To the book of Job, the earliest written portion of the Word, as has been supposed, we must next turn in the prosecution of our inquiry about sacrifice and offering. Living after Abraham, but before the Exodus, as it is probable that he did, we gather from statements in this book how one, who was not descended from Abraham, resorted, as occasion called for it, to the practice of sacrificing burnt-offerings to God.
Who were Job's parents we know not; but his dwelling-place was in the land of Uz, and therefore he was one of Shem's descendants (Gen. 10:23), and his friends belonged likewise to the Shemitic branch of the great human family. Teman, the ancestor of Eliphaz, was a grandson of Esau. (Gen. 36:11.) Shuah, the progenitor of Bildad, was one of Abraham's children by Keturah. (Gen. 25:2.) We gather therefore from these genealogical details whereabouts the land of Uz probably was, Lamentations 4:21 confirming the deduction that it lay not far from Edom.
When and how Job learnt about God is not recorded. But as with Balaam so with Job, there were those outside the immediate circle of Abraham's family who knew and worshipped the Almighty; yet if we class those two men together in that matter, how great was the difference between them. The former, overcome by temptation, would have cursed God's people, if he could, for the sake of earthly reward, and he perished with Jehovah's enemies, the Midianites. (Num. 31:8.) The latter, when in the depths of his troubles, turned not from God, and stands out with Noah and Daniel as pre-eminent for his righteousness. (Ezek. 14:14.) In his family he must have been alone. (Job 1:5.) Even his wife was no help to him in the day of his troubles (Job 2:9); yet he held on his way through grace, and had this testimony borne of him by the Lord to Satan, that there was "none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil." (Job 1:8.)
Upright himself, he had concern for his children, and, though we read not of his offering up any sacrifice for himself, we are told he did it for others. And he is the earliest example that we have of one so acting, and the first person, too, in the record of Scripture history who offered an offering for sins committed. This was his practice as often as he feared that his children had sinned, and had cursed God in their hearts. (Job 1:5.) This patriarch, then, is the first person we read of who ministered at the altar on behalf of others. Throughout the book of Genesis the officiator at the altar appears in the character of offerer as well. In Job's case it was different. So that with which we are so familiar from the Mosaic ritual, the priest officiating on behalf of others, we see first exemplified in the practice of the patriarch Job, who offered burnt-offerings for his sons, according to the number of them all. He as a just one for unjust ones appeared before God.
Very simple was his faith. As often as his children met together on their festive occasions, so often did Job offer up burnt-offerings for them all. As often as he feared they might have sinned did he come before God with sacrifices for each of them. He understood evidently, that none of them could be forgiven their sin, unless a sacrifice was offered up on their behalf; therefore he offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all. In his day that one sacrifice, by which believers are perfected for ever, had not been consummated, so Job sacrificed for his children as often as he thought they had need of it. But we have not the slightest hint that he sacrificed twice to deal with the question of the same sin. He seems to have understood that a sacrifice once offered up for any sin was enough in God's eyes, and having done that, he could rest contented about it. In this he was really before many in our day, who have yet to learn what it is to rest on the offering up of that one perfect sacrifice for sins, by which God has been for ever glorified, and by which believers are perfected for a continuance. (Heb. 10:14.)
Three distinct points, then, in the Scripture teaching about sacrifice are first met with in this one verse of the book of Job. A righteous person is seen officiating on behalf of sinners. Next, the acknowledgment is made, that each one who has sinned has need of a sacrifice to be offered upon his behalf. And thirdly, Job rests satisfied with the offering up of one sacrifice, without any repetition of it, for the sin which had been committed.
But was Job right in acting on such principles? Any question that might have been raised God set at rest by His communication to Job's three friends, which is given us at the end of the book, commanding them to offer up seven bullocks and seven rams for a burnt offering; for they had not spoken of God the thing that was right, as His servant Job had. (Job 42:7.) They had sinned, so they needed a sacrifice, otherwise the Lord must have dealt with them after their folly. Nothing, then, could procure their exemption from such dealing except the burnt-offering here prescribed. A sacrifice therefore can deal with the question of sin when committed. This the friends of Job proved. Seven bullocks and seven rams they were commanded to bring, the whole forming but one burnt-offering; for one sacrifice was enough in God's eyes; a repetition of it was not to be thought of. Seven animals of each kind - a perfect number, for seven is the highest indivisible number - were demanded of God. Nothing should be wanting to assure them of the settlement of the question of their sin, perfectly and for ever. This the Almighty in His grace provided. But nothing could avert from them divine judgment except such a sacrifice. Job understood that heinous sin, however thoughtlessly committed, required a sacrifice to put it away. The Lord taught His three friends that a sacrifice was equally requisite for that which man would think little or nothing about. But the sacrifice once accepted, the question so settled was not to be reopened.
Thus far we have divine teaching in patriarchal times, of the beneficial results to man of a sacrifice offered up to God. Nothing less than the death of the sacrificial victim will avail for one born in sin, that he may with acceptance approach his God. Now such a sacrifice is a sweet savour to God, and on the ground of it He can bless the sinner, and that how fully! Its sweet savour we can all understand, since the true offering is that of God's Son, given by the Father to die, and He willingly surrendering Himself to death in obedience to the Father's will. Nothing can be more precious to God than this, so nothing more does the sinner need; for he learns how it can deal effectually once and for ever with the question of his guilt. And it is God Himself who provides the sacrifice, and who makes known its acceptableness before Him. Now all this was set forth before the giving of the law. Nor was it confined to the seed of Jacob, to whom the Mosaic ritual was delivered.
Before, however, turning to that, there is other instruction on this subject, which should not be overlooked. We have learnt about the burnt offering. We must hriefly look at that which till the days of Moses went simply by the name of a sacrifice. This, which is mentioned in Exodus 10:25, Exodus 18:12, Exodus 24:5, was festive in its character; and in Exodus 24:5 it is described by that term, translated a peace-offering. Very probably at Galeed (Gen. 31:54), where Jacob and Laban feasted together, sacrifices of this character were offered up, of which they and their respective companies partook, a solemn ratification of the covenant entered into between the father-in-law and the son-in-law. As to the time and the occasion on which such a sacrifice was instituted, we have, however, no information. In the days of Moses it was nothing new; for he speaks of such before Pharaoh as distinct from burnt offerings, and as a sacrifice which apparently needed no further explanation on his part; and until after the giving of the law we read of no other animal sacrifices but these two. In the burnt-offering all went up to God. On the sacrifice, as this other was originally termed, the offerer and those concerned feasted together, God, it is likely, having His part, and they theirs. On the ground of the accepted burnt-offering blessing came down to men. In this sacrifice the parties concerned eat bread before God. (Exodus. 18:12.) These were solemn and, it might be, happy seasons. Solemn because they eat before God; happy seasons surely when they were rejoicing in something God had done. Thus at the ratification of the covenant at Sinai, young men offered burnt-offerings, and sacrifices of peace-offerings, and the elders of Israel saw the God of Israel, and did eat and drink on the mount. (Ex. 24:11.) A solemn but happy time that was, a momentary glimpse, as it were, of what a people, represented on that occasion by the seventy elders, could enjoy when in unbroken covenant relation with their God.
Again, when Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had heard of all that the Lord had done for Israel, he rejoiced at all the goodness shown to them, and "took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses' father in-law before God." (Exodus 18:12.) This was a festive occasion, yet a solemn one, because they were before God; though withal a happy one, because Jethro and they were together rejoicing for all the goodness Jehovah had shown to Israel.
Thus, before the revelation to Moses of God's mind about the offerings, related in Leviticus 1-7, those who acknowledged God knew how to have seasons of holy fellowship with one another before Him. But to have such seasons the sacrifice was needed. We understand, as we study the peace-offering appointed by the law, the real meaning of this, learning as we do of whom the sacrifice was a type. How simple was such a service, but how speaking! For seasons of holy joy, and happy fellowship with each other before God, death was positively needed - the death of the sacrifice. But that provided, fallen creatures though these were, they could rejoice before God, and with each other. C. E. S.