“Introduction & Chapter 1”
There is no direct indication of when Job lived, but it has been suggested it was before the time of Abraham. Perhaps about 2000 BC, but we cannot say. Some think he was about 50-60 years of age when his afflictions came about, and that he lived another 140 years afterwards. (More research is needed on dates).
Job lived in Uz and was one of the most wealthy and powerful men at that time. Uz later became known as Edom (re Lamentations 4). However, it is enough to know that many theories surround this book, which some refer to as one of the best epic Jewish poem ever written. This is why others say Job is not an historic person at all, but a folklore legend. As far as we are concerned, it is a straightforward historical account of a real man living righteously despite Satan’s attempt to bring him to the dust, a lesson in obedience and faithful endurance against all odds. Above all, we are shown how a believer responds to gross trials, and how he comes out of it all with integrity and truth. He is mentioned with Daniel and Noah as being righteous.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters.
His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.
The beginning of this book is ordinary and given in ordinary historical terms. We are told Job (‘lyowb, meaning ‘persecuted’) lived in Uz (‘wooded’; see above but probably close to Ur in the north-eastern Arabian region). He was not strictly an Hebrew, because no such people existed at that time. Like Noah, Job was righteous before God – “perfect and upright” and God-fearing. He rejected evil. “Perfect”, tam = complete and perfect physically, mentally and in beauty, undefiled. “Upright”, yashar = correct, straightforward, righteous, lawful. “Feared God”… showed reverence towards Jehovah and feared His wrath. “Eschewed”, cuwr = he turned away from sin and avoided it, rejecting evil. Such men are rarely found today.
He had seven sons and three daughters, which made him rich in family, also. He had vast herds of animals: 7,000 sheep (including lambs, goats - sometimes referred to as ‘small cattle’; 3000 camels as pack-animals and for riding; 500 yoke of oxen – that is 500 pairs, making 1000 beasts in total, possibly including cows; 500 she-asses/female donkeys. Job also had a huge number of servants. Because of all his assets he was called “the greatest of all the men of the east”. It is interesting to note that the other patriarchs were also wealthy, powerful men.
And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them.
And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually.
Job’s children were simply going about their daily business and life. Verse 4 refers to a feast where the sons and daughters all took part, enjoying the fruits of being wealthy, which is not in itself wrong, because Job was righteous and there is no indication the children were wayward or acting sinfully. So they legitimately enjoyed a regular feast together. An ordinary, everyday quality about it all.
When the feasting was over, Job called for them to come around him. Today, as then, rich men and women feast daily in expensive places, thinking nothing of the poor around them, even in their own family. Theirs is a sinful feasting, with thought only of their own satisfaction and expression of wealth so all can see. When gathered it would appear that he spoke to them of Jehovah and their need to live truly, and then he blessed them. This took place at a time when Job got up very early and sacrificed to the Lord, burnt offerings to cancel any sins the children may have committed. This concern was with Job “continually” for his children (and probably for himself also, for none of us is immune from sin, whether secret or public).
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
After giving a background to Job and his family, the account now switches to the main thrust of what God wishes us to know. Job and his family lived by the grace of God, enjoying the fruit of their labours and life in general. All seemed well. Yet, unknown to Job, events were taking another form that would rock his world to its foundations.
‘Sons of God’ can have a number of possible meanings. In this text it COULD refer to heavenly angels. But, it could also refer to human beings come to worship the Lord. Lucifer/Satan was cast out of Heaven, so verse 6 might be about the former – holy people meeting before God. Also, very often, one who acts and speaks like Satan can be named ‘Satan’. However, in this case, it appears Satan himself mingled with the holy people on earth. Jehovah knew he was there and though He knew the thoughts of the adversary, He asked Satan why he was there. Satan answered that he had interrupted the penalty of banishment put upon him by God, to roam the earth.
To us today, what God said next might seem very odd, for He appeared to immediately speak of Job. It is, though, not so odd, for God knows the heart and He knew before Satan arrived what he was there for – to argue that Job was only holy because of fear, making out that the fear was that of a prisoner who only did what was good because otherwise he would be dealt with harshly and lose benefits. Is this not why so many today, and through the ages, fear God?
So, Jehovah knew why Satan was before Him and brought up the subject Himself – ‘Have you thought of my servant Job? There is no-one so holy on the whole earth like him! He is perfect, righteous and hates evil.’ Satan more-or-less scorns the Lord by saying ‘Yes, Job is afraid of you for a reason!’ Satan continues: ‘You have protected him from everything; you have allowed him to gain significantly in family, land and wealth. If you caused him to lose everything he would soon curse you!’
Jehovah then dismissed Satan after saying that Satan could do whatever he wished with what Job had, but he could not touch Job himself. Satan thought he was triumphant and left God’s presence. It is well to remember that God is Creator, Sustainer and keeper of all life. We are His creatures and he can do anything He wishes with us. Many times we might think we have been hard done by, but, in reality, God is putting us through extended trials that will toughen our spiritual strength and prove ourselves to be true and faithful. So, this statement by God to Satan is not to be thought of as an error or something unkind, even though it shook Job’s life to its very foundation.
And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
The eldest brother held a feast in his home, and his siblings were with him, and a band of marauders descended on the oxen and asses, as they feasted. A witness ran to Job’s house to tell him. He said that it was a normal day, and people went about their usual daily tasks. Suddenly, Sabeans “fell upon them”, killed the servants, and took the animals captive. Sabeans were inhabitants of Sheba’ (‘seven’, or ‘an oath’). Sheba’ was a region in northern Arabia, thus, if Job lived not far from Ur, they came from just south of his home near the Persian Gulf.
As Job tried to take in this calamity, another messenger arrived to tell him that a “fire from God (‘elohiym)” came and burned up the sheep and servants. Thus, Job was hit by a second calamity… but then came a third messenger with more bad news – Chaldeans (from lower Mesopotamia – also neighbours of Uz) in three groups and stole the camels, killing the servants who looked after them. How did the messenger know that the fire came from God? I suggest that all three calamities were arranged by Satan. There was no reason for God to cause Job to suffer like this. But, Satan said Job only followed God because he had so many blessings, though God denied it – so now Satan wanted to prove God to be wrong by taking away what Job had. Satan is more than capable of producing disasters!
While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house:
And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Satan was not yet finished! As the third messenger was still speaking, a fourth messenger arrived with even more horrific news. While the Sabeans were rustling the animals, and the children were feasting in the eldest brother’s home, a great wind came from the desert. The word for ‘wind’ is the same word extensively used to speak of the Spirit of God, but in this case it simply means ‘wind’, as the qualifying word ‘wilderness’ proves. Again, this was caused by Satan’s vindictiveness.
The wind tore across the area and demolished the eldest brother’s home, killing the occupants. Though not mentioned, the sisters were amongst those who died. Job was beyond distraught, with so many evils coming to him at one time. He tore his cloak (a typical act of distress), shaved his head and fell prostrate to the floor. This could not happen all at once – it took time to do these things. The surprising thing came when he fell to the ground, for despite the horrors that came to him, he “worshipped” God! ‘Worship’, shachah, means to lay prostrate on the ground as a sign of one’s lowliness before God.
Job proceeded to acknowledge that whatever he had in life was not really his own. He said that he came into the world with nothing, completely naked, and would return to the same condition. “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away”! What a magnificent response to calamity and woe! “Blessed be the name of the Lord”! And so, Satan’s vicious attacks did not cause Job to cry out in anger. Rather, he fell to his face and praised God. “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly”. This word implies that to charge God with the things that happened would have been folly, empty, unseemly. (And, of course, the evils came by Satan’s hand).
Compare our own lives with that of Job. Can we truly say we would respond as Job did to not just one calamity, but four, all at once? I believe Job’s response was conditioned by his whole life. At all times he was righteous, godly, praising God in everything. So, when tragedy struck he was already attuned to praising God, and his true nature won through, even as he mourned his losses of stock and family. Is it any wonder God told Satan that no-one else was like Job? The key to living through disasters, loss, privation and ‘circumstances’, is a continuous attitude of praise and obedience. Today, most people THINK they suffer, when really they do not… it is all in their minds, unworthy to be compared to REAL problems, and so it is sinful.
© February 2021
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