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Job beginneth to answer his friends scornfully.
1 And Job answered and said, 2 No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you.
3 But I have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you: yea, who knoweth not such things as these?
4 I am as one mocked of his neighbour, who calleth upon God, and he answereth him the just upright man is laughed
5 He that is ready to slip with his feet is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at
6 The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly.
7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:
8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. 9 Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this?
10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
11 Doth not the ear try words? and the mouth taste his meat? 12 With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding.
13 With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.
14 Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.
15 Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth.
The danger of bitterness in religious controversy.
We have seen the mistake which Job's friends all made, in beginning with severe reproof, when they ought to have tried to soothe his wounded spirit with words of consolation. In the commencement of Job's answer, we may observe how true it is, that "the beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water;" Prov. 17. 14; no sooner is a small opening made, than the rushing stream enlarges its course, until at length it bids defiance to all restraint. The harsh words of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, provoke Job to use the irritating language of contempt: "No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you." Thence he proceeds to tell his friends plainly that he is not inferior to them; and that not only he, but every one, knew all they had been saying as well as they did; "yea, who knoweth not such things as these?" Which was as much as to say, that all their reasoning was of the most common place description, and that it threw no light on the difficulty which agitated his mind; nay, that it amounted to mockery of his affliction. His was a case, he signified, of an upright man laughed to scorn, laughed
to scorn by men, whilst his prayer was heard by God. And such, he added, was the treatment which the afflicted and fallen were apt to meet with, on the part of those who were at ease in their circumstances.
From this strain of cutting reproof, Job next abruptly turns to refute the reasoning of his friends, saying, "The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly." That is to say, your arguments are all contrary to the obvious fact, that the wicked often prosper in this present world. And this is so obvious, that the beasts of the earth, or fowls of the air, or fishes of the sea, could have told you so. Dull as they are, they can see that this is the case, and also that it is God's doing. For in his hand "is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." So that every thing which takes place on earth is, to say the least, permitted by God. And as surely as the ear tries words, and the mouth tastes meat, as surely as understanding is the result of experience and age, so surely is all wisdom, and all strength, with God; to know all things, and to order all. And therefore whatsoever happens is by his providence; whether it be breaking down that which is strong, or confining that which is free; whether it be destroying by a drought or by a deluge; all is of God's ordering; all is of God's doing; and the difficulty therefore constantly recurs, notwithstanding all you have said to the contrary, the difficult question, whence comes evil in the world, and more especially, how comes it to pass, that evil befals those amongst mankind, who are comparatively, if not positively, good?
In the tenour of this argument it is painful to observe the same scornful tone prevail, which marks the opening of Job's answer to his friends. But it will be useful to note it, if it should lead us to shrink with lively apprehension from all approaches to that bitterness of temper and speech, which are apt to attend upon religious controversy. It is because we cannot help feeling deeply interested, on these most important of all topics which engage the attention of man's mind, therefore it is that our enemy takes occasion to turn our zeal into wrath, and to substitute passion for patient attention, and to displace the love of truth by the eager desire for victory. Informed of his arts, warned of our danger, and aware how much we lose ourselves, and how greatly we injure the cause of truth, if taken captive in these snares of Satan, let us watch in all our conferences on religious subjects, that whilst we contend earnestly for the truth, we still maintain a calm temper, and a kind and courteous demeanour. Indifference to the truth is as offensive towards God, as bitterness in upholding it is provoking towards man. Let us at once uphold the truth with firmness, and recommend it by gentleness, at once contend for it with zeal, and adorn it with humility.
Job declareth God to be the Ruler of the world.
16 With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his.
17 He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.
18 He looseth the bond of kings, and girdeth their loins with a girdle.
19 He leadeth princes away spoiled, and overthroweth the mighty.
20 He removeth away the speech of the trusty, and taketh away the understanding of the aged.
21 He poureth contempt upon
princes, and weakeneth the strength of the mighty.
22 He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.
23 He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again.
24 He taketh away the heart of the chief of the people of the earth, and causeth them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way.
25 They grope in the dark without light, and he maketh them to stagger like a drunken man.
That God overrules all things for good.
In these words Job pursues the same strain of argument, which he had previously commenced; ascribing to God's providence a complete insight into all things that take place on earth, and a sovereign controul over all. And certainly, whatever difficulty there may be, in reconciling this doctrine with the prevalence of evil in the world, it would ill become us on that account, to hesitate in admitting, that God is the Ruler of the universe, and that all things take place as He would have them. "With him is strength and wisdom;" this is the general position here illustrated. God knows all things. God is able to do all things. God can make all things happen according to his will. And therefore the deceived and the deceiver are his." Both work for his glory, whether they intend it or not. The evil deeds of evil doers are overruled for good; as likewise the loss and harm of those who suffer wrongfully. Nothing happens without God's permitting it. Nothing can happen otherwise than God has thought fit to permit, for the greatest good of all his creatures, and for the greatest honour and glory to Himself.
This general statement is here applied to a variety of instances, suggested doubtless by the events which were known to have happened in the early times at which this book was written. And as it was true even in the age of Solomon, that "there is nothing new under the sun," Eccles. 1. 9, we shall not be surprised to find that the matters here mentioned by Job, are such as occur, not unfrequently, in our own times. As for instance, they whose
office it is to give counsel to the state, often expose its welfare to disaster. They who have to judge others, act foolishly themselves. Kings are deposed, and led into captivity. Princes are spoiled, and the mighty overthrown. The trusty prove treacherous; and the aged devoid of understanding. The honourable encounter scorn, and the great are overtaken by defeat. The most secret plots are laid open; the most deadly treason is brought to light. Nations are enlarged or minished, exalted or made low. The very mightiest in all the earth are made the meanest and of least account. They that were most enlightened become dark, they that were most firmly established totter and decay. And all this is God's doing. It was so in the time of Job. It is so still. Job was right in ascribing it to God. And we do wrong, if we at all acquiesce in the current notions of the world, that God is One who cares for none of these things; and that if He did care for them, they would be very differently ordered.
It is not for us to say how God could order any thing better than He now does. It is not for us to understand all the ends He has in view, when He allows evil to prosper for a time, or allows it to exist at all. But short as our sight is, and limited our understanding, we can see much in God's government of the world, though we were to look no further than the present life of man, which may convince us that He rules and orders all things on principles of unerring goodness. The nations which are brought low, are those which too highly exalt themselves. The causes which bring nations low, even according to the estimate of such as give no heed to God in their reckonings, are vice and luxury, oppressiveness in the great, and factiousness, or sloth and servility, in the people. The counsellors who are led away spoiled, are usually such as scheme for worldly ends with worldly wisdom. The kings whose bonds are loosed, and their authority set at nought, are oftentimes they who use their power for the indulgence of their own passions, instead of for their people's good. And in the most notable of all modern instances, in a country near neighbour to our own, it was the gross irreligion which prevailed alike in the court and in the church, this it was which gave the handle to infidelity and anarchy, these in their turn introducing the most iron tyranny. And this godless tyranny it was, which was led on by the ambition of universal empire to a most shameful ⚫ and disastrous fall. Free then may we be to own that the Lord reigneth over all. Glad may we be to think that He is the Governour among the people. And devoutly may we trust in Him, that whatsoever He thinks fit to order in heaven or in earth, is all infinitely good.
Job rebuketh his friends.
1 Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it.
2 What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you.
3 Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God.
4 But ye are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value. 5 Oh that ye would altogether hold your peace! and it should be your wisdom.
6 Hear now my reasoning, and hearken to the pleadings of my lips.
7 Will ye speak wickedly for
God? and talk deceitfully for him? 8 Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?
9 Is it good that he should search you out? or, as one man mocketh another, do ye so mock him?
10 He will surely reprove you, if ye do secretly accept persons. 11 Shall not his excellency make you afraid? and his dread fall upon you?
12 Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay.
13 Hold your peace, let me alone, that I may speak, and let come on me what will.
The duty of mutual reproof.
When the thoughts of Job revert to his friends, he gives way to the irritation excited by their speeches, and utters the expressions of il temper and contempt. "Lo, mine eye hath seen all this, mine ear hath heard and understood it. What ye know, the same do I know also; I am not inferior unto you." This is a tone and temper of mind which we must note only to regret that Job indulged in it, only to avoid it ourselves. If we have knowledge, let it be far from us to boast of it. Let us remember the remark of the apostle, "Knowledge puffeth up; but charity edifieth." 1 Cor. If others treat us as their inferiors, let us put in practice the precept of the same inspired writer, that in lowliness of mind each should esteem others better than himself. See Phil. 2. 3. And as to speaking to the Almighty rather than to man, as Job here declares that he wishes to do, adding, "I desire to reason with God," let us remember how great and holy a Being God is, and we shall tremble to speak either to Him or of Him, except in the character of devout suppliants for pardon and for grace, through the intercession of his Son.
But there is a sense in which Job might say all these things, or at least the greater part of them, consistently with a sober judgment of himself, and with a charitable judgment of his friends, and with that reverent apprehension of God which appears to have been the predominant habit of his mind. We may suppose him to mean something like to that which David intended when he said, "Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for