Job’s Friends

One of the perennial problems of Old Testament preaching is how to preach Job’s friends. God’s evaluation of them at the end of the book is not exactly complimentary. He says (speaking to Eliphaz), “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7). So does this mean that we have to throw out all the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar? This, of course, is quite a distinct question from what to do about Elihu’s speeches. I believe that Joseph Caryl has got this one pegged. By the way, it would be sheer arrogance (and I am only slightly exaggerating here for rhetorical effect) for anyone to preach on Job without reading Joseph Caryl’s commentary. Every pastor ought to own it and read it. Here is what he says on the subject:


The counsels of Eliphaz, are to be considered, either in the doctrine, or in the use. His counsels, in the doctrine of them, were good and savoury, he spake wholesome food; but as to Job’s case, he was quite mistaken in their use, and so instead of easing, troubled him. A physician may give his sick patient that which is good in itself, very cordial and sovereign, and yet it may kill him instead of curing him, if it be not proper for his body, and his disease…That which is good counsel to a man at one time, may be, or might have been, ill, to the same man at another…his (Eliphaz’s, LK) was good searching physic for the soule stomach, and gross spirit of a hypocrite: but it is enough to kill the heart of an upright heart…That not only words untrue, but words misapplied, are unsavoury, and may be dangerous. They are no food, and they may be poison. Prudence in applying, is the salt and seasoning of what is spoken…Speech must be seasoned, not only with the salt of truth, but with the salt of wisdom and discretion…This shows the holy skill of managing the word of God, when we make a difference of our patients, by our different medicines, and not serve all out of the same box (volume 2, pp. 448-449).

So a preacher can and should preach all the wisdom of Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu, but must be careful to create exceptions for the Jobs of this world. I found Caryl to be enormously helpful here in understanding how to preach Job.

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16 Comments

  1. February 2, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Shame I’d have to take out a small loan to buy it :(

  2. Logan Almy said,

    February 2, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    The comments are also instructive for preaching in general. Think application (“use”). “Application is the skill by which the doctrine which has been properly drawn from Scripture is handled in ways which are appropriate to the circumstances of the place and time and to the people in the congregation” (Perkins, The Art of Prophesying, 54). N.B. “appropriate to the circumstances of the place and time and to the people in the congregation.” We would do well to remember this lest we be like Job’s friends in the pulpit. This is why I think that it is so important to identify the “categories of hearers” in our preaching. We must specify the people to whom we make our applications. This is more than believer vs. unbeliever, though that is the fundamental antithesis. This also involves the circumstances, places, and times that Perkins mentioned as well. I could definitely improve in this area. Thanks for the quote and the thoughts re preaching from these passages in Job!

  3. Brad B said,

    February 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    As I read the post and the comments, I couldn’t help but remember the old saying that the job of the pastor/preacher is to “comfort the afflicted” and at the same time “afflict the comforted”–mere man need not apply.

  4. paigebritton said,

    February 3, 2011 at 6:27 am

    It’s definitely easier to calibrate “speaking the truth in love” to individuals than to whole congregations (or classes)!

    A friend of mine loves this line, applying it to teaching the proper thing at the proper time: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time?” (Mt. 24:45)

  5. Deb W. said,

    February 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Quote from the post, “must be careful to create exceptions for the Jobs of this world.”
    My initial reaction is a question: Are not all Christians in some real sense “the Jobs of this world?” Perhaps not at all times, but at certain times in our pilgrimage here, cannot everyone of us relate to his life, even if only in part? (Or maybe I’ve only been exceptional in this particular way?)

  6. greenbaggins said,

    February 3, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Deb, that’s a huge question. The way I see it is like this: Deuteronomy says that if you disobey the law, you will be cursed. Job’s friends argue that the relation works in reverse: that if you are cursed, it must mean you have sinned in a particular way. However, there might be other reasons for why a person is in such a difficult position. And indeed, in Job’s case, we know why he is undergoing the trial. However, just because Job’s friends are wrong in their interpretation of Job’s situation does not mean that their words would be wrong in all circumstances. You would probably get a clearer idea of what I’m saying simply by reading Joseph Caryl’s commentary. Of course, that is a long proposition, and most people would not do it. However, Caryl is extraordinarily rich.

  7. Deb W. said,

    February 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Thank you, Lane. Your answer makes sense and was helpful to me. I will check around and see if Caryl’s commentary is available through a church or seminary library. (I won’t be able to afford my own copy). Blessings in Christ.

  8. thomastwitchell said,

    February 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    The Pastor’s Job is God’s church. harharhar!

    As to Job, it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.

    The assessment that the three friends were at times correct, and likewise, Job at times correct, is correct. Elihu on the other hand is as he claims, “one perfect in knowledge. Of the five he is the only one who is exempted from the rebukes. He is like the sighted man who announce to the four blind that indeed, it is an elephant. You said we know why Job was afflicted. I wonder. Most place it in the category of the testing of his faith. But we see that he really doesn’t have a clue as to who it is that he has been worshipping for seventy years. In the end the Scripture is proven true, “out of the mouth the heart speaks.” He curses God. The reality is that Job was being disciplined for his sin. That comes across loud and clear. In that view, God’s declaration of Job’s righteousness takes on the tone of a mocking.

    You inferred a connection between the Law and Job’s friends. Let me propose that the entire book is a parable about the Gospel. What we see in both the friends and Job is a type of Israel to come, where the law is the means of pleasing God. Job exemplifies this in his intercession for his children just in case they have cursed God. He fills the role of a priest offering sacrifice. His claim is his own Pharisaical purity, his detractors, that he must not be one. On either side, we see only law. The pleadings of the law by Job’s case against God only produces more sin. Along comes Elihu, who acts as forerunner, announcing that God does these things to bring one to repentance to save his soul from going down to the pit. He speaks of an intecessor for man and instruction is given to Job to repent. Elihu is a type of John the Baptist, preparing the way for the revelation of the Lord.

    Anyway. What we know is that in the end God has done this to expose Job’s sin. He wasn’t the righteous man that his life externally displayed. That was just the outward, but inside he was dead men’s bones. And that is the reason that Job undergoes the temptations… to prepare his heart for the planting of the Word of God, the God that he had only heard of but who he had not seen.

  9. greenbaggins said,

    February 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Thomas, interesting read of Job. Parts of it I can see, but other parts seem a stretch. I do know that Caryl defends Elihu’s speech. I would imagine that his defense of Elihu might overlap with yours. It would be interesting to see. I won’t find out for a while yet. I’m still in volume 2! And I can agree that if Job were not a sinner, he would not be punished. However, where I struggle with your analysis is in calling Job’s afflictions “punishment.” It is not true that every trial we experience is a punishment. And in this question, it does not matter how severe the trial is. There is always a difference between judicial punishment and fatherly discipline. Are you really suggesting that Job did not truly believe in God? Are you not reading the complaints of Job too negatively? I think it quite possible that Job sinned in some of what he said to God. However, that still does not mean that he did not really understand his God. The statements of faith in chapters 2-3 cannot be erased by the complaints later in the book.

  10. Stuart said,

    February 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I guess my “sheer arrogance” was showing when I preached on Job a few years ago. ;-)

    My take on Job in general is this: since God’s wisdom is ultimate (28; 38-42:6) “proverbial wisdom”, though instructive in many ways, cannot fit all situations, especially in the case of suffering because the reasons behind suffering may be hidden in God’s wise and sovereign purposes. Thus since we as human beings cannot understand God’s wisdom in its fullness, true wisdom for us is exhibited by the degree to which we revere God and avoid evil (28:28).

    Job’s friends applied proverbial wisdom (Prov 3:33; 12:7, 21; etc.) to Job, but they did so incorrectly. They took the generally (and eschatologically) true premise “If you sin, then you will suffer” and wrongly inferred the premise “If you suffer, then you have sinned.” The Book of Job demonstrates that this kind of theological reasoning is faulty.

    Since most of the Book of Job is a debate of sorts (and a poetic debate at that!) part of the complexity of how to interpret the book arises in the speeches. For example:

    a) God rebuked Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for not speaking what was right (42:7-8); yet some of their comments echo other passages of Scripture.

    b) God also rebukes Job for speaking in ignorance (38:2); yet Job is commended for speaking truth in a way his three friends did not (42:7-8).

    c) Elihu thinks both Job and his friends made incorrect statements and drew incorrect conclusions, even though some of his statements are similar to what had been said before; yet there is no explicit rebuke or commendation made in the book regarding his comments.

    At the very least, these facts tell us that the comments of the characters in the Book of Job must be examined carefully in line with the purposes of the book AND in light of the rest of Scripture.

    If the overarching purposes of the book are to demonstrate that wisdom begins and ends with God, that there are limitations of proverbial wisdom in relation to suffering, and to encourage the godly who seem to suffer “unjustly” to persevere in faith, then every comment in these speeches should be explained in light of those purposes.

    Of course,no understanding of the Book of Job would be complete without seeing how it points to Christ and the gospel . . .

    a) Jesus taught that suffering is not always a direct result of an individual’s particular sin (John 9:1-3). In fact, Jesus Himself suffered for the salvation of others even though He did not deserve that suffering.

    b) In the Book of Job we find that the question “where can wisdom be found?” is central to the purposes of the book. In the gospel we find that Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:24). So if we search for God’s wisdom apart from Christ (even in using Scripture!), in the end we will find only (1 Cor 1:30 with 3:19).

    c) While we may suffer under many difficulties in this life, God has promised that all these things are used to bring about His ultimate purpose for his people: to make us like our redeemer, Jesus (Rom 8:28-30). This is part of the fullness of our salvation, and it will take place fully when Jesus returns to establish the new heavens and new earth (this appears to be anticipated in Job 19:25-27 . . . “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes– I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”).

  11. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 4, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    On #8:

    I like the typological bent, but there are some issues with it.

    1. It seems strange for God to mock Job to Satan, the accuser. That would mean that God fundamentally agrees with Satan: Job is not truly righteous, but only seeks his own good. Yet God says that Satan wanted Him to destroy Job “for no reason” (2:3). God is the one who defends His people against the accuser; He doesn’t make fun of them in front of the accuser.

    2. Just because Job offers sacrifice for his children doesn’t make him a bad priest. In fact, he is a legitimate priest, as God indicates in 42:8. Interestingly, there is no indication that Job is a Levite, which makes him like Melchizadek, a non-Levitical priest of God, and thus a type of Christ in that respect.

    3. It’s odd that hearing of God is taken to be a problem, since that is in fact the language of faith (Rom. 10)…

    4. Perhaps what happens to Job is a type of the final judgment: notice that in 42:5 he contrasts his hearing (and faith comes by hearing) to his seeing of God. Thus, his righteousness at the beginning is not pointed out ironically or mockingly, but as a response to the accuser. But before God the righteousness of our professed faith will be truly tested when we see Him as He is. Will we continue to insist on our relative sinlessness, or will we repent, as Job does, and be restored to God’s service and given even greater eschatological blessings than we had before?

    5. Alternatively (or additionally), what happens to Job might be a type of what happens to Israel throughout its history: it begins with God’s blessing, set up as a priest to the nations, with a law intended to lead them to Christ by faith. But because of the exile and loss of God’s favor, they insist on their own righteousness and think, e.g., the Pharisees, that the way back into God’s favor is their own purity, rather than repentance (The Law never meant this: Gal. 3:16; Rom. 9:30ff.). Thus, the three friends are the wicked shepherds of Ezekiel, and Elihu is indeed a type of John. That makes God’s appearance in the whirlwind a type of Christ’s incarnation… Anyhow, Job represents the true Israel, which, although it had gone astray, repents at God’s appearance and is thus restored to priesthood, and can even pray for the Israelites who do not believe (cf. Paul in Rom. 9), and now has an even larger and more beautiful family than before (i.e., the Church made up of all the nations).

  12. thomastwitchell said,

    February 4, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Did I say it was for punishment? I called God’s actions temptations, meaning trials, and I said he was being disciplined. But even if it were not punishment, are we not scourged, and not necessarily because of overt sin, but to discipline? What was Paul’s thorn? So punishment is just a word, like love, it can have all sorts of nuance. Job does say: “Because God has loosed my cord and humbled me…” He seems to think it punishment, however we define it. Humbled for what? His integrity? Or sin? Pride? Maybe it was his presumptuous statements made out of ignorance, and his sacrifices made preemptingly to appease God? There are no explicit statements of faith in Ch 2-3. One must read it in. He is called a servant, but servant is used of pagans and pagan nations. It is interesting that Job curses the day he was born, and later states that God was the one who brings all things to be. And Job will progress to actually blaspheming God, calling him unrighteous, and making him no more than as one who judges like man. What was said of him in Ch 2 could easily have been said about Paul, by Paul’s own testimony, who was set aside as a servant of the Gospel from birth, even though he believed he served God, he knew him not, as he admits. Even though he served God, believed in God, was righteous, a Jew of Jews, he knew not the God he worshipped, but persecuted him. We don’t have to doubt the assessment that Job was a very religious man, upright in his integrity, outwardly, while maintaining that he was not necessarily a believer. We don’t know the state of his heart, he may have been, that is true, but, Elihu’s indictment tells us why this was happening, to turn him to seek God, “to keep a man’s soul from going down to the pit.” Elihu goes on to describe a ransom, an intercessor, one to whom Job should turn. It is the very Redeemer Job has claimed knowledge of, but we find out, has only heard of and admits that his knowledge was but ignorance. We hear Elihu’s claim about Job’s three friends: “What man is like Job, who drinks up scoffing like water, who travels in company with evildoers and walks with wicked men?” Walks with wicked men? Where is the integrity, now? His company was the company of evil doers? What evil? Perhaps the sin of proclaiming a God he did not know? Taking the Lord’s name in vain? Taking the name of the God that he had only heard of but not seen? His friends were wrong because they believed him in guilty of sin though they could not see it. Job believed he was right because he had done what was right, at least in his sight, but could not see what he had done which could justify God’s displeasure. They were both wrong for believing that God reacts to man according to man’s doings rather than God’s sovereignty over his creation and his knowledge which knows no bounds. Did Job oppress the poor, even though he claimed he didn’t? Perhaps in the same way that the Pharisees did, by teaching them of a god who was appeased by sacrifice. Maybe. That God did not “punish” we may admit, in that he didn’t condemn Job and commit him to the pit. That is the kind of punishment that Elihu alludes to. But what of the kindness of adversity? Surely God is justified in punishing all men, including Job. The same judgement that falls on the evil falls upon the righteous, to destroy one and to give life to the other, and God is proven true and every man, including Job, a liar. As Elihu tells us: “For God has no need to consider a man further, that he should go before God in judgment,” is echoed in the statement about Christ’s knowledge of what is in a man and reflected in the boast of the rich young ruler who “kept” the whole law just as Job.

    What does the book teach us? I’ll stick with the parable aspect. And with the fact that even man’s best righteous works are nothing more than filthy rags, deserving no commendation from God, only his wrath.

    @11 Josh,

    I didn’t say God mocked Job to Satan. There is a sense, when all comes out in the story, that Job mocks God. I am just saying that in view of the entire story, there is a sense in which God returns the favor. What is said of Job’s righteousness is not the case. God declares it so, but that is not unlike many other things God says about others. I take it as entendre. There is no doubt that what God does in Job is to make him just as he describes him. The fact remains that Job wasn’t at the time what God said he was and that is proven by what Job does.

    Your additionally is what I was pointing at, that this story is a type of Israel.

    Oh, and to appeal to Job’s performance in ch 42 and apply it to ch 1 is anachronistic. Beside: “His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.” Seems to be alot like the neglect of Levi and Samuel for their children. Doesn’t this strike you as “Let’s eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we may die..” kind of behavior? …eh, maybe, maybe not. His day may refer to a birthday, but it may well have been every day. Just saying… Job wasn’t comfortable with it, at all. But, he didn’t stop it, he excused it by sacrifice.

  13. Joshua W.D. Smith said,

    February 4, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Various points:
    -If you can appeal to a later part of the story to say Job’s righteousness in the opening chapters is clealry not true, I’m not sure how it’s anachronistic for me to appeal to a later part of the story to explain an earlier one.
    -As for me reading in faith, you’re having to read in a Pharisaical righteousness, even in what God himself says about Job. Furthermore, if out of the fullness of the heart, etc., then what of the inspired narrator who says that Job did not sin with his lips at first?
    -On saving faith, WCF says that one of its acts is trembling at the threatenings, and that it may be weak and strong at times. Why can we not read Job’s righteousness as that by faith, but one that is weakened by his suffering and the accusations of his “friends,” to the point where he had almost slipped, until recalled to repentance by Elihu and God Himself? The reality of his faith is demonstrated by his trembling at the threatenings and his repentance.
    -If Job is not in fact righteous, why does God say to Satan that he is? Why does he say that Job has kept his integrity after the first round of ills? Satan is saying that Job is not truly righteous, just in it for himself–and you’re saying that God agrees, which has to be read into the text, completely to the contrary of what God explicitly says…
    I’m not sure why you think it’s such a terrible thing for him to intercede for his children in case they have sinned.

  14. February 4, 2011 at 9:09 pm

    @13 Josh,

    Well, because there is a change in circumstance, as well as the intervening testimony- Job’s own testimony, about his own unrighteousness. We can ask did the Lord command the earlier sacrifices? With the latter, there is a command. We might also note, that Job’s own testimony is that he acted in ignorance. We might surmise, then, his earlier sacrifices were ignorant acts. Beside: “Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly.” Who offers this sacrifice? It doesn’t say, but it implies. If we follow the language as translated, Job’s friend do, not Job. I don’t read Hebrew, so I cannot say for sure, but no translation I have read reads that Job offered it.

    No I am not reading in a Pharisaical righteousness, that is the substance of the text, works righteousness. See Elihu’s indictment.

    As to statements the inspired Scripture makes that are highly nuanced:

    “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord
    and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside. I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt. And the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.”

    According to the history of this person, none of this is true… except, that according to the testimony of God, this is true.

    That Job is all his doings was ostensibly righteous, doesn’t make God a deceiver. That the external evidences then appraised, is circumstantial, and doesn’t make it all there is to the whole.

    We might even look at the father of faith, of whom it is said that he never waivered in his faith, which is not true, but it is. And that tells us something about faith more profound that just trust, conviction and knowledge. It tells that faith is a life given to ensure that in the end we are what God has declared us to be.

    Was Job in it for himself? Not by his knowledge. How is it that he was really glorifying God by his ignorance? Beside, what does Satan know about a righteousness which comes from God through faith and not of works?

    In case they sinned? What good is that? If they had not, wouldn’t it have been presumption? Wouldn’t it have been a greater testimony to say that he had received their confession, and then inteceded? The fact remains that when he inteceded he did so out of ignorance of the God who he thought he served. What he thought God might do was as bad a guess as what he thought his children might have done. What was the basis of his distrust of his children? The interesting juxtaposition is that it is shown that Job doesn’t trust God. Wasn’t his inteceding presuming upon God for favor, and favor sought by way of what Elihu says doesn’t do a thing toward God? His fear came upon him, why? Was it, as I asked, because he was a neglectful father? Is that the basis of his fear?

    The questions raised by Job are many. I like the simpler version that he was a religious man, a lot like Nicodemus, a teacher who should have known these things. Wasn’t he a righteous man? Or does the saying of Jesus about the Pharisees’ righteousness simply fall away due to prejudice? What we do know is that he needed to be born again to see. He had heard by the hearing of the ear, but had not seen. His question, like many who approached the Lord was alot like Job’s: “What must I do? Or, haven’t I done enough?” Or the converse as asked by his friends, “What have you done?” Or, “you haven’t done enough.”

  15. February 5, 2011 at 6:30 am

    I recently downloaded and listened to sermons on Job by a number of people, mostly from the Gospel Coalition site but also from sermonaudio.com when the Gospel Coalition sermons had gaps in terms of expositing every segment. The best sermons dealing with Job’s friends took an approach similar to this, I think. There were competing approaches to Elihu, and I wasn’t convinced either way. I looked at a few commentaries and still wasn’t convinced either way on him.

    One thing that occurred to me while I was listening to how these expositors handled Job’s friends is that the chief difficulty is that any speech by these guys has to be evaluated in the light of scripture as a whole and the more reliable speakers in the book. In other words, it’s as if you’re preaching an errant text, except that if you deny inerrancy then you have no biblical control over which parts you treat as errors. The errantist preacher has to keep saying which parts of the passage are true and which errors, and you have to do that when preaching Job even if you’re an inerrantist. But in the latter case, you do have the entire rest of scripture and the parts spoken by God and the narrator. If Elihu can be shown to be 100% compatible with those, then maybe he’s fine. If he’s taken to be overstating things or misapplying things in some ways like the three friends, then the criticisms of them might at times apply to him.

    The same goes for Job’s speeches. In fact, I think you have to say that either Job or Elihu has errors but not necessarily both. Job does get criticized but it’s not clearly for the content of his speech, and he is said to speak truly, but that could be a restricted claim — he spoke truly about his innocence before he began speaking, but he said some wrong things as he went. Elihu never gets criticized, but that could be because the criticisms of Job and/or his friends applies also to him, or it could be because he’s never wrong. I didn’t come to a conclusion on these things myself, but I didn’t spend as much time on it as I would have liked to.

  16. ray kikkert said,

    February 7, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I really enjoy the book of Job … there is Gospel in Job to be sure … the 3 friends advocated righteousness and justification … by works and faithfulness … Job and Elihu advocated justification by faith alone in the Lord. To be sure all 5 men were sinners and totally depraved … Job is righteousness and reckoned as such by the Lord …. for the sake of Christ … the Redeemer … and He alone upheld Job … Job’s statement’s … I know that my Redeemer liveth …though He slay me,yet will I trust in Him … are the words of one that has the Holy Spirit. Flesh and blood do not reveal such things.

    A few years back I was directed to a sermon on Job’s 3 friends by Norman Shepherd. It was as I expected … a prostitution of the Gospel and a sell out to works and faithfulness as the basis for one’s righteousness and justification. Good works come from those who are reckoned righteousness by the Lord and are appointed to do them out of thankfulness and love… never are good works the basis… or one reckoned righteousness in the sight of God because of them.

    I would recommend John Gill’s exposition of Job. His introduction is a fair overview …”This book, in the Hebrew copies, generally goes by this name, from Job, who is however the subject, if not the writer of it. In the Vulgate Latin version it is called “the Book of Job”; in the Syriac version, the Writing of Job; and in the Arabic, the Writing or Book of Job the Just. In some Hebrew Bibles it stands between the Book of Proverbs and the Song of Solomon; but, according to the Talmudists {a}, it should stand between the Psalms of David and the Proverbs of Solomon. Some have made a question of it, whether there ever was such a man as Job, and suppose this book not to be a real history, or to contain matters of fact, but to be written under fictitious names, and to be parabolical, and that it is designed to set forth an example of patience in suffering affliction; and some of the Jewish writers {b} affirm, that Job never was in being, and that this book is a parable, apologue, or fable; and to this Maimonides {c} himself inclines; but this opinion is justly rejected by Aben Ezra, Peritsol, and others; for that there was such a man is as certain as that there were such men as Noah and Daniel, with whom he is mentioned by the Prophet Ezekiel, Eze 14:14 and the testimony of the Apostle James is full to this purpose, who speaks of him as a person well known, and not to be doubted of; of whom, and of whose patience, the Jews he writes to had heard much, Jas 5:11 besides, the names of the countries where he and his friends lived, the account given of his family, and of his substance, both before and after his afflictions, show it to be a real history. Learned men are not agreed about the signification of his name; according to Jerom {d}, it signifies a magician, taking it to be the same with bwa, “ob”: and some Jewish writers {e} place him with Balaam and Jethro, as the counsellors of Pharaoh against the Israelites, for which he was afflicted: the same ancient fathers render the word grieving and howling; others, as Spanheim {f}, derive it from bay, to “love” or “desire”, and so it signifies desire or delight, and is the same with Desiderius or Erasmus; hence Job is called by Suidas {g}
    tripoyhtov, exceeding desirable; but Hillerus {h}, deriving it from the same root, makes it to signify just the reverse, “without desire”; or not desirable; and supposes it to be a compound of
    bway, “desire”, and ya, “not”; but the generality of writers derive it from bya, “to be at enmity”, and so it signifies one that is exposed to the hatred and enmity of men, or one that is a hater and enemy of wicked men; or, as Schmidtt {i} interprets it, a man zealous for God, and showing hatred to wickedness and wicked men on his account. Who Job was, it is not easy to say; not the same with Jobab, of the race of Esau, as some, Ge 36:33. Aristeas {k} says he was a son of Esau himself, by his wife Bessare, and was first called Jobam; nor the same with Job a son of Issachar, Ge 46:13, nor was he a descendant of Abraham by Keturah; but rather sprung from Uz, the firstborn of Nahor, brother of Abraham, Ge 22:21, who gave name to the country where Job lived, as Buz his brother did to that of which Elihu was, and as Chesed, another brother of Uz, did to the Chasdim or Chaldeans, who were both near to Job. It is also not agreed in what time Job lived; Maimonides {l} says, of their writers some place him in the times of the patriarchs, some in the times of Moses, others in the times of David, and others say that he was of the wise men of Babylon; and some add, that he was of them that came out of the captivity there, and had a school at Tiberias, as say the Talmudists {m} who give very different accounts of him: some say he was in the times of the judges; others in the times of the queen of Sheba; and others in the times of Ahasuerus; but the more general opinion is, and indeed the more probable, that he was born when the Israelites went down into Egypt, and that he was dead when they came from thence {n}: in short, they place him almost in all the ages from Abraham to the Babylonish captivity, and after it; and even Luther {o} was of opinion that he lived in the times of Solomon, for which there is no more reason than for the rest: it seems most probable that he lived before Moses {p}, at least before the giving of the law to him, since no mention is made of it in this book, nor any reference to it; whereas there is to things more ancient, as the general deluge, the burning of Sodom, &c. the law concerning sacrifices only to be offered by priests was not as yet given; for Job offered sacrifices as being the head of his family, and so did his three friends, Job 1:5. The length of his life best agrees with the times before Moses, for in his time the age of man was reduced to seventy years; whereas Job must live two hundred years or more, since he lived one hundred and forty after his restoration: add to this, that this book seems to have been written before any idolatry was in the world but the worship of the sun and moon,
    Job 31:25 and before there were any writings divinely inspired, since there is no appeal to any in the whole controversy between Job and his friends; but the appeal is made to men of years and wisdom, and to traditions of former times, Job 5:1. According to Dr. Owen {q} Job lived three hundred and fifty years after the dispersion at Babel, about A. M. 2100. It is also greatly controverted who was the writer of this book; some ascribe the writing of it to Isaiah the prophet; others to Solomon, as Luther {r}; others to one of the prophets who was an Idumaean; but most to Moses, so the Jews {s} say, that he wrote his own book, the section of Balaam, and Job. Some think that he wrote it when in Midian, for the comfort and encouragement of the Hebrews afflicted in Egypt at that time, and who might hope to be delivered out of their afflictions, as this good man was delivered out of his; and this, it is supposed, accounts for the use of many Arabic words in it; Midian being in Arabia, where Moses, having lived some years, had mixed their language with his own. Some are of opinion that he met with this book when in those parts, which he found either in the Arabic or Syriac language, and translated it into Hebrew {t} for the use of the Israelites; and others think it was written by Job’s friends, and particularly by Elihu, which is concluded from Job 32:15, but it is most probable that it was written by Job himself, or at least compiled from his diary or “adversaria” kept by him, or from those of his friends, or from both, and that it was written in the language it is now in: but be it written by whom it may, there is no doubt to be made of the divine authority of it; as appears from the sublimity of the style, the subject matter of it, its agreement with other parts of the sacred writings, and particularly from a quotation of a passage out of Job 5:13 by the Apostle Paul, 1Co 3:19 see also Job 5:17, compared with Heb 12:5. The design of it is not only in general to assert and explain the doctrine of Providence, as Maimonides observes; but in particular to show, that, though good men are afflicted, yet sooner or later they are delivered out of their afflictions; and that it becomes them to bear them patiently, and not murmur at them; nor complain of God on account of them, whose ways and works are unsearchable, and who gives no account of his matters to men, but is sovereign, wise, and just, in all he does; and whatsoever is done by him issues in the good of his people, as well as in his own glory, as the event shows. This book may be considered either as an history of the life of Job, in which an account is given of him in his prosperity; of his afflictions, and how they came upon him; of a visit paid him by his friends, and of the discourses that pass between him and them, and of his restoration to greater affluence than he enjoyed before: or as a drama or dialogue consisting of divers parts, and in which various speakers are introduced, as God, Satan, Job, his wife, and friends; or as a dispute, in which Job’s three friends are the opponents, himself the respondent, Elihu the moderator, and God the umpire, who settled and determined the point in question. It contains many useful things in it concerning the Divine Being, and the perfections of his nature, his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and sovereignty; concerning the works of creation and providence; concerning original sin, and the corruption of mankind; concerning redemption by Christ, and good works to be done by men; and concerning the resurrection of the dead, and eternal life. Some think Job was a type of Christ in his afflictions and sufferings; in his patience under them, and deliverance out of them; in his exaltation to an high pitch of happiness and prosperity; and in his intercession for his friends. He is in many things worthy of imitation, though in others to be blamed, and not followed; and, on the whole, this book of his may be read with great pleasure and profit.”


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