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TXf E are now entering on those books which are called poetical;
because they ivere written for the most part in verse or metre. The first is that of Job. It was no doubt given by inspiration, as it is quoted by St. Paul, with this mark of authenticity, it is written.' It it elsojreferred to by St. James; and was always reckoned by the Jews As a part of their sacred canon. I make no doubt that there was such a person as Job. He was probably descended from Nahor, Abraham's brother; and is expreisly mentioned by Ezekiel and St. James. Neither do I doubt that the historical part of the book, contained in the two first and the last chapters, in general, is true; .the rest is poetical. There might be some interviews and arguments between Job and hit friends, which may have furnished the poet with materials to enlarge upon.
There have been great debates among learned men, when this book was written, and by whom. Most have supposed that it was writte% by Moses, which they have principally grounded on the long life of Job, as in and after Moses' time men's days were shortened. But Job might live at or before the time of Moses; and the general knowledge of his history might be retained, and this poem written, many ages after. I am inclined to think it was written by the prophet Ezekiel, who might here represent himself as moderator, and call himself Eiihu, who by several expressions, particularly chapter xxxii. 15, 16,17. seems to intimate that he was the author of it. Elihu is called the Buzite, and Ezekiel it is said was the son of Buzi. Ezekiel is also the first writer who mentions Job. The poem was finished and in great request in the time of the captivity, and the subject was extremely proper, in allusion to which it was called Job's captivity. What confirms me in this opinion is, that there are many words in this book which were used by none of the sacred writers till about the time of the captivity. There are also many Syriac and Chaldee words, which are never found in the more ancient sacred writers. Particular me?i* Hon is likewise made of several constellations in the heavens m chap, xxxviii. which were not known to the Israelites, by such names, till their acquaintance with the Chaldeans, and are not mentioned in scripture but by some of the later prophets, particularly Amos. / shall .not enlarge upon the different opinions concerning the language in ivhich it was written. The copy which we arc in possession cf scans evidently to be a translation from some other language.
As to the book itself, it is undoubtedly a fiiece of dramatic poetry. An ingenious writer has observed, 'that the several answers to Job's pleas make three distinct acts, Elihu's reply a fourth, the Deity concluding in the fifth ; the historical parts at the beginning and the end are a kind of prologue and epilogue' which, like those of the ancients, are plain narrations, illustrating the poetical parts. The regularity of its composition is another considerable proof of its being written so late as I have fixed it.
There are differences likewise about the design of the book. Bp. Warbarton supposes it to be an allegory, written by Ezra, lo prepare the Jews for that unequal providence under which they were to come after the captivity. He supposes that J/>b signifies the fews-i hit friends and neighbours, the Samaritans, and other enemies of the Jews; his wife, their strange wives, ifc. Others, (especially Dr. Worthington, in his Dissertation on the book of Job,) think it was designed to represent man in his original, his fallen, and his restored state. I prefer the former ofiinion; that it was written by Ezekiel, to comfort and encourage the people during their captivity, to ttach them to bear their afflictions with patience, to guard against intemperate sallies of passion, and any hard conclusions against themselves, because they were afflicted; to warn men not rashly to pronounce on the divine judgments, and to assure the Israelites of the happy issue of their captivity.
I shall only observe further, that the book is extremely difficult and obscure. JYo one of the sacred books has suffered more by time than this; and as it seems to be a tra?islation from some other language, the yiginal of which we have not, this increases the difficulty.
In this chapter we have Job's character and prosperity; the pcrmia* sion given to Satan to afflict him; an account of his sufferings; and his behaviour under them.
1 r I ^ HERE was a man in the land of Viz, in the northern part
A of Arabia, east of Canaan, whose name [was] Job; and that man was perfect and upright, he was sincere and without guile, both toward God and man, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil ; he avoided all evil, and the fear of God was the
2 principal thing that led him to it. And his piety was remarkably rewarded by a large family, there were born unto him seven sons
3 and three daughters. His substance also, his great wealth, f which in those early daf/s c/iefly consisted in cattle) was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household of servants to manage his business ; it appears also that he was in very great authority as a magistrate; so that this man
4 was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted [in their] houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to cat and to drink with them ; there Cm great friendship and affection among his sons; and they feasted with each other on their several birthdays, and invited their three
5 sisters to the entertainment. And it was so, when the days of [their] feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, called them together to attend religious service and sacrifices, and to come fircfiared for such solemnities, a£fa he rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings [according] to the number of them all: for Job said, It may b.e that my sons have sinned, have done or spoken something unbecoming religion, and cursed God in their hearts.* Thus did Job continually.
6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them.t
7 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, with restless
8 malice to do mischief. And the Lord said unto Satan, to humble his firide, and anticipate his accusation, Hast thou considered my servant Job, and set thy malignant heart upon him to hurt him? Dost thou not know that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and eschew
9 eth evil? Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? is he not mercenary in his religion? hast
10 thou not abundantly rewarded him for all his seeming piety? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? so that I could not hurt him, though I have attempted to do it; thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, de^ slroy his substance, and he will curse thee to thy face, openly
blaspheme thy name and deny thy providence; (the phrase is
12 much stronger here than in v. 5.) And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath [is] in thy power; I give thee leave to try and afflict him; only upon himself, his own person, put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord, to execute his malicious design.
13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters [were] 11 eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house: And
there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were
15 ploughing, and the asses feeding beside them : And the Sabeans, a number of Arabian robbers, fell [upon them] and took them away; there was no fault in the servants, they ziiere diligent and faithful; yea, they have slain the servants who resolutely defended them, with the edge of the sword, and I only am escaped alone
16 to tell thee. While he [was] yet speaking, and Job was reflecting on the inhumanity and wickedness of those people, there came also another, and said, The fire of God, that is, lighming, is fallen
* The original here means, bade fareivtttte God, or renounced liiia in their hearts.
.f This story is parabolical. It is designed to represent God's universal providence, and thar control which he has over all good and evil spirits, and all events. By the sons of God are meant the angels, whoctmeto give account of their xespective charges, and receive new coar. missions.
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from heaven, and ha(h burned up the sheep, and the servants^ and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he [was] yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and so comfiassed them on every H£k, and fell upon the camels, and hate carried them away, yea, ana slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I
18 only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he [was] yet speaking, there came also another, the most doleful messenger of all, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters [were] eating and drink
19 ing wine in their eldest brother's house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, a whirlwind from the south, (Zech. ix. 14.) and smote.the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, ami they ate dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee, It was indeed a heavy stroke to lose his children ; all of them, when he most needed their assistance; and when they were feasting too, which he knew was a dangerou*
20 time. Then Job, with great comfwsure and fiiety arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, the usual marks of mouthing, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, reverently adored the divine majesty, and submitted to his will, notwithstanding
21 those dark dispensations; And he said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, destitute of all things, and naked shall I return thither, to the earth, the common womb or recefttacle of the dead. Overlooking second causes, he acknowledges that the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord; I own his goodness as well as his justice, and bless him in
22 taking away as well as in giving. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly; he behaved much better than Satan imagined he would. But this remark, and the refietition of it in chafi. ii. 10. warn us to ex/iect a very different behaviour in the
t. '\7[?r ^ observe that the general character of Job is truly amiV V able; he was sincere in all his professions of religion. Upright in all his transactions with God and man; lie dreaded and avoided every evil thins;, even the afifiearance of evil. The fear of God was the principle from which his religion and obedience flowed. Let us emulate this character. He that would be happy, must be upright; must defiart from e-ail and do good.
2. Pious parents are much concerned for the spiritual welfare of their children. It was a pleasure to Job that his children were grown up, were in easy circumstances, loving one another, and feasting together. But it was a dangerous time; therefore he watched over them, prayed for them, and undoubtedly, added solemn warnings ami admonitions. Let christian parents act thus, follov their children with tender concern, especially at seasons and in circumstances peculiarly dangerous to religion; pray with them and for them; exhort them, and watch over them daily. Then thejr wi/I be likely to have comfort in them while they Ilwr, and submit to God's will, and rejoice in their happiness, when they die.
3. This parable suggests to us some encouraging and instructive views of God's providence. Angels are his willing servants, receive orders'from him, and make reports of their expeditions. Satan is his slave; he can do no more than what God permits. Encourage ing thought 1 that God does ivliat he pleases among the armies of heaven, and the hosts of hell ; restrains the malice of the devil, when he sees it best; and employs his angels for the good of all his .servants and people.
4. God's care of and regard to good men is very great. He made an hedge about Job; an hedge of providence about his natural life and substance, an hedge of divine grace about his spiritual life; he was kept by his mighty power. He speaks of him with approbation and honour. Hast thou considered my servant Job, how dear he is to me, how precious in my sight, above all princes and potentates on earth? To be good, is the way to be honourable in God's sight, and to secure his favour, which is life.
5. The best of men may be charged with being hypocrites and mercenary people. Satan could not charge Job with doing evil; therefore he charges him with mean and selfish ends in doing good and serving God. Satan insinuates such temptations to the minds of God's people, and often gives them much distress this way. The wicked often charge this on the good, and God afflicts them, to show that their religion was sincere; and by their patience and steadfastness in afflictions, they know themselves, and the world knows, that they were upright. If we enjoy this satisfaction, the censure of wicked men is not worth regarding; the testimony of a good conscience, that we serve God in simplicity, is a balance against all their insinuations.
6. Fir have heard of the patience of Jqb; be ye also patient, brethren. This is St. James' reflection; and a natural and important one it is. Afflictions, yea heavy afflictions, may come upon the best of men, one upon the heels of another. See here how we should behave under them. Let our hearts be humble under humbling providences; endeavour, like Job, to compose our minds by proper considerations ; own the hand of God in giving aUd taking away our possessions and children. Let no affliction unfit us for, or hinder us from prayer. Job worshipped God. Is any afflicted ? Let him pray. Such have peculiar need and peculiar encouragement to do it. Wc should learn, like him, to keep our tempers calm and unruffled; to keep up good thoughts of God, and communion with him: this will be to our honour in his account. Thus all afflictions will work together ior good; and those light afflictions, which are but for a TKiment, ivill work out for us a far more exceeding and an eternal