on Job 42 :17
Job died, being old and full of days - He had seen life in all its varieties; he had risen higher than all the men of the East, and sunk lower in affliction, poverty, and distress, than any other human being that had existed before, or has lived since. He died when he was satisfied with this life; this the word שבע seba implies. He knew the worst and the best of human life; and in himself the whole history of Providence was exemplified and illustrated, and many of its mysteries unfolded.
We have now seen the end of the life of Job, and the end or design which God had in view by his afflictions and trials, in which he has shown us that he is very pitiful, and of tender mercy, James 5:11; and to discern this end of the Lord should be the object of every person who reads or studies it. Laus in excelsis Deo!
Both in the Arabic and Septuagint there is a considerable and important addition at the end of the seventeenth verse, which extends to many lines; of this, with its variations, I have given a translation in the Preface.
At the end of the Syriac version we have the following subscription: -
"The Book of the righteous and renowned Job is finished, and contains 2553 verses."
At the end of the Arabic is the following: -
"It is completed by the assistance of the Most High God. The author of this copy would record that this book has been translated into Arabic from the Syriac language." "Glory be to God, the giver of understanding!" "The Book of Job is completed; and his age was two hundred and forty years." "Praise be to God for ever!"
So closely does the Arabic translator copy the Syriac, that in the Polyglots one Latin version serves for both, with the exception of a few marginal readings at the bottom of the column to show where the Syriac varies.
on Job 42 :17
So Job died, being old and full of days - Having filled up the ordinary term of human life at that period of the world. He reached an honored old age, and when he died was not prematurely cut down. He was "regarded" as an old man. The translators of the Septuagint, at the close of their version, make the following addition: "And it is written that he will rise again with those whom the Lord will raise up." This is translated out of a Syrian book. "He dwelt indeed in the land of Ausitis, on the confines of Idumea and Arabia. His first name was Jobab; and having married an Arabian woman, he had by her a son whose name was Ennon. He was himself a son of Zare, one of the sons of Esau; and his mother's name was Bosorra; so that he was the fifth in descent from Abraham. And these were the kings who reigned in Edom, over which country he also bore rule. The first was Balak, the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dannaba. And after Balak, Jobab, who is called Job; and after him, Asom, who was governor (ἡγεμών hēgemōn) from the region of Thaimanitis; and after him, Adad, son of Barad, who smote Madian in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Getham. And the friends who came to him were Eliphaz of the sons of Esau, the king of the Thaimanites; Bildad, the sovereign (τύραννος turannos) of the Saueheans; and Sopher, the king of the Manaians." What is the authority for this statement is now entirely unknown, nor is it known from where it was derived. The remark with which it is introduced, that it is written that he would be raised up again in the resurrection, looks as if it were a forgery made after the coming of the Savior, and has much the appearance of being an attempt to support the doctrine of the resurrection by the authority of this ancient book. It is, at all events, an unauthorized addition to the book, as nothing like it occurs in the Hebrew.
We have now gone through with an exposition of the most ancient book in the world, and the most difficult one in the sacred volume. We have seen how sagacious men reason on the mysterious events of Divine Providence, and how little light can be thrown on the ways of God by the profoundest thinking, or the acutest observation. We have seen a good man subjected to severe trials by the loss of all his property and children, by a painful and loathsome disease, by acute mental sorrows, by the reproaches of his wife, by the estrangement of his surviving kindred, and then by the labored efforts of his friends to prove that he was a hypocrite, and that all his calamities had come upon him as a demonstration that he was at heart a bad man. We have seen that man struggling with those arguments; embarrassed and perplexed by their ingenuity; tortured by the keenness of the reproaches of his friends; and under the excitement of his feelings, and the pressure of his woes, giving vent to expressions of impatience and irreverent reflection on the government of God, which he afterward had occasion abundantly to regret. We have seen that man brought safely through all his trials; showing that, after all that "they" had said and that "he" had said and suffered, he was a good man. We have seen the divine interposition in his favor at the close of the controversy; the divine approbation of his general character and spirit; and the divine goodness shown him in the removal of his calamities, in his restoration to health, in the bestowment on him of double his former possessions; and in the lengthening out his days to an honored old age. In his latter days we have seen his friends coming around him again with returning affection and confidence; and a happy family growing up to cheer him in his declining years, and to make him honored in the earth. In view of all these things, and especially of the statements in the chapter which closes the book, we may make the following remarks:
(1) The upright will be ultimately honored by God and man. God may bring afflictions upon them, and they may "seem" to be objects of his displeasure; but the period will arrive when he will show them marks of his favor. This may not "always," indeed, be in the present life, but there will be a period when all these clouds will be dissipated, and when the good, the pious, the sincere friends of God, shall enjoy the returning tokens of his friendship. If his approbation of them is declared in no intelligible way in this life, it will be at the day of judgment in a more sublime manner even than it was announced to Job; if the whole of this life should be dark with storms, yet there is a heaven where, through eternity, there will be pure and unclouded day. In like manner, honor will be ultimately shown to the good and just by the world. At present friends may withdraw; enemies may be multiplied; suspicions may attach to a man's name; calumny and slander may come over his reputation like a mist from the ocean.
But things will ultimately work themselves right. A man in the end will have all the reputation which he ought to have. He who has a character that "ought" to be loved, honored, and remembered, will be loved, honored, and remembered; and he who has such a character that he ought to be hated or forgotten, will be. It may not "always," indeed, be in the present life; but there is a current of public favor and esteem setting toward a good man while living, which always comes up to him when he is dead. The world will do justice to his character; and a holy man, if calumniated while he lives, may safely commit his character to God and to the "charitable speeches" ("Bacon,") of men, and to distant times, when he dies. But in most instances, as in the case of Job, if life is lengthened out, the calumniated, the reproached, and the injured, will find justice done them before they die. Reproaches in early or middle life will be succeeded by a fair and wide reputation in old age; the returning confidence of friends will be all the compensation which this world can furnish for the injury which was done, and the evening of life spent in the enjoyment of friendship and affection, will but precede the entrance on a better life, to be spent in the eternal friendship of God and of all holy beings.
(2) We should adhere to our integrity when passing through trials. They may be long and severe. The storm that rolls over us may be very dark, and the lightning's flash may be vivid, and the thunder deep and long. Our friends may withdraw and reproach us; those who should console us may entreat us to curse God and die; one woe may succeed another in rapid succession, and each successive stroke be heavier than the last; years may roll on in which we may find no comfort or peace; but we should not despair. We should not let go our integrity. We should not blame our Maker. We should not allow the language of complaint or murmuring to pass our lips, nor ever doubt that God is good and true. There is a good reason for all that he does; and in due time we shall meet the recompense of our trials and our fidelity. No pious and submissive sufferer ever yet failed of ultimately receiving the tokens of the divine favor and love.
(3) The expressions of divine favor and love are not to be expected in the midst of angry controversy and heated debate. Neither Job nor his friends appear to have enjoyed communion with God, or to have tasted much of the happiness of religion, while the controversy was going on. They were excited by the discussion; the argument was the main thing; and on both sides they gave vent to emotions that were little consistent with the reigning love of God in the heart, and with the enjoyment of religion. There were high words; mutual criminations and recriminations; strong doubts expressed about the sincerity and purity of each other's character; and many things were said on both sides, as there usually is in such cases, derogatory to the character and government of God. It was only after the argument was closed, and the disputants were silenced, that God appeared in mercy to them, and imparted to them the tokens of his favor.
Theological combatants usually enjoy little religion. In stormy debate and heated discussion there is usually little communion with God and little enjoyment of true piety. It is rare that such discussions are carried on without engendering feelings wholly hostile to religion; and it is rare that such a controversy is continued long, in which much is not said on both sides injurious to God - in which there are not severe reflections on his government, and in which opinions are not advanced which give abundant occasion for bitter regret. In a heated argument a man becomes insensibly more concerned for the success of his cause than for the honor of God, and will often advance sentiments even severely reflecting on the divine governmcnt, rather than confess the weakness of his own cause, and yield the point in debate. In such times it is not an inconceivable thing that even good people should be more anxious to maintain their own opinions than to vindicate the cause of God, and would be more willing to express hard sentiments about their Maker than to acknowledge their own defeat.
(4) From the chapter before us Job 42:11, we are presented with an interesting fact, such as often occurs. It is this: friends return to us, and become exceedingly kind "after" calamity has passed by. The kindred and acquaintances of Job withdrew when his afflictions were heavy upon him; they returned only with returning prosperity. When afflicted, they lost their interest in him. Many of them, perhaps, had been dependent on him, and when his property was gone, and he could no longer aid them, they disappeared of course. Many of them, perhaps, professed friendship for him "because" he was a man of rank, and property, and honor; and when he was reduced to poverty and wretchedness, they also disappeared of course. Many of them, perhaps, had regarded him as a man of piety; but when these calamities came upon him, in accordance with the common sentiments of the age, they regarded him as a bad man, and they also withdrew from him of course.
When there were evidences of returning prosperity, and of the renewed favor of God, these friends and acquaintances again returned. Some of them doubtless came back "because" he was thus restored. "Swallow-friends, that are gone in the winter, will return in the spring, though their friendship is of little value." "Henry." That portion of them who had been sincerely attached to him as a good man, though their confidence in his piety had been shaken by his calamities, now returned, doubtless with sincere hearts, and disposed to do him good. They contributed to his needs; they helped him to begin the world again they were the means of laying the foundation of his future prosperity; and in a time of real need their aid was valuable, and they did all that they could to minister consolation to the man who had been so sorely afflicted. In adversity, it is said, a man will know who are his real friends. If this is true, then this distinguished and holy patriarch had few friends who were truly attached to him, and who were not bound to him by some consideration of selfishness. Probably this is always the case with those who occupy prominent and elevated situations in life. True friendship is oftenest found in humble walks and in lowly vales.
(5) We should overcome the unkindness of our friends by praying for them; see Job 42:8, note; Job 42:10, note. This is the true way of meeting harsh reproaches and unkind reflections on our character. Whatever may be the severity with which we are treated by others; whatever charges they may bring against us of hypocrisy or wickedness; however ingenious may be their arguments to prove this, or however cutting their sarcasm and retorts, we should never refuse to pray for them. We should always be willing to seek the blessing of God upon them, and be ready to bear them on our hearts before the throne of mercy. It is one of the privileges of good people thus to pray for their calumniators and slanderers; and one of our highest honors, and it may be the source of our highest joys, is that of being made the instruments of calling down the divine blessing on those who have injured us. It is not that we delight to triumph over them; it is not that we are now proud that "we" have the evidence of divine favor; it is not that we exult that they are humbled, and that we now are exalted; it is that we may be the means of permanent happiness to those who have greatly injured us.
(6) The last days of a good man are not unfrequently his best and happiest days. The early part of his life may be harassed with cares; the middle may be filled up with trials; but returning prosperity may smile upon his old age, and his sun go down without, a cloud. His heart may be weaned from the world by his trials; his true friends may have been ascertained by their adhering to him in reverses of fortune, and the favor of God may so crown the evening of his life, that to him, and to all, it shall be evident that he is ripening for glory. God is often pleased also to impart unexpected comforts to his friends in their old age; and though they have suffered much and lost much, and thought that they should never "again see good," yet he often disappoints the expectations of his people, and the most prosperous times come when they thought all their comforts were dead. In the trials through which we pass in life, it is not improper to look forward to brighter and better days, as to be yet possibly our portion in this world; at all events, if we are the friends of God, we may look forward to certain and enduring happiness in the world that is to come.
(7) The book, through whose exposition we have now passed, is a most beautiful and invaluable argument. It relates to the most important subject that can come before our minds - the government of God, and the principles on which his administration is conducted. It shows how this appeared to the reflecting people of the earliest times. It shows how their minds were perplexed with it, and what difficulties attended the subject after the most careful observation. It shows how little can be accomplished in removing those difficulties by human reasoning, and how little light the most careful observation, and the most sagacious reflections, can throw on this perplexing subject. Arguments more beautiful, illustrations more happy, sentiments more terse and profound, and views of God more large and comprehensive, than those which occur in this book, can be found in no works of philosophy; nor has the human mind in its own efforts ever gone beyond the reasonings of these sages in casting light on the mysterious ways of God. They brought to the investigation the wisdom collected by their fathers and preserved in proverbs; they brought the results of the long reflection and observation of their own minds; and yet they threw scarce a ray of light on the mysterious subject before them, and at the close of their discussions we feel that the whole question is just as much involved in mystery as ever. So we feel at the end of all the arguments of man without the aid of revelation, on the great subjects pertaining to the divine government over this world. The reasonings of philosophy now are no more satisfactory than were those of Eliphaz, Zophar, and Bildad, and it may be doubted whether, since this book was written, the slightest advance has been made in removing the perplexities on the subject of the divine administration, so beautifully stated in the book of Job.
(8) The reasonings in this book show the desirableness and the value of revelation. It is to be remembered that the place which the reasonings in this book should be regarded as occupying, is properly "before" any revelation had been given to people, or before any was recorded. If it is the most ancient book in the world, this is clear; and in the volume of revealed truth it should be regarded as occupying the first place in the order in which the books of revelation were given to man. As introductory to the whole volume of revelation - for so it should be considered - the book of Job is of inestimable worth and importance. It shows how "little" advance the human mind can make in questions of the deepest importance, and what painful perplexity is left after all the investigations that man can make. It shows what clouds of obscurity rest on the mind, whenever man by himself undertakes to explain and unfold the purposes of Deity. It shows how little philosophy and careful observation can accomplish to explain the mysteries of the divine dealings, and to give the mind solid peace in the contemplation of the various subjects that so much perplex man.
on Job 42 :17
42:17 Full of days - So coming to his grave, as Eliphaz had spoken, like a ripe shock of corn in its season.