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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Book of Job 1–4]

IN the time of the patriarchs, there lived in Arabia a man, whom God wished to give as a perfect model of patience to all mankind, and for all time. This man’s name was Job. He had seven sons and three daughters. He owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred she-asses, and had a great number of servants.

On this account, and still more because of his singular piety, he was held in high esteem among the people of the East. One day when the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Satan also was present among them, and the Lord said to him: “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth?” Satan, answering, said: “Doth Job fear God in vain? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possession hath increased on the earth. But stretch forth Thy hand, and take away his possessions, then Thou shalt see that he will bless Thee to Thy face.”

Then the Lord said to Satan: “All that he hath is in thy hand; only put not forth thy hand upon his person.” So it came to pass upon one occasion, when the sons and daughters of Job were feasting in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job, exclaiming: “The oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding beside them, and the Sabeans rushed in and took all away, and slew the servants with the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell thee.”

While he was yet speaking, another messenger came to tell Job that fire fell from heaven which struck the sheep and the shepherds, and that he alone had escaped. Whilst he was yet speaking, there came a third messenger, who announced to Job that the Chaldeans had taken away his camels and slain all the servants but himself.

Then came a fourth messenger who, entering in, said to Job: “Whilst thy sons and daughters were eating and drinking in the house of their elder brother, a violent wind came on a sudden from the side of the desert, and shook the four corners of the house, and it fell, and crushed thy children, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell thee.”

Then Job rose up and rent his garments, and, having shaved his head, fell down upon the ground and worshipped, saying: “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away. As it has pleased the Lord, so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all these things Job sinned not by his lips, nor spoke he any foolish thing against God.

And the Lord said to Satan: “Hast thou considered my servant Job that there is none like him in the earth?” Satan replied: “Skin for skin and all that a man hath will he give for his life; but put forth Thy hand, touch his bone and his flesh, and then Thou shalt see, if he will not curse Thee.”

The Lord said: “Behold, he is in thy hand, but yet save his life.” So Satan struck Job with a most grievous ulcer from the sole of the foot even to the top of his head. And Job sat on a dung-hill and scraped the ulcerated matter with a potsherd. Then his wife came, not to comfort, but rather to tempt him, for she mockingly said: “Bless God and die!”

But Job said to her: “Thou hast spoken like one of the foolish women. If we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?” Again, in all these things Job did not sin with his lips or his heart.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of the evils that had befallen him, they came to visit him. When they saw him afar off, they knew him not, and crying out, they wept, and rending their garments, they sprinkled ashes on their heads. They sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no man spoke to him a word; for they saw that his grief was very great.

But when Job began at length to complain of the excess of his misery, they reproached him, saying that secretly he must have been a great sinner, or the just God would not have afflicted him in so grievous a manner. But Job loudly and firmly asserted his innocence, and consoled himself with the hope of the resurrection of the body, saying: “I know that my Redeemer liveth; and, in the last day, I shall rise out of the earth; and I shall be clothed again with my skin, and in my flesh I shall see my God, whom I myself shall see and not another. This my hope is laid up in my bosom.”

When they had finished their reproaches, the Lord revealed Himself in a whirlwind to Job, and mildly reproved him, because, in defending his innocence, he had spoken some imprudent words. God’s wrath, however, was kindled against the three friends, and He commanded them to offer a holocaust for themselves, whilst Job should pray for them. And the Lord looked graciously on Job’s humility, and granted his prayers on behalf of his friends. The Lord rewarded Job’s faith and patience by healing his body and restoring to him double what he had lost. And new sons and daughters were born to him.

 

Fig. 19. Lepers in Palestine. (Phot. Bruno Hentschel, Leipzig.)

The moral of the story. Job, practising virtue while happy and wealthy, was admired by the angels, but he was not yet feared by the devils; but when he remained free from sin even in the depths of misery and affliction, then the devils began to tremble before him. By this we learn that wrong, patiently endured for God’s sake, is the highest virtue. The friends of Job knew not that God sends afflictions even to His Saints, to make them more holy, and give them greater glory in heaven. Job also said that he would not live to see the Saviour promised to Adam, to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob, but that he would see Him on the day of the general resurrection. From Job we may also learn how pleasing to God, and how powerful is the intercession of the Saints.

The sufferings of the just. The chief lesson taught by the history of holy Job is that God does not send sufferings only for the punishment and conversion of sinners, but also as visitations to the just, for the purpose, firstly, of cleansing them from their small faults and imperfections; secondly, of confirming them in the virtues of confidence, patience, humility &c.; thirdly, of enabling them to merit more, and therefore to receive a higher reward in heaven; fourthly, of making them shining examples for the imitation of their fellow-men. Lastly, for the purpose of confounding the devil, men’s chief accuser before God.

All things come from God. Job first lost all his flocks and servants, then all his children, and lastly, his health. He did not complain; all he said was: “The Lord gave; the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” But was it God, who took all these things from him? Had not our enemy, the devil, despoiled Job, and brought about all the disasters that we hear of? But Job believed and knew that nothing happens by chance, and that everything must take place by the guidance or permission of God, so that, in that sense, it was God, who had taken away all that he had. Believing firmly that God had sent him his sufferings, he resigned himself entirely to His holy will, and praised Him in the midst of his tribulations.

Patience in suffering is the work of faith. The trial of holy Job was, indeed, a severe one. Almost at one blow he was made poor, childless, and a leper! Forsaken by all, tortured with pain, taunted and tempted by his wife, who ought to have consoled him, he sat on a dung-heap, a very man of sorrows, with nothing to look forward to but a painful death. Even the arrival of his faithful friends did not lighten his burden, for they heaped on him reproaches for having brought these sufferings on himself by some secret sin. He fully realized what he suffered, and made it known to his friends by his sad complaints. He was not callous to his torments, but bore them with exemplary patience, without a murmur against Almighty God. From whence did Job draw these powers of heroic endurance? In a word, from his strong, living faith. He looked forward to nothing in this world except to a grave, in which to lay his diseased body; but this made him believe all the more firmly in the promised Saviour and in the future life. He knew and proclaimed that his Redeemer was living. Job could not know this, as he had never seen Him; but all the same he believed it, and also that God Himself, Who is eternal, would come as our Saviour. He believed, furthermore, that he himself would rise from the earth, and in his risen body would see God in heaven.

Resentment against Almighty God. Job’s wife sinned grievously against the love of God. She loved her children more than she loved God, and could not resign herself to His having taken them all from her. She listened to the suggestions of Satan, and allowed herself to murmur against the ways of God, and even against God Himself. She also sinned against the love of her neighbour; for by her bitter scorn she tried to move her husband to renounce the service of God, as being that of an unjust Master.

Rash judgment. Job’s friends also sinned. It was kind of them to visit Job in his misery, but they judged their friend uncharitably and without cause, reproaching him with having some secret sin on his conscience, without which God would not have visited him with these tribulations. Their main idea that “all evil is due to sin” was true, but they should have distinguished between original sin and personal sins.

The invocation of Saints. God was angry with these three friends, and bade them offer sacrifice and ask Job to intercede for them. Thus we can see that it is right and pleasing to God to ask for the intercession of the Saints; and we can also see that their intercession is efficacious, for God pardoned Job’s friends, because he prayed for them.

Satan’s power is limited. We see by the story of Job that Satan can injure us only so far as God allows it. Under the Old Law the devil had more power over men than he has now; for under the New Law Jesus Christ has crushed the head of the devil, and the suggestions of the evil enemy can hurt no one who clings to our Lord. Therefore, in her exorcisms, and in the blessing of creatures (as for instance of water), the Church prays our Divine Saviour to protect us from the attacks of Satan.

Job, the seventh type of Jesus Christ. Job, suffering the most profound grief of soul, seeing nothing but a miserable death before him and robbed of all human consolation, fell down on the ground, praying and humbly resigning himself to God’s will. In this he is a type of our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani.

APPLICATION. Job was not a Christian, and had not, as we have, the example of Christ’s patient sufferings before him; yet how patient and resigned he was in the midst of his great trials! But you are a Christian, and in spite of being so you are often impatient, and incessantly complain and bewail your lot when anything goes wrong. Resolve for the future to look on all troubles as visitations from God; offer them up to God and bear them patiently, resigning yourself entirely to God’s will. In all times of adversity you should, like Job, praise God, and say with our Lord: “Father, not my will, but Thine be done!” In all your temporal losses say with Job: “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

II. EPOCH

THE AGE OF MOSES

(From the year 1500 to 1450 B. C.)








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