From its size, and a rapid glance at its contents, we would judge that the book of Job is a very important part of the word of God. Yet how much it is neglected by most; an intimate familiarity even with its contents is the exception rather than the rule.

Unquestionably the treasures of New Testament truth claim our first attention. The life, teachings, sacrificial death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ; the work of the Holy Spirit in establishing the Church on its broad Christian basis; the Epistles, unfolding the wondrous truths of redemption in its individual and corporate aspects — these must have a place in every Christian heart in precedence over all other revelations of truth. But so far from this making us indifferent to the Old Testament, it will beget a hunger which will lead us to search afresh for "things new and old" in its pages. Let us then take up anew the record of God's dealings with His servant in olden times, and find how needed and unchanged are its lessons for the present.

Job is one of the poetical books, called in Scripture "the Psalms." With "the Law and the Prophets," these form the entire Old Testament Scriptures (Luke 24:44). This group of poetical books was called by the Jews Kethubim, "the writings." In the fourfold division of the Old Testament, with which many are familiar — the Books of the Law, the Prophetic History, the Prophets, and Books of Experience — we find Job belonging to the last group. Arranging these experimental books according to their subjects, we have them as follows:

1. The Psalms — the experiences of the godly in Israel, and of Christ, in view of the varied sufferings at the hand of man and of God, with the outlook toward the future kingdom.

2. Job — the experience of a righteous man in learning deliverance from himself.

3. The Song of Solomon — the experiences of the remnant in Israel and of the individual in relation to the love of Christ.

4. Ecclesiastes — the experiences of a wise man vainly seeking for good in the world.

5. Proverbs — wisdom for the path, the garnered experience of faith enlightened by revelation.

Naturally, the Psalms are the fullest and most varied of these experimental books, with the special charm of revealing "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." They are dispensational, prophetic, and therefore strongly Jewish, using the term in a good sense. The Song and Proverbs have the national characteristics, in a lesser degree, and Ecclesiastes perhaps least of the four. In Job we pass entirely out of the national atmosphere into what we may call Gentile, or at least patriarchal, modes of thought and speech. The dispensational features are completely in the background — seen only in the light of other scriptures, and in a secondary way. This leaves us with a book of intense individuality, in which we see a man learning the lesson of his own nothingness, in the fierce fire of deep affliction, by "the messenger of Satan" — through loss, bereavement and disease — fighting single-handed against the crude philosophy and cruel attacks of his friends; above all, with his own proud, unsubdued self-righteousness and unbelief, until "an interpreter" is heard, who leads him to the point where he listens to God and learns the lesson of all the ages, that He alone is God, and therein lies his blessing.

May we turn aside from the mad rush of the present day, causing even God's people to have superficial views and experiences, when restless activity even in service so often hinders meditation and the learning of what self is in the presence of God, and sit down with this suffering man and his friends to learn our lesson too.

Many preliminary questions of interest and importance might claim our attention, but to these we can only give a few words.

First, Is Job a real or a fictitious character? Scripture replies by associating him with Noah and Daniel (Ezek. 14:14, 20), and James refers to his well-known trials and patience, and to "the end of the Lord" (James 5:11). That the book is a magnificent piece of poetry, cast in a strikingly dramatic form, does not in the least imply that it is not absolutely true. Indeed, in God's word poetry must be truth, and there is nothing grander than the sublime dramas in which the setting is heaven and earth, and the participants are God, the angels, Satan and man. There is no room for fancy here, because the truth is grander than all the imaginations of men.

Next, who is the author of the book? GOD. Some have ascribed it to Moses, or possibly some earlier writer, and undoubtedly the general tone of the book suits the patriarchal age. Moses, who wrote Psalm 90, certainly had sufficient knowledge and versatility to be the human instrument, and during his stay in the land of Midian may have found this book or gathered its materials. Others have associated the book with the writers of Solomon's time, and it cannot be denied that there is much in its pages that reminds us of Solomon in the Proverbs. In general theme it may be associated with that time when the experiences of God's people were being gathered by inspired men. The knowledge of Jehovah, and of sacrifice, shows that its author must have been in the light of revelation. — could not have been a heathen in the ordinary sense of the word. For how feeble for instance are the thoughts of Homer when compared with what we find here. We rest therefore in the all-sufficient fact that it is a most important portion of that Word given by inspiration of God and "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." It need hardly be added that inspiration does not give infallibility to the various statements of Job and his friends, but insures the accuracy of the record of those statements — a vast difference, which annihilation and other systems failing to see, would claim divine sanction for human error.

Geographical and other questions need not detain us long. Uz is believed, by competent authority (the elder Delitzsch), to lie west of Babylon and east of Palestine; perhaps, to the north-east of Idumea. This country, with fertile grazing lands, broken by great stretches of rocks, with the desert near (the land of the inhabitants of Seir when dislodged from their original territory) is the suited home of Job and his friends. These outward details are however of minor importance, given in part of the first verse, where at once we plunge into the narrative which forms the introduction to the book.

The book divides naturally into five parts, of unequal length, which seem to correspond in theme with the numerical significance of their order. The first and last of these divisions are historical, very brief and concise, giving us the introduction and the conclusion; these are written in prose. The main part of the book is poetry of a high order, rising into the sublime, and tender in many of its parts. Three divisions are found here: the controversy of Job and his friends, the testimony of Elihu, and the answer of Jehovah. The five divisions may therefore be given as follows:
Job 1, 2. The historical introduction: Job's piety and prosperity; his sufferings at the hand of Satan — in his possessions, his family and his person.
Job 3 — 31. The controversies of Job and his three friends, exhibiting the futility of human reason in explaining God's ways in affliction, and the deep-rooted self-righteousness of man's heart.
Job 32 — 37. The manifestation of God's character of holiness and of mercy, as exhibited inthe testimony of Elihu.
Job 38 — 42:6. Jehovah's testimony from creation, testing Job and bringing him into the dust.
Job 42:7-17. "The end of the Lord:" the result of the divine ways with Job, restoring him to greater blessing than before.

It need hardly be said that we shall not find the full light of truth as we now enjoy it. The veil hangs before the holiest of God's presence, now revealed in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. But there are wondrous glimpses of the glory not yet revealed, and faith in the living God shines brightly at times. With New Testament guidance we find the same principles of light and of love lying beneath the covering. This will come out as we proceed, the Lord graciously enlightening and enabling.

Division 1.

The Historical Introduction — Job's piety and prosperity; his sufferings at the hand of Satan, in his possessions, his family, and his person.

In piety as well as in prosperity Job resembles in some measure the patriarch Abraham. His faith, however, was feeble in comparison, and there seems to have been a lack of that personal acquaintance with God which marked "the father of them that believe," who was called "the friend of God." Nor could he compare with Melchizedek, "the priest of the Most High God," to whom Abraham gave tithes, whose personality and nearness to God must not be lost sight of in the brighter light of his typical position.

It is this lack of true acquaintance with God, with the corresponding ignorance of his own heart, which probably made necessary the trials to which Job was subjected.

We come now to the narrative of the first two chapters, which may be divided into three main parts:
1. Job 1:1-5. — Job's piety and prosperity.
2. Job 1:6-22 — Delivered to Satan.
3. Job 2 — Full trial.

1. — Job's character is described by four adjectives, which in their order remind us of the significance of numbers, which already seems to mark the structure of the book. He was perfect, complete and rounded out in character; humanly speaking, there was nothing uneven or lacking in him. Many men have excellent traits, but are deficient in other elements which go to make up a complete man. They are, for instance, truthful, but lacking in kindness; amiable, but inclined to be weak. Job was a well-balanced man.

Next, he was upright. This describes his relationship to others. Righteousness marked his ways, as he himself knew all too well.

Then, he feared God; this is the "beginning of knowledge," and must be taken at its full value. Job was not, as some have thought, an unregenerate man; there was life in his soul. He was a child of God, not a sinner away from Him. Unless this is seen, much of the exercises through which he passed will lose meaning. Lastly, he "eschewed evil;" his outward walk corresponded with the state of his heart.

All this was morally excellent; it was not the false pretense of the hypocrite, but the genuine character of one of whom God says, "there is none like him in the earth."

In fitting correspondence with his moral character, and according to Old Testament standards, Job was a man of prosperity, both in his family and his possessions. He had seven sons — their number suggesting completeness; and three daughters — the manifestation of his character and excellence. These numbers are also seen in his possessions — seven thousand sheep and three thousand camels; while the five hundred yoke of oxen and asses indicate complete ability for all work. Great numbers of servants complete the picture of this noble Emir, "the greatest of all the men of the East."

With abundance of wealth, Job's sons led a life of prosperous ease and enjoyment, sharing their pleasures with their three sisters. Some have thought that this round of festivities was daily, throughout the entire week; but there seems no need to hold it down to such a routine. Nor is it intimated that these festivities were in themselves of a wanton, worldly character, as were his who bade his soul to "eat, drink and be merry." Job only recognized the possibility that they might, as Agur feared for himself, "be full and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord?" (Prov. 30:9.) The word "curse" God, is literally "bless," as also Job was later urged to "bless God and die" — to renounce Him, bidding Him farewell (Job 2:9). In view of the possibility of this, Job offered for each of his sons a burnt-offering.

This sacrifice, while it shows the knowledge of the only way of approach to God — the way of sacrifice, from Abel and Noah onward — indicates that Job lived before the institution of the Levitical ordinances. He offered a burnt-offering rather than a sin or trespass-offering.

It is possible that there is a slight token of Job's self-righteousness in his thought that his sons might have turned away from God, rather than that he himself had. But this is rather reading a meaning into his action from his subsequent state. It seems only to indicate the solicitude of one who feared God, that his children should not succumb to temptations too common to the life of pleasure. It seems to be mentioned as a proof of the real piety of the man.

2. — Delivered to Satan (Job 1:6-22)

The scene now changes from earth to heaven, where Jehovah is seen in His majesty, attended by the angelic hosts. "I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right hand and on His left" (1 Kings 22:19).

"No man hath seen God at any time"; and, in the fullest sense, even angels cannot look upon His face who dwelleth "in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). The seraphim veil their faces as they proclaim His thrice holy Name (Isa. 6.).

No creature, be he ever so great, can "know the Almighty to perfection." Yet angels have an access into the presence of God which it would be impossible for man, as at present constituted, to enjoy. Apart from the fact that sin has severed him from God morally, man, as formed of the dust (although endowed with an immortal spirit), is "a little lower than the angels." His natural dwelling-place is the earth, not heaven, and his intercourse with God would naturally be modified and limited by that fact. The heavenly scene before us represents angelic access to God, as contrasted with human approach to Him.

The heavenly beings are called "the sons of God," for He is "the Father of spirits." While this is true of men as well — "for we also are His offspring" — it is because they also have spirits, and so far are like the angels. But in man all is linked with the body, and intercourse is had through that medium. It is only in resurrection that men will be "equal unto the angels; and are the children of
God, being the children of the resurrection" (Luke 20:36).

The expression "sons of God" seems to suggest, not merely a spirit-nature, but moral likeness to God as well. This is further emphasized by the fact that "Satan" is mentioned as in contrast. "Sons of God" shouted for joy when the material universe was founded (Job 38:7). And when the First-begotten is brought into His own, and reigns over the earth, these "ethereal virtues" will unite with all redeemed creation to give glory "unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever" (Rev. 5:13). We know too that infernal beings will also own that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil. 2:10-11). But that is by compulsion; the worship of the "sons of God" is an outflow of their hearts.*

{*It is a mistake to think that the same expression in different parts of Scripture always means the same thing. Mere verbal similarity is not the guide, but the connection and the trend of thought. Thus, the "sons of God" who married "the daughters of men" (Gen. 6:2) were evidently, as the connection shows, men of the line of Seth who formed mixed marriages with the descendants of Cain. Also, "Ye are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26, R.V.), so manifestly refers to men that none would dispute it.}

We cannot intrude into things which we have not seen and must not make the attempt, nor seek to have a "religion of angels;" nor would this be the place to gather together the various teachings of Scripture regarding the host of heaven. It must suffice us to note that these beings, as their name both in Hebrew and Greek tells us, are Jehovah's messengers. They "excel in strength, and do His commandments, hearkening unto the voice of His word" (Ps. 103:20). It is their happy privilege to worship and to serve, answering thus in some sense to the priestly worship and Levitical service of God's earthly children. In connection with this worship and service they are seen here gathered, as on some great occasion, before their divine Lord.

In dreadful contrast with these worshiping servants, these "sons of God," we see one utterly unlike them in moral character, though having a spirit-nature like themselves. Indeed he was once morally like them, the very chief of them all (Ezek. 28) — the "covering cherub" that shadowed the throne of Jehovah. But "how hast thou fallen, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" Dazzled with his own glory, wilfully forgetting the creature-place which he must ever keep, he has fallen into pride ("the condemnation of the devil"), by which he became the bitter, eternal enemy of all that is good, and of God Himself.

Revising ordinary views of Satan in the light of this scripture, we find that while morally fallen he still has access into God's presence, can still present himself along with the "sons of God." So far from being shut up in hell, or even confined to earth, we see this shameless apostate taking his place there as though it were still his right. The time is coming, and that ere long, when he shall be cast out of heaven to earth (Rev. 12:7-12), to tarry there but a short time, and then to be bound a thousand years in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-3); and finally, after leading another brief outbreak of apostate men, will receive his eternal retribution in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).

How great is the patience of God! He has tolerated Satan's malignity and scheming through all the sad centuries of fallen man's history — permitted him indeed to tempt our first parents in their innocence — and allows him to make his accusations and insinuations that there is no good, before His very face. But all is permitted to bring out lessons for eternity. Satan is surely heaping up added wrath for himself, and meanwhile his very malice can but serve God's righteous purposes of blessing, as we shall see in Job's case.

In the dialogue between the Lord and Satan, we have God's challenge and Satan's accusation. The answer to the first question shows where Satan is carrying on his work. Like the restless raven flying over the waste of waters after the flood, he walketh about "as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." In heaven he is the accuser; on earth the destroyer; wherever he is, he is ever and only Satan — the enemy of God and of good.

"Hast thou considered my servant Job?" asks Jehovah, adopting for Himself the description of the patriarch already given. God delights in His beloved people, and in their righteous ways. If Satan accuse, He will commend. It is ever thus; judgment is His strange work; He would be occupied with good, and "if there be any virtue and any praise," He thinks upon that.

True to his character, Satan can only accuse. He cannot deny Job's righteousness, but impugns his motives. Having no motive himself but selfishness, he declares that Job is only actuated by that. Why should he not be righteous? Does it not pay? He is prosperous, blessed in every way, and nothing is allowed to come near him for injury. Let God but remove that safeguard, and let Job be deprived of all his wealth, "and he will curse Thee to thy face."

Is this accusation true? Can good exist only with a pleasant environment? Is God afraid to let His children see adversity? Can one who knows and loves God be brought to renounce Him, to "curse Him to His face?" Such questions are involved in Satan's charge. Not only for Job's sake, but the truth's sake, God will not permit this accusation to rest upon Him, nor upon Job. For Satan would ever strike at God when outwardly pleading even for righteousness.

Therefore Job is delivered into Satan's hands; all that he has is subject to that enemy's malignity: "Only upon himself put not forth thy hand." Not a hair of the child of God can fall without His permission. Satan is but the unintentional instrument to accomplish God's will; he can do no more than he is allowed to do. How good it is to remember this! If trials come as a host against us, we know that the Almighty is between us and them. They will but work out for us His own purposes of love.

Nor must we forget that not only was God going to vindicate His truth, silence Satan and wicked men, but He knew that His servant Job needed to learn lessons for his own soul. He would put the precious ore into the crucible, for He knew how much unsuspected evil lay hidden beneath all that outward excellence, mixed even with the inner piety of this good man. He would show that even piety cannot feed upon itself, nor righteousness lean upon its own arm. These are some of the lessons which Job is to learn. May we learn them too!

Before going into the details of Job's trials, it will be well to consider the question of the character and limits of Satan's power. Can he, of his own power, bring down the lightning or raise up a whirlwind? Can he inflict disease, and order events as he may desire?

There are two extremes, from each of which we must guard ourselves. The one would ascribe to Satan powers little, if any, short of divine. It is claimed that as prince of this world, all things are in his hand — all the forces of nature as well as the mind and heart of man in short, that he is the God of providence for this world. The opposite view would ignore his dignity of position, his power as chief of God's creatures, and make him practically inferior to man. We must turn therefore, however briefly, to Scripture, and examine its positive teachings, as well as some passages which need special explanation.

Of his moral power over man there can be no question. "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not" (2 Cor. 4:4); "According to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2); "The whole world lieth in the wicked one" (1 John 5:19). His power is to blind men to the gospel, and to keep them away from God, in the broad way that leadeth to destruction. The whole world is thus under his blinding, seducing influence. To those who yield themselves wilfully to his sway, he is father: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do … He is a liar, and the father of it" (John 8:44). "He abode not in the truth," and would lead men away from the truth. In the garden of Eden, he seduced the woman into disobedience, in which Adam united and thus brought sin into the world (Rom. 5:12). "The wages of sin is death," which has passed upon all men — as necessitated by the universality of sin — and thus Satan has the power of death (Heb. 2:14), not the power of inflicting death, but the moral power of sin which brings death, and the judgment which follows.

Sickness is the shadow and precursor of death" Sick unto death" (Isa. 38:1) and it is a witness to the solemn truth of man's separation from the Source of life — "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18). The alienation is moral; the physical death is the governmental infliction. Sickness is thus connected with Satan's power in a moral rather than a physical way.

The subject of demon possession is too large to be entered upon fully. It must suffice to notice the moral effect this possession had. The man in the synagogue at Capernaum had an unclean spirit (Mark 1:23). Another man had a dumb spirit. Frequently the power of these demons was exerted in leading their victims to injure or even to destroy themselves. The "daughter of Abraham" who had "a spirit of infirmity" (Luke 13:11-16) and thus bound by Satan, was undoubtedly more than sick in the ordinary sense. As the power of the enemy made some dumb, it bound her down. It is difficult to define the relation between our own spirit and the body; it must be more so in the case of demon power. But the power seems to be exerted through the mind. This is evident in the case of the demoniac boy (Matt. 17:15) who was "lunatic and sore vexed" with a demon.

It is striking that Satan was permitted to manifest his power in this special way during our Lord's ministry. It gave Him the opportunity to show to the least believing that He "was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

We come next to those scriptures which connect Satan's activities with natural, physical phenomena. He carried our Lord to the top of the temple, and urged Him to cast Himself down (Matt. 4:5). He would take possession of the body of Moses (Jude 9). As Elijah called down fire from heaven (2 Kings 1:10), we know that the Antichrist will do the same (Rev. 13:13). An angel rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre (Matt. 28:2), and another released Peter from prison (Acts 12:7, etc.). Scripture gives no intimation that Satan has less power than the angels, for he was chief of them all. What then are we to gather from these facts?

The material universe — all things — has been created by the Son of God. "Without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). Satan has brought nothing into existence; he is but a creature himself. Similarly all the forces of nature act according to divine laws. "Laws of nature" are but laws of God, the manner in which all things are upheld by the word of His power. He has not relinquished His prerogatives as God of providence any more than His place as Creator. He is sovereign and doeth according to His own will, blessed be His name. He causes His sun to shine and rain to fall; He sends fruitful seasons, filling men's hearts with food and gladness. He holds the winds in His fists, and rides upon the storm. "The sea is His, and He made it;" and the stormy wind, which He commandeth and raiseth up, doth but fulfil His word.
"He everywhere hath sway,
And all things serve His might."

God's creatures can use these forces of nature only by His permission. A Christian professor, in performing experiments in natural science before his class, was accustomed to say, "Gentlemen, God is working before your eyes." Man cannot force nature to act contrary to the will of God.

This applies in an especial way to Satan, for he is no longer a servant of God, one of the usual agents of His will, but a rebel. He can do nothing except by divine permission. As prince of this world, he rules in the hearts of men, individually and corporately, but his domain stops there. He is not prince of the earth, the sea, nor air. "Prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2) does not mean lord of the winds, but one whose evil influence pervades the moral world, as the atmosphere envelops the physical. Where faith realizes the omnipresent supremacy of God over all nature, it can, in its little measure, sleep on the waves amid the tumult of the storm. But only One can say to that storm, "Peace, be still."

Our answer then as to the nature of all miraculous powers of Satan is that they are divine power put forth with divine permission with a divine object, in answer to a Satanic demand for that power. Satan desired to tempt our Lord, and God put all His power at the enemy's disposal to effect his object if possible. The result was the exhibition of the perfections of the sinless Man. The "messenger of Satan" (2 Cor. 12) given to Paul was permitted of God with a purpose of grace, in spite of the malignity of the one who would destroy the usefulness of a servant of the Lord. In regard to every outward form of Satanic activity we can use the words of our Lord, "Thou couldest have no power at all against Me, except it were given thee from above" (John 19:11). In other words, it was not Satan's lightning, but God's that smote Job's property; God's, not Satan's, whirlwind that destroyed his family. Satan had demanded this — "Put forth Thy hand now, and touch all that he hath" (Job 1:11). Job sees only God's hand in his affliction — "The Lord hath taken away" (ver. 21); and God Himself says to Satan, "Thou movedst Me against him, to destroy him without cause" (Job 2:3).

The bearing of all this upon human sickness and the use of medicines is simple. The connection of sickness with Satan is through sin, and it is a governmental dealing of God with men calculated to turn them to Him in their need. Medicines are creatures of God, acting according to divinely established laws. To call them works of the devil is the opposite of the truth. Faith therefore can use them, as every other creature of God, with thanksgiving.

We come now to the strokes that fell upon Job.

There were four of these, suggesting by their number the trial to which the Lord's servant was subjected. The first blow fell upon his oxen and asses, the means of labor which is the chief source of wealth. "Much increase is by the strength of the ox" (Prov. 14:4); "That our oxen may be strong to labor" (Ps. 144:14). The Sabeans, a mixed nomadic race of near-by Arabians, swooped suddenly down, slew all the servants except the fugitive who told the tale, and made off with all the spoil. We can see Satan's work in stirring up the cupidity of these people, ever ready to murder and to rob, but the supernatural part was that along with all the rest, it took place at just this time, God permitting it all.

The second stroke follows immediately, falling upon the sheep, the source of his food and clothing, and their attendants. The agency this time was "the fire of God" from heaven. It is not designated as lightning, though some authorities consider it was that, but has been thought to be similar to that which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrha. Whatever it was, it was "an act of God," as men say, when destruction comes without human interposition. We have already intimated, in the earlier discussion, Satan's part in this.

The third stroke falls upon the camels, the animals used for burden-bearing and for travel, the source of commercial wealth. The agents here are the Chaldeans, from the north of the country of Job — apparently a warlike and numerous people at that day, though not yet in their place of later national supremacy. They clear all away, both of camels and servants, as completely as had the Sabeans.

Lastly, the whirlwind falls upon the house where the sons and daughters were feasting, leaving but one servant to tell of the awful calamity.

Thus the blows fall in quick succession without opportunity for partial recovery. They come with terrible suddenness, in the midst of prosperity, happiness and piety. They were incurable, cumulative, stunning. In one brief hour Job is stripped of all. Truly, Satan had done his work thoroughly, under the permission of an all-wise God.

The storm has burst in all its fury; how does the sufferer act beneath it? Not a murmur escapes his lips at the loss of his property; and when the climax is reached, he meets it in the dignity of a man of faith, yet with a tender, broken heart. Rent mantle and shorn head are the marks of a mourner. He acknowledges that nothing was his by right; he had come into the world naked, and would leave it as he came. "We brought nothing, into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out" (1 Tim. 6:7). But he turns from the stroke to the Hand that gave it. He looks past all second causes, whether human or miraculous, and lays his sorrow at the Lord's feet. "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

So Satan has utterly failed thus far. His object had been to drive Job from God; he had only drawn him to Him. This proves the reality of Job's faith.

But more, much more, is to follow.

3. — Full Trial.

Again Satan presents himself before God as at the first, and again the Lord asks concerning Job, faithful in spite of the afflictions through which he had passed. Unabashed by his failure to move Job, Satan makes fresh demands, coupled with fresh accusations. "Skin for skin" — to save part of his skin man will give up another part; yea, to save his life he will surrender everything he has, including his fear of God. Hitherto God had not allowed Job's body to be touched; let the hand of God be laid upon that, and how quickly will Job's vaunted piety disappear.

We may be sure that divine love, as well as divine wisdom, subjected this afflicted child of God to fresh assaults at the hands of Satan. We see the tenderness in the words, "Save his life." The enemy is to do all, and thus prove the falsity of his own charge. Every prop is to be removed, every earthly joy taken away, and still Job will cleave to the God whom he has trusted, even though dimly. And on the other hand, through the very exercises through which he must pass, Job will learn the lesson of all lessons, for all eternity, that God is all in all; and as a step to that knowledge, he will see that he is nothing.

It is not necessary that we should know the exact nature of the disease which fell upon Job. Some have thought it to be leprosy, the most hopeless, loathsome and deadly of all human affections. Others have named it elephantiasis, a repulsive and fearful disease in which every part of the body is affected. It is accompanied not only by the distortion and swelling of the limbs which give it its name, but by putrid inflammation extending throughout the entire frame. It "begins with the rising of tubercular boils, and at length resembles a cancer spreading itself over the whole body, by which the body is so affected that some of the limbs fall completely away."

Without going into speculation, however, we may recall the solemn warnings of God if His people should depart from Him: "The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed" (Deut. 28:27, 35). When, in Old Testament times, practically all God's dealings with men were on an earthly plane, it is evident that such an affliction would be regarded as a particular token of His displeasure — at least by those who had not learned the varied uses of adversity in the school of God. We shall find that practically all — Job's friends, and even himself — labored under this misapprehension; and this accounts for the long and painful controversy between them, in which neither side could reach what God could approve.

And, apart from revelation, how wretched and hopeless was Job's condition! Who that knew him in the days of his prosperity could have recognized him in the abject misery of his present condition, sitting in ashes and scraping himself with a potsherd? The ashes suggest his mourning for his losses, especially his bereavement; the potsherd might well typify his own broken condition, and while he vainly seeks to alleviate the intolerable pain and itching of his "putrefying sores," his self-contemplation is equally powerless to alleviate the sufferings of his soul.

The wife is the first to break down completely. As "the weaker vessel" this is not surprising, for the husband should ever be the leader in faith and love, as in the responsibilities which he cannot transfer to another. But there is something more than the outward collapse of faith; there seems to be a spirit of apostasy which had listened to the lie of Satan. As the woman of old was beguiled by the attractiveness of Satan's snare, so she seems to have fallen before the apparent hopelessness of Job's contending against a "sea of troubles."

The wives of men of faith have not always been on the same plane as their husbands. Sarah counselled Abraham to resort to human expedients to secure the promises. Zipporah evidently stood in the way, for a time, of Moses acting in faithfulness in his family (Ex. 4:24-26). Michal mocked when David exhibited the joy and liberty which a sense of grace always gives (2 Sam. 6:16, 20-23). Faith must necessarily be an individual matter between the soul and God. It cannot be received at second hand. On the other hand, however, God abundantly blesses the family of the man of faith, and often gives him the joy of seeing those dear to him resting also in the unfailing faithfulness of One who invites all to trust in Him.

We will not dogmatize about Job's wife. The root of the matter may have been in her, and she may have been only for a time overwhelmed by her grief. But her words are very evil: "Dost thou still retain thine integrity? Curse God, and die." It has been thought that her love to Job prompted these words; that she could not endure seeing one so dear to her suffering such torture, and practically counseled suicide. We can leave her case with Him who searcheth the heart, and seek to get the benefit of Job's noble reply: "Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What! Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" She was associating herself with the profane who despise God. She had been quite willing to enjoy good things at the hand of God; now that He sees fit to send trial, shall we refuse to take it as meant for good? It was God who was the giver in each case.

Alas, how few of us can bear adversity! "If thou faintest in the day of adversity, thy strength is small." And yet can we, would we, escape suffering in a world like this? In one form or another, at one time or another, it must come.
"Aliens may escape the rod,
Nursed in earthly, vain delight,
But a true-born child of God,
Must not, would not, if he might."

Judging from what follows, we might include the visit of Job's friends in the general assault of Satan. In that way we speak of that assault as threefold: first, circumstantial, in the disasters upon his property and family and himself second, personal, in the advice of his wife and the arguments of his friends; third, inward, in the doubts of the goodness and justice of God which Job entertained. But strictly speaking, Satan's work ended when he launched his four bolts against Job and then smote him with disease.

These three friends of Job were evidently persons of age, rank, and, indeed piety. For we must distinguish between their erroneous dealings with Job and their personal character. Like him they were on the wrong track — more so than himself, but like him also they were in the end brought into a true realization of God's ways.

They came from districts noted for men of wisdom: "Is wisdom no more in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom vanished? (Jer. 49:7). The "men of the East" were similarly famed. As has just been said, they seem to have been men of personal piety; at least they had a knowledge of the true God and of righteousness. Of the significance of their names we can say little. Eliphaz has been defined as "God is strength," and by others, "God is fine gold." Both meanings suggest at least the greatness and pre-eminence of God. His country, Teman, means "the south," the country lying under the sun, open to the light. But we have learned that while the south country is open to the light, it is apt to be dry and arid, as indeed Arabia was. It needs, as Achsah said, "springs of water." Light without life can never help.

Bildad is said to mean "son of contention," and he certainly answers to his name in these controversies. His place, Shuach, "depression or pit," is also appropriate. Zophar, "a sparrow," from the root verb "to twitter," is the masculine form of Zipporah, Moses' wife, and like her he was an unconscious opponent of God's judgment on the flesh, though he was very zealous in condemning the fancied works of the flesh in Job. His vehement denunciations being utterly out of place, were as harmless as the "twitterings" of the bird for which he was named. His place, Naamah, "pleasantness," is, like the miserable comfort he offered, but a mockery of true happiness. But these meanings are only tentative.

These men have evidently heard in their distant homes of Job's affliction. As true friends they are not unmoved, and make an appointment to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. Certainly their motive was excellent how they succeeded appears later.

The second scene in this divine drama may be said to open with the arrival of these friends. As they draw near what a sight meets their shocked vision! Can this wretched, loathsome object, covered with putrid sores, sitting in the midst of ashes, be their stately friend, the greatest man of the East? They burst into tears, rend their garments and sit down with him. Very touching and appropriate this is, and the silence of seven days emphasizes the reality of their sympathy. They wept with him who wept. Unable to help by words, their silence would indicate how deeply moved they were.

Meanwhile the thoughts of all were doubtless busy. After the first shock produced by Job's terrible condition was over, they must necessarily have begun to think — why has this evil come upon him? Long accepted principles would suggest an answer, to which they seem slow to give expression. God punishes the ungodly; the righteous are prosperous; therefore … can it be? On his part too Job is meditating. He too had accepted his prosperity as a mark of God's approval. He has been righteous and faithful, and God rewards faithfulness — at least he had thought He did. Can it be that God …? But he has not yet allowed these thoughts to find expression; indeed they may not yet have been present. But his sufferings are intense, his burden of grief and pain intolerable. The silent sympathy of his friends does not soften his heart. While he muses the fire burns, and at last the pent-up grief bursts forth in bitter cursings and lamentations.

Division 2. (Job 3-31).

The controversies of Job and his three friends, exhibiting the futility of human reason in explaining God's ways in affliction, and the deep-rooted self-righteousness of man's heart.

We have in this division the largest and, in many respects, the most complicated part of the book. It has been well named The Entanglement, for it is a mass of argument, denunciation, accusation, suspicion, partly correct theories, and withal flashes of faith and hope — all in the language of loftiest poetry, with magnificent luxuriance of Oriental metaphor. To the casual reader there may seem to be no progress, and but little clarity in the controversy. And it must be confessed that God's people at large seem to have gained little from these chapters beyond a few familiar, beautiful and oft-quoted verses.

But can we think that God would have permitted a useless book to be included in that "all scripture," which is profitable? Let us then come with confidence to these controversies and patiently seek their meaning, see if we can trace an individuality in each speaker, and a progress in his declarations; whether we can mark a rise in the faith of Job, so nearly eclipsed, and a preparation for the unfolding of God's ways which follow after.

We add a word here as to the inspiration of the book. There can be no question as to this, for it is referred to both in the Old Testament (Ezek. 14:14, 20) and in the New (James 5:11); it is also quoted in the New Testament (1 Cor. 3:19). But inspiration is often mistaken for revelation, or the infallible statement of divine truth. We have the inspired record of what Satan said to Eve, and to our Lord; of the utterances of wicked men, like Pharaoh and Rabshakeh, but no one thinks of these words as being the truth of God. Similarly here we have an inspired record of what Job and his three friends said, but while most of it was true, it was out of place and misapplied. This is all perfectly plain.

The whole Division may be separated into three subdivisions, of unequal length.
Subdivision 1. — Job's opening Lament (Job 3).
Subdivision 2. — The controversy with the three friends (Job 4-26).
Subdivision 3. — Job's closing Monologue (chaps. 27-31).

We need hardly point out the numerical appropriateness of these subdivisions: the first introduces the entire controversy; it is the beginning of all that is said afterwards. The second speaks of antagonism and the vain efforts of man to help, with glimpses of faith between. The third is the full display of Job's heart. Significantly he begins and closes the controversy.

Subdivision 1.  — Job's opening Lament (Job 3).

Perhaps that which strikes the reader most forcibly on entering upon this chapter, is the great contrast between it and the preceding one. Can this be the same man who meekly bowed his head to the successive strokes of adversity which fell so suddenly upon him? — who bore the torture of his dread disease, and listened unmoved to his wife's solicitations to suicide? "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"

For seven days he has sat silent with his friends, and when he begins to speak, it is not words of submission or trust that we hear, but curses and imprecations upon the day of his birth, and longing for death! What has made this great change?

It might be thought that it was the long continuance of his sufferings which broke Job down; when first afflicted, he bore up under it, but as weary days and nights followed each other with unvarying wretchedness, he gave way. But this hardly seems consistent with the calm dignity of the man as shown in the first two chapters.

In the light of his subsequent attitude, it seems more likely that Job's thoughts of God had much to do with this change. Previously, he had seen Him as the beneficent Ruler and Disposer of events. But it appears as we go on that Job allowed suspicions of God's justice and goodness to intrude. He felt himself as if in the hands of arbitrary power, suffering for what he had not done. He sees no way of escape, and therefore wishes for death. This seems to account for the great change in his words. It is also in keeping with the answers he gives his friends. As long as his sufferings were outward, or physical, Job was calm; but when doubts of God's goodness were entertained he collapsed. This will appear abundantly as we proceed; it is simply noticed here as suggesting the main theme of the book — the vindication of God, and His ways with men.

On the other hand, we must remember that even when in such anguish of soul as well as of body, Job did not fall as Satan predicted he would. He did not curse God, although sorely perplexed at His treatment. Ever and anon in the midst of greatest anguish, his faith shines forth in prayer or in confidence — illustrating the usually accepted translation of the words, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15).

Taking up now the lament, we may divide it into five parts.
First: Job curses the day of his birth (vers. 1-9).
Second: Wishes he had died in infancy (vers. 10-12).
Third: Death described as a rest (vers. 13-19).
Fourth: He longs for death (vers. 20-23).
Fifth: He is oppressed by terror (vers. 24-26).

(1) Job curses the day of his birth (vers. 1-9). Of only one man has it ever been said — by our Lord "It had been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matt. 26:24). Judas was an apostate, the "son of perdition," into whose heart Satan entered, and who sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, betrayed Him by a kiss, and then filled with remorse went and hanged himself, and "went to his own place." For a child of God to wish he had never been born indicates a complete, if but temporary, eclipse of faith.

Jeremiah, utterly oppressed by the hardness of the people's heart, and seeing the inevitable ruin into which they were drifting, uses language somewhat similar to Job's (Jer. 20:14-18). He curses not only the day of his birth, but the man who brought his father the news instead of slaying the child, and wishes he were overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrha. There is this to be said of Jeremiah's outburst: it was not merely because of his own sufferings as obliged to bring a message which the people refused — and therefore hated the messenger; but is there not a measure of grief over the people's obduracy and inevitable doom? Like Moses before and Paul afterwards, he longed supremely for the people's blessing. Failing to see this, he had rather not have been born. We justify none of these expressions in God's beloved servants, but they seem to occupy a higher moral plane than Job does here.

Let us contrast all these godly men with the matchless Sufferer. "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name." Ah, He never failed; the intensity of His sufferings but furnished the occasion for the exhibition of His sinless perfection.

In this first part Job curses the day of his birth, wishes that it could be blotted out of the calendar, because it allowed his birth. He desires that that day and night never come into remembrance — so that the very recurrence of the day that was a reminder of his existence might cease. Verse 8 has been translated, "Let those who curse the day curse it, who are skilled in stirring up leviathan," Alluding to the heathen myth that a dragon devoured the sun and moon and so prevented the day. If this is correct, it shows how far Job had drifted in his thoughts, to turn thus to the superstitions of the heathen.

In what contrast to this is the joy of the believer in dwelling upon his spiritual birthday. How Paul loved to look back to the time when the light above the brightness of the sun shone into his darkened heart. "Who before was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and injurious … and the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus … Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (1 Tim. 1:13-17) . So in the many persecutions and afflictions which befell him for the gospel's sake, we hear not the faintest approach to these lamentations of Job. When he and Silas were beaten, thrust into prison, their feet fast in the stocks, their thoughts were not of cursing the day of their birth, but brought songs in the night.

The contrast shows the difference between Old and New Testament light, but it shows too that even in Old Testament days God's children needed to learn the sweet uses of adversity, and not to despise the chastening of the Lord.

In passing through our book, we must not fail to note the exquisite beauty of expressions, both of Job and of all who speak. For if the Spirit of God has seen fit to inspire a writing, He would have us note its form as well as its contents. Thus we have in ver. 9, in the margin of our version, "Neither let it see the eyelids of the morning," or as the clause has been rendered, "Let it not refresh itself with the eyelids of the dawn" — poetry indeed of exquisite beauty.

2. In the second part of his lament (vers. 10-12) Job declares his wish that he had died as soon as he was born, or had been left without care or food. It is sad indeed when one cannot look back to those early days of helplessness with tender thoughts of the loving care that watched over his unconscious hours. Of all creatures, man is the most helpless and dependent in infancy. It is to "hide pride" from him, and to call forth love in his behalf. To curse his infancy thus was to trample upon what is best in our fallen humanity, and shows a soul far from communion with God. Job had forgotten all the past; the sorrow of the present had eclipsed all else. It is painful to read such words.

3. Death is here described as a rest (vers. 13-19) in which all have an equal share — the old and the young, even the unborn babe; the great and the small alike are at rest: kings whose former palaces have crumbled into ruins, and princes whose vast wealth has all been left, are here at last in profound and equal repose. The wicked cannot trouble them, nor master exact service from his slave; prisoners and their captors find no distinction in the presence of death, that great leveler of mankind. What a picture it is, reminding one of the dread vision of the prophet who sees Pharaoh, king of Egypt, descending into Sheol to share with the great among the nations their common heritage of death — "which caused their terror in the land of the living; yet have they borne their shame with them that go down to the pit" (Ezek. 32:24).

But is this the doctrine, even of the feebler light of the Old Testament, of the future? Ezekiel did but contrast the former greatness of the nations, now brought low; but Job goes further and puts all in an unconscious sleep, "as infants which never saw light." Is there no distinction between the condition of the wicked and of the righteous after death? We cannot here go into the Old Testament doctrine of the future state,* but the walk with God of His servants, their calm outlook into the unknown future, tell us that they in spirit "looked for the city which hath foundations." The constant contrast between the righteous and the wicked, and their moral unlikeness points not uncertainly to most divergent futures: "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death" (Prov. 14:32). In thus blurring the future, Job shows how far his soul had drifted from the truth of God. In plain language he is longing for annihilation, and we know how materialists and believers in conditional immortality have turned to these and similar utterances for support for their unscriptural views.

{*On this subject see, "Immortality in the Old Testament," by C. Crain.}

Let us contrast these utterances of one temporarily forgetful of the great hope planted in the heart of God's children, with the language of faith in the Old and New Testaments. Job's own words are a refutation of his unbelief here: "I know that my Redeemer liveth" (Job 19:25). David also said, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Ps. 17:15). Our Lord refutes the Sadducees, with whom Job unconsciously identifies himself, as to the Old Testament teaching regarding the state of the dead: "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:32). He points out the fearful contrast between the state of the careless rich man and the believing beggar, Lazarus (Luke 16). And in the full Christian statements of the Epistles, do such words as "Absent from the body, and present with the Lord," or, "Having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better," echo Job's unbelieving laments? We can well understand a need for the chastening hand of God upon him if Job willingly entertains such thoughts as those to which he gives expression here.

4. He longs for death (vers. 20-23). Having pictured death as a state of dreamless sleep, Job gives vent to his longing for this nirvana. He asks why one so wretched as he should be debarred from the repose he seeks. He adds to this the first of his charges against God, calling himself "the man whom God hath hedged in." Similar language is used in Jeremiah's Lamentations, "He hath led me and brought me into darkness, but not into light … He hath hedged me about that I cannot get out; He hath made my chain heavy" (Lam. 3:2-7). But he goes on: — "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not … It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord" (vers. 22, 26). We fail to find anything like this in Job's words.

In the New Testament we have still greater triumphs: "We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope" (Rom. 5:3-4); "That the trial of your faith being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire," etc. (1 Peter 1:7).

5. In his concluding words (vers. 24-26) Job turns from his longing after death to the reasons which make him desire it. His anguish takes precedence of his hunger; he could say with the psalmist, "My tears have been my meat," and may we not find in the latter connection some explanation of Job's misery: "While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?" (Ps. 42:3). Job had lost the sense of God's favor; his sighs gush forth like a torrent because he fears God has forsaken him. Lacking a conscious sense of filial relationship (as was natural in the former dispensation, although truly born of God), he could not withstand the torturing doubt that God had given him over to hopeless misery. This fear had apparently been lurking in his heart — possibly even in his bright days — and now it has come upon him! In verse 26 he speaks of a fresh avalanche of trouble before real relief from the former anguish had been given: "I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet" (from the former attack), "then trouble cometh." Our version seems to refer this to Job's condition of former prosperity: that he was not dwelling in carnal ease, but walking in the fear of God, when trouble came; but while this is in accord with Job's state of soul as it comes out later, it seems a little too early to find self-vindication on his part. It seems rather to be the expression of grief at the repeated attacks of misery which he is now suffering; as in the psalm quoted, he could say, "All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me."

But he does not follow the psalmist and hush his soul into submission: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God." Job will yet praise Him, but he knows nothing of this as yet. He closes his wail of unrelieved despair, and his friends begin to speak.