Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Character of Job, Job 1:1. His family, Job 1:2. His substance, Job 1:3. Care of has family, Job 1:4, Job 1:5. Satan accuses him to God as a selfish person, who served God only for the hope of secular rewards, Job 1:6-11. Satan is permitted to strip him of all his children and property, Job 1:12-19. Job's remarkable resignation and patience, Job 1:20-22.
In the land of Uz - This country was situated in Idumea, or the land of Edom, in Arabia Petraea, of which it comprised a very large district. See the preface.
Whose name was Job - The original is איוב Aiyob; and this orthography is followed by the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. From the Vulgate we borrow Job, not very dissimilar from the Ιωβ Iob of the Septuagint. The name signifies sorrowful, or he that weeps. He is supposed to have been called Jobab. See more in the preface.
Perfect and upright - תם וישר tam veyashar; Complete as to his mind and heart, and Straight or Correct as to his moral deportment.
Feared God - Had him in continual reverence as the fountain of justice, truth, and goodness.
Eschewed evil - סר מרע sar mera, departing from, or avoiding evil. We have the word eschew from the old French eschever, which signifies to avoid. All within was holy, all without was righteous; and his whole life was employed in departing from evil, and drawing nigh to God. Coverdale translates an innocent and vertuous man, soch one as feared God, an eschued evell. From this translation we retain the word eschew.
His substance also was seven thousand sheep - A thousand, says the Chaldee, for each of his sons. Three thousand camels: a thousand for each of his daughters. Five hundred yoke of oxen for himself. And five hundred she-asses for his wife. Thus the Targum divides the substance of this eminent man.
A very great household - עבדה רבה מאד abuddah rabbah meod, "a very great estate." The word עבדה abuddah refers chiefly to husbandry, including all manner of labor in the field, with cattle, and every description of servants.
The greatest of all the men of the East - He was more eminent than any other person in that region in wisdom, wealth, and piety. He was the chief emir of that district.
Feasted in their houses, every one his day - It is likely that a birthday festival is here intended. When the birthday of one arrived, he invited his brothers and sisters to feast with him; and each observed the same custom.
When the days of their feasting were gone about - At the conclusion of the year, when the birthday of each had been celebrated, the pious father appears to have gathered them all together, that the whole family might hold a feast to the Lord, offering burnt-offerings in order to make an atonement for sins of all kinds, whether presumptuous or committed through ignorance. This we may consider as a general custom among the godly in those ancient times.
And cursed God in their hearts - וברכו אלהים uberechu Elohim. In this book, according to most interpreters, the verb ברך barach signifies both to bless and to curse; and the noun אלהים Elohim signifies the true God, false gods, and great or mighty. The reason why Job offered the burnt-offerings appears to have been this: in a country where idolatry flourished, he thought it possible that his children might, in their festivity, have given way to idolatrous thoughts, or done something prescribed by idolatrous rites; and therefore the words may be rendered thus: It may be that my children have blessed the gods in their hearts. Others think that the word ברך barach should be understood as implying farewell, bidding adieu - lest my children have bidden adieu to God, that is, renounced him, and cast off his fear. To me this is very unlikely. Mr. Mason Good contends that the word should be understood in its regular and general sense, to bless; and that the conjunction ו vau should be translated nor. "Peradventure my sons may have sinned, nor blessed God in their hearts." This version he supports with great learning. I think the sense given above is more plain, and less embarrassed. They might have been guilty of some species of idolatry. This is possible even among those called Christians, in their banquets; witness their songs to Bacchus, Venus, etc., which are countless in number, and often sung by persons who would think themselves injured, not to be reputed Christians. Coverdale, in his translation, (1535), renders the passage thus: Peradventure my sonnes have done some offense, and have been unthankful to God in their hertes.
Thus did Job continually - At the end of every year, when all the birthday festivals had gone round.
There was a day when the sons of God - All the versions, and indeed all the critics, are puzzled with the phrase sons of God; בני האלהים beney haelohim, literally, sons of the God, or sons of the gods. The Vulgate has simply filii dei, sons of God. The Septuagint, οἱ αγγελοι του θεου, the angels of God. The Chaldee, כתי מלאכיא kittey malachaiya, troops of angels. The Syriac retains the Hebrew words and letters, only leaving out the demonstrative ה he in the word האלהים haelohim, thus, (Syriac) baney Elohim. The Arabic nearly copies the Hebrew also, (Arabic) banoa Iloheem; to which, if we give not the literal translation of the Hebrew, we may give what translation we please. Coverdale (1535) translates it, servauntes of God. The Targum supposes that this assembly took place on the day of the great atonement, which occurred once each year. And there was a day of judgment in the beginning of the year; and the troops of angels came, that they might stand in judgment before the Lord. But what are we to make of this whole account? Expositions are endless. That of Mr. Peters appears to me to be at once the most simple and the most judicious: "The Scripture speaks of God after the manner of men, for there is a necessity of condescending to our capacities, and of suiting the revelation to our apprehension. As kings, therefore, transact their most important affairs in a solemn council or assembly, so God is pleased to represent himself as having his council likewise; and as passing the decrees of his providence in an assembly of his holy angels. We have here, in the case of Job, the same grand assembly held, as was before in that of Ahab, 1 Kings 22:6-23; the same host of heaven, called here the sons of God, presenting themselves before Jehovah, as in the vision of Micaiah they are said to stand on his right hand and on his left. A wicked spirit appearing among them, here called Satan or the adversary, and there a lying spirit; both bent on mischief, and ready to do all the hurt they were permitted to do; for both were under the control of his power. The imagery is just the same; and the only difference is in the manner of the relation. That mentioned above, Micaiah, as a prophet, and in the actual exercise of his prophetic office, delivers, as he received it, in a vision. "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, and there came forth a Lying Spirit, and stood Before the Lord, and said," Kg1 22:19-22. The other, as a historian, interweaves it with his history; and tells us, in his plain narrative style, "There was a day when the sons of God came to Present themselves Before the Lord, and Satan came also among them." And this he delivers in the same manner as he does, There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job.
"The things delivered to us by these two inspired writers are the same in substance, equally high, and above the reach of human sight and knowledge; but the manner of delivering them is different, each as suited best to his particular purpose. This, then is the prophetical way of representing things, as to the manner of doing them, which, whether done exactly in the same manner, concerns us not to know; but which are really done: and God would have them described as done in this manner, to make the more lively and lasting impression on us. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that representations of this kind are founded in a well-known and established truth, viz., the doctrine of good and bad angels, a point revealed from the beginning, and without a previous knowledge of which, the visions of the prophets could scarcely be intelligible." See Gen 28:10-15.
And Satan came also - This word also is emphatic in the original, השטן hassatan, the Satan, or the adversary; translated by the Septuagint ὁ Διαβολος. The original word is preserved by the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic; indeed, in each of them the word signifies an adversary. St. Peter, Pe1 5:8, plainly refers to this place; and fully proves that השטן hassatan, which he literally translates ὁ αντιδικος, the Adversary, is no other than ὁ Διαβολος, the Devil, or chief of bad demons, which he adds to others by way of explanation. There are many διαμονες, demons, mentioned in Scripture, but the word Satan or devil is never found in the originals of the Old and New Testaments in the plural number. Hence we reasonably infer, that all evil spirits are under the government of One chief, the Devil, who is more powerful and more wicked than the rest. From the Greek Διαβολος comes the Latin Diabolus, the Spanish Diablo, the French Diable, the Italian Diavolo, the German Teuffel, the Dutch Duivel, the Anglo-Saxon and the English Devil, which some would derive from the compound The - Evil; ὁ πονηρος, the evil one, or wicked one.
It is now fashionable to deny the existence of this evil spirit; and this is one of what St. John (Rev 2:24) calls τα βαθη του σατανα, the depths of Satan; as he well knows that they who deny his being will not be afraid of his power and influence; will not watch against his wiles and devices; will not pray to God for deliverance from the evil one; will not expect him to be trampled down under their feet, who has no existence; and, consequently, they will become an easy and unopposing prey to the enemy of their souls. By leading men to disbelieve and deny his existence, he throws them off their guard; and is then their complete master, and they are led captive by him at his will. It is well known that, among all those who make any profession of religion, those who deny the existence of the devil are they who pray little or none at all; and are, apparently, as careless about the existence of God as they are about the being of a devil. Piety to God is with them out of the question; for those who do not pray, especially in private, (and I never met with a devil-denier who did), have no religion of any kind, whatsoever pretensions they may choose to make.
From going to and fro in the earth - The translation of the Septuagint is curious: Περιελθων την γην και εμπεριπατησας την ὑπ' ουρανον, παρειμι; "Having gone round the earth, and walked over all that is under heaven, I am come hither." The Chaldee says, "I am come from going round the earth to examine the works of the children of men; and from walking through it." Coverdale, who generally hits the sense, translates thus: I have gone aboute the londe ond walked thorow it. Mr. Good has it, from roaming round the earth, and walking about it.
St. Peter, as has been already stated, Pe1 5:8, refers to this: "Be sober, be vigilant; for your Adversary the Devil Goeth About, as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." I rather think, with Coverdale, that ארץ arets here signifies rather that land, than the habitable globe. The words are exceedingly emphatic; and the latter verb התהלך hithhallech being in the hithpael conjugation shows how earnest and determined the devil is in his work: he sets himself to walk; he is busily employed in it; he is seeking the destruction of men; and while they sleep, he wakes - while they are careless, he is alert. The spirit of this saying is often expressed by the simple inhabitants of the country: when they perceive a man plotting mischief, and frequent in transgression, they say, The devil is Busy with him.
Hast thou considered my servant Job - Literally, Hast thou placed thy heart on my servant Job? Hast thou viewed his conduct with attention, whilst thou wert roaming about, seeking whom thou mightest devour? viz., the careless, prayerless, and profligate in general.
Doth Job fear God for naught? - Thou hast made it his interest to be exemplary in his conduct: for this assertion Satan gives his reasons in what immediately follows.
Hast not thou made a hedge about him - Thou hast fortified him with spikes and spears. Thou hast defended him as by an unapproachable hedge. He is an object of thy peculiar care; and is not exposed to the common trials of life.
But put forth thine hand - Shoot the dart of poverty and affliction against him.
And he will curse thee to thy face - אם לא על פניך יברכך im lo al paneycha yebarechecca, "If he will not bless thee to thy appearances." He will bless thee only in proportion to the temporal good thou bestowest upon him; to the providential and gracious appearances or displays of thy power in his behalf. If thou wilt be gracious, he will be pious. The exact maxim of a great statesman, Sir Robert Walpole: Every man has his price. "But you have not bought such a one?" "No, because I would not go up to his price. He valued himself at more than I thought him worth; and I could get others cheaper, who, in the general muster, would do as well." No doubt Sir R. met with many such; and the devil many more. But still God has multitudes that will neither sell their souls, their consciences, nor their country, for any price; who, though God should slay them, will nevertheless trust in him; and be honest men, howsoever tempted by the devil and his vicegerents. So did Job; so have done thousands; so will all do, in whose hearts Christ dwells by faith.
All that he hath is in thy power - Satan cannot deprive a man even of an ass, a sheep, or a pig, but by especial permission of God. His power and malice are ever bounded, and under control.
So Satan went forth - The Targum adds, with authority from the presence of the Lord.
There was a day - The first day of the week, says the Targum. It no doubt refers to one of those birthday festivals mentioned before.
The asses feeding beside them - אתנות athonoth, the she-asses, which appear to have been more domesticated, as of more worth and use than the others, both for their milk and their work.
And the Sabeans fell - The Vulgate alone understands this of a people. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic, understand it as implying a marauding party. The Chaldee says, "Lilith, queen of Zamargad, rushed suddenly upon them, and carried them away." The Sabeans mentioned here are supposed to have been the same with those who were the descendants of Abraham by Keturah, whose son Jokshan begat Sheba. The sons of Keturah were sent by Abraham into the east, Gen 25:6, and inhabited Arabia Deserta, on the east of the land of Uz. Hordes of predatory banditti were frequent in those countries and continue so to the present day. They made sudden incursions, and carried off men, women, children, cattle, and goods of every description; and immediately retired to the desert, whither it was in vain to pursue them.
The fire of God is fallen - Though the fire of God may mean a great, a tremendous fire, yet it is most natural to suppose lightning is meant; for as thunder was considered to be the voice of God, so lightning was the fire of God. And as the prince of the power of the air was permitted now to arm himself with this dreadful artillery of heaven, he might easily direct the zigzag lightning to every part of the fields where the sheep were feeding, and so destroy the whole in a moment.
The Chaldeans made out three bands - The Chaldeans inhabited each side of the Euphrates near to Babylon, which was their capital. They were also mixed with the wandering Arabs, and lived like them on rapine. They were the descendants of Chesed, son of Nahor and brother of Huz, from whom they had their name Casdim, which we translate Chaldeans. They divided themselves into three bands, in order the more speedily and effectually to encompass, collect, and drive off the three thousand camels: probably they mounted the camels and rode off.
A great wind from the wilderness - Here was another proof of the influence of the prince of the power of the air. What mischief might he not do with this tremendous agent, were he not constantly under the control of the Almighty! He seems to have directed four different currents, which, blowing against the four corners or sides of the house, crushed it together, and involved all within in one common ruin.
Rent his mantle - Tearing the garments, shaving or pulling off the hair of the head, throwing dust or ashes on the head, and fitting on the ground, were acts by which immoderate grief was expressed. Job must have felt the bitterness of anguish when he was told that, in addition to the loss of all his property, he was deprived of his ten children by a violent death. Had he not felt this most poignantly, he would have been unworthy of the name of man.
Worshipped - Prostrated himself; lay all along upon the ground, with his face in the dust.
Naked came I out of my mother's womb - I had no earthly possessions when I came into the world; I cannot have less going out of it. What I have the Lord gave: as it was his free gift, he has a right to resume it when he pleases; and I owe him gratitude for the time he has permitted me to enjoy this gift.
Naked shall I return thither - Whither? Not to his mother's womb surely; nor does he call the earth his mother in this place. In the first clause of the verse he speaks without a metaphor, and in the latter he speaks in reference to the ground on which he was about to fall. As I came out of my mother's womb destitute of the earthly possessions, so shall I return שמה shammah, There; i.e., to the earth on which he was now falling. That mother earth was a common expression in different nations, I allow; but I believe no such metaphor was now in the mind of Job.
The Lord gave - The Chaldee has, "The Word of the Lord, מימרא דיי meymera dayai, gave; and the Word of the Lord and the house of his judgment, have taken away!" Word is used here personally, as in many other places of all the Targums.
Blessed be the name of the Lord - The following is a fine paraphrase on the sentiment in this verse: -
"Good when he gives, supremely good;Nor less when he denies;
Afflictions from his sovereign hand,Are blessings in disguise."
Seeing I have lost my temporal goods, and all my domestic comforts, may God alone be all my portion! The Vulgate, Septuagint, and Coverdale, add, The Lord hath done as he pleased.
In all this Job sinned not - He did not give way to any action, passion, or expression, offensive to his Maker. He did not charge God with acting unkindly towards him, but felt as perfectly satisfied with the privation which the hand of God had occasioned, as he was with the affluence and health which that hand had bestowed. This is the transaction that gave the strong and vivid colouring to the character of Job; in this, and in this alone, he was a pattern of patience and resignation. In this Satan was utterly disappointed; he found a man who loved his God more than his earthly portion. This was a rare case, even in the experience of the devil. He had seen multitudes who bartered their God for money, and their hopes of blessedness in the world to come for secular possessions in the present. He had been so often successful in this kind of temptation, that he made no doubt he should succeed again. He saw many who, when riches increased, set their hearts on them, and forgot God. He saw many also who, when deprived of earthly comforts, blasphemed their Maker. He therefore inferred that Job, in similar circumstances, would act like the others; he was disappointed. Reader, has he, by riches or poverty, succeeded with thee? Art thou pious when affluent, and patient and contented when in poverty?
That Job lived after the giving of the law, seems to me clear from many references to the rites and ceremonies instituted by Moses. In Job 1:5, we are informed that he sanctified his children, and offered burnt-offerings daily to the morning for each of them. This was a general ordinance of the law, as we may see, Lev 9:7 : "Moses said unto Aaron, Go unto the altar, and offer thy sin-offering and thy burnt-offering, and make an atonement for thyself and for the people." Lev 9:22 : "And Aaron lifted up his hands towards the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering the burnt-offering."
This sort of offering, we are told above, Job offered continually; and this also was according to the law, Exo 29:42 : "This shall be a continual burnt-offering throughout your generations." See also Num 28:3, Num 28:6, Num 28:10, Num 28:15, Num 28:24, Num 28:31.
This custom was observed after the captivity, Ezr 3:5 : "They offered the continual burnt-offering: and of every one that offered a freewill-offering." See also Neh 10:33. Ezekiel, who prophesied during the captivity, enjoins this positively, Eze 46:13-15 : "Thou shalt daily prepare a burnt-offering unto the Lord; thou shalt prepare it every morning."
Job appears to have thought that his children might have sinned through ignorance, or sinned privately; and it was consequently necessary to make the due sacrifices to God in order to prevent his wrath and their punishment; he therefore offered the burnt-offering, which was prescribed by the law in cases of sins committed through ignorance. See the ordinances Leviticus 4:1-35; Lev 5:15-19, and particularly Num 15:24-29. I think it may be fairly presumed that the offerings which Job made for his children were in reference to these laws.
The worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as being the most prevalent and most seductive idolatry, was very expressly forbidden by the law, Deu 4:19 : "Take heed, lest thou lift up thine eyes to heaven; and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them." Job purges himself from this species of idolatry, Job 31:26-28 : "If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness, and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge; for I should have denied the God that is above."
He clears himself also from adultery in reference to the law enacted against that sin, Job 31:9-12 : "If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbor's door; then let my wife grind to another: for this is a heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges." See the law against this sin, Exo 20:14, Exo 20:17 : "Thou shalt not commit adultery: thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife." Lev 20:10 : "The man that committeth adultery with another man's wife shall surely be put to death;" see Deu 22:22. And for the judge's office in such cases, see Deu 17:9-12 : "Thou shalt come unto the priests and Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment." Sa1 2:25 : "If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him."
The following will, I think, be considered an evident allusion to the passage of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the proud Egyptian king: Job 26:11, Job 26:12 : "The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astonished at his reproof. He divideth the sea with his power; and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud." These, with several others that might be adduced, are presumptive proofs that the writer of this book lived after the giving and establishment of the law, if not much later, let Job himself live when he might. See other proofs in the notes.