he urged Job to submit himself to the chastisements of the Lord, and in order to persuade his friend to such action, described the confidence and ultimate deliverance and restoration which would come to him if his trust were in God.
Thus Eliphaz, with consideration and courtesy, declared his philosophy. He was convinced that Job's sorrows were the result of something in Job, and therefore he would be well advised to submit his case to Him, and to value his suffering as the chastening of God. It was all generally true, but short-sighted. He had no knowledge of the counsels in the spiritual world, or of how great the dignity of that man is, in whose life God works out into human history the settlement of some great question. The mistake of Eliphaz consisted in his attempt to press all things into the compass of his philosophy, and his forgetfulness of the fact that:
"There are more things in heaven and earth,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
CHAPTER 7. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 1ST CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO ELIPHAZ - JOB 6:1-7:21
To this address of Eliphaz, Job's answer moves in three sections. The first is a reply in general terms to the charge preferred. The second is a reply to his friend, and is of the nature of a complaint that he and those associated with him have failed in friendship. The third is a lamentation which merges into a complaint against God, Whose dealing he cannot understand.
His Reply to the Charge
Job's reply to the charge was a protest against the method of Eliphaz. As a matter of fact he did not reply to the deduction which the argument of Eliphaz suggested, but rather to the charge he definitely made of unreasonableness and folly manifest in his lamentation. Eliphaz had used terms of strange condemnation. Job declared in effect that he was unable to understand the cry, because he did not know the pain. He admitted his vexation, but claimed that vexation and calamity should be set over against each other, poised in fair balances. If this were done, the calamity would be fouud to be so heavy as to excuse even the rashness of his speech. The problem of the attitude of God toward him was the most terrible fact in all that he suffered.
This position he defended by illustrations. Animals do not complain without a cause. The wail is always evidence of a want. The wild ass does not bray when he has grass, nor the ox low over his fodder. His circumstances were like insipid and loathsome food.
Again his sorrows seemed to surge upon his soul, and he sighed for death, because he felt that his strength was not equal to the strain placed upon him. He defended his desire by declaring that death would not be troubled by an accusing conscience. Why should he be patient? His strength was not the strength of stones, nor was his flesh of brass.
His Reply to his Friends
Continuing his answer out of the hot anger of pain, and in the belief that his pain justified his complaint, he turned upon his friends in words that thrill with satire and flame in reproach. He had expected kindness, but was disappointed. The proof of a friend is kindness in the hour of distress, even though the distress is the result of moral failure. In the day of calamity his friends had failed him, and he illustrated this failure by the forceful figure of the brook which in the day of heat evaporates, and leaves the travellers unrefreshed. In this figure there would seem to be reference not merely to the attitude of Eliphaz, but to that attitude as a culminating cruelty. His eyes were wandering back to olden days, and he spoke of his friends as "my brethren," likening them to the brook to which he turned in days of distress, only to find them failures in respect of that refreshment of which he stood in such sore need. In an outburst of agonized disappointment he declared,
"... Ye are nothing;
Ye see a terror, and are afraid."
This satire became reproach as he suggested that their cruelty was the more manifest in that he had not asked them for a present, for deliverance, or for redemption. Their coming had been gratuitous, and their failure to help him was consequently the more disappointing.
Finally the reproach merged into a fierce demand that instead of generalization and allusion there should be definiteness in the charges made against him. His plea was that they should cause him to understand wherein he had erred, and he protested against the folly of their method in reproving words which were the speech of a desperate man. This of course was exactly what Eliphaz had done. His whole reproof had been the result of the attitude of mind he had detected in Job as he listened to his lamentation.
He expressed his anger as he poured his scorn upon them, declaring that they would cast lots upon the fatherless, and make merchandise of their friend. His last words concerning his friends were those of a passionate plea for justice.
There is a majesty in the impatience of Job with the men who philosophized in the presence of agony; and it is impossible to read without a consciousness of profound sympathy with the suffering man.
His Complaint to Jehovah
Without waiting for their reply, Job broke out into a new lamentation which was more bitter than the first. The note of despair is deeper, and the daring is greater. This is to be accounted for by the fact that it came out of a heart whose sorrow was aggravated by the misunderstanding of friends. Indeed, its very strength was a new protest against the only open charge which Eliphaz had made, that namely, of foolishness in complaining at all. In this lamentation there are two movements; first, a complaint concerning the stress and misery of life; and secondly, a complaint addressed directly to God.
As to the misery of life, he described its hard conditions. Its toil is strenuous, and under compulsion. Indeed, it is a warfare. A man is a hireling, a servant, whose labour issues in nothing. His experience is that of perpetual suffering without relief. Even his rest is disturbed by tossings, and an oppressing consciousness of the length of the night. That the description is personal is proved by his reference to the terrible disease from which he was suffering.
Nothing is satisfying, for nothing is lasting; and Job piled figure on figure to emphasize this fact; a weaver's shuttle, wind, the glance of an eye, the vanishing cloud. There is absolutely no ray of hope in this outlook on life.
He therefore proceeded to utter his complaint, not only concerning the misery of life, but directly against God. It is a determined complaint. "I will not refrain ... I will speak ... I will complain." He appealed against his suffering on the ground of his harmlessness, his littleness, and urged it even though it were true that he had sinned. As to the first, he inquired whether he was a seamonster. As to the second, he declared that his days were vanity. As to the third, he suggested that even if he had sinned, he did not harm God.
How terribly the vision of God was blurred in these days of suffering is manifest as he cried out that God would let him alone, and demanded why he must be tried every moment. It is such a cry and complaint as none can understand who has not passed into some sorrow equally severe. Those tempted to criticism of the attitude of the man should remember that God patiently bore and waited, knowing that at the back of the complaint there was an unshaken confidence, even though for a moment the surfaces were swept wath hurricanes of doubt, blowing up out of the darkness.
In the lamentation which he had uttered in answer to the sympathetic silence of his friends there were the evidences of the shaking of his convictions concerning the dignity of his personality, his relation to Deity, and his sense of the government of God over good and evil.
In this answer to Eliphaz the first is altogether lost, life is valueless; the second is an acute problem, he cannot understand his relation to Deity; the third he seems still to accept intellectually, but he is in rebellion against it as a tyranny.
All this is due to the limitation of his knowledge of God, and the remembrance of this will help to explain the method of God with him in the ultimate movements of the book.
CHAPTER 8. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 1ST CYCLE: BILDAD - JOB 8:1-8:22
The speech of Bildad is that of a man who is in agreement with the philosophy of Eliphaz. There is greater directness in it than in that of his friend. By comparison it lacks in courtesy, but gains in force. He seems to ignore the attack which Job has made upon his friends. The inference of Job's reply to Eliphaz was that God was unjust in His dealings with him. Bildad's address is a protest against this inference, and constitutes an illustration of the principle which Eliphaz had declared.
By means of a series of questions he vehemently uttered his protest against the idea that it is possible for God to be unjust; and proceeded to make a very direct application by assuming that the death of Job's children was the result of their transgression, and that his own consciousness of the silence of God, and all the evil that had befallen him, were the result of the fact that he himself lacked purity and uprightness. The underlying conviction of Bildad that God is never unjust was perfectly true. The declaration of it could bring no comfort to Job because, so far as he was concerned, his conscience was perfectly clear of the charges suggested. The logical sequence seemed to be faultless. God is never unjust. Suffering results from sin. Job suffers; therefore Job has sinned. The facts were, Job was perfect and upright; Job suffered. To him therefore, the argument of Bildad brought no relief, but rather aggravation of his, problem.
In the second movement Bildad attempted to emphasize his view by an argument which may be summarized in the brief statement; The wicked are always punished. He suggested to Job that he should make his appeal to the past, to the testimony of the fathers; and then proceeded himself to make that appeal. It is quite probable that the passage which immediately follows (verses eleven to nineteen) is made up of quotations from the writings of the fathers, with all of which Job would be familiar. They fall into two sections.
The first declares the instability of godlessness. As the rush cannot grow without mire, or the flag without water, so man cannot succeed without God. The quick withering of rush or flag demonstrates lack of that which is essential to development; so also the calamity of a man is proof of his forgetfulness of God.
The second section declares the uselessness of false confidence. Nothing in which a man trusts, apart from God, is suflacient to secure his stability.
Immediately following this argument by quotation Bildad summarized in one brief statement the two facts which he had been illustrating; First, that God is never unjust; and secondly, that the wicked are always punished:
"God will not cast away a perfect man,
Neither will He uphold the evil-doers."
The address closes with an expression of hope concerning Job.
Thus in the speech of Bildad the same view is evident as in that of Eliphaz, namely, that God is righteous, and prospers the just and punishes evil. No charge was made against Job. He was left to make his own deduction and application. Nevertheless, in the references to the death of his children, and to his own suffering, the method of Bildad approaches nearer positive accusation than that of Eliphaz.
CHAPTER 9. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 1ST CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO BILDAD - JOB 9:1-10:22
The reply of Job falls into two parts. The first is an answer to Bildad; and the second an appeal to God.
His Answer to Bildad
In replying to Bildad, he first admitted the truth of the general proposition; and then revealed his problem in a question; proceeding to discuss it in the light of his own suffering.
The admission made in the words,
"Of a truth I know that it is so,"
had reference in all probability to the summarized and inclusive statement of principle contained in the words,
"God will not cast away a perfect man,
Neither will He uphold the evil-doers."
Job had no quarrel whatever with the view of the absolute integrity of God. His difficulty lay in another direction, and in the statement of his problem he made perfectly clear what that difficulty was.
His Great Question
Admitting the consciousness of God, he inquired,
"How can a man be just with God?"
Notwithstanding the way in which this passage is constantly quoted, it is of the utmost importance that we recognize that it was not a confession of a sense of guilt on the part of Job. The whole reason of the controversy consisted in the fact that, with perfect and splendid honesty, Job refused to make any such confession, because he had no such conviction. The real meaning of the question is, How can a man prove his justice in contention with God? Job was simply overwhelmed with the sense of the greatness of God, and declared that even if a man might attempt to argue his case with God, the legal contest would be unfair, because man could not answer one in a thousand of the questions which God could ask. As we proceed to consider his defence of this position, we shall discover that he himself could not understand his suffering in the light of his innocence, and his difficulty at the moment was that of his conviction of the uselessness of attempting to argue his case with God.
This supreme difficulty he emphasized in the remarkable words which follow, in the first movement of which he described the wisdom and the greatness of Jehovah, and in the second his own hopelessness and helplessness.
It is useless for a man to contend with God, because of the wisdom of His heart and the might of His strength. The question,
"Who hath hardened himself against Him, and prospered?"
does not suggest the impotence of rebellion, but the folly of contention.
In a passage full of power he then described the might of God. In the bitterness of his soul his consciousness of that might was that of a terrific and overwhelming force, before which everything had to bend. This he illustrated by reference to earthquakes and storms, to the eclipse of the sun, to the wonders of the sky and sea, and to the whole stellar system. It is interesting at once to note that some of the very illustrations which Job made use of in speaking of the strength of God, God Himself appealed to later, in the great Theophany. For the moment, however, this sense of the strength of God brought no comfort to the man, but filled his heart with terror, because he saw it set in contrast to his own weakness rather than co-operative with it.
God, moreover, is invisible. His presence is an awful fact, but Himself is neither seen nor known.
And yet again. He is invincible. There is absolutely no hope of successfully opposing such strength, and therefore it is useless for any man to attempt to be just, that is, to contend with Him concerning the problems of his life.
Still discussing the problem. Job turned from his contemplation of the overwhelming greatness of Jehovah to the consideration of his own condition; and his hopelessness is at once manifest in his declaration that even if he had a right of access, he dare not avail himself of it. In stating this he spoke from the supposition that he was a sinner, granting for a moment the conclusion to which his friends had attempted to force him. But he said, that if he were righteous, he could not answer; and even affirmed that if having called, God had answered him, he could not believe that the speech was really an answer to his voice. The odds against him he conceived to be overwhelming. He could not believe that God would have patience with him, and his very attempt to prove his case before God would only issue in condemnation.
Then suddenly he affirmed his innocence; and thus answered the philosophy of Eliphaz and Bildad by denying it, when he declared,
"He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked."
All the injustice of earth's rule is therefore inevitable, and he did not hesitate to describe the universe as existing in conditions characterized by injustice. His argument did inferentially charge all this upon God, and as though he in his turn saw in the faces of his friends their recognition of this, he inquired,
"If it be not He, who then is it?"
It may safely be asserted that here Job touched the lowest level. For a moment at least he appears as a man at war with God. While in subsequent argument he will break out into lamentations which reveal the intense agony through which he passes, over and over again out of the depths will come cries revealing the deeper and better things of his faith.
His hopelessness was due to the fact that for the time being he had lost a true sense of God, and therefore his overwhelming consciousness was that of helplessness. His days swept by him devoid of good. If he should attempt to rise and determine on cheerfulness he would be afraid of his sorrows, because he was convinced that he could not prove his innocence before God.
The final word of his reply to Bildad is one standing in close relation to his statement of the problem. A man cannot be just with God, because God is not a man; and therefore man is unable, at least to his own satisfaction, to state his case before God. Out of his agony and perturbation he gave expression to what is the supreme need of all men in the words,
"There is no daysman betwixt us,
That might lay his hand upon us both."
This cry of an afflicted man out of the depths of his own consciousness of need is full of force in the light of that Incarnation whereby the Daysman was provided Who was able to lay His hand on God and on man.
His Appeal to God
The answer to Bildad now merged into an appeal to God. This in itself is a remarkable revelation of the underlying strength of this man's confidence in God. Notwithstanding all that he had said of the impossibility of being just with God, of pleading his own cause with Him, he proceeded to do it. It is impossible to escape the conviction that his belief in God and conception of Him were greater than he himself knew. Turning from his answer to Bildad, he poured out his agony as in the presence of the Most High; and he did this deliberately, and with determination, as is evidenced by the thrice-repeated "I will." The appeal was by no means a hopeful one, but it was nevertheless an appeal. Intellectually he was convinced of the uselessness of attempting to contend with God, but his will refused to be the bond-slave of that intellectual conception, and answered the inspiration of his heart.
"I will give free course to my complaint;
I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
I will say unto God."
Having thus come to determination, he poured out his soul in a series of questions. He asked why God should contend with him? Did God delight in what He was doing? Was God's vision faulty as man's, so that He could not really see? Were God's days, and years brief, that He was afraid Job might escape Him? His last inquiry he argued at length. God had made him. Why did He destroy him? This thought he carried out in detail, describing his creation, and recognizing the graciousness of past dealings with him; and then the terrible afflictions through which he had passed, and his own inability to plead his cause.
These questions throb with pain, and tell the story of anguish more forcibly than would have been possible in any other way. The spectacle is one full of grandeur. It is that of a man buffeted, broken, bruised; unconscious of any deflection from the path of rectitude in his own life; overwhelmed pre-eminently with the problem of the Divine relation to his suffering; intellectually convinced that he has no ability to argue his case, and yet uttering it all in the presence of God. He had no praise to offer, no song to sing, but even though he did not believe that he could prevail, one refuge was left to him. It was that of complaining, and he did it to God.
On the basis of these questions and this complaint he made an appeal to God. Protesting against his being and preservation, he besought that God would let him alone a little, that he might have brief respite ere he passed into death. The deepening of his anguish is clearly seen in the darkness of his description of death. On a previous occasion he had thought of death as of a land of rest and cessation, but now even that had its terrors for him. It is a land of darkness, of thick darkness, devoid of order; and what he supremely craved was some respite ere he passed from the oppressing sorrows of life into the dark disorder of death.
If in our contemplation of Job we are tempted to criticize him, it is well that we should remember that in the whole book God lays no charge against His servant. Terrible things are these which he uttered concerning God, but he was honest. There was no dissimulation, no hypocrisy.
CHAPTER 10. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 1ST CYCLE: ZOPHAR - JOB 11:1-11:20
When Job ceased, Zophar, the last of the three friends, answered him. His method was characterized by even greater bluntness than that of Bildad. Indeed, there is a roughness and a directness in what he said not to be discovered in the addresses of Eliphaz and Bildad. This may be accounted for by the fact that Zophar was a man of an entirely different temperament, or by the fact that Job had now with greater definiteness and daring, denied their philosophy by affirming his innocence. His address consists of a stern and direct rebuke; a passage full of beauty in which he declared the unsearchableness of God; an indication of the way of restoration; and a final warning.
He first affirmed the necessity for answering "the multitude of words," by describing Job as a man "full of talk," or more literally, "a man of lips." This was a blunt and almost rude description of Job, showing Zophar's contempt for all he had said; and he declared that his boastings could not silence his friends. His charge against him was expressed in the words,
"Thou sayest, My doctrine is pure,
And I am clean in Thine eyes."
While these declarations are not to be found in these actual words in the speeches of Job already recorded, the spirit of them is found in the words used in his reply to Bildad,
"I am perfect";
and in his appeal to God,
"Thou knowest that I am not wicked."
He then expressed the wish that God would reveal to Job the secrets of wisdom, and affirmed his conviction that if He did, Job would discover that all his suffering was less than his iniquity.
The Unsearchable God
Job had affirmed the wisdom of God, and yet evidently to the mind of Zophar his whole argument had called it in question. Therefore in a passage which ranks as one of the finest in the whole book, he reaffirmed the wisdom of God, and declared His absolute knowledge of men. This wisdom he described as unfathomable, so that no man could know it unto perfection. Moreover it is universal, including the whole creation, which Zophar figuratively described as bounded by the heavens and by Sheol. Moreover this wisdom is administrative, for judgment is based upon knowledge.
Man's Way of Restoration
He then declared the way of restoration for sinning man to be that of the putting away of iniquity, through doing which he would escape from suffering and enter into rest.
The last word is one of warning which stands in perfect contrast to the hopeful tone of the preceding paragraph.
This whole speech is practically a restatement of the same philosophy as that of Eliphaz and Bildad. Zophar still argued from the suffering of Job to his sin. Nevertheless his argument has in it more of consideration and tenderness than any of the others, in that while he insisted upon the same general idea he did admit that Job may not have been conscious of his sin. He declared, however, that it must be there, and that he should cast himself upon the wisdom of God, which knew better than he. Zophar said the hardest thing which had yet been said in declaring that if he knew his sin, he would discover it to be more than his suffering. Nevertheless, if he were rough in manner, his desire and hope of Job were manifest; for his description of the prosperity which would come if Job set his heart aright, is longer, and more full of beauty than that either of Eliphaz or Bildad.
CHAPTER 11. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 1ST CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO ZOPHAR - JOB 12:1-14:22
Job's final reply in the first cycle was to the whole argument rather than to Zophar's application thereof. From beginning to end it thrills with sarcasm, as he strenuously maintained his denial of personal guilt. The address falls into three sections, in the first of which he dealt with his friends by way of rebuke; in the second affirmed his personal determination; and in the last made a direct appeal to God.
As to his Friends. A Rebuke
In the first movement Job treated with profound contempt the interpretation of God which the three had attempted; claiming to know more of Him than they did. This falls into two parts, in the first of which he rebuked them, and in the second showed his knowledge of God.
His first words revealed his utter contempt for them as in biting sarcasm he said,
"No doubt but ye are the people,
And wisdom shall die with you,"
and declared that he also had understanding, and was in no way inferior to them; indicating that the things they had said were commonplaces, which all men knew. He then evidenced his contempt for them as he described their contempt for him. He charged them with having made a laughing-stock of him, who had had fellowship with God, and was just in character.
The Claim of Knowledge
Turning then to the discussion of the things which they had emphasized concerning God, he declared that their vaunted knowledge was that of things self-evident. The beasts, and the fowls of the air, the earth, and the fishes were acquainted with these things, and able to teach man. It was knowledge of the simplest that all these things were the works of God, and that He sustained them. Moreover, this God is manifestly active in the universe, and His wisdom is unquestioned.
In a passage full of passion and force he described the working of God, in the natural world; among the great men of the earth, counsellors and judges, kings and princes, both eloquent and governing; and consequently amid the nations themselves increasing and destroying, uplifting and degrading.
Up to this point there is no attempt to answer the charge which they have formulated against him, or to show the falsity of their philosophy. Zophar had spoken as though their superior knowledge of God had given them an advantage over him, and made them, sure that the suffering of Job could only be accounted for by the fact of sin. The first stage in his reply was that of pouring contempt upon them in view of the fact that he also knew God, and claiming that his knowledge of Him was superior to theirs.
As to Himself. A Determination
Continuing his answer. Job seems to have passed from the overwhelming consciousness of the contemptible attitude of these men, to that of all their arguments meant to him personally; and in the next section he affirmed his determination to appeal to God. This he first declared as an intention then addressed himself to his friends once more, finally preparing himself to make his appeal.
His Intention to appeal to God
Restating in summarized form that which he had argued at length, that his knowledge was not inferior to theirs, Job declared that he made his appeal from them to God.
His Warning to his Friends
His contempt for his friends in their attitude toward him knew no bounds. Describing them as "forgers of lies" and "physicians of no value," he proceeded to turn their own argument back upon themselves. They had declared that God is righteous, and that He visits men according to their deeds. They had been speaking unrighteously for God, and talking deceitfully for Him, and he suggested that by so doing they had been respecting His person, or, as the margin renders it, showing Him favour.
He then suggested to them whether they would care for God to search them out in the deepest of their motives, and declared that they must be prepared to accept His judgment upon themselves.
His impeachment of them was that their judgment was warped by partiality for God, and he declared that God Himself would refuse to accept their defence.
He dismissed their arguments as being utterly worthless when he declared,
"Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes."
The reference here to "memorable sayings" was almost certainly to the quotation of the sayings of the ancients which had occurred in the speech of Bildad, all of which had no application to him. The defences of God which they had set up he described as "defences of clay," that is, they were easily broken down, and therefore worthless.
His Preparation for Appeal
Charging them to hold their peace, and to let him alone, he announced his determination to speak, whatever the issue might be. Recognizing the difficulty of his adventure, he nevertheless committed himself thereto irrevocably, especially in the words,
"Though He slay me, yet will I wait for Him:
Nevertheless I will maintain my ways before Him."
Again, notwithstanding the translation of this passage with which we are familiar in the Authorized Version, and the constant use which has been made of it, there can be no question that the change is vindicated by the whole context.
In previous addresses he had declared the impossibility of being just with God, that is, of contending his cause before Him; and now, when about to speak out of his soul in language of direct appeal, he was conscious that the issue might be his destruction. Nevertheless, finding no help in his friends, and being in extremity, he determined to take every risk, and to deal with God Himself.
Having uttered this word of supreme determination, he immediately declared that he found some comfort in the conviction that the godless cannot be heard. He then again turned to his friends, and appealed to them to listen, that his declaration might be in their ears. Re-affirming his innocence, he prepared himself to die in the attempt he was about to make; and then before making his actual appeal to God, he urged two conditions; first, that God would withdraw His hand from him, by which he meant to ask, as he had done once before, for a respite from affliction; and secondly, that He would not make him afraid by His terror, that is, by the majesty of His appearing. These things being granted, he declared that he was ready to maintain his cause. Either God should call, and he would answer; or he would speak, and God should answer.
As to God. An Appeal
After these preliminary matters the speech of Job became a direct appeal to God. There are five distinct movements in it. The first asked a declaration of his sins. The second described the transitoriness of life, and pleaded for pity. The third emphasized the endlessness of death, and affirmed its hopelessness. The fourth was parenthetical, and consisted of a remarkable question of hope. The fifth stood in immediate contrast, as it described the sadness of his present condition.
What are my Sins?
It is evident that the charges which his friends had made against him were causing him acute suffering. Having turned from them to God, he asked that He would reveal to him what his sins really were. In graphic and almost terrible language he described God's dealing with him as being that of unceasing affliction. In passing, he seemed to admit his consciousness of the iniquities of his youth, and the suggestion was evidently that in his mind the afflictions which he endured were far in excess of such iniquities. Therefore he asked to know for what sins he was thus made to suffer.
Man's Transitory Life
He then seemed to take a more general outlook. The life of man is ever transitory, and full of trouble. This he affirmed should be a reason why God should pity him, and allow him to work out the brief period of its duration in quietness. Here he admitted the uncleanness of human nature, and inquired whether it was possible to bring a clean thing out of an unclean one. If in this sense the transitoriness and suffering of man's life resulted from sin, then he appealed for forbearance, and argued that man should be permitted to finish his days as a hireling. All this shows that Job believed that his sufferings were far in excess of the ordinary sufferings of humanity.
The Endlessness of Man's End
These thoughts of the brevity of life led naturally to a contemplation of its end, and there Job saw no ray of light. He declared that there is hope for a tree that it will bud again, but he detected none for man. Man dying is placed in the earth, and none returns again as does the tree. Yet even in this dark outlook there is an affirmation and a question not to be forgotten.
"Man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?"
He was contemplating death on the side of the physical, and there was no hope as there was in the case of a tree. Yet dying meant giving up the spirit, and in the presence of that thought he was simply agnostic — "Where is he?"
The Parenthetical and Hopeful Question
This dark outlook on death seems to have created in the mind of Job a question of wonder and surmise. If it were possible that he could be hidden in Sheol, the unknown world of departed spirits, and there kept until God's wrath were passed; if it were possible that in spite of the physical hopelessness of death, a man should live; then he declared, if these things were so, he would endure through all the days of warfare. It is only a gleam of light, but it is full of brilliance. In the hour of supreme and appalling depression, when this man had lost all anchorage except that of despairing determination to appeal to God, there flamed up, as in a vision, another view of life. It faded immediately, but the fact that it had shined was in itself a wonder and a glory, and had he known it, a sure evidence of a deeper truth concerning himself and God than even his boasted knowledge of Him had formulated.
The contrasting Present Condition
It was but a gleam of light, and quickly the contrasting darkness settled again upon the outlook of the man. There still, to his thinking, was God, numbering his steps, and declining to declare to him the sin which his friends had affirmed to be the reason of his suffering. All the foundations seemed to be destroyed, and with them hope. The whole answer ended in a wail of despair, in the language of utter hopelessness.
Thus ends the first cycle in the controversy between Job and his friends. In the course of it these men have with differing emphases propounded the one general philosophy that God is righteous, and punishes the wicked while He blesses the good. They have left Job to make the personal application, but they have left him no loophole of escape from the application which their philosophy suggests. They believed that all his suffering was the result of his sin, and that its continuity and overwhelming nature were due to his stubborn refusal to acknowledge it and put it away.
To this philosophy Job replied in every case by opposing facts to arguments. He consistently declared that he was not wicked but just, and yet he was afflicted. He did not suggest any solution of the problem; indeed, his most acute suffering was caused by the problem; and while refusing to accept their interpretation, he was full of agony because he had none to suggest in the place of theirs; and at last in desperation he made his appeal for interpretation, from his friends, to God.
CHAPTER 12. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 2ND CYCLE: ELIPHAZ - JOB 15:1-15:35
The Second Cycle
In this cycle the three friends again spoke to Job, and were answered by him. All they had to say was in exposition and attempted application of the same philosophy, but in this cycle the emphasis is narrower, and the intention more direct. The three speeches in different ways affirmed that it is the wicked who are afflicted.
The speech of Eliphaz falls into two parts, the first being a stern rebuke of Job; and the second a new statement of truth.
A Stern Rebuke of Job
It is at once evident that Job's answers had wounded Eliphaz. He protested against his scorn, and resented his assumption of knowledge. His rebuke was threefold, and consisted of a criticism of his manner; a criticism of his claim to wisdom; and a criticism of his attitude toward God.
Criticism of his Manner
Eliphaz charged Job with using mere words as arguments, and thereby of course asserted that he had not replied satisfactorily to the argument his friends had advanced. He practically affirmed that it was useless to attempt to reason by rhetoric.
That, however, had not been the principal defect in his manner, seeing that it had been that of unwarranted boldness, characterized by absence of reverence in the presence of God. In this connection, with greater directness than he had employed in his first address, he charged Job with sin, declaring that this method of rhetoric, and this attitude of irreverence, resulted from his iniquity.
Criticism of his Claim to Wisdom
In criticizing Job's claim to wisdom Eliphaz adopted the manner of Job, and compelled satire to answer satire. This will be seen clearly by a comparison of the opening words of Job's reply to Zophar, with what Eliphaz now said. Keplying to Zophar and to the whole argument of the first cycle, Job had said:
"No doubt but ye are the people,
And wisdom shall die with you."
Now Eliphaz said:
"Art thou the first man that was born?
Or wast thou brought forth before the hills?"
Stung by the words which had suggested that he and his friends were the sole and final depository of wisdom, he sarcastically inquired whether the origin of wisdom was in the consciousness of Job, and whether he retained the secret for himself. That this was the reason of the satire is evident from the personal note of the concluding part of the paragraph in which it appears.
Continuing, he inferentially claimed that he and his friends had brought to Job the consolations of God, and that he had treated them as too small for him.
Criticism of his Attitude toward God
Finally Eliphaz uttered his supreme criticism as he returned to deal more fully with Job's attitude toward God, to which he had already made reference. He inquired how he dared turn his spirit against God, seeing that man is in nature unclean. This declaration as to the unclean nature of man,
"What is man, that he should be clean?
And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?"
was in all probability a reference to the admission which Job had made in his great appeal to God:
"Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one."
In spite of this admission Job had spoken words which proved that his attitude was that of antagonism to God. Eliphaz emphasized the thought of the uncleanness of man by a declaration of the holiness of God, which he affirmed to be of such positive degree that when tested by comparison it is seen to be superlative.
From the vision of God as so holy, that He "putteth no trust in His holy ones"; and so inherently pure that even the heavens are unclean in His sight, he suddenly descended to a description of man as abominable and corrupt. This description is so worded that it may have been taken as generic, but there can be little doubt that Eliphaz intended that Job should make application of it to himself.
A New Statement of Truth
Having thus replied to the attitudes of Job, Eliphaz re-stated the truth as he understood it, revealing thereby his view of the meaning of the affliction of Job. He first argued the accuracy of his view from its antiquity; and then proceeded to an elaborate statement of his conviction that it is the wicked who suffer.
The Antiquity of his Views
Eliphaz now appealed to Job to hear him, as he declared to him things which he himself had seen. In a parenthesis he affirmed the perfect agreement of what he was about to say with that testimony of the fathers upon which Job had poured contempt when he desjcribed it as "proverbs of ashes."
The Wicked are in Trouble
This is first stated as a fact, and the travail and terror of the wicked are depicted. His work becomes the prey of the oppressor, the fear of this is ever in his heart, he lives in perpetual dread of death, and his way is the way of distress and anguish.
The reason for all this in the experience of the wicked is next set forth as being that of rebellion against God, in which he persists with a daring which is terrible. Apart from the fact that these words did not accurately describe the experience of Job, they constitute a magnificent description of the unutterable folly of the man who so rebels.
"He runneth upon Him with a stiff neck,
Upon the thick bosses of His bucklers."
How vividly these words suggest the madness of attempting to fight against God!
Finally Eliphaz declared the punishment of such wickedness, describing it first by a series of illustrations, all of which reveal the utter madness of sin. The wicked man never reaches the goal of his own ambition. The touch of death is upon everything. Nothing comes to perfection.
Passing from illustration, he ended in a general statement in which the same truth is declared.
The sharpness of this passage is only detected as we notice that the punishment of the wicked as Eliphaz stated it, was an exact description of the condition into which Job had come.
There is a great change in tone between this address of Eliphaz and his former one. That was characterized by courtesy and tenderness; this by bluntness and almost by brutality. He stated his philosophy of life wholly on the negative side, and it was impossible for Job to misunderstand his meaning.
CHAPTER 13. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 2ND CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO ELIPHAZ - JOB 16:1-17:16
Job immediately answered, but his answer dealt less with the argument suggested than did his earlier replies. While the darkness was still about him, and in some senses the agony of his soul was deepening, it is impossible to read the whole of this reply without seeing that through the terrible stress he was groping after light, even if at the moment there seemed to be scarcely a gleam upon his pathway. The address falls into four parts; his scorn for his friends; his picture of his misery; his appea ; and his declaration of despair.
His Scorn for his Friends
His first words were those of manifest impatience with his friends. Eliphaz had spoken of the consolations of God. Job declared that the comfort they brought him was nothing. Their philosophy was not new; he had heard many such things. Their perplexity was also his chief trouble. What provoked Eliphaz to answer? He said that he could speak as they did, if they were in his place, but declared that he would not do so. He would rather attempt to strengthen them and to assuage their grief. The criticism is a fine piece of scorn for the meanness of men who in circumstances of prosperity add to the sorrows of such as are in adversity.
His Picture of His Misery
Following his outburst of scorn, he poured out his soul in a new declaration of his misery. Beginning with the hopeless declaration that his grief was such that neither speech nor silence assuaged or eased it, he proceeded to describe it from the standpoint of his conviction that somehow it was all included in the method of God with him. That method he described as being relentless, the description alternating between address to God and speech concerning Him.
He first declared to God that He had caused his suffering, and then that men had added to it by their curiosity and their antagonism. He next broke out into a passage not directly addressed to God, but affirming the truth of what he had said to Him, that all his sufferings were the result of the Divine government and activity. This description of his suffering ended with a new affirmation of his innocence.
In the midst of this description he made a declaration which at once arrests the attention:
"Mine adversary sharpeneth his eyes upon me."
The word here is not the same as that which is translated Satan, but it very definitely indicates an enemy. Whether Job so understood it may be open to question; but it is quite possible to read this section in the light of what we know of the preliminary controversy in heaven, as though he had seen some faint outline of the foe.
Immediately following the statement referred to, he said:
"God delivereth me to the ungodly."
He was evidently conscious of a definite force against him, and of the fact that all that was against him was within the government of God. In all probability there was infinitely more than he knew in the things which he said.
Continuing, Job cried out in distress. He first appealed to earth not to cover his blood, that cry being a supreme manifestation of his conviction that somehow injustice was being done to him. At this point it is remarkable to see how his faith triumphed over his doubt. He immediately declared that even then, in the midst of such overwhelming sense of perplexity, he knew that his witness was in heaven. While all his attitude was that of one questioning the government of God, the failure of his friends to understand him turned him back upon God. His only hope was in Him, and in words which once again, in the light of the Incarnation, are most remarkable, he prayed that God would maintain his right with God, and with his neighbour.
He was in the midst of difficulties, mockers surrounded him, none of them understood him, he had become a byword of the people, among the men who were astonished at the vision of his sorrow there was no wise man to be found.
Through this unutterable darkness he struggled toward God's vindication. If that could not come in the present life, let it come somewhere.
In all the movement of this remarkable answer, it is impossible to escape the conviction that Job was now beginning to see some outlines of truth. Dim and shadowy they certainly were, affording no immediate comfort, but nevertheless revealing a man whose anchorage in the past had been that of faith in God, struggling, and yet unable wholly to escape from that anchorage. It is evident that he was convinced of the activity of God in his sorrows. He had also consciousness of an adversary who followed him relentlessly, and seemed to tear him pitilessly even as a wild beast. In some way which he did not understand, that adversary was connected with the activity of God. There were moments when he seemed to charge God with being his adversary. In others he appeared to be conscious of an adversary between himself and God, to whom he was given over by consent of God. Nevertheless in the deepest of him he knew that his one Witness, his only Vindicator must be God. His greatest trouble was that He did not appear for him. He had cried out, but no answer had been vouchsafed. He had a hope, but it lacked definiteness. His final word was one of despair. He saw no escape from death, and yet even here he had regained his original thought about death. It would be rest.
In this answer to Eliphaz there is no clear shining of light, but it is easy to believe that in after days Job would come to recognize that these strivings of the soul, and these passionate desires for Divine defence, were in themselves gleams of light in the darkness.
CHAPTER 14. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 2ND CYCLE: BILDAD - JOB 18:1-18:21
Bildad now returned to the charge, and in a brief but pointed address graphically described the punishment of the wicked. This address falls into three parts; a preliminary rebuke; a description of the punishment of the wicked; and a direct application.
As in the case of Eliphaz, it is perfectly evident that Bildad spoke under a sense of annoyance. He was wounded at the wrong done to himself and his friends. Job had commenced his reply to Eliphaz by inquiring,
"Shall vain words have an end?"
Bildad now inquired,
"How long will ye lay snares for words?
Consider, and afterwards we will speak";
thus charging him with unfairness in protesting against the words uttered, seeing that he had not considered them. He declared that Job had treated his friends as beasts, and as unclean.
He was angry, moreover, because the violence of Job threatened the moral order, and he reminded him that the stability of that order could not be changed for his sake.
The Punishment of the Wicked
He then immediately plunged into an elaborate description of the punishment of the wicked, intended to emphasize the general proposition which Eliphaz had argued, that it is the wicked who are punished.
He first declared the preliminary experience of the wicked. It is a graphic description, suggestive of overwhelming darkness and its necessary results. His light is put out, and the spark of his fire does not shine. That statement he then repeated in another way.
"The light shall be dark in his tent,
And his lamp above him shall be put out."
That is to say, that the result of wickedness is the extinguishing of the inner light, and the outer light. The former is described by the phrase, "the light of the wicked," and illustrated by that of "the light ... in his tent." The latter is described in the phrases, "the flame of his fire," and "his lamp above him." The inevitable issue is that his steps are straitened and his own counsel distresses him. The man who lacks the clear shining of light within and without, inevitably blunders. His steps are strong but straitened, and his decisions are wrong, and he falls.
Proceeding, Bildad described the pathway to death of the man who walks in darkness. That pathway is beset with perils which are referred to by a variety of figures, "a net," "toils," "a gin," "a snare," "a noose," "a trap." Lacking the light, how can he escape from the perils of the pathway?
The experience of such a man must be that of perpetual terrors. He is conscious of them on every side, they chase him at his heels, and yet he is unable to avoid them. The inevitabe issue is that of destruction and death.
Beyond his death he becomes extinct so far as the earth is concerned. His habitation is destroyed, his remembrance perishes, he is chased out of the world, he leaves behind him no children to enter into his inheritance.
Finally Bildad affirmed,
"Surely such are the dwellings of the unrighteous,
And this is the place of him that knoweth not God."
The application was evident. His description of the punishment of the wicked was exactly that of the sufferings through which Job had been passing as to all outward appearances; and he declared them to be the circumstances of the unrighteous, and of such as were ignorant of God. This then was a definite charge against Job.
CHAPTER 15. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 2ND CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO BILDAD - JOB 19:1-19:29
The reply of Job to this terrible accusation consists of a preliminary rebuke; a further description of his pitiable condition; a soliloquy flashing with light; and a warning to his friends.
Evidently stung by the definiteness of the charge Bildad made, Job passiontely demanded how long they would vex him, and reminded them that if indeed it was true as they suggested that he had erred, his error remained with himself, thus refusing to admit their right of interference. If, however, they would persist, then let them remember that all his suffering, which they observed, and from which they had made their deductions, was the act of God.
His pitiable Condition
He then passed into a most terrible description of his condition. He had recognized that the conditions described in the speech of Bildad as those of the wicked, exactly fitted his case. He was hated of men, and abandoned by them. In keeping, however, with his declaration that all they saw of affliction in him was the work of God, he commenced his description of those conditions by a restatement of that fact. He was afflicted by God, he cried for help, but no answer was vouchsafed to him. God had dealt with him in the utmost severity, which he then described in language full of passion.
This affliction by God had issued in his forsaking by men. His brethren, his acquaintance, his kinsfolk, his familiar friends, his visitors, his maids, his servants, his wife, the children of his mother, even young children, and all his inward friends were against him. The list is a tragic and terrible one, showing how solitary and desolate this man felt himself to be. As he found no answer in judgment from God, so he received no reply in pity from men.
Again he broke out into an appeal to these men to have compassion on him. Why were they not satisfied with his bodily suffering? Why did they do what God had done, and what He alone had surely right to do, torture his mind?
A Flash of Light
Out of the depth of this darkness there broke another of those remarkable gleams of light which arrest the attention in the study of this book. Conscious that in his own day he was misjudged and misunderstood, he expressed a longing desire that his story might be so written as to make its appeal to the future. In this cry there was unquestioned evidence of the underlying conviction of the man that right must ultimately triumph.
This deep conviction then expressed itself in words, the profoundest value of which it is certain Job did not himself realize. The words of his soliloquy are full of beauty, and for those who read them to-day, it is impossible not to connect them with the grace and glory of the Incarnation. The value of this is by no means lost when in considering their place in the experience of Job we necessarily attempt to discover their first and simplest meaning.
Job first affirmed his conviction that his redeemer lived. The word "redeemer" there must be understood to mean vindicator. It is a translation of the Hebrew Goel. In the Hebrew economy the Goel was the nearest blood relation, whose final responsibility was that of vindicating the one for whom he acted in that capacity, after death. There is no question that here the reference of Job was to God. He had already expressed his wish that it were possible for God to maintain the right of a man with God. Now he announced his conviction, first that in God he had a living Goel, or Vindicator, or Redeemer.
His confidence then climbed on to a yet higher level as he said,
"He shall stand up at the last upon the earth."
The phrase, "he shall stand up," means as witness; "at last," means finally; and "upon the earth" may be rendered, "on the dust." He is certain that somewhere in the future, ultimately, the living God would come into the midst of earthly conditions, and therein prove Himself the Vindicator of Job.
And yet again, he mounted to a higher level still when he declared his assurance that even though his flesh should be destroyed, yet from it he would see God.
There is a difficulty of interpretation at this point created by the fact to which Dr. Davidson draws attention, that "the Hebrew preposition 'from' has the same ambiguity as 'from' in English." The difficulty then is to decide whether Job meant that he would see God out of his flesh, or apart from his flesh. Dr. Davidson makes a quotation from "King Lear," where Regan says,
"Our father, he hath writ, so hath our sister.
Of differences, which I best thought it fit
To answer from our home."
He then proceeds to show that the context makes it clear that she was writing not at home, but away from home; and he believes that Job meant to say, my body may be destroyed, but that cannot prevent me from seeing God; I shall see Him, but apart from my flesh. Controversy in the presence of an admitted difficulty would be unwise, but while there can be no question as to the accuracy of the interpretation of the meaning of the word in the passage quoted from Shakespeare, it does, nevertheless, remain true that apart from the contextual interpretation it might have meant exactly the reverse. I personally believe that in this instance the opposite is the true interpretation. Job declared that even though his flesh were destroyed, and as he spoke he saw it being destroyed by the loathsome disease from which he suffered, he would nevertheless yet see God, he himself being in the flesh.
Again we have words, the full significance of which Job could by no means have understood, but which in the light of the Incarnation are most remarkable. If by the earlier declaration he meant, even though he did not understand the method, that he believed that the living Goel would come into the circumstances of the earth to vindicate him; he meant also that he would be there to look into His face.
All the phrases of this soliloquy are the terms of the law-court, and he finally declared that he should see Him for himself, that is, standing on his side as witness.
Considered simply in the way in which Job uttered it, the declaration flashes with light, for it affirmed his conviction that sooner or later hfs living Kinsman, Redeemer, Vindicator, Goel, when all men had uttered their protest, would speak the final word. The last word would not be that of opposing enemies, or accusing friends, but that of God in vindication.
It is impossible for us to read this without realizing how these striving convictions were fulfilled. In the process of time his words were written, and at last the Goel stood upon the dust, and became the Vindicator.
With a sudden cry of pain Job returned to the consciousness of his affliction.
"My reins are consumed within me."
Nevertheless, the strength of the vision abode with him, and he warned his friends that seeing that the root of the matter was found in him, they had need to be afraid of the sword of judgment.
CHAPTER 16. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 2ND CYCLE: ZOPHAR - JOB 20:1-20:29
With evident haste Zophar replied. His speech consisted of an apology, a general proposition, an argument, and an application.
The first word "therefore" shows the intimate relation of all Zophar was about to say to the warning which Job had uttered. He had heard the reproof, but he was not convinced. Apologizing in effect for his haste, he declared that the spirit of his understanding prompted his reply. This reply is like that of Bildad in its directness, but it is characterized by even greater force, and more terrible description.
His outlook, to which he had referred in the phrase, "the spirit of my understanding," he then stated in the form of a question addressed to Job. Appealing to him as to his knowledge of the fact, he declared that,
"The triumphing of the wicked is short.
And the joy of the godless but for a moment."
While the proposition which Zophar had made was that of a general principle which he claimed was of perpetual application, it is difficult to read this address, introduced as we have seen, by the word "therefore," without feeling that the phrases, "the triumph" and "the joy," had reference to the exultation which had been expressed in the soliloquy of Job, and the final warning which he had uttered to his friends.
That becomes more evident as we proceed to the examination of the terms in which he described such triumph and joy in the process of his argument.
Nevertheless the argument is true to the general principle. In the course of it he traced the course of an imaginary person who is godless, showing by every illustration, and in language thrilling with passion, his conviction of the instability of evil gains. There is a triumph, but it is short; a loftiness, but it perishes. The wicked may climb to the heavens and reach to the clouds, but ultimately he will perish, chased away as a vision of the night, never to be found again. There is a mounting up, but it is succeeded by swift vanishing. There is a sense of youth, but inevitably it bends to the dust. There is a sweetness, but it issues in the bitterness of remorse. There is a swallowing down, but it inevitably ends in vomiting. There is a getting, but it does not issue in possessing, and therefore is devoid of joy.
Zophar then proceeded to declare the reason of all such failure. The wicked man entered into his possession by oppression and violence. Driven by the restlessness of his avarice, he devoured everything, and consequently the oppressed inevitably turned upon him in retribution.
The final Nemesis of wickedness is that God turns upon the evil man, and pursues him with all the instruments of judgment. The iron weapon, the bow of brass, darkness reserved, and a Divinely kindled fire, combine to ensure his destruction. Darkness enwraps him. His sin being set in the light of the heavens, earth rejects him.
The speech ended, as in the case of Bildad, with a word of definite application.
"This is the portion of a wicked man from God,
And the heritage appointed unto him by God."
The philosophy is the same, the wicked are punished. The statement is briefer, blunter, and more passionate. It is perfectly evident, however, that throughout the description Job has been in mind, but the speaker leaves him to make the personal application. Thus in this second cycle the proposition made by each man with varying emphasis, is that it is the wicked who suffer.
CHAPTER 17. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 2ND CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO ZOPHAR - JOB 21:1-21:34
Here, as in the first cycle, Job answered not merely the speech of Zophar, but the argument advanced by the three friends, namely, that it is the wicked who are punished. This answer falls into three parts: an appeal for hearing; an argument in answer to theirs; and an application of his answer to themselves.
Job began by appealing to them to give him a diligent hearing, there being a satirical vein in his words, "let this be your consolations." They had spoken of bringing him the consolations of God, and throughout their speeches had manifested an irritation which proved that they needed comfort. Job suggested to them that if they would be patient in their listening to him, they might find the consolation they needed. If they would so listen, then they might mock. Drawing attention to his suffering, he thereby defended that impatience against which they had uttered their protests, and demanded that as they listened, they should remember his condition.
The Argument as Answer
He then proceeded in detail and with force to set over against their statement and illustrations the fact patent to all, that the wicked are often prosperous. Their proposition it must be remembered throughout this second cycle had been that the wicked are punished. To this Job replied by saying the wicked are not always punished. The prosperity of the wicked he described in detail. Their prosperity is personal. They "live ... become old ... wax mighty." It is continued to their children who are established before their eyes. It is manifest in their possessions. Their houses are safe, and their industry is rewarded. The increase of their prosperity is marked. It is seen in their habits, in the gladness and dancing of their children, and in the general circumstances of rejoicing. It is evident in their death, for not through long continued suffering, but "in a moment they go down to Sheol."
Proceeding, he declared that all this was true in spite of their godlessness. They had exiled God from their lives, having no desire for the knowledge of His ways. They had denied the benefit of prayer.
Moreover, he declared his conviction that their prosperity was not due to themselves, his inference being that God had bestowed it upon them; and therefore He had not punished the wicked invariably, as his friends had declared that He did.
This first part of his answer Job ended by declaring that the counsel of the wicked was far from him, that is, that he had not learned the secret of their prosperity. Here lay the problem which caused his acutest suffering. Had it been true as his friends affirmed, that the wicked are always punished, then their argument would have been more forceful. It was not true, hence his refusal to admit its accuracy, and hence also his own profoundest pain.
Continuing his argument, he stated the inevitable deduction by declaring their philosophy to be wholly at fault. He inquired how often the lamp of the wicked was put out, how often their calamity came upon them, how often God distributed sorrows in His anger, how often they were as stubble before the wind, and as chaff before the storm?
Surmising that they might reply that the judgment inevitably fell upon their children, if not upon the sinning men, he repudiated such a suggestion by declaring that the man who sins is the man who should be punished; and in the form of a question revealing his personal conviction that God has no pleasure In the punishment of posterity.
They had been attempting to teach God knowledge, for it was perfectly evident that the rule they had enunciated did not always apply. In illustration of this he instanced a contrast between one dying in the midst of comfort, and another in the midst of suffering, the manner of their death being without explanation. Thus successfully he disposed of their argument as he showed that it did not always hold good, and therefore might have no application in his case.
Job ended his answer by addressing himself to his friends more personally. He declared that he knew their meaning when they said,
"Where is the house of the prince?
And where is the tent wherein the wicked dwelt?"
He was perfectly aware that they were referring to him, although they had sedulously avoided saying so in so many words.
Then, with a touch of satire he declared that they had learned their philosophy from travellers. Their speech was the careless speech of casual and superficial observation, and their wisdom was the result of converse with those who were satisfied with generalization.
Their conclusions were wrong. The wicked man is not always reserved to the day of calamity. He is carried to the grave, and he goes down into it in peace and in popularity. Therefore their comfort was vain, because the things they had uttered were not true.
Thus ends the second cycle, in which the friends of Job, still convinced that the cause of his suffering is sin, have united in their declaration that it is the wicked who are afflicted. By this narrower statement they intended to leave him less room for escape.
As a matter of fact it was far easier for him to reply in this case than in the former. Over against their declaration, he affirmed that the righteous also are afflicted, and that the wicked are not always afflicted, and so made it evident that their argument had by no means left him without a way of escape. Moreover, he sternly rebuked them for stating one side only, in order to bring about his discomfiture.
CHAPTER 18. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 3RD CYCLE: ELIPHAZ - JOB 22:1-22:30
The Third Cycle
In the third and last cycle of the controversy between Job and his friends, Eliphaz and Bildad each spoke, and Job answered them. After a pause Job made his final answer to the whole argument.
Again the speeches of Eliphaz and Bildad proceeded upon the assumption that suffering must be the outcome of personal sin, only in this final statement they definitely declared that Job had sinned and therefore suffered.
The speech of Eliphaz falls into two parts; in the first he definitely charged Job with sin; and in the second tendered the advice which seemed to fit the need.
The Charge Made
Eliphaz approached his charge by a series of questions in which he practically declared first, that God is not affected in Himself by what man is. He is not profited by man's wisdom, nor does He gain by man's righteousness; consequently His judgment is necessarily impartial; that it is inconceivable that God punishes a man for his goodness. The deduction is self-evident, that Job's wickedness must be great, and that there can be no end to his iniquities.
He then proceeded to declare the sins which, according to his philosophy, would naturally account for the suffering through which Job had passed. They are the most dastardly sins possible to a man of wealth and position; those of the spoliation of the poor, in that he had taken pledges for naught, and stripped the naked of clothing; of the neglect of the starving, seeing that he had withheld water and bread; and the oppression of the helpless. Again the deduction was inevitable. All the suffering of Job, the snares surrounding him, the fear troubling him, the darkness enveloping him, the floods covering him, proved the heinousness of the sins of which he had been guilty.
Finally, by adroit quotations of some of the things which Job had said, Eliphaz attempted to account for the sins which he had committed. They had been the outcome of his misconception of God. He had thought of Him as One in the height, withholding Himself from interference in the affairs of men.
In consequence of this view he had walked in the way of wicked men, which way had ended in destruction. Consequently he had shared their punishment, a punishment in which the righteous rejoice, because they recognize it as being a just recompense for sins committed.
The Advice Given
In this charge Eliphaz made his great and final mistake. Without proof, save such as he was able to deduce from his own reasoning, he had charged Job definitely with the most terrible and dastardly crimes. Had his deductions been correct, the advice which he gave would indeed have been the highest and the best. In considering it we must understand that it had no application to Job, seeing that he had not been guilty of these sins.
Remembering this, we may yet ponder it in separation from its application to Job, and in so doing its beauty is discovered. What man supremely needs in order himself to be blessed, and to be made a blessing is the knowledge of God. The conditions upon which he may come to such knowledge are declared, and the issues resulting therefrom stated.
His advice was given first in general and inclusive words:
"Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace:
Thereby good shall come unto thee."
He then declared how it was possible to obey that advice. The law must be received; there must be a return to righteousness by the putting away of unrighteousness; all human treasure must be abandoned as worthless.
When these conditions are fulfilled, instead of the lost treasure there will be the possession of the Almighty. In Him there will be delight, with Him communion, and through Him triumph over all opposing circumstances; and the ultimate result will be that of ability to deliver others.
CHAPTER 19. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 3RD CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO ELIPHAZ - JOB 23:1-24:25
In the immediate reply of Job to Eliphaz, he ignored the terrible charge made against him, postponing his dealing with that to a later speech. He rather discussed Eliphaz' conception of his view of God as absent from the affairs of men; and boldly affirmed his consciousness of the problem. The speech falls into two parts, in the first of which he discussed the problem of God's absence from him; and in the second the problem of God's non-interference in the affairs of the larger world.
The Problem of God's Absence from him
As to his own case, he admitted that his complaint was bitter, but he vindicated himself by affirming that the suffering he endured was greater than the complaint he made.
Eliphaz had said,
"Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace."
To that Job replied in a great sigh,
"Oh that I knew where I might find Him!"
This sigh after God was the expression of a desire for His judgment seat. It was a return to the attitude which he had taken up in the earlier movements. He declared that if he could but find that seat of judgment, he knew how God would deal with him. He would not contend with him in the greatness of His power, but would give heed to him, and so he would find deliverance.
But he declared his inability to find Him, though he go forward and backward. He was conscious of His presence, but he could not see Him.
Suddenly there flamed out in the midst of his complaint words which afford the most remarkable evidence of the tenacity of his faith. His conclusion concerning God was not that which Eliphaz had insinuated. He was certain that God knew the way he took, and even affirmed his confidence that eventually, his trial being accomplished, he would come forth as gold.
This affirmation he based upon his integrity, declaring that he had been loyal to God. Eliphaz had charged him to receive the law and to lay up the words of God in his heart. He replied that he had not gone back from the commandment of His lips, and had treasured up the words of His mouth more than his necessary food.
Then the affirmation of faith merged into an admission of fear. Whatever God was doing, Job could not persuade Him to desist. Therefore he was filled with fear. Conscious of the definite Presence, the fact troubled him. He was afraid of God, because he believed that his suffering was the result of His activity, and He did not appear to deliver him.
The Problem of Ood's Non-interference
Passing from the personal aspect of his problem. Job considered it in its wider application. He demanded the reason of God's non-interference, and why He hid Himself from those who knew Him.
He then proceeded to describe the evidence of this indifference of God. In a long passage he declared that oppression is still permitted. Men exist whose whole activity is that of oppression. In graphic language he described the spoliation of the poor, the neglect of the starving, and the oppression of the helpless - that is to say. Job declared that the things which Eliphaz attributed to him, were all present in the world, and he described them in far greater detail than had Eliphaz, ending his description with the declaration,
"Yet God imputeth it not for folly."
This was a direct answer to the philosophy of Eliphaz, and an inferred answer to the charge made against himself. Eliphaz had argued that these were the sins which could alone account for his suffering. Job replied that these sins abounded in the world, and God did not interfere.
Continuing, he declared in yet fuller detail that the worst forms of evil went unpunished. The murderer, the adulterer, and the robber, all continued their evil courses with impunity. While it was true that eventually they passed and died, yet for the time being they were in security.
Thus Job admitted in some sense the accuracy of Eliphaz' declaration concerning his view of God as absent from the affairs of men; but he treated with silent scorn the imputation cast upon him of acting upon that view in the way suggested by Eliphaz, that namely of sinning against men in spoliation and neglect and oppression. He ended his speech by challenging them to deny the truth of what he had said, and so to deny the accuracy of his contention of God's absence and non-interference with the ways of wickedness.
CHAPTER 20. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 3RD CYCLE: BILDAD - JOB 25:1-25:6
In this section of the third cycle nothing is contributed on either side to the process of the argument. Bildad's speech is characterized by its brevity, and by the fact that he did not attempt to argue the matter with Job. It is a manifest weakening in the controversy on the side of the friends. Bildad was unable to answer Job's appeal to the facts of experience, but was nevertheless not convinced of his integrity. His brief speech was intended to be a declaration of the absurdity of Job's desire to argue his case before God. It falls into two parts, the first of which deals with man in view of God's government; and the second, man in view of God's glory.
Man in View of God's Government
Bildad affirmed the essential government of God in the declaration,
"Dominion and fear are with Him."
He then proceeded to declare that government to be active, and suggested its universality in the inquiry.
"Upon whom doth not His light arise?"
In the presence of this greatness how is it possible that a man can be just with God? - that is, prove the fact that he is just. This had been Job's inquiry, but he had intended to demonstrate the impossibility of contending with God. Bildad meant that it was impossible to contend with God, because of man's essential sin, and he declared his conviction of that sin in the inquiry,
"How can a man be clean that is born of a woman?"
Man in View of God's Glory
In the presence of the glory of One before Whom the moon lacks brightness, and the stars are impure, how can a man who is but a worm be just or clean?
Bildad's thought of God was true so far as it went. His thought of man was faulty in that he suggested that he was less than moon and stars.
The force of the speech is identical with that of Eliphaz. To Bildad it was unthinkable that Job could be innocent. Without argument he yet made it perfectly clear that in his mind the guilt of Job was established.
CHAPTER 21. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 3RD CYCLE: JOB'S ANSWER TO BILDAD - JOB 26:1-26:14
Job's answer was first a declaration of contempt for the men whose arguments had ceased; and secondly an affirmation that he was perfectly familiar with the greatness of God. Thus by silence he declined to withdraw anything he had said.
Scorn for Bildad
In a series of fierce exclamations Job revealed the impotence of all that his friends had said to help him in any way. Granted that Job was all that they had imagined, without power, without strength, without wisdom; how far had Bildad helped, saved, or counselled him? He challenged him,
"To whom hast thou uttered words?"
and the inquiry would seem to indicate his keen sense of the weakness of Bildad's position. It was that he did not understand man, as was evident in his suggestion that he was less than the moon and the stars. This ignorance led to Job's second question,
"Whose spirit came forth from thee?"
by which he meant to infer that Bildad had not spoken under Divine guidance, but as the result of his own imperfect understanding.
His Knowledge of God's Greatness
In order to reveal the poverty of Bildad's argument, Job proceeded to speak of the greatness of God, thereby showing that he knew it even more perfectly than did his friends.
He first declared his conviction that the power of God is exercised in the under world; the "shades tremble," the grave "is naked," "Abaddon hath no covering."
Moreover the whole material fabric is upheld simply by His power. The north, or polar centre is placed by God, and
"He hangeth the earth upon nothing."
Lifting his eyes from the earth to the surrounding firmament, he declared that also in its entirety to be held in the power of God. The mysteries of controlled waters, and light, and darkness, are within the sphere of His government. The sweeping storm, and its disappearance, are alike the result of His power and His Spirit.
Having thus in almost overwhelming poetic beauty suggested his consciousness of the greatness and the government of God, he ended by declaring that all these things are but "the outskirts of His ways"; and that after all, everything of which man is conscious is but a whisper of Him. The thunder of His power is most evidently beyond human comprehension.
Thus Job declared that all his friends' knowledge of God he himself possessed. These things were not the greatest, and did not cause his disquiet.
The answer was a fitting one to the speech of Bildad. As we have seen, neither speech nor answer contributed anything new to the argument. Bildad had nothing more to say, and contented himself with the general comparison between the greatness of God, and the littleness of man. Job replied with scorn, and the affirmation of his own clear understanding of the greatness of God.
CHAPTER 22. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: 3RD CYCLE: JOB'S FINAL ANSWER - JOB 27:1-31:40
Job's Final Answer
The consideration of this final answer of Job to the arguments of his friends will be greatly facilitated if the reader carefully observes the pauses indicated in the analysis. The first is placed at the commencement. The suggestion is that after answering Bildad, Job waited for Zophar. The second is placed immediately following the passage in which he taunted his friends, and before the sublime meditation in view of the whole problem. The third is placed between that meditation and a passage in which Job surveyed the whole experience through which he had passed, and made a deduction of result therefrom. The last is placed between that survey and deduction, and the formal and legal oath of innocence with which he closed his reply.
It will thus be seen that the final reply falls into the four parts as indicated, a taunt in answer to the silence; a meditation in view of the whole problem; a survey and deduction; a solemn oath of innocence.
A Taunt in Answer to the Silence
The first section of Job's reply falls into two parts, his protestation of innocence, and his taunting of his friends.
His Protestation of Innocence
The protestation of innocence is a direct reply to the charge which Eliphaz made. It will be remembered that in the immediate reply of Job to Eliphaz he ignored the charge, discussing Eliphaz' conception of his view of God. Now with great deliberation and with marked emphasis, he denied the charge. The form of his protest is to be carefully noted. The words, "As God liveth," constitute an oath in which he affirmed his belief in God, while he repeated his complaint that God had taken away his right, and vexed his soul. He then solemnly refused to move from the position he had occupied throughout the controversy. For him to make confession of sin would be for his tongue to utter deceit. He declined to justify them by admitting sin. He had been righteous, and he resolutely reaffirmed that fact, declaring that he would not yield that claim.
In the midst of this protestation, words occur in a parenthesis, which must not be omitted.
"For my life is yet whole in me,
And the Spirit of God is in my nostrils."
In these words there is evidence that he had regained some measure of lost ground; for they constitute an affirmation of personality, and a recognition of relation to God, each of which was patent in the earliest movements of the book, and weakened through the processes of his trial.
His Taunting of his Friends
From this protestation the answer of Job proceeded in terms of anger. He first made a proposition to them that they should put themselves in the place of the wicked, that is, that they should attempt to enter into the real consciousness of unrighteous men. Presuming that they were following his argument, he then demanded what the hope of the wicked would be, in spite of his gain, when God took away his soul. He then asked whether, in the day of trouble, God would hear the cry of the wicked, by which he meant, not would God answer the prayer of the wicked; but would the wicked pray, is it probable that God would hear a wicked man pray? Again, would a wicked man delight himself in the Almighty, and call upon Him at all times?
Thus Job suggested the difference between himself and the wicked. He had prayed, he did delight himself in God, and his passionate plea had ever had reference to his desire to find God, that he might call upon Him.
Next, for the sake of argument, he made an admission of the truth of their philosophy, so far as it went, quoting from Zophar,
"This is the portion of a wicked man with God,
And the heritage of oppressors, which they receive from the Almighty" (Compare: 27:13, and 20:29).
This statement of Zophar, Job elaborated in a passage which might very well have fallen from the lips of his friends, so completely does it express their views. This admission, however, must be interpreted in the light of his proposition that they put themselves in the place of the wicked. All they had said about the punishment of the wicked was certainly true. The godless are punished ; but then they are godless, they do not pray, they do not delight in God. He, on the other hand, does pray, and does delight in God; therefore there is no application of their argument to him.
His proposition that they put themselves in the place of the wicked is really of the nature of an imprecation, wherein Job expressed his desire that his enemy might be as the wicked; and in the process of his argument the deepest conviction of his soul seemed to rise, in spite of himself; and it was in direct contradiction to the complaints which he had made, of the withdrawal of God from interference in the affairs of men. Summoning all the strength of his faith, he declared that he would teach them concerning the nature of God, and he practically took hold of all that they had said about God's visitation of the wicked, and hurled it back upon them as an anathema. He admitted the truth of their philosophy. He denied its application to himself. He thus left the whole problem where it was, full of mystery. All the things they had said were true, but they were not true of him. There must be some other way to account for his suffering.
These arguments as here stated are not declared, but they are of plain inference from this angry retort upon his foes.
A Meditation in View of the whole Problem
The whole tone of the reply now changed from the passionate vehemence of the denial of the charge of Eliphaz, into calm and meditative quietness. This suggests a pause. The silence was dramatic and full of effect. Job now discussed the whole question of wisdom, and the placing of this lends force to the view expressed in our consideration of the previous passage. What his friends supremely lacked in their dealing with him was wisdom to understand. He now declared the difficulty of obtaining wisdom, and the movement falls into two parts; a background of illustration; and a foreground of declaration.
A Background of Illustration. The Mine
By way of illustration, and as an introduction to his main argument, Job described man's ability to possess the precious things of the earth. Silver, gold, iron, and brass - all of them find a place, but they can be obtained only by labour.
His description of how man accomplishes this is full of beauty. He sinks a shaft, and puts an end to darkness as he passes into the midst of the earth. In the process of his operation he is forgotten by men who pass by. In a path that no bird knows, the precious things are found. The beasts are unacquainted with it; but man overturning the roots of the mountains, cuts out channels, and sees the precious things. The whole passage is a poetic description of the miner at his work.
The Foreground of Declaration
Having thus described man's marvellous ability to do in the material realm the most difficult things. Job then proceeded to declare that it was a still more difficult thing to find wisdom. This he argued by asking two questions, and giving two answers.
His first question was,
"But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?"
His answer affirmed that the value of wisdom is beyond the power of computation, neither can its place be found in the land of the living. Wisdom has no market value. Man can find the precious things of the material earth, gold, and silver, and precious stones; but these are of no value in comparison with wisdom, which he is unable to discover.
His second question is identical with the first, though expressed in slightly different form.
"Whence then cometh wisdom?
And where is the place of understanding?"
In reply he declared that it must be admitted that wisdom is hidden from life and from death. This admission prepared the way for his great declaration,
"God understandeth the way thereof.
And He knoweth the place thereof."
The evidences of the truth of this declaration may be found in the observation of the impossible things which God does. He "looketh to the ends of the earth"; He makes "a weight for the wind"; He measures the waters; He makes "a decree for the rain"; He "makes a way for the lightning and the thunder." In all these things He manifests the fact that He both sees the place of wisdom, and knows it perfectly.
Finally Job announced what wisdom truly is in the case of man. It is "the fear of the Lord," and "to depart from evil."
All this meditation flashes its light back upon the controversy. It is practically an admission that both he and his friends are at a loss in the presence of the problem of his suffering. Yet it is an affirmation of that faith which over and over again proclaiming its consciousness of mystery, yet held fast to God. For them and for him the only wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and to depart from evil.
There is in this position virtually a new declaration of his innocence, and a charge against them. In their attempt to interpret the dealing of God there had been departure from His fear.
It is impossible to read this without a consciousness taking possession of the soul that a self-satisfied interpretation of the ways of God may have less of reverence in it than an honest expression of inability to explain the mystery of His government.
In this meditation, moreover, there is evidence of at least a gleam of light in the consciousness of Job. He had feared the Lord, he had departed from evil; therefore wisdom ought to yield her secret to him.
A Survey and a Deduction
Again the tone changes. After an evident pause, Job broke out into a passage in which he surveyed his life's experiences, and thereby justified his complaining. Job was still without a solution. That of his friends he utterly repudiated. In order to prepare the way for the utterance of a solemn oath of innocence, he first looked back to the days of his prosperity; then described his present condition by contrast; and finally uttered the justification of his complaining.
Memory of Past Prosperity
His description of the past was introduced by a sigh,
"Oh that I were as in the months of old."
That at which he was looking back he first described in its relation to God. The old days were days of fellowship in which he was conscious of the Divine care and illumination and friendship. Then in one sentence which has in it the sob of a great heart-agony he referred to his children,
"My children were about me."
He next referred to the abounding prosperity of the old days, and finally to the estimate in which he was held by all classes of men. He held the highest place of honour; young and old treated him with respect; those in highest ofl&cial positions recognized his greatness, and did him honour.
The secret of that esteem he then declared to have been his attitude toward men. He was a friend of all such as were in need. Clothed in righteousness, and crowned with justice, he had administered the affairs of men so as to punish the oppressor and relieve the oppressed.
He then described his consciousness in those days. It was that of abounding hopefulness, based upon a sense of safety and of strength.
Finally he returned to a contemplation of the dignity of his position when men listened to him and waited on him; reposing confidence in him while he was as a king amongst them, and that in the truest sense of comforting the mourners.
This backward look, describing as it did the benevolence and generosity which had characterized the days of his prosperity, was a distinct denial of the charges which Eliphaz had made against him, of the spoliation of the poor, the neglect of the starving, and the oppression of the helpless.
The Present Condition by Contrast
Job immediately passed to the description of his present condition, which description is made more vivid by thus being placed in contrast with what he had said concerning his past.
He first described the base who now held him in contempt. In the commencement of the third cycle when answering Eliphaz he had described evil men, and his complaint was that God did not interfere with the activities of such. This description of the base men who held him in contempt exactly tallies therewith. In the olden days the highest reverenced him. Now the very lowest and basest hold him in derision.
The consciousness was one of acute suffering. With the sense of contrast strong upon him, he broke out into lamentation.
"Now I am become their song."
So bitterly did he feel this attitude of the base toward him, that he described himself by the figure of a besieged fortress, and these people as rolling themselves upon him. The bitterness of it all was that in the day of his calamity these men had forgotten his past honour, and in all probability indulged in mockery of it.
"They chase mine honour as the wind."
Shakespeare made Mark Antony say over the dead body of Caesar,
"But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world: now lies he there.
And none so poor to do him reverence."
In the case of Job the experience was more bitter, for not only did the poor refuse to reverence him; the base despised him, and he had not found refuge in the silence of death. Continuing the story of his affliction Job again described his sufferings. In the midst of this reviling of the crowd his physical pain was continuous, and gave him no rest; and the supreme sorrow of it all was that when he cried to God, there was no answer, but only the continuity of affliction.
His final description of his suffering can only be understood as it is placed in sharp contrast with his first description of the days of his prosperity. Then God was his friend. Now He is cruel in His opposition. Then his children were about him. Now the children are not even named. Then he was in the midst of prosperity. Now his substance is dissolved. Then he was held in high esteem. Now he is passing to the shadow of death.
Justification of his Complaining
With this graphic contrast present to his mind Job claimed that his sufferings were justification for his complaining. This he urged by the declaration that in the past his attitude had ever been that of sympathy toward the oppressed. It is impossible to compare what he said about the attitude of God toward him, -
"I cry unto Thee, and Thou dost not answer me:
I stand up, and Thou lookest at me,"
with his past attitude toward those who were in trouble, -
"Did I not weep for him that was in trouble?
Was not my soul grieved for the needy?"
without being conscious of at least the suspicion of revolt at work in the soul of the man. Repeating in burning words the story of his suffering, he declared that this suffering was the cause of his lamentation.
A Solemn Oath of Innocence
Before passing to a consideration of Job's solemn oath of innocence, it may be well briefly to review the process to the point of this final address, because everything had been in preparation for what was now to be uttered.
Following the silence of Zophar, he first protested his innocence, and then poured out his wrath upon his enemies, because they had failed in wisdom. Following this he had declared man's inability to find wisdom, and affirmed God's possession of it, and had said that man's wisdom consisted in the fear of the Lord, and in departure from evil. Finally he had contrasted his past prosperity with his present adversity, and had justified his complaining.
He now uttered deliberately, and at length, and with evident care, his solemn oath of innocence. This constituted his final answer to the line of argument adopted by his three friends. In every speech they had endeavoured to insist upon one conclusion, that his affliction must be the outcome of sin. This he had replied to by proving that their philosophy was at fault in many of its applications, and therefore that probably it was at fault in his case.
He now in set and carefully prepared statements affirmed his innocence in personal life; in his dealings with his neighbour; in his attitude toward God; ending with a final and technical protestation to which he affixed his signature, uttering a demand for definite indictment. The threefold affirmation of innocence touched the three relationships of human life indicated in the apostolic words, "soberly, righteously, godly."
In Personal Life, "Soberly"
Dealing with the matter of his personal purity, Job declared that he had been free from the look of evil desire, having made a covenant with his own eyes, and having acted as under the eyes of God. He claimed that he had abstained from all turning aside from the path of positive rectitude by calling upon himself a curse if this was not so. Finally in plainest language he affirmed his innocence of the grossest form of sin.
In the process of this declaration of personal innocence he called upon God to vindicate him; and by calling curses upon himself if his declarations were not true, he practically declared that had he sinned in any of these things, the calamities which had befallen him would have been explainable. The plain inference is that seeing he had been innocent, the mystery of his suffering was still unsolved.
Toward his Neighbour, "Righteously"
Passing in the next place to the assertion of his innocence in his relation to his fellow-men, Job began with his servants. Recognizing their equality with him in the sight of God, he had not despised their cause when they had contention with him.
Toward the poor he had acted the part, not only of justice, but of benevolence. He suggested ways in which men in high position might oppress the poor, those namely of robbery, of selfishness, of indifference, of injustice; and declared that he had been innocent of all. He had never robbed the poor or the widow. He had not eaten his morsel alone. Even when the possibility of wronging men had been in his hand, when he sat in the gate, he had taken no advantage of it.
He was perfectly willing to admit that his uprightness had been born of his fear of God, but he had been upright.
Again the form in which this affirmation of relative rectitude was made, suggested that if he had failed in these respects his suffering would have been just, and the plain inference is that he was still utterly in the dark as to its justice, seeing that his conscience was clear in this matter.
Toward God. "Godly"
Finally Job protested his uprightness in his relation with God. There had been no idolatry indulged. His wealth had never been his confidence; neither had he been seduced into the worship of Nature, even at its highest, the shining of the sun, and the brightness of the moon.
Moreover there had been in him no evil disposition, causing him to rejoice over the sufferings of others, and in this declaration there would seem to have been a satirical reference to his friends.
Finally in this connection he denied hypocrisy. He had not covered his transgression, or hidden iniquity in his bosom because of the fear of men.
Once again the affirmation of this final movement in this oath of innocence indicated that had he been guilty of any of these things, then there would have been an explanation. His consciousness of mystery was revealed by the fact that in the midst of this proclamation of integrity, he broke off into the final words of his protestation, and finally cried,
"Oh that I had one to hear me!"
The Final Protestation
In parenthesis he declared that to his oath he subscribed his signature or mark, and asked that God would answer him.
His last words constitute a call for the definite indictment of his adversary, upon which his afflictions had proceeded, ending with a curse upon himself if such indictment could be proven true.
The final words, "the words of Job are ended," are generally attributed to the author of the book, or some subsequent editor or copyist. Personally I cannot see why they do not constitute Job's own last sentence. They are graphic and full of force. He had nothing more to say. The mystery was unsolved, and he relapsed into silence and announced his decision so to do.
CHAPTER 23. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: THE LAST VOICE: ELIHU - JOB 32:1-33:7
The Last Voice
The last voice in the earthly controversy is now heard. It is a new voice, and opportunity to answer never came to Job. Moreover in the final movements God made no reference to what is said by this man, except in the words in which He suddenly interrupted his speech. In the Epilogue, when the first three friends are reintroduced, Elihu is not referred to.
Nevertheless the long speech of this man is full of interest, and moves on a higher plane than that of the first three.
After words of introduction, the speech of Elihu consists, first of a preliminary section; then of a careful answer to some of the things which Job had said; and finally of a declaration of his own philosophy.
In a brief paragraph the author of the Book introduces Elihu to the readers. The three friends "ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes"; that is, because they were conscious of their inability to bring conviction of guilt to him.
It now becomes evident that Elihu, a much younger man, had heard the whole argument, and he was moved with indignation. His anger was stirred against Job because he had justified himself rather than God; his anxiety had evidently been to maintain his own innocence, even though in doing so, in the light of the philosophy of his friends, he charged God with injustice. Elihu evidently felt that his anxiety ought to have been to defend God, in spite of all the difficulties of the situation.
His anger was kindled against Job's friends because they had been unequal to the task to which they had set themselves. They had attempted to argue with him, and had failed. Elihu was conscious that they had found no answer to all he had to say. Nevertheless they had condemned Job, and for that he was angry with them. As he had listened to them, he was convinced of his own ability to deal with the case, but he had refrained from speaking until the elder men had finished.
Before proceeding to the main argument of his address Elihu made an apology, and uttered an appeal.
He declared that the reason of his silence had been that of his youth, and as he was about to speak, he gave a reason for doing so. He accepted the position which Job had taken in his argument concerning wisdom, namely that understanding in man was the result of the inspiration of God. He claimed however that there was a spirit in man capable of receiving such inspiration. As he had listened he had come to the conclusion that age is not always wisdom. Addressing himself to the friends he declared that he had waited and they had failed. None of them had succeeded in convincing Job, neither had they answered his words. Therefore he would adopt a new method. Declaring that he had much to say, indeed that he was full of words, he affirmed his decision to utter them, and drew attention to the fact that he would speak without respect of person, uttering only the things of which he was convinced.
He then appealed to Job to hear him, assuring him of his absolute sincerity in motive, and making it perfectly clear that whatever he said to him would be uttered, not from the standpoint of the judge, but rather from that of comradeship. He had no desire to fill him with terror, but rather to help him. If the marginal reading be adopted,
"Behold, I am according to thy wish in God's stead,"
"Behold, I am toward God even as thou art,"
it will be seen that the appeal of Elihu was based upon the cry which Job had uttered in the course of his controversy with his three friends, for a man who should stand between him and God, and lay his hand on both. Believing that he was speaking as the result of the breath of the Almighty illuminating his spirit, and knowing himself to be of the same clay as Job, he felt justified in asking the attention of the suffering and bewildered man, on the ground of his own desire and choosing.
The tone and temper manifested through these preliminary words reveal Elihu as a man who approached the question from an entirely different standpoint to that of the three friends who had so grievously failed. Throughout their arguments one was conscious of the coldness of their method. Every attempt they made to bring Job to confession of sin was born of a hard-and-fast philosophy. Elihu approached Job with words that indicated his consciousness of that wider, ampler outlook, resulting from direct communion between the inspiring Spirit of God, and the spirit of man. He came to Job with strong convictions, with a fine courtesy, and above all, with the recognition of the fact that the final solution of the whole problem must come from God.
CHAPTER 24. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: THE LAST VOICE: ELIHU ANSWERS JOB - JOB 33:8-35:16
Elihu answers Job
Elihu's formal answer to Job is characterized by a very clearly marked method. He quoted some of the sentences from what Job had actually said, which in his opinion revealed Job's true position, and replied to these declarations. The movement falls into three parts, in the first of which he made one quotation, and answered it. In the second he made a new appeal to the wise men to listen. In the third he made two quotations, and answered them.
First Quotation and Answer
That which we have described as the first quotation is in reality a series of quotations, summarizing Job's contentions. In his speeches he had unequivocally affirmed his own innocence; he had declared that God had been against him; the plain inference of these declarations of Job being that God's hostility to him was without cause.
To that position Elihu objected, and proceeded with his answer, declaring first in general terms that God is greater than man, and therefore that man has no right whatever to ask any explanation of what He does.
This however is not all. While it is perfectly true that man has no right to ask an answer of God, it is equally true that God speaks; and Elihu proceeded to declare both the method and the purpose of such speech. His method was that of opening the ears of men in the hours of sleep, through dreams and visions sealing instruction; and the purpose of such speech was that God is ever seeking to rescue man rather than destroy him.
God has another method with man. It is that of chastening, which Elihu proceeded to describe in detail, and in such way as to cover the very experiences through which Job had been passing. Thus, while Job had been complaining that God was not to be found, and that he had no dealing with Him, Elihu suggested that all his affliction was part of the Divine activity, and a method of Divine healing. What he had needed through the process was an angel or a messenger, an interpreter to explain to him the meaning of his pain. Proceeding he declared the purpose of chastisement. If such an interpreter, as he had referred to, could be found, then it would be understood that the very chastisement of God is gracious, and again man would be restored, and would rejoice in his restoration. His description of the restoration is full of beauty, but it is to be noticed that in the song which he puts into the mouth of the restored man there is a confession of sin.
It is evident that Elihu looked upon himself as the necessary interpreter, and here the main contention of his argument took shape. It was, that through suffering, God is dealing with man to some higher issue. According to this argument suffering is educational.
Elihu ended his first movement in his answer by challenging Job to hear him, and to answer if he had anything to say. If he had nothing to say, then he was to remain silent while Elihu continued.
Pause. An Appeal to Wise Men
It is evident that Elihu waited to give Job the chance of reply; and seeing that he was silent, proceeded with his own address. He first made a new appeal to the wise men, asking that they would listen in order that they might try his words.
Two Quotations and Answers
Job having given no answer to his challenge, Elihu continued his answer to the things which Job had said. This time he made two quotations from his speeches.
The Two Quotations
The first may be summarized as the contention of Job that he had been afflicted by God, notwithstanding his integrity. This quotation was followed by an exclamation in which Elihu declared that in this attitude of scorn Job was in the company of the workers of iniquity, and of wicked men.
He then made his second quotation, in which Job had suggested that nothing is gained by loyalty to God. Of course neither of these quotations was direct. They rather summarized the conclusions which Job's arguments seemed to warrant, and it may freely be granted that they were perfectly fair summaries thereof.
Answer to First Quotation
Elihu immediately set himself to answer both these positions. Job's declaration that he had been afflicted by God notwithstanding his integrity, reflected upon God; and in a passage full of beauty Elihu affirmed that God cannot do wickedness. He again made his appeal to the men of understanding to listen, and then affirmed that His authority is beyond all appeal. His judgments are perfectly righteous. It is impossible that He should be influenced by any low motive. He has no regard for human distinctions of rank or of wealth, for all men are alike the work of His hands. It is unthinkable therefore that God can do any wickedness.
He proceeded to argue that His government is based upon perfect knowledge. No man can hide from Him. It is unnecessary therefore for Him to institute special trial. Job had demanded the right to stand before God and plead his cause. Elihu declared this to be unnecessary, seeing that God knew it thoroughly. All His judgments are the outcome of his understanding.
It is most evidently therefore the wisdom of man to submit, and to learn. Whether God deals with a nation or a man, His method is alike irresistible and right.
This Job had not done, and by what he had said he had at least suggested that the action of God had been unjust, and thus he had added rebellion to sin.
It is evident, especially throughout this answer to the first quotation, that Elihu was addressing the whole company, both the friends of Job, and Job himself. For the most part his words seemed to be directed to them, although he occasionally adopted the method of direct speech to Job.
Answer to Second Quotation
Before replying to the second quotation Elihu repeated it, introducing it by an interpretation of its real meaning according to his understanding of it. According to him Job had said,
"What advantage will it be unto Thee?
And, What profit shall I have, more than if I had sinned?"
Elihu suggested that when Job questioned the advantage of serving God, he set up his own righteousness as being more than God's.
His answer consisted of a declaration of the truth of the Divine sovereignty from his standpoint, as in the form of a series of questions he revealed his conviction that God was unaffected, either by man's sin, or by his righteousness. His sin does nothing to God, and his righteousness adds nothing to Him.
This view had been advanced before in the controversy. Undoubtedly there is an element of truth in it, but it lacks completeness. The whole revelation of God shows that, whereas, according to the terms and requirements of infinite righteousness, God is independent of man, yet according to the nature of His heart of love, which none of these men understood, He cannot be independent of man.
Proceeding however, Elihu declared that the reason why men do not find God is that the motive of their prayer is wrong. The prayer of Job had been the outcome of his pride. His petitions had been for help for himself, rather than a seeking after God for His own sake. He maintained that God does not hear vanity, that He does not regard arrogance. Finally he definitely charged Job with this wrongness of motive in his search for God.
CHAPTER 25. PART B: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JOB AND HIS FRIENDS: THE LAST VOICE: ELIHU'S PHILOSOPHY - JOB 36:1-37:24
The last section of the speech of Elihu consists of a revelation of his philosophy, and falls into two parts, in the first of which he dealt with the place of suffering; and in the second with the greatness of God. The philosophy is revealed in the first movement, and defended in the second.
The Place of Siffering
His statement concerning the place of suffering is introduced by an appeal to Job; proceeds in a declaration of the purpose of pain; is followed by a direct application to Job; and ends with a reaffirmation of the Divine purpose, accompanied by an appeal.
Appeal to Job
Elihu appealed to Job for patience because he had something to say on God's behalf; because he was about to take the most comprehensive outlook; and finally because the words he would utter would be the words of truth.
Absolutely sure of his ground he plunged into his theme. His first affirmation was that of the righteous government of God. He denied that He despised any. His understanding is mighty. It is not true that God "preserveth the life of the wicked." It is true that He "giveth to the afflicted their right."
The Purpose of Pain
He then reached the heart of his argument as he proceeded to declare his conception of the value of suffering. Admitting the fact that the righteous suffer, he declared the purpose of God therein to be that of showing them themselves, opening their ears to instruction, and commanding that they return from iniquity. In view of this the responsibility of man is clear. To hearken and obey, is to be restored to prosperity and pleasure. To refuse to hearken, is to perish, to cry out for help, and to find none, and to become angry. Thus the issue of suffering is determined by man's response to it. He then summarized his whole philosophy in one sentence,
"He delivereth the afflicted by his affliction,
And openeth their ear in oppression."
Thus Elihu's view was that God has something to teach man, which man can only learn by the way of pain. Whether this covers all the ground may be questionable. There can, however, be no doubt that his view was far nearer the truth than anything which the former speakers had advanced.
Application to Job
He made direct appeal to Job when he declared to him that God's purpose in his suffering was to lead him out of distress into a broad place of abounding prosperity, but Job had failed. Elihu recognized his condition, that he was in circumstances such as those which befall the wicked. He warned him not to be led away by his sufficiency.
Reaffirmation of the Divine Purpose, with Appeal
Reaffirming the Divine purpose, Elihu made his final appeal to Job to be willing to learn.
Thus Elihu practically charged Job with sin, not as the cause of his suffering, but as the outcome of it. His sin was that of restlessness under suffering. God had something to teach him which he had not been able to learn because of his self-sufficiency, and his restlessness under affliction.
The Greatnesss of God
Elihu then emphasized his argument by speaking of the greatness of God, first giving illustrations of the manifestations of that greatness; then making direct application thereof to the case of Job; and finally reaffirming his conviction both of the majesty and justice of God.
Manifestations of Greatness
It has been suggested that this last part of Elihu's speech really consists of a description of what was happening around him at the moment. When presently God speaks, He does so out of the midst of a whirlwind, and the idea is that it was this great storm in its approach and force, which Elihu was looking at, and described.
His first illustration was that of the rain, and it is a wonderful description of the drawing up of water into the clouds, their spreading of themselves over the sky, and their pouring out in rain upon the earth. This rain was accompanied by the mutterings of thunder. Suddenly there was the flash of the lightning followed by deep darkness. Again lightning that strikes the mark, and the cattle are seen to be conscious of the storm. Gradually its violence increases. The thunder is louder, and the lightning more vivid. It is a strange and wild commotion of Nature, in which the south wind and the north are in conflict, and intermixed with the rain is ice. The purpose of the storm may be for correction, or for the sake of the land, or for mercy.
The illustrations are all those of stress and storm, and even though they were descriptions of things happening around, he doubtless chose them with a view to the circumstances through which Job had passed. Elihu desired to illustrate God's spiritual method by His method in Nature.
Application to Job
With great directness of speech Elihu then asked Job to consider. He appealed to him to know his inability to know the way of the lightning, the balancing of the clouds, the warmth of the south wind. He appealed to him moreover, to know his inability to do. Was he able to act as he had seen God acting in the storm? He appealed to him moreover, to know the folly of his own speech. What can a man say to a God Whose methods he does not know, and Whose activity he could not reproduce?
Reaffirmation of God's Majesty and Justice
Thus Elihu appealed to Job to hear, to consider. Even in the midst of the storm there was a light which men could not see, a golden splendour which was the majesty of God. It was impossible to find out the Almighty. Even in the matter of power He was beyond all human interpretation.
Lastly, Elihu attempted to interpret to Job by the use of the storm the fact of his inability to know God, and therefore the folly of his speech against God. It was a great theme, but Elihu was not equal to it, and in the midst of his speech he was interrupted by the voice of God.
CHAPTER 26. PART C: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND JOB: JEHOVAH THE 1ST UNVEILING - JOB 38:1-39:30
Controversy Between Jehovah and Job
The third movement in the drama consists of an account of the controversy between Jehovah and Job. Out of the midst of the whirlwind the Divine voice for which Job had long been waiting, was heard. Almost the entire section is occupied with the actual speech of Jehovah; two brief paragraphs only being needed to record the answers of Job. The movement falls into four parts. In the first Jehovah spoke, unveiling His glory. The second gives the account of a brief interlude in that process of unveiling. The third is the continuation of the revealing speech of Jehovah; while the last is Job's final answer thereto.
Jehovah. The First Unveiling
The first unveiling consists of an introductory challenge; declarations concerning the relation of God to the inanimate facts of the material universe; and thirdly, declarations concerning the relation of God to the animal creation.
The Challenge of God
The first word of the Divine voice speaking from the whirlwind was that of challenge.
"Who is this that darkeneth counsel
By words without knowledge?"
This has been variously interpreted, as having reference to Job and to Elihu. While the whole speech was the answer of Jehovah to Job, the introductory question almost certainly referred to the speech of Elihu. The challenge did not charge Elihu with false interpretation, but with darkening counsel by the use of words which he himself did not perfectly understand. As we saw in considering the closing portion of his speech, his theme was too great for him, and God took it from him, and dealt with it Himself. It should now be carefully noted that throughout the whole of these wonderful words of Jehovah no attempt was made to explain to Job the mystery of his suffering. The method of God was that of unveiling His own glory in certain respects, before the observation of His own servant.
God and the Material Universe. Inanimate
The material universe was made to pass before the consciousness of Job in its relationship to God, and the first unveiling was that of the simplest facts of that universe, which are yet seen to be sublime, and beyond the perfect understanding of man. This movement falls into two sections, the first of which is occupied with the earth, and the second takes in the larger outlook of the surrounding heavens.
In a series of questions the work of God in creation was suggested. Who laid the foundations of the earth, determined its measures, and stretched upon it the line? Jehovah inquired of Job whereupon the foundations were fastened? Then turning to the sea again, He described His authority over it as He had clothed it in clouds and marked its limits and held it within bounds. The next description was that of daybreak, and the final one of the deep and unknown places of the earth, where are the very springs of the sea, and which is as the shadow of death.
The next outlook suggested was that upon the surrounding heavens, and here again two were passed in review; the first, or atmospheric; and the second, or stellar.
In dealing with the first, illustrations of the things which: man may observe, but cannot explain, were suggested. The way of light and darkness, the mysteries of snow and hail, the majesty and sweep of the storm, the origin and method of rain, dew, ice, and frost.
Similarly, illustrations were taken from the stellar spaces, the chain of the Pleiades, the bands of Orion, the signs of the Zodiac, the going of the Bear.
All these were suggested in brief questions which nevertheless flash with glory; and as the illustrations passed before the mind of Job, he was made to feel his ignorance and impotence. By this method God suggested His own knowledge and interest, and the perfect ease of His stupendous activity.
The movement ended by a presentation of the effect of His government in the same sphere; the ordinances of the heavens, their influences upon earth, the bringing of rains, and the sending forth of lightnings. If man can perchance do any of these things, who then put wisdom in him, or gave him understanding? It is perfectly evident that the method of God was that of revealing to His servant His own power and interest; and by comparison man's impotence and ignorance.
God and the Material Universe. Animal Creation
Still the unveiling of the Divine glory proceeded, but now in its application to the things of life. First a group of simple questions served to illustrate the impotence of man, and the omnipotence of God. The feeding of lions and young lions; the fact that the cry of the young raven is prayer in the ears of God, which He answers with food; the mystery of the begetting and birth of the lower animals, with the sorrows of travail and the finding of strength; the freedom and wildness and splendid untameableness of the wild ass; the uncontrolled strength of the wild ox; in all these things Jehovah compelled Job to the consciousness of his own ignorance and impotence by revealing to him His knowledge and might.
And still the unveiling went forward, as differing manifestations of foolishness and power and wisdom, as they were evident among birds and beasts, were dealt with. The ostrich rejoicing in the power of her pinions, and in her folly abandoning her eggs and her young, was described; and her very foolishness was accounted for as resulting from the act of God. He had deprived her of wisdom. The war-horse with his might, who was nevertheless tameable, so that he would serve man, and come to rejoice amidst strange and awful battle-scenes and sounds, was yet not of man's creation. All his essential strength was Divinely bestowed. The hawk with wisdom journeying out to the south land; and the eagle placing her nest on high, far from the possibility of intrusion, yet in such place of observation as enabled her to feed her young; these also were God-guided.
The whole movement revealed the fact that there is nothing that happens in the lower realms of life apart from the knowledge and might of Jehovah. Even though in the economy of His universal government God has committed dominion to man, it is nevertheless dominion over facts and forces which man has not originated, neither does he sustain.
The unveiling of the glory paused for a brief moment as Jehovah addressed Himself immediately to His servant, and demanded an answer to the questions He had asked.
The answer is full of suggestiveness. The man who in mighty speech and strong defiance had been of unbroken spirit in the presence of all the arguments of his friends, now cried out,
"Behold, I am of small account."
The lesson was being learned. It was but the first stage therein. He had to be taught that he was of much account to God. For the moment, in order that the final truth might carry all the more weight, it was only important that he should realize the true relation existing between himself and God. That this realization was taking possession of his soul was evident from his inquiry,
"What shall I answer Thee?"
and in his expressed determination to lay his hand upon his mouth, and so cause his speech to cease. He had spoken once, yea twice, but now had nothing to say. Silence was at once his opportunity of wisdom, and his manifestation thereof.
CHAPTER 27. PART C: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND JOB: JEHOVAH THE 2ND UNVEILING - JOB 40:6-41:34
Jehovah. the Second Unveiling
Again Jehovah proceeded to bring Job to the comparison of his own weakness and foolishness, with that of the might and wisdom of God. As at the commencement of the first unveiling, so now He charged him to gird up his loins like a man. In each case there was in the introductory word a recognition by Jehovah of the dignity of man. The things which He had described, all those of the lower reaches of His own creation could not see or answer the Divine wisdom. Job could, and therefore he was called upon to exercise the distinctive powers of his humanity.
In the second unveiling Jehovah dealt with one particular matter in which Job had manifested his folly; it falls into two parts, first a challenge to Job; and secondly, two illustrations, showing him how impossible it would be for him to answer the challenge.
The Challenge of God
In the midst of all his suffering Job had by inference flung blame upon the method of God in the government of the universe. This Jehovah now challenged. He gave no explanation of the method of His government, but suggested to Job that he should attempt to occupy God's place in the universe. There was a fine and tender satire in His call to Job to assume these reins of government. Let him deck himself and array himself, and exercise his power. Let him do it in the moral realm in which his criticism had been at work. Let him abase and humble the proud and lofty, the evil and wicked ones. When Job was able to do this, then Jehovah would acknowledge that his own right hand could save him.
Having thus challenged His servant to assume the government of the world, and that in the moral realm, Jehovah suggested two experiments. It has been objected by some that the descriptions of behemoth and leviathan are interpolations, as they do not seem to fit in with the general argument at this point. This surely misses the real thought. Having, as we have seen, called upon Job to exercise government, and that in the moral realm, Jehovah brought before him two animals, which were non-moral, and suggested that Job should exercise his authority and power over them. This would be a much easier matter than that of governing men. The material always yields itself to man's government with greater ease than the moral. If this man could be made to feel his absolute weakness in the lower sphere, he would naturally deduce therefrom his impotence in the higher. If he were unable to tame and govern these monsters, how could he assume the functions of the One Who made them, and perfectly governed them?
There was the playfulness of a great tenderness in the suggestions which Jehovah made to Job about these fierce creatures. Could Job catch them with a rope or with a hook? Would leviathan pray to Job? Could Job make a servant or a plaything of him for himself or his maidens? There was fine and yet most tender and humorous satire in the words of Jehovah,
"Lay thine hand upon him;
Remember the battle, and do so no more."
If none dare stir up leviathan, who can stand before God? If Job dare not attempt to catch or subdue or play with this animal, how could he hope to enter into competition with God in the government of the universe?
The question being asked, the description returned to the beast, in all the magnificence of his strength; and indeed, with a picture of men attempting to overcome him with sword, or spear, or dart, or pointed shaft; while all the time in fierce anger he held the citadel of his being, and became king over all the sons of pride.
Thus the unveiling of God's own glory ended, not in the high reaches of the spirit, but in its manifestation of the knowledge and mastery of the beasts of the river and the field. This is assuredly not the method we should have adopted in dealing with Job, but the issue proves that it was the perfect method. For a man who knew God it was only necessary to make His commonest knowledge flame in its true glory, for him to climb therefrom into consciousness of the sublimest lesson of all - that of the perfection of the Divine government.
CHAPTER 28. PART C: CONTROVERSY BETWEEN JEHOVAH AND JOB: JOB'S ANSWER - JOB 42:1-42:6
Job's answer was full of the stateliness of a great submission. As he spoke the words of surrender, he was greater in his submission than all the circumstances into the presence of which he had been brought. In the hour of his bending he rose to kingship over the forces that had vexed and harassed him. In his confession of the sufficiency of God, of the folly of his own past speech, of his present repentance in the light of God's glory, there was revealed a glory of God, not manifest in any other part of the universe which had been dealt with in the Theoghany. This utterance of surrender was God's victory of vindication. There had been no explanation of pain, but pain was forgotten, and all the circumstances of trial against which the spirit of the man had rebelled were out of sight. He had found himself, in relationship to God. What Eliphaz had advised him to do, but could not teach him how, he had now done. Acquainted with God, his treasure was laid in the dust, and he had found Jehovah to be his all-sufficient strength.
CHAPTER 29. EPILOGUE: THE MAN BEYOND THE PROCESS - JOB 42:7-42:17
Epilogue. The Man beyond the Process
The Prevailing Intercessor
The great victory being won in the soul of Job, Jehovah dealt with his friends. His wrath had been kindled against them, but it was mingled with mercy. Their intention had been right, even though their words had been wrong; in their attempt to explain God they had not spoken concerning Him the thing that was right. Notwithstanding all his murmuring, nay, in the very affirmations of his inability to comprehend, Job had spoken profounder truth concerning God than they had. Jehovah's vindication of Job to them was marked by the fact that He spoke of him as "My servant," the same term which He used in describing him at the beginning of the process. It was also marked by the fact that He appointed His servant as intercessor on behalf of his friends. They had attempted to restore Job to God by philosophy. He was appointed by Jehovah to be the means of restoring them by prayer.
In the sacred act of intercession his own captivity ended, and he entered into the final freedom of the soul. As at the beginning there were things to be said in favour of these three friends of Job, so also at the close. Their sincerity was manifest in the fact that they submitted, brought their offerings, and made confession.
The Return of his Acquaintances
There is a touch of human nature, as we all know it, in the account of how in the days of his restoration, the acquaintances of the earlier days gathered back to him, to share his hospitality, and to bring him presents.
All the rest is told in brief sentences. His final prosperity was greater than that of the early days. His wealth was increased, his children were multiplied, and his own spiritual experience was enriched. He had passed into the fire, and now emerging from it, Jehovah granted him length of days, and fulness of peace.
In ending our survey of this great book, it is well that we make no attempt to formulate a philosophy which includes a solution of the problem of pain.
This much at least is taught, that through the process this man came to richer, fuller life, and that he came there as a result of a fuller knowledge of God.