The book of Job gives us a glimpse of the majesty of God and His works in a manner unsurpassed among the patriarchal revelation. Reformed theologians, throughout the history of the church, have drawn the conclusion that the revelation of God, recorded in the book of Job, comes from an era immediately prior to the days of Abraham. C. C. Jones, in his magnificent biblical theological work The History of the Church of God, systematized the theology of Job, showing the revelation that Job had in his possession and received from God. This section of the book is worth reading solely for the study of progressive revelation. Jones set out to prove the continuity of redemptive revelation that exists between this earliest book in the canon and the further NT revelation. Notice the way in which he carefully analyzed and categorized the theology in the speeches of Job:
In this period, between the flood and Abraham, lived a patriarch, not registered in the line of spiritual descent in Gen. 11: 10-26â€” the patriarch Job. His book lives in the sacred canon, and is of inestimable value in the history of the Church. It is considered, perhaps, the oldest of the inspired writings, and seems to have been composed and preserved with the express design of unfolding to all succeeding ages what was the amount of religious knowledge â€” what was the perfection of religious character â€” and what was the private and public walk of the sons of God â€” what was the association which they held with each other, and with the people of the world, in these early times, covered with the mists of far-distant ages.
It sets the men of God before us, living, moving, and having their being in the Church and the world, just as they do now. The world of the patriarchs is made bare to our eye. Christians appear in life in all the New Testament, and then in the Old, running back from Ezra and Nehemiah, through prophets, priests, and kings, up to the judges, to Moses, and Aaron, and Miriam â€” to the twelve patriarchs â€” to Jacob, Isaac, Abram, and finally to Noah, and Job, and Enoch : thus making known the same God, the same Savior, the same Spirit, the same faith, the same practice â€” the same blessed covenant of grace, working its mercies in the Church and in the world even from the beginning.
The character of Job is, beyond all the patriarchs previous to the time of Abraham, drawn out in the greatest minuteness and force, and serves as an example and illustration of all the rest. He who reads Job reads of all the early saints of God in him. With what delight then do we open this ancient book â€” this book that speaks to us of those early ages, otherwise needing light and illustration drawn from the men that lived in them! Well has the book of Job been called a ” depository of patriarchal religion.” Not that the religion of the patriarchs differed in faith and substance from the religion of prophets and apostles, for it was the same, but because this book shows as that it was the same, and makes the Word of God one harmonious whole: one continuous revelation and development of the covenant of grace.
Job was an inspired prophet of God: reckoned by God worthy of a place with Noah and Daniel, Ezek. 14: 14-20; and to be named as an example of patience to the Church, James 5:11. So far as the testimony of the Word of God goes, there is no reason to suppose that his book was written by any other than Job himself: the few words recording his death were added of course by some other hand. No book admitted into the Bible is written by any but inspired men. He was an inhabitant of the land of Uz : that portion of country no doubt first occupied by Uz, the son of Aram, Gen. 10:23. We have no record to guide us in fixing the position of the land of Uz but the Bible. And in three places only is the land of Uz spoken of Here in the book of Job, 1:1; again in Jer. 25:20, in immediate connection with Egypt on the one hand and Philistia on the other. It must have been of some extent, as Jeremiah says, “And all the kings of the land of Uz,” and, again, Jeremiah in Lam. 4:21, ” Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwelleth in the land of Uz.” Uz originally included Edom. How far eastward into Arabia it extended, is not said. None of the boundaries of the land are given. It lay southward of and inclusive of Edom, extending eastward. Hence Job is called one of ” the sons of the East.” How far east it extended, and how near Chaldea, we do not know.
Job lived after his afflictions one hundred and forty years, and then died old and full of days, 42:16-17. How old he was when they fell upon him, is not revealed; but from the fact that lie was the father of seven sons and three daughtersâ€” that he was in his possessions ” the greatest of all the sons of the East ” â€” and was a man highly honored, and of note and fame â€” he could not have been less than seventy years of age. This would make him at the time of his death two hundred and ten years old ; which age throws him fully up to the time of Abraham, who lived but one hundred and seventy-five years, Gen. 25:1-8, and it is said ” he died in a good old age â€” an old man and full of years: “nay, it throws Job beyond Abraham, and beyond Nahor, Abraham’s grandfather, who lived only one hundred and forty-eight years, even to the times of Serug, the father of Nahor, who lived two hundred and thirty years, Gen. 11:22-25. The age of Job is an important consideration in fixing the period in which he lived. He was at least contemporary with Abraham; most probably before him, as he makes no mention of Abraham, nor any of the circumstances of his life, nor of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. He lived before the Church of God -went into captivity in Egypt, and before its deliverance and settlement in Canaan ; for in all the book of Job there is no conclusive mention of any of these facts, nor of God’s wonders in Egypt, and in the desert, and in the Promised Land, and no reference to any of the institutions, rites, ceremonies, or officers of the Church. His book belongs to a period anterior to this.
We have indulged in these remarks upon this interesting book for the purpose of directing attention to its antiquity, which makes it, aside from many other considerations, of so great value in the history of the Church. Although so old a book, (and the great body of it’s poetry,) it is not exceeded by any in the Scriptures in the purity of its language, in the simplicity, the force, and point of its style; in the closeness of its reasoning; the variety and magnificence of its imagery; the grandeur of its conceptions and descriptions; nor in its depth of pathos and fervor of piety. It forever shames into silence the presumptuous folly of men, who, with a boast of learning, and full of an overweening self-sufficiency, pretend to speak of the ages in which the patriarchs lived as the infancy of the Church and of the world, who are forever prating of progress and development, and fastening upon the Scriptures their heartless, Christless, and Godless theories of religion and of the Church.
The moral of the book â€” aside from its being a depository of patriarchal religion, and filling up a chasm otherwise left open â€” is to teach, that God sometimes permits the best of men, the most upright and perfect of His children, to be led into afflictions, temptations, and trials, for the manifestation of their characters, and for the illustration of the power of His grace, and of His own unfailing faithfulness â€” that this world is one of trial, and not a world in which perfect retributions are meted out to the evil and the good: nor are the reasons of the afflictions of God always immediately or certainly known â€” that all God’s dispensations and the mysteries of His government will be fully explained to His glory in the world to come; and, therefore, we are to judge nothing before the time; but, steadfast in the faith, exercise submission and patience, looking forward to final redemption and glory through Him who is the promised Redeemer of His people.
The main objects of inquiry are, first, the doctrines of religion contained in the book of Job; his own religious character, and the light which is thereby thrown on the religious intelligence and j>iety of the times in which he lived.
Of the doctrines we observe that Job teaches of God that He is a Spirit, invisible, 9:11; 23:8-9 â€” the only true God, and proper object of all religious homage and worship, 28:12-28 â€” omniscient and omnipresent, the searcher of hearts, 11:13-18; 13:19; 21:22; 26:6; 34:21-22 â€” the Almighty, doing wonders, executing His will in heaven above and in the earth beneath, 9:1-19; 11:10; 26:6-14; 34:29 â€” the Great Ruler and Governor of the Universe, which He has made, 37:1-22, and exercising a special and controlling providence over all angels and men and creatures, both animate and inanimate, 1:6-22; 2:1-10; 12:9-25; see the whole book â€” just, 9:1-2; 10:14-15; 13:8 ; 34:19, 28,- rendering to every man according to his works â€” independent, 33:13; 35:5-11 â€” immense, unsearchable, 11:1-9 â€” self-existent, unchangeable, 23:13; 36:22; 37:23 â€” most Holy, 25:4-6; 34:10-12 â€” that God is a prayer-hearing and sin-pardoning God, through the merits of the Redeemer to come, 1:5; 13:8-10; 19:25-27. The descriptions of God and of His works, and of His providence are not exceeded for awful majesty, sublimity, and glory in any other portion of the Word of God. Chapters 38-41.
He teaches that the Redeemer of men ever liveth their hope and confidence, and will appear at the last day for the final redemption of soul and body. Herein we recognize the teachings of Enoch on this subject, Jude vs. 14-15.
He also makes us acquainted with the existence and agency of the Holy Spirit, 26:13 ; 33:4, working efficiently, and giving life and power to the works of God. He thus reveals the persons in the Godhead.
Of Angels; he affirms the existence and agency of both those which are evil and those which are good, 1:6-19; 2:1-8; 38:7. We have in Job for the first time the name of Satan, the prince of the fallen angels, the Devil, called by way of eminence, the Adversary â€” Satan. Comp. Job 1:6; 2:1, with Zech. 3:1-2, and Rev. 12:10. The idea that Satan, in Job 1:6 and 2:1, is one of the good angels, waiting around the throne of God, who proposes the trial of Job, is, to say the least, ridiculous. Satan is brought to view as ” going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it,” by the permission of God, ” considering ” the characters of men, and putting them to the proof by his temptations and trials.
Of man; Job teaches that our first father, Adam, sinned and endeavored to hide his transgressions, 31:33 â€” that man is formed out of clay, and returns at death to dust, 33:6; 34:1-5; 19:26 â€” that he is born in sin, 25:1-4; 14; 4:15; 14-16 â€” altogether depraved and defiled before a holy God: destitute of all righteousness for justification, 9:20-21. His most perfect works and best endeavors are all defective and defiled, and neither to be boasted of nor trusted in, 9:30-31; 10:15, and man needs only to have right views of the majesty, holiness, and justice of God, to be overwhelmed with a sense of his weakness and vileness, and to abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes, 40:1-5 ; 42:1-6.
He teaches that true wisdom or religion is “the one thing needful ” to man : of priceless value, above gold, the gold of Ophir: above silver, and above the precious stones and jewels. It is not to be found by human effort either in the land or in the sea, it is not perceived by the eyes of living men. God alone prepares it and bestows it upon men, 28:12-28. “Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding,” 5:28 â€” that repentance is commanded of God, 36:10 â€” that it precedes forgiveness, 11:14-20; 22:21-23; 33:27-28, â€” and forgiveness comes through faith,1:5; 42:8-10, in that atoning blood to be shed] by the coming Redeemer, 19:22. We are consequently accepted, forgiven, justified, through filth. Impenitence is ruin, 34:24-28. It was the unbelief and wicked impenitence and rebellion of mankind that drew upon the world the awful judgment of the flood, 22:15-18. The wicked shall be destroyed, 21:1-34; ch. 24, etc.
He teaches that those who are righteous before God, His true worshipers, shall never fall from their high profession; but their sanctification being a progressive work in them, shall be carried on unto perfection, 17:9 â€” that the child of God walks by faith â€” that an habitual reliance upon, and a looking forward to the glorious appearing of the Lord from Heaven, sustains him in all duty, and under every trial, 19:25-27 â€” that there is to be in the last day, when the heavens shall be removed out of their place, a resurrection of the dead, 14: 10-15; 19:25-27, of the same bodies, destroyed by worms, and returned back to dust, but changed to behold God in glory â€” and that resurrection followed by a judgment ; and that judgment by the blessedness of the righteous, which shall consist in the full vision and fruition of God: while the contrary is involved, the destruction of the wicked and their banishment from the presence of God! 19:25-27. Job understood, and, by the grace of God, embraced all these fundamental and saving doctrines.
What now, may we inquire, was the religious character of Job: The Holy Searcher of Hearts calls him “My servant Job: there is none like him in the earth â€” a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil,” 1:8; 2:3; 28:28. His religious character is identified with that of all the true saints of God in all ages: although in greater perfection than is to be met with in multitudes. He was born of the Spirit, through the word, and all the fruits of the Spirit apeared in his heart and life. His piety was that of the covenant of grace.
Briefly, then, he was a believer. By faith he embraced the great Redeemer of Sinners, promised of God from the beginning â€” typified in sacrifices â€” preached by patriarchs before him, and commended by their own examples of faith in Him, 1:5 ; 42:8-9 ; 19:25-27. The fruits of this faith appeared in his prayerful, 1:5, watchful, 31:1-40, holy life, Ezek. 14:14-20. He faithfully discharged his duty in his family â€” towards his wife, 2:9-10, his children, 1:5, his servants, 31:13-15, â€” towards his brethren in the Lord, 42:8-9, and towards all men with whom he stood in any way connected; he was upright and just, 29:14 ; cf. 31. ; charitable, 29:15-16; cf. 31; merciful, 30:25; 31:29-31; hospitable, 31:32; the friend and benefactor of the poor, 29:12; cf. 31. â€” visiting and protecting the fatherless and widows in their affliction, 29:12-13; cf. 31. ; the defender of the weak and oppressed, 29:17; of perfect morality in all the relations of life; sincere and upright in his profession, 31:1-23; he served God, not from selfish and worldly considerations, but out of supreme affection, 1:9-22 ; 2:4-10. In the days of bis greatest prosperity be never made gold bis trust, but abhorred covetousness, 1:21; cf. 31., and turned in horror from idolatry, 31:24-28. He ever felt his own dependence and sinfulness and unworthiness before God, 13:23, etc., and used the world as though be used it not, cf. 31. He loved the law of God more than bis necessary food, 23:12, and submitted with patient resignation to bis darkest and deepest afflictions, reposing an unshaken trust in God, 1:21-22; 2:9-10; 13:15, strengthening himself in his living Redeemer, and looking beyond his present sorrow to the resurrection and to final happiness with God, 19:25-27.
Under his overwhelming afflictions he gave way to his grief, and lamented that ever he was born; yea, be cursed the day of his birth, and contended with bis friends that be could charge himself with no particular transgressions for which he was justly suffering, and felt willing to appeal to God for his justification. Yet when God revealed His sovereignty, holiness, and glory, he bumbled himself beneath His mighty band, and owned His righteous judgments : yea, be abhorred himself in his sinfulness and repented in dust and ashes, 40:1-5; 13:1-6. He forgave his friends their unkindness, and sacrificed and made prevalent intercessions for them, 13:8-9. In a like manner when it pleased God to remove His hand from him, and to turn the hearts of his relations and friends (who had forsaken him in his days of sorrow), in affectionate sympathy towards him, and incline them to contribute to his comfort, and the repair of his fortunes, Job received them back to his embraces without reproaches, and accepted gratefully the assistance which they offered him (13:10, 11). And the Lord brought his afflictions to a happy end; He was very pitiful and of tender mercy to His servant, who had, when tried, so well endured, James 5:11. He added unto him double his former wealth: the same number of sons and of daughters which he had before, and a further life of one hundred and forty years, and finally, when old and full of days, he peace-fully died, and was gathered to his fathers.
The book of Job casts great light upon the faith and piety of the people of God in the ages immediately succeeding the flood â€” the same that they have been ever since â€” the faith and piety peculiar to the covenant of grace (the Word of God recognizes none other): faith in Christ â€” “the Seed of the woman ” â€” to come â€” the same living principle then, that it is now: its transforming, powerful, permanent effects, the same then as now. The same clear view and conception of the whole person and work of the Redeemer, was not so fully enjoyed then as now : but enough was known and understood, to draw the souls of men to Him, and the same spirit that now seals Christ and all His benefits to believers sealed them then. There was but one true religion then on earth as now: the religion of the covenant of grace. The people of God were known and read of all men, and were as distinct from the world then as now. They sympathized and consorted with, and aided each other then as now, and worshiped and sacrificed and prayed together. The world was much the same then as now, and had its distinct nations â€” its kings and noblesâ€” and subjects. They understood, and practiced themselves in the art of war, 39:19-25. There were masters and servants; rich and poor; the oppressors and the oppressed; the proud and the lowly; the husbandman and the artist; the righteous and the wicked; the idolater and the worshiper of the true God ; the hypocrite and the sound believer, ch. 8:13-18; 13:16; 27:8-10. And there were judges in the land, set for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that did well, 31:26-28; 31:9-12. And in this moving world, the men of God did walk by faith, letting their light shine to the glory of God and the good of men ; they had then, as now, to contend with “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” The same covenant-keeping God was over them then as now, and taught them by His Spirit, and divided unto them their days of prosperity and adversity, causing all things to work together for their good, 34:31-82 ; 26:8-9. The righteous held on his way, and he that had clean hands grew stronger and stronger, 17:19.
We close this view of the book of Job, with an observation of two facts. First, the existence of idolatry â€” which Job characterizes as “a denial of the God who is above,” and the idolatry of which he speaks, is that of the worship of the heavenly bodies: of the sun and the moon, called Sabianism, 31:26-28. Idolatry first appears in the time of Serug, Josh. 24:1-2. With Serug, we suppose that Job was contemporary. It is probable that there were other gods worshiped besides the heavenly bodies. Of idolatry, Job says, ” This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge.” The same remark he makes of adultery, ” It is an iniquity to be punished by the judges,” 31:10-12. The inference is, that idolatry was viewed as an offense against the well-being of society, as was adultery, and, like that heinous wickedness, called for judicial investigation and punishment. If ever kept in check by punishment, it could not have been of long duration. After the visible Church was placed under a civil constitution, it was viewed as treason against God, and, in the purer times of the Church, punished accordingly.
Second, the existence of writing. â€” Job, in several places, speaks of writing and of books. ” For Thou writest bitter things against me,” ch. 13:26. “Oh ! that my words were now written! oh, that they were printed in a book! (or graven) â€” that they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever!” 19:23-24. “Oh, that mine adversary had written a book,” 31:35. What were the materials, and with what instrument writing was committed to them, we shall not inquire. The art of writing was known, and there were records or books; and, from the manner in which Job speaks, writing was common, and resorted to on important occasions. This fact may throw some light on the following passage : “My feet have held His steps ; His way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandments of His lips. I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food,” 23:11-12. Here is plain reference to the word or law of the Lord, which Job loved, and made the rule of his duty â€” “a lamp unto his feet, and a light unto his path” â€” a law to which, it would seem, he had constant reference; to which he could come for support and direction. The very terms which he uses are those which we afterwards find applied to the written law â€” the written Revelation of God.
There is nothing improbable â€” nay, many things render it the contrary â€” that the revelations of God, and His wonderful dealings toward men, and all the history of the creation and fall, of the flood, and re-peopling of the world, and the genealogy of Christ, the promised seed of the woman, the lines of spiritual and promised descent â€” were all committed to writing, and formed the Bible, the “Word of God to His Church, in these early days. And to which we may add the ten commandments, if not set down in the order observed at Sinai, then embraced in substance. Job refers to the creation and to Adam’s sin, and the circumstances of it; he refers to the flood, and the causes which brought it about; the ceremonial law of sacrifices; and also to the moral law. Job condemns idolatry, which comes under the first and second commandments; and adultery, which comes under the seventh. The penalty of death is visited upon the murderer, which comes under the sixth; in short, there is not one of the commandments which does not appear exerting a controlling influence over Job, in his life and character, a sketch of which he gives us in different places, but very particularly in the thirty first chapter.
It is by no means denied, that all these things might have safely and surely been transmitted by tradition to Noah, to Job, to Abraham, and to Moses, and that by Moses all were committed to writing, and that infallibly, by the inspiration of God. Nor is it denied, that in the absence of all reliable tradition, Moses might, by the immediate inspiration of God, have written all we have in the Bible, from the creation to his day. But, inasmuch as Job asserts the existence of the art of writing, and refers to the law of God as something known and fixed, it is not an improbable supposition that sacred writings existed in the earliest ages of the world ; that God has never left His people without a written revelation; and that Moses has added the revelations of God to His Church, made through himself, to those which had existed before his time.
That this appears more than probable, is evident from Exod. 18:14-27. Moses, as the appointed deliverer, was also the lawgiver and judge of Israel. In the capacity of judge he was acting, when Jethro, his father-in-law, visited him in Horeb, before the giving of the law ; and he explained to Jethro the reason why he sat, from morning to night, with the people standing by him: “Because the people come unto me to inquire of God. When they have a matter, they come unto me, and judge between one and another, and I do make them know, (or instruct, cause them to understand,) the statutes of God, and His laws,” What statutes and laws of God were these? Doubtless, all the divine communications of God with His people, from Adam to Noah, and from Noah down to Abraham, and to Moses himself: all which had respect to the faith and practice of men, as well in reference to God, and the things of eternity, as to men and the things of time. These “statutes and laws,” from the creation to Moses, were numerous. Were they written, or unwritten ? They could, indeed, have been transmitted orally, by tradition; but the remark of Moses to Jethro resembles that of a judge who expounds and explains statutes and laws which were in some settled and fixed form, to which he could refer, and to which, as the accredited word of the Lord, he could appeal, and say to the people in his decisions: “Thus is it written, and thus saith the Lord:’”